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Searching for work that works with a family

1
When my daughter was 11 months old, I started working full-time as a journalist on a new parenting website.

It was my first job in an office since becoming a mum and I was bricking it about returning to the workplace, especially because the workplace was over an hour away from home. I was also feeling a ton of guilt about putting my daughter in creche.

But after months of being at home with a baby who didn’t sleep much, I was crawling the walls and giddy with excitement at the thought of all those clichés that are so true – sitting down for

SelfishMother.com
2
more than 30 seconds, going to the loo without an audience, two handed eating.

The transition to working-in-an-office mum was also made easier by the fact that, on paper, this was my dream role. As well as being promised flexible working when needed, I was being paid to sound off about stuff that had really got on my tits for the past year or so. A sort of passive aggressive form of therapy, if you like.

After a wobbly start to the job, my brain engaged and I got into the swing of things. But the role was way more demanding than I anticipated and I

SelfishMother.com
3
felt like I was being crap at work and home. Those first few months were a blur of deadlines, commuting and creche illnesses. My brain felt fried, my body ached and the tyres on my car were almost bald. Worse, I barely saw my daughter during the working week.

I plucked the courage to ask my editor for what she often called the holy grail for working parents – part-time hours. It was that or I had to resign. I told her I loved the job but was struggling with the long hours, long commute and absence of my daughter from Monday to Friday. She said she

SelfishMother.com
4
would discuss a plan of action with management, and then a miracle happened: I was given a three-day working week with almost immediate effect.

My hours at home increased but things at work soon started to get tricky. When I was in the office, I worked longer hours because I was part time. I was expected to attend more work events because I was part time. I was told I had to work every Bank Holiday because I was part time. I was encouraged to work more weekend shifts because I was part time. I struggled to say no to anyone who asked to swap shifts,

SelfishMother.com
5
because I was part time. I was constantly reminded how lucky I was to be given this part-time opportunity.
I had never grafted so hard in my working life, but it wasn’t enough. My work was criticised and, I was repeatedly told, needed improvement; my commitment to the company was questioned because I couldn’t always attend evening or weekend events; and, on a number of occasions, my editor said I should count myself lucky as nobody else had been given part-time hours. (This was a young, fast-growing company that didn’t typically employ people with
SelfishMother.com
6
life baggage.)
I completely lost confidence in my ability to do the job and, in the end, didn’t even want to leave my desk to make a coffee in case I drew attention to myself. I was lacking caffeine and confidence and really feeling the imposter syndrome.
And on it went until six weeks before my one-year work anniversary when my editor called me into the boardroom and said she had to let me go. Shocked (there had been no warnings), I attempted to regain a shred of dignity by telling her I was going to leave anyway. She explained the decision had been
SelfishMother.com
7
made ”for commercial reasons” and was not performance related, adding that management never liked the part-time arrangement.
I was reminded that although out of the probationary period, I had been employed just short of a year so couldn’t claim unfair dismissal. When I left the boardroom, I walked back to my desk, cleared my laptop, waited until my editor had gone into her next meeting and left the building for good. I text her that evening to say I wouldn’t be returning to the office – forfeiting my one-week notice pay.
And just like that, my time
SelfishMother.com
8
working for the ’family-friendly’ parenting website that talks about championing women, family life and flexible working, was over.
I can’t deny feeling massively relieved to not be that soldier anymore – left to my own devices, I’m not sure when I would have jumped ship – but it’s left a chink in my armour. We managed OK with the temporary loss of one salary but losing new friends and independence after feeling isolated for so long as a new mum, hit hard. A few weeks later, I got lucky and secured a small freelance project working from home, which
SelfishMother.com
9
lasted until my second baby was born a year later.

Fifteen months after his arrival, my current role is at home full time, raising kids – a role I struggled to see the value in when I first became a mum. This time round, aside from being grateful for the absence of a commute or an office, I’m chuffed with all I accomplish in a day, and I’m learning to be more present, which has helped me, dare I say it, cherish the time more.

That said, there are new doors opening and ideas whizzing round my head as I start to think about work projects again.

