Interview With A Working Mum – Lauren from The Helpful Hiker

We all read about the working mums who have managed to get flexible working or reduced hours, but what happens if your employer declines your request?

Quite often working mums have to do more hours than they want to, like this week’s working mum Lauren from The Helpful Hiker.

Interview With A Working Mum - Lauren from The Helpful Hiker

Tell us a bit about you…

I’m Lauren, a 30 something mum living in Northampton with my husband Luke and 2.5 year old son, Finn. As well as working full time and blogging, I also help Luke with the admin for his garden design business.

Interview With A Working Mum - Lauren from The Helpful Hiker

What do you do for a living?

I manage a wine shop. Most people think it’s very glamorous, and while working in the wine industry does have it’s perks, there are a few downsides!

How many hours a week do you work?

I work 5 days a week, my contract says 45 hours, but it’s usually nearer to 50 once you take into account opening and locking up, plus we do lots of tastings for our customers. I generally have Wednesdays and Thursdays off, although if we’re short staffed (which we often are) or there are meetings etc that I need to attend, I have to change. Luckily, with Luke being self-employed he can pick up the slack, although this isn’t ideal and obviously impacts on his ability to grow his business.

I generally have Wednesdays and Thursdays off, although if we’re short staffed (which we often are) or there are meetings etc that I need to attend, I have to change. Luckily, with Luke being self-employed he can pick up the slack, although this isn’t ideal and obviously impacts on his ability to grow his business.

Who looks after your son while you work?

Finn goes to nursery two and a half days a week and we’re lucky that Luke’s parents are very supportive and have him for a day. The rest me and Luke split between us. We’re counting down the days until we can get the 30 hours free childcare, that should help us massively.

Are you in the same job as before you went on maternity leave?

Yes, I returned to the same role. I have worked hard to get wine qualifications and build a career, so I wasn’t ready to walk away-despite the long and antisocial hours.

Did you return to work on the same hours?

Yes, I returned to exactly the same hours. Absolutely nothing changed. Prior to returning, I made a flexible working application to see if I could ‘officially’ have every Wednesday and Thursday off. It was denied and I was understandably annoyed. However, in reality, I’m the manager and I do the rotas, so I can engineer it to my benefit most of the time!

How long was your maternity leave?

All in all, with holiday etc I had nearly 13 months off. I think it was too long, however, I timed it so that I could spend Finn’s first Christmas at home (he was born at the beginning of January). Obviously working in retail, Christmas is usually a write off for me as I have to work 6 days a week. If it wasn’t for this, I think I would have gone back after nine months.

How did you feel about returning to work?

I totally underestimated how hard it would be. I remember leaving Finn crying at nursery on the first day and just feeling like the worst mother in the world. I found it incredibly difficult and, with no support from the company I work for, I really struggled. There was no reintroduction or training, after 13 months off I just walked back in as if I’d never been away. That was tough. I think I’ve got a handle on it now, but the first few months were horrendous. I just remember crying all the time because I felt so useless like I couldn’t get everything done that I needed to and was failing at everything. That was the hardest thing, I felt that I wasn’t being a good parent or wife, and my work life was also suffering. These days I’m in a much better place and have developed strategies to cope.

There was no reintroduction or training, after 13 months off I just walked back in as if I’d never been away. That was tough. I think I’ve got a handle on it now, but the first few months were horrendous. I just remember crying all the time because I felt so useless like I couldn’t get everything done that I needed to and was failing at everything. That was the hardest thing, I felt that I wasn’t being a good parent or wife, and my work life was also suffering. These days I’m in a much better place and have developed strategies to cope.

What do you find the hardest about being a working mum?

As I mentioned above, it’s the fact that I feel like I’m not being the best parent I can be. I really don’t want Finn to look back at his childhood and say that I was always working. I hope that we make the most of our time together so he grows up with amazing memories.

What are your favourite things about being a working mum?

One of the ways that I have learned to cope is by focusing on what I have done, rather than what I haven’t. Considering my working hours, I’m so proud of how hard I work on my blog, how much I do for my family and the adventures we manage to cram in! I don’t know anyone as busy as me, so I really need to remind myself of that! I also like having a few hours to myself, where I can be Lauren and not mummy. Having said that, I would like to reduce my hours at some point in the future.

Do you have any tips for other working mums?

Don’t be too hard on yourself and ask for help. That was my mistake, I tried to soldier on and it nearly broke me. I’m getting quite emotional just writing this as it’s brought back how hard it was in the beginning. Now, 20 months after returning to work, Finn is happy, my blog is flourishing and I’m a high performer at work. It’s tough but we make it work. Please remember it won’t always be this hard.

 

To find out more about Lauren you can check out her blog or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Sarah

 

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