Employment rates are high, and many employers are complaining that they simply cannot fill roles fast enough. Apparently it’s a candidates market – but tell that to the millions of mothers who cannot find adequately paid roles that accommodate family life.
Life has moved into the 21st Century, yet working practices are still stuck in the 1970s, even despite our rapid move to online working.
There are an estimated 870,000 stay at home parents in the UK. How many of those would take a job if they could find something suitable?
Companies are missing a trick when it comes to tapping into the pool of talent and experience offered by would-be working mums (and dads), if only they could be more innovative and flexible.
We speak to mum of four, Clair Hart, a former PA to a CEO, who currently juggles running a service connecting companies with professional website copywriters, and assists Influencers to acquire Instagram followers. Clair struggled to find a suitable ‘mum’ role after her company didn’t survive Covid 19. She quickly realised that employers still don’t accommodate parents bound by school hours.
Where have all the mum jobs gone?
Being a mother is a constant battle. Juggling the various challenges and conflicts motherhood offers, whilst desperately attempting to maintain some kind of identity. For many mothers, retaining that identity means going to work or continuing their career (and in most cases it is also a financial necessity). For me, trying to make modern parenting work, and retain my own self identity is not just for my own sanity, but also (and more importantly) for my children’s.
I have been a PA / EA for over 15 years. For the last seven years I undertook this role whilst managing 4 children. I did it, I loved it and my company got the best of me. After starting a family, work was a place that I enjoyed going to each morning. I love being a mum, but work represented a small break from the monotony of parenthood. An adult zone where I could be an individual again, and somewhere to exercise my mind.
But then COVID happened. Sadly my company didn’t survive Corona Virus and the company shut its doors, so I was back on the job hunt for the first time in 15 years.
What a shock it was. Firstly the salaries; they seemed so disproportionately small compared to the cost of living. On the first day of job hunting, my renewal for electricity came through and it turned out I would need to work for four months solidly simply to pay the newly quoted
A slave to school hours
Secondly, the working hours are impossible for mums. Since Covid struck and so many companies began working from home I had great hope for some flexibility and acceptance/realisation that not everyone needs to be in the office 8 – 6 seven days a week.
Our working days seem to get longer and we’ve become a prisoner to our phones, yet our schooling system, child care and employers have not seemed to evolve at the same speed. During a time when employers are struggling to fill roles, it’s so obvious to me that they are missing out on a pool of talented mums, if only they were open minded about working hours.
I didn’t realise how lucky I was
Thirdly, I realised how much of a unicorn my previous employer was. I was treated like a grown up, I job shared, I worked hard, I was available when I needed to be, I was proactive, I got my kids to school and I collected them most days. People told me how lucky I was, and I knew it, but I don’t think I appreciated how rare it was.
So now I find myself thinking about my next career move. As I trawl through the job adverts I realise that in the eyes of employers, my children just don’t fit. Interestingly some jobs do allow for mothers and their rigid school collections, but most of those jobs seem to involve looking after other people’s children. I’ve had enough of my own, thanks. I commend anyone who can work with children but it is NOT for me.
People have suggested Virtual PA roles but in all honesty, a huge aspect of my enjoyment of work has been the people, the buzz of the office, and the general interaction. I love leaving my ‘Mum’ hat at home and strutting into the office as an individual, not just so and so’s Mum. I am a professional and I have something to offer. In return I would just like to earn a sensible wage. To work hard, but flexibly, and with people whose company I enjoy. Is that too
much to ask? It seems so.
There are so many women out there, so many mothers, so many industrious ladies trying to balance it all yet we are fighting an uphill battle. Of course this applies to dads in charge of child care too. However, the pool of under-utilised yet talented mothers is vast.
Over qualified, under utilised
When I talk to my other ‘mum friends’ they are all in varying degrees of the same predicament. Some work full time but barely see their children and spend a small fortune on childcare, others work ‘part time’ but the hours are still completely unsuitable; they don’t work for the family needs but they are the best they can find in the current climate.
Some have asked to modify their hours or job roles. and the change has been refused. Or else they have been too scared to ask in case it stands them in a negative light in the eyes of their employer. Or I have friends who despite being incredibly capable, their confidence has taken such a knock from being out of the wheels of industry for so long, they are applying for jobs that they are widely over qualified for, on pittance salaries.
It seems that the conventional office set up just won’t work for me anymore or until my children are older and more self sufficient. Like many parents, I’ve now turned to a home-based digital career. Whilst it’s flexible, it is also isolating. I can’t help feeling that employers are missing out on my experience, energy and enthusiasm, if only they appreciate the shackles of school opening times, and can take a flexible approach to
employment. The pool of people out there, in a similar position, is vast.