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 flexible working within your working day, but there is just nothing suitable or flexible enough, or your employer already feels the strain. It got me thinking, and after talking to other Mum’s, it made me ask, Are Mum’s Being Forced into Minimum Wage Jobs? Or are we seeing a new way of working from home due to social media? Are Mum’s looking for alternatives?
I never thought much about it when I decided to leave my 9 to 5 job back in 2012. At the time, I had a nearly two-year-old; Thomas wasn’t hitting his milestones and with more and more professionals suddenly taking an interest. I decided to find a job that was more ‘part-time’. Easier said than done.
Giving up the nine till five
At the time, I had ten years of office experience, two years of marketing and event expertise and various skills, including retail and hospitality. Still, I struggled to find a part-time position that was two or three days a week that paid more than minimum wage or 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 to meet my mortgage. But for seven years, I never earned the same amount each month. I would go from £150 to over £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 3 pm or getting in at 3 am on a Monday 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? I was frequently performing a juggling act. I tried the supermarket option during those seven years; it was great. Eight hours a week minimum, I earned 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 8 am starts, I couldn’t argue. Suddenly, it no longer worked, but I still had hospitality to keep me afloat.
Around this time, social media became a huge deal; not only did we have Facebook and Twitter, but we also had Instagram, Etsy, video apps and more recently, Tiktok. Suddenly, a Bodyshop at Home Consultant (I dabbled) could reach a wider audience, or an Avon representative no longer has to crawl the streets; a digital version is available. Influencers are nothing new, but suddenly girls as young as 15 were popping up showing their make up tips, boys were filming themselves doing pranks, and the younger generation wanted to be them. With a new career called ‘Youtubers’ suddenly being a career goal, creative arts was becoming a big deal.
But they weren’t the only ones; Mum’s wanted to spend more time at home with their children and somehow showing what your top ten baby finds became a thing we were all desperate to read, watch and interact with. Enter the Mumpreneurs!
Enter the Mumpreneurs
The Evening Standard published an article showcasing 4 inspiring mumpreneurs and how they started. According to the Office of National Statistics, there was an increase of 373,000 mumpreneurs and women registering as part-time and self-employed between 2001 and 2016, from 439,000 to 812,000. This has now more likely doubled due to growing childcare costs, lack of school holiday support and employers lack of support when parents request to work flexibly. Unfortunately, businesses continue to be less than positive towards working parents.
Suddenly, Mum’s could do anything from their kitchen tables. They no longer had to worry about childcare, commuting, juggling the summer holidays; at their fingertips, they could work at 6 am or 2 pm while their toddler slept. Mum’s didn’t have to worry about taking any old job, and they were doing it for themselves.
Let’s not be naive; some Mum’s don’t want to spend 24/7 at home, or for whatever reason, their only option is a low paying or minimum wage job.
While trying to pay for childcare, working a minimum wage job can be counterproductive until they reach two or three years old. With a full-time nursery place costing over £1000, it’s in one hand and out the other. There are other options that some parents appreciate, the grandparents!
Thank God for Grandparents
I’m am one of the lucky ones; tax credits have supported my family over the years. I know it’s a controversial subject. 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 would have to return to work full time in 2007. Thank god for Grandparents! I was lucky; I managed only to pay for a part-time nursery place (it still cost £800 a month). Had I not had the support of my Mum and tax credits, I wouldn’t have been able to return to work. Not all parents can get tax credits, childcare vouchers seem a thing of the past now, and childcare choices a government website can help you understand what you are entitled to.
Love it all, hate it. There is still a lot of backlash regarding tax credits, universal credit and benefits in general. Still, with recent events, since March 2020, more than 3.6 million have had to apply for universal credit, with 51% of them being women. Those women have come from all walks of life, from many career backgrounds, and yes, it will always feel degrading because society makes us feel that in asking for financial support, we have somehow become lazy. This isn’t the case at all.
Government support has adjusted over the years; only one parent had to work full time, then it was both parents 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 worked 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 £139 a week. Technically it’s spread across the whole year rather than 30 ‘actual’ hours. Which caused a great deal of confusion at its inception.
Imagine that a full-time wage is £1200 after-tax; the 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 take home £400 eventually. Forgive me; I never saw the logic. I worked out at the time that I was better off, working part-time, saving on childcare and earning slightly less an hour.
It is very much about what works for you as a family.
The New Flexible
I have always advocated for flexible working, whether part-time, job sharing, shift patterns, flexitime, working from home and freelancing. My own experiences in the last 20 years have shaped my belief that the younger generation will embrace a more flexible approach. Employers will need to pay more; they will generally need to consider their employment packages and allow their employees a more relaxed approach to their working lives.
I should be sharing the joys of having my children while juggling and holding down a career but I feel guarded continuously. 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 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 to feed your family?