Interview with Helen Skelton

We all hate the phrase working mum, right? Because all mums are working mums and nobody ever says working dad! But, as a mum, who does paid work, what have you found challenging? Both personally and professionally? Have you had to make sacrifices?

The biggest challenge for me is justifying being away from the children. My work involves staying away overnight and the idea my children may wake up in the night and me not be there breaks my heart. I struggle with that a lot. Work wise there are projects and opportunities I have to turn down because I only leave my children with family members (at the minute) and I won’t be away from the boys for more than a night or two. So it limits what I am available to do work wise at the minute. Career wise that’s a sacrifice but I will work hard to get it back on track when the time is right.

Clearly you’re a grafter and you are obviously ambitious. How do you balance motherhood and a career?

Balancing work and family is hard for anyone in any job. I am self employed and do a job that is unpredictable, my friends think telly is nuts and demanding but for me it works. I have intense bursts at work then I take chunks of time off. We moved to France when my eldest was three months and that meant I really could concentrate on being a Mum, I actually haven't done much work since we moved abroad and we had our second son earlier this year. I have had two years of concentrating mainly on being mummy and dipped my hand in at work now and again when it fit in with the children, having this time away has made me realise I like my job and have worked hard to get where I am so that’s why I have decided to go back into next year. (AssumingI can!) I like being a mum so that takes up most of my time and Ilike work so I fit a bit in, that’s my balance. It means there isn’t much time for the gym, housework, cooking or going out on nights out but at the minute I am ok with that. I take time out to do something with the kids every day and then I don’t feel guilty about working when I need to. The washing pile can wait.

Do you think having children will hamper your career progression?

Yes no doubt about it. I don’t feel sad about that. I have learned to be ok with it. Before I had children I said they wouldn’t change what I could do in my career but of course they do, I am not as available, I am not as willing to go away on long trips and I don’t mind. Someone said to me “ children don’t change your ability to have adventures, they just change the adventures you can have.” I think that is true about careers. My career and cv of experiences is changing and evolving because of and thanks to my babies. I hope that people can relate to me now I have two little boys and that’s a good thing for my career so it’s good for me in that sense. Having children has definitely made me more efficient. I work because I want to be there so I get there, get it done and get on my way. I don’t waste time and get dragged into small talk and office politics. I hope in the long run that helps my career and keeps me employable.

Which of our 5 demands particularly resonates with you and why?

eerrrrr all of them…. Access to shared parental pay for self employed parents is particularly important to me.  I am self employed and I did jobs when both of my babies were tiny because nappies don’t grow on trees and I had no guarantee of work so I had to. There are so many small businesses that contribute not only to the economy but our culture for me it is so short sighted not to support them. I am also outraged at the number of friends who tell me their requests for flexible working have been turned down, good people who are brilliant at their jobs being forced to quit completely because their bosses lack a bit of creative thinking. We all joke about ‘happy wife, happy life.” But isn’t that the same with work? I know I am productive and creative when I am happy rather than resenting work. Flexible working for me is a total no brainer. Of course there are limitations in some jobs but if we can keep good people in work in a healthy, productive, efficient state of mind, why wouldn’t we support flexible working.

You run the brilliant group ‘Mummy Social’ with Josie Barron and Sarah Turner (AKA the Unmumsy mum). What prompted you to set this up?

Josie set up Mummy Social a few years ago and she asked Sarah and I if we wanted to support it.  I moved somewhere where there are no mums and baby groups, I had no mum friends, I didn’t know what I was doing and I can see how isolating a new routine, a new life can be. Mum mates help you laugh at things that might seem stressful on your own, make you realise how normal your bonkers life and routine is. Josie is so passionately committed to helping reduce the number of women suffering post natal depression and I was inspired to support Mummy Social because of her really. The little people challenge us enough so why not support each other.