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Women at work: SAHP or ‘working in the home’

Rebecca is my cousin and, since writing this post, she has had another daughter. She answered my questions last year about her decision not to go back to “work” (she feels strongly about the fact that most people do not see staying home and caring for your children as proper work) and I totally forgot about them (sorry Becky!), But, I want to publish them now in the hope that when she writes another guest blog about how things have changed since having two daughters you can see the difference in her answers!

Name

Rebecca Norburn

Current profession

Stay-at-home parent (SAHP) or ‘working in the home’

Town or county you live in

Sevenoaks, Kent

What was your profession before you had children?

Fundraising Consultant

Why did you decide not to return to work?

I didn’t have a job to return to! I was working on a fixed-term contract when I became pregnant with my first child, which in hindsight was great as it enabled me to work flexibly up until my daughter was born and then enjoy being at home with her without the pressure of a “return to work” deadline looming. Once she arrived, my husband and I looked at the cost and logistics of me returning to paid employment and decided that I would stay at home to care for her during her early years and look at setting up my own business in the meantime.

Briefly describe a typical day…

At the moment I’m six months’ pregnant, so trying to get periods of rest during the day is quite important. Luckily my daughter is a late riser and happy to come into my bed for cuddles and breakfast first thing, so I’m making the most of that before she starts preschool in September! We have certain classes and activities we attend during the week to socialise with other children and I’m fortunate enough to have most of my family living close by, so try to visit them frequently. She’s also at a childminder for a few hours a week, which gives me time to get important chores done and also, occasionally, a bit of me time. But I try to keep my daughter at home for her lunchtime nap to give her some consistency, and we’re usually at home for her suppertime at 6pm, followed by going to meet Daddy on his way home from the train station if it’s a nice evening!

What is the best part of being a SAHP?

Undoubtedly getting to spend so much time with my daughter and watch her grow up! I feel so lucky to be able to spend this precious time with her and I do try to appreciate it every day, even during the challenging bits. It’s a big advantage not having to juggle employment with childcare – I can take my daughter to the dentist or keep her at home whilst sick without having to worry about taking time off, for example. I know I’d find this incredibly stressful and am in awe of parents who have to manage this.

And the worst?

How little SAHPs are valued by our society in general. As someone who has always taken my independence for granted, it came as a huge shock to suddenly feel so disempowered – I can’t apply for credit or even to open certain bank accounts, for example, as I have no income. And it’s disheartening to be constantly asked when I’m “going back to work”, as though what I do now isn’t valuable or important enough to be fulfilling. Most of my friends are now back working full-time outside the home, and it can be very isolating when it’s just you and a small person day, in day out. Sometimes I feel guilty having a moan when I’ve had a tough day, especially when I know so many parents who would love to be in my position and can’t be. I do also worry about the impact taking this time out will have when I return to the workplace, and I definitely miss adult conversation and after-work drinks!

How many children do you have?

One daughter aged two and a half, and another child due in November. [NB: since writing this blog post, Rebecca has given birth to a second daughter. Her eldest is now 3 and her youngest is 4 months!]

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?

Start keeping a journal for your child – noting down my memories of those precious first years, my daughter’s milestones etc is the best thing I’ve done, as the stages pass so quickly!

Do you have any tips for other stay-at-home mums or dads?

Definitely be kind to yourself! Some days it may feel like all you’ve done is fed and soothed your child… and actually, that’s ok. I also try to get out for some of each day, to get some interaction with others and fresh air for us both!

Women at work: lawyer

Copyright: Shutterstock.com/Africa Studio

Continuing my series on women going back to work after having a baby, this week we meet an ambitious lawyer who is refreshingly honest about wanting to get back to work and showing a strong work ethic to her son.

 

How did you get into law?

From a young age, my dad always told me he thought “law was a good job” and I basically followed his advice (and am thankful for it). I took the traditional route of studying law at university, then onto law school for a year followed by a two-year training contract with a law firm, before eventually then qualifying as a lawyer (which I have now been for almost 13 years).

Briefly, describe a typical day at work…

No day is ever the same – which is one of the many things I love about my job. However, typically it might look like this: Early morning tends to see some form of management meeting (maybe a Business Development meeting, firm strategy meeting or a Graduate Recruitment issue – I am also the firm’s Training Principal and Graduate Recruitment Partner). Then it’s client work, which can be anything from meetings, calls, document reviews, drafting, court applications and hearings. I am a private client lawyer and specialise in a mixture of contentious and non-contentious trusts and estates work. Lunch might be a training session or another internal meeting – or it might actually be lunch! The afternoon will be back on client work, which will see me through to the early evening and then it’s either home or it might be a networking event.

What is the best part of your job?

I absolutely love the variety of my work and the fact that I am challenged every day. I knew early on that dealing with pure transactional work was not for me, but working in a large corporate city firm means I am very fortunate with the type of clients I have. By way of example, I can be looking at succession planning for high-net-worth individuals who might hold large companies or landed estates, negotiating deals with national heritage bodies to save estates for the nation or I might be dealing with applications being brought against trustees of multi-million-pound trusts. I also feel very fortunate to work with some of the brightest lawyers and barristers and not just in the UK.

And the worst?

