Jessica Chivers, is the founder of career support company The Talent Keeper Specialists and author of Mothers Work! How to Get a Grip on Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work (Hay House UK £10.99). She is mum to Monty, seven, and Artemis, five.
Mixing work and looking after my children doesn’t work for me. So have a few rules I try to stick to. I don’t do any work after 9pm and when my children are in the house and there’s not another adult here, I don’t work – they get a closed house.
For both my children I took 5 ½ months maternity leave. It wasn’t set in stone but they’d been weaned, were both sleeping through and I felt much more rested and able to do it. Plus I was getting bored just being at home.
My childcare choices were narrowed by the nature of my work. I couldn’t justify paying for a nursery when I was freelance. By chance I discovered a childminding husband and wife team. It was almost like a mini nursery at their house and because they could have more children they were more willing to work on a PAYG basis.
Try and stagger your return to work. I felt better about leaving my kids because it wasn’t for too long to start with. I’d also suggest not working from home in the beginning. You need to be back in the office – get the support from your colleagues, see friendly faces, and get back into the mechanics of working.
My meltdown moment came giving my first talk to a group of NHS managers. I thought they’d be able to tell I hadn’t done it for months. I was used to wearing baggy, milk stained PJs at that time, so I felt a bit of a fraud. But once you get going you think ‘of course I can do this.’ There’s no substitution for immersing yourself back into it.
Going back to work is a period of transition. But most mums forget that. It takes about three months to settle back in.
When it’s working I feel like I have it all. I feel good because the children like school, I’m earning and enjoying the time I spend with them because I’m not spending every waking hour with them. I have a little bit of everything and that feels brilliant.
Going back to work is a period of transition. But most mums forget that.
The hardest thing is not feeling you’re doing anything to the best of your ability. You have to get comfortable with knowing that it’s not your absolute best. Doing it to about 80% is good enough.
I love the randomness that children bring into your life. My son started teaching me the recorder this morning. I’d never have picked up a recorder ordinarily.
I don’t believe in life veneers. Social networking allows parents to give a controlled, deliberate impression of their lives and if you’re not very self assured it can be hard to see other mums have a brilliant time of it. But remember people don’t always reveal the whole picture. I’m candid about saying when I’m having a bad time.
My working mum wardrobe staple is a fitted jacket. It gives any outfit a level of professionalism.
I want to see 100% of childcare tax deductable. Nobody should pay tax on childcare. I petitioned Downing Street about it. I believe you should be able to pay for childcare from your gross pay.
The logistics of childcare can be so boring and time consuming. It is this constant writing notes, agreeing things in advance, who needs what on what days. The admin that surrounds it is very dull.