Name: Michelle Lockley
Age 43
Born: 1973, Harrow, north London
Lives: Mile End, East London, with partner, Ashley, who is Product Manager for ITV online
Job: Clinical Senior Lecturer, Honorary Consultant Medical Oncologist, Barts Cancer Institute
Hours: full-time, exact pattern varies, but in office or lab most days
Children: Orson, 5, and Conrad, 3

‘I just sort of presumed that whatever I choose I’d be able to do it somehow – I don’t want to say have it all, because I don’t think you do have it all, but I just sort of thought that it would be possible to do the things that I wanted to do.’

‘Mum did it all. Both have always worked very hard. There’s a really strong work ethic in the family: you get things through trying. Dad said to me before, the only way he knew to make money was to work longer hours, it was the only way he knew how to support the family - to earn money by working longer hours. He did work long hours, but I remember growing up and always thinking that when Dad got home, whatever time he got home, he stopped at that point and sat down and had dinner brought to him, and often a whisky, and the telly, and Mum kind of carried on. She is someone who I think by choice doesn’t stop. She likes to be busy and do things. And she’s very house-proud. Her place is spotless. She would always choose to do that. She never stopped. She was always cooking or cleaning, or doing something for us, or running about, and she did all the school drop-offs and pick-ups, and all of the childcare really until the weekend. And then Dad was involved…He was very involved if he was at home…If he came home early he might take us to judo class and probably take us to Wimpy afterwards and give us a treat that mum probably wouldn’t have done.’

‘I think I’d grown up thinking I was going to be a doctor… I have it in my head that I was about seven, or something, when I said that I was going to be a doctor… No, I said “I want to be a nurse,” which is what I think girls of a certain age tend to say. And I remember Dad saying “why don’t you be a doctor?” and so I said I’d be a doctor, because I was a bit of a Daddy’s girl, and so I think we both got a bit stuck on that, and then, suddenly, I became a doctor!’

‘I’ve often thought I’m really glad that I didn’t have a brother, because mum and dad have always been massively supportive of me and my sister, and they’ve always emphasised that we can do things, and we can achieve things, and they really cared about academic achievement. And for them going to university was a big big deal. My dad saw it as a real route out of the challenges that he’d had growing up and through his life… And I’ve often wondered if we’d had brothers, whether they would have felt the same way about us as girls.’

‘For my parents, going to university was about training for a job in which you’d earn money and you’d be financially secure. It wasn’t about just fulfilling an intellectual need, or growing up, or meeting people that you’d interact with in future. It was definitely about a clear route to earning money and security in the future.’

‘I thought about having children a few months before I became pregnant. It was never really on the agenda to be honest… It didn’t really appeal that much, or it wasn’t something that I’d given much thought to, so it just… I kind of got to a point when I was together with my partner, and we seemed to be having these conversations, and it seemed like it was important for him. I’d sort of in a way presumed that I wouldn’t have children, I think, and it seemed that that was a completely new angle for him – I don’t think he’d ever thought that he wouldn’t have children! And then it kind of became a bit apparent to me that it was probably something that was important to him, and I knew that I wanted to stay with him. And then we had children!’

‘I find it strange now, because I mentor medical students and often the women will say to me: “I don’t want to be a hospital doctor because I want to have a family.” The men would never say that… They’re like 18 or 19. They are really young. And I find myself thinking: ‘Still! People still think like this!” Because somehow you think you’re going to be the last generation of people who are going to have any kind of struggle with these issues, but it seems that it’s really the way that many young women, girls, still think – that they have to choose one thing or another. And I never, I just sort of presumed that whatever I choose I’d be able to do it somehow – I don’t want to say have it all, because I don’t think you do have it all, but I just sort of thought that it would be possible to do the things that I wanted to do.’

‘With Orson, I started going back one day a week from when he was four months old, because I preferred it. I got a bit bored being off on maternity leave!... I’d had enough, I really didn’t enjoy maternity leave that much. I got quite depressed after he was born, so that was fairly miserable, and I really struggled to adjust to the status change of being a mum. Because you spend all of your young life thinking that you’re going to do something different and achieve something, and you’re going to be unique, and wonderful, and then all of a sudden you’re doing the most mundane, normal thing in the whole world… I think probably because I was a bit depressed I struggled initially to go out with him in a pram, it felt like, you know, I felt ashamed to walk around with a pram because I just thought I’d let myself down, you know, I’d done something really boring, when probably I wasn’t quite in my right mind at the time. But I really just got very bored during maternity leave. It’s very repetitive and mundane, and a bit dull. So I started coming back one day a week when he was four months, and then I was back at six months and I was pleased to be back.’

‘I think I separate the two realities, I’m one thing or another…I talk to people about the children, obviously, and particularly the people in the workplace who are my friends, and more than just colleagues…but yeah, I think of work and family as two separate entities.’

‘I never thought that we’d do anything other than that. I don’t know why, it would have been really strange to think that one of us did more than the other.’

‘The way I manage my work is different since becoming a mother…I’m quite lucky, because the academic part of my job is really flexible, so I can come in very early and leave early, or come in late and leave late, I can work at weekends, I can work from home. I have a lot of flexibility in my work. And I would say that I use that a lot more now, whereas before I had children I’d probably work a longer day, every day, and my hours would be more consistent. My hours now are very flexible, and very reactive to what’s going on at home.’

‘We both do it…We actually decide on a daily basis who’s dropping off and picking up. I have my day when I’m in the clinic, and I can’t do drop off and pick up on that day at all, but apart from that we decide on a daily basis… or sometimes the night before, or sometimes everyone’s in the hallway and it’s like ‘who’s doing what?’ It’s reasonably disordered, and it’s a wonder to us both that we’ve never left the children somewhere that we shouldn’t, or completely forgotten them or something like that. But over the course of each week we split it more or less down the middle. So we do an equal number of drop-offs and pick-ups… So we take it in turns to drop off in the morning… they are very close together, the school and the nursery, so that’s good… We didn’t discuss it ever, but I always presumed that that was the most obvious thing. I never thought that we’d do anything other than that. I don’t know why, it would have been really strange to think that one of us did more than the other…We honestly just fell into it, but I don’t think I ever thought that it would be anything other than that… I think the way you make it work is that you have a good partner…You have to have someone who’s on the team.’

‘My situation’s quite easy, because we live round the corner, we live right next to the nursery, we’ve got subsidised childcare, I’ve got a partner with a flexible job, we have a very egalitarian relationship, and I think it makes all the difference. There are lots of little things that make it possible.’

‘You know what Orson said to me the other day – he said “Daddy’s just a daddy, isn’t he?” And I said, well, yeah, but I’m just a mummy. And he said, “no, but you’re a mummy and a doctor and a scientist.” I haven’t told Daddy that he said that!’

‘This is one area where we are not equal in the slightest. He is the chef. He was trying to do some flame-throwing for me in this photo. He’s very into food and a very accomplished cook, which is wonderful. So he does all the cooking. And it kind of works for us. I do all the tidying up and cleaning and clothes-washing and other household chores, but he does the glory stuff. He manages all of our eating for the whole family...He goes to the supermarket and I think he’s mad but he likes it – he wants to actually feel his food and smell his food and look around and see what’s there and get inspiration and cook things. So, it’s just the way he does it…It’s interesting because I think other boys watch football with their dad, but my boys watch cookery programmes, and it’s kind of their boy-thing that they do, like peel some carrots and watch Saturday Kitchen.’