Here is the full transcript of speaker, bestselling author and coach Caroline Flanagan’s presentation: Babyproof Your Career @ Talks at Google conference. To learn more about the speaker, read the bio here.
CAROLINE FLANAGAN: I want to start by telling you what it’s like to be at boarding school and get a parcel in the post. Now this is not something that happened to me very often.
So when at the age of 15, a small package arrived with my name on it, it was literally the most exciting thing of the year. I remember it so clearly, the box, the brown box with my name on it. Half a dozen or so of my best friends, all really excited. We’re still in our pajamas because the post arrived after breakfast, everyone jumping on the bed, “Open it, open it!” because they were sure there’d be sweets, there’d be chocolates for everybody to share.
So there I was. I turned over the box ready to break the seal, but something stopped me. The writing on the back looked cold, unfamiliar I read it with despair. Her Majesty’s Prison Service, Holloway, London Anxiety choking me, I tentatively opened the box and a pile of letters cascaded to the floor, all with this same familiar handwriting on it, my handwriting, all addressed to one person—Mum.
Is there anything more devastating when the moment when something you’ve been trying to hide and hide from reveals itself for all to see? There was a letter inside. Dear Caroline, your mother is no longer in our custody, so we’re returning your letters to you. Yours sincerely. Devastating.
According to the children’s charity Barnardo, the UK charity, children of offending parents, parents who spent time in prison, are twice as likely to have mental and misconduct problems. They consistently underperform at school, and they’re three times as likely to end up being offenders themselves.
Growing up as a black kid, as a daughter to a mother who was barely there, to parents who never lived together, let alone were married. As the sister to siblings who themselves were constantly arrested, to a sister who had a teenage pregnancy, all her children taken into foster care. Being cousin and niece to relatives who valued teenage pregnancy and state dependency more than they valued achievements, education. Aspiring to succeed, to do well, to be secure, to be free in that environment was a battle of extraordinarily difficult odds.