SelfishMother.com
10
I’m unsure what form they’ll take exactly, but I do know that my next move needs to work for me and my family, otherwise it’s just not going to work out. And if it doesn’t, I won’t wait for someone else to make that call.
SelfishMother.com
Jennifer Riddall

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- 7 Feb 18

When my daughter was 11 months old, I started working full-time as a journalist on a new parenting website.

It was my first job in an office since becoming a mum and I was bricking it about returning to the workplace, especially because the workplace was over an hour away from home. I was also feeling a ton of guilt about putting my daughter in creche.

But after months of being at home with a baby who didn’t sleep much, I was crawling the walls and giddy with excitement at the thought of all those clichés that are so true – sitting down for more than 30 seconds, going to the loo without an audience, two handed eating.

The transition to working-in-an-office mum was also made easier by the fact that, on paper, this was my dream role. As well as being promised flexible working when needed, I was being paid to sound off about stuff that had really got on my tits for the past year or so. A sort of passive aggressive form of therapy, if you like.

After a wobbly start to the job, my brain engaged and I got into the swing of things. But the role was way more demanding than I anticipated and I felt like I was being crap at work and home. Those first few months were a blur of deadlines, commuting and creche illnesses. My brain felt fried, my body ached and the tyres on my car were almost bald. Worse, I barely saw my daughter during the working week.

I plucked the courage to ask my editor for what she often called the holy grail for working parents – part-time hours. It was that or I had to resign. I told her I loved the job but was struggling with the long hours, long commute and absence of my daughter from Monday to Friday. She said she would discuss a plan of action with management, and then a miracle happened: I was given a three-day working week with almost immediate effect.

My hours at home increased but things at work soon started to get tricky. When I was in the office, I worked longer hours because I was part time. I was expected to attend more work events because I was part time. I was told I had to work every Bank Holiday because I was part time. I was encouraged to work more weekend shifts because I was part time. I struggled to say no to anyone who asked to swap shifts, because I was part time. I was constantly reminded how lucky I was to be given this part-time opportunity.

I had never grafted so hard in my working life, but it wasn’t enough. My work was criticised and, I was repeatedly told, needed improvement; my commitment to the company was questioned because I couldn’t always attend evening or weekend events; and, on a number of occasions, my editor said I should count myself lucky as nobody else had been given part-time hours. (This was a young, fast-growing company that didn’t typically employ people with life baggage.)

I completely lost confidence in my ability to do the job and, in the end, didn’t even want to leave my desk to make a coffee in case I drew attention to myself. I was lacking caffeine and confidence and really feeling the imposter syndrome.

And on it went until six weeks before my one-year work anniversary when my editor called me into the boardroom and said she had to let me go. Shocked (there had been no warnings), I attempted to regain a shred of dignity by telling her I was going to leave anyway. She explained the decision had been made “for commercial reasons” and was not performance related, adding that management never liked the part-time arrangement.

I was reminded that although out of the probationary period, I had been employed just short of a year so couldn’t claim unfair dismissal. When I left the boardroom, I walked back to my desk, cleared my laptop, waited until my editor had gone into her next meeting and left the building for good. I text her that evening to say I wouldn’t be returning to the office – forfeiting my one-week notice pay.

And just like that, my time working for the ‘family-friendly’ parenting website that talks about championing women, family life and flexible working, was over.

I can’t deny feeling massively relieved to not be that soldier anymore – left to my own devices, I’m not sure when I would have jumped ship – but it’s left a chink in my armour. We managed OK with the temporary loss of one salary but losing new friends and independence after feeling isolated for so long as a new mum, hit hard. A few weeks later, I got lucky and secured a small freelance project working from home, which lasted until my second baby was born a year later.

Fifteen months after his arrival, my current role is at home full time, raising kids – a role I struggled to see the value in when I first became a mum. This time round, aside from being grateful for the absence of a commute or an office, I’m chuffed with all I accomplish in a day, and I’m learning to be more present, which has helped me, dare I say it, cherish the time more.

That said, there are new doors opening and ideas whizzing round my head as I start to think about work projects again. I’m unsure what form they’ll take exactly, but I do know that my next move needs to work for me and my family, otherwise it’s just not going to work out. And if it doesn’t, I won’t wait for someone else to make that call.

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Jennifer Riddall

Mum of two. Wife to one. Journalist by trade.

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