“I always wanted to work in Xtra Vision and watch movies all day. I still hanker after that some days!”
This week I meet Maureen O’Rourke, a mammy of two, living in Shankill and working in Digital Banking.
Maureen, thank you for taking part in the series! So, 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?
I work in Digital Development, and have just very recently changed jobs to work in the bank. Prior to that I worked in Digital roles in Telecoms – for eircom, Meteor & O2. Banking is very different but I’m really liking the change.
What kind of hours do you work?
I work full days Monday to Thursday and take leave on Friday afternoons so I have some fun time with the kids. I also work at home on a Friday morning so I can both drop them and collect them from school and Naionra which is great. We call it Mammy Day.
Do you have to travel for work?
I’ve been away once so far with this role – a few days in Barcelona, and rarely with my previous role. My husband travels a bit with his job though so that takes a bit of juggling when he’s away, but it’s manageable.
What kind of childcare do you use?
We’re very lucky to have a wonderful childminder, Helen. When I first went back to work after Luke was born he was in a crèche. After Avy was born, I looked around for a childminder and was just about to give up when I did one last search and I found Helen through schooldays.ie. She is wonderful with the kids and they absolutely love her. I know they are so well looked after that it just makes everything so much easier. She is my lifesaver! It also works because Seán does the morning shift and I do the pick up. He has to get them dressed & out the door in the morning which is challenging to say the least! He’s a great Dad.
Do you have any regular “me-time” or do you have something that you for yourself, apart from being a mother and an employee?
Running is my thing. I do parkrun in Shanganagh park in Shankill regularly and some half marathons. I like signing up for a race as it forces me to get out and train. I blast up some tunes on Spotify and enjoy the endorphins.
On a practical level, what do you find most difficult about balancing work and home?
In my previous role I drove to work and always felt under pressure to get out the door so I would get a parking spot. My husband dropped the kids to Helen and I picked them up so I would be in for 7.30am to make sure I could leave on time to collect them. So M50 traffic and getting to the Red Cow roundabout on time was stressful. In my new job, I’m on the DART and so far I’m loving it. I know once the weather really hits though I probably won’t be so happy, but for now, I enjoy the time to read a book or listen to a podcast.
House wise, I try to plan out the meals for the week and shop for everything but I don’t always manage it so end of scrambling a bit. I’m always calling Seán on his way home asking him to pick up bits & pieces.
And psychologically, do you find it challenging or stressful to work outside the home – do you suffer from working-mother guilt?
I feel most guilty if the kids aren’t feeling well. If they are a bit under the weather but I can’t stay home then that’s really hard. (Obviously if they are properly sick I take time off!) As I leave first in the morning, sometimes they are upset when I’m leaving and I’m trying to run out the door to catch the dart so that’s not easy but it’s not common. Seán always says they stop two minutes after I leave. I pick up Luke from school on a Friday and when his teacher brings him out she looks for Helen first and then realises I’m there. That makes me feel guilty too. I think some level of guilt is inevitable but I know they are both happy and healthy so I try to be rational about 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?
In an ideal world, I’d work three days a week. I don’t think that’s possible right now but it’s not something I’m actively looking for either. So for now, I’m happy with the balance I have but if money was no object I would probably pull back a bit from work. I’d always work though. I really like it and it’s part of who I am.
If you could do any job, what would it be?
I always wanted to work in Xtra Vision and watch movies all day. I still hanker after that some days!
Would you be a stay-at-home mother if there were no financial considerations?
I would love this for a while but I’d need another project or something to keep me going.
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 women prioritise family and while work is important, family always come first. I think this is absolutely right but in my experience a lot of men are less concerned about this. I think employers need to see the value in women in the workforce and actively encourage them to stay once they’ve had kids.
Employers need to step in and offer part-time and flexible working as women don’t always want to ask for this. It’s better for everyone if we have a balanced workforce so flexible policies are really important.
So, often I don’t think it’s about women not wanting to progress and finding the glass ceiling in place, it’s that they choose other priorities. I’ve nearly always worked in corporate environments with lots of women in senior positions and in O2 our CEO was a woman so I’ve always seen women succeed which is encouraging. I’ve no doubt some women do experience the glass ceiling in some industries though.
Do you have three top tips that you could give any mother returning to work, to make her life easier?
1 Ask about flexible working. I never thought this was possible but then it was brought in by my employer as a mandatory recession cost saving measure and when they stopped it, I asked if I could keep going. They said yes and it has helped so much.
2 Plan a day off a couple of weeks after you go back so you have something to look forward to. Have some time with the kids but a bit of time for yourself too.
3 Buy a new dress. You’ll feel much more confident walking in the door feeling glam!
Any other comments?
Even though life is really busy with family and work, it’s worth pursuing other passions. I did this with the book I created recently I Don’t Want to be a Princess because I found the princess and pink culture overwhelming. I’m fine with Avy watching Frozen and dressing up as a princess but I think balance is needed. I’ve been really inspired by the volume of positive feedback I’ve received so far. I might have to start work on Book 2 – I’ve already been asked to feature engineers and nurses!
Thank you Maureen! I really, really enjoyed your interview, particularly what you said about employers and seeing the value of women in the workplace. It would be such a strong step forward if more employers actively tried to retain talent when women have children, and didn’t make progression something that’s only attainable for people willing to work long hours. I think you’re absolutely right that we often have different priorities, and being left with an all-or-nothing choice of full-time or resignation is a loss for everyone.
I love your dream job – I can relate to that! When I started out in funds, I used to walk past a camera shop on the quays on my lunch-break, and particularly when work was stressful, I used to wish I could work there. Not because I know anything about cameras, but it seemed like a very nice, relaxing place to work.
And congratulations on your book! I love it. It’s a great message. In this house, we’ve had suggestions every now and then from the kids about jobs that “girls can’t do.” I find it’s something I need to work on with them – they keep slipping. So we’ll keep the book on the kitchen shelf, ready to take down every time they need a reminder!