Give it some flex
In 2015, I was interviewed by MMB Magazine, a network of online and printed publications for working parents, about my work life balance as a mother of two very young children. 6 years and a global pandemic later, I thought I’d revisit the interview and although my children are older and working patterns have changed for us all, thanks to an enlightened and flexible employer, my opinions on and ability to balance my role as a mother and a board director haven’t.
Now, my kids are at primary school and my schedule is less about making the nursery 6pm deadline and more about understanding equivalent fractions and limiting screen time (both an ongoing challenge). But one thing that remains the same is the fact that I can do a better job for the company and my clients when I have the time to focus on being a mother. My Friday’s off are still sacred and CreativeRace’s new flexible working policies allow me to do the school drop off and pick up when I can, as long as I follow our 3 guiding principles which ensure I don’t let my clients or team down. When I’m at the school gates on a Friday I don’t take calls and I’m not checking emails and that means when I’m in work I don’t feel guilty about not being there for them. Because I am there for them when I am. I’m a better Communications Director when I’m working and a better mother when I’m not.
As the CreativeRace board continue to work on diversity and inclusion initiatives, I feel confident, after spending nearly 10 years as a working mother, I’ll be in a great position to to help shape better, fairer experiences for the teams we employ. With Shadow children’s minister Tulip Siddiq introducing the Flexible Working Bill in parliament last week, aimed at giving workers a right to flexible working arrangements, it may be that the tide is turning and working parents, having been dealt the blow of home schooling through the pandemic as well as keeping their own jobs and careers afloat, will start to see a culture of acceptance as everyone has the opportunity to benefit from what will become a “right for all, rather than a perk for the few”.
It will certainly be interesting to revisit this interview again in another 6 years to see how the landscape has changed further. I only hope I don’t have to struggle with algebraic equations to see things move forwards again.
Article first shared in MMB Magazine on Thursday August 27th 2015
After 13 years in London where her son Noah was born in 2010 (in the same hospital as Marc Bolan and Ray Winstone) the family made the decision to move back to her hometown of Leeds where her daughter Valentina was born in 2013. Two maternity leaves, two babies, two returns to work juggling childcare and nursery drop offs has led her to MMB Magazine and the continued search for the perfect work / life balance.
What were/are the biggest challenges you faced going back into the work place after having children?
Going back to work after my first child was an emotional challenge. I originally planned to return to work (a job I loved) after 9 months but as time crept on I found it harder and harder to take the step that meant leaving him in the care of anyone except me. My employers at the time were incredibly flexible and organised a job share which allowed me to work 3 days a week and pass the work over to another working mother and she back to me – one of the biggest challenges of working part / flexi time is having to actually cram 5 days of work into a shorter period – the job share helped with this issue immensely. I found I quickly settled back into my previous role and unexpectedly enjoyed the child free time which was well balanced with having 2 days with my son at the end of the week. There’s still a certain level of guilt that you feel as a working mother – you can never give yourself completely to your job and you’re constantly plagued by feelings of inadequacy as a mother for simply not being there all of the time. My children are in a nursery setting and so I reassure myself with the fact that this helps their development in ways I wouldn’t be able to if they were on their own with me.
Returning to work after my second child was more of a logistical trial plus I was starting a new job with employers who were not able to be as flexible and didn’t have as much trust in me as a long time employee. Getting two children of different ages and capabilities up and dressed and fed and ready for nursery and getting into the office in time to allow me to leave at 5 to collect them was and remains a challenge. As my son starts school in September, these arrangements will become more complicated and less flexible – the challenges around being a working mother change continually but the guilt lessens.
How do you achieve your work life balance of career and mother?
My career has definitely taken a back seat since becoming a mother but I think that’s a choice I’ve made rather than a situation that’s been forced on me. I am strict about the hours I work. I check emails and finish work only once the children are in bed and I try to minimise the time outside my agreed working hours that I spend away from them. They are my first priority and I’m honest about that with my employers in order to manage expectations.
If you could give your past self one piece of advice about being a working mother, what would it be?
Before you have children be accepting and supportive of the women you work with who have children and need to prioritise them – this article says it all really.
Have your career goals and aspirations altered since becoming a working mother from that prior to your children?
Before I had children I was incredibly concerned with my position, how senior I was, the next promotion. Like many young people I wanted to achieve more, move onto the next role, be given more responsibility, earn more money, be seen to be achieving in the eyes of my colleagues and friends. Having had children I’m much more concerned with doing the job I have to the best of my ability.
What are your future goals in your career path in the next few years, what do you hope to achieve?
I want to continue to work on interesting clients and interesting projects that have a purpose and make a difference to the company I work for in the role I’m in.
If you had the power to change one thing in the business market for working mothers, what would you change?
More correlation between school hours and working hours for working mothers. With a child about to start school it’s hard to imagine how most working mothers manage school drop off and pick up, the times of which in no way fit with regular working hours. I’m really not sure of the solution – whether it’s after school care provided by the government or an agreed working pattern that offers half days / early finishes.
About the author:
Rebecca Jones is the communications director at CreativeRace. She has 21 years of experience in communications; specialising in PR, social media and influencer relations, having worked on local and global campaigns for a wide range of brands from head and shoulders and Pantene to John West and Fiat 500.