“There were mothers I met along the way that quite candidly said on a Monday morning ‘Thank God the weekend is over, I can’t wait to get back to work’ and there were others who lived for the weekends neither is right or wrong”
This week I meet Aisling Lyons, a mother of three, living in Co. Wicklow, who ran her own business “Aisling Childcare” for seven years before closing it to become a stay-at-home mum. She is passionate about children being given the very best opportunities to allow them to grow up to be happy and confident, and so set up her blog Babysteps to help mums and dads struggling with the problems that parenting young children can bring.
I have been married to Paul Lyons for nearly six years, yep went traditional route and took his surname, and we have three children. We have girl, boy, girl – seven, five and two (went the non traditional route there and had our first baby before we got married). Our thinking being death-bed regrets would more likely be ‘wish I had at least tried to have a baby’ rather than ‘I wish I had gotten married’!
And now could you tell me a little about your career history – what did you do before you had your children and for how long you were working at this? Did you enjoy this work?
I never really knew what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up’. When I finished school I took a summer job as a nursery assistant and LOVED it! I started my career in childcare way back in 1990 I studied early childcare education at night and worked as a nursery assistant during the day. I took my first management position in a private city-centre crèche and managed two other crèches before taking the leap and opening my own! I ran ‘Aisling Childcare’ for seven years until a mixture of the downturn and a desire to stay at home with my kids encouraged my decision to close it down.
Did you consider going back to work at any stage or did you always know you wanted to be a stay-at-home mum?
I always thought that I would want to be a stay-at-home mum, but when my first baby arrived I was running my own business and had a serious crisis of conscience as I didn’t want to give up work but had always thought that becoming a stay at home mum was a ‘nobrainer’. I continued working for another three years until my second child had just turned one. I was pregnant and I was ready to stay at home full-time.
Did you have flexibility when you were working – was it compatible with family life?
Due to the very strict child : staff ratios in crèches, there is limited flexibility in most. Generally they want to get the maximum out of their staff and continuity of care is obviously important for the children attending. I have always believed that flexi-time would work extremely well in any workplace and always tried to be as flexible as I could in the crèches I ran. I find it ridiculously short-sighted that flexi-time is not an option in every workplace.
Is there anything you miss about working?
There’s loads I miss about working. Probably the biggest thing though is the respect that you receive from other professionals that is decidedly lacking once you mention that you are a stay-at-home mum. That really grinds my gears!!
What do you love about being at home with your children?
As obvious and as clichéd as it is, I just love being here for them; being the first one to hear how their day went, being there for all the little bumps that they encounter in their day-to-day lives. I am also definitely a lot less stressed now than I was when I was trying to get us all up, dressed and at the crèche for 7.15 a.m.
Do you ever wish you could work part-time?
Part time work is definitely what I would love to do when my youngest starts school. Ideally I would like to get a Montessori teacher position that allowed me the best of both worlds.
What do you do for yourself your own creative outlet or “me-time”?
I have never been a massive believer in “me time”. I am ‘me’ all the time; however, that said I always make sure I have at least half an hour every evening when I go to the gym, and most Saturday mornings I will head out on my own for a walk, mooch around the shops and coffee I have always done this though even in the land before children and before I gave up work!! So I guess that is my “me time”. The creative outlet of my blog has also made me a lot more aware of me as Aisling as opposed to Mum. I really enjoy writing my blog and am so glad I started it.
Do you think there’s an optimal solution out there – a perfect balance that enables a mother to have a fulfilling career while being there for her children?
For a start, paid maternity leave should be extended to at least 18 months the roller-coaster of becoming a mother knocks the wind out of our sails, expecting us to not only refocus on our careers but be better than ever as early as six months after giving birth is downright Dickensian. Also flexitime for all! I really can’t get my head around why flexi-time is not a compulsory option I think that if parents could choose early/late starts and finishes, that between them they would get to spend more time with their children, and spend less on childcare. It would pretty much remove the guilt that professional mothers feel.
If you could do any job, what would it be? Or would you prefer to stay at home regardless of any dream job with dream hours?
School secretary! That would absolutely tick all my boxes.
Do you think there’s a glass ceiling for women, or is it a perception based on the fact that mothers often look for flexibility or part-time hours which in turn limits their opportunities?
I know many women who are incredibly successful working mothers so think it
probably is a perception as opposed to a reality. However mothers definitely can’t have it all I met so many mothers when I was working in crèches who absolutely did not want to go back to work but couldn’t take a career break as they knew that when they went back to work they wouldn’t have a hope of getting the same opportunities as they would have had staying in the work place.
Do you have any advice for expectant or new mothers thinking about leaving their jobs to stay-at-home, e.g. how to weigh up the decision, how to know it’s the right thing to do?
I think you will not know how you feel until you have had your baby so plan to go back to work and see how it goes. There were mothers I met along the way that quite candidly said on a Monday morning ‘Thank God the weekend is over, I can’t wait to get back to work’ and there were others who lived for the weekends neither is right or wrong. I found the transition from professional to stay-at-home mum very difficult and it was something I wanted, so my advice would be listen to yourself try not to be swayed by opinion or money, take your time and do what you want to do! The early years absolutely fly by so if you do give up work and find staying at home difficult, you can always go back to work or re-train and try something entirely different!!
Any other comments?
The pressure on mothers is massive, and trying to strike a balance between work and home life is probably the most stressful thing mothers will have to do. The biggest stress is worrying that we are not giving our children enough attention. I firmly believe that what children need is consistency, support and love we do not need to be there for their every waking moment to achieve this. In fact, as a stay-at-home mum, I spend a lot of time sending the kids away from me!! Choose a lifestyle that makes you happy, and the consistency support and love will hopefully follow!
Thanks Aisling! It’s really interesting to see motherhood from both sides – your time as a business owner followed by your transition to stay-at-home mother. I love that you give so much balance and honesty in your responses – as most of us already suspected, neither option is perfect.
And yes, I’m with you on flexible working – it would be a huge step if we could even reach the UK situation whereby employees have the right to have their requests for flexible working to be given proper consideration. Too many people are leaving careers that they would have happily continued if allowed to work part-time, and then as you say, it’s very hard to get back in.
And I love your final comment – I also firmly believe that it’s about the quality of the time we spend with our kids, more than the quantity. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself 🙂