Welcome to the third 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 Victoria, who’s 31 and lives in the suburbs of Gloucester, south west England. She has two children: Bella (5) and Reuben (2). Before having children, she worked at Superdry head office.
“I worked for the same company for nine years and always assumed I’d be there for life,” said Victoria.
“I had a few roles, but the last one was Retail Samples Manager. Before this I was eCommerce Fulfilment Manager. I’d also had various roles within the eCommerce department and I’d originally started in the store itself, but back then it was Cult Clothing, before Superdry had even been created.”
She was torn about returning to work after having children, but the biggest factor in her decision not to go back to her job was childcare costs.
“I wanted longer than a year off with my first as I felt it was such precious time. I would have perhaps have liked to go back after two years rather than one! So I guess after my first I didn’t want to immediately return to work,” said Victoria.
“We also had no family who could look after our daughter in the daytimes (and I would never have asked even if we did) and my working hours were anywhere between 8am and 6pm, often with overtime required with no notice.”
“At the time I earned £1200 after tax per month. Childcare would have been a minimum of £1000 a month for a full 50 hours a week. The cheapest was £5 per hour for a nursery. I figured if I could find at least £200 a month from self-employment or a part-time job, then we’d be no worse off. We also knew we wanted a second child, so there would be no way we could afford this for two children!”
She didn’t suggest flexible working to her manager, but she knew it wouldn’t have been possible to continue being the manager part time – and the demands of the role required daytime hours only.
“I’d have to take a step down for a less pressurised role and then we definitely wouldn’t have been able to afford childcare,” Victoria said.
Although Victoria left her original job, she never really stopped working. Knowing that she needed to find something that worked around family life, she started selling online and became a sole trader while she was still on maternity leave.
“This wasn’t very successful and I had three different part-time jobs in the evenings over the past four years which fit around my husband’s work schedule, so we didn’t need to pay for childcare,” said Victoria.
“I’ve since been able to leave my part-time job and become a full-time blogger, and this is now my passion. Luckily leaving my old job inspired me to do something for myself and give me the determination to actually do it.”
So what are the biggest things that could help mothers return to work?
“The possibility of working from home. Much cheaper childcare. Being able to convert a lot more than £243 into childcare vouchers as this only saved us £50 a month, which isn’t much from a £1000+ bill. So perhaps all childcare should be totally tax free. A staggered return to work or even longer maternity leave.”