In celebration of Mother’s Day, working mums in Wales tell Business News Wales how they manage their work/life balance.
Mel O’Connor | Tax Consultant Manager
It’s a fine art managing the balance between being a busy mum and a career woman, and something that will work differently for every working mum across the country. For me, it’s about dedicating time when I get home from work to my son. During that time, I am a mum and enjoy the time spent interacting with my 17 -month- old and watching him develop.
Stepping back into work after maternity leave was a strange transition because I had been a full -time mum for 9 months. (Not quite as strange as becoming a parent for the first time, but a new challenge all the same!) It didn’t take too long to adapt to a new routine which created a good work / life balance. It was good to catch up with my colleagues and clients and remembering that I am a competent career woman as well as a mum. My workplace has given me the flexibility to work from home when necessary as sometimes I need to take time for my son during the day, and I can then work when he’s settled into bed. Maternity leave didn’t mean that I lost any skills or expertise in my professional role. Motherhood has created a new challenge which I am enjoying very much.
Rachael Wheatley | Director and Founder
I must admit running my own business and having children can be tough at times. In the early days when the business was in its infancy I’d drop my eldest to school and my 3- month- old off to day nursery, then sit in the carpark and breathe a sigh of relief, closely followed by a pang of guilt, before switching my brain into work mode.
In order to be good at both things, there has to be a clear divide, and as a mum you develop a real skill in ‘switching hats’ and switching off temporarily to the other part of your life whilst you concentrate on the task in hand.
If I could give one piece of advice to new mothers returning to work it would be this – whilst in work put in as much effort as you can, this shows real passion for what you do and proves that you are not ‘just a mum’. Speaking as a mum and an employer, this goes a surprisingly long way. Childcare arrangements can be challenging at the best of times. If you’ve demonstrated commitment and work hard your employer is going to be much more sympathetic and flexible when you really need them to be.
Now my girls are 10 and 15, but my heart still stops for that moment when I see the school number appear on my phone and we’ve a fast approaching client deadline.
Helen Williams | Managing Director
During the start-up process of Clean Sweep, I knew the pressure it came with meant I would have to ensure the business was in a stable and secure position before starting a family.
I knew when the time came, it would be a challenge to juggle both, but I was so passionate about starting a family, I would do anything to make it work – and so I did. In 2015, I gave birth to my firstborn, Florence. I am not going to lie and say it was an easy process; juggling work during pregnancy and afterwards wasn’t easy at all! Myself and my husband Ian, Clean Sweep’s operation manager, worked in unison and ensured we were both supporting each other, Florence and the business.
My advice to any new mothers planning their return to work would be to take it one step at a time. Make sure your workforce around you is supportive and prioritise what you’ve got to do when you return to work, so it’s not so overwhelming.
Like every working mum, you feel guilty for going to work. However, you keep telling yourself that if you want your children to have a good upbringing, it's what you must do!
Cheryl Christer | Managing Director
I had a strong role model in my grandmother who founded the business with my grandad, as well as my own mum who worked at Glamorgan Tiles while I was growing up.
The main thing was having a support network that you can rely on and never being afraid to ask for help – it is not a sign of weakness, but rather strength. Your attitude you have as a parent is what your children learn from, not what you tell them.
Be organised and be kind to yourself.
I remember thinking when my first child was born “how am I going to do this?” but somehow you keep going and sort of do the impossible!
Helen Bowden | Chief Executive
I have worked since my children were small full time, in fact I have only ever had off 5 months off in their lives, and that was after they were born. Use the networks around you. I didn’t have family around but my husband was brilliant and we have always worked it between us in creating time for the other one to do what they need to do. Make family time important when you have it. Make sure that you always have an interest in what your children do. My children understand how important it is to work but also the benefits to them in the long term. Finally, and most importantly don’t feel guilty – you can have family life AND a work life and ultimately what you are doing now is for your children’s future.
Katherine Gore | Litigation Executive
I am fortunate that I am able to manage the home life balance as a mother in business by having such a strong family support system behind me. My mother and my aunt share out childcare on the days that I work. I find their support invaluable.
