Tag Archives: career

Mums and Part-Time Work

I was interested to read today about the latest Netmums survey and campaign regarding mums and part-time work.

Netmums surveyed 1600 mums who work part-time. 70% of the women surveyed chose freely to work part-time and 93% of those had worked full-time before having children.

However, half of the women reported that they had taken lower skilled jobs when returning to work part-time.

Part-time work tends to be concentrated in low paid and low skilled jobs, where opportunities for progression may be limited. Many mums complained about being held back by working part-time:

This certainly matches my own experience.  I was fortunate after my first child to be able to return to work part-time on a freelance consultancy basis.  I worked as part of a senior advisory teaching team for the local authority, the pay was good and I had the opportunity to spend time with my daughter.  However, it was not without its pitfalls.  The other members of my team worked full-time and on permanent contracts.  This meant that many of the perks were not offered to me (including much coveted trips to Reggio and the Forest Schools in Denmark).  I didn’t get a local authority email address meaning my emails often didn’t reach the people I needed to contact and no mobile phone or laptop like the rest of my team. The biggest drawback however was the lack of maternity pay – as a freelancer I was only entitled to statutory maternity pay.

Okay, so many of these disadvantages were because I was a freelancer but I see my desire to remain part-time as a big disadvantage. Since having my 2 youngest children I haven’t returned to work.  The freelance work dried up with the budget cuts and I find myself in a difficult position.  I could take up a part-time classroom teachers post or become a supply teacher but I would see this as a step backwards. With my experience and qualifications I would expect at the very least to be a Foundation Stage Co-ordinator or a Children’s Centre Lead Teacher.  The difficulty is that once you begin to look at senior/management positions it becomes difficult to share that job with someone else and work on a part-time basis.

I don’t think this is uncommon.  I meet talented, well qualified women all the time who work on the checkout at Waitrose. Those that try to work full-time or cram 5 days work into 4, only to end up feeling like inadequate mums.  Some even give up altogether. I met a mother  who had  recently achieved a 1st Class  Law Degree.  When looking for jobs she was told that as a single mum she really needed to question whether this was the right profession for her because of the long unpredictable hours.

I find myself in a position of frustration that all my experience and knowledge is not being put to good use. I chose to be a mum, but I would like to strike a balance between being there for my children and having something fulfilling for me, without feeling like my years of study and experience have been wasted.  If I didn’t feel this way I could get a low skilled, low paid job but it would be difficult to pay the childcare for 2 under 5’s .

Am I being unrealistic in my expectations? Do I need to bite the bullet and make a decision to return to work full-time or work part-time in a less fulfilling job?

I’d be interested to hear what other mums think.

Mothers and Their Neglected Talents

I’ve just spent a weekend away for a friend’s hen party. We were in a party of 3 stay at home mums and one who works full time.

What struck me about our conversations at the weekend is that although all 3 stay at home mums are intelligent, skilled and have had good jobs in the past, our confidence about returning to work is rock bottom.  Part of this is a lack of direction, having been out of the workplace for a while, what do we go back and do?  Some of us are petrified about entering the world of work again and some don’t want to get caught up in demanding careers and feel guilty about neglecting the children.

For me work and career are a big part of both my identity and my self image.  I think we all agreed that staying home full time is more demanding than any job.  I love having some time away from the children, but for me work isn’t really about that.  Work is partly about having some financial independence so that I don’t feel guilty if I get my hair done or buy some new clothes.  Any job that I do has to be financially rewarding enough to pay for childcare for 2 children and leave a bit over.  Mostly, work gives me a sense of purpose and achievement. In any job I do I need to feel that I am challenging and developing myself and ideally I’d really like to make a difference. Work gives me a different aspect to my identity, at work I’m not just mum but someone people listen to and look up to.  I think I’m a better mum too when I work because I appreciate the children so much more and think about more than what I need to add to the shopping list.

I think there must be an abundance of mothers out there who have many talents but are drifting or working in jobs that undermine those talents.

Last week I went for a job interview for a full time job with some travelling and lots of responsibility.  The job was very exciting but I began to think about working full time and the impact it would have on the children. I got a glimpse of what it might be like to be a  full time working mum and the guilt about the lack of time you would be able to give your children.  I didn’t get the job, which was probably for the best.  I talked to another friend recently who has managed to hold on to a fulfilling career.  She feels that she never completely succeeds at anything because she is spreading herself between wife, mother and business woman and each one suffers in some way.

Going back to work this time will be the beginning of a new chapter, as the children grow up and I can build a new side to my identity.  As a qualified teacher I could easily drift back into a job in the classroom but somehow this doesn’t feel like moving forward. Maybe I should just take the easy option, earn a bit of money supply teaching and switch off to it at the end of the day. I’m hoping something more inspirational will strike me.  If anyone is looking for  someone who is passionate about early education, loves a challenge, writes, sings, can juggle a household of 3 kids and 2 dogs amongst many other talents give me a shout.