Work, family and finances, the three interconnected subjects everyone’s talking about at the moment. I have written before about not being able to afford to go back to an office job. So when mother.wife.me. started a Mother’s Work Meme, I got tagged.
- Please post the rules
- Answer the questions in as much or as little detail as suits you
- Leave a comment on mother.wife.me so we can keep track of the meme
- Tag 3 people and link to them on your blog
- Let them know you tagged them
- Tweet loudly about taking part (well ok, that isn’t a rule, but how about if we start a hashtag – #amothersworkmeme
- Did you work before becoming a mum?
- What is your current situation?
- Freestyle – got your own point you’d like to get across on this issue? Here’s your chance…
And, most importantly…. you’re tagged!!
1. Did you work before becoming a mum?
I did and went back to work after child 1 and 2. With child 1, I went back after 16 weeks maternity leave. With child 2, I went back after 5 months.
2. What is your current situation?
I am self-employed – setting up my own fashion magazine and freelance writing at the same time. I’m also due to give birth to child 3 in April. My freelancing started in October last year; before that I had a full-time job in the West End where nearly all of my salary would go into childcare costs. Work involved a lot of early starts and staying late in the office, which meant extra childcare costs. Travel costs, even though I only live in the East End, made a sufficient dent into expenses. This was with two children, so obviously with the expense of child 3, it would be impossible to hold down a similar five-day a week office job.
Employers need to consider new methods of how to make an office work. It could mean breaking out of the traditional 9-to-5 way of working, but with sophisticated communication technology such as Skype and Basecamp, it’s less important for employees to be location specific as, say, five years ago. We live in an age of mobile devices. Anywhere can be an office.
Employees seen to be bending over their computers from 9 to 5 or into the evenings are not always all they seem to be. How focused have they been in the day? Have they stretched out work that could have been finished in 2 hours across 4 hours? How much time have been spent on Facebook, Twitter and surfing the net while they appeared to be ‘hard at work’? Or maybe they don’t have anywhere to go that evening so end up larking about in the office after the working day’s ended. And let’s not forget the long conversations at the watercooler or over making cups of tea.
I have personal experience of all these situations. What I see is low morale and motivation generally in the workplace. Staff are disgruntled and frustrated, while top management remains oblivious and do little to nurture and motivate them.
It’s been proven that flexibility is a powerful lure in recruiting and motivating top talent. Employees are able to concentrate without being interrupted by phone calls, meetings, and other workplace distractions. Eliminating watercooler gossip sessions — a significant time sink in a high-anxiety environment — is a huge boost to productivity. And knowing that an employer trusts and respects its people enough to help them do what it takes to perform better — through remote work options, staggered schedules, and reduced-hour arrangements — pays back in greater appreciation and loyalty.
What I’m saying is flexi-work should not just be for the mother returning from her year-long maternity leave. It should be an option for everyone. The traditional office, as we know it, needs shaking up. The old way is not working.
On the subject of new mums going back to work. I have friends who complained of getting sidelined after going back and some who have been pushed out of their jobs. And if you work in an environment where most of the women do not have children, it’s pretty much like working in a male-only office. Your childless female colleagues don’t understand why you have to leave at 5.30pm every day. Nor do they know about astronomic childcare expenses, which runs up if you’re late picking up the kids. They don’t understand that repeated negotiations with your partner down the phone every other day (about working late and who should pick up baby) has a bad impact on home life. They don’t understand that, unlike them, you don’t have down time when you get home.
Don’t have children then, I hear you say. Well, my children will be paying for my pension when I – and my peers – enter old age.
Women are more educated today than 30 years ago – they can work and want to work. There is greater sharing of domestic responsibilities between partners than 30 years ago. So why do we still have offices (and attitudes) built for a workforce from 30 years ago?