I was a shift worker when I became a mum. I worked in finance and our clients were mostly overseas. At first I thought my work hours would be perfect for our family.
I’d stay with my baby during the day and work at night when my husband was home.
Severe exhaustion and a multi-million dollar error woke me up to the fact that it just wasn’t working. I quit (before they could fire me) and began a desperate search for something, anything, I could do from home.
That’s how I became a “mumpreneur”, from a time of complete and utter desperation. Becoming a “mumpreneur” wasn’t a wonderful time during which I realised I could start the business I had always dreamed of or invent the product I had thought of years ago.
Becoming a “mumpreneur” was a last resort and being one was much harder than I thought it would be.
The rise of mums seeking self-employment opportunities has been highlighted as a concerning social problem in the first major study of "maternal self-employment" in Australia. Dr. Meriah Foley, a former journalist with the New York Times wrote her doctoral dissertation on this topic. It's called, "Mothers in Company: The entrepreneurial motivations of self-employed mothers in Australia".
Writing for the Sydney Morning Herald, Dr. Foley found that inflexible work schedules, poor quality part-time jobs and discrimination were the main reasons women sought self-employment.
Just because mothers have become so good at fixing the problem of balancing work and family, doesn't mean the systemic issues that exist shouldn't be addressed.
Dr. Foley says some women were made redundant while pregnant or on maternity leave and the finance industry seems to be over-represented in cases such as this.
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Findings from the Australian Human Rights Commission confirmed that women with children still face high levels of discrimination in some Australian workplaces.
Eventually I had to give up on it and find a job that would get me out of the house. I needed to find a separation between family life, home life and work life.
When you are a "mumpreneur" there's just no switching off.
It can break you.
I was lucky enough to find a new area of employment whereby mothers are treated with great respect and flexibility.
I was reminded of how difficult that time was recently when my new job took me to an "mumpreneur" industry event. I was there representing a product line I had worked with for years and our job was to entice some of the "mumpreneurs" there to try our product and write about it.
The majority of them arrived with children in tow, none of whom wanted to stay in the play area that had been specifically set up for them. Most of them looked utterly exhausted.
There's no doubt they would have had a much better time if they felt as though their work lives and family lives were separated. Sometimes a job that isn't child-friendly is a blessing.
It's a chance to use your brain and finish a cup of coffee, as well as a much-needed reminder of who you were before you became a parent.
Then there are the many other causes for concern over the number of mums seeking self-employment opportunities such as the fact that most new businesses fail in the first three years, the senate inquiry that found mums suffer financially due to becoming parents, particularly when it comes to their superannuation and then there's the difficulty these mums face when they are ready to re-enter the traditional workforce.
Dr. Foley describes most of the women in her study as "reluctant entrepreneurs".
Australian employers can definitely do much better when it comes to finding ways to employing mums who, by the way, often become even better, more efficient works than they were before.