Amy McDermott

image1 (1)Meet Amy, Head of Sales and Mum to a 17-month-old son. Her honest account describes the challenge of balancing motherhood with a full-time career.  This working mum discusses being realistic in self-expectations and the importance of retaining elements of life before motherhood.

Tell me about what you do?
I head up a sales team in a publishing environment. It’s full on, but I love it and love the people I work with!

Tell me a bit about your routine?
I work full time (5 days a week, 8 hours a day) and so does my husband. He does nursery drop offs and I do collections). My son goes to nursery three days a week and my mother in law has him for the other two days.

What is work/life balance to you?
This is the struggle! Life balance meant going out most of the weekend eating and drinking and lying on the sofa. Life now is hanging out with my son and my husband and I taking turns on going out!

Are you able to work flexibly?
Not really. I have changed my hours to 8.30am – 4.30pm meaning I can pick my son up. I’m sure my work would accommodate me in emergencies as I have been with the business for 15 years.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
When my son was 9 months old I had this overwhelming urge to go back to work. I felt so guilty for wanting to get back to work with 3 months of maternity leave left. Once at work after the 12 months off I felt guilty for enjoying being away from him. At weekends you need time for you, but that comes with guilt too! I should be spending the 48 hours I have off work with him… but it’s simply not realistic for us to not have some time out. So I guess my advice is to go easy on yourself it’s okay to still have and enjoy elements of your baby free life!

In the UK what could society/government do better to help working parents?
Make sure laws support part-time/flexible work options

Jess Nelson

All the working mum stories we’ve shared so far have told us about the benefits of returning to work from financial gains, keeping your career on track and knowing your self-worth but none have spoken about how work can tackle loneliness. I think most mothers and carers, especially those on maternity leave would relate to not having adult company for most of the day. Meet Jess, who as a single mum has overcome personal challenges and has nailed flexible working. This is her story…

Jess Nelson, Owner of Maggie J Jewellers and Mother to a 4-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son.

Tell me about what you do?
I own and manage a jewellery shop and have to be involved in every aspect of the business such as tasks like choosing the jewellery for window displays.

Tell me a bit about your routine?
School/nursery run
Open shop
Serve my lovely customers
School/nursery run
Back to shop
Close shop

Luckily as it’s my own business I am able to bring the kids into work with me. They’ve been coming to the shop with me since they were babies (I even had to breastfeed & change nappies in the back of the shop- the glamour of the working mum!)

What is work/life balance to you?
I feel I have a good work/life balance. It’s the main benefit of running my own business.

Are you able to work flexibly?
Most definitely, I currently work 2 full days and 3 half days. I am able to get cover when I need it from my mum (who co-owns the shop with me) and our part-time lady fills in too.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
For a long while, I was a single mum too. This was the biggest challenge of all, but the ability to work and distract myself was such a help. Only having kids to go home to every evening & wake up with every morning (and during the night) was so hard, so I really appreciated the adult company on the days I worked. The downside was the overwhelming pressure to be the breadwinner and be emotionally stable for the kids & the business was very challenging. I am now in a happy & healthy relationship and running my own retail business, raising two kids, and still being me…it’s just one big juggling act in the circus that is life but the most rewarding!

I think that’s the best way to describe being a working mum!

In the UK what could society/government do better to help working parents?
Due to financial strains, it is essential as I’m sure it is for most mums, that I go back to work. Although this is empowering, ‘Mum guilt’ still plays on my mind. This has got easier as the kids have been at school & nursery more, which I wouldn’t have been able to do without the government funding of 15hr free child care. Although there is more that can be done without this I would have struggled to afford a good work/life balance.


Gerry Verbrugge

Gerry VerbruggeMy son was born in October 1979 and I resigned from my post as a housing officer. After some months of being at home with my baby, I wanted to secure part-time employment.

I was a qualified teacher and applied for a part-time position working with children with learning difficulties. This application was successful and I started working two and a half days a week.

It was initially easy to secure childcare as my wonderful next door neighbour agreed to look after my nearly one-year-old son, however, things became more challenging when this friend gained full-time employment.

Balancing Act

My son experienced quite a lot of sickness and my parents often travelled from Newcastle to Leeds to help look after him while I went to work. My husband was working as a Warehouse Manager for an electrical goods distributor. He agreed that he should do his share of staying home with a poorly toddler but always advised the firm that he was ill himself. Work culture for men in the 1980’s made it impossible for him to take any form of parental leave.

Diversifying my teaching experience

After about one year of working half the week, the head teacher decided that she would prefer it if I worked every morning. I found this to be a harsh, discriminatory decision and asked my union rep to act on my behalf but eventually had to comply with the change.

To diversify my teaching experience I later obtained an additional job at a continuing education centre for adults with learning difficulties. The new post was some 14 miles away from the school and I needed to travel between the two in my lunch hour. The fact that I had not passed my driving test when I accepted the additional post was a tad problematic.

The head teacher at my morning school job tried to prevent me from accepting the role and this time with help from the union I succeeded in pushing forward.

