I am thrilled to finally start my series on working mums and thank you to everyone that has responded. I really hope that we will all be able to learn something from reading each others stories and potentially find something which helps us individually in working out a better way of juggling going to work with having a family. It will also be interesting to see what themes, if any, run through the various answers, and what we can take from that, if anything.
So, I welcome our first mum:
Q: How long have you worked in Digital PR and why did you follow your chosen career path?
A: I’ve worked in PR for over eight years, and specialised in digital and online for the past five. I moved to London initially wanting to be a journalist but soon realised it wasn’t going to keep me in wine and shoes (or pay the rent!) My housemate at the time worked in PR and thought it would be a good fit for me career-wise as I have an English degree, love writing, and talk a lot.
Q: How long did you take for maternity leave and what role did you return to?
A: Pre maternity leave, I worked full-time for the digital arm of a large London PR agency. I then took a year’s maternity leave. After having Eliza, I wanted a part-time job with flexible hours that would allow me to be with her as much as possible, with minimum stress. So I decided to go freelance instead.
I now work three days a week, mainly from home with some days in the office. At the moment I have an ongoing community management job – working on the Talkmum blog, among other things – as well as various other PR, blogging and writing projects.
Q: Did you feel any pressure to return earlier or later than you did?
A: None at all.
Q: what factors influenced your choice?
A: I was due to return to my old job in January 2013 and we’d arranged a nursery place for Eliza to start then. When I decided to turn freelance it made sense to still use that as my ‘start’ date. I was offered the community management role at the beginning of the year so it all worked out really well.
Q: Did you split your maternity entitlement into 6 months paternity leave?
Q: If you breastfed, were you still doing this in some form when you returned to work and did you return date/timing either influence your decision or was your return to work date influenced by this issue?
A: Yes, I was breastfeeding Eliza when I went back to work (I still am). At that point we were down to a couple of feeds a day, so we’d have one in the morning before nursery and one when I picked her up.
Q: Did your own mother work? And did she return to work?
A: Yes, she worked when my younger brother went to school. She’d initially wanted to go back after having my older brother, but came up against a lot of prejudice from employers (it was the 70’s and it wasn’t really the done thing then!) My Gran also worked until she retired.
Q: Any comments on whether that influenced your decision?
A: My mum loved working and was a great example in showing how you can manage both work and home lives really successfully, so it was something I’d always known was possible.
Q: Are you a member of any mothers/women networking events? if so, which ones/what kind and what kind of support do you find it provides, if any?
A: I follow M3: Marketing, Media, Mums http://marketingmediamums.com/
Q: Do you think working as a mum is important? why?
A: It has turned into a really important part of my life. Initially I wasn’t keen to go back to work and could quite happily have been a SAHM, working on my blog on the side. However, it’s really surprised me how much I love working. It’s brilliant having something different to focus on for a few hours, and it helps that I’m now working on things I really enjoy and am able to fit it around family life. It’s a completely different pace to looking after a baby, and sometimes after a hectic weekend or bad night it can actually feel like a break, bizarrely enough.
Q: What kind of childcare do you have?
A: Eliza attends a private nursery three days a week, from around 8.30-5.00. We had a few teething troubles, but she loves it now and has really flourished in the nursery environment.
Q: What would make your life easier, either in terms of childcare, or in terms of changes or improvements to employment/maternity leave etc?
A: Cheaper or subsidised childcare would be helpful, as it is so expensive, especially in London where we live. It’s also not very flexible; some weeks I have more or less work than others, but we have to stick to three days.
Q: How do you balance the various roles in your life?
I still experience massive attacks of mum guilt, struggle to motivate myself on a few hours of sleep, and there are times when everything seems very chaotic! But I’m lucky as I have a good balance that works well for all of us at the moment. I’m able to work part time and the type of work I do often doesn’t have set hours, so on the occasions Eliza’s been ill I’ve been able to make up time in the evening and at weekends.
Q: (if appropriate) do you have a partner, what do they do for work and how does this affect your ability and decisions regarding your work/childcare arrangements?
A: My husband works in a full-time PR role. His company are fantastic, and he’s allowed to work from home occasionally and switch his hours when needed to allow for drop-offs and pick-ups.
Q: Do you have any advice for other mums either returning to work, or back at work?
A: Be as organised as you can be – on one of my first times back in the office I ended up at Victoria Station with no wallet and no credit on my Oyster Card. Not a great start! If you work from home, try and have a separate area to work in, so you get into a working zone. Don’t ever worry about things like the washing or dishes. And always get dressed.
Q: Do you think there is any stigma being a working mum? Have you experienced any issues, either at work, or from other mums or family members?
A: None at all, I’ve had nothing but support. Most of the mums I know work in some form, whatever that may be.
Q: (I appreciate this is quite nosy, but I’m throwing it out there) Are you any better off financially from going out to work?
A: Yes, luckily enough – even though nursery is really expensive in London, it still makes financial sense for me to work at the moment.
Thank you Gill for your thoughts and for taking the time to tell your story.