The Grandparent Juggle

Grandparents can offer a lifeline to busy working parents, but many now work and have the same work life balance issues as parents, juggling work and grandparenting responsibilities. Workingmums speaks to Linda Fleet, who is trying to do both.

Grandparents can offer a lifeline to busy working parents, but many now work and have the same work life balance issues as parents, juggling work and grandparenting responsibilities.

Linda Fleet, who started a new career in accountancy after her children were grown up, is one grandmother who is trying to tailor her working week so she can spend more time with her grandchildren. She already has one grandson who lives a mile away from her Essex home and her daughter-in-law is expecting another baby.

“When I became a grandmother I didn’t want to be just a voice on the phone,” she says. “I am hoping to be able to arrange my work so I can spend an afternoon with the children. I admire young mothers trying to look after children and work. I stayed at home with the children when they were little. Grandparents are lucky in that they get all the pleasure and none of the day-to-day responsibility of looking after the children.”
It was not until her youngest son was 10 and the family of five moved from the Wirral to Essex that Linda went back to work. She had done office work before having children, but decided she needed to get out and meet people. She took a job at Asda for six weeks and ended up staying for 13 years, working part-time round the children.
When she hit 50, she decided she needed a change from her customer services job at Asda. She applied for three office jobs, but was turned down. She handed in her notice and registered with the Association of Accounting Technicians, despite having no experience in finance. Through the AAT she knew she would have a guaranteed career once she finished her qualifications.
She then started an accountancy course at her local college. It was a three-year course and she did two years before she was offered a job. She says the first year was quite easy. “With common sense and being mature enough to know how to deal with your own finances it was not too hard,” she says. As part of the course, she had to do work experience at a local accountancy firm. They were so impressed that they offered to pay for her to get the qualifications she needed.
In return she worked at the firm for the next seven years, until the nature of the business changed. She handed in her notice and was intending to work for an agency, but some of the clients she had built up over the years started ringing her for advice. She realised that she could go it alone and set up her own accountancy firm, Office Solutions.
With her existing client base and through word of mouth, she was already off to a good start. She also sent letters of introduction to around 50 local businesses and was fortunate to get regular high-level work with one client which helps ensure she keeps her professional qualifications burnished.
She now has enough work to consider taking on someone to help out as, at busy times, she says she can end up working a few weekends and evenings. Linda, now separated from her husband, also wants to free herself up to spend more time with her grandchildren and can see the business growing in the near future.
“I’ll be working until Alzheimer’s kicks in,” she laughs, adding that at her age – 64 – her mother considered herself an old lady. “I don’t think of myself as an old lady, though. I still like to keep up with trends in fashion and music,” she says. “I used to be a bit of a groupie in Liverpool when I was young. I guess once a rock and roll chick always a rock and roll chick.”

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