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childcare

Wiltshire mum breaks free of corporate trap

This article was first published in the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald’s family column, written by me, in October 2013. Due to requests from various sources, I’m reproducing it here.

 

The day I met Holly Scott-Donaldson from Pewsey, she was sitting on the sofa trying to get comfortable as she awaits the imminent birth of her third child.

None of this stopped her talking to me, sorting out the washing and taking the odd telephone call.

For some, especially those in a corporate world, Holly, now 41, is a nesting mother-to-be luxuriating in being a stay-at-home parent. Appearances can be deceptive.

Those odd telephone calls related to her new business, Donaldson Business Bureau, which is growing fast and particularly engaging women in the county. Her clients are blue chip companies and small one-man or woman bands. Business is continuing as well as preparations for a new family member – a little girl.

When Holly started out in her career she could not have imagined being where she is now, living with her husband Rod, sons Magnus, five and Ranulf, two, in a picturesque rural town in Wiltshire.

She’d had a career in banking, IT and marketing after completing a degree in international business studies at the University of the West of England – UWE. She’s been headhunted for virtually every job she’s ever done. She’s travelled the world professionally and also spent time helping her father run his own hotel in South Africa.

“Single people in the corporate world will often realize that some of their colleagues are more settled and they are prepared to be more flexible. However, if you are not careful that behaviour can become a habit. In my job I was one of the last unmarried people so stuff rolled downhill to me which I did, but which weren’t necessarily part of my role.”

However on returning to work after having Magnus, the expectation was that this ‘stuff’ would still keep rolling Holly’s way.

“My professional relationships changed. I returned to my corporate job to a new team, new tech and I was in a situation where I was a cog in a wheel and my view of my job had changed. I was married now with a baby.

“I was trying to start everything from scratch, I had masses of guilt and I wasn’t feeling appreciated. I was so tired and often not emotionally strong enough but the demands on my time were still there.”

So when asked, Holly jumped at the chance to work for a smaller company as head of marketing. A happy couple of years followed.

“It was a great job until the day when I said one word to the directors – ‘miscarriage’. It was a Sunday, I’d had a miscarriage, was in hospital and was due in London the next day. I called one of my bosses, explained the situation and I feel I was never treated the same from that day onwards.

“The relationship collapsed. Previously I was part of the management team and we’d meet and discuss our direction together. Now, even though my job hadn’t changed technically, I was out of the loop, I was not included in those discussions and was issued with a set of instructions.”

However, Holly found herself in a professional trap. Doing a job she no longer liked but needing the money and feeling unable to move. Plus she was now pregnant with her second son.

“I reasoned with myself and thought I would just do my job and go home. But it was demoralizing, having my professional input denied just wore me down and over time it actually changed my personality. I was in a depressed state, and felt I was just living a humdrum routine with no vitality.”

Then she was told she was on ‘redundancy watch’ and her role was reduced from five days a week to two.

“It was equally devastating. My husband was unemployed at the time and I was the breadwinner. Overnight our finances plummeted. But I had to go on with it – I had no choice. So for two days a week I ‘played job’, it was so hard.”

Anxious to earn money for the other week days, Holly did what many mums do – enter the direct selling market.

“I found that time and again I was called on to train other people who wanted to sell the products rather than selling the products myself. I decided to make training and business advice, the focus of my own business and I pulled out of the direct selling.”

However, a few months into her third pregnancy, she was made redundant from her two days’ a week role. She believes the two things were linked.

“Looking back just a few short months later, I can see that I needed that to happen. I needed to lose that job. If you have got people sitting on your shoulder every day telling you they don’t value you, it’s no good.

“The first Monday when I got up and didn’t have to deal with that was the best day of my life apart from my wedding day and the birth of my children.

“There are so many women and mums out there in my position. They are worried and they have to put up with so much corporate stuff and often are made to feel second class. They are worth so much more than that.

“My message to anyone out there who is stuck – remember anything is possible. You can do anything you want to do if you’ve got the right people around you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Childcare costs preventing you from working? What’s the story?

BBC’s Panorama ran a programme about the cost of childcare in the UK for working parents. It’s a hot potato but nothing new for a parent like me who has always worked since having my first child over 12 years ago.

Inevitably it brought out those who think parents should stay at home, look after their children and take a trip back to the 1970s in their home life – where do these people come from? 

I personally have no problem at all with mums or dads who want, and can afford, to stay at home and look after the children. All I can say is that for me, it just wasn’t an option. There are two reasons for this – one, I need to contribute and work at least part-time, the  other is that if I was a stay-at-home mum I would go stir crazy.

When I had my last child almost five years ago I had a year off work – and by the end of that time I was ill with boredom and monotony.  Some parents love the stay-at-home life, some don’t and I just don’t. Even my older children noticed how grumpy and down I had become – I need to do something which affirms me as an independent, professional person as well as a mum, step-mum and wife. I love all of my roles and I need all of my roles. If that makes me selfish so be it.

Having made such a decision, is it right for me to moan about childcare costs? Probably not, I guess.

By working, my children have more opportunities to do things....

I consider myself very lucky to have had a wonderful childminder for 12 years, who is a friend and a third parent to all of my children. It’s not cheap, especially in school holidays, coming in at round £60 a day.

I remember when I had two pre-school children at the minder’s – it made little financial sense to work at all. After fees plus travel, I was making about £10 a day. But my mental health was extremely good, I felt better in myself and I knew it was a medium term cost until the oldest started school.

However, I had a reasonably paid staff job with benefits at the time. I’m now self-employed and my income is not set in stone – but I’ve still made the decision three years ago to keep on my childminder for three days a week at least. I did not want to use redundancy as a reason not to work – I’ve not regretted this decision.

I recognise however that for people who work in lower paid professions eg. retail, a decision like this is much harder. I have a friend who is a single parent working for a national retail company – she earns about £850 a month. She has no choice but to pay for childcare as she’s the breadwinner in the family. But the childcare is a huge drain. She would actually be better off staying at home and living on benefits – I have to question whether that our society should ever allow that to be the situation.

My friend doesn’t want to stay at home. She has an eye to the future. In a few years’ time, her youngest child will be an adult and she’s anxious to have her foot in the workplace. She doesn’t want to be 50, with no experience and trying to find work then to make ends meet.

And where are children in this? My children are happy, that’s where they are. They have another adult they can talk to, confide in and trust. They have a range of friends of different ages and backgrounds. They are well socialised and have had no problem in fitting in at school because they’ve made friends from a very early age. They understand fully the concept of different homes, different adults, different rules.

I think back to my own childhood. My mum did not work, my dad wouldn’t allow it. Her day was structured around housework, food and children. She spent a good part of 20 years being bored. Rows at home were always around money. I didn’t go to toddler groups, play groups or anything like that. My parents had no car and little money so apart from an annual caravan holiday for a week, we went nowhere beyond our street and nearby countryside.

I knew much love and happiness as a child, don’t get me wrong. I always knew I was loved and cherished and for that I’m eternally grateful. But I also knew boredom, knew disappointment when I couldn’t do things through a complete lack of cash. These things do have an effect and help inform future choices. I  knew from the age of 18 that I would work and offer my children more opportunity. I hate not contributing to the family pot.

Childcare costs are an issue – but for many women, it’s not just about the money. 

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