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PHYS ED THE BRAIN TIPPING THE BALANCE Zoe Sinclair, founder of Employees Matter, talks to us about juggling parenthood and work

Research from the Centre of Longitudinal Studies, the Institute of Education, London published in 2007, found that graduates who became mothers

were having fewer children. Later it reported that 40% of graduate women were childless at the age of 35 and forecasted that by the time they reach the likely end of their childbearing year of 45, 30% would still be childless. This was before the recession came along and threw cutbacks and job uncertainty into the melting pot! So is it possible to have both a successful career and a family and be happy?

If you have to work and there is no other way, get over the guilt

To help answer that question I would like to share with you my experiences and those of my year group. I graduated in 1995, got married when I was 24 and had my fi rst child when I was 27. This was not unusual. But what happened after the babies came along? Whilst most people’s paths had been similar up until then, this is when things began to change.

• Some people never went back to work.

• Some people went back to work part-time but struggled with child-care and meeting parent/work responsibilities.

• Some people went back to work part-time and felt it was a perfect balance.

• Some people went back to work full-time, had a live-in nanny and felt everything was fi ne.

• Some people went back to work full-time, had a full-time nanny and hated every minute of it.

• Some people set up their own businesses and worked as and when.

It soon became clear that one size did not fi t all and everyone struggled through from day to day. BUT despite these differences, there were a few things that seemed to be consistent across the board.

• Most of us had experienced problems with our peers who seemed to think that we lacked commitment to either our job or our parenthood. We had to prove our worth either as an employee or as a mum. From time-to-time the non-workers felt worthless that they were not at work and the workers envied the non-workers and resented the time they had to make cakes and meet for coffee.

• Working to time constraints had improved our effectiveness as we had had to become well organised and self-disciplined.

• We felt that we were able to blend what we learned from both roles and transfer them into our dealings with clients, colleagues and children.

• We did not take enough time to reward ourselves for doing two diffi cult and demanding roles simultaneously.

• When we asked our children about how they felt about their mothers working, they were all fi ne, proud of what we have achieved and want to do the same when they are older.

Practical Tips

• Do not feel guilty. If you have to work and there is no other way, get over the guilt. It doesn’t help anyone. If you feel guilty and don’t have to work, don’t work!

• Quality time with your children is FAR more important than quantity. Cuddling up on the sofa watching television together is absolutely fi ne. Time shared does not have to be in-depth conversation.

• Find your own balance between work and family commitments. Work out your own requirements and boundaries and stick to them. If you feel out of control, be able to recognise this and know when changes need to be made.

• Your requirements are not the same as your best friends. Everyone has different needs and it is not useful to compare yourself to others.

• Be confi dent in your own value in both roles. SPLASH ABOUT COMPETITION

To celebrate their fantastic new swimwear range of swimming costumes and trunks, Splash About, THE children’s safety swimwear specialists have generously offered a new prize in an exclusive Eds Up Readers’ Competition:

A Safe in Sun Hat and Swimming Costume or Trunks from the New Swimwear Range Just answer this: “Name THREE of Splash About’s ranges of products?”

(See the homepage of for help!) To enter into the draw for this prize, please email: with your answer. The winners will be contacted by email for delivery details.

The draw will take place on 15th June 2011 by an independent educationalist. The editor’s decision will be fi nal.

There is no secret remedy to juggling parenthood and work. We often think that the next person has it better than us and that no-one else really understands but this is not true. You may not realise but there are a lot of people out there who admire you for the way you balance things.


Zoe Sinclair is founder of Employees Matter, a consultancy helping companies to establish and run their employee networks e.g. parent, carer, family, women and diversity. She was also recently named a winner at Red Hot Women’s Awards 2010:

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