Women at work: lawyer

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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

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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: 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!)

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.