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‘Working from home has made childcare easier’

With a great many of us continuing to work from home, is it levelling the playing field for working mothers who previously had to put their children before their careers? Journalist Katherine Latham, herself a mum of three young kids, takes a closer look.

Something you don’t learn at your antenatal classes is how hard it is to hold down a paid job and be a mum at the same time.

You aren’t told that you will have to make a choice: to continue on your career path, earn a good living, and realise your ambitions – or prioritise caring for your children.

Studies show that it is a widespread issue. A government report last year found that almost a third of women in the UK with a child aged 14 or under had needed to cut their working hours because of childcare issues. For men it was just one in 10.

Many mothers are simply unable to juggle the nursery or school runs with long commutes and stressful jobs. So they end up either reducing their hours, quitting altogether, or getting a lower paid but more local job. Previous career goals seem suddenly unachievable.

But with the pandemic has come widespread home working. And it has become acceptable to do a video call with a toddler hanging around your neck or to adjust your hours to fit in with bath time.

With many firms now realising their staff can successfully work remotely, and some even going as far as doing away with their offices altogether, could this be a chance for women to get back on the career ladder?

When civil servant Rebecca Green, 29, found out she was pregnant two years ago she thought she’d have to reduce her hours – losing income and seriously affecting her career prospects.

With her husband away in the Royal Navy for months at a time, it was going to be left to her to juggle childcare, commuting and working long hours. It promised to be stressful and tiring, and she would barely see her young daughter midweek.

Then the lockdown arrived while Ms Green was on still on maternity leave. When she did return to work in the summer, it was from her home in Monmouthshire.

Without a lengthy commute, she could enjoy breakfast with her daughter Bethan, and then finish work in time for tea.

“It would have been difficult to fit getting Bethan to nursery and me to work, on time,” says Ms Green. “Working from home has made it easier for sure.

“It is much more manageable now. It wouldn’t have been sustainable before.”

Janina Johanna Sibelius, a mother of two children, aged nine and 11 agrees that working from home has made her life easier.

“My company is very understanding,” says the 40-year-old, who lives in London, and works in publishing. “As long as I get the job done there is no pressure to waste hours in front of a screen just so that you can say you worked certain hours.

“There is no point doing that when you work in a team of professionals who know how to do their jobs. There is trust that everyone will do what needs to be done to achieve the common goals.”

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