Welcome to Flexi Mamas, a series about barriers for working mums. This week’s Flexi Mama is Vicki, who worked in HRIS project management pre-children. This means that she implemented systems such as payroll, applicant tracking, performance and learning systems.
She has two children – her daughter was born in 2014 and her son was born 21 months later in 2016.
“I returned to full-time work in 2015 after having seven months off with my daughter,” said Vicki.
“Working in projects, I didn’t feel like I was able to take more time or that a part-time position would be available to me. Fast forward another 14 months and I went off on maternity leave with my son, and I suddenly realised just what I was missing. I chose not to return to work after my second maternity leave.
“Initially, it was an emotional decision. After my daughter, I thought I could have it all – a corporate career and a home life that was well-balanced. Being off on maternity leave showed me just how much I was missing, though, and I realised having it all is just an illusion. Something needs to suffer.
“In practice, projects mean very long hours and project work in a large transnational organisation also means a lot of travel – 50-75% of the time, in fact. Those long hours and time not only away from home but out of the country in the end just wasn’t worth the trade-off with a family with two children under two years of age.”
At first, Vicki was lucky to have childcare support from her children’s grandparents and a job that paid well enough to afford the leftover childcare costs – but that changed when she had a second child.
“Those costs for two days a week now that we had two children would still have cost over £800 a month at around £40 a day. Do I think that is reasonable? Yes, I do, as I think looking after a child safely and provide them with three meals a day is not cheap, but I do think that our government should support working families with childcare costs rather than just those that are unemployed and on benefits.”
Vicki did mention flexible working once to her employer, but it was quickly brushed aside.
“To be fair, I understand that the role I performed was not something that could be done part time. However, my manager did give me some flexibility in that when I had a week of heavy travelling or a few weeks of long hours, I would take a few back to spend some extra time with my family.”
She tried to find a part-time position that would fit in with her family life, but it wasn’t easy.
“Unfortunately, they are few and far between with a large number of applicants. The problem seems to be that employers do not see the benefit of a part-time workforce. The vast majority of part-time positions seem to originate from flexible working requests once someone is already in place rather than from recruitment of people into part-time roles.”
Due to a lack of part-time roles, she decided to become self-employed and work as a freelance writer, blogger and creative.
“As there seems to be a distinct lack of role available to meet my needs, I decided to create my own,” Vicki said.
So…what’s the biggest thing that could help mothers who want to work?
“Flexibility,” says Vicki.
“As mums, we have bigger priorities than work day-to-day, so what we need are employers that recognise that and offer flexibility as and when we need it. I can guarantee that flexibility would not only be appreciated but it would also be returned by engaging a happy employee who is willing to go the extra mile for their employers. If they are willing to give a little, then so are we.”
You can find out more about Vicki, her family and her crazy cat on her blog, Tippytupps, or on her social channels:
Do you have a story to share about barriers that you have faced as a working mother? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.