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.


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.