The lifecycle of a professional mum goes way beyond the first eighteen years of a child’s life. With predictions that many of us will be working into our seventies, it’s always good to look at the bigger picture when it comes to your career.
We explore how your children’s needs change over time and what you can do to keep your career path on track for the long-term. Please note: we say ‘professional mums’ but we know that this can also apply for dads as well. It’s just we see more women in this situation, but we recognise that’s not exclusive.
Here are the three stages of a child’s life which can also coincide with potential change in a woman’s career:
1. The Toddler Years
For working mums, childcare is easy to organise when children are babies and toddlers in full-time nurseries. It gets much harder when you have one in school and one in nursery. Childcare like this is usually available all year round without breaks for the summer holidays or Christmas. In many ways, returning mums can easily commit to long days in the office while their children are small.
2. The Primary Years
When children go to primary, on the one hand, this can be brilliant for mums who have had to stop working for various reasons. There is often the potential for greater flexibility, and particularly if there is good wraparound childcare – so many working mums can be available from 9-3 four or five times a week or longer. On the other hand, working mums may want to do the school run occasionally to have that contact with the school, their teachers and other parents – so these will be the years where part-time hours or days are most attractive, potentially.
3. The Secondary Years
When children start going off to school on buses or walking themselves, they can be out of the house by eight and not home until four o’clock or later. It’s not to say that parenting isn’t required for this age group, but it does mean that the need for a parent’s presence changes. But if you’ve left it until now to get back to work, this can be more of a challenge than if you keep your career going post maternity leave.
So, how do these three stages affect working mums’ careers?
Think about your long-term career plan
Deborah O’Sullivan, Managing Partner at Ten2Two says, “When you have your first child and you’re working full-time, you don’t think anything is going to change. Experience tells us, that’s not always the case.”
“Many people do continue to work full-time with one child in full-time nursery care, but it’s usually when the second or third comes along that more flexibility is required to keep a sensible work-life balance. With children, there are also eventualities you can’t always cater for, so it’s worth bearing that in mind.”
“Yet working mums don’t always think long-term. They think, ‘I have to change everything NOW to meet my current requirement.’ Yet sometimes, lots of flexibility is only needed for five or six years. If you can find that flexibility during those years with a local professional role for example – or not work – that’s great. But one day you will potentially want more work, and how will you feel then if you’ve given up on your career?”
Whatever you do, keep it relevant
If you recognise your approach to your career is like a life cycle, you can keep on an upward trajectory, sometimes without a pause. To do this, it’s best to think relevancy. If you walk away from your career because you can no longer cope with sleep deprivation, for example, it will be harder for you when the time comes for trying to get back in again. We’ve explore this further in this blog about tricky CV questions, as you’ll see.
Stay relevant by choosing local roles that use your existing skillset and on paper, it will look like your career hasn’t diverted at all, and all you’ve done is taken a different type of contract to get that flexibility.
Deborah adds, “You need to be relevant on paper to be employable. Even if it is one day a week doing what you used to do, you’re keeping your hand in and going for it.”
Look good on paper when job seeking
It’s also true that employers don’t like taking risks when it comes to hiring new recruits, so if you can demonstrate that you’re committed to your career and won’t disappear suddenly, it makes you a more viable option.
The other aspect to consider is, an employer will recognise that flexibility works both ways. You may need a part-time role of say, three days, just now. But when your children go to secondary school, you might want to up your hours to earn more money because you can.
Employers are looking for committed staff who want to progress their careers for the long-term too. And working mums can be ideal candidates as they won’t necessarily prioritise promotion over jumping ship within two years, as some younger, childless recruits might.
Know that your career is for the long-term
If you can play the long game and realise that child rearing is actually a very small time in the life of your career, it will help you to make bold decisions.
Lisa Unwin and Deb Khan also explore this in the book ‘She’s Back’, saying, “Many women still see their career as a series of reactive moves, responding to circumstances as best they can. But if you think like a chess master, this begins to change. There’s a bigger game to be played than work-life balance.” They say women should ‘play the long game’ and we couldn’t agree more.
If this has fired you up and you’re ready to find an exciting new career challenge, then please do register with Ten2Two today. We look forward to hearing from you and wish you lots of luck in keeping your career on track.