Women at Work: SAHM

Vicky

This week, the mum I have interviewed has an extremely demanding job that involves long unsociable hours, temperamental work colleagues and is completely unpaid. Yes, she is a stay at home mum (SAHM) or (as my cousin who is also a SAHM likes to say) she is working in the home!

 

Name: Victoria Whitewood

Current profession: Stay at home mum (SAHM)

Town or county you live in: Sevenoaks, Kent

What was your profession before you had children?
Deputy Headteacher

Why did you decide not to return to work?
A few reasons contributed to this:

  • I have loved being at home with my daughter Kitty full time much more than I had thought I would. I had thought I might want to return to work in some capacity, although I definitely knew I would not want to be full time again. As the time drew closer to go back, I knew I didn’t want to.
  • Teaching is not set hours and I didn’t want to go back to marking all hours once I am back at home. Now we have a baby, I want to make sure that my husband Chris and I get some time together of an evening.
  • I can easily go back to teaching at a later date. (Especially if the worrying shortage of teachers continues.)
  • I have a health issue and decided that at this moment, returning to teaching would not be the right thing for us as a family.

How many children do you have?
One.

Briefly describe a typical day…
Sometime between 6-7am we wake up and I get Kitty changed and dressed, head downstairs and get her morning bottle ready. I normally give her to her Dad so he can feed her bottle while I feed our animals (we have cats and rabbits). I try to jump in the shower while Chris is still at home, as Kitty is at that stage where grabbing the shower screen and throwing things into the running water constitutes fun for her (and nobody else).

In the morning we normally do an activity, could be a class or playgroup, but if we aren’t going out then I will try to do a messy play or an activity at home to break up the day for us both. Lunch is sometime between 12-1pm, depending on what time she wakes up. Sometimes she naps in the morning, or sometimes after lunch; her routine isn’t quite set yet. In the afternoon we do lots of play and always lots of listening to music, which is one of Kitty’s favourite things to do; thankfully I have quite a few CDs for her, which keeps it fresh for me!

Dinner about is about 5.30pm and afterwards, we play in living room, but this playtime can be more subdued than earlier in the day as she is often starting to get tired (although sometimes she can suddenly find a ton of energy!).

Bath time every other day at about 7pm; bottle around 7:15pm; and bed time about 7:30pm.

What is the best part of being a SAHM?
Not missing out on anything that my gorgeous girl does. At this moment in time, laughing every day with her is the best thing in the world. She is so funny and loves playing games and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

And the worst?
Occasionally losing sight of the fact that I am not just a mum. There are tough times and, when things are tricky, it is easy to get bogged down in it all – especially if there is a severe lack of sleep involved. I had a few days away recently and that has totally reinvigorated me.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
Enjoy it, whether you are returning to work or not. Spend time with other mums, as that support network can make such a difference in the early, often disconcerting days, but also as time goes on. Baby classes are a great way to get out and about. I had some quite tough times with Kitty’s tongue-tie affecting feeding and then she had awful reflux; it would have been easy to stay home and not see people, but getting out definitely made it all seem better. Even being able to hand over my baby to someone else for five minutes made a huge difference. Getting out of the house can be hard, but it is totally worth it, even if you are very late for something.

Do you have any tips for other SAHMs?
Take some time for yourself each week if you can; I know this isn’t always possible for everyone depending on family and/or partner circumstances or support, so it is easy to say, but for me, it makes all the difference. Buddying up with another mum can work to give each other a short break if you don’t have the family support available.

Women at Work: exam invigilator and clerk to school govenors

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This week we meet Laura, who has three kids and three jobs! There seems to be a recurring theme with the levels of multi-tasking each working mum I interview manages to undertake. I can see why Laura’s blog is called Musings of a tired mummy!

 

Name: Laura

Current profession: exam invigilator at one school, clerk to governors at two other schools, and blogger!

Town or county you live in: Camberley

How did you get into your school-based jobs?

