Jessica Chivers is passionate about working mums. A mum of two who formerly worked in the City, she has just written her first book on the subject and is planning a series of related works. Workingmums.co.uk talked to her.
Jessica Chivers is passionate about working mums. A mum of two who formerly worked in the City, she has just written her first book on the subject and is planning a series of related works.
“It’s really exciting,” says Jessica, who calls herself “the thinking woman’s coach” and has written and commented regularly in the media, including in a regular column in Look magazine. “I have been talking about writing a book for so long.”
Jessica’s book, Mothers Work! How to Get a Grip on Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work , is out in June and is based on eight mantras. The first is having an ideal scenario and not necessarily just accepting what is on offer. Others include staying in touch with work on maternity leave as this builds confidence and asking for what you want.
Jessica also advises ensuring any childcare you choose fits with your family and seeing your family as a team and your return to work as a family issue. “Make sure your partner, if you have one, is on board,” says Jessica.
The book is full of examples of how other women have made the transition back to work. “It’s their voices, not just be saying what I think,” says Jessica.
It is based on her work as a coach focusing on career transition and how to get ahead in business after having children. She retrained after she got married. “I knew I wanted to have children and that as a coach I would be able to return to work afterwards and it would be straightforward,” she says. She says even when she had just had her children she never gave up her work completely. For instance, she kept her monthly newsletter going. “I realise I was very lucky and most women cannot do this. It is really difficult going back to work both emotionally and practically because the working world is still not set up for both parents to be working.”
Jessica, whose two children are aged four and two, was very determined to get her book published and had considered self-publishing first. However, friends told her she should try publishers. She approached Hay House Books and put together a short video about what she was doing. They invited her for lunch. “I think they saw my determination and could see the potential to do other things with me,” says Jessica who is hoping this could be the first of several books on issues like women in career transition.
She says she has always been a strategic thinker. She says she realised early on that portfolio careers were becoming more acceptable and that people were no longer thinking in terms of a job for life. “People were having several different careers,” she says, “and I realised that I could take my experience of learning and development and internal communications in the City and use it in coaching.”
She does corporate work as well as one to one sessions and writing and speaking. “It all makes sense together,” she says. “I knew when I had children I didn’t want to be working full time on one thing. I don’t have family nearby. Before I had been working long hours and I wanted to be a freewheeling independent person. I needed to be my own boss.”
However, she feels strongly that women should not have to feel they need to freelance or set up their own business in order to have a work life balance. “I do not see why women who have trained to be lawyers, scientists and the like should have to give that up because of the way the world of work is constructed along male lines or unless they have an army of nannies and all the guilt that can go with full-time work,” she says. “Why can’t we have solicitors who work three days a week? The world of work needs to change. People should become entrepreneurs because they want to run their own businesses, not because they are mothers. There needs to be more quality part-time work."
She admits that things are changing, but says it’s one thing for companies to have a policy on flexible working and another to ensure that line managers are implementing it. “It comes down to line managers being open-minded enough to see how, for instance, a job share would work,” she says.
She adds that women also need to be confident enough to be able to pitch their idea for flexible working in a way that makes it seem a positive for their company and their colleagues. “They need, for instance, to be able to look at their job and strip away the key areas which they could do on a part-time basis and present this in a positive light to colleagues as making their lives easier,” she says.
Confidence is key, she adds, but admits this can be at a low ebb after six to nine months off with a baby. “You can feel grateful to have a job and sometimes accept whatever is offered. Plus your head may not be in a business space.”
Jessica thinks the current economic conditions could be positive for part-time work. Pitching yourself as a part-time executive, she says, could work for a business if they are trying to cut back. Having an experienced person on three days a week can prove more effective and cheaper than hiring a new less experienced person to do five days a week.
“Quality part-time work needs to go up the agenda as it makes sense from a business point of view,” she says.