Wednesday, 10 February 2010

week thirteen: it's not that funny and is a bit of a rant

even i am getting bored of my same old budget-blues-poor me-look at my lack of income-i can't get a job- rant. yes, it is hard and psychologically challenging to be quite bright, quite adaptable and flexible, to have a CV crammed with words like international and qualified and STILL not be able to get a role because, heaven forbid, i want it to be.......PART TIME. flexible living, life-style balance, family first, prioritise children: the buzz words of our society yet when push comes to shove how many businesses will actually genuinely embrace the concept of part time workers without being forced into it via statutory rights of women returning to work post-maternity. and even then it is usually at the cost of the role to the women who is moved into a more administrative position thus forgoing true career advancement.

the glass ceiling might well have disappeared and yes, women can march right up to the top of any business now but quite frankly they will have either had to forgo the chance to have a family, or largely sub-contracted the childcare element of their life.

i am not anti full-time working mothers: this is their choice. well i say that but it is not actually an option to all women; the reality is that they have to be quite high earners facilitating the nanny option, or surrounded by oodles of family offering the joy of free and loving and flexible childcare. the next possiblity is nursery which has pros and cons compared to the nanny option, but is limited by the constraints of 8am - 6pm and children actually needing to be dressed and well to attend; and is still beyond the financial remit of most non-professionals.

so these constraints not withstanding, assuming one has a childcare option the next issue is career advancement. and for me it is the glass mezzanine that now exists: women encounter it when they try to go back to part-time work and find that, assuming their role does still exist for them, promotion is slow. and it isn't that i can't see the commercial and operational difficulties that can exist for a business with a part time senior employee: but they do seem to be surmountable.

in life, and sue me but i think this is generally true, men do a great job on a one-track route whereas women have to reinvent themselves as life moves on from the point that they have children. men surf the shifting sands but women have to stand in them, holding tight to all things domestic and familial while the dust resettles and they establish which way is up. the nitty gritty minutiae of name tags on clothes, missing favourite toys, fruit fads, five-a-day, shoe sizes, birthdays, anniversaries, food planning, family launderette services, social plate-spinning, banana skins out of car glove compartments, solidified weetabix under the high chair, snacks for nursery pick ups and much much more all fall to us; but we manage it. we prioritise it which means it isn't all achieved everyday, but the world keeps spinning, the children are fed and dressed and no major family birthday is missed. but somehow businesses feel that it is not within our abilities to bring this multi-tasking, process-led, time-line oriented prioritisation role to work and thus facilitate part time working.

because we might not be there when we're needed.

like everyone always used to get back to me on the day i mailed or called them?

very very few businesses decide to randomly recruit part time. instead, us work-shy pretenders have to surruptitiously apply for full time roles in the hope that we can shine shine shine and then quietly bring about a conversation regarding flexible working options, like we're admitting to a drug habit or a previous conviction.

is this a failing in society? is it right that women who are experienced and skilled at managing the many different elements of domestic life would not be able to manage the inconceivable difficulties of making a role work three days a week? i think it would actually add some real focus on task orientated project roles; but that is really by-the-by because the bigger issue is with regards to family, and children, and the instinct to be there quite a bit before they head off to school, and the instinct to pick them up from school and not always use wrap-around-care, and the reality of whether this is actually possible for a willing-to-pay-tax mum or whether there is a lot of smoke and mirrors surrounding the real issue of flexible working practises.

so as you might have gathered i've failed to get contract work on a part time basis this week: despite a lot of nice smiling and ooh and aahing at my cv. and today i've written to 10 accountancy firms and 6 private schools offering my services so i'm not giving up on the business idea but struggling with the intense lack of response.

my gut feeling is that my business is being waylaid by a desire for companies to not spend on external non-essential costs in this market and i really need to get a foot in the door. my contracting abilities are limited by my desire to work part time. my sainsburys budget is reduced such that i had to remove my marmite from the list in order to come in with a favourable variance, and i'm on day three of my socks. but that's just bad hygiene and a lack of prioritisation on the laundry front. i'm still justifying the cleaner but only by the skin of my teeth, and the menu for next week involves quite a few vegetable dishes with a roast chicken providing three meals.

and i might buy some spam.


  1. You are such a good writer Kate... delightful to read (even when I nearly missed the last bit about the spam ;-) Just remember you have picked the worst recession in recent history in which to look for a job xx

  2. Kate - so well put, I think you should apply for a job on loose women, you'd be much better than Coleen. I totally feel for you, I gave up my 3-day a week job (which incidently was a step back from what I used to do pre-babies but the only one they were prepared to let me do part time) a couple of years ago, because it was really a 5 day a week job but they couldn't be bothered to find the job share. I've been "freelancing" ever since with mixed success, feeling like a bit of a failure frankly because I can't really explain "what I do". Your description of the choices we women face is spot on and you have made me feel so much better. We must remember that we are great, if not always recognised, and stick with it, you will reap the benefits in the end! Good luck. Clare (friend of Liz) x

  3. Oh honey I hear you!!! Don't take anything too personally right now . . .like the first comment said, the economy sucks right now! It is hard for anyone to get a job even if they want full time work. I am looking myself right now and there is f@?! all out there and this is on the other side of the world. Keep your chin up, one day at a time and know that you are doing the best you can do which I'm sure is amazing! Enjoying your blog! xxx Kate

  4. Hi Kate - that is so true!!! I have been there myself and now qualified solicitor and HR professional is reduced to part time, local, noddy admin job, barely covering childcare costs for all the reasons you list... Loving the blog and the way you write - I can hear you speaking as I read it. Please don't buy spam just yet though (have you seen those awful ads??) - plus Sainsbury's yeast extract is a good replacement for Marmite!! :o) Love Kate xxx

  5. I have the perfect solution for you Kate. Come up with an idea for a website, get Adam to quit his job, invest all your life-savings in the business which has no conceivable business model, then you can work three days a week. And nights. Sounds familiar?! ;) (And spam suddenly becomes a luxury!)
    Great post though!

  6. Hi Kate,
    You're so right, but so brave to try to do something different.

    I've been lucky in that work let me go 3 days a week doing 2 at home and only one in London. I am allowed to do this in the role I am in but my contract says this can be changed and won't pass to another role. I had to agree to do overnight callout in order to get this role. I have also been told that I can't be promoted because I can't supervise in this role. I haven't had a pay rise since I went back in July 2008.

    I know I'm lucky to have a job but it's difficult to be motivated when I feel so inferior to the people who are full time because I am told they are more valued because they are more flexible. I almost feel guilty for making them employ me!

  7. Kate - your attitude and sense of humor will get you through this rough patch. It is frustrating, I know. As mothers we're such proficient multi-taskers that we can do a full time job in, well... part time. Companies will catch on. Keep your spirits up and good luck!

  8. Very well put, Kate. I was fortunate enough to be making a good enough living that my husband (an actor) was willing to stay at home and be a full-time dad for our children. Then I got laid off. We're even more fortunate now to both work at home and be around our children all the time, but it's definitely more difficult when we have snow days, for example. My husband takes on more of the day-to-day and today my older son has off from school so he's taken them out of the house. Most women, I realize, don't have this option.

    Sooner or later, companies are going to realize that the women are the more proficient multi-taskers. That being able to take care of your family AND do your job is a sign of strength, not weakness.

  9. Well said. I hear you. I think the very same thing almost every day. Thanks for the post, I really enjoyed it and knowing that I'm not the only one thinking this. x

  10. I've got an award for you over at mine if you fancy doing it. x


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