The Unemployed Mum

Little Miss helping me get ready for interviews...

Little Miss helping me get ready for interviews…


Hi, I’m Amie. I’m 26, I’m a marketing professional, and I’m an Unemployed Mum. Not a Stay At Home Mum. Not a Working Mum. An Unemployed Mum.

For the past twenty months, on the blog I have delicately danced around my experience of job-hunting while on maternity leave. And then extended maternity leave… And then while looking after Little Miss full time… and now, let’s just admit it shall we? I’m unemployed. And I happen to be a mum too.

Recently, a friend – another unemployed mum – suggested I should write about my unemployment saga (for that’s exactly what it is). I explained that I have refrained from being too explicit as I include Finding Our Feet on my CV and am nervous of scaring away potential employers. What if they consider this an attack? Or take it the wrong way? Or worse, consider me unemployable because of something I say?

But since going on Mat Leave, I have spoken to countless women who have been made redundant, forced to resign, unable to find work, you name it, after becoming a mum.

Well. Enough’s enough.

My saga begins on Monday, January 20, 2014. The Other Half and I’s five year anniversary and the start of my final week at work before Mat Leave.

I was a contractor at a large, popular UK brand. My agreement was up for renewal for a third 12 months stint while I would be on leave.

HR asked me for a meeting first thing. Truth be told, as soon as I saw the email I knew what they were going to say.

HR gave me the choice: end my contract now, “so you don’t have to worry after the baby is here” or wait until June when my contract was due to finish to go through the process then. Either way the message was clear. They weren’t renewing my contract.

My lawyer said if I wanted to fight, I would have a good case. But I had to be prepared for them to back down and keep my role open for me. Which in reality, wasn’t practical; I commuted nearly two hours to and from work each day. The OH and I had already been wondering how we would manage it with a nursery run in the mix as we commuted in opposite directions out of London.

Whether they were simply making a kind gesture as I had worked there over a year or were aware of the grey area we found ourselves in, I’ll never know but my employer bumped me up to the permanent employees’ maternity benefits package as part of my redundancy agreement. In some ways, I was lucky; redundancy meant I could take a year off with Little Miss – something we wanted but previously couldn’t afford. So I took the money and left quietly.

Five weeks later, Little Miss was born.

I spent the next six months in the baby bubble until August when an opportunity came up with a parenting app start-up in London. I came on board as a marketing consultant in return for share options, which was fine as at that point it was more about keeping my CV ticking over and my brain active between laundry loads and nursery rhymes.
It was around November we started discussing my return to work, ‘for real’. By March 2015, I was attending interviews fortnightly and by June, I was attending one, sometimes even two a week. Calling in any and every favour possible to help look after Little Miss in the meantime.

I was trained at a successful UK brand; I’ve kept active during my maternity leave, with both the blog and in the end consulting three small businesses on their marketing strategy. For every interview, I research the company, their past campaigns, their competitors, their products, their opportunities. I ensure I can speak about my own experience confidently and passionately in relation to the criteria they’re looking for. I work damn hard.

And as a result, I’ve gotten through to the final round of over half the interviews I’ve had. But none seem willing to take a risk on the woman who’s been out of the workplace for a year… or 14 months… then 18 months… now 20 months…

I’ve had interviewers ask me outright how I feel about returning to work after having a baby, if I mind working late now I have a family, have my priorities changed now I’m a mum…

I’ve applied for roles to be told I don’t have enough experience, or that another applicant had more fitting experience. I’ve also applied for jobs below my level of expertise, to be told I’m over qualified or wouldn’t be satisfied with the role.

Perhaps I just have really bad luck, but it seems there’s always a reason to say no. And while there is a chance that it is my experience that’s the issue, after nearly a year of job hunting, interviewing and rejections, I’m starting to find it hard to believe that’s all it is.

IMG_0593

My typical Monday morning.

And so, I continue trawling Guardian Jobs, 2to3days.com, LinkedIn, speaking to recruiters about any new opportunities and reaching out to contacts I have around the industry.

