Welcome to the second edition of the Flexi Mamas series, which tells the stories of mums who want to work but struggle with the barriers in their way.
This week’s Flexi Mama is Kate, who has two girls aged 5 and 1. She’s worked in a number of management roles in social housing and the NHS, and she went back to work after her eldest was born because it made financial sense.
“I earned more than my husband and we wouldn’t have been able to pay the mortgage if I didn’t work full time. I loved my job and worked hard when I went back while my daughter was in nursery full time. A year to the day after returning from maternity leave I left my job after being made redundant,” said Kate.
“Life moved on; I found a new job working in the NHS, I split up from my husband, I met someone new and I fell pregnant again. My job was very stressful and I didn’t get on with my manager. He reluctantly allowed me to work from home one day a week due to health problems in pregnancy, but he saw my need to not work much more than a 40 hour week during pregnancy as me not being dedicated to my job. He made me miserable.”
Not long after her youngest was born, she was discussing work with her partner and he said he would be happy for her to stay at home with their baby.
“We discussed childcare costs for both my baby and wrap-around care for my eldest, who was due to start school. It was a lot of money. Financially I would be better off working, but only just. Emotionally we knew the stress of trying to manage work in less hours, pressure from my boss, plus not seeing my girls would provide too much strain on us. My boss made it very clear that flexible working wasn’t an option and he didn’t think I was up to it. He asked me if I would like to do a job at a lower grade instead (for less money) because it would be ‘less pressure’,” said Kate.
“I was a manager for a service which ran 24 hours and across multiple sites, so why did I need to be in a particular office between 9 and 5? Technology would allow me to communicate and collaborate just as effectively if I worked from home a few days a week, or different hours, but too many people still believe you have to physically be somewhere.”
Childcare costs also played a factor in Kate’s decision to stay home, but she believes the biggest thing that needs to change is the lack of flexibility in the current work culture.
“Nursery round here costs around £1300 a month, but at least that’s full-time care. Before and after school club for my eldest would costs about £350 a month, plus there would be holiday clubs to pay for too. That’s a lot of money just to be able to work 9 to 5.
“I believe good childcare should cost a lot of money. It’s only fair that nursery workers and other childcare staff are paid a decent wage and I don’t think the government can pay for this for every woman who wants to work, but the culture at work has to change to allow a more flexible approach.”
“Childcare costs are a barrier for a lot of families where both parents want to work, but I think a shift to real flexible working (for men and women) would allow families to balance working and time together.”
So does Kate want to return to work at some point?
“I’m only 35 (I often feel old, but when you think about not working it’s a long time until retirement) so I will have to bring in a reasonable income at some point. I love managing a team of people and I loved working for the NHS, but I don’t think there will be an NHS for me to go back to by the time I’m ready to go back to full-time work.
“I bring in a small income each month through blogging and I think I’m more likely to find a role working in social media or digital marketing. For the foreseeable future I would rather do contract work and freelancing as it gives me the flexibility to be with my children.”
You can find out more about Kate on her blog Counting to Ten, or on her social channels:
Have a story to tell about struggles with flexible working or childcare? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.