You know how it is, you decide you want to be a stay at home mum, you want to work fewer hours, you want more flexibility within your working day but there is just nothing suitable or flexible enough or your employer already feels the strain.
I never thought much about it, when I made the decision to leave my 9 to 5 job back in 2012. At the time, I had a nearly two-year-old, he wasn’t hitting his milestones and with more and more professionals suddenly taking an interest. I made the decision to find a job that was more ‘part time’. Easier said than done.
At the time, I had 10 years office experience, two years marketing and event experience and various skills including retail and hospitality but struggled to find a part-time position that was two or three days a week that paid more than minimum wage or in fact any wage. I eventually took on a casual (zero hour contract) position as it gave me the flexibility to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the hours I worked. For over seven years, I worked in the hospitality industry, at times working two casual jobs just to meet my mortgage. But for seven years, I never earned the same amount each month, I would go from £150 to over a £1000 depending on the required hours. I learnt that weekends or bank holidays were ‘busy’ times and no flexitime was allowed then. I got used to clock watching on a Saturday afternoon knowing I’d have to leave for work around 3pm or getting in at 3am on a Monday morning knowing you have to get up in three hours to get your kids to school! Those were the days! But it gave me the flexibility to pick my daughter up from school, take my son to his hearing appointments, study at college and university and I worked with some of the most professional and inspirational people I have ever met.
Did I feel that I had a choice? Not really, I tried the supermarket option during those seven years, it was great. 8 hours a week minimum, I earnt regular money and I could have over time. Then my shifts started moving around throughout the day. ‘When did my hours suddenly become portable?’ apparently, it was written into my contract that I had ‘flexible’ hours meaning if they gave me an 8am start, I couldn’t argue. Suddenly, it no longer worked but I still had hospitality to keep me afloat.
I’m am one of the lucky ones, tax credits really have supported my family over the years. I know its a controversial subject. Believe me, I’ve heard it all. ‘If you can’t afford kids don’t have them…’ I know. But we aren’t living in the ’70s or ’80s anymore when houses were worth £30k or a Dad’s £15k wage would cover all the bills, food for a month and still have change. I knew what I was taking on, I knew that I was going to have to return to work full time in 2007. Thank god for Grandparents! I was lucky, I managed to only have to pay for a part-time nursery place. Had I not had the support of my Mum and tax credits I wouldn’t have been able to return to work.
It’s adjusted over the years, only one parent had to work full time, then it was both had to work – one over 24 hours a week and it continues to pinch the pennies. My 15 hours free a week was never enough, not when I was working 40 hours a week. I was pleased when the government increased the free childcare to up to 30 hours per week so parents like myself could return to work. It was too late to benefit me, but friends have been able to benefit from that little bit extra. However, you both have to be working and earning over £131 a week. Technically it’s spread across the whole year rather than 30 ‘actual’ hours.
If you imagine that a full-time wage is £1200 after tax etc. Average childcare in my area is £50-£60 a day. A full-time childcare place would set you back £1000 a month for one child under three. This was pretty much my life! Tax credits paid up to 80% at the time. Which took it down to about £800 a month for my two children once the 15 hours kicked in. If you’ve done the maths that leaves a total of £400! You spend 40 hours a week earning £9 an hour to eventually take home £400. Forgive me, I never saw the logic. I worked out at the time that I was actually better off, working part-time, saving on childcare and earning slightly less an hour.
I have friends, some in managerial roles who after maternity leave got to pick their hours, then I have the friends who can’t afford to work, the friends that rely on support of their parents for childcare, the friends that work as dinner ladies, the friends that are self-employed through Avon or betterware or juiceplus. Why are we still seen as the lesser sex before we chose to have children? The project planning, time management, multi-tasking alone makes us more employable. I’ve heard it all, I put myself forward for a promotion while working in hospitality. I was pretty much working 40 hours a week or more on minimum wage when a role came up that had more than enough experience for. I approached my manager, whose reply was ‘you have two children, you aren’t flexible or reliable enough.’
1. I worked on average 40 – 50 hours a week
2. Never called in sick
3. I had spent two years learning from everyone, I was pretty much doing the job
4. My children had never stopped me going to work or leaving early
5. I was never late, I stayed over, often working later than any manager
I was pretty, shocked by the attitude of not only that manager but other staff members. Was being a parent really that bigger burden on my career? That manager left within a year, I kept quiet, did my job and received a promotion about nine months before leaving in 2015.
It stuck with me and to this day, it continues to drive me to prove that my children are most certainly not a burden. I have a foundation degree, a degree and I plan on studying a CIM in Marketing next year.
I should be sharing the joys about having my children while juggling and holding down a career but I feel constantly guarded. I’m not young, I’m not in my early 20’s embarking on my career. I’m pretty solid in the belief that my children are why I work hard, why I want them to be proud of me.
As Mum’s and some Dad’s should we be forced to take on minimum wage jobs, our skills should be assets. But I wonder how many of us downplay our experience just to get in the door (I know I have). Perhaps you feel pushed out of your job? Did you take on a minimum wage job just to feed your family?
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