“Leave the guilt at the door. It’s not helping anyone and just stresses you out : no one else”
This week’s interview is with Martha Kearns, a journalist and mother of two. Originally from Sligo, she has lived in Dublin for 20 years. Martha is the News Editor of the Sunday Business Post. She is married to Ciaran and they have two children.
I have two children. Ciara is 2 and 3 months. Leo is 3 months.
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 am a journalist. I have been a journalist for almost 20 years, working previously with the Irish Independent and Evening Herald. I am currently News Editor of The Sunday Business Post.
What kind of hours do you work?
I work full-time. Monday to Friday. Normal working hours Monday to Thursday but working from 10am until around midnight on Fridays.
Do you have the flexibility to work from home?
No real flexibility to work from home because of the type of work I do. It involves meetings and directing reporters so it would not be practical. That’s fine by me.
What kind of childcare do you use?
I use a fantastic crèche. Am on maternity leave at the moment so they are both at home with me but they will be both going into crèche when I return to work in July.
Is your childcare solution working well for you?
Yes. I was at home for 13 months with my daughter. It was great to be able to take much time off but she was ready for the crèche at that stage. She is very social and loves being with people so suits her down to the ground. We’ll see how my son reacts when he goes in at 7 months!
On a practical level, what do you find most difficult about balancing work and home?
Before I was on maternity leave, the worst was having to rush home from work to collect from crèche. Especially when I was pregnant. Also seeing so little of her in the evenings before to bed
And psychologically, do you find it challenging or stressful to work outside the home – do you suffer from working-mother guilt?
I am very happy about working outside the home and love my job and career. I don’t feel guilty about putting her in a crèche. I do think it helps that she loves the crèche so much. She runs into it every day and talks about all her pals/teachers when she’s not there. It might have been a different story if she didn’t like it. We don’t have to put her into crèche until 10.30am so that helps. However. I do wish I could get home to her earlier in the evenings as by the time I collect her, she’s tired and almost ready for bed.
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 honestly think it is completely different for every working mother and every family. It’s up to each person to find their balance and if it’s not working for you, try to do something about it to change it up.
If you could do any job, what would it be?
What I am doing now (with a shorter Friday if that was possible but it’s not really!)
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 think it depends on where you work. But I do believe some women get left behind after they come back from maternity leave. This is usually due to the attitude of bosses/colleagues, who might have mentally (unconsciously maybe) squeezed them out of the workplace while they were out of the office, rather than the work being put in by the person coming back from leave. But if your career is important to you, you have to find a way to push by that.
Do you have three top tips that you could give any mother returning to work, to make her life easier?
1. Leave the guilt at the door. It’s not helping anyone and just stresses you out : no one else.
2. Talk to your boss before you come back to discuss the practicalities of your childcare. You might find that a change in your hours might suit both parties.
3. Have fun whenever you can and enjoy your children. But when in work, focus on work. As long as you have the children in a safe and happy environment, they will be fine until you get home. I guess that’s the Holy Grail : Finding the perfect balance between work and home.
Thank you Martha for taking part and congratulations on your little boy! I have a theory that if you LOVE your job, as opposed to just liking your job, you’re more likely to find ways of making it work – making it fit around having a family. I’m open to argument on that … I like my job a lot, but I could change industry tomorrow and like that job just as much. I get the sense from what you said above that you are passionate about your work, and that presumably helps when dealing with long hours and late evenings. I really like what you said about focusing on work when in work – I believe that that’s very important. Be present for the kids at home (work allowing) and be 100% at work when at work. Being pulled in both directions is misery-inducing. And I really like the tip about speaking to the boss about childcare before going back to work – I think that would take the anxiety out of the return for many parents.