Welcome to Meet the Working Mum Interview. Today we meet Alexandra Olaseinde. Alexandra works as a Programme Manager and also blogs over at That Butterfly Effect.
If you have missed any of the previous interviews, or if you are new to this series, check out all the other Meet the Working Mum’s.
An intro and a little bit about you, your family and where you live.
I’m 34, married and a mum to two very energetic boys (Leo, nearly 6 and Max, 13 months) who are my absolute world. My husband and I have been together for eight years, and we’ve just celebrated our third wedding anniversary. We live on the outskirts of London/ Essex.
What do you do for a job? Is it what you have always wanted to do?
I work as a programme manager for one of the UK’s biggest charities and recently celebrated a 10th anniversary of working there! My job involves managing a £2.5m portfolio of programmes funded by external organisations, at the moment it’s corporates but it could be Government departments or smaller trusts and foundations. I’ve been involved in the same programmes for the past six years but my transferable project management skills mean I could easily pick up another programme and manage its delivery. On a day up day basis, my job entails supervising my team to ensure they’re supported to do their job, ensuring issues get flagged up early and are resolved or escalated before it’s too late, managing the budget to ensure we spend the money efficiently and there are auditable trails in case funders or external auditors want to see evidence of our costs, writing up reports, meeting with colleagues to discuss best ways to develop new projects based on current best practice and learning, or catching up with funders to discuss the progress of delivering projects.
What was your motivation to return to work?
That’s a tricky one because as for many other working parents, our financial situation didn’t allow me to stay with Max for longer after my maternity leave but at the same time I did want to return to work as it’s fulfilling my personal ambitions. In an ideal world, I would have wanted to stay at home with Max until he was around 2 years old and then go back to work, ideally part-time 3 days a week, but unfortunately it’s not a viable scenario at the moment. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to go part time and have the best of both worlds.
How many hours do you work a week?
I work full time, i.e. 35 hours a week, however I’m lucky to be able to spread these hours across four days so I get to have Fridays at home which is great as I get an extra day with my boys. The downside of that is that I end up working very long hours from Monday to Thursday so by the time Friday comes, I’m so knackered I have no energy to do anything with the boys on Friday! 😞
Do you have to travel far from where you live to where you work?
Yes, my commute to central London where my office is based is an hour door to door but I guess that’s standard in London! I once had to travel 2 hours to work within London on three different modes of transport so this is a relatively easy commute! Nevertheless, I still despise commuting on London’s underground – despite doing it for the past 13 years!! Morning commute isn’t so bad as I get an early train at 7am, I get a seat so can read a book or most likely these days I’ll check on my blog’s social media, respond to emails or start drafting a new blog post. The evening commute can be a nightmare – delayed and packed trains aren’t fun at all!
If you use public transport what do you do to pass the time on your commute?
As mentioned before, I’ll respond to emails (work or personal/ blog related), review activity on my blog’s social media, or start drafting a new blog post. I try to read a book as well but it actually makes me very sleepy so I reserve that for nighttime.
What do you do for childcare? Does this work for you?
What does your morning routine look like? What do you do to get you all out of the house on time?
As I’m working condensed hours, I need to start work early every day. My alarm goes off at 5.30am (although recently Max has been waking up around 5am) and I’m out of the house at 6.50 to catch a train to work. I put a bit of make-up on, get dressed, have a quick brekkie and help out with the kids as much as possible but the hubby tends to cover it all (he’s very organised so I trust him more than myself!). On Fridays we get up at the same time, I get the kids dressed and fed, hubby and I watch a bit of news and then at 8.10am I’ll start to get everything sorted for us to leave for the school run. We’re out of the house at 8.20am as it takes us 20ish minutes to walk to school. Despite waking up so early I always end up rushing which I absolutely hate as it’s making me anxious but I just can’t make the morning routine smoother and stress free!
What do you like about being a working mum?
I think it’s very important for women to have a financial independence so that’s one major aspect. I also like to show my kids that Mummy and Daddy are equals and women can achieve the same in their professional life as men, or even be higher earners (as it’s the case in our household!). I’m not going to lie that I also enjoy a bit of ‘freedom’ during the day when I’m at work – whilst work is exhausting, it’s nice to be able to have a cup of tea “in peace”, go out for lunch and not rush through it, or even go to the toilet without being stared at by two little munchkins. The best thing though is coming home after work and giving them huge cuddles, reading them books, playing games, tickling and giggling together, hiding under the duvet and singing silly songs, making faces and simply being in the moment and showing them how much I love them. As a working mum, I have so much guilt so when I’m with them I make up for the time that I can’t be with them and I guess I appreciate our time together more than I may have done if I stayed at home. As they say, distance makes the hearts grow fonder and I think it kinda works in the same way here.
What don’t you like about being a working mum?
Obviously being away from my little munchkins! And commuting!
What would you change? Hours you work, commute you have to make etc.
I’d love to work from home more (I currently do one day every week) as that means I save two hours on commuting. I’d also love to have my family live closer but unfortunately they live abroad so on a day to day basis we can’t really rely on anyone but ourselves.
What three tips would you pass onto a mum about to start back at work?
- Have low expectations for yourself and be kind to yourself. I’m not going to lie – it’ll be hard at the beginning as you’ll miss your little one(s), you’ll feel lost, guilty, even incompetent as you ease your way back into your job, finding a routine, having different priorities, working out your new identity. Also, don’t try to be a super woman and ‘do it all’ – make sure your partner helps out with as much as possible and you both split who does the household chores.
- Find out about flexible working arrangements as everyone is entitled to apply. Your employer has the right to consider your application & give reasonable rationale why they can’t approve it.
- On your days when you’re not working, try and do something special just with your little one(s), and individually if you have more than one child. Use that time to create memories, even if it’s just a trip to a local park – those dishes or piles of washing really can wait until later in the day! After I had Leo, I used to get so anxious that my house was a mess or that I wasn’t doing a good job as a Mum. Now I’ve learnt to let go of the silly ‘Mum guilt’ and instead I treat any time I get to spend with my boys as special time, even when Max wakes up in the middle of the night and cries, and doesn’t want to fall asleep for ages. Even though I’m exhausted and can feel resentful sometimes, I then remind myself that it’s just a phase and try to cherish these moments because, just like his older brother, he will grow up one day and won’t need me as much as he does now. And they truly grow up so quickly!
For fun show us a picture of your work handbag.
My bag is by Vincent Camuto. I like it because it feels sturdy and things are neatly organised in there, plus it has a nice shape and universal colour so looks smart and goes with any outfit. I tend to carry just the essential things in it, like my purse, a bit of make up, a book or a magazine – quite boring everyday stuff 😊 in the evenings though I pop in a couple of apples or bananas to give to the kids when we’re travelling back home as those boys are always so hungry! 🙂
Thank you so much for taking part in the Meet the Mum interview series Alexandra. I totally agree with you about mum guilt and lowering your standards. I remember trying to do everything, keep a house and spend family quality time and I nearly burned out. Cleaning will be there the next day, make the most of the time you have with your kids, that the most important thing.
If you would like to be featured in my Meet the Working Mum series send an email to:- firstname.lastname@example.org