Why I made the leap to self-employed, virtual PA after becoming a mum

Becoming a mother is a life-changing experience with far-reaching impact. And for many women, this includes their career.

What once fitted, was satisfactory or even fulfilled them can, over time, become increasingly uncomfortable. It can cease to fit their new life, responsibilities and sense of self.

So it’s no surprise that many new mothers change career (if you need a change but aren’t sure what, we recommend taking our Career Audit).

One such mum is Emily O’Neill. She explains why she chose to become virtual personal assistant (PA) with Pink Spaghetti after the birth of her daughter.

I was born to be a PA

I’m a reflector by nature. When something, anything – whether it be good or bad – happens, it always takes me a day or two to understand how I feel. And recently I’ve been reflecting about how I feel being six months in to setting up my business as a self-employed Virtual PA.

I’ve always been a PA. I joke that I was born one! My Mum was a PA when I was growing up and I think I always knew on some level what she did for work, so you could say it’s in my genes. I worked as a PA in the charity sector for a number of years at Chief Executive and Trustee level. I loved it!

I loved the variety that being a PA brought me, as well as the autonomy the job gave me and how I could build some really good working relationships as a result. I met some very interesting people and it always felt like a good fit to my skills.

After I became a mum I wanted a change

My daughter was born in 2015, and she’s nearly three now. I went back to work when she was 10 months, and my employer was very flexible. I was lucky enough to have some great working hours for me and my family. But about three months into being back, a thought was just starting in the back of my mind. But such is life, I didn’t do anything about it straight away and continued as I was.

It was now 2017. I was starting to feel like I wanted to stretch myself further than my job was able to, I felt a little bit like my skills were fading and I felt something new. It was this new thought from the previous year, but I now recognise it as a need to give my daughter the best role model I could – myself.

Having her had given me this confidence that came from nowhere (I mean, not to start with! The first six months of getting used to being a mum were probably the hardest months I’ve experienced!)

I wanted to work – and be there for my daughter

I wanted my daughter to be able to see that mummy worked, but that mummy was also able to be there for her. As flexible as my employer was – and they really were – I wanted to be able to manage my own hours, my own workload, when I worked, when I didn’t work, who I could work for.

I wanted to be able to see every sports day, every nativity, every Harvest Festival (which was always one of my favourites at school, if only to see what ‘delights’ my mum could forage from the back of the cupboard!)

I’ve been remembering the feelings I felt last year when I wondered if it would be possible to become ‘virtual’, whether I had it in me, whether I was strong enough, whether it was too much of a pressure on my family, whether I was just having a funny five minutes or whether it was what I actually wanted to do for mine and my family’s future.

I kept my thoughts quite close to my chest about becoming a virtual PA and self-employed, and for a long time the only person who knew about what I was thinking of doing was my husband, whose response after we’d talked about the pros and cons for hours and hours was ‘Yeah, just go ahead and do it!’… like it was the easiest thing in the world to do!

I made the jump to virtual PA

But I did make the jump to becoming virtual. I thought “if I don’t do this, I may regret it”. But chances are that I won’t ever regret *doing* it.

And you know what? I don’t regret anything about making that jump at all. It’s been a crazy busy six months; I’ve never learnt as much as I have in such a short space of time, I feel my brain stretch on a daily basis and every day is so different to the previous.

But I love it. I love working with so many different clients, each with their own needs and requirements. I love getting out and meeting new people when I’m networking and I enjoy networking online across social media too.

And I love that on one day I’m able to take my daughter jumping on the trampolines that she absolutely adores, and the next I’m able to help a client with making sure their website is updated or that their bookkeeping and receipts are up-to-date. Yep, like I said, no two days are ever the same!

You can find out more about Pink Spaghetti on their website

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen