What motivates women to return to work?

What motivates women to return to work after having children besides the obvious financial reasons? Workingmums.co.uk spoke to three different working mums.

Returning To Work


What motivates women to return to work after having children besides the obvious financial reasons?

The media is often full of relentlessly negative headlines about the stresses of being a working mum, but many women see a lot of positives in getting back to the workplace.

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 spoke to individual mums about their motivations. As more and more women delay having a family, many said their work identity has become increasingly part of who they are.

One mum told Workingmums.co.uk that she believes a large part of her post-natal depression was due to the identity crisis brought about by suddenly finding herself isolated at home.

She said going back to work helped her and gave her a routine and interaction with other adults. “I felt I had got a bit of my old life back,” she said.

Other women said work makes them feel better about themselves and feel more confident. Some women spoke about the importance of having an independent income since you never know what life is going to deal you. Here three women give their views on what being a working mum gives them.

Senior manager

Katrina Tutin works full time for the Royal Mail as a senior manager based in Derbyshire. She has a grown-up son, a stepson aged 12 and a six-year-old son. She says works “helps me to become the person I am”.

She had six months off for maternity leave, but was “desperate to get back”. Her oldest son was 15 when she had her youngest and she said she had got used to being able to do what she wanted when she wanted so going back to the baby years was like “shell shock”.

“I needed adult conversation,” she says. Her partner was working long hours and was away from home a lot. She feels going to work was easier than staying at home. “It’s more social. It gets the brain ticking over,” she says.

Katrina, who is the main breadwinner in her family, adds that she was quite nervous going back as she had been out of the workplace for a while and there had been major changes there.

However, she threw herself into work and, having been away, she was able to challenge how things were being done. “I was told I was like a breath of fresh air,” she says.

She was promoted a year later and now manages six team leaders and 100 staff. “I get a sense of fulfillment from my job,” she says.

She adds that her work is fairly flexible, she has “a fantastic childminder” and is very disciplined and organised.

“Working has made me a more positive parent,” she says. “The time I have with my son is quality time.”

She also believes she has been a good role model to her oldest son. “I was a single parent when he was young and if you believed the news he should be in jail by now, but he has a very good work ethic.”


Rebecca Jones [not her real name] used to work as a solicitor in London and switched to legal recruitment with a view to having children.

She has not been back to work since her second child was born because it didn’t make financial sense. Now based in Cambridgeshire, she’d like to go back to work, but part time so she can get the best of both worlds. However, she feels trapped because the competition for good part-time jobs is so fierce.

“I am lucky that I don’t need to work financially, but I want to for my own sanity,” she says. “I want to use my brain and training and get back into grown-up time.

I feel that if I was using the other part of my brain, I would be more focused when I was with the children. I also want to be a positive role model for my daughter so that she feels she can do anything. I don’t want her to fall into the same trap I have.”

For Rebecca Irvine [pictured] from Brough in Yorkshire, work has been important for both her sense of self esteem and for her children.

A single mum with five children, she has always worked. Her children are aged 23, 20, 19 [twins] and 18 now. When she first became a mum she was an auxiliary nurse and after the twins were born she was a part-time cleaner and worked doing door to door selling.

When her youngest was born she decided to change careers and went to university to study social anthropology and sociology, working at the evenings and weekends as a care assistant to pay the bills.

Her marriage broke down during her university course and the university gave her a lot of support. The breakdown was difficult and at one point she had to have her ex-husband arrested for domestic violence, she says.

She had to put her children into foster care temporarily while she sorted things out. “It was heartbreaking. I spent so long crying my eyes out. One minute I had five children around me and the next I was on my own. I had to pull myself together for their sake,” she says.

It has been worth it. Now she is working as a supply teacher.

“My children are very proud of me and I am happy that I have given them a better life in the long run,” says Rebecca, who is now a grandmother.

“Doing my course helped me to get through a hard time, but I had a lot of financial pressures and debts. I had to save the house from being repossessed at one point. I’ve had to face interviewers asking me how I can work with five children. It’s been very tough, but I have come out on top.”

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