“I do suffer with working mother’s guilt, but I wonder if this ‘guilt’ is something I am feeling based on what I believe others are thinking”
The interview series returns after a summer break, featuring Kildare native Alma Jordan. After years in sales and marketing, the mother of one recently set up her own business, AgriKids, to teach children about farm safety.
Thank you Alma for sharing your story – so let’s start with the basics – could you tell me how many children you have and their ages?
And now could you tell me a little about your job – what do you do and for how long have you been working at this?
After the arrival of my son, Eamon, I worked part-time with the intent to return to full-time employment as soon as Eamon started school. However as Ireland’s farm safety record hit an all-time low in 2014 I was driven to set up a small company, called AgriKids. I now work full-time on this initiative and am currently in the daunting yet exciting phase of start-up.
What kind of hours do you work?
Technically I work 4 days a week, in reality as I am only getting started, I am pulling some late nights after Eamon’s bed time. My husband works weekends so I try to keep weekends and Mondays work free to spend with my little one.
Do you have to travel much?
My travel is restricted to local. However this will change rather dramatically in the coming weeks as I am taking part in numerous shows and events around the country. These events are also on the weekends which will require much logistical arrangements with my husband and his work commitments.
What kind of childcare do you use?
I have a wonderful crèche close by which Eamon goes to 4 days per week, and he’ll be moving to Montessori in September. It is local and I am blessed that he bounces in the door every morning.
As he’s an only child, so I was anxious to have him in an environment with his peers, to further develop his social skills. We recently celebrated his third birthday party and with 25 of his pals over to celebrate I’m happy that his social skills seem in good working order! (25 toddlers!! maybe those skills are too good!!)
On a practical level, what do you find most difficult about balancing work and home?
My husband is a full-time farmer, so weekends are considered like any other working day. Therefore on weekends the childcare largely falls to me. All the work I need to do must be done in the four days I have assigned or it must wait until the next ‘working day’. As someone who is obsessively punctual I do get anxious knowing I have jobs incomplete or email requests awaiting my response.
With regards to cooking, housework, etc., my motto is ‘if you live here, you work here’. My husband never needs to be told to put the washing on, get the dinner ready etc. In fact at the moment he is better than I am at keeping the household chores in line. This is invaluable to me and something I am thankful for, especially when I see an empty laundry basket. Note: I really need to tell him this more!
And psychologically, do you find it challenging or stressful to work outside the home – do you suffer from working-mother guilt?
Knowing my assigned window for work and its limitations can be stressful especially during busy times. I feel I must be 100% productive and energised to ensure that the work is done and that I am available and completely focussed on my little boy and his needs.
I do suffer with working mother’s guilt, but I wonder if this ‘guilt’ is something I am feeling based on what I believe others are thinking! Today most women are expected to provide for the home both inside and outside. We contribute to running costs while still keeping on top of household duties and chores.
If we don’t work then it is seen as the easy option to ‘stay at home’, which is definitely not the case. We need to know and accept that it is perfectly ok to work and to share the duties of home and children, although this is something I still struggle with.
However I do think this trend is changing as partners, spouses and grandparents, etc. are becoming more active and hands on in childcare and household duties – let’s encourage this trend.
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?
I am now in that position of working for myself, (albeit very early days) and doing a four-day week. I thought it would be the Holy Grail, but like most things the grass just seemed greener and my new situation has thrown up new challenges. I have a greater need to call on self-motivation, my income is reduced (well eliminated!), and now that my home is essentially my office, I find it harder to switch off.
However I am also learning a valuable lesson in managing my time and allowing myself to be happy and grateful for ‘time-out’ from the lap top.
There is a perfect balance, it is the balance that works for you, your family and your personal circumstances. It will take tweaking, compromise and negotiation but you will find it. Just make sure you know what you want and want what you wish for.
If you could do any job, what would it be?
