Read any recent survey and it’ll tell you either your children will suffer if you set foot outside the home - or that if you do stay there, your job will.
Ignore the pessimists who tell you motherhood consigns your ambitions to history. Just because you love your children, doesn’t mean you can’t still follow your dream at work.
There has never been a better time to find out about flexible working patterns – or launching your own business.
The best of both worlds
Kath Hughes was Information Manager for Cumbria’s Ambulance Service, when she returned to work after having her daughter, Molly, now four.
She continued in a jobshare for three years, until she had twins Erin and Niamh.
She says: “I didn’t want to work full time after Molly was born.
“But I was proud of my position at work and felt that if I left, I’d forfeit my place on the career ladder,” says
Kath, aged 34, from Carlisle.
“I told my manager I was pregnant after my first scan. She asked if I’d thought about what I wanted to do and I said ideally I’d like to work part time.
“After considering all of the options, she offered me the opportunity to continue my post on a job share basis.
“I went back to work when Molly was four months old and worked 20 hours a week.
“As a family we had the best of both worlds. I had plenty of one to one time with my daughter in her most formative years. I often think it made me appreciate my time with Molly more because I wasn’t with her all of the time.
“I retained my place on the career ladder and was able to keep abreast of the changes taking place within my profession. It also allowed Molly to spend quality time with other members of the family and not be solely reliant on me.”
Kath offers the following advice for any mum to be who’s contemplating a job share:
· Speak to your line manager or personnel officer early in your pregnancy. Your employer must consider your request and if it is turned down, they should give you satisfactory reasons. If you aren’t happy, speak to your union.
· If you’re thinking about a job share, give it a try. If it doesn’t work out for your career; you’ll still have been able to have extra time with your family.
‘I met my business partner at my ‘baby group’
“What teaches you more about your priorities and time management than being a mum?” says my fellow director, Carol Garrington, aged 34, mum to Morgan, eight and Dylan, six.
“I could never go back to working for anyone else. When my boys have been poorly we have sorted something out and I’ve never had to make any excuses about having to go to a school play or medical appointment.
“As our children get older, we are putting more into the business – spending more hours in the office. People laugh when I say I met my business partner at my post natal group, but it seemed natural to us.”
‘My business was based on what I wanted for my child’
Former Great Ormond Street play specialist Karen Sherr, aged 42, is mum to Matthew, 17, Alexander, 15, and 12-year-old Emily. She is also the founder and director of the nationwide Musical Minis group.
She says: “Musical Minis was based on what I wanted as a mum for my child. At first, it was a group I could attend with Matthew.
“Some friends also came with their children. I devised the programme, brought the equipment and hired the hall. We had one session a week.
“I had no idea that so many parents would wish their children to join. It soon became apparent that we had a proper business.
“After a few months I became pregnant again. I worked throughout my pregnancy but took on another employee so I could have a few weeks off after the baby was born.
“Alex and Emily both were born into a life involving Musical Minis. The children did not see me as a businesswoman as to them, I was doing the same as all the other mums. As they have got older they realized this wasn’t the case.
“Today, we have 18 franchisees in the UK as well as local classes in North West London – with around 2,000 children attending each week.
“We’ve kept the business growth at a rate we wanted it to fit in with the family. I can’t think of any other job I’d rather be doing.”
Karen’s top tips for mums setting up a business:
· Start small, let the business grow when you can cope
· Separate work from home. If your business is based at home have a second phone line fitted. If you’re bathing the children, the answer machine will pick up the call.
· Have backup. If your child is ill what will happen to your business?
· Know your limitations. If you have problems with accounts get someone to help you.
· Set time aside to be a mum.
· If there are not enough hours in the day, do the bits you like and get help with the bits you don’t - get a cleaner and shop online.
· Remember to set time aside for yourself.
Find out more about work-life balance, check out latest legislation and find links for women’s business groups: Mother At Work.