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How to make going back to work a success: Guest Post & Giveaway

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To celebrate World Breastfeeding Week (1st-8th August, 2012), MilkChic is hosting lots of giveaways to give mums a boost. Today (a day late due to 3rd birthday celebrations at MilkChic Manor), Greatvine are offering one lucky reader a free call and follow up email worth up to £40 with their Mothers Returning to Work Coach, Joycellyn Akuffo.

Woman working on an airplane motor at North American Aviation, Inc., plant in Calif. (LOC)Here are some tips from Joycellyn Akuffo, Greatvine expert and founder and editor of Motherswhowork.co.uk on how to make going back to work a success:

Going back to work can be unnerving for a lot of mums – just how do you keep on top of the school run, extra curricular activities for the kids and work?

1. Make a plan
Planning is the key to every working mum’s success – without a plan, you plan to fail. So, get off to a good start by investing in a good diary, where you can keep track of the family’s important dates, and key dates for work so you don’t get caught short.

2. Use technology
Set reminders on your mobile phone so you don’t have to remember things – everything from birthdays, school plays and school assemblies should go into your phone, it’s a great way to keep on track…and it’s free to do.

3. Call in your favours
While you’ve been off work, you’ve probably helped out friends and family with one thing or another. Now’s the time to call in those favours. Speak to friends and family to see what they could do to help if your days comes a-cropper. For example, if there are train delays, could they pick up your toddler from nursery for you, or take in your child who walks home from school? Get to know who you can depend on (and help out), so it’s not a major panic when things go wrong…they will, sometimes.

4. Superwoman wore a cape…do you?
One of the perils of being a working mum is that you work and still come home to all the chores that need doing. Some days, you’ll have next to no energy to do anything, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. You are human, after all, and it can be more draining doing things for other people (your family) and working than we give credit for. Don’t feel like you’re useless just because you can’t keep your home pristine during the week like a Stepford wife.

5. A problem shared…
Delegation is a skill that every working mum needs. If you’re cooking, get your partner to do the homework with the kids. Or get them to read the toddler a bedtime story, while you do some chores. If you try to do it all, you’ll get half the work done if you’re lucky, and it will feel like you haven’t achieved much every day, which will demotivate you. Get your children involved – teach them how to tidy up after themselves and it will soon become a habit you don’t have to nag about.

You can do it…you may not have the whole cake to eat, but you’ll definitely get more than a slice if you have a plan.

Win a free call and follow up email worth up to £40:

If you’d like to win a one to one telephone call and e-mail with Joycellyn, just leave a comment below telling us what you most worry about / most look forward to about work. For a bonus entry, share this on Facebook or tweet the following on Twitter:

I want to win a @Greatvine 1-to-1 phonecall & e-mail for #mums returning to #work @MilkChic http://milkchic.co.uk/60017 #workingmums

Don’t forget to enter all the other World Breastfeeding Week Giveaways too!

Giveaway Terms & Conditions: UK only. Closing date: 22/08/2012, 23:59. No cash alternative. Winners will be drawn randomly from all entrants. If the winner cannot be contacted after 7 days, an alternative winner may be drawn.

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Lonely Hearts Club: Flexible Working

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                Experienced,                    energetic
 and creative Retail    Buyer (GSOH)
desperately   seeking     open-minded,  flexible partner
to bring back some balance to her life .
Enjoys product development , negotiation ,
spreadsheets and high margins. Flirting 
with self-employment, but not
quite ready to commitWLTM
forward looking retailers for
long-termrelationship or
likeminded buyersfor
adventurous job
sharing fun
& frolics
xxx
Please? I really will love you forever….
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Where are they hiding all the flexible work?

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I read a blog post yesterday about being a single mum. I’m not, but it still really struck some chords with me.

