On Sunday the 19th of March, the UK celebrated Mother’s Day. This followed on from International Women’s Day, which celebrates the achievements of women across the globe and shines a light on work that is needed to ensure equality and equity across genders- but what does it mean to be a working mother? Balancing both career goals and being a good parent presents its unique set of challenges, but can also be incredibly rewarding. To mark both occasions, we spoke to our HR Manager, Lyndsay Ray, to find out what her experience of being a working mother has been like.
What is the best part of being a working mum?
My son was a great kid – he was very funny – still is! He is now an adult and so I love our relationship. We can now have vibrant conversations as adults, and I don’t have to be ‘mum’ all the time. I am proud to have shown him my work ethic over the years and to have shown him that even if you love your job there are days when you don’t want to go in, but you just get up and get on with it.
What are your proudest moments?
I spent a number of years as a single mother which was extremely stressful and difficult financially. However, I am proud that my son has turned out to be a well-rounded individual, so all of my worrying that I wasn’t a good parent seem to have been unfounded.
What are some of the challenges of being a working mum? And how did you overcome those challenges?
Goodness! There are so many. These two spring to mind:
Firstly, when I was pregnant, I was working for a brewery, managing a public house in Waltham Abbey, Essex. I told my boss I was pregnant, to which he said, ‘ah well, that’s you finished then’. I am happy to say I wasn’t ‘finished’, but that was the archaic view of many towards expectant working mothers (long before The Equality Act was conceived). I had 6 days off after the birth and was attempting to breastfeed and manage the pub. As you can imagine, it was a time of contrasting emotions! Thank goodness, in the UK we have progressed, with paid maternity leave and fewer discriminatory employers. There is no room for complacence though, we need to be sure to be vigilant to avoid going backwards. I overcame the challenge of discrimination as a mother and ensured my reputation with my boss was maintained by working too many hours to the detriment of my health. Yes, I was successful professionally, but I should not have had to put my health at risk by returning to work so soon after giving birth. At least now, a working mum in the UK must take a minimum of 2 weeks off after giving birth and many may take 12 months off with pay – as it should be.
Secondly, it can be a challenge to find affordable childcare if you’re a working mum. In other countries, there is strong family support. In Egypt and Cyprus, where I used to live, it is the norm for grandparents to care for their grandchildren. Often many generations live in the same house, so the children naturally become used to being around all ages of family. In the UK, this is not usual (in the majority of cases), so we search for trustworthy childcare. To be fair, my experience was many years ago, but the standards of childcare available were wildly different. To overcome this challenge, I moved my child a couple of times to find someone more suitable. One childminder was just using the television as a baby sitter and he would return home fractious and bad tempered after being kept indoors all day. But I was lucky, I found an angel and for a number of years when I would pick up my son he would be grubby, damp from swimming, sandy from the beach or covered in paint. Just as he should have been.
How has Remedium supported you as a working mum?
Remedium has allowed me to work the way that suits me. I am older than my colleagues but have always felt part of the team. Furthermore, I don’t feel that my gender is an issue. We are a diverse bunch anyway. As an HR professional, part of my job now is to ensure that the women who come along behind me are better supported by their employer than I was by mine.
What advice would you give to fellow mums?
I would say – trust yourself and your child and never underestimate the job you are doing. Childcare is tough enough on its own! There is no book that has been written that specifically applies to your child, and children develop at different speeds in different ways. I would say, try to not look too far in the future. When my son was born I worried about how I was going to cope when he was walking and talking and then how I would manage to work when he was going to school. In reality, I adapted as each change came along and we managed just fine.
At Remedium, we strive to be inclusive of everyone, and this includes working mothers, fathers, people with traditional or non-traditional family setups and anyone with caring responsibilities. If you’re interested in joining our team, whether in the UK or India, take a look at our work for us page