I really hope you’re enjoying my Interview With A Working Mum series as much as I am! It’s so interesting to hear about the lives of other mums, how they fit in work and what their struggles are. I think it’s also inspiring to see that it is possible to “have it all”, it just takes a bit of effort.
This week I’m talking to Hayley from Devon Mama, who proves that just because you have kids doesn’t mean you can’t keep your high flying career.
Firstly, please introduce yourself…
I’m Hayley and I live with my husband, eight-month-old son and the world’s bounciest dog in rural Devon. I’ve been on maternity leave since the end of April 2016 and took up blogging as a way to keep a bit of me time. My little boy was born in May and I’ve loved having a way to record our adventures and feelings of this period. I was very much a career person prior to having a baby so it’s been a bit of a change of mind-set.
What line of work are you in?
I work as Procurement and Product Marketing Director for a mail order retailer. It’s actually a family business and I’ve worked there for over 17 years, working my way up from Saturday girl to joining the Board of Directors in 2014. I hold a small number of shares in the company too which has added a different angle!
My job means I’m responsible for a purchasing budget of nearly £30million as well as holding responsibility for how each product is represented and marketed through our e-commerce routes to over 200,000 email subscribers. It’s varied, fast moving and certainly keeps me on my toes! My role used to include a lot of world travel but thankfully I’ve scaled this back in the last year. My last trip was a 23 day tour around North America, three days after returning from my honeymoon… a couple weeks later I discovered I was pregnant.
How many hours/days do you work?
I work between 21 and 24 hours a week. My week consists of two full days in the office from 7.30 – 5 and then half a day to a day at home depending on my workload. Part of my role is editing and signing off our email club copy so that happens as and when it comes through from the team.
Who looks after your son while you work?
He goes to my mum’s one day a week and nursery for a day and a half. I’m not in the office for the half day but use it as an opportunity to get up to date with the week’s work, do the shopping and clean!
Did your employer make it easy for you to return?
It was made easy for me to return but I still felt pressured to make decisions and put work first. Although they were very nice about the whole thing and very accommodating, we’ve never had a Director go off on maternity leave, or come back part time so it really is a whole new ball game. Some of the comments were well intended but made me put pressure on myself and ask a lot of questions as to whether I could still cut it in that role.
How quickly did you return to work after having your son?
I took back my editing role at 5 months due to my mat-leave cover going on a pre-planned holiday for a month. I also went back into Board Meetings from that point but didn’t return to work properly until he was seven months old.
Did you want to return to work?
Before I had him, I was adamant I would be back to work in September (5 months off) but as the time got closer I just couldn’t. I delayed things a couple of times because I wasn’t ready. I did want to return to work but I also wanted to be at home with my baby. I never saw myself as a stay at home parent though, I crave adult interaction too much so that was really what drove me to return. That and, like most people, the money. We could have afforded for me to stay off work but it would have been a huge lifestyle change, particularly as I was the main salary earner. After looking at it and debating it for months, we decided we wanted to be able to give our son the opportunities that money would provide and that nursery would be good for him.
What are the hardest things about being a working mum?
For me, it’s the feeling of compromise. I didn’t want to go back full-time but I didn’t want to be off all the time either so part-time made sense. However, I feel like I’m compromising on both now. I’m not able to give my all at home or at work because I’m not at either all the time. I’m terrified of missing the milestones with my little boy. Thankfully he started crawling and standing before nursery but he’s yet to walk or talk and I’m scared I’ll miss those precious first times he does it.
When I’m at work I feel like I can do anything and want to take on more, so it feels like I’m missing out there also. I worked hard to get to my position and taking a side-step on certain projects because I just can’t commit to the workload is an interesting challenge. I also don’t want to be that parent who’s constantly working when they should be spending time with their child. I know I’m going to struggle with keeping work days to work days but if I don’t, I may as well go into the office and be paid for a full week.
Finally, I work primarily with men. They’re awesome to work with and have known me a long time but they don’t fully understand the pressures and demands of being a working mum. Occasionally comments will come out joking about part-timers or holidays or time away from the office. They mean well but I feel like screaming that being a mum is far harder than sitting in an office at times!! They’re trying but it still needs a little work!
What are your favourite things about being a working mum?
I love showing my baby that you don’t have to give up on something because you become a parent. I want him to know that you can have everything and that it just adds to your life. I love the variety it gives me and think the time away from him makes me a better parent when I’m with him as I appreciate him more. It’s nice to use that part of my brain again and be me rather than be in mum mode constantly. I love mum-mode but it feels like a little bit of pre-baby Hayley is able to come out on those days.
One of the best things about going back to work is being able to go to the toilet on my own and getting to finish a hot drink. Both are incredible!
What are your least favourite things about being a working mum?
The hours. The tiredness. The knowing that all the things at home don’t just magically stop because I’m at work. I’m still breastfeeding and he’s still up in the night, he doesn’t appreciate that mummy needs to sleep well because she’s got a big day ahead. It takes a lot of organising to get everything ready and then come home tired from a busy day in the office and have to be ‘on’ for a little boy who’s missed you. Also, finding the balance. It’s a constant mental struggle as to whether I’ve done enough at work or at home this week.
Do you have any tips for other working mums or mums thinking about returning to work after maternity leave?
Go with your gut instinct as to what you’re comfortable doing hours wise. If your company won’t accept it then don’t force yourself to do more than you feel you can, you’ll regret it in the long run. Find a great nursery or child-minder so that you can relax. The nursery we found is incredible – lots of walks outside, huge open spaces and the food is better than we eat at home. I know when he’s there, I can relax as he’s being cared for and is (generally) happy! Finally, don’t beat yourself up about enjoying work. I found it hard to admit that I enjoyed time away from parenting but you know what, it makes me a far better mum when I’m at home as I’ve got that fulfilment that I need.
If you’d like to take part in this series, just drop me an email.