“ if you want to be a head of IT in a big, multi-million corporation, you are going to have to work very different hours than someone teaching a couple of classes in the evening time. I think if that’s your ambition, then finding time for your children will be more challenging… “
Mirva Walsh is a 30 something mother of two who is originally from Finland but has been living in Ireland for six years. Just one month ago, she left her career in IT to stay at home with her children. She says it was a very difficult decision to make, having worked from a very young age, but so far she’s loving her new career! In her blog LittleMessersHouse she writes about her family life, travel reviews, fitness and anything that is happening in her house.
Thank you Mirva for taking part in this interview for Office Mum blog – can you tell me a little about your family – how many children you have and their ages?
I have two kids, my son is nearly 4 and my daughter is 2.
And now could you tell me a little about your career history – what do you do before you decided to stay at home, and for how long you were working at this? Did you enjoy this work?
I was working in the IT industry as a presales consultant and I really liked my job. I have been working since I was 16 and worked through university as well. I was working as a presales consultant for just over 3 years until I decided to stay at home with my two kids.
Did you always know you wanted to be a stay-at-home mom?
I went back after both pregnancies and it wasn’t until I had been working for about a year after my second maternity leave that I realised I wanted to stay at home. It just wasn’t working for us. I mean there was nothing wrong with the job, but the childcare cost combined with stress and missing the kiddies while working was the reason I left.
Would you have had parent-friendly flexibility when you worked in IT, e.g. to work from home or work part-time?
I have to say that my employer was extremely flexible. I could have worked from home as often as I wanted and when I said I was leaving they would have offered pretty much any arrangement I would have needed to make things work for us. I just couldn’t find a solution because even if I was working part-time, I still would have had to pay someone to mind the kids, I can’t get any work done if I have to look after the kids at the same time! I also think that had I gone part-time, I just would have ended up doing full-time work in less time and for less money…
Is there anything you miss about working?
The people I worked with! It’s only my 4th week as a SAHM so I’m still on a honeymoon period 🙂
What do you love about being at home with your child/ children?
The stress free environment, being able to spend time with the kids, seeing them playing together and how much they love being at home with me. They don’t miss the crèche at all… Slow mornings without having to rush everyone out the door and happy, smiley kiddies instead of grumpy devils in the evenings!
Do you ever wish you could work part-time or are you hoping to stay at home full-time?
Well, you could actually say that I made a career change at the same time. I used to teach dance and fitness classes in the evenings up until I went back to work after my daughter was born and now I’m getting back to teaching again. So you could say that I am a SAHM but I also work part-time as I teach the classes in the evenings. I think it’s the perfect solution for our family, best of both worlds!
What do you do for yourself – your own creative outlet or “me-time”?
My evening classes! It’s my own thing, I get to talk to adults and do something I love.
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 think there is, but it’s different for everyone. I think I’ve found my solution, but it won’t be right for everyone. For someone else it might be too much stress to have an unsteady income, or not everyone would like to work evenings. Different types of work also require different amounts of dedication – if you want to be a head of IT in a big, multi-million corporation, you are going to have to work very different hours than someone teaching a couple of classes in the evening time. I think if that’s your ambition, then finding time for your children will be more challenging…
If you could do any job, what would it be? Or would you prefer to stay at home regardless of any dream job with dream hours?
Running my own dance/fitness studio. It would be a lot of work, but different type of work where I can do the work when the kids are in school or sleeping! So I would still like to stay at home, but to organise the work around the kids.
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 don’t think there is. Climbing up the career ladder is often a slower process for a woman because of maternity leave and possible flexible working solutions while the children are younger, but I do think that if women want to climb higher, they can. It might just take a bit longer than it would for a male colleague. Although, my view is solely based on my experience in the IT industry where I knew many women with children in high leadership positions and I never felt that having children or being a woman would have been an issue had I decided to stay working and aim for the higher positions. I think a lot of it is to do with who you know and who is your “sponsor”, on top of working hard and having a “can do” attitude. And wanting it in the first place!
Do you have any advice for expectant or new mothers thinking about leaving their jobs to stay-at-home, e.g. how to weigh up the decision, how to know it’s the right thing to do?
The only advice I have is listen to yourself. You know what is best for your family! If you’re doubting, I would probably go back to work after maternity leave just to see how you find it. If it’s not working, then you can leave and at least you know you tried! Had I stayed at home straight after maternity leave, I would probably be wondering now if I should have gone back to work… I had been thