Letter to my Future Self

By Margaret (Maggie) Banjo, Child Protection Specialist at Unicef UK

Mentor Mums
5 min readJan 6, 2023

@ndinemaggie | Linked In: Margaret Banjo (Thindwa)


Maggie parenting her twins

From: Future Maggie
State of Mind: Rested(ish) and loved by her sons, resilient and content

To: Present Mum
State of Mind: New Mum to Twins, tired and overwhelmed

Subject: Work, Children and Sanity

Dear Maggie,

So, your babies are finally here! It’s been a long slog, but they are such precious babies — miracles even.

I know that you are thinking you can really start to live now and put everything toward your career and family. A 50/50 split — maybe even 70% to work and 30% to your family in the first few months, seeing as you are so grateful to have such an amazing workplace with supportive management
during your fertility journey and all the joy and heartache that came with it. Well, Maggie, it won't quite work out that way.

“On your first day back, your computer won’t work. You will start to tear up because you feel you are letting down the organisation and the people who have been so understanding…”

Returning to work will be harder than you can imagine. On your first day back, your computer won’t work. You will start to tear up because you feel you are letting down the organisation and the people who have been so understanding. When those bubbas nesting in your tummy were just ten weeks along, you were told not to move, and everyone at work showed so much empathy and consideration. The guilt that rises when your computer doesn’t work will bring you to tears and have you questioning whether you can do this ‘mother’ thing at all.

I’ll tell you now, good policies and their implementation at work should be standard — as uneventful as the sun rising and setting each day. As you start to navigate your way through being a working mother, you will start to take notice of the gendered nature of industries. You husband who as been in tech all his life, does not have the same level of support when it comes to parental leave. So as much as you have decided as a couple that he will be equally as present, his work will only give him four weeks paid leave and another discretionary four, which he can take when you return to work. It’s true what they say, IT projects are unpredictable and as you are returning to work, he has a project that means he is no longer able to take the four weeks as planned.

Maggie and her partner embracing parenthood, with their twin sons.

There will be other moments like these were, when he is less able to take carer’s leave as the provisions are not there. You feel fortunate, however, as he works with other fathers who understand the childcare challenges and he can work compressed hours — thank you sweet Jesus!

“It’s natural to feel a sense of loyalty to an employer who has gone above and beyond in their provision of maternity care — but be careful: don’t fall into the trap of weaponised gratitude.”

So, having returned to work and ‘figured out’ that you are worthy of good maternity policies, you will settle into a routine.

Then your first nursery school bill will hit you, making you consider taking on a second job. A shame that Reading City Council have not licenced Uber — beans on toast it is! After a few uneventful weeks of bossing working-mamahood, you decide that applying for that promotion might not be such a bad idea. Others have done it, and how hard can it be — leading a team as a new mum of two? The day it dawns on you that you are in no way ready for such a big step and that the smooth routine you have at home is not so much a routine as a gesture of goodwill from your children — have some self- compassion!

You are no less ambitious. It does not mean that you are more ‘mum’ and less ‘you’. You are just not ready for such a big leap. Sure, you’ll arrive at this decision after they say no, but there is still a place for self-compassion.

“It does not mean that you are more ‘mum’ and less ‘you’. ”

Motherhood will unleash something in you. Shining through the cloud of fatigue, the primal instinct to protect your children will sometimes feel overwhelming. Your sons being born so close to the public lynching of George Floyd will drive it home to you that they, your precious sons, are still not safe. Even in 2020, your sons have been born into a world where people who look like them can get killed. It will be hard to divorce this from your everyday life, especially your job, as you work to protect the rights of all children. It’s not quite a new role, but together with some amazing women, you will co-chair the Racial Justice Network. The work is rewarding — necessary — but emotionally taxing. The emotional onslaught will take its toll, alongside your mum’s diagnosis and moving house,
and yet another realisation will hit you — life is not linear.

The mix of emotions of wanting to move forward with your career while remaining present with your miracles — because that’s what they are — is a tension you will learn to sit with. When you return to work after being signed off for burn-out, you will take stock, knowing that more challenges
lie ahead. Navigating this tension will be made easier by the knowledge that you have legal protections as a mother, but equally by the revelation that it should not be this hard. Care shouldn’t cost so much. Taking care of your children shouldn’t cost you your health. And whilst we want to
ensure women are not always left holding the babies, as long as fathers do not have equal access to parental rights, the burden will always fall on women to do the juggling.

Always on your team,
Future Maggie.