Office Mum stories – Claire Rudd

“I think for some women their goals change when they becomes mothers and success can be defined differently. The glass ceiling questions itself implies there’s only one path to success.”

Claire Rudd is an accountant and mum of three – she says she has always loved her work and remembers bringing her second child into work at six weeks of age to deal with some urgent issues. At that point she switched to a four-day-week, and as she says herself, she never looked back. 

Thank you Claire for taking part in this interview series for Office Mum – so let’s start with the basics – could you tell me how many children you have and their ages?

Claire Rudd - office mumI have three children: a boy 16 and two girls 13 and 10.

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?

I’m an accountant with Horse Racing Ireland – I’ve been here seven years now and I love how my role has become more involved in the industry.

What kind of hours do you work?

I work four days a week – I’ve Friday’s off which is great. I haven’t worked fulltime since the birth of my second child.

Do you have the flexibility to work from home?

I’m very lucky that I can work from home occasionally, for example for a sick child or washing machine repairman! Working locally in a huge advantage for parent teacher meetings as it’s possible to squeeze these into lunch breaks.

What kind of childcare do you use?

16 years on we’re with the same crèche – we started with one child and went up to three (shockingly expensive) and now back down to one again! 

Do you have any regular “me-time” or do you have something that you for yourself, apart from being a mother and an employee?

Technically I have my Fridays off – I race round trying to get my jobs done so the weekend is less hectic. I am a passionate reader – that’s my “me-time” – oh and Candy Crush…

On a practical level, what do you find most difficult about balancing work and home?

On a day-to-day basis it’s a juggling act of multiple schedules – between school events and after school activities we are constantly on the go. My bugbear though is 12 weeks of secondary school holidays for 1st and 2nd years! It’s way too long – they’re too old for camp or crèche and get bored so easily.

And psychologically, do you find it challenging or stressful to work outside the home – do you suffer from working-mother guilt?

I find it challenging when kids are unwell – work still has to be done but I just want to mind them, especially when they were younger and really wanted to be held.

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?

Working locally has had a big impact on our work-life balance as had the four-day-week with school-aged children. So I think the solution is different for each family, but also changes as children age.

If you could do any job, what would it be?

I’ve always loved my profession, it’s interesting and varied and I love the challenges. If I could change anything it would be to have true flexi-time; that would make life perfect.

Would you be a stay-at-home mother if there were no financial considerations?

No, I don’t have the patience! I’m not arty and if I had to do all the glitter and glue and crafty activities it would drive me mad!

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?

This question has given me most pause for thought – I think for some women their goals change when they becomes mothers and success can be defined differently. The glass ceiling questions itself implies there’s only one path to success. But as women we can define our own success.

Do you have three top tips that you could give any mother returning to work, to make her life easier?

My top tips:

  • Be an organised family – train kids to help put their coat away, take out their lunchbox and homework and most importantly to give you every note! (which you then have to deal with immediately)
  • Prioritise – this will be different for everyone – what matters is what’s right for you and your family.
  • Be confident – several of my friends are returning to work after extended breaks and it can be very difficult to go out there again. But while technology may have changed over the years, very little else has!

Any other comments?

Thanks for having me, I always enjoy this series and seeing what works for other women. Especially I like the idea of women supporting women in their choices.

Thank you Claire – as you said yourself when we first discussed this, it could be interesting to hear from women who are dealing with the kinds of issues faced at the tween and teen stage. The costs may have gone down, but finding suitable childcare is a challenge, as well as dealing with all the after-school activities. I know from experience that lots of people think (hope!) it gets easier when kids start school, and certainly some things do (like cost) but lots of other elements get more complicated.

But what’s great is to see that it’s possible to come out the other side – to hear from someone like you who has done the baby years, the excruciatingly expensive crèche years, and made it work. I think it’s inspiring for all of us with younger kids to be reminded that it is possible, and it’s worth persevering.

I really like what you said about the glass ceiling:

“I think for some women their goals change when they becomes mothers and success can be defined differently. The glass ceiling questions itself implies there’s only one path to success.”

That’s a really logical way to look at it, and one which gives some comfort to those of us who wonder sometimes if we should have stayed in the game and continued trying to move up through that ceiling. You’re absolutely right – there are many paths to success, and I think women are very good at seeing the wider picture. I have quoted this before, but I always remember Áine Lawlor speaking at an event, last year, she was talking about why there are fewer women in top jobs, and said:

“Women are more likely to step back and question if it’s really worth giving everything up, or if we should go and climb Everest.”

I think there’s something to be said for that – whether it’s a four-day-week or a complete career change or taking time out or anything else in between.

Thank you Claire for sharing your story, it is really good to hear from people who made it through the baby years!

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