meeting top notch workingmums

we’ve been lucky enough at the university to have two of the bbc’s high flying women down to talk to the students: helen boaden , head of bbc news; and last friday, jana bennett head of bbc vision. these women are of course fascinating about their chosen areas ( building relationships with the viewer and the implications  of multi-platform on media content respectively if you’re interested)…but as soon as their conversation includes a mention of their children, workingmum can’t help but be even more impressed by them. workingmum doesn’t know about the web of support underpinning their success (jana had a chauffeur driven mercedes parked outside the uni ), but  given a chance to talk to them, she just wants to know ‘how do they do it? what’s their secret of being a workingmum?’ .  jana told workingmum it was that she had always made sure that she lived no more than 9 minutes away from work: avoid the physical and emotional drain of the commute. workingmum has to say that sometimes those extra 6 minutes she spends in the car listening to chris evans on the way back to picking up the kids, can be quite a pleasure, but you can certainly see what jana means. the thought of being sat on a train watching the hours go by , knowing that your kids are eating, washing, reading, going to bed without you, must be unbearable.

if you’re a workingmum, what is it that works for you? workingmum thinks that  one of the things she’s learnt over the past nine years , is that you’ve got to reflect on how things are going , not on a daily basis, but over the year. of course there are going to be tough days, weeks when you think the balance is all wrong, but if over the months you think it works out well, then that’s ok.  a preparedness (and financial ability i guess) to buy yourself out of the work-place for longer than the annual holiday allowance, has been mentioned  before as something that can help life as a workingmum work.

contributions greatly valued 🙂

discrimination against workingmums

it was difficult to ignore today’s story about the discrimination us workingmums find

in the workplace. the bbc website put it thus:


Female worker

Discrimination against women costs the UK £20bn, Trevor Phillips said

Women with young children are the most discriminated-against at work, a study will suggest.A mother with a child aged under 11 is 45% less likely to be employed than a man, the Equalities Review will find.

The major report into inequality in the UK was commissioned by Tony Blair to examine how our lives are affected by race, gender and age.

Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the review, has said the cost of discrimination is borne by the country.

The report’s findings are expected to suggest women with young children face more discrimination in the workplace than disabled people or those from ethnic minorities

workingmum chats about  the conflicts  inherent in trying to balance the demands of young kids and the workplace …. but it really is quite startling to see research like this. if we are the the most disadvantaged group within the workplace , then together all the niggles workingmum chats about on this blog, really amount to something quite serious.

being a workingmum can be tough, but it is really rewarding. it goes without saying that having kids is as good as it gets,  but work and in particular the wonderful people this workingmum is lucky enough to work with, can also be  life enriching.

clearly workingmums have great things to contribute to the workplace ; for a starter negotiation, communication and multi-tasking skills are  honed on a  daily basis on their offsprings.   employers need to take on board the findings of this report , value the contribution workingmums can make , and ensure in particular that part-time career paths progress right up the organisational ladder.

we may be discriminated against..but we workingmums rock 🙂

man flu hits work…

…headache, backache, dizziness, sore throat, the lot – it’s not much fun 😦 

workingmum fears illness bigtime. the prospect of incapacitation combined with the need to get kids to and from school,  feed them, and just cope with the noise levels of two small boys having fun, is scary. not to mention all the worries of missing the unmissable at work. workingmum has to cross fingers that she will never be ill:  she daren’t take time off work on top of the days she’ll inevitably need at some point to look after her sick kids.

luckily years in the playground expose workingmum to sufficient germs to build up immunity to most things 🙂 

pass the lemsip…

if you remember being at school in the 1970s…

…surely you must remember that last day of the summer term,  the whole of six gloriously empty weeks ahead of you… thinking, ‘when i leave school, i’m going to go straight home, find alice cooper’s ‘school’s out’ and sing it at the top of my voice’. that’s how this workingmum felt at the end of last weekend, with the last party all done and dusted. no party bags, no cakes, no invitations to think about for another eleven months. school really is out for summer 🙂

it’s half term…

..which means that some (very lucky)  mums, dads and kids are off to the piste (we stay-at-homers console ourselves that the queues will be as long as the brochure prices were high)…others have voyaged down the A30 to the delights of a family week in cornwall.  this leaves back at home, mums and kids with a week to tour every zoo, park, cinema and beach within 20 miles of home….and us…the workingmums…still at work 😦

it seems a total impossibility for workingmum to acquire enough holiday to keep up with the holidays which are thrown at her children .  say she gets a generous six weeks..well hypothetically that could get her through summer; leaving just three half terms, easter and christmas to account for. it’s impossible.

for those workingmums who have the luxury , or opportunity of term-time-only working , there’s a massive hit on the pay-packet…and if you’re looking to add that to ‘school-hours’ working, then you’re probably looking at a very part-time salary. and anyway these jobs are pretty hard to come by in most professions.

i’m not really sure i know the answer to this…other than to accept that workingmums do need to take extra , probably unpaid , leave . for this workingmum this is really key to the attempt to get the balance of work and home right.

of course , the good side of all this , is the stream of grandparents, currently battling north, south, east and west…to help out workingmums all over the country…and of course have quality time with their lovely grandchildren 🙂

happy holidays

how much does workingmum love swimming?

