What motivates working mums?
In Workingmums.co.uk's annual survey, we asked working mums what they got out of work besides an income. Some 80 per cent of women said they enjoyed their work and 74 per cent said it boosted their self esteem.
Asked what were the main positives about being a working mum, 76 per cent said financial independence, 75 per cent said being a good role model for their children, 67 per cent said intellectual stimulation, 66 per cent said providing for the family, 63 per cent said having a balance between work and family life and 54 per cent said work made them feel happier.
We decided to investigate the people behind the statistics and find out what it is that motivates individual working mums to work. Different women emphasised one thing over another, but what came across was the degree to which they enjoyed their work and how they felt that the time they had with their children was better quality as a result.
This week we are highlighting a number of these individuals to give a snapshot of what working mums get from working life. First, Karen Younger, a mum of two, who works in marketing in the City and says that working boosts her sense of self-esteem.
Karen's children are aged eight and five and she has worked full time for Lloyds Bank for the last 18 months. When she had her children she was working for a big insurance company and went back part time, working four days a week.
After her second child she only went back briefly and decided to work for her husband, an interior designer, on a more part-time level, writing proposals and helping to win him more clients. This allowed her to have more time with the children while they were very young.
After two years during a difficult financial time for interior design and because she was unable to use all her skills, she returned to full-time work for Lloyds in the City.
“Six months after I decided to work for my husband we entered the worst recession the world had seen,” she said. “It was not good timing wise and things were not brilliant financially. Also the work I was doing was not my skills background. It was better for me to go back to what I knew.”
She says that, given the choice, she would have gone back part time and admits the transition from having a mum working at home to having her coming home after 7pm every night was initially difficult for the children. She has tried to give them some sense of continuity by opting for a nanny to pick them up from school so they can keep going to their after school activities as normal and have more or less the same lifestyle as before.
She says it is very difficult to find a new part-time job, particularly if you have taken time out of your career. She is currently contracting in the marketing team at Lloyds and, for that reason, she says she is unlikely to be able to apply for part-time work any time soon. “The family is used to it now, though,” she says, “but I do feel a lot of women end up staying with companies longer because that's the main way they can negotiate a part-time arrangement.”
She adds that Lloyds is fairly flexible. Although she is a contractor, she says the company's family friendly policy affects the entire culture of the workplace. That means she feels quite comfortable asking to work from home if her son, for instance, is in a Nativity play. Ironically, working full time she says she feels she has more flexibility than when she worked a four-day week at a company which didn't give her as much support and where she felt as if she had to do five days in four.
Karen says she had not necessarily appreciated before she left her insurance job what she got from working. “I had done the job a long time and wanted a change,” she says. “Working from home for two years was great as I was there for the children, but it was difficult to draw the line between work and home life and I think being with other people and interacting with a large group of people is really healthy. It's good for one's self esteem. I enjoy the work I do and need to have some kind of social interaction which is separate from my family.”