Welcome to Flexi Mamas, a series about barriers that working mums face. This edition features Natalie from Plutonium Sox, a family, travel and lifestyle blog about her life in rural Worcestershire. She has two children – Libby (5) and Lia (3).
Before having children, she worked for many years in the legal arena. Most recently, she was a team leader at the Legal Ombudsman, the organisation that investigates customer service complaints against the legal profession.
Natalie always thought that she’d have her baby, take a break for three months and then go back and get on with her career – but that’s not how it happened.
“I went back to work when she was three months old and realised I’d made a massive mistake. Within six weeks, I’d given up and found a job I could do from home, working flexibly around looking after my daughter.
“There was no barrier to me returning to work as I was earning enough to make it worthwhile, even after childcare. But it just wasn’t the right thing for me. I worked a 90 minute each way commute from home. I was still breastfeeding so I was up at 5am to feed her before I went to work. I’d leave the house at 6.30 am and get home at around 6pm. I realised I would just never see her whilst she was a baby and it wasn’t what I wanted.
“I’m not sure what the childcare costs were but they weren’t a consideration for me in terms of returning to work. The thing that bothered me in the end that I was paying somebody to do what I wanted to be doing – spending time with my baby.”
“I would potentially have stayed in my job if they had been a little more flexible. I could work from home one day a week, which meant that I would have a lot more time with my little girl. I asked for more days from home but they declined as I was in a management role, so I left.
“I was incredibly lucky to immediately find a job that I could do around childcare. It was a pay cut and a total change of direction – from law to travel. But it was perfect.”
Natalie spent two years running a travel-based business for a friend.
“When my second child came along, I knew I could no longer manage to work full time as well as looking after both children. So I took my maternity pay as a lump sum and embarked on a career as a freelance writer, social media manager and blogger.”
So what’s the biggest thing that could help mums who want to work? For Natalie, it’s simple: ourselves.
“I know it’s difficult, I’ve been there. But we all have our own skills and passions. The best way to make a change is just to do it. If you’re not working, start building your own business, look for flexible jobs or find out what it takes to make your blog your career if that’s your passion.
“If you are in work, have the conversation with your employer. Explain why you want flexibility and what you can do for them in return. Don’t let the fact you haven’t worked for a while destroy your self-esteem. You have a lot to offer to an employer – or to your own business. It’s time to make a start.”
You can find out more about Natalie on her social channels:
Have a story about your own struggles with flexible working – or how you found the flexible work you needed? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.