Welcome to Meet the Working Mum Interview. Today we meet Liz Pusey. Liz works for the NHS as a Head of Communications and also blogs at Being Millie’s Mum
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 a 34-year-old mum to Millie, who turns two at the end of this month.
We live with my husband David in a house in Calmore, which is basically between Southampton and the edge of the New Forest. It’s a really nice area with great access to local beaches, forest, lots of lovely little local towns but also the city and only an hour out from London so loads to do with a little one. I’ve lived in Hampshire all my life and most of my family are close by so I’m a very local girl! We also have an eight-year-old Jack Russell cross called Pickle.
What do you do for a job? Is it what you have always wanted to do?
What was your motivation to return to work?
The financial benefits to working were a big draw! We couldn’t afford for me not to work, but equally I don’t think I’d want to not be doing something outside of parenting either. I need the balance. My job can be quite stressful at times which I find difficult to escape from when I come home straight into another demanding role as a mum, and though I still don’t understand it when people say ‘I go to work for a break’, I do also find that I get satisfaction from still doing my job well in amongst the other pressures of parenting and life in general.
How many hours do you work a week?
I work 26 hours a week, which is three and a half days. This is a fairly recent change, because for a year or so after going back to work I was doing 30 hours a week. Three days a week were worked in the office, and then I had eight flexible hours that I could work from home or whenever I could fit it in, which was fantastic in terms of flexibility, but in reality meant I was working almost every night at home and never really escaped or had any down time, and after a while I found that too much.
Do you have to travel far from where you live to where you work?
No – I almost work on my doorstep! I work a mile and a half from home, which is fantastic because I’m always running late for everything so if I had to commute I’d really struggle!
What do you do for childcare? Does this work for you?
Millie goes to nursery two days a week, and one day a week my sister in law looks after her. My husband works shifts that change every week, and luckily our nursery allows us to change the days she goes in, as long as we give a month’s notice and we plan out what she’s doing ahead of time. This makes a huge difference to us, because although between my non working days, his days off and having his sister to help out we don’t need to change them a great deal, having that option when we do need it has been invaluable. She has thrived in nursery and I definitely think it was a great decision to send her.
What does your morning routine look like? What do you do to get you all out of the house on time?
Normally I let Millie wake me up, I have a quick shower while she plays in her room and we go downstairs for breakfast. We’ll have some cereal or porridge and Peppa Pig usually ends up on the tv. Millie is obsessed with Peppa and will not watch anything else! Then I potter about, making her lunch if she needs it, tidying up and doing some washing etc, getting dressed and deciding if I can be bothered to straighten my hair or put on make up while Millie finishes eating and plays. I then get her dressed and we clean our teeth, before we walk the dog and leave the house for nursery/work. When I read that back it seems pretty simple, which is embarrassing, because somehow, no matter how much time we have or how prepared I try to be we always end up running late. Millie wakes up at a different time every day which is my first issue – the 8.30am wake up days are lovely for the extra sleep but rubbish for getting us up and ready on time! I should just set an alarm but never manage it, or sleep through it. I’m normally at work at around 9.30am (ish!), and I’m lucky my work is very flexible and I can make up for any lateness by working extra!
What do you like about being a working mum?
I like the balance I get. I completely admire the women who are stay at home mums and parent 24/7, but I don’t know that I’d cope. I need to have something separate, something that’s mine, and that’s what my work gives me.
What don’t you like about being a working mum?
It’s really hard! Earlier this year I was signed off work for almost three months with stress, anxiety and depression, and it was down to having too many plates to spin between my job, Millie, keeping a house running, other family commitments and never finding a break for myself. I had tried to return to work and give it as much of my time and focus as before having a child, and that’s simply not possible. I don’t like being torn between being able to do my job and be the mum I want to be at times, but if I step back and consider it all I know I’m giving myself something through working that means I’m a better mum when I am with Millie.
What would you change? Hours you work, commute you have to make etc.
I would like to work a few less hours, though we couldn’t manage financially that way.
What three tips would you pass onto a mum about to start back at work?
Give it time – there’s a big period of adjustment in going back to work and it won’t just click into place immediately. There are lots of things that need to shift and settle when you change your routine by going back to work and you need to be realistic about your expectations.
Make the most of the little things – work is never going to be all enjoyable but there are a few things you can take from it while you’re not being a mum. Have hot cups of tea, and leave them on the edge of the desk without fear of little hands grabbing them, eat lunch without having to share, have conversations without interruptions. You need these balances!
And finally, believe in yourself. You are doing a fantastic job and managing to raise a child whilst working, and your contribution is just as worthwhile as anyone else’s. You can also still learn, develop, and get new skills or experience and grow your career while your little one grows too, because your life doesn’t stop as a parent, it just meanders a little more. And if you don’t want to climb the corporate ladder, that’s ok too – what’s best for you and your family is all that’s important.
For fun show us a picture of your work handbag.
My handbag is a Cambridge Satchel – it was a 30th birthday present and four years on is still looking almost new. It fits lots inside it but there are no pockets so it’s basically just a big bin of stuff and I have to clear it out every couple of months because I collect loads of old receipts, pens and other useless bits in there.
Also it falls over in the car a lot and all my stuff falls out which just makes it even more disorganised! There are no Millie related items in there because when I’m not at work I put my wallet and phone in her bag and just take that. The most unworkable things in there are a random dog poo bag and a large green button, which I’m not sure why I have because I don’t own anything with green buttons!
Thank you so much for taking part in the Meet the Mum interview series Liz. I admire you for holding your hands up and recognising that you couldn’t do it all. It is a hard balance, work and home, trying to ensure everyone is getting the best of you. So glad to hear you have a supported employer who is happy to work with you to find the best solution for everyone.
If you would like to be featured in my Meet the Working Mum series send an email to:- firstname.lastname@example.org