A mother’s work meme

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.

Rules:

  1. Please post the rules
  2. Answer the questions in as much or as little detail as suits you
  3. Leave a comment on mother.wife.me so we can keep track of the meme
  4. Tag 3 people and link to them on your blog
  5. Let them know you tagged them
  6. Tweet loudly about taking part (well ok, that isn’t a rule, but how about if we start a hashtag – #amothersworkmeme

Questions:

  1. Did you work before becoming a mum?
  2. What is your current situation?
  3. Freestyle – got your own point you’d like to get across on this issue? Here’s your chance…

And, most importantly…. you’re tagged!!

HPMcQ

Joanne Mallon

Ministry of Mum

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.

3. Freestyle
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.

There are currently 4 people of working age supporting each pensioner in Britain, by 2035 this number is expected to fall to 2.5, and by 2050 to just 2.

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?

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21 thoughts on “A mother’s work meme

  1. Great free styling
    On my way to work now so will catch up on my tag a little later
    What would be interesting is to hear from mothers who believe you shouldn’t be working if you choose to be a mother. I get this a lot. Completely shunned because I work and that the choice should be work and childless or motherhood and jobless.

  2. Oh weird comment just vanished oh bugger what did I say?
    Oh yes get on this as soon a that goddamn working day is over!
    What I find interesting and what I get a lot are comments from mothers who think the options should be work and be childless or be mother and jobless.

    • I think we’ll always have the SAHM vs WAHM debate. Doubt it’ll ever go away. It’s really down to individual choice and circumstances.
      Also, it’s much easier to go back to a job which you love.

  3. Thank you so much for taking part in the A Mother’s Work Meme. I think your closing thought says it all.

    When I worked in the magazine industry, I remember it being a bit of a competition amongst the female editors, as to who could come back into the office the soonest after giving birth. My editor at the time was back within the week, not full time, but she actually came in and was actively working on the mag from then onwards. Another, I seem to remember, was in the next day.

    Now, there is dedication to the job and then there is a fear that if you don’t present yourself in the office, you will no longer have a job. Nothing gets said out loud, but who in their right mind would give birth and want to be in work a few days later. Why should you have to do that to show your ‘dedication’ to your job.

    Time for change is well overdue (that’s not a pregnancy pun BTW). Hopefully with what we are doing and amazing initiatives like the one below, we can kick society’s backside into gear.

    I spotted this on the MumsNet newsletter yesterday, it is run by a group called Anywhere Working.

    Anywhere Working Week – From 27th February
    http://www.anywhereworking.org/2012/anywhere-working-week-27th-february/

    • I very nearly became one of those mums – going back to work the next day after giving birth. Thank goodness I had a great colleague who drummed some sense into me.
      You do worry about being ‘out of sight out of mind’.
      Thanks for the Anywhere Working Week tip!

  4. Oh yes that will always be. But I get a lot of you shouldn’t work your a mother from mothers that dont work, i mean work in the earning £££s kinda way. Whereas I would never say you should work you and put your child is in nursery. I find it fascinating.
    Must dash…….

    • It is mind boggling when you’re at receiving end of such comments.
      It’s not fair to judge another person’s decision, as you never really know what people’s real circumstances are to make them stay at home or work.

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  9. Oh I completely empathise with the feeling that you need to show you are still around and the pressure to come back is huge. I agree with so much of what you have said that I cannot put it all in a comment but suffice to say that employers need to remember that having invested in employing and training young women, the cost of having some flexibility during the time they have young children will reap rewards when they remain in industry. More understanding from the work front could mean less women leaving employment because they have to (not because they want to which of course is a different option and perhaps one more would take if they could afford to financialy). Where is a womans place? tough question

    • It’s a waste. I see so many intelligent highly educated women squeezed out of their jobs just because employers equate working mothers with them possibly spending fewer hours at work.
      The presenteeism culture is still very strong in the workplace. Very surprising given current technology can enable us to work from anywhere.

      • The funny thing is that employers actually gain certain cost savings through allowing part-time – as we all know, a 4 day week just means you cram in 5 days worth of work for 4 days pay! And then end up on your blackberry while pushing a swing on your day off half the time!

      • Exactly. A lot of it is still down to old-fashioned management style and attitudes. That you need to be ‘seen’ at your desk from 9 to 5 to be considered ‘productive’. In setups like that, you’re just guaranteed to get unimaginative, jaded and ‘lost’ employees.

    • This is also something that needs change at our children’s level – it is rare that men feel the guilt and conflict between being with their children as women do, purely because it is ingrained in them from an early age that daddies work and some mummies do, some don’t. Choice itself is what makes us feel guilty – I posted last week about the fact that I enjoy my work and thinking of choosing it over being SAHM makes me feel incredibly guilty.

      • I think this is really up to families and individuals how they handle their children’s perception of the role of their mummies and daddies. I have had to explain to my kids several times (and still do) that I sometimes have to continue working even while cooking their tea. And that I’m not just messing around on my phone.
        You shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying your work and choosing it over SAHM. It’s not like you’re neglecting your children completely. We all make different choices. Some of my friends decided to be SAHM until their child goes into primary school. That’s their choice. But not one I made for myself. It didn’t fit in with my world view which is that it’s easier to keep one foot in the market (ie. working full-time, part-time or in whatever shape or form) than to be out of it completely for any length of time – purely because everything changes so fast these days.
        I’m also a much better mum because I work – I love what I do.

  10. Hi, I posted on exactly this topic last week, although not at part of the meme – great answers, particularly the freestyle bit. Yes, women are often our greatest detractors – whether it’s some of those who are childless who assume you won’t be coming back to work or don’t see why you should get to work flexibly (yes, agree, in this day and age we all should), or the mothers who do come back to work early or late hours to prove a point. Another point for employers is that roughly 50% of the population is female, the majority of whom now go into higher education and then employment – by making it cost-prohibitive due to childcare costs etc to go back to work or withholding flexibility, employers are blithely effectively proposing to lose almost a third of this knowledgeable, skilled, experienced and hard working workforce.

    • I think it’ll take a whole generation before employers come round to flexible working, put an end to presenteeism and clock watching.
      All the working mums I know, I’ve never known a bunch of women who are more focused, productive and knowledgable.

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