I did both roles as part of a previous job from before I had children. I wanted something part time that I could fit around my family. It took a long time of applying and failing before I got the first job and then within a year I’d got the other two as well. Eight months ago I started blogging to allow myself to be a bit creative and let the world know that parenting is crazy.

Briefly describe a typical day at work…

Exams are spread through the year, obviously most in May and June. We arrive and set up the exam room with the papers etc, then supervise the candidates while they do their best (hopefully)! Clerking involves me taking minutes at meetings and writing them up. I’m also responsible for filing and other admin. I spend a lot of time at my computer, checking emails and organising. Blogging happens everywhere! I lay in bed, on the school run, cooking, out and about, watching tv; I’m always thinking of topics and have to jot them down or write a note on my phone to remember them.

What is the best part of your jobs?

The variety in all of them. The exams are always varied; I like the music and languages exams best, as they are more interesting but more can go wrong if the CD player breaks down! Every meeting is different and every governor brings something special to the schools I work at – they are deeply committed to providing the best for the children. Blogging is something that is just about me and my family; a chance for me to express myself, as my kids generally don’t listen.

And the worst?

Seeing kids in exams not even trying and waiting for other people to get back to me before the school run so I can sign off for the day and concentrate on my family. Oh and finding time to blog!

How many children do you have?

Three.

How old were your children when you went back to work?

Matthew was four and Anya was two when I got the exam invigilator job. I worked the very next day after having Zach (!) for clerking and invigilated an exam within a month.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?

I wanted to get a job to set a good example to my children and be able to afford treats. It is hard leaving them, but most of the time I can work around the older two’s school hours.

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?

I was training to be an educational psychologist while working as a teaching assistant in a primary school. I simply couldn’t afford to continue, as the childcare costs were higher than my wages.

Who provides childcare for you?

My mum during the day and my partner in the evenings.

Was it easy to negotiate flexible working/returning to work?

I set my hours around the kids with the exception of Zach who is more than happy to go to my mum for a couple of hours (never longer than three).

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?

Definitely. I used to begrudge working parents having time off and making my day harder. Now I am much more sympathetic and realise how busy parents are!

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?

Don’t feel guilty: whatever you decide is best for your family.

Laura’s blog is called Musings of a tired mummy…zzz…

Women at Work: Content Marketing Director

Profile Photo - Devon Mama

Name
Hi, I’m Hayley, a 30-year-old new mum living with my husband, one-year-old son and our dog in rural Devon.

Current profession
I went back to work part-time in January and am currently working as Content Marketing Director for a national retail company. I also write a parenting, food and lifestyle blog called Devon Mama in my spare time.

Town or county you live in: Devon!

How did you get into content marketing?
My route into content marketing isn’t the traditional one. I’ve worked at the same company since I was 13 and a Saturday girl. It’s a family company and with almost all of my family involved, I was bound to end up there. Prior to going to university to study Business and Management, I worked for 12 months as a Marketing Assistant. I credit that with being one of the best and worst jobs I had, I worked directly for the Marketing Director and would cry relentlessly as my work was never ‘good’ enough to meet his standards. It both put me off marketing and inspired me to do better.

After leaving university, I came back to the company and joined as a buyer, quite different from my previous experience! In our organisation it still allowed me to have input with product presentation and promotion, especially as I was sourcing and developing own-brand products from the Far East. Over the years I worked my way up to Procurement Manager before joining the Board as Procurement Director back in 2014. My role at that stage was overseeing all products and stock from conception through to it leaving the organisation to go to the customer, giving me a team of 15 and a budget of £25 million annually. I was still heavily involved in promotion planning and worked closely with our branding and marketing team throughout.

As time progressed we realised there was a gap for a content marketing team. Previously our copy and content product was spread across various individuals in the company, each technically employed to do another job! In 2015 I set up a small team, working directly with them to develop how we presented and promoted our products digitally. It fitted well alongside my procurement role even if it was two very different skills and sides of my brain!

