Wednesday 16 May 2012

this woman's work (part 2)

My mother never had a job outside of the home, which back in the 70s was the norm. I used to envy my friends with working parents because my mother was around all the time. There was no fun in that! However because I didn't grow up with a working mother, I never really appreciated how difficult it could be to have a career and a family. I never thought about things like school holidays because my mother was simply always there.

I've spent the past 15 years writing technical documentation, far predating my life as a mother. Despite my company generously agreeing to reduced hours and a flexible schedule after I had children, it wasn't something easily done on a part time basis and I was finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with my work at the office and my role as a mother to three small children, particularly once they started at primary school. Permission forms were forgotten, clean uniforms weren't in the wardrobes in the morning, and I actually neglected to pick up my son after school. THREE times. Arguably those three times weren't entirely my fault, but still - I wasn't exactly a prime candidate for Mum of the Year.

With motherhood comes great guilt, so after the third time I was met by the sad, disappointed face of my 6-year-old, I knew I had to give up my day job. The compromise just wasn't worth it anymore and more importantly, what on earth was I going to do with my children for 6 weeks out of the year during summer holidays? The out of school club only ran for the first two weeks of the summer and we have no family locally (I'm Canadian and my in-laws live 100 miles away.) With sadness but relief, I handed in my notice and began life as a full time mum.

My "retirement" was never meant to be permanent and I knew I wanted to get back into writing. The great thing about the modern world is that fact that anyone can get "published" and put their work out there, whether that's on a blog, a tweet, or a self-published e-book. I started a food blog (The Test Kitchen) in addition to this one, then an editor friend of mine with a family food site asked me to be a weekly contributor. I got addicted to Twitter, dabbled in the world of Google+, and spent a lot of time being pithy and sarcastic on Facebook to about 500 family and friends who insisted that I should write articles for a living, and suddenly I had a regular "audience".

Through social media, I got to know to friends of friends, some of whom are journalists and editors. I started blogging again and posting links to Twitter, and got positive feedback from the "pros". People started looking out for writing opportunities for me and giving me endless valuable advice. People I hadn't actually met got to know me well through 140 characters and some blog posts, to the point that they had confidence in my writing - that felt pretty darn good and made me a lot more hopeful about being a working, writing mummy.

I've been hitting the virtual pavement hard, but there is no budget for freelancers these days. There is little motivation for publications to pay a freelance writer when their in-house writers can pen the same article. I've been looking for other part time homeworking roles, with little success. Although there is a trend for remote working in IT (it can save companies a lot of money), part time work is very difficult to come by. There is also the issue of childcare - most mothers simply can't afford to return to work due to high nursery and childminder costs. At my local nursery, a full day for one child costs £37. The challenge is to find a job that pays enough to cover the childcare and actually give you some income to take home.

I'm writing as much as I can, getting a bit of paid work, but mostly just trying to get my words out there. I write in the evenings and on some school days, then I close the lid on my MacBook and head off to be Mummy. So far, so good, and I seem to have most of my sanity intact. Plus, I haven't abandoned my son or my daughter (who is now in reception) at school once.

Note: I came across a call for bloggers for the Working Mums site, which is a resource I've just discovered in my pursuit of flexible work. The brief was to write a blog post about being a working mum (as the site name suggests). Fittingly, I'd recently written a post about this very subject. So, this is a continuation of that post. With a lot less swearing.)


Stacey said...

My mom did work full time when I was growing up, and yet I was blissfully unaware of any challenges she had balancing work and family. Looking back, I can maybe pinpoint some areas where she made compromises (ie., our house was always a mess, and we ate out alot), but at the time, I never felt like my mom wasn't always there when I needed her. Obviously my mom rocks. But I have to say, that's made it all the more surprising to me how much I've struggled with the working mum thing since my eldest started primary school (he's now in Y1).

Before I had kids, I naively thought it would be leaving them at nursery after maternity leave that would be the really difficult thing, and that the move from nursery to school wouldn't be that big of a change for me, but wow, for me, the transition to school has been so much more challenging. It's the condensed hours and many weeks of school holidays to contend with, of course, but also not being able to talk to his teachers, missing important bits of paper that get lost during the 5 second walk from his classroom to after school club, not having the chance to really get to know the other mums, finding time to help him with homework (which is very limited so far, so this will only get more difficult as he gets older), etc. At least he's at a non-uniform school so I don't have to worry about that :)

Anyway, I don't really have a particular point, but just wanted to say that it's really interesting to me to get the perspective of someone who has done both the stay at home and working mum thing. Also, I'm really enjoying your return to more regular posting...I've been reading your blog since 'round about the time that Jack was born!

Mrs Dee said...

Hi Stacey - thanks for commenting and for sticking around for so long! :) Yes, that's it exactly - there's so much more to consider once they start school. Now that I've got two in school, it's become too much to handle. I'm VERY lucky in that I have a choice to work or not. It's so hard to find a balance and to keep your sanity. :(

Anonymous said...

Well you know my current feelings - at the moment I am going to be part time which allows me to have the extra time with the Boy that I am craving so much. Hopefully I'll be able to make it a permanent thing soon.

Mrs Dee said...

Jen, I'm keeping everything crossed for you. When I had Jack, a part time schedule worked really well for us - it just got a lot more complicated the more we added to our brood! ;)