“I’m a firm believer that women can do everything men can, only better and with more humility!”
Jill O’Herlihy has worked in Communications at O’Herlihy Communications for the past 17 years. She is mom to two children; Martha is six and Bill is three and a half. She doesn’t have any pets to throw into the juggling act.. yet! She enjoys a spot of photography on a completely amateur basis, is happiest by the sea and a beautiful sky, she loves white wine and chocolate, and can eat anything savoury morning, noon or night! She blogs at www.sittingonthebench.wordpress.com and you’ll find her on twitter here.. @jilloherlihy
When I asked Jill if she suffers from working mother guilt, she replied:
“Oh of course I suffer from the guilts, don’t all mothers?! I find Tuesday and Friday afternoons difficult sometimes when I need to shush my children to try to take work calls. I do put the phone away for a lot of that time but my job dictates that I need to be available all the time. It’s a difficult balancing act.”
Thank you Jill for taking part if 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?
I have two children. Martha is just gone six and Bill is three and a half.
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 work in PR with O’Herlihy Communications. My day is never the same as I jump from one client request to the next. Basically I develop strategies to help businesses tell their story to the media. I’ve been working here for nearly 17 years, which is suuuch a long time to be in one place!!
What kind of hours do you work?
I work every day but take a half day on Tuesdays when I can and on Fridays so I can collect my daughter from school. My hours are 9-5 as I need to be home for 6 for the childminder. Juggle, juggle, juggle.
Do you have the flexibility to work from home?
Yes I can work from home on occasion and will start to do so on Tuesdays from now on. It just doesn’t make sense to commute to and from the office for three hours to only be at my desk for three hours!
Do you have to travel for work?
I take the occasional trip to the UK but my real travel is my drive to and from work. I live in Greystones and work in town so can spend anything from 13 hours a week just getting to and from work. I tend to zone out and listen to the radio but it does get to me some days.
What kind of childcare do you use?
I use a crèche and a childminder. My son is in crèche for five half days from 7.45am till 1.30pm and my daughter is in school at this time. Our fantastic childminder then takes over until 6pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I’m there on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Is your childcare solution working well for you?
It really is. We are so lucky to have found our childminder Caroline. She is great with the kids and loves doing all sorts of arts and crafts with them and baking. The little fella needs to have the crèche interaction in the mornings. Last year he was in for full days and my daughter in the afterschool club at the crèche but it was to be very overcrowded this year so we made a decision to see if we could get a childminder and we couldn’t be happier!
Are your children in school and has that made balancing work and home easier or more difficult?
My little ones have always been in crèche from 10 months old so school doesn’t really make a difference. I suppose the school lunches are a bit of a pain and the fact that I have to think about dinner for them every night too – they used to get a fantastic dinner every evening in crèche! Also, if my daughter wasn’t in school I would work the full day on Tuesday.
On a practical level, what do you find most difficult about balancing work and home?
What I find hardest is the feeling of just going through the motions. It’s like ground hog day sometimes. I hate that we are all rushed in the mornings to get everyone up and dressed and fed. That is very hard sometimes as we are all out the door by 7.30am. The up coming summer holidays will be interesting – I have no idea how we will manage as we always had full access to the crèche for both of them throughout the summer. Caroline our childminder is quite flexible and Bill will be in crèche for the mornings but it’s finding something for Martha that will be the issue. There will no doubt be a few summer camps that will fill the time!
And psychologically, do you find it challenging or stressful to work outside the home – do you suffer from working-mother guilt?
Oh of course I suffer from the guilts, don’t all mothers?! I find Tuesday and Friday afternoons difficult sometimes when I need to shush my children to try to take work calls. I do put the phone away for a lot of that time but my job dictates that I need to be available all the time. It’s a difficult balancing act. I also would really like to be able to go to more evening events but I can’t just abandon my family the only time I get to see them. It is very difficult but I know I’m not the only one juggling it all!
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 worked three days a week when Martha was small and it was impossible in my line of work. If you can switch off from your job then that is ideal but I can get calls from anyone at any time and need to be available, which can be tricky at times. I remember a government Minister calling once and my son Bill fell off a chair whilst I was talking to him. I just screamed and said I have to go and hung up! He understood, but many people don’t have tolerance for listening to children in the background when they are in work mode and expect you to be too.
Stay at home dad would be great or even if you could share it so Dad was home one day, Mom home another and childcare for the remaining three. That would be ideal really.
If you could do any job, what would it be?
I always said I wanted to me a Midwife. That would be my dream job but it was too late when I realised that I really wanted it. I’m not sure how I’d juggle childcare on shift work though – now that would be a nightmare!
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?
No I don’t. I think that many families find the juggling difficult in the early years but I’d like to think that those that stick at it through the vomit stained shoulders of suits and snot stained trousers will get back into the swing of things once their children are in school. I’m a firm believer that women can do everything men can, only better and with more humility!
Do you have three top tips that you could give any mother returning to work, to make her life easier?
1. It’s very difficult at the beginning. Don’t be hard on yourself if you are upset. Just let it happen. But do know that it will get much, much easier to leave them as time goes by!
2. BREATHE… if it’s all kicking off in the morning and not going to plan just breathe, you’ll get to work eventually and at the end of the day, will being a little late matter in a week’s time?
3. Take one bed-time off every two weeks. Take the time to pop to the local pub with a book for a glass of wine or go for a walk. Let himself do the bedtime routine and then come back in time for dinner when it’s all calm.
Any other comments?
There is a great community of working mums out there and I love the fact that everyone is being more honest about their struggles. The need to appear like everything is perfect no longer exists. I appreciate, empathise and sympathise with women talking about their struggle to juggle it all. If I haven’t been there yet I’m sure to be on my way to it!
Thank you Jill – your final comment resonates in particular – I think there is a fantastic supportive community of mothers out there, and it’s broader than ever because of Facebook and Twitter, blogs and parenting forums. Nobody is trying to pretend it’s perfect, and the notion of aspiring to “having it all” is gone, to our greater good I think. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and best of luck with the juggle!