After 5 attempts I passed my driving test and found myself teaching children in the morning and adults in the afternoon and then a 10 mile, 30-minute dash to pick up my son from school!

Role Swap

Years later, my husband was very unhappy with his job and we decided that he should work part-time as he was also a qualified teacher and that I would seek a full-time position. I drew a ten-mile ring around my son’s primary school and applied for positions in special schools within that circle.

I became a full-time teacher in a special school. I dropped my son off at school in the morning and used a childminder for after-school care. This worked fairly well but, in common with others, it was challenged when my son was ill. I used to leave him in bed and travel the ten miles home to check on him in my lunchtime. I felt such guilt about this but learnt in later years that my son really enjoyed his arrangement, particularly the comics I turned up with.

Visual impairment became my specialism

I left my position as a class teacher to become an advisory teacher for children with a visual impairment. This involved moving down an increment while I undertook an intensive two-year distance learning course with Birmingham University. The plus side involved avoiding the politics of a small school and avoiding the constant lifting that had damaged my back.

My experience as a teacher for children with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties gave me the necessary background to assess the functional vision of children with very early communication skills. This was in the mid-1990s and until then children with complex needs who had visual impairment did not receive specialist support. A large percentage of children with cerebral palsy experienced visual difficulties and, besides the usual eye conditions, had varying degrees of difficulty in processing the information that their brain received. Helping children with cerebral visual impairment became my specialism.

Janice Davey

This is my sister and everyday inspiration! Growing up, Janice had so much passion, focus and determination for learning, something she shares with her daughters, colleagues and customers. Her no-nonsense attitude has helped to break down barriers in a male-dominated industry.  As a champion of WeAreWorkingMums here is her story…

Janice Davey, Program Manager at PerkinElmer and Mum to 2 children aged 4 & 2.

Tell me about what you do?
Large scale project management for providing Scientific Services and Asset management to the Pharmaceutical and Academic industry

Tell me a bit about your routine?
I work mostly from home but I can also spend quite a bit of time travelling as my customer base is the whole of Europe. I wouldn’t be able to do this job without the support of my husband who is self-employed and works from home. I supposedly work part time of 4 days a week but in reality, as most part-timers know you squeeze 5 days of work into that. I do however make sure that my Friday off is mine and everyone I work with knows and understands that. I try to make sure that my time off is spent building memories and having quality 1-1 time with the girls.

Once the camping season starts we try to get away from everything as much as possible. I love camping with the kids, no tv, phones etc.

It does sometimes feel as though you have zero downtime as you go from work to kids to work again. I don’t really have a routine but I do prepare, so school bags are packed the night before, washing is done whenever I get 5mins. I also get the kids involved in shopping and cooking.

What is work/life balance to you?
Watching my kids grow and be in their lives whilst succeeding and performing at work in order to live comfortably and hopefully be an inspiration to them.

Are you able to work flexibly?
Yes, having an understanding boss is very much required.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
More employers need to realise that working mums can provide as much input to a company as anybody and provide the flexibility in order to do that.

In the UK what could society/government/companies do better to help working parents?
The 30 hours “free” should be split out from an earlier age. If they want to get parents back into the workforce, providing free childcare should be from once maternity finishes. Spending the majority of your wage for someone else to look after your child creates terrible stresses on families.

Lisa McAlinden

Our first split maternity story! I also love how Lisa uses her leadership skills to make sure everyone in her team leaves work on time, a benefit not just for parents and carers.

Lisa McAlinden, Head of Knitwear Design (Currently on MAT leave) and Mum to 2 children 2~1/2 and 11 weeks old.

Tell me about what you do?
I work in the fashion industry for a fast paced supplier to most of the UK high street. I specialise in knitwear managing a small team of talented designers bringing the very latest trends to the masses.

Tell me a bit about your routine?
For our first child we took advantage of split maternity leave so myself and my partner James did 6 months each. As the main breadwinner I had to get back to work ASAP, James made it easy for me to get back into work as I knew our baby wasn’t with a stranger she was being taken care of by her Daddy.
After the year I went down to 4 days, James 3 days and nursery 2 days.
Without James I couldn’t have gone back with the same drive as I had before as in my industry you can be hot property one day then in the firing line the next so you have to keep exceeding at all times. Moving to 4 days really felt like the right balance of work and having quality time although 4 days means often fitting 5 days work into 4 so you have to be super organised.

What is work/life balance to you?
Work is the place where I’m not a Mum. I’m me, I have my own identity and I need it to stay sane. I love working and I’m lucky to do something I’m passionate about getting to be creative on a daily basis the balance comes when I get quality time with my family without being tired from working all week so that extra day makes all the difference.

Are you able to work flexibly?
My job is pretty full on so the 4 days is as flexible as is possible.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I think there is an unfair perception that if someone is a Mum or new Mum they can’t do jobs as well as someone who doesn’t have children. This simply isn’t true working Mums want it all and they can have it. I found I was often more efficient at work on days where I needed to leave on time. Sometimes people stay late because they haven’t been as focused in the working day. I often say to my team that if you can’t achieve what you need to in the working day then there is something wrong. We look at our ways of working often and see how we can be more efficient as working too many hours doesn’t make you fresh for the next day.

