The Great Working Mum Dilemma


It’s a great dilemma indeed. A daunting choice of going back to work post mat-leave or deciding to take the career risk of staying at home with the kids. Or is there some option in between?

Almost three years after having my first child, the question is no longer “to work or not to work?,” but rather, “how the hell do I bring in enough money while not incurring enormous childcare costs for three kids?”

I love having the privilege of “staying home” with my kids. I use that word lightly because I’m far from a one-focus gal and I’ve been lucky enough to keep myself busy work-wise doing a multitude of side jobs while raising my kids.

Although I love having the ability to stay at home with them, it wasn’t necessarily a choice. It was straight maths.

Going back to a fulltime job would only just cover my childcare costs. So I’d rather raise my kids. I’m lucky though – even saying that is a privilege. I know mums who need to work even if they only clear an extra £200 each month. They need every penny and that’s understandable.

I think the conversation around whether or not one parent needs to stay home has moved on over the past few years. Single-income households are becoming somewhat unheard of. Most mums I know are juggling their kids during the day and side jobs such as tutoring, writing, online retail, virtual PA’s; whenever they can fit in the time. It’s the new reality for families.

Working or not working for most of us is not the question. It’s how can we fit work around kids?

Raising kids is more expensive than ever. No longer do we have a “village” to help raise our children…we barely know our neighbours. And even if we do, they’re busy with their own.

We as mums need to get creative. And many of us are already there. Mumpreneurs are a growing part of the working world. We see a niche and find a way to fill it.

But what about those who don’t have the entrepreneurial spirit rushing through their veins?

The overall workforce is like a steam engine at full stop. It’s starting to move and come around to the idea of flexible hours but it may take another decade before it is up to speed.

We need companies to see that even though we may need to do a half day and then finish our work between the hours of 8-11pm, we’ll still get the job done. It doesn’t mean we’re slacking, it just means that we can make the afternoon school run and put the kids to bed.  Or how about the hours of 9:30-3:00 in an office and you pay us pro-rata? We won’t mind – the money you’ll save us in after-school babysitters while we battle traffic to get home will be well worth it.

We’re not asking for a hand-out. Just a bit of understanding.

The real dilemma is the way society (and I was completely guilty of this before I had children of my own) looks at mums who have taken a few years “off” to raise their kids.

A good friend of mine tried returning to work after having a 6 year “break” from the workforce. She raised her kids, managed the house, budget, bills, etc. She was busy with an important role. Now before anyone says, “wow 6 years out is a long time,” let me please remind you that if you have two kids, 6 years basically gets the first and maybe the second into school (depending on how far apart they were). That really just handles their young years. Yes it’s a large gap in the resume but it’s not like she was sitting on a beach with a margarita.

This stigma that we as mums face when we finally have the real option to go back to work is frankly, a slap in the face.

It’s not like we’ve somehow forgotten how to use a computer. This isn’t 1990 and the digital era is only just starting.

Mums nowadays are more clued-in, plugged-in and multi-tasking super-women than ever before.

Companies shouldn’t see us as women who have fallen behind the times, but rather women coming back more focused and determined than ever. We have no time for office politics or the need to spend hours at the office coffee machine. We want to work, get the job done and get back to our second (main) job of being mum.

To quote a great mum friend of mine, “my tolerance for bullshit is now about this big (shows pinkie finger).”

The great working-mum dilemma won’t solve itself. For families to be able to prosper in this day and age, we need to stop trying to fit into the old structure of full-time 9-5, or even of working versus not working, and start insisting that society embrace the idea of our day including a paying job and the job of mum working together.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Caroline says:

    So very well said. We have too many very talented women at home because they can’t either fulfil their previous roles, or begin new ventures due to childcare commitments. If we were to truly embrace flexible working, and move away from the standard 9-5 roles, employers would benefit immensely from a newly tapped talent pool (with probably half the overheads of not having base locations!). We are in 2017 with wonderful technology at our fingertips. We must be able to do better at this, surely?!


    1. jeaniedbird says:

      Absolutely Caroline. Well said! It’s about changing the minds of the dinosaurs who believe FaceTime= productivity. No longer true!


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