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Visibility of working parents

May 29, 2019

You’ll know about the gender pay gap, of course you do, and as a woman obviously it is something that I’m interested in.  The more you look into it, the more you see it isn’t just about paying men and women like-for-like.  One big factor is that many women have children, and more women than men take time out in the first year of a baby’s life and/or work part time around child care ongoing, and these women might consequently rack up fewer person-hours of experience, or lack the flexibility to be able to work late or network or travel for work, or choose not to go for that promotion in case it tips over the careful balancing act they’ve been juggling.  All of that stuff screws with your career.

Well here’s something that some of us are doing to get around that a bit – we’re working for ourselves around caring for our kids.  We’re choosing our own hours, we’re setting our own rates, we’re doing it in whatever way suits us best, and we’re hopefully not taking such a direct hit in the workplace.

Yay us!

Yay the mumtrepreneurs / mumpreneurs and the boss babes and those of us who prefer to be otherwise known.

Yay the Dads doing it too.

I have to say self employment and flexible working works for me.  It worked when I didn’t have a kid and I liked to be able to start late and nip out for a swim or a haircut, and it has worked for the early years of my son’s life.  Since he was born I have worked a variety of different combos whilst he has been with his Dad / our childminder / at pre-school.  I didn’t work at all until he was ten months old, then I worked about 15hrs a week when he was one and two, then about 18hrs a week when he was three, then about 22hrs a week this year.  When he goes to school in August I’ll change it up again.  I will wait and see what works for us and just do that without having to answer to anyone.  And I can change the arrangement at any time.  Brilliant.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I probably haven’t told you this.

I suppose I think as a Consultant it is my job to jump in, get the job done without causing any trouble, and jump out again. I work hard to be flexible, to be adaptable, to treat every client like they are my only one.  I want them to feel like they are my number one priority and I have always considered that part of the job.  My charity clients are stretched for time and money and don’t need me coming to them with problems.

So am I saying being a working parent is a problem?  Eeeeee…. Sort of?  If I’m honest.  It can be an inconvenience.  I don’t work the same hours as everyone else, and sometimes my kid gets sick or has sports day or the nursery is closed or After School Club is full.  Sometimes that coincides with what someone else is paying me to do.

I plan a lot.  I try to get ahead on tasks.  I build contingency in to proposals.  I answer urgent emails from the pick-up line or the playground or the swimming pool.  I speak in positive and confident terms about what I can do rather than offloading my scheduling conflicts on to my clients.  I don’t say “its my kid’s nativity” or “I’ve got to take him to his rugby class” or “he’s off with the pox and everything is going to hell”, I say “Monday would work well for me”.  If pushed, I say “I’m out of the office at that time” or “I already have another appointment”. Basically, I hope people don’t notice that I am no longer sat at my desk 9-5.

OK cool, it seems to have worked for the last five years.

Phew I’ve got away with it.

But what’s the consequence of that?

I’m not visible.

Part time workers are not visible.

Flexible workers are not visible.

Working parents are not visible.

I’m working my arse off to fit in with the same-old same-old (patriarchal?) way of doing things, so I’m perpetuating the same-old same-old (patriarchal?) way of doing things.

How can I expect the world to become more accepting and accommodating of flexible or part time workers and working parents if I’m not ‘out’ about doing it myself?

I don’t know, I’m conflicted.

I don’t quite know how to balance good customer service with flying the flag for alternative ways of working.

Thoughts welcome.

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Lorna Coates permalink
    May 29, 2019 7:26 pm

    This is very interesting and really close to my heart at the moment. I’ve just gone back into working for a company, out of necessity because I’m getting divorced, after years of self employment/not working. I was really worried how it would work. But I’ve been allowed to work part time hours, even though they wanted full time, because they said they wanted the right person. I can set my own days and schedule my own meetings to fit round me. I can start early and leave early. Or start late and leave late. Or I can split my hours over more days. Or work from home some of the time. They could not have been more helpful. And I am incredibly grateful and I think I work far harder for them as a consequence because I’m happy and I can fulfil my role in a way that suits me. I love my job. And most of my clients would never know I wasn’t full time.

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