Changing the narrative about working mums

Mum and baby happy


In some industries, mentioning that you have a child in an interview can work against you as Young Women’s Trust’s recent findings have shown.

One thing I have learnt is how to use my experiences as a mother to further my career. At first I was wary about mentioning my child in interviews, but more recently I have felt more comfortable in doing so. This new confidence came from the power, knowledge and life skills that I have developed from being a mother.

In a recent interview, when asked about managing a multidisciplinary team and my organisation skills, I was able to refer to the organisation and management that is required when organising a childcare schedule. I personally would prefer to mention that I have a child to an employer as early on as possible, if someone has a problem with me being a mother, then that is not a type of person I would want to work for. I also found that in the interview where I mentioned my son Jayden, it helped to break the ice.

I only want to be hired by someone who knows I have a child and understands the flexibility required. That circumstance is not always feasible and in some cases sharing this information can work against you. Before an interview you can check the company’s flexible working policy. Also, when offered a job, have a discussion about flexible working before the contract is signed, it is good to get that embedded in the contract. If you don’t feel comfortable having that conversation with your new employer, approach HR for confidential impartial advice.

Once you’ve got the job it can still be hard work. If I am late to work, my manager/co-workers will straight away assume it is an issue with childcare. Suddenly in their minds London transport is perfect and Jayden is my only issue! At first I would just smile and nod and go along with it, but then I realised that my son Jayden was being portrayed as an inconvenience! My baby is not an inconvenience. We parents need to correct this narrative. When you return to work after being ill, let them know if you caught the office cold and that it wasn’t your child’s fault. You may be a mother but you’re still a human.

The dynamics of the working family have changed drastically over the last couple of years. Shockingly the attitudes of employers have failed to adjust in line with this. Employers should value young women’s contributions to their workplaces and do more to accommodate them, including by offering more flexible and part-time working opportunities. There are a multitude of advantageous skills that a young mother possesses. All we are asking is that employers provide flexibility and in return they are opening their doors to dynamic, driven and determined women in the workforce. We are ready to work so employers need to work with us!

*Shanae Dennis is a clinical research manager. This article was first published by the Huffington Post.

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