You don’t need me to tell you that every working mum is awesome. Not only do we juggle a million different things, but we can also face discrimination in the workplace.
This week’s working mum Nicole has experienced this and also has some great advice…
Please Introduce yourself…
Hello, my name is Nicole and I blog at The Mum Reviews. I live in Surrey with my husband, two boys aged 4 and 2, and a black & white cat.
What line of work are you in?
I’m a Managing Editor at a small university press. I commission and edit academic books on education and social research. Don’t worry, I won’t make you read them!
How many days a week do you work?
I work 4 days a week, and I’m very lucky to be able to do two of those days from home.
Who looks after your boys while you work?
My eldest is in school and my youngest goes to a local nursery 3 days/week, and a childminder one other day. On the days I’m in the office, my husband works from home so he can do the school/nursery run. It wouldn’t work if we weren’t able to trade days working from home, as our offices are in London and we both commute into work. There isn’t enough time to get back in time for pickups, especially as we’re on a certain notorious strike-prone train line!
Are you in the same job as before you had your boys?
I am in the same job, but my return to work after my first son was difficult. They accepted my request for part-time/flexible working, but there were consequences in terms of my status and pay. After my second maternity leave, I had a different head of department who (also a working mum) understood the difficulties of being a working mum. She has since tried to redress the balance, and I’ve been promoted now, but I’m still not paid as much as a male counterpart who does the same job and has been at the company for a shorter amount of time than me.
How quickly did you return to work after having children?
After my first son I took an entire year of maternity leave. I returned after 9 months with my second because I didn’t feel we could afford for me to take the unpaid leave. I also worried about being away too long and missing out on work opportunities or being passed over for promotion again.
Did you want to return to work?
Oh yes, desperately. As much as I love my children, my job is also part of my identity. I worked hard to get a job that I enjoy, and I didn’t want to give it up. I respect stay-at-home mums, but I need my ‘sitting in front of a computer’ time. However, now I’m blogging, I feel like if I got made redundant or something, I would just be able to focus on blogging as a job instead!
What are the hardest things about being a working mum?
The hardest part for me is when my kids get sick. I can’t leave them, and even if I could, they wouldn’t be able to go to childcare. So it leads to lots of unanticipated days out of the office. I am ridiculously lucky to have a boss who understands this and tolerates it. It is hard generally to balance the childcare and to find space for quality time with my children during the week. But for the most part, I relish my job.
What are your favourite things about being a working mum?
Going to the hustle & bustle of London, having lovely lunches, adult conversations with my colleagues, hot cups of tea, business travel to conferences at posh hotels, and after-work drinks! Oh yes, and the sense of achievement at a job well done.
What are your least favourite things about being a working mum?
Not having time to cook and clean for my family as much as I’d like. Not being able to spend the school holidays focusing on my kids. The price of childcare, along with the feeling that my children’s nursery workers are having just as strong an influence on my children as I do.
Do you have any tips for other mums thinking about returning to work after maternity leave?
First of all, try not to feel guilty about leaving your kids. I think that going away to work makes me appreciate my time with my kids more. Work is good for my mental health and makes me a better mum. If the same is true for you, then the time away from your kids is worth it.
When you first go back to work after maternity leave, you may find that you lack confidence. Know that that feeling is normal. Be kind to yourself and trust that it will feel better with time. You just need time to get used to a new routine with a home life that has changed massively.
Don’t be ashamed to get extra help around the house if you can afford it. I finally gave in and got a cleaner, and it’s changed my life for the better. It means I can spend time with my kids instead of with the hoover.
When returning from maternity leave, stand up for yourself. Know your legal rights in terms of part-time/flexible working and equality law. A lot of employers take the mickey. Don’t let them get away with it.
I wrote a blog post a while ago that lists some resources for standing up for your maternity rights at work. If you are interested in that, you may like to take a look here.
Fantastic advice Nicole, thank you!