For the first time in my life I feel more settled in my career and sense of purpose and it has only come about because I became a mother. I always wanted to create something, a solution and to bring the concept to market. I had spent many years doing it for other businesses and employers, I wanted the chance to do it for myself.
I am still juggling the challenges of childcare and home life, but I am trying not to get stressed by them and to allow myself to adapt more readily in the face of change. Having a flexible attitude is allowing me to face problems with more clarity and confidence, it can be quite liberating.
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’m afraid I do think it’s a glass ceiling, but luckily glass can be shattered. For any mother heading back to work the main topic of conversation is ‘how will I manage the childcare’?
I often wondered why fathers cannot seek or be given access to the same parental arrangements bestowed on mothers. Sharing parental leave and responsibilities may allow greater scope for equality within the workplace and give mothers the opportunity to achieve those career goals and aspirations that existed pre baby.
Do you have three top tips that you could give any mother returning to work, to make her life easier?
- Write a list, (and I mean with pen and paper) of the issues that are concerning you and communicate them with your other half or trusted family member. E.g. in the event that a child is sick, have a system to decide who stays at home, if there are days you must work late, make sure you have a back up plan.
By sharing your fears and anxieties you are giving someone else the opportunity to help and support you. It does wonders for you psychologically and is great for your relationship.
- Stop thinking you have to do everything yourself! Because you don’t. Using the same paper and pen, collate a list of people whom you trust and can fall back on for school pick-ups, short-term babysitting, etc.
- Allow for family time! It will make you feel better about going to work. So put the phone away, get on the floor and roll around with your little ones. Not only is it great for them to play with you but it does wonders for the soul!
Thanks Alma and congratulations on starting your business!
Your comment about greener grass really caught my attention – I think it’s very common. Parents working five full days wishing for five half days, while others working five mornings feel they’re always on the go and might do better with three days on and two days off. The PAYE workers who wish for the flexibility that self-employment brings, and the freelancers who miss the stability of a predictable income. But I think you’re right about the tweaking to find the perfect balance – eventually most people get there. And if in the process you can do something you love, as you are doing, that’s a huge bonus. I think most of us would take a little less flex to do something we really enjoy.
Thanks again and I wish you continued success with AgriKids!
For more about AgriKids, read here:
While sitting at home with her then 2 year old son, Eamon, Alma could not help but notice how engaged he was with his favourite agri character, Tractor Ted. Even at such a young age Eamon was already well versed in the necessary techniques of pea and grain harvesting, dairy farming and ploughing. It was late summer in 2014 and Ireland was in the grips of what was to be its worst year on record for farm safety.
With 30 tragic deaths, 5 of whom where children, the topic of farm safety and how to address it weighed heavily on Alma’s mind. ‘If only there was some way we could actively engage, empower and educate children to be as well versed in the topic of farm safety.
As a mother, wife, daughter, sister and niece to farmers, Alma was acutely aware that if things remained as they were she too may become a future HSA statistic.
Alma therefore has worked on a strategy whose outcome will be to initiate a change in culture within the farming and rural communities.
Her strategy was to create AgriKids, an organisation which is for children from 5 – 105 who love all things agri! Alma wants to promote all things that are fun and positive about rural living but will maintain a strong stance on avoiding and being aware of the many hazards that are prevalent.
Alma’s first initiative sees the publication of the first two in a 6 book series of children’s stories where the theme of farm safety is central to each. The series is called ‘Tales from Riverside Farm and targets the 5+ age group. These quirky and unique stories tell the tale of Sarah, Tom and their magical friend Mr. Brambles, a hedge sprite, and chronicles their adventures and misadventures on Riverside Farm in the fictional town of Ballymalley.
From this AgriKids will also be providing a range of hi-vis outdoor clothing and accessories for children. Both the books and the merchandise will be available through her website, www.agrikids.ie. The site will also contain safety information and future plans will see a blog, events page and facts and details on all things agri.
Alma hopes her approach and those already in existence will have serve as an ongoing, effective and positive trigger in encouraging and maintaining safety standards in our farming and rural communities.