When I had my son, I started to look at which parts of my role would have to go in order to accommodate a shorter working week. I realised quickly that I wasn’t prepared to lose my marketing role and with that, stepped aside as Procurement Director. Since that point, I’ve brought all content production into one team allowing us to give a clear, branded and consistent message. I actually bumped into my old boss the other day, he couldn’t believe it had taken me this long to get back into marketing!

Briefly describe a typical day at work…
A typical day at work for me starts at 7.30am. I get into the office, grab a drink and get settled in. That first 30 minutes before everyone else arrives is the golden time – I get so much done! As a Director I’m expected to still be ‘on’ when I’m at home, so I tend to do a quick pre-check of my emails the night before and first thing in the morning. When I’m in the office I start by going through my inbox and getting any quick wins out of the way first. I have sign off for all content, which means I spend a huge chunk of my day editing and proofing work before signing off; sometimes that can take minutes, other times hours.

Around 8.30am I go into a Director’s briefing where we discuss any issues arising, sales and performance. After that, it’s usually meetings with people in my team to catch up on what they’re doing, chat through ideas and sort any issues. I operate fairly openly with my team, nothing is off the table (unless it’s ridiculous), so there are always plenty of ideas and suggestions to talk through. Over lunch I’ll do a bit more copy reading, check emails and sign off adverts or marketing materials; unfortunately, part-time hours mean that a lunch break is a necessity I just don’t have time for these days.

In the afternoon we’ll have a campaign planning meeting, getting the entire team together to plan and schedule campaigns. We work 3-6 months ahead as a minimum, thankfully a habit I’m used to from my days in Buying… it can lead to being very fed up with Christmas by the time it comes round! Finally, I usually end up dealing with staff issues or a management issue such as strategy work at the end of the day. I sign off at 4.30pm to pick up my son before going home to another hour or so on the sofa later.

What is the best part of your job?
The team. One of the best bits of bringing together a relatively new team is being able to handpick them. They all come from different backgrounds and have different levels of experience and technical knowledge, but somehow it just works. I’m also very lucky to have a hugely supportive team of fellow Directors; my desk is in a corner with three of them and we’re constantly collaborating, discussing and laughing. I also love the flexibility I have. If I need to swap a day in the office, I can. If I need to leave early, I can. It’s taken some adjustment, but it works well for us at the moment.

And the worst?
Ha! Being part time also has its downsides. It’s very difficult to be in a high-level job and not be there 24/7. It’s not as if my job role ceases to function or can be covered when I’m not in the office, which means I have to be constantly available. People often think it’s easy being at the top of the management structure and while it does have huge benefits, it’s also the worst bit of my job. Ultimately, the buck stops with me. If one of my team make an error or something goes out incorrectly, it’s on me. It’s my role to develop and support those working for me and prevent mistakes from happening.

As a Director, there is no-one really above you, which means that you are expected to have the answers and the fixes. I’d often look over my shoulder as if someone more senior was going to be stood there and answer the question I’d been asked! I’ve had to make tough decisions that go against my personal feelings in order to put the company’s best interests first, including making roles of people I like redundant. It’s an incredible feeling having that responsibility; it can be very stressful, very lonely and completely exhausting.

How many children do you have?
I have a son born in May 2016.

How old was your child when you went back to work?
I planned to return to work in September 2016, but didn’t feel quite ready. I took back the Content Marketing part of my role at that stage, working from home while my maternity cover was on an extended holiday. I loved it but it just proved that I wasn’t mentally ready to return to work! From September onwards I returned to work for Board Meetings and in January 2017 I went back to work properly.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?
Oh gosh. I found going back to work with a baby so much harder than I thought I would! Even though I felt ready, I don’t think you can ever fully be ready for that change again. It helps that my son loves his childcare, but there are days when I don’t get to see him in the morning, meaning I get an hour with him maximum. I find myself riddled with guilt about leaving him when I’m in work and guilt about not working more when I’m at home. It’s tricky!

