Welcome to #FlexiMamas, a series about barriers that working mums face. This edition features 33-year-old Claire, who is wife to Matthew and mum to 5 boys – Cameron (15), Harvey (12), Mckenzie (7), Caelan (5) and Cohen (3).
“Before I had my eldest son I was a college student, studying my A levels,” says Claire. “I was on the road to recovery from an eating disorder when I found out I was pregnant with my eldest son.
“I didn’t find employment until my second son was around one year old. I’d gone from a high-achieving late teen with a bright future to a single mummy of two children by the age of 21.
“Being a stay-at-home mum was killing me. I had to get out and find a job. As it was, I found an advert in the window of one of the leading high street banks. I applied, and low and behold, I got the job. This was to be my employment for the next 9 years.
“I worked in ‘the bank’ throughout all of my last three pregnancies. It wasn’t pretty – the company wasn’t very family-orientated and didn’t agree with me taking time off due to my children or my pregnancies.
“Of course, I didn’t want to return to work after my pregnancies, but needs must. When I was a single mum to my two eldest sons, I used childminders – who believe me, are worth their weight in gold.
“When it came to me returning to work after my third and fourth pregnancies, me and my husband just couldn’t justify paying for childcare for three or four children. Financially, there would be no point in us working. So myself and my husband juggled childcare between us. I worked 9-5 3-4 days a week and he worked early morning or late night shifts. We were like ships crossing in the night.
“When I was pregnant with my third son, I was training towards a promotion in ‘the bank’. Upon my return I was told that to continue with the promotion I’d have to work full-time hours or be demoted and come back part time. Obviously full time wasn’t viable, so I had to take a pay cut and return on part time hours.
“During my maternity leave with my fourth son, I did some training to become a childminder. I gained the qualification and my OFSTED registration. Again, after maternity I went back to the bank as I didn’t feel confident enough to go self employed.
“I fell pregnant with my fifth son. Needless to say, my manager wasn’t happy in the slightest. I had to take some time off due to illness relating to my pregnancy. I was called into the office more times than I can remember due to my attendance. I was put on cautions which caused me no end of stress. I needed my job for my family’s well-being.
“During my maternity leave with my fifth son, again I used the time to study and I gained a diploma in childcare and young people’s services.
“I had made the choice that I needed a career change not only for myself but for my family. I couldn’t go back to a workplace that looked down on family life. That didn’t understand my role as a mum.
“I bit the bullet and went self-employed as an OFSTED-registered childminder. This way I could be at home for my family, work from home, earning a living and I was the one offering the childcare, giving children and families a safe home-from-home learning environment.
“I am working for myself, with no one to stop my career progression, and no one telling me that I can’t do it because I’m a mum and can’t work certain hours.
“I think the single biggest thing that could help mothers who want to work is for the employers to understand and respect a role of a mother – a mother can have a job, but she also has responsibilities at home. There should be contracts for working mums that can give them work and family life balance.”
You can find out more about Claire on her blog, or on her social channels:
Do you have a story about struggling to find flexible working – or a story about how you made flexible working work for you? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.