The Struggle To Return To Work As Mum

One of the things that bugs me most about the society we live in is how difficult it is for mums to return to the world of work. Or rather, return to the world of work that is familiar to us, that we experienced before we went off to birth our children (or, as far as some of our employers are concerned, have children AND lobotomies).

If it’s not a money thing it’s a time thing; working in London with two small children was a living nightmare for me. I’d be dropping one child off (wailing, natch) at nursery as soon as the doors opened at 7.45am before tearing over to very generous grandparents at 8am to drop the other for an hour before school, then zooming the 20 minutes to the train station before crossing fingers my 40 minute £32 return commuter train wouldn’t be delayed. There’d be a dash on the other side as I hopped on and off tubes and I’d quite often make the 9.30am start of work by the hair of my whiskers.

And I would have whiskers, because this life left nothing in me to get stuff like facial waxes or shopping or housework or sleep done either side of office hours. Getting back through the door at 7.30pm (on a good evening) meant I was tired, the children were tired, we were all bloody tired. And as my two are off with their dad every other weekend I missed spending this time in the evenings with them, feeling guilty that I was constantly relying on others to play mum while I was out earning a crust. Not much of a crust, though: at its most expensive I was paying an eye-watering £1,500 a month out on childcare. Yikes.

Growing On Up

Working in the competitive world of advertising meant I missed out on career progression, too. There’s always a social happening, an impromptu trip to a pub or a client dinner. There are late conference calls with clients happening on the other side of the world or meetings that go on a lot longer than they should. I had to be on the 6.10pm train home always, to make sure I was back before the nursery doors were locked: no question about it. In my life social events take weeks to plan because they involve sleepovers or babysitters, it’s not as easy as rocking up to the pub anymore.

I considered my options a lot in the early days. What could I do? I could take a job less demanding on my time, energy and geographical status, but that would put my career on hold. And as a single parent – heck, as a woman in this economy with the uncertainty of our current politics – I didn’t want to put myself on the back foot. Plus, I loved my job to bits and I worried that taking a step back would be a demotivator: it would leave me bored and behind.

Which is why I decided there was no other option than to work for myself.

It’s been six years now on and off and being able to work from home and for myself has really been the making of my career. For a start, there’s something about knowing you’re not getting a regular salary to put the fire in your belly to succeed, and I think this has been one of the biggest drivers behind what I do.

But more importantly there’s absolutely nothing to beat the feeling of being able to take your children to and from school every day, to be around for special assemblies and sports day, to have the time to make cakes for the fundraising coffee mornings. The fact that I don’t rely on expensive nurseries or generous grannies means that, if I want to take time to go on a date or spend time working away means I don’t feel so guilty asking for help.

Put simply, working for myself from my home has saved me: my sanity, my relationship with my kids, our lifestyle. I am truly happy with my life and that’s all because I get to dictate my own work/life balance.

Setting up your own business is one of the things I get emailed about most, and so I’ve decided to give it a big focus over the coming days. I’ve got some interviews with very interesting home workers, information on ways you can make money from home that you wouldn’t even heard of, and resources that will help you along the way.

I hope you’ll enjoy your self-employed career as much as I have!

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  1. I’m wondering if I’m ever going to be able to work again. I have been a SAHM for the past eight years but now my children are at school full time I really need to get back to earning a bit of money. It’s so tough though. I have no useful family around for child care which I know most of my friends rely on. So I need a term time only job, which is in school hours, and is flexible with things like suddenly have to rush and pick your child up from school if of they’re ill and hoping to watch school nativity plays. I don’t think I am likely to earn a lot and I refuse to pay more than I earn for someone else to look after my children. Seems daft to me when I love being at home with the children. They don’t want me to get a job!! I am so jealous of all you folk on th Internet who get to work from home. That would be my ideal scenario but I have no business to start! I’m back with a new blog though, if only someone would pay me to do that! Wish me luck…..

    Posted 10.12.16 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      it’s SO tough and I’ve been very lucky, if my mum wasn’t around it would have made pushing on in my career a million times harder. I’m following your new blog – it’s lovely! Your photos are absolutely incredible. I don’t know much about this, but could you sell them to stock photo libraries?
      Good luck with it!

