Having kids is life changing in more ways than one. It affects your relationships, your identity, your finances and, in many cases, your career. Starting a family can be a catalyst to explore a new career and opportunities. Sara Keli explores why so many women are making the change and forging new career paths post kids.
According to the results of the Flexible Workplaces report by Just Mums Recruitment, 10.4% of women surveyed were made redundant while on maternity leave or pregnant. Flex Careers published similar findings in their report, How can organisations better support parents?. They found that 12% of women surveyed were made redundant while on maternity leave with a further 3% made redundant while they were pregnant. These are sobering statistics but the stories are all too common.
Kylie Ostle shared one such story. “Approximately 4 weeks before I was due to return to work from Maternity Leave in my role of National Sales and Marketing Manager, I received an email detailing my redundancy,” she recalls.
“I was absolutely shattered. I didn’t feel like I had achieved all that I wanted to in that role and the way that it was handled was soul destroying. I questioned my own ability as an employee and really had no idea what I would do next or where to start.”
For another subset of mums, they simply realise that the career they enjoyed pre-kids, doesn’t serve them now they need flexibility to suit their new family demands. Even if company policy allows for it, an unsupportive manager can make the juggle between work and life all the more challenging. In fact the Just Mums Recruitment report found that 45% of mothers stated that their employer wasn’t supportive of their flexible working request.
Don’t even get me started on why we aren’t having these same conversations about dads. The take up for parental leave is appalling low. According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency insight paper, Towards Gender Balanced Parental Leave, more than 99% of participants in the government funded Paid Parental Leave scheme are women.
Men aren’t working in part-time roles to the same degree that women are (approximately 68% of all part-time employees are women, Source: WGEA Gender workplace statistics at a glance) and a quick flick through a board report for any ASX listed company will tell you that women are still under represented in higher levels of management as compared to their male peers. So until that changes, women will still be the ones seeking flexibility and new career options for their family.
So what are the options for you if you are looking to change careers after kids?
Start a business
Is it just me or does it feel like everyone is starting a business these days? There are so many amazing mums out there who have said goodbye to working for the man and have gone out on their own. That’s what Kylie Ostle did when she recovered from the shock of her maternity leave redundancy and decided to start Mum Society.
“As a new mum, I felt that I was sent on my merry way for life with a new baby and I really missed ‘me’. I missed the workplace, I missed adult interaction and most of all, personal development. After my redundancy, I realised what would have helped me was a ‘conference’ for mums, so I created Mum Society. Think TEDx inspired talks for mums with an onsite crèche and an hour or two where you can just be you!”
According to the Australian Mums & Business survey commissioned by Mums & Co, 52% of the mums interviewed started their business in a completely new field and only 27% had owned or co-owned a business previously. Interestingly 71% listed flexibility in working hours and location as a main benefit of running your own business.
So if starting your own business is something you have been thinking about for a while, maybe now is the time to do it. Take the skills you developed in your old career, combine them with the new ones you have picked up as a mum and build something amazing for you and your family.
Go back to school
There is a chance, particularly if you are looking to change careers altogether, that you will need to do some further study to make the shift in direction. Study is a big commitment, even more so when you have young children, so be sure that whatever you decide to study is something you are 100% interested in and something that will help you get to where you want to go.
Seek flexible options
While the organisation you currently work for may not support flexible working, there are so many out there that do. You might be surprised with what you can find when you do a bit of research. If you are looking at changing careers, you will want to make sure that the industry you are moving in to will actually offer what you are after in terms of balancing work and your family.
To help with that, there are a number of recruitment websites that specialise in flexible working for mums. This will give you an idea of the types of roles available, the organisations offering the roles and what skills and experience you might need to make the jump. Check out:
Think outside the box
Is there anything else you can do to make your career, or desired career, work around your kids? If you aren’t happy in your current job/industry, do a brainstorm of your current skills and experience to see if there are any natural alignments with other jobs/industries. Never discount the skills you develop from parenting!
If it is flexible work you are after, think about other options for making it work. BubDesk works with childcare centres to create small office spaces within the centre so parents can work closely to their children. Happy Hubbub offers a similar service in Melbourne. Kinder Café in Sydney offers workspace combined with crèche and class options for kids. Relative Creative Rebel Co-Work & Play offers co-working with on-site crèche on the Gold Coast. I would suggest you watch this space as this is certainly a growing industry!
At the end of the day, it is your family and your career and you are ultimately the one who needs to make it work. As challenging as it is, we have never lived in a time where there are as many opportunities and prospects for working mums and mums starting their own businesses.
Sara Keli is the Editor of Kid Magazine. When she isn’t writing, designing or creating, you can find her enjoying the sunshine on her back deck with her two daughters or escaping into a good book.