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?
I went back to an element of my old job. I genuinely considered not returning for a long time. I looked at our finances and realised that although we could cope, we would be doing just that; coping. We wouldn’t be able to afford to do anything beyond that. I looked at stepping down from a management role but decided it would be a huge backwards step for me and leave me frustrated. If I’m going to leave my baby, I want it to be for something worthwhile.

Who provides childcare for you?
My son goes to nursery one-and-a-half days a week and to my mum for one day. I was nervous about both of those options, but he loves the nursery and has come on leaps and bounds since joining there and being among other, older, children. With my mum, it’s been wonderful to see their relationship blossom and develop. I grew up close to my grandparents and I want the same for my son.

Was it easy to negotiate flexible working/returning to work?
My work has been very accommodating of me returning to work on a part-time basis. We’ve never had a part-time Director before, so I do feel a pressure to make sure that I’m constantly over-performing in order to show it can work.

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?
Definitely. I’m still career driven, but I now know that it’s okay to take my foot off the gas a little! I find myself far more appreciative of part-time workers and other working primary caregivers. I used to think it would be easy working part time, but now I realise it’s anything but. I don’t do 3/5ths of my old job. I just do it in 3/5ths of the time for 3/5ths of the pay! On the flip side, I’m far less tolerant of office politics. I’ve not left my own child at home to have to come and deal with ‘children’ at work. I put it down to tiredness and a lack of patience these days!

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
Enjoy it! I spent so long worrying about what I was missing, whether I could go back part time and then how I’d cope, that I forgot to enjoy it half the time. Spend some time doing proper research into childcare with plenty of notice; we had to book our nursery place prior to our son even being born. Good childcare that you trust removes one of those horrible guilt-inducing stressors.

Finally, be realistic about what you can manage. It’s all very well returning to work part time, but that does mean your role needs to be adapted to suit that. Likewise, with full time, don’t over commit yourself to the point that you’re running yourself ragged. You’ve got a full-time role at home as well, parenting doesn’t change to part time or flexi hours… be kind to yourself about what you can achieve. Most of all, know that what’s right for you may not be right for another. Don’t feel guilty for wanting to be back at work (or not!). Your career. Your family. Your choice. Not the neighbour’s, the woman at Tesco’s or your mum’s. Yours.

Women at Work: Customer Services & Business Owner

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This week we meet Becky, another busy mum (are there any of us who aren’t busy?) who works part-time in customer services as her ‘day job’, as well as running her own meal-planning company in her spare time!

 

Name: Becky Hulme

Current profession: Day job in Customer Services. Every other moment: Creator of Mums Meal Planner (mumsmealplanner.co.uk)

Town or county you live in: Near Blackpool

How did you get into being Creator of Mums Meal Planner?
While feeding baby no. 2 at approx 3am one morning, I was wondering what to make for tea that day, when I had the idea for Mums Meal Planner. I’ve always liked a challenge and there it was: create a business and make it work – eeek!

Briefly describe a typical day at work…
I work part time at my ‘day job’, so on a work day it’s up early and prepare for the challenge of getting everyone fed, washed, dressed and out of the door in the hope I get to work on time! Once at work, I have a cup of tea (a hot one) then start work. I deal with customer enquiries and whatever is required. Come home time, it’s another rush to get home to make sure I get there before nursery closes. Once we’re home, family time closely followed by bed time, then I start again with work for Mums Meal Planner. Anything from creating menus, to social media posts.

What is the best part of your job?
The creation of Mums Meal Planner was exciting. I had input into each and every aspect of the business, from website colours to email marketing. I get such a buzz each time I have a new customer. I’m looking forward to when I can afford to make it my full-time job, which will (hopefully) allow me the flexibility to work around my children.

