Welcome to my new series Flexi Mamas, which tells the stories of mothers who want to work but struggle with the barriers in their way.
Why Flexi Mamas?
Because that’s what these mothers really need – a bit of flex. More flexible employers. More flexible job opportunities. More flexible (and less eye-wateringly expensive) childcare options.
A recent study showed that 29% of women drop out of the workforce after having a baby because it’s not financially worth it for them to return to work.
That’s a problem, and we need to talk about it more. I wanted to hear from some of the women behind that 29% figure.
I’m a working mum, but only because I’m one of the lucky ones. My salary made it financially worth it to return to work – but only just. It pays for nursery fees and my rent, and that’s pretty much it. We can only eat and have electricity and stuff because I have a partner who also works.
I’m also fortunate to have a fairly flexible employer. They allowed me to cut back my hours to 4.5 days when I returned from maternity leave, and then again to four days when my childcare circumstances changed. They also let me work from 8-4 (rather than the standard 9-5) so I can pick up my daughter from nursery, work from home if I need to, and take time off if she falls sick without losing my annual leave. That’s not the norm, but it should be. And if enough of us stand up and shout about it, maybe it will be.
Anyway, let’s kick off the series with Beth.
Beth is mum to Mia (7), Elliw (5) and Freddie who will be 1 in July. She got pregnant with her first child at 16 and gave birth a few months after her 17th birthday. She was in her last half year of college when she got pregnant and was doing work experience along with her college course.
She was studying for her NVQ Level 2 in Childcare at college and has done work experience at a primary school as a teaching assistant and then a childminder assistant at a childminder’s home. She started to look for a job when her first child was 4 weeks old and eventually got one as a nursery assistant at a local nursery 5 months later.
She stayed at her job at the nursery for two years and throughout her pregnancy with her second child, but she decided not to return to work after having her second – and childcare costs played a big role in her decision.
“I decided to hand my notice into my job because I was unable to afford the bus fare each week and childcare for two kids. I was a single mum to my first daughter and when I met my current partner around 15 or 18 months later, my daughter and I moved in together, which was around half an hour away from my job,” said Beth.
“But my main reason was money wise with childcare. Although my partner was working full time, me working part time too with two kids would not be worth it. My first child was also due to start pre-school – again, it would have added extra costs for putting her into another nursery locally while I went to work.”
Beth would have had to pay around £30 each for two or three full days a week, and she was working 16 hours a week with some overtime.
“My wages weren’t that great, so it wouldn’t have been worth it. I had working tax credit, childcare help and full wages when I was a single mum, but as I had a partner who worked full time, it changed and we weren’t entitled to so much help. I think the reasonable price for childcare would be around £20-£25 per child,” Beth said.
Lack of flexibility from her employer also contributed to her decision not to return to work.
“The owner wanted me to be in work around 7.30am or 8am most mornings, which was pretty much impossible seeing as the earliest bus was at 8am,” she said.
Beth started looking into more jobs when her second daughter was older, but there were a lack of jobs in her local area. She hopes to go back to work at some point in the future, but she’s working from home on her blog now and enjoying that.
“I would like to think I could live from my blog wage, but we will see. If I do return to go out to work, I will most definitely not go back into the same career. I would be interested in going down the admin route,” she said.
So what’s the biggest thing that could help mothers who want to work?
“For some jobs to be more flexible and more job hours to be within school hours,” said Beth.
You can find out more about Beth on her blog, Life as Mum, or follow her on:
Do you have a story to tell about why you didn’t return to work after having a baby? Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.