Probably one of the biggest challenges facing parents is how to balance work and home life. Finding work which enables parents to work flexibly sometimes feel like mining for the rarest precious stone.
As someone who took time out of a career to stay at home with kids I can attest that finding a job that is part-time or has flexible hours and that doesn’t involve a significant shift in either seniority or pay is pretty much non-existent. Now I realise that things are changing and that some companies are finally tapping into the huge pool of talent that exists, amongst mums particularly. Some companies are making strides in this area, check out the winners from 2016 Working Mums Awards. However, considering we are living in a digital age things are still severely lacking. Any aspect of working practice that requires its own awards ceremony (whilst admirable) highlights how it should be embedded in business culture, not a nice little extra. This whole area is set to get more traction as the Equality and Human Rights Commission are on a mission to encourage better workplaces for mothers with its campaign #workingforward. In fact flexible working features in The Huffington Post top 10 parenting trends for 2017.
Pioneering in this field are Digital Mums. It has created courses designed for mums to build and enhance digital skills which they can use to work flexibly. They have started a campaign entitled #workthatworks and their aim is get businesses and individuals to recognise the powerful contribution mums can make to the economy by providing work opportunities that work around family life. They are championing something which is very close to all our hearts. I speak from personal experience as l I’ve chosen my current job based on it’s flexible hours rather than its career prospects. But I’m using my time wisely and I’m arming myself with knowledge which I believe will prepare me for work in the digital economy. One lady blazing a trail in this area is the awesome Mother Pukka – in fact she writes far more knowledgeably and eloquently on this subject than I ever could.
If more employers saw the benefits of allowing staff to work flexibly then perhaps more mums would return to work. On Radio 4’s Today programme they discussed the gender pay gap and whether or not women ‘choose’ less demanding jobs in order to find work that fits around family life. I would argue that women don’t ‘choose’ to take jobs which pay less but they are sidelined professionally once they have children. Jo Swinson (Director of Equal Power Consulting) supports the view that women don’t have a great deal of choice once they have children.
But the benefits are not merely financial. The psychological impact can be really positive. Mothers can often feel like disenfranchised people in society and work can provide an important identity. On a personal level the confidence boost I have had since returning to work has been immense. I feel more content, more energised and cherish time with the kids. Mental wealth is just as important as financial wealth. I’m currently interested in the work of Dr. Jessamy, a clinical psychologist, who is embracing digital media to spread the word about mental wealth.
On the theme of this article I’m curating a series of interviews with women like me who are struggling to achieve that elusive work/life balance. I’m coming to the conclusion that in order to achieve it I’m going to have to become more independent, more confident and embrace the entrepreneurial spirit I so admire in other mums. I would be really keen to hear from anyone who like me has experienced similar issues around working flexibly. So, if you have a story to tell please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Amy White