In the UK what could society/government/companies do better to help working parents?
Child care support from 1 year old I feel that if I hadn’t gone back to work I would have become irrelevant in the workplace too many mothers are forced to choose staying at home over their career due to cost. So by the time they can go back it’s harder for them to maintain the same level and often they can be overlooked.

Yvonne Boateng

I had the pleasure of working with Yvonne before I left LinkedIn and its great to hear they are champions of flexibleworking!

Yvonne Boateng, Client Solutions Manager at LinkedIn and Mum to a 17 month old son.

Tell me about what you do?
I partner with clients to plan and deliver successful digital campaigns.

Tell me a bit about your routine?
It can be quite tough sometimes. I wake up before my 17 month old son, get ready for work, and by which time, my son is awake. I drop off my son and make my way to work. I then also pick up my son at the end of the day. My husband is currently studying for his CIMA qualification, which means he wakes up early to get a study session in, and also has study classes some evenings. Whenever I need to get into work early or stay back late, my husband does the rounds.

What is work/life balance to you?
I haven’t quite figured it out and it’s still sometimes a challenge. My role has changed at work, it’s almost like a new job, so I find myself doing some extra work after the baby goes to bed.

Are you able to work flexibly?
Yes, anytime I need to.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’m still searching for the secret to great work/life balance so any tips and tricks are welcome!

In the UK what could society/government/companies do better to help working parents?
In an ideal world, we would have a 3 day weekend! I’d like to see a travel card discount for working parents who need to travel into work. Just something to help relief parents.

Emma Kenny

A massive congratulations to Emma Kenny for being awarded Fellow status by the FHT for exceptional experience in her field! 🙌 #thisissuccess

Self-employment does offer flexibility with childcare but you can face financial perils…

I have been a self-employed Aromatherapist since 2004 and a parent to one daughter since 2013. Self-employment is considered by some to be an ideal situation for a working mum but sometimes I wonder if I am ever truly present in either role.

As the mother, if my daughter is unwell her care falls to me and I lose money – no sick pay or holiday pay options – and finding any kind of work/life balance remains the holy grail!

Laura Brennan-Kersey

Everyone is looking for work/life balance especially parents, read Laura’s story on her journey from Bank Manager to Childminder.

I’m self-employed as a childminder. But before I had children I was a bank manager. I realised very soon after my eldest was born that I wouldn’t be able to return to that line of work if I wanted any sort of quality time with my child, so I went for a real career change. For me being a working mum meant finding the “right work” to spend my time with my children while also receiving an income, and now I actually couldn’t ever imagine going back to the bank. I love my new career and the work-life balance that goes with it.

Claire Alderdice

You can still #dreambig and be a mother, thanks for the inspiration Claire 🙌

I’m a textile designer and launched my own brand of interior products & accessories in 2015, called Claire ∆lderdice Textiles. Shortly after showcasing my first collection I became pregnant with my first child, 18-month-old Aurelia. As our family is growing (with number 2 on the way), I’ve been growing my business at a slow and steady pace to fit in around raising a young family.

I’m so grateful to be able to work in a way that maintains a healthy work-life balance, and with such limited time in the week to focus on my business I find myself much less of a procrastinator than usual! Whilst running your own business is indeed a full-time affair, and I check my emails and manage orders daily, I spend just 1-2 afternoons a week in the glorious haven of my studio, dreaming up new product ranges, planning and doing any (dreaded) admin!

I’m from N. Ireland, where all my family still live – I miss them heaps so make regular trips back to the homeland. But when back in my adopted home of Bedfordshire my lovely mother-in-law helps to look after Aurelia on the days I need to work. It can sometimes be tricky arranging meetings around childcare, especially as my husband works full time, but often attends business meetings with me – but so far we manage to make it work. In general, however, I can be very flexible as Aurelia is so young.

I have big dreams for the future of my business, which can be frustrating at times when it’s growing so slowly, but then I remember that this special time with my family and serving them will go so quickly, and God-willing, I will be able to accelerate at the right time.

Cleo Lam

Getting back into work after any stretch can be daunting so signing up for a course like Digital Mums combines learning with a community. Meet Cleo, who’s the gel in our peer group! Read Cleo’s story and don’t forget to support her campaign, Once Upon a Book to encourage children to love reading forever!

I had a career as an Art Historian in my twenties, then went into Medical Management. A much longed for child finally arrived & we felt lucky that I was able to be a stay at home parent, as it’s what I’d known myself & always envisaged. I’m a strong believer that a happy mum is a happy child and there is no one ‘best’ option. It was tough at times with a husband who works & travels a lot but I’m glad I did it & as a family it suited us. The challenge of course, now school allows me more time, is not only getting back into the workforce, but doing so flexibly! Balance is now the watchword and I’m very hopeful that this is what a career in Social Media Management thanks to Digital Mums will give me & my family.