      Posted 10.12.16 Reply
  2. Molly wrote:

    Really looking forward to reading more about this Alice! I’ve worked for myself since Frog was a baby (so that’s 6 years too) and although I have many days where I consider taking a regular “proper” job, the fact is I don’t really feel like I can – not at the moment anyway. Working in media, outside of London, there aren’t too many options but to be a freelancer, and a move into an office would inevitably mean a shift in career direction – even though going freelance meant I had to learn loads of new skills anyway. I must admit, I do miss the reliability of a regular pay cheque. And it can be hard sometimes juggling all the parts of my life so that I don’t let anyone down, but overall I don’t have much choice – I have to make it work, end of!

    Posted 10.12.16 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      It’s tough isn’t it? I miss that reliability, too, and as silly as it sounds I really miss dressing for the office and meetings every day. But more and more as time goes on I realise how much more satisfying it is to create my own little empire. And yes, like you say, I don’t have much choice either!

      Posted 10.12.16 Reply
  3. Oooooh, I’m so looking forward to reading more about this as it’s definitely something playing on my mind at the moment! x
    Sophie Cliff

    Posted 10.12.16 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      I hope you enjoy, Sophie!

      Posted 10.12.16 Reply
  4. Hannah Richards wrote:

    I’m looking forward to these posts too. With a 3 and 1 year old I’ve found going back to my old job full time impossible, (the nursery fees alone would take 3/4 of my salary). I’ve recently halved my working hours and am looking to transition to a freelance role by the end of next year – scary times but the thought of working for myself is so very exciting.

    Posted 10.12.16 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      The fees are absolutely crazy, aren’t they?! It makes having a family really very hard.

      Posted 10.12.16 Reply
  5. Ali Millar wrote:

    What a great post. Like so many, working from an office isn’t possible for me, so I’m doing the self employed hustle, really looking forward to reading more.

    Posted 10.12.16 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      So happy this seems to be resonating with so many of us!! Can’t wait to bring you more.

      Posted 10.12.16 Reply
  6. Sam wrote:

    Really interested to see the rest of your posts on this topic. Having worked in a media agency in London, and then moved client side for a different pace, I’m heading back to work on Monday after a years maternity leave. I’m only going back 3 days a week and fairly confident it will all work out but it would definitely be nice to have some other options if it doesn’t! It also seems children need you to be around more as they get older for all the drop off etc you mention and it makes me sad that I could potentially miss those!

    Posted 10.12.16 Reply
  7. Louisa Chudley wrote:

    Hey Alice, I’m really interested to read what you have to say as I gave up my job two years ago just before my eldest started Reception as I just could not see how I could juggle my very pressured role as an account manager with my £3m target ( not bloody joking?!) & two small children. So my husband & I decided that I would step off the gravy train for the time being. So now my youngest has just started school I now feel that I should start thinking how to earn money again but I don’t want to return to my old career I need to do something that like you can fit around the school day & the holidays. There’s a Social Media Week in Bristol next month & ive signed up to go to an event about women in social media that I’m hoping will be useful.

    But I’m thinking all the time about what to do.

    Looking forward to reading the next instalment.

    Lou xxx

    Posted 10.12.16 Reply
  8. Rachel wrote:

    Looking forward to reading this Alice.

    I’m just in the process of negotiating my return to my corporate full time job after baby 2 and it’s difficult. What makes it harder is not one person gives the impression that they value my return, just that my requests for a phased return, or homeworking, are an inconvenience. Would be a lot easier all round to just walk away but I like working.

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
  9. lori wrote:

    You made me feels tressed just thinking about the morning drop off routine! I love the freedom of working from home and how flexible it makes me for F. x

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
  10. Jo wrote:

    You gave me a shiver up my spine. I’m about to take redundancy because working full time is just not working for me and am going to try and go freelance. Am terrified but excited and you’ve given me a massive boost. It IS possible. I’m looking forward to reading more! Jo

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
  11. Hatty wrote:

    Hi Alice I work from home too for all the same reasons as you. I’m really struggling to concentrate at the moment though and get stuff done. If you don’t mind me asking how do you organise your day? Do you work in the evenings or do you get everything done in the school day? I’m so tired by the time the kids are in bed I really struggle and have been contemplating getting up at 5am instead. I think if I could just really concentrate all day I wouldn’t need to but I get distracted easily by washing, housework, The Daily Mail website… Having said all that working from home is great and has saved my sanity too!

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
  12. Amanda wrote:

    Oh I am really interested in reading more on this – I work in television – and I struggle with the commute, the hours, the guilt – so defo want to know more about working for yourself

    Posted 10.13.16 Reply
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