Trabajando desde casa
Photo: Daquella manera

The lack of part time and flexible work that Gappy Tales talks about doesn’t just affect single mums. If I went back to my previous career and my partner continued with his, my daughter would be in childcare 10-11 hours a day. I don’t know when that becomes OK, but for me, it’s not yet. It certainly wouldn’t have been OK when my maternity leave was actually due to end, with small one only 8 months old and still breastfeeding.

Before anyone’s overactive motherly guilt kicks in, that wasn’t a judgemental statement. I know plenty of families do it and, had my back injury been resolved, that would probably be us too, but I also know I would have been miserable with the situation. Having been forced to survive on one income and still unable to commute full-time, the decision is now less clear cut, and in some ways I’m grateful for that.

On the other hand I did mean motherly guilt, not parental guilt. Obviously either partner could request more flexibility or change job, but the reality is that when you have already “taken a break” on maternity leave, 99% of times it is going to be the mum who makes those sacrifices and often gives up their career to make work fit around childcare. Dads obviously care just as much, and possibly get the short end of the straw in the assumption that they will choose work over time with their kids, but the reality is that changing or ending your career is an even greater mental jump without maternity leave in-between to soften the blow.

If you are happy working full time and your job fits around your new life as a parent, or if you choose to give up a career for full time parenting, then fine. If finances are not an issue, and you want a job for the adult contact rather than the money or the satisfaction, also fine.

But life isn’t generally that clear-cut.

  • What if you need (or want) to work, but your beloved career doesn’t fit the motherly mould?
  • What if you need some income but your pre-pregnancy job paid double what you need to live? What if you have the potential for that elusive work-life balance but there’s no option for part-time?

Speaking personally, I never really wanted to leave my kids in childcare, so I always knew that there would be decisions to be made. But in my imaginary future, I saw flexible jobs and self-employment as realistic, viable work options.

The reality is that there are very few truly flexible jobs. Flexible translates as cramming a fulltime job into less days for less pay. The technology to telecommute is widely available, and completely viable as a part time option for many, but it is often looked on with distrust and perceived as open to abuse.

As for part-time work, in my field it is not traditionally available and I have never seen a jobshare advertised externally. Most of the reasonably paid work I see locally is for accountants, teachers, medical professions etc. They are jobs that split logically and easily by the hour to timetables and appointments. In my case, they are jobs that need retraining. I seem to be either over-qualified or under-experienced for every job I find.

To end up in a situation where you give up an enjoyable, well-paid skilled job for a role which doesn’t pay well enough to work part-time, doesn’t satisfy, and gives you very little more time with your kids than working full time in a job that you loved, feels just cruel.

So what do you do? In my case, you keep looking and think about career changes while trying to set up in business on your own. The most attractive proposition is working for myself, but the reality of self-employment isn’t always child-friendly – the income isn’t guaranteed so you work more hours than you would do in a full-time job in a desperate attempt to stay afloat, never fully focusing on your family, and never allowing yourself any actual leisure time. Your business has to be your hobby too.

If you are a single mum, these options are polarised – full time work that doesn’t fit childcare, part time work that doesn’t pay enough for childcare, risky self-employment or living off benefits? Rock, meet hard place… you have much in common!

I don’t expect the world to change just for me. I chose to be a parent and I don’t believe it comes without sacrifice. There is no reason that someone who chooses to be (or has no choice in being) childless should have to work longer hours to cover for a parent in the workplace. And that does happen, no matter what we say.

But I do think that employers are being short-sighted. There are lots of advantages to part-timers in the workplace – work often takes as much time as there is available and part-time workers are much more focused, working in shorter bursts with the ability to manage their life outside work hours. Part-time and flexible contracts allow employers to cover peak times and job sharing means there is always holiday cover and someone experienced to train the new recruit.

Then there’s loyalty and commitment. Leaving a job is scary, but leaving a job which fits around your life is terrifying. For many working parents, flexibility is both the reason you choose a job, and the reason you leave it.

Offering flexibility gives you access to a much wider pool of applicants with a wider range of skills. It might even be the key to hiring someone with more experience than you can afford… work-life balance has a cash value in my house.

 

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