In May, I sold my car, giving us a cash influx to see us through the next six months. In July, I finally scored some steady freelance work. A friend passed my CV along and it turns out, a mum was exactly who they were looking for. I managed the social media profiles for three Early Life Nutrition brands (ie, formula and baby food).

But the work was quite dry, responding to parents’ complaints and comments, finding a hundred ways to say “he’s such a cutie”. Not only that, but the hours were hardly sociable: 4pm-midnight any night of the week or 8am-4pm on a weekend.

After three months, I sadly gave my notice. As a family, weekends are precious and evenings are mine and the OH’s time to catch up – even if only with oh-so-romantic household jobs. Unfortunately the pay wasn’t high enough to compensate the antisocial hours.

I then was offered a role at a childrenswear website. I was extremely excited; I was offered a fair salary and four days per week. It all seemed to good to be true.

And then the offer changed. And then it changed again. We finally compromised at a 25% reduction in my salary, 4 days per week in the office and 1 day per week working flexible hours with a six month probation period when I would be on one week’s notice.

I had a bad feeling after the negotiations, but once I was actually in the office, certain things came to light that made me uncomfortable, not least, the employer wanted me to sign a waver stating I was happy to work over 48 hours per week. I lasted 5 days. But we won’t dwell…

I’m sure some readers will say, ‘more fool you. You had a job – twice no less – and you gave it up. Stop complaining.’ And perhaps they’re right. But in nearly a year of job hunting, the two offers I’ve had would not be deemed acceptable by most working professionals for their own reasons. And yet because I find myself an Unemployed Mum, I feel forced to accept a below par offer. Parenthood comes with sacrifices, we all know that. But I understood that to mean I couldn’t go out drinking after work anymore, or lie in on a Saturday, or wear the same clothes two days in a row.

There are various schemes cropping up to help parents, mums in particular, back into the work place. DigitalMums, 2to3days.com and WorkingMums.co.uk are all great and I respect what they’re doing. But why should we be marginalized in the employment market as ‘a mum’.

Have my priorities changed now I’m a mum? Yes. And would it be preferable any future line manager keep in mind I have a nursery run to share and manage between my partner and myself? Yes. But this is no different to the changes the OH has experienced since becoming a Dad. And he does feel the pressure of that, but no one has questioned his loyalty to the company or his role as a result. No one sees him any differently.

So does the working world view me differently?

My story thus far has no happy ending. I am writing this blog post in-between an online interview (where you speak to your webcam, your video answers are recorded and sent off for analysis) and writing cover letters for more applications.

Something will come up. That’s what everyone says. And by the laws of probability, I suppose it will. But will it include a salary that will keep us in the black? Will it be below my level of expertise? Will I have to work twice as hard to prove my worth in the role, because sometimes my kids gets sick and I have to work from home or worse, take the day off?

I truly hope not.

Because I am intelligent. I am good at what I do. I’m bloody organised. I want to work. And I have a lot to offer an employer. All I need, is for someone to give me a chance.

This post is part of the Brilliant Blog Posts links, hosted by Honest Mum

Proud to announce this post was featured on Mumsnet’s front page on Tuesday, October 27, 2015.

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28 thoughts on “The Unemployed Mum

  1. ABritInSweden says:

    Amies, Amies, Amies. Reading this reminded me of the fun times we had together at “popular UK brand”. It was such a shame what happened and how it was dusted under the rug.

    But, on the bright side, it looks like you know exactly what it is that you want and are willing to work for, and to me that’s worth more than simply landing an acceptable job. Good on you!

    I wish you all the best of luck!

  2. chloelifeunexpected says:

    Oh this is so relatable. I have been in exactly the same position and now I’m actively taking my job into my own hands and trying to create a job from my blog.

    I am creative, extremely organised, really dedicated and hardworking. I have drive, motivation, I’m a self-starter. I need to keep my brain ticking over by doing something stimulating. I have great experience, I’m a people person, I am adaptable and I always give 100%.

