The maternal dilemma of whether to work and if so, how, when and where to do it rages on. Netmums.com have produced a report this week, The Great Work Debate, highlighting how stressful it is to make the decision and often to do the actual work (or not as the case may be) and how self-employed or part-time mums were the happiest. Having gone back from maternity leave recently for the second time and explored a variety of options, I felt vaguely qualified to write something on the subject and maybe throw a few other options into the melting pot.
After my first child we spent a relatively happy, if slightly stressful year doing the 3-day-a-week part time routine with a childminder looking after my, now 3-year-old, son 2 days a week and my husband spending a day with him. Besides harbouring the eternal feeling that I wasn’t doing work/parenting/housework particularly well (but let’s face it we’d feel guilty whatever we did, it comes with parenting), it seemed to work. It kept up my CV, made my time with son feel precious, he learnt to develop relationships with other people and we had a tiny bit of money!
After my second child I found that dropping to 2 days didn’t work so well as, with travel, they were long days and the boys didn’t take well to it, I felt very ‘out of the loop’ in the office and felt, as many mum’s do, that I wanted to do something more creative with my working time. I now find myself in the happy position of working 2 days a week flexibly & from home for Tatty Bumpkin, the children’s movement, adventure and yoga class (and organic children’s clothing range) which I also teach a morning a week. I run the classes as a small business (having undertaken a low cost training weekend) which brings in a small but worthwhile income. I have also become an ‘agent’ for Barefoot Books, selling their children’s books whenever I feel like it (toddler groups, in the evenings, at school fairs, office, to friends), fitting around the children’s naptime or my husband’s working hours.
My message is this: if you’re not happy and there’s the remotest possibilty of changing your situation, find out what’s not quite working and change it! Your happiness is important to your family and although money is a huge factor, there are often other ways. Thoroughly explore childcare: my friend and I look after each other’s younger ones for 2 mornings a week while the older ones are at playgroup so both get some of our ‘working from home’ hours done with no childcare costs and great quality childcare.
If you can’t find a decent part-time job check out agencies like Flexecutive who are experts, find someone else with similar skills (via parenting web sites?) and present yourselves together as a job share for full-time (generally better quality) posts or network to find speculative jobs (the majority of jobs are never advertised and mine certainly wasn’t).
If you are a full time mum and feel you need another outlet, consider voluntary work (the NCT often has great editorial roles which can lead to good, flexible jobs in media down the line), Explore changing your hours or working compacted hours (employers have to consider it now) – we saved £500 a year by slightly shifting our hours and sending Gabe to the childminder fewer hours a week.
Finally, do think about other ways of working altogether. Lots of mums make good businesses out of something they make (wedding cakes, face paintings for kid’s parties, classy bibs, crochet jewellery to name but a few), giving them flexibility and enormous confidence. Hugely successful mums have businesses like Baby Organix and the like but do involve a huge amount of resources to start up and arguably make you so busy you might never see your kids again! There are loads of organisations who can help with cheap marketing (Supermums), starting up businesses and free advertising (netmums.com).
If you don’t want lengthy start-up times and costs, explore the many franchises or direct selling opportunities, which are tried-and-tested and whose incomes are more predictable. Or get creative: become a driving instructor, mystery shopper, human guinea pig for medial experiments, full-time competition enterer, envelope-stuffer, landlady to foreign students (quite lucrative) or wedding & naming ceremony celebrant.
Many of the above suggestions are actually focussed on children which you might or might not want, many increase your confidence and all would give you flexibility. I read something which said that they job you did was reflected in the way you parented so that a nurse would tend to be more nurturing and a teacher keen to help their child learn. I realised with horror that (with a marketing background) I’d gone too far when I was attempting to design logos and ‘brand’ my son’s imaginary shop! Now he helps me plan my Tatty Bumpkin classes /children’s parties /festival sessions) and we read (my much-discounted) Barefoot Books together as ‘market research’. Happy hunting!
There are too many references to note here but do visit www.tattybumpkin.co.uk for information on becoming a teacher (training weekends running in this area shortly) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for an information pack. Visit www.mybarefootbooks.com/PaulaBrown for information on becoming a Barefoot Books ‘stallholder’ or email me for a first-hand account!