I have been a working mum since 2013 and am currently on my second maternity leave (although I have now handed my notice in and will be working from home as a blogger – eek!). Some days being at full time work was extremely difficult while on others it was nice to be able to sit and have a hot cup of tea without having to wipe a nose or change a bum! I know there are a heck of a lot of working mums out there, some who love it, some who hate it and others who are somewhere in the middle. I thought it would be interesting to see exactly how others feel about being a working mum and maybe we can all learn a little something about dealing with that dreaded mummy guilt!
Today we meet the lovely Hayley from Devon Mama, talking all things working mummy!
Tell me a little bit about who is in your family.
Our family consists of me, my husband, our son and our overly bouncy chocolate Labrador. My husband and I met at work whilst working together on a campaign, at the time he was responsible for building emails and I was the buyer responsible for all own brand items, including promotions. Flash forward seven years, he’s the web development manager, I’m content marketing director and we’re married with a little one! We bought our current house (a renovation project!) in 2014, got married in 2015 and our son was born in May 2016, so I’m hoping 2017 will be a little quieter for us!
What age were your children when you returned to work??
I returned to work part time in September when my maternity cover went on holiday for three weeks. My son was three and a half months old and looking back, it was mayhem. I went in for monthly Board meetings from that point before returning properly in January of this year. It’s my family’s business (third generation) and I’m a shareholding Director there so there was added pressure to be back in the game as quickly as possible.
Did you return to a job away from the home or within the home?
Away from the home. Our offices are about a ten minute drive from our house which is great. It means we can pop home for lunch each day. Since returning to work, I now split my time between the office and home. I spend two long days in the office and then do the rest from home, I can’t imagine not going in to the office though. A huge part of working is the interaction for me and the people, I miss that when I work at home.
Did you choose to return or did your circumstances force you back??
I always knew that I’d return to work. I never had an image in my head of me being a stay at home parent but I did consider it when I was on maternity leave. Going back to work was a huge mental struggle for me, I felt like I was compromising on everything. In the end it boiled down to the quality of life we’d have; I’m the primary wage earner and without my wage we’d be able to manage but only just. We wanted to give our son the opportunities we’ve had; holidays, a nice house, the money to be able to do things.
Aside from that, it was a selfish decision. I genuinely love my job most of the time. People think it’s easier in a family business but you have to prove yourself over and over to show people that you haven’t just been handed that role. I worked damn hard to get my role and prove myself in a male dominated workplace. I found myself very passionate about the fact that having a child shouldn’t mean an end to that!
Did you return to work full or part time??
When I went on maternity leave, I was working as full time Procurement Director. I had responsibility for a team of 16 and a budget of £24 million plus. On the side of that I set up the Content Marketing team to ensure our product marketing was consistent. I knew that I couldn’t do both roles and raise our son. We explored various options and I realised that over the past few years my enthusiasm for pure procurement had faded and I wanted to focus more on the marketing side of my role. Giving up my procurement role meant I could go into a part time position as Content Marketing Director. It was one of the hardest and easiest decisions I’ve ever made but it means I get to spend half the week at home and the rest in the office.
I work 24 hours a week officially; two 9 hour days in the office and 6 hours at home. Unofficially, I’m always on call. I’m paid to do my role and that doesn’t stop just because I’m ‘not at work’. I’m forever on my phone or logging on to approve copy, sort problems or handle difficult situations. It’s hard finding a balance and some days it makes me angry that I’m interrupting my ‘day off’ to deal with work but that’s what pays the bills and I think it’s good to show my son that you have to work hard in life.
What childcare do you have in place and how did you go about choosing it? ?
We use a nursery for a day and a half each week and my mum has him for another day. We chose our nursery based on recommendations from other parents, the location and the general vibe we got when we went to visit. It’s about ten minutes drive from our house and is on the outskirts of another village in an old school. It’s very outdoor centric, the food is all cooked fresh on site and there’s loads of space for play. If I quit my job tomorrow I’d still send him there as it’s been the making of him and he loves it. Having him go to my parents one day a week has also been a good move. Seeing him build that relationship with them is wonderful, I grew up close with my grandparents and I love that he has the same.
What do you find the most difficult about being a working mum??
Ahhh where to start! The compromising between work and home, the guilt, the tiredness… it’s not easy but I think you just learn to cope with your situation regardless of whether you’re working or not as a parent. One of the things I find hardest is the assumptions made by others. No-one asked my husband if he was intending to go back to work. No-one made comments about him going part time or not being around to raise our son and yet it would make far more sense logically if we switched roles and he was the primary caregiver. Comments like ‘enjoy your holiday’ when I leave work for the week used to really upset me because the reality is, it’s hard work at home too. Days in the office are full on because I’m trying to cram a whole week into two days. Days at home are full on trying to fit in baby groups, household chores and ensuring our son has everything sorted and ready. The hardest is just being on top of it all. And that feeling when I drop a ball; forget to make a lunch, don’t pay a bill or lose my patience at my son because he’s shouting and screaming whilst I’m trying to work.
How do you deal with the working mummy guilt??
I think you just have to learn to accept that it’s normal. I know people who feel guilty for not working, those that feel guilty for working full time and those that feel guilt for being part time. To me, that guilt is just another part of parenting. I try to remember exactly why I’m doing it when I feel guilty that or bury my guilt in chocolate. One of those usually works!
How did you feel when it was time to go back to work?
I had very mixed feelings. I was meant to go back in September originally. Then my son was nearly two weeks late and was readmitted to hospital a couple of weeks later. I wasn’t ready at all. I delayed it until November but quickly realised I still wasn’t in the right place to go back. I finally went back in January, it didn’t feel as bad as lots of people had been off for a couple of weeks! My emotions were all over the place about leaving my little boy but I felt he was ready too, he’d just started crawling and I knew that he’d love interacting with others.
Is your work/life balance what you want it to be or would you rather work less or more??
When I’m at work, I feel like I need to be there more and I can take on everything. When I’m at home, I question why I’m ever at work. So I don’t think I’ll ever be fully happy! But I think for the time being the balance is good for us. I need to set stronger boundaries for myself in terms of when I’m available for work at home, I’m part time to spend time with my son and if I keep spending that time working, I may as well be in the office. We’ll get there though, for now, this works for us.
What advice would you give to a mummy heading back to work??
I would say be kind to yourself. Don’t expect to be back up to speed straight away and don’t beat yourself up if you forget something or you miss a deadline at home or at work. Get yourself childcare that you trust and can rely on. Know that some days you’ll cry in the toilets because it’s tough and you miss them and on other days you’ll get so wrapped up in work you’ll forget you have a child. Both are okay! That it’s normal to rely on caffeine to get you through. But most importantly, that everyone is different and your choices are what’s right for your family. There’s no shame in being in work, you don’t have to justify your choices or your reasons to anyone!
Hayley, thank you so much for giving such an honest and open interview. It's so interesting to see that even though it's what you want, and you made the decision to go back, that all those struggles with the guilt and the flexibility is still there. It sounds like you are run off your feet most days so I hope you manage to get lots of hot cups of tea in the office! It's great that the decision to re-focus your job and reduce your hours allowed you to spend the time at home with your son. And hey, we are all regularly checking our phones so don't feel too guilty there!