    Yet I’m a mum and every time I’ve gotten into the final stages, this has also been why I’ve been rejected. What some employers fail to realise is that mums have learnt a certain skill set in that time off. They’ve learnt how to multitask, how to do things even when they’re exhausted, how to negotiate (if you can negotiate with a tantruming toddler, you can negotiate with anyone)…the list goes on!!

    I hope that a suitable role finds you soon and that all of this is a blessing in disguise. Maybe you should start your own business! 🙂 xx

    • amiecaitlin says:

      Hey Chloe, thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m so pleased the post spoke to you – even if not a particularly happy subject. It is a shame so many women are struggling after they become mums to continue their careers. You’re right – if you can negotiate with a toddler you’re golden!
      Best of luck with the blogging business. A few people have suggested it to me, but I’m nervous I’d become ‘a slave’ to brands or that my content would have to answer to someone other than myself & my readers. Need to find out more about it I suppose before I rule it out. x

  3. Hamster says:

    Hi Amie

    A friend posted this on FB. I had no idea it was you (despite the lovely photos at the top) until I saw your name at the bottom. We worked together at that large popular brand and I too was made redundant whilst on maternity leave (but I was about to resign, so I was pretty happy about that).

    I’m now a full-time working Mum again. People often look at me funny if they’ve asked about my kids and I say how young they are. Buy staying home isn’t for everyone, for a multitude of reasons.

    I hope things work out for you. I’m sure this blog will mean that someone will ‘lean in’ to help you out (I’m in another country now, so I’m sorry I can’t help).

  4. Samantha Jones says:

    How you can’t find a job is beyond me! I have followed all of your blogs since before little girl was born and they are fab!! Surely evert company wants someone to blog in an entertaining and thought provoking way?! 😀

  5. Wave to Mummy says:

    Ah best of luck to you, it sounds like it has been really tough. Hopefully you will find a good job soon – it seems like you have the experience and the motivation for it, just a shame that for whatever reasons employers are not seeing it. It’s always more difficult to find a job after a break, however short, than if you were working at the time.

  6. Tim says:

    Although things are getting better, there are still a lot of old-fashioned (and, frankly, illegal) attitudes prevalent in companies – particularly in male-dominated industries.

    My wife (who works in the software industry) was lucky to be able to negotiate working 3 days a week, then 3.5 days’ worth spread over 4 days and now 3 days again. But she had to fight hard for it and the nature of her work is such that she works *much* more than 3 days’ worth of hours every week – doing a lot of work in the evenings and weekends.

    It’s a shame that many companies don’t realise that, while they may have to deal with mums working fewer days or school hours, they generally get an awful lot back in terms of productivity and loyalty to the company. I hope you find something that works for you soon.

    • amiecaitlin says:

      Hi Tim, nice to hear a man’s perspective, thank you for taking the time to comment. I can understand and sympathise with companies that they don’t stop just because a parent goes on leave for a time, but it is frustrating that it is difficult for us to slot back in and get back up to speed when we’re due to return.
      You’re right though, a company who was willing to work with me rather than against me would definitely receive a stronger level of effort and loyalty from me – whether I was a parent or not.
      Amie

  7. Honest Mum says:

    When will businesses stop losing incredible women and become more flexible?! It all makes me so angry. Have you thought about making your blog a business or creating a different online business. I have lots of posts on this in my Brilliant Blog Posts section (badge in my sidebar). Don’t lose heart. You are talented and the right way to work is out there. Have you read Lean In? Current obsession x

    • amiecaitlin says:

      Hi Vicki; a few people have suggested turning my blog into a business, but for now I’m not sure that’s the route for me. I enjoy blogging so much as a hobbie and would be nervous about my content being ‘beholden’ to contracts with third parties or anything – I think it’s something I’d need to be more informed on before I just jumped in head first. Would happily start my own business if I could just come up with a viable business idea! I must admit, Lean In is on a never ending book list that I don’t seem to ever get round to reading now I have a toddler! Thank you for taking the time to comment – and saying I’m talented! Very flattered. x

  8. Terri Brown says:

    I really enjoyed reading this but unfortunately was not shocked by it at all, it sounds far to familiar. I hope that by now you have found a suitable job that does appreciate your worth and fits around childcare

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