• Author:Ben Jones
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Hats off to Dr J in her first week back at work

I met my wife nearly ten years ago to the day. We worked in the same organisation although in different teams. I knew pretty quickly that I had met someone really special – someone really, really special. The story of our early interactions is a little disputed – that is because for years I’ve spun yarns saying she pestered me via email at work and kept arranging meetings with me etc – of course the opposite is true. I asked her out for lunch and made the early running – my best every decision.

This week, we got another reminder – one we didn’t need but were humbled to receive – to show us how lucky Aoife and I are to have Aileen in our lives and a brilliant illustration of why we are so proud of her.

As all working mums will know, returning to work after having some time off following the birth of a child is not easy. It generates many anxieties and emotions and is a huge wrench. As well as the emotional pull there is the practical challenge of getting back into regular adult conversation after time with Peppa and co and the inevitable questions marks over whether you will be able to log on to your computer and remember how to function in a workplace. What’s my password? How do you get this printer working? Is that a Frozen sticker on my sleeve?

Dr J retuned to work this week after three and a half years away following Aoife’s birth and returned to academia after 15 years of being away, working in business and in the public sector. Of course it was a shock to the system but Dr J took to it like a duck to water. I wasn’t one bit surprised but was still full of admiration. Straight in, not a wrinkle taken out of her, sleeves rolled up, job getting done. Impressive.

Aileen has been an outstanding role model to Aoife from day one as a stay at home mum and now she adds another dimension to this by returning to work and showing our daughter how smart, hard working, confident women hold senior, leadership positions in some of the country’s most prestigious organisations. I don’t care what people think of me or frankly what they think at all but a little piece of me was extra proud this week to know that there is now a group of people in Liverpool who didn’t know my wife, who are just getting to know her and will soon know something of what we know; they too will soon know that Dr J is ace.

Week 1 done and Aoife is already telling people – including our next door neighbour this afternoon – that her mummy “has a big job at the university”. Dr J didn’t need to go back to work for us to be proud of her and great mums come in all shapes and sizes, doing all kinds of work at home and in the workplace. This post is about the mum that lives in our house – I pass no comment on others or suggest that what Aileen is doing is what everyone should do. I just end this working week glowing with pride. For my wife. Aoife’s mum. Dr J. The returning academic and leader that we love so much. As Aoife would say “bigger so much”.

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