Work Life Balance
How easy is it to re-train as a working mum?
We all know that getting the balance right can be hard and many of us have done or will consider re-training. But for some, the thought of re-training means more upheaval and even less organised time. How can you make retraining work?
The Association of Accounting Technicians recently asked some of their members who are working or re-training mothers to come up with some top tips on combining education and careers with motherhood.
Here's what they said...
Top tip: Childcare can be very costly so cut costs by organising your time efficiently. E.g. during school holidays I ask friends to look after my daughter one day so that I can work to meet my deadlines. So when things quieten down a little, I’ll look after their children and fit my work obligations around trips to the park or farmyard. This way I get the best of both worlds and still save money.
Jodie Riddex, 30, Northumberland (pictured)
Top tip: Many older people could shy away from retraining because they are concerned about the funding. Once I had decided that studying was for me, I contacted my local jobcentre for more information on financial help for adults. I managed to secure some funding from a Work-based Learning for Adults programme. You may not think you qualify but it’s worth finding out because your circumstances could be in your favour.
Rachel Jones, 34, Bristol
Top tip: Like other busy mums, my children often do after school activities, so I always made sure I had my AAT notes with me. So when the children were having swimming lessons for example, I could sit by the pool and study – just doing this a few times a week was a really useful revision exercise and helped me to absorb the information.
Helene Christy, 38, Harrogate
Top tip: I returned to work in accounts when my youngest child went to school. Once I had decided to retrain, I needed something flexible because college was not an option with three children. The alternative of distance learning offers flexibility to mums who do not have the time to attend weekly evening classes. I also liked the idea of studying when I could and doing exams when I could afford them.
Debbie Phillipson, 43, Hertfordshire
Top tip: Ensure you have full support from your family before you start retraining as it is a big commitment. The encouragement I got from my husband and all of my children was second to none. I cannot remember how many Sundays that I looked up from my books at the kitchen table to find they had cooked a meal and I had been totally oblivious to both the time gone by and the fact they had been cooking!
Jackie Randles, 52, Staffordshire
Top tip: Don’t be put off by assuming other students will all be young faces. When I started retraining at the age of 37 there were just as many mature students as there were youngsters. I also made the mistake of thinking I wouldn’t fit in with my classmates in their 20s, however I had more in common with them than people of my own generation! Talk to fellow students no matter what age they are because they could be more support than you expected.
Penny Abbit, 38, Rugby
Top tip: Mums with young families often find it a challenge to allocate time to studying for exams. Therefore, I found the student support services very useful, especially the online discussion forums. You realise others are in the same boat and if you ask a question, people will regularly do their best to answer them. I also used past exam papers for all my exams as extra support. All of these aids are vital for mums to feel confident in starting a new career.
Penny Moore, 34, Leicester
Top tip: There are different ways you can study for the AAT qualification – you can do full-time, but you can also go on intensive 2/3 day courses, study two evenings a week during term time or do distance learning. This makes it ideal if you have children as there are so many different options you are bound to find one that fits. It can be tough some days, but you have such a great sense of achievement when you pass the exams.
Myra Geater, 40, Berkshire
Top tip: If money is tight because family life is expensive, keep an eye out for discounts and special offers, especially when it comes to running your business. The AAT provide useful seminars and workshops and by just entering one of their competitions, I can attend one event a year for free. Also, by booking a number of events in advance and sharing the places with other members, we have made keeping up-to-date a lot more affordable.
Louise Munro, 39, Staffordshire
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Diana Wolfin, author of 'Back to Work - A Guide for Women Returners' on a great new scheme for working mums in the US...
In New York, PwC (Pricewaterhouse
Coopers) has won yet another award for its commitment to working mothers, as a benchmark for work-life practices in corporate America, and certainly must make many working women here envious at the exceptional range of programs which are offered to working mothers.
These include generous parental leave, a program called “Full Circle” which allows parents up to five years away from the firm to focus on full-time parenting and then to return, and “Mentor Mums” which sounds like something we could possibly adopt here with little cost to organisations.
The mentoring process pairs new mums - or mums-to-be- with another PwC mother who has already experienced juggling motherhood and a career at the firm. This relationship offers guidance and insights as important career decisions are made. The connection between the mentor and mentee lasts for at least 20 weeks and there is even a guidebook to help introduce the program and serve as a resource.
This sounds like such a good idea – many of mother@work’s readers will be familiar with mentoring programs but this takes that relationship to another level and seems to make a great difference to both the new mother and the organisation, which retains talented women who might otherwise not feel able to return to work.
mother@work has been the champion of employers who facilitate the working lives of mothers and we all know what that juggling act can involve and how many women feel it is just too difficult. Even in the current economic climate, PwC feel that they are investing in and enhancing their talent. This program, described as creative collaboration and effective use of resources, gets a big bang for very little buck – perhaps UK employers should copy?
Diana Wolfin – Changing Direction – 020 8868 7818