#workthatworks: balancing childcare and a career

Digital Mums have launched a new campaign encouraging flexible working (working from home, or outside the 9-5 hours). We ask readers of The Early Hour how they manage to juggle childcare and a career, or find #workthatworks… 

New research carried out by Digital Mums reveals that almost seven out of 10 stay-at-home mums would return to work if flexible working around childcare was an option. But it’s not just full time parents affected by the current rigidity in the workplace, with six out of 10 working mums – living with children aged 18 and under – saying they still don’t have access to flexible work, despite laws introduced by the Government in 2014 allowing everyone the right to request it.

When launching The Early Hour, in a bid to create the work-life balance I craved – plenty of time with my daughter, but also a chunk of each week dedicated to paid work – I used nap times, evenings and weekends. She now attends nursery two days a week, providing me with 16 hours to get my head down, uninterrupted.

Of course, a large proportion of my workload continues to be crammed into tiny slots on the days we’re together. And this might mean an emergency phone call to my mum and dad for childcare help when a last minute writing commission comes in, or – if I’m working on my own stuff – an hour of Peppa Pig usually gives me enough time to get a few bits done.

I was interested to know how other parents manage to make their work fit around childcare, or the other way round, so I turned to Instagram and asked the working parents amongst our followers how they make it work. This is what they said… 

The Early Hour readers on finding #workthatworks

ali.millar (writer and editor) says: “I use nap times. With both my littlest ones I’d push them to sleep in the buggy then work for two hours solid in the nearest cafe I could find, evenings too. My husband works compressed hours so he has them one day a week for me to cram work in, and looks like nursery a day a week is on the horizon too.

It’s so hard to find work that works, insane that employers aren’t more flexible when most work can be done remotely, and I think when time’s scarce you get really good at being more productive. I know I’m a better worker since being a mum, much more conscious of trying to fit everything in. The more awareness there is of creating a parent friendly workforce – for both sexes – the better!”

london_dad (blogger, web designer, marketing) says: “The trick to making it work is all smoke and mirrors. We can at times be the worst at getting things done but with 50% of our business revolving around parenting and children, people tend to be more forgiving.

Now that the naps have stopped I’m a bit lost

I also take [my daughter] Etta to all meetings I have if she is with me for the day and we don’t compromise on that. If you can’t work with her, you can’t work with me. It’s that simple.

I have been a member of a local gym for two weeks and have not had time to go. Family first then work and lastly gym, reading etc. Not a lot of reading or gym.”

bon_ldn (art director, designer and illustrator) says: “I started during nap times (I became a pro at getting the kids to do two-hour stretched lunch naps) later I had to pay someone one afternoon a week to watch them. But I found I ended up trying to have ‘me time’ during that precious window as I was so frazzled after two kids.

Now we’ve moved into a bigger house I have an amazing au pair from New Zealand. She’s 21, full of fun and importantly ENERGY! And it means she can do after school/evenings on the days I get a job in. I need to find another place to work from though as both kids have never got used to (or understand) why I’d rather sit at my laptop upstairs than hang out with them.

We limit screen time in our household so it does get tricky

It’s a tricky balance but having an au pair works for me, as it’s very cheap so I don’t have to work as much to cover expenses etc so I get to hang out with them more. Win win.”

lizpostlethwaite says: “I run my own small business which was running before my 10-month-old was born. It’s hard! Admin and paperwork is easy, but meetings are almost impossible without daytime childcare (that I don’t have). Looking to reshape what I do to make it more hands off but not sure how successful that will be.”

annikiselfishmother (editor at Selfish Mother) says: “It’s hard. I was relying on naps and iPads (not for me) and now the naps have stopped and I’m a bit lost. I tend to be dead in the evenings and not at my best and am awoken at 5am most days so mornings are hard. What’s the answer? Films on TV, commute and fitting it in around other stuff.”

betterthanaboughtone (food blogger) says: “I’m still trying to find my ‘work’ hours outside the norm. I used to be an early morning person but three kids later my sleep is disturbed so regularly any sleep is precious. And my three like to ‘help’ when I start to work.

We limit screen time in our household too so it does get tricky! I have three spirited children and I know they will grow into amazing interesting adults. I’ve just resigned to the start stop approach with work. A little bit is better than none!”

Follow digitalmums and their #workthatworks campaign. 

Have you found #workthatworks? We’d love to hear about how you balance parenting/life/career in the comment section below…

Photo credit: portrait of boy by Jacqueline Roberts, desk: Designspiration