Jun

Get your tits out

breastfeedingsupport
Left: Hosting an event for Women in Sport 6 months after having my baby. Right: Reporting at the Bernabeu while breast-feeding, not an easy combination.

One of the biggest challenges for a working mum is the early years. I missed the 2014 World Cup as my baby was so young. I recently had a chat with a football mum who went to that tournament and had a really, really tough time. It’s so hard to know when is the right time. So much can happen. I guess you have to make the decision and be bold with it. Tournaments aside, I had a tough time knowing when was the right time to return to work. Rewind a few years.

“Get your tits out for the lads” was the chant from the away end (Newcastle fans, for what it’s worth) as I strode along the pitch, microphone in hand. If I’m totally honest, a small part of me was a little chuffed, I was nearer 40 than 30 and it had been a long time since I’d received any attention on the pitch. The sad reality is that the reason for the attention was that my breasts were massive, not because I’m a big busty girl, but because I’m a working mum, a breastfeeding working mum, and it was time to express.

For those of you looking a little blank right now I won’t go into detail- look it up, but I can tell you the least glamorous part of my job is having to sit and express in a stadium toilet because there is no way I’m wasting this “liquid gold”, and even if I have to work away from my baby, he will get every last drop of the stuff, albeit a little late.

I can remember clearly sitting in the loo at the Emirates and one woman shouting “What on earth is that noise?” as I sat there with my electric pump. I was just too embarrassed and maybe even ashamed to say what I was doing, that was then, now I will shout it from the rooftops because the reality is that if you want to be a working mum, this is what you have to do, and people need to accept it.

I can actually laugh about it now, but back then it was tough, jumping on the tube and rushing home (breasts sore and swollen) to my baby to feed him after matches – basically trying to “have it all”.

One day I recall sitting in the press room at West Ham and a load of grown men got all giddy and introduced themselves to me saying they’d never met me before, they had totally met me before, they just hadn’t met the “me with these huge boobs”, it actually makes me laugh and I do find it quite funny. It’s not that I’m trying to grass on my male colleagues, I just find it fascinating and funny and a little sad.

That was a few years ago now, I’ve just had my second child and now my family is complete I feel reflective and want to help women in future generations to not have to go through what I went through because they think there is no other way.

I’d like senior executives to be aware of our challenges and to try to help our jobs remain when we come back as much as possible.

When I became pregnant with my first child I was so afraid that it would end my career. I wanted to be a mum but I was so aware that after 20 years working hard in this competitive industry I was finally at the peak of my career and time off might ruin it all.

At the time I spoke with the controller of radio 5 live Jonathan Wall whose words stuck with me throughout my pregnancy and early months of raising my baby. He told me about one of the BBC’s top presenters who’d had children and told me she had become a more rounded, confident presenter because of it. Only now can I say this is true for me too. I am less nervous and a little more relaxed. Let’s face it no one wants to see an anxious presenter. I guess it’s because football and presenting is not the only thing in my life now.

I spoke recently with a very senior figure in Sports TV who has concerns. He wants to encourage his girls to be parents if they want to be, but he knows as well as I do that a year out in this industry is a lifetime. Things change quickly and before you know it your job is gone and a shiny new person is in your place. What I can tell you now is that it happens anyway, so you might as well enjoy your time with your child if you want to. I rushed back to work desperate to impress, but of course juggling both means inevitably someone will have to fill in for you, so take your time, enjoy it, it goes in a flash.

My first child had medical problems and I lived in hospital with him for a month, I tweeted and read articles everyday. Life was simple, it was just be there for him and keep on top of the football news, and it helped me, it kept me sane.

Having said all this I have no regrets, football is such a part of my life I would have found it hard to give up, even if just for a year.

I’m enjoying writing these blogs, it’s cathartic, and if I can help someone all the better. We live in a generation where people are not staying silent on things and it feels great to open up.

Alison x