Some useful advice I would give a new mother returning to work is to try and not feel too guilty. I found myself enjoying lots of mother and baby activities during my maternity leave and so I wanted to keep up with those swimming lessons and baby massage classes myself, otherwise I think I would have felt like baby and I were missing out. I was lucky enough to be able to return to work part time, therefore arranged my return to work days around those activities so we still enjoyed lots of lovely mother and baby time on my days off.
Wendy Weber | Head of Workforce Skills
My family and friends were a godsend to me when the children were younger and many working mothers are heavily reliant on the support of family and friends to enable the return to work. New mums are often torn between feeling guilty at leaving their children and fearful that they will not be able to fully commit to their jobs.
I managed by planning the week ahead for the family to ensure that work life balance was achievable and had a really good group of friends who shared the travelling to sports and other school activities. It worked well and the kids enjoyed the variety!
Happy mums generally equals happy kids. When a mum feels ready to go back to work, then she should do so. Flexible working solutions and home working are becoming the norm and many employers offer job share opportunities which can work well for all parties.
Kirsty Leeke | Employment Associate
For me the key to managing the work and home life balance is organisation. This is important both in terms of organising your workload and making sure you have good, reliable childcare in place to allow you to focus on work during working hours. It’s also crucial to prioritise and set clear boundaries both from a work and a personal perspective. Be clear about what you can achieve in the time you have and manage your client’s/customer’s/colleague’s expectations from the outset – don’t over promise.
Whilst doable, maintaining a genuine work life balance does undoubtedly involve a little bit of sacrifice all ways around. My advice would be that it’s important to try not to feel guilty about this and to just do the best you can!
Above all try and maintain a sense of humour, get some sleep and a drink lots of coffee!
Caroline Buckner | Relationship Director
A widowed, single parent, I have worked for Barclays as a Relationship Director for 10 years+. While demanding, my role is very flexible. I can largely manage my own time. Great team working and proactive communication means I ensure that I manage childcare around the job.
Working dynamically for Barclays, something that has always been actively encouraged and supported, means I have also been able to be there for Jack’s milestones. Technology helps (laptop and Ipad) to manage the day. I tend to start earlier and work a bit later.
My advice I would give to new mums is to accept that they have changed. The new you has different priorities and time is no longer your own. Open and honest communication is key. Establish how you are going to manage things and ask for help if you need it. Don’t undervalue yourself. Make the job work for you.
Hayley Selway | Director, People and Places
I Probably manage it pretty badly as I work in Cardiff and live in Abergavenny but I try very hard to structure my working week around my daughter. I share custody with my ex-partner so on the days I don’t have my daughter I work longer hours. Housing Associations are, in the main, organisations that understand work life balance is important and ‘presenteeism’ is less so in modern, forward thinking companies. Working from home is a great option for me as it allows me to pick my daughter up from school now and again. The advice I would give to mother’s is don’t beat yourself up about your choices, mothers who work and those that choose not to raise strong, confident boys and girls that become successful, confident men and women. The trick is the love and support you give them when you are with them and when you’re not, but you may want to check with my daughter on how I’m doing on that…
Kelly Hume | Human Resource Advisor
I am a mother of a 14 -year-old, going on 30; of course, it isn’t easy but it is incredibly rewarding. The key is getting the right work-life balance and keeping to a routine can help. Working within HR, can be very stressful at times and can often mean working at home finishing off reports. However, having organised my work-life with home-life no laptops or phones at the family table, and time to spend each night with homework or piano lessons.
The company I work for have been supportive with flexi working pattern, so I can go to parents evening, a doctor’s appointment or even if my child feels poorly I am there for them, without feeling guilty. I am lucky that I work in an environment that respects this.
I would say there is no joy like having a child but be prepared for multitasking like never before. A schedule and routine is your only saving grace. Having family and friends with children too has also helped. We worked out a rota to help each other out as we all have the same issues. For new mums, I would advise looking at your company flexible working policy as this may allow you to have a 3 months’ trial of flexible hours so you can “try before you buy”.
