Do you dream of jacking in the 9-5 and finding a career you can fit around family life? This series looks at parents who have done just that…
Why did you want a more flexible career?
This is quite an amusing question for me as most people would think that I did have a flexible career. I was a teacher for 14 years. Teaching is seen as a great job to have as a parent as the working hours are 9-3 and you get so much time off! The reality is somewhat different and there’s only so long you can leave the house before your child wakes up, get home just before their bedtime and then have to work at least one day over the weekend before something has to give. I wanted to be able to spend time with my family as well as have a job and I didn’t see why I had to compromise on either.
What were you doing before you had children?
I’d been working my way up the teaching ladder from subject teacher to subject leader to senior teacher. I specialised in behaviour and special educational needs (SEN) and worked with primary and secondary age students who had social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.
What was the trigger point that made you switch?
In April I was informed that I was being made redundant. This was the second time in my teaching career that I’d received notice of redundancy and it made me realise that it was no more secure to stay in this career than to move on. It was also the last straw in terms of my relationship with the education system as I was loathe to continue working in a system where money was becoming tighter and cuts were being made that directly impacted on young people’s lives.
In March, I had begun training with Digital Mums to become a freelance social media manager so I made the decision that I would pursue this and leave teaching altogether once my contract was completed in August.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I begin my day having breakfast with my husband and son. If it’s a childminder day then my husband will drop my son off, if it’s a Grandma day then I get an hour to play with my son before I settle down to work.
I don’t think I have a typical day as my work is so varied. I might start by doing some further learning and keeping up to date with all the new innovations and changes in social media. Some days, I have client meetings or consultancy to do, which means I’m out of the house other times I may be creating and collating content for clients, designing images, writing blog posts or managing social media platforms. I work from 9-2 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 9-4 on a Wednesday and Friday. There is also some flexibility within this which means I may have my son for the day and work in the evening and/ or weekends.
What’s it like being freelance?
I have a very structured day with 30 mins for lunch and 30 mins for a walk outside. I am up and showered by 7:30am every day and my work set up is at a desk in my bedroom. I have a good community of people who I can speak to via social media to avoid feeling isolated and I attend networking meetings with businesses in the local area. You have to be very self-motivated and have clear daily goals. The flexibility is a real bonus though.
How do your earnings compare?
I don’t think I’m at the stage of being able to compare earnings, but being honest, I was on good pay as a teacher, having worked my way up the pay scale and being a freelancer isn’t quite the same as that. But there comes a point where you look and your life and realise that money isn’t everything. The sacrifices I had to make in terms of my wellbeing, health and my family while earning a good salary actually didn’t seem worth it in the end.
What’s the biggest challenge for working parents?
I think the one of the biggest challenges is managing everyone else’s expectations. Everyone has an opinion on working parents. What people forget is that being a parent is a full-time role in itself. There’s a real culture of guilt about being a working parent too that we really need to combat. I also believe that despite new flexible working laws being brought in, as a parent you either compromise on work or your family and that isn’t right. This is why I’m so behind @DigtalMumsHQ #workthatworks campaign which is encouraging everyone to think again about what flexible working actually means.
What advice would you give to any parent thinking about working more flexibly/setting up their own business?
Invest in what you want to do, I signed up to do my Digital Mums course because I knew that was the path I wanted to take but I wanted to have training and support in developing myself in that area.It will always seem like a risk that is too big to take but there are no jobs for life anymore and you aren’t guaranteed security with an employer. Lots of people do it, it isn’t as hard as you think and with the right motivation and mindset there is no reason why you can’t do it too.
Flexible working, not the nod to it that you’re often offered (such as working four days a week), is really life changing. It’s ultimately about how you want to invest your time and what you want for your own life, setting up your own business is not easy but it gives you overall control. Lastly – go for it! You don’t want to regret what you didn’t do.
Do you or any of your friends work flexibly? Maybe they’ve set up their own business, or they work from home? We’d love to hear more success stories so do get in touch. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch on Twitter.