Flexible working with children

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Today’s post is part of a clever little linky dreamed up by Maria of FeistyTapas.com. She is a very hard working lady, juggling an 18 month old and a fulltime work-from-home job as a translator, oh and blogging about it all. (I bow to her superior abilities!)

Her linky  is all about working with children. The only real guidelines are that you should write about how you work around your kids – be it full or part-time working from home, running your own business, blogging or whatever you do – and what works/doesn’t work for you.

Maria’s idea is that as many people as possible link up with posts about how we work around our kids and once all the linking is done, we’ll have a database of advice for other Mum’s who may want to change, adapt or improve their working lifestyle.

So here is my (Ruth) two pennies worth of information about how working with a child has changed my work/life balance and how I manage working and family life…

Working from home

I’m a teacher.  When I went on maternity leave, I was a head of department in a ‘challenging’ London school and loved it.  Once I had my daughter, I knew that if I went back to work in the role I had been in, I would not be able to commit 100% either to my daughter or my job and that bothered me enough to quit.  I enjoyed being a stay at home mum and as we could survive on one wage, I didn’t even think about going back to work.

The way I kept my brain going during this time was to study (you may have read that in my previous post – sorry to keep repeating myself!).  I studied with the OU on a part-time MEd course.  I did my reading and wrote assignments in year one of my duaghter’s life, almost wholly in her nap times.  Then as she got older, nap-time got shorter and I had to do more work in the evenings.  At this time, however, her sleeping also got better, so I did have enough brain power to work in the evenings.  With the odd weekend where my husband did ‘Daddy-daughter’ things so that I could have a larger block of time at key moments, this is how I managed my study – and I have passed, so it worked!

When Munchkin was 18months, I landed a job that doesn’t really exist in teaching.  Essentially I now do curriculum development and staff training for an SEN school.  It just happened rather than being planned, but the Head offered me 11 hours a week from home for a short term contract, which has since been extended. The hours are flexible – some weeks I work much more and some weeks much less.  My Head doesn’t mind how things are completed, as long as they are completed to deadlines.

At the beginning I would do most of my hours from home and use email to keep in touch.  I popped in for meetings with the Head about twice a month and she was happy for Munchkin to come too.  As and when I needed more time in school, my mum would come to stay and then I’d head in for the day to blitz face-to-face things that needed to happen.  Training was all after school, so I’d drop Munchkin into hubby’s classroom for the hour or so that I was working.

One thing that you will notice is that a flexible and understanding boss is paramount if you work for someone.  It is also important that you have the understanding of colleagues.  On the whole, mine are great, but I know of other Mum’s who find office bitching and jealousy makes working flexibly in a majority full-time environment very stressful. I think you need a thick skin to work flexibly with others. The key thing that I have found is to ensure that you do your job impeccably and are utterly professional, but are also honest and up-front about what you can and can’t do in the time given.

Now that Munchkin is almost 3, has given up her daytime naps (*sob*) and I have started blogging (and who knows what else we’ll develop through More than a Mum!) I have had to make a few changes.  It was getting to the point where every hour was taken by being a Mum, working, blogging or studying.  There was no time for me and there was no time for my OH.  This was not a state of affairs I could stomach for long.  I love my job and More Than a Mum, but not over my relationship and sanity, therefore I decided that at least some of my work hours had to become regular and I needed to consider childcare.

Munchkin had been going to a crèche for 1.5hours every Friday while I ran a peer support group for breastfeeding mothers for about a year and loved it, so I decided that a few more hours of childcare were a) not going to harm her b) going to help me!

I went to my Head and as she wanted me to do a bit more in school support anyway I proposed that I should come in one morning a week. It’s only 4.5 hours, but that means a good chunk of my hours is completed and I have a better ability to keep in touch with staff.

Again you may have read my post about why I wont be sending Munchkin to pre-school, but in spite of this, I do believe that she needs to socialise with her peers without me, therefore nursery seemed a good option.  Munchkin was not impressed with me leaving her at nursery for a good few weeks and I did have several second thoughts as I peeled her off me and ran for the door with the screams echoing in my ears.  4 months down the line, however and even though she only goes once a week, she asked when she could go again this Christmas holiday. Phew!

Anyway, I have wittered on enough, I think that my top tips for making working with children work can be summed up as follows:

1)      Be organised – I make lists, but do what works for you.  I write down all the things I want to get done in the day (from work projects to washing up) and prioritise them, both for importance and time slots.  Some things can be done while Munchkin plays, some can be done with Munchkin and some have to be done while she watches Cbeebies or once she’s asleep.

2)      Be professional – people make value judgements about Mums, you need to prove them wrong, whatever sphere you are working in.

3)      Be honest with yourself and others – my priority is my daughter.  I wont neglect work, but I will much less neglect her.  If a project is too big for 11 hours a week, I wont take it on or I will work out how parts can be delegated to make it manageable.

