I have been fascinated by the reactions that people have had to me when I was on maternity leave, when I was getting ready to go back to work, and now that I am back at work. I find that some people are very judgemental about how they expect families to work. Well, I’ve got news for you everyone, we’re all different, we all have different needs and that is one of the amazing things about us.
My aim is to share the stories of families of all different types and spread the word that we are all playing a #BalancingAct to get through and raise our little people the best way we can. Let’s celebrate the diversity between our families, let’s not judge each other.
So, this week it’s over to Lois at A Little Bit LoCo.
1. Tell me about your family
I’m Lois, 31 and a half. I am married to Dave also 31 and we have two children – Felix is four & Juliette is two and a half. We also have a mad cat. We live in Chatham, in Kent.
2. What was your job/position before you started your family?
I worked as a pattern cutter for a Fashion Supplier in North London. No one ever knows what that is, but I made paper patterns for clothes which were cut out in fabric and sewn together and hopefully sold in bulk to High Street stores such as Dorothy Perkins, BHS, Tesco, Primark and others.
3. What was your work-life balance like?
Rubbish! I had a two hour train commute each way that I hated and which also cost me a quarter of my monthly take home pay. While the job in itself was ok and I learnt loads, which has enabled me to continue using my skills, as well as a few pointers as to how to run a business (and many on how not to!). But I had to get on a train before 7am every morning and didn’t get home until 7pm every night, which was exhausting and left me feeling like I had very little time for myself.
4. How did you find being away from work when you were on maternity leave?
I didn’t miss working at all, and I definitely didn’t miss the commute, but it was a very anxious time as we had major money worries as my husband lost his job while I was pregnant due to illness and Statutory Maternity Pay didn’t even nearly go far enough to cover our monthly expenses. We weren’t eligible for any sorts of Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance as technically I was still employed full time.
5. Have you returned to some kind of work since having baby and how did you come to that decision?
Yes – not entirely through choice, but I did want to try to do something while the child(ren) were tiny. I started working again from home when Felix was 2 months old – I was given an opportunity to make some bespoke leotards for a Gymnastics club, and also began scouring the local Charity shops and Bargain bins for bits I could sell on eBay, as well as putting together bags of scrap fabric to sell as offcuts for crafting and sewing. Leotard orders kept coming for a few months but Gymnastics competitions are quite seasonal, and it went quiet for the summer. I then met some ladies who had started designing and manufacturing wall stickers. It was getting a bit much for them and they needed some help, and offered me a job which I could do from home. They set me up with a vinyl printer and vinyl supplies and I got going. Initially I did 16-20 hours a week for them, but now that the children are older, I have been able to increase my hours to 40+ each week. As I get paid an hourly rate, the wage increase has been great! I also still make the odd set of leotards.
6. How (if at all) has work changed since you returned (if you did)?
The work I do now is very different from when I was trudging off every morning at 6.30am. I have to manage my time pretty carefully around the children (as we don’t rely on any childcare, although they do both go to Preschool five afternoons a week now), and as Dave also works from home we have to tag team quite a lot. But I do get to work in pajamas, which is brilliant!
7. Describe your work-life balance now in 3 words.
Relentless, Chaotic and Frenetic
8. This might be difficult to answer, but are you happy with your work-life balance?
Yes. I love working from home. I love being here for the children while being able to bring in an income. It’s exhausting and relentless as I feel like I am constantly juggling work & children, and I often have to work late into the evening after they have gone to bed, but I wouldn’t go back to a 9-5 now. Ironically, I work harder and do more hours now than I did when I went out to work, but it doesn’t feel like it!
9. Would you change anything about the family and work balance that you currently have?
If anything, it would be to be able to separate work time & family time, and work space and family space – both Dave & I currently work out of our dining room. I can’t remember the last time we were able to eat at the table, which is slightly embarrassing when we have people over for dinner. We are hoping to save up to convert our cellar into a proper workroom, which would be fantastic.
For all the previous posts, see the #BalancingAct page.
If you think you’d like to get involved in this feature and share your story, please leave a comment, tweet me @mamavsteacher or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.