And the worst?
The business is in the very early stages at the moment, so it’s hard work holding down a job, looking after my family and also doing everything needed for Mums Meal Planner. I could really do with another ‘me’ for a few days a week. (Not sure my husband would agree though!)

How many children do you have?
Two.

How old was your child when you went back to work?
My eldest was five months when I went back and my youngest was nine months.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?
It was hard and enlightening. I realised I’d changed, but wasn’t quite sure who I was. I still loved work, but also had a little person at home that I couldn’t bear to be away from. Having a baby made time so much more precious. It made me better at my job, as time was a luxury I didn’t have anymore and I made every second count at home with my family.

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?
I went back to the same job. I’d been there since the company started and a career change didn’t enter my head. After having baby no 2, I knew I couldn’t go back as the Manager, as I couldn’t give the role the time it deserved, but I still needed to be challenged.

Who provides childcare for you?
Grandparents and nursery.

Was it easy to negotiate flexible working/returning to work?
I am lucky to have an understanding boss, who is also a family man. He was very accommodating when we discussed my working hours after my return to work.

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?
YES! Before it was work 1st, 2nd & last (hubby came somewhere in the middle). Now, it’s family 1st. They’re only small once. You can always make more money, but you can never get the time back.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
Try to enjoy every moment. It’s hard, hard work and a constant fact-finding mission, but you will be OK. (And baby & toddler groups are a God send!)

Grumblings of a Granny: “Let them eat dirt”

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Here’s another classic blog post from my Mum. It’s pretty much her just moaning again about how good/bad/different things were in the ‘old days’. Yes, we know life was tough. You didn’t have cute videos of cats on Facebook to cheer you up or mobile phones or even proper nappies.

Disclaimer: my Mum grew up in the 1950s when there were either fewer paedophiles or parents’ were less aware of the dangers of letting their children wander around wherever they liked. In the mid-1990s, my brother and I had a fairly idyllic childhood in a beautiful part of Kent and spent many happy days playing in the local rec, woods and farm, so I can vouch for the benefits of being allowed to get muddy, climb trees and build camps. Hopefully, I will also be able to pass this on to my daughter, as my Mum did for us. And then she can pass it on to her children, although by the time the J has kids there probably won’t be such a thing as outside; it will all be virtual reality and living in metal cubes with robot servants.

“Let them eat dirt”

What is it about parents today that makes them want to protect their offspring from the evils of mud, dirt, sand, the weather and most things natural? As a child growing up, I was allowed to play unaccompanied in the local recreation ground, make camps in the woods, collect worms in a tin and make perfume from flower petals. I expect my mother did make us wash our hands before meals, but I don’t remember doing it!

As one of four kids, we stayed outside in our small garden ’till dusk riding around on our trikes (we only had two between us and only one of them was any good, so much of the day involved fighting over said trike) until called in for a bath. Everything seemed so carefree back then. My Dad made us a sandpit and a rope swing tied to a tree. In the summer, out came a paddling pool and a makeshift slide into it, giving us endless fun.

These days, however, according to my source at the toy shop, sandpit sales have slumped (we bought the J one for her birthday) as Mums just don’t want the mess at home. They would rather pay for an experience in play park or petting zoo, with easy access to antibacterial soaps etc. Organised mess is OK, but not in my back garden.

I used to climb high trees, make things from twigs, collect dead baby birds (yes I did) and take them home because I felt sorry for them. My favourite scooter went everywhere with me, exploring roads I didn’t know existed – we had such freedom. My daughter is horrified at my recollections, but that was what it was like. There was no ‘stranger danger’ back then, just an awareness of any weirdos who needed a wide berth.

But as for getting messy, please let your children explore outside, risk ruining clothes, getting stains that maybe won’t come out. Let them experience knocks and grazes, cuts and splinters and then live to tell the tale.
Childhood is so short these days before pressure is put on them and responsibilities taken up, so PLEASE let them eat dirt before they are too old.