4)      Be flexible – some weeks you’ll get loads done and find time in places you didn’t think there would be any, but some weeks you’ll slave away for hours and achieve very little.  Don’t worry about this, it’s pretty normal.


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9 thoughts on “Flexible working with children

    FionaCambouropoulos (@coombemill) said:
    January 5, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Love your summary points and agree with them all. As a working Mum who takes pride in everything it is impossible to have it all unless you don’t bother sleeping (I do quite a good job at that one) balance is so important and it sounds like you have mastered that one, so well done!

      morethanamummy responded:
      January 5, 2012 at 11:37 pm

      Mastered… well some of the time *glances at clock and realises OH went to bed sometime ago*! 🙂

    from_fun_to_mum (@from_fun_to_mum) said:
    January 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Wow! congratulations for finding your balance! and also, congratulations for finding a job! I was made redundant when baby was 11 months and I was ready to go back, or at least try, so 4 months later, I am a bit helpless at what to do next. I’d like a part time job, but there is hardly much out there and perhaps I miss a bit of confidence having been out of it for a while. But I will figure it out, I am sure! G goes to the creche twice a week for 2 hours, she is only 15 months but it is so good for her! She looks at the 3 years old like if they were goddesses and tries to copy them, I think it is making her brighter! Good luck with everything x

      morethanamummy responded:
      January 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm

      Do you have skills you could market freelance or even voluntarily? I know that’s not a secure income, but puts something on the CV and might help you to see what you can do?

    Sara Perring said:
    January 9, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Work life balance is highly personal and you seem to have found yours which is great. I too gave up my career in finance (although waited till I was pregnant with number 3) because I started to feel that I couldn’t give enough time to my children (I left before they woke up and came home close to bedtime if not later). Now the are 6, 4 and 3 and I have retrained over the last couple of years and work as an executive coach focussing particularly on women (work/life balance, promotion, work issues). My mission is to help women have more confidence and creativity about what they can do and to help corporates become more flexible about retaining women through the early years of their children’s childhood. I studied during nap times and in evenings, and now I work around the school and preschool and other activities but also work away some days, when I am happy to leave the kids in the capable hands of my husband.
    As for from_fun_to_mum ; I encourage you to get involved with your community in any way possible to help rebuild confidence, gain mental stimulation and also to think about ideas of working for yourself.

      morethanamummy responded:
      January 9, 2012 at 11:12 pm

      It sounds like you have found a niche that really suits you. Well done for managing to find a balance which allows you to keep a focus on both you and your family.

    Dionne Lakey said:
    January 9, 2012 at 11:37 am

    What a great post and great tips at the end – I’ll have to keep them in mind for the coming year as I grow my business; balance and knowing your priorities is key. I’m just three months into working as an Independent Organiser for Usborne Books and it’s so great because you can sometimes take your kids to work with you!

    I’m a stay-at-home mum. My daughter started school full time in September 2011 and I had recently been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis which meant that I had more time in the day, but that I also had less energy and needed something flexible as well as empowering to bring in some money and uplift my spirits. I had been thinking about working from home and blogging but my confidence was at an all time low and I didn’t think I had enough to write about.

    Joining Usborne books was so easy and something as simple as going to host’s homes, talking about these children’s books that our family love and chatting over tea and cake didn’t seem like work at all! I’ve been able to manage with a couple of parties a week after my husband who commutes to work comes home, and my little one is in bed, as well as going to various school fairs and Christmas events and selling the books while she was at school. And on days when I can’t make an event because of my illness, I have several other organisers in the area who can help with the work load, and who in turn give me leads when business is slow. Some of my team mates have toddlers and only do events at parent and toddler mornings and coffee mornings, or even baby-weighing clinics, so that they work around their child.

    The only catch is that if you want to make good money at this you have to put the time in, as it is for anyone who is self-employed. So most evenings I’m at the computer doing my paperwork or on the phone calling up leads – but I find that good planning and time-management is paramount. So lists are most important and prioritising items with the most difficult things at the top is best. Also preparing dinner for the evening in the morning is the best way to avoid the panic after school pick-up when my daughter is a very grumpy so-and-so and wants all my attention.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to make the post such a long one, but I think it’s fair to say that there is a lot out there that is flexible and once you find something to suit you, it makes you a better mum too. My daughter tells everyone that WE sell books now and she loves helping me stock take and put labels on books. She previously thought that mum’s don’t work because she can’t remember me going out to work, so it’s great for her to see that I can look after her and work too!

      morethanamummy responded:
      January 9, 2012 at 11:10 pm

      Well done you, you seem to have found a job that really ignites your passion and allows you to be ‘More Than A Mum’. You sound like you have really got a good balance going on.

    Littlesheep (@Littlesheep) said:
    January 21, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Sounds like you have managed to strike a great balance – well done

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