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: Science teacher

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This week we have a post from a busy mum, teacher and blogger, who wishes to remain anonymous.

 

Current profession: Teacher

Town or county you live in: Staffordshire

How did you get in to teaching ?
Once I found out at the age of 10 or 11 that I really couldn’t deal with other people’s bodily fluids, my dreams of becoming a doctor were quickly changed. At the same time, I discovered my quite bossy nature and the thought of 30-odd teenagers being forced to listen to me ramble on for an hour was quite appealing.

To be truthful, my teachers were my rock at a time when all I needed was a place to just be myself. They were always there for me and school was a place where I could develop on a personal and intellectual level the way I wanted to – something that, oddly, I felt unable to do outside of school. I wanted to put back into the system what I’d got out. In my home country, I couldn’t combine my love of languages with my love of science and teach both, so I ended up emigrating to England and teach science here. I’ve always been one for compromises.

Briefly describe a typical day at work…
My working day starts at 7am with the half-hour commute to work. By 7.30am I typically collect all the paperwork from my various in-trays, check whether I’ve been put onto the cover list, prepare my lesson resources and catch up with colleagues about student issues.

I then teach five one-hour lessons and a tutor session, with little time in between to have food or pop to the loo at break time. We usually have an after-school club, revision sessions or meetings going on after school, so my day at work usually finishes around 4.30pm and I can collect the children by 5pm. After I have successfully got my baby to sleep, I have to cram in 2-3 hours’ worth of marking, planning and paperwork before it’s time for bed.

What is the best part of your job?
The children. No two days are the same and they always come out with a gem or two during the school day. I also love preparing resources and seeing the children’s faces when their hard work pays off.

And the worst?
Apart from the massive workload, it is probably the knowledge that there are still some people who don’t see all the hard work we put in to make our students as successful as we can. It is disappointing when you do everything in your power to do the best job possible and have some people questioning your competence over issues out of your control.

How many children do you have?
I have two children – a daughter aged 9 and a son, who is 8 months old.

How old was your child when you went back to work?
I was still at university with my first, but went back when she was 11 months old. My son was 7 months when I started work again.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?
It can be stressful, but I just try to be really organised. I have all my son’s lunches batch-cooked and frozen for the week ahead; I put all his clothes for the week in little organiser pockets for each day; and I prepare everyone’s sandwiches the night before. I do the washing exclusively at weekends and my husband and I stick to a strict routine during the week, with set tasks for each of us. I’ve just realised how stressful that sounds, but because we know exactly what needs doing, it actually works rather smoothly.

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?
I have gone back to the same job for a term, but when I was on maternity leave I interviewed for a new job – still in teaching, but a promotion to the next higher position. Money was a big consideration, as was the increased job satisfaction, which comes with greater responsibility.

Who provides childcare for you?
We have organised a childminder. Childcare is by far our biggest cost.

Was it easy to negotiate flexible working/returning to work?
Yes; all I had to do was fill in a form.

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?
It has, in a way. I have to accept that there are only so many hours in the day to do my job, so work has to contract to fit around everything else. I also try to use the weekends and the holidays to spend time with my family and work extra efficiently during the week to compensate. I have to be organised and know exactly what I am doing. It helps that I have been teaching for quite a while, so I can put a lesson together pretty quickly.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
Make the most of it! Towards the end I did question whether I had done enough with my boy, whether I had spent enough time with my daughter and exposed both to enough experiences. Some things have changed so much since I have been back at work. I stopped breastfeeding and didn’t even realise it would be the last time I fed him one night. So I would say, enjoy every moment. And get your partners to take those pictures.

A well as being a teacher, this multi-tasking mum writes a positive parenting, lifestyle and cooking blog called How to Rock at Parenting.

Women at Work: Engineer

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Name: Stephanie Jenkinson

Current profession: Engineer

Town or county you live in: Kent

How did you get in to engineering?
I loved physics and maths during school, plus was surprisingly good at it. I also love learning how things work and Mechanical Engineering seemed at the time like a logical next step. I went to a defence university on the Wiltshire/Oxfordshire border, so my second passion then became defence and security. I love the feeling that I might actually be making a difference

Briefly describe a typical day at work…
I am currently on a secondment doing more of an administrative role for the senior management. But before this, a typical day would involve designing items and working with the workshop staff to see them built. I would also be involved in research projects and conducting explosive trials on site.

What is the best part of your job?
They occasionally let me blow things up! Being involved in making a difference to the defence and security of the UK.

And the worst?
I hate being bored and working for the civil service seems to have two speeds – rushed off your feet or barely enough work to get through the day.

How many children do you have?
One daughter.

How old was your child when you went back to work?
She was about 7/8 months.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?
I actually cut my maternity leave short; I was supposed to take 11 months off, but I found I was starting to chomp at the bit with wanting to have adult conversations that didn’t revolve around children. I adore my NCT and other mum friends, and there is no way I would have got through the past 15 months without them. However, I also spent a really long time at university (eight years). I am highly qualified and, on the whole, love my job and was desperate to go back to it. I wanted something that was just for me. While I was off on maternity leave (and to a certain extent the months leading up to it) I ceased to become the qualified person that I am and suddenly just became a mum. Hats off to anyone who does do the stay-at-home mum thing, I so admire you. However, I am aware that I do not have the patience for it and honestly thought (and still do) we would all be better off if I returned to work.