Kate Jones | Director
If you have a family and a career organisation is key. I’ve learnt to use every piece of working time I have available to me effectively; I don’t internet shop at the office, or waste time on needless meetings, because I know when it’s all done, I can go home to my daughter. I’d love to say here that I then give her my undivided attention, that she’s never left watching TV whilst I reply to e-mails. That’s work in progress.
Delegation is something that women find harder than men – ensuring you have an excellent team around you, that you trust totally, is imperative. I deal with priority tasks and have learnt (and am still learning) to pass on what I can, both at work and at home.
The best advice I can give is to allow yourself to let go of The Dreaded Mum Guilt. Whilst you have a child young enough to need you around, and also a career, you could spend your life feeling you should be somewhere else. Don’t waste valuable effort beating yourself up. Make sure you acknowledge you’re doing the best you can, and understand that just like everyone else; most of the time you’ll be winging it to make it work.
Cerys Palmer | Head of Content
Working Full-time and being a mother has its challenges. My daughters are nine and five and there are school runs, parent’s evenings and other things to contend with such as parties and after-school events. It really is about finding the right balance and asking for help if you need it. My husband works full time too and we make it work between us.
Working for a company that is flexible is paramount in being able to have a career and be a mum. If one of the girls is ill, I have the ability to work from home, which is very helpful.
My advice to all working mums is to remember that you have worked hard to build your career and having children doesn’t have to put an end to that. Look into options for child care and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Go to work and enjoy it, then go home and make memories with your little ones (as well as catching-up on housework obviously).
Alex Parr | Manging Director
As a mother of an energetic 3-year-old, I completely understand the pressures on working mums to get the right work-life balance. In the early days, when Isabelle was still a baby, I was tired, forgetful and constantly analysing the amount of time I was spending with my daughter and at work. This added to the stress levels, both at home and at work, and a prevailing feeling of guilt.
I advise new mums returning to work, that they take advantage of the 10 KIT days to stay in touch with their work. I was lucky that Wolfestone offers brilliant flexible working patterns and I was able to secure 1 day off a fortnight to spend with my daughter. It's never easy to return to work and if you have concerns speak to your manager as soon as possible. They might offer solutions that you haven’t even thought about.
Alexandra Lopes | Business Development Manager
Returning to work is hard. There is an assumption that if you work full-time, you have chosen your career over your children, and I truly believed that. It simply isn’t true.
People return to work because financially they have no choice, or, like me, begin to feel a loss of identity, which I have now reclaimed!
Balancing both motherhood and your career is hard, and like being a mum, everyone has an opinion on the do’s and don’ts. You’ll find you soon become a master of time management and even when you get to work and feel like you're half way through the day, it is worthwhile and you have a new found sense of energy.
I can’t deny having a support unit around you makes it all possible. For me, my support is our childminder, she spends more time with my daughter than I do, but I know my little girls spends the day visiting amazing places with her best friends – she is happy, and that’s what you need to remember.
My advice would be not to hesitate. Like having children, you will never feel like it is a good time to return to work and guilt will always be your constant companion. That guilt will never entirely disappear and that’s because you care, it makes you human, it makes you a great mum.
Do a job you love and most importantly for a company that knows how amazing you are at what you do and genuinely understand that sometimes you will get that call from your childminder, or your little one may be ill and you may not be able to work 8am – 6pm that day.
Never forget why you’re doing it. Yes, you’re probably one of the most knackered people on the planet, but you’re doing it for your child’s university fund, mortgage and your sanity. You enjoy the weekends and spending time with your family.
My main piece of advice? Lay out every last item the night before – clothes, bags and breakfast, and finally, bribes work.
Claire Marshall | Manager Advisory
I think that being a parent is the most demanding but rewarding job there is and it is definitely a challenge when you have a full-time job to manage too!
Personally, I feel very fortunate to be working for a family-friendly firm like Grant Thornton who support agile working for their employees and thus create an opportunity to have a fulfilling and successful career without compromising on family values.
My key advice to any new mothers returning to work is to ensure your childcare is as dependable and stress-free as possible. If you're using a nursery, do your research well and don't be afraid to move your child if it's not working out.
I strongly believe that whether mums choose to work full-time, part-time, or not at all, we should all be proud that we are being true to ourselves and setting the best example we can for our children.