……so much. in fact this workingmum recommends swimming to all workingmums as a space for brain and body to forget all the pressures of work and home. when this workingmum becomes prime minister , she will give all workingmums free passes to swimming pools … no , she will build swimming pools in all workingmums’ gardens, whether they like it or not :). the world will be a calmer place.

in praise of the ‘f’ word

thirty minutes ago this was all going to be about flexibility and how central flexibility is to any workingmum’s life…then i went swimming.  as i swam , i thought through what i might write and reconsidered. no, it’s not all about flexibility – in fact too much flexibility can be a nightmare for a workingmum (a friend , expert in qualitative market research, found re-entry into the work-place a real challenge, having to respond to clients’ sudden demands to run three days of focus groups up in liverpool – how do you suddenly find childcare to cover that ?). the paradox is that workingmum finds herself at the juxtaposition between the need for routine and flexibility.  what could be more routine than the day-in day-out need for kids to go to school ? …. and the consequent demand for the workingday to follow that pattern (perhaps extended with the help of after-school clubs or childminders).  how many workers can tell you now that they want february 14-20th and october 21-28 2008 off work ? it’s the workingmums who can . so the routine of school and the holidays which surround it, make life as a workingmum extremely predictable and routine on a macro level.

the flexibility bit  of course comes in on the day to day level.  take last week for this workingmum. two sick kids ; husband abroad; need for ultimate flexibility from workplace.  of course flexibility is a two way thing. we want flexibility from our employers – an ability to leave now to pick up the limp , lifeless duo from school – but we need to respond with an equal preparedness to give to our employer some of our free time, when they need us.

of course there’s nothing different about this compared to any workingperson. in some way the demands of workingmums (and workingdads) are just the demands of people with lives to lead outside the workplace. we all need our employers to show us flexibility; we should be able to reciprocate when necessary.

anyway , this was prompted by an article in yesterday’s (27 jan 07) guardian work section ‘hanging on for help’..because i’m not as whizzy as you guys, i can’t put the link in here, but it is worth a quick read.

it’s party time :)

it’s difficult not to smile at the thought of the ‘today’ editorial meeting this morning : ok so there was material on gordon brown in prime-ministerial mode , but you can just imagine how john humphries was feeling about some of the softer stuff . big brother and the ‘jade is she a racist? how is she portraying the british abroad?’  row, or …. kids parties -consumerism gone mad?.  sensibly humphries opted for the latter – he has got a six year old after all so i guess there was some resonance for him in a discussion about the seemingly unending lengths parents will go to give their offspring a ‘special day’.

i was listening with a keen ear see it’s son number two’s party this very weekend. parties i’m sure, are a bain for working and ‘nonworking’ mums alike…but i guess us working mums see them in their potential for some-how exposing us as a lower breed of mothers. stripped of spare time, do we opt out and buy the prepackaged ‘leisure centre party’ or do we overcompensate in some way and strive to make sure that we use the occasion to prove to our children, other parents, and indeed ourselves, that we really can do it all…?

last year we did both options : one football party which frankly demanded no emotional or indeed physical energy (except perhaps at the end trying to pull several writhing figures off each other whilst we waited for mums and dads to pick up their boys). it was ok;  not memorable. not once during the year have the kids remarked about the great time they had that sunday afternoon in february.  at the other end of the spectrum , we had a mad treasure hunt . armed with  boots and wellies,  a swarm of small girls and boys ran amok over the neighbouring fields in search of loot.  one child got stuck knee deep in the mud; another ended up with a golf-ball of a bump on the head.  i’m sure i shouted like a banshee in my sheep-dog-like attempt to keep them to the trail of clues – but it was memorable.

and i guess that’s partly what it’s about – not just how everyone feels on the day, but whether you’ve taken the opportunity to plot out another point in your life as a parent, and your offsprings’s lives as kids, which will help define, at least to yourself , the kind of people you are /were.’s robin hood for us this weekend – just about to make some felt swag bags; and of course to go and find a guy of gisborne to invite along 🙂

when to write a blog ? (and bits n pieces)

whenever workingmum mentions her blog to friends, the first thing they ask is ‘when do you have the time to write it ?’ . as with everything in workingmums’ lives, if it’s worth it, you make the time. still, workingmum has noticed, that the time she write blog entries, is becoming predictable – sunday evenings if you’re interested. i guess in some ways it seems the perfect space to reflect on the juxtapositions between home and working life, but to be honest it’s more do to with the practicalities of finding a space in workingmum’s mind together with access to a computer.  in future workingmum shall try to be more varied with the times she blogs, in an attempt to try to capture the different pressures of life.

anyway, other things in life it’s worth making time for :

family (of course); friends; swimming; walking along the beach; smiling at people; cycling (anywhere); stroking the cat;  thanking people; drinking tea or coffee; listening; just thinking.

and finally … it’s new year’s eve.. this time last year workingmum was full of anticipation for the new year – you see she likes even years (born, married, births x 2, moved to the sea, etc etc in even years), odd years she’s not so fond of ( first – yukky – job; redundancy; death of two dear friends, loss of another close friend, pretty nasty car accident, chucking of boiling contents of kettle over arm etc etc all in odd years)…so workingmum is hoping that next year is going to buck the trend 🙂

so , happy new year.. especially to all of you who have contributed to the blog : i wouldn’t have got to the end of the year without you.

workingmums – this is what we do

it’s 7.00am and workingmum is trying to work out how to break the bad news: in her haste to get the washing done, workingmum has committed the ultimate sin…she has washed son number one’s school trousers, without checking the pockets : a whole pack of prized dr who top trumps have apparently been destroyed.

after the anticipated tears have fallen, workingmum and son number one get on with sticking the sorry mess back together… potential  cybleks may be created if we get it wrong.

top trumps resussitated, breakfasts eaten, uniforms on, school bags packed for a school trip , we head out in the torrential rain . somehow we get to school just in time, but discover in our haste we’ve left lunch boxes back at home.  workingmum speeds back to the house. luckily it seems; she finds the iron left switched on.  back into the car, lunch boxes delivered to at school, workingmum heads off for work.

and then the working day starts…..

workingmums : this is what we do