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?
I went back to a different job, which has been a change. It has been fascinating to learn about how the whole organisation works and I think this will make me more efficient and more aware of what I am doing when I go back to the science. I am now looking for a job back in the science and technology areas, so I can use my brain fully. The past six months have been great to ease me back into working.

Who provides childcare for you?
I am very fortunate to have gained a place at a charity nursery that is also conveniently located a short walk from where I live. It has made returning to work possible financially, as it considerably cheaper than the other nurseries around our area. I have recently become a trustee of the nursery as well to try and help them with their upcoming relocation to a new site.

Was it easy to negotiate flexible working/returning to work?
I am exceedingly fortunate to work for the civil service, so returning to work was completely on my terms. Due to accrued leave I was able to return to work three days per week for three months, but get paid full time and use annual leave for two days per week. I am now back up to full-time hours (again, I wanted to do more, so it was my decision), but I work four days in the office (with an extra hour tagged on each day) and half a day at home with my daughter one day per week. I still use my annual leave to have days at home with my daughter when I want to. Again, I am very lucky that my job allows me the flexibility to be able to take time off, as and when I want, and to be able to work from home, but most importantly understand that my family must and always will come first now.

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?
Yes! As much as I would still love to be able to do the extra bits and pieces that meant staying late, or working an occasional weekend. My time with my family is precious, so when home time comes along I am out of that door and on my way to nursery to pick her up – something that I look forward to all day.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
Get yourself a good group of parent/mum friends. There are plenty of free groups around, if you didn’t do any pre- or post-natal courses. Go along to them, find likeminded individuals and make friends (I know this is easier said than done. I struggle massively with this due to anxiety, but for my daughter’s sake I forced myself to do it). I would have been lost without the friends I have made through courses and playgroups – just make sure they have similar views to you on parenting. They have been a source of comfort when my husband doesn’t understand those nitty gritty things that play on your mind. I have a lovely group of friends who I know I can call on for anything (including babysitting frequently, as I have no family nearby) and I hope they know that I would also do anything for them!

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Women at Work

I’ve decided to start a series of blog posts called Women at Work. Each one will take the form of a short interview with a working mum. I faced many challenges when going back to work after having the J and I wanted to share my own and other women’s experiences in different job roles. I also want to highlight the different options out there and to bring up some of the things mothers go through when thinking about their new working arrangements. To kick things off, I’ve answered my own interview questions.

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I don’t have any photos of me ‘at work’, so here’s a nice one of me on my 30th when I was about five months pregnant, but could just about pull off looking glam.

Georgina Probert – freelance journalist

How did you get in to journalism?
I studied English Literature and History & Theory of Art at University and, as part of my degree course, undertook a three-month internship at a contemporary art magazine. I loved the process of creating a magazine, from conception to printing, and realised that was what I wanted to do.

Briefly describe a typical day at work…
Now that I am freelance, no day is the same. On a work day, I get up early with my daughter and get her dressed, fed and off to childcare. I usually make myself a coffee and start work in my office at home. Sometimes, I go in to my local high street and work in a coffee shop. There is something comforting about being around people and I am very good at tuning out background noise. I also find that there are too many distractions at home, such as washing, cleaning and looking in the fridge (I do this a lot!).

What is the best part of your job?
The flexibility: being able to choose who I work for and when.

And the worst?
The uncertainty of how much money I will bring in each month and having periods with no work. This then leads me to panic and say yes to everything I’m offered, which means I have crazy busy times, too.

How many children do you have?
One daughter called Imogen or ‘the J’ on my blog, who is 14 months old.

How old was your child when you went back to work?
I took on some freelance work when she was eight months old, but I didn’t properly go back until she was about a year.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?
Exciting, stressful, challenging, but all in a good way. I think it was more about changing career than being away from my daughter. Very selfishly, I like having a purpose other than wife, mother and housekeeper.

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?
Before I got pregnant I was working for an interiors magazine in London. I decided not to return to my old job, as the cost and time spent commuting just wouldn’t work with a young child.

Who provides childcare for you?
My mother-in-law looks after the J two days a week and, as my workload is increasing, she will also be going to a childminder one day each week. My Mum also gives us ad-hoc babysitting – we are very lucky to have so much support.

Was it easy to negotiate flexible working/returning to work?
I had already made my mind up that I wasn’t going to return to my old job, so there wasn’t any negotiating (apart from with my husband about whether or not to try freelancing). Returning to work was easier than I thought it would be in some ways, but it is more of a challenge juggling work, my daughter, and the general chores/life admin that come with being a grown up.

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?
Yes, 100%. I am much more efficient now that I’ve had a child. And I’m less worried about the pressures of work. Perhaps because I am my own boss, but also because there are things in life that are so much more important than whether your boss/colleagues/clients like you. I also work harder, mainly because my time is more precious these days, but also because I am just starting out as a freelancer and want to build up my client base, so need to make a good impression.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
Don’t jump to hand in your notice. Wait until you really have to make that decision. Speak to your company and discuss flexible working, even if you think they won’t be open to it, it never hurts to ask. And if what they offer doesn’t work for you, think about a career change or look for a company that does offer flexible hours. Just because you want to go part-time, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on your career.