The hours are long and clients’ expectations are high – but then so they should be, as ultimately I work in a client-service industry. As a partner, there are also a lot of demands on you that come from other areas, such as the need to build your practice. This involves not just doing the work on your desk, but going out searching for the work too and investing time in other areas for the firm’s growth – in my case Graduate Recruitment and the development of our trainees. Juggling the demands of a busy career and making time for the important role of business development, and ensuring we recruit and retain the best talent does have its challenges and very often I feel there are not enough hours in the day!

How many children do you have?

I have one delightful little boy who is almost 21 months old.

How old was your child when you went back to work?

My son was 10 months old. I started my maternity leave three days before he arrived (which wasn’t planned, although in fairness I hadn’t left myself much time as was aiming for a week of feet up on the sofa before he arrived). Part of the reason in leaving it to the last minute was because I had decided early on to take 10 months and return to work full time, so I wanted to make sure I used all of my maternity leave with him.

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

The honest answer is that I was actually rather desperate to get back to work. To some, this might sound horrific, but that does not mean that I didn’t find it hard leaving my son, nor do I find it easy that I don’t see him as much as I did. But I have got my own identity back and I also truly believe that it is important for my son to see me working and understand the importance of a strong work ethic.

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

I went back to exactly the same job and never considered doing anything but this.

Who provides childcare for you?

We have a nanny for three days a week and our son attends nursery two days a week. I work from home on one of the nursery days so I can do the pickup and I sometimes leave the office before 5pm on a nanny day so I can do bedtime. This allows me to see my son one or two nights during the working week and my hugely-supportive husband is responsible for all the other days in terms of getting home on time to do pick up/relieve the nanny.

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

I was in a very fortunate position, as being a partner I am ultimately responsible for my own practice. Of course, going back full time meant little was changing, but I was able to make the decision about working from home and if I want to leave early I just do – but if I do I am then in the study after bedtime logging on and catching up on emails for a couple of hours.

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

I still have the same career aspirations I always had and, in that regard, my career has stayed very important to me, but I do work more efficiently now and I do say no to things. I can’t go to every drinks evening (and lawyers do find themselves at a lot of these!) and I have to think carefully about travel that takes me away from home for a few days as I have other responsibilities now. However, I believe in balance and sometimes there is something in the work calendar that is very important and I have to prioritise this, and other times I cancel things to make sure I see my son.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?

Make the most of the time, as it goes so quickly. Try to get out and about as much as you can. Meet new mums and make an effort. Maternity leave can be lonely and you need to have at least one person that you can be open and honest with and call on for a coffee. I would also say don’t feel guilty if you pine for the office (or equivalent). Having a baby and how that changes your life is very personal to you – my own view is that I don’t believe motherhood defines you. It certainly adds a new layer to you and brings a new element to your life that brings so much joy. But for some (and I absolutely accept it’s not for everyone) being a working mum can make you a better mum and don’t be afraid of accepting that if you fall into that category as I certainly did. If you miss work while you are on maternity leave then do whatever you can to keep in touch. Take the baby into the office, log in and check the odd email – do whatever keeps you sane! Quite frankly, maternity leave can be really hard work and yes there is coffee and cake (and sure I miss this now and again) but it’s not a breeze by any stretch.

 

 

 

Women at Work: copywriter and author

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This week we have an experienced mum with three kids at school. She currently works from home and has done a few different jobs throughout her career before sticking at, what sounds like, her passion.

 

Name: Nicola Young

Current profession: copywriter and author

Town or county you live in: Sevenoaks

How did you get into copywriting?
I’ve been writing copy since I started my first job following university. I worked for the Food Standards Agency and wrote articles for trade magazines, text for leaflets, speeches and q&a’s for parliamentary question time, and answered enquiry emails. Every job I had after that always saw me gravitating towards anything involving the written word, so moving into copywriting was a natural step for me.

Briefly describe a typical day at work…
I work from home so there is no typical day for me. I have an office in the garden, so once the kids have gone to school and I’ve walked the dog, I’ll make myself a strong coffee and take myself down there for a few hours. What I do depends on what I’m working on, but generally, I do a lot of business blog articles, product copy and website pages. If I get time, I’ll do some editing, writing or planning for my fiction work.

What is the best part of your job?
I like the flexibility of what I do. I can go from meeting mode to mum mode within five minutes and back again. That’s not for everyone, but it works for me.

And the worst?
Some of the things I have to write about aren’t of any interest to me, but it’s the nature of the job. I also find that some people aren’t prepared to pay very much and don’t appreciate how much research you have to do before you even begin to write the words.

How many children do you have?
I have three children – 13, 10 and eight.

How old was your child when you went back to work?
I first worked part-time when my eldest daughter was just a few months old. I trained as an exercise-to-music instructor when I was pregnant! And ran a few classes in a local hall.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?
It was hard because she didn’t particularly like being left with anyone else, but at the same time, I enjoyed those few hours of free time.

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?
This was a complete move away from the market research job I had pre-children. I didn’t start freelance copywriting until I’d had my third child.

Who provides childcare for you?
I don’t need childcare because they are all at school now.

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?
My children are my priority and the older they get, the more they need me around for support. I would always make sure I work around them.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
If you think you might like to continue with your current career, I would advise you to keep your toe in the water. The longer you are away, the more difficult it is to get back into work mode. On the other side of things, don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself, if that’s what you think you might like to do. Having time off is the ideal opportunity to think about where you see your future career going.

Nicola Young is a freelance copywriter at Nicola Young Copywriter.

She writes children’s fiction under the name Nikki Young and runs a food and health blog at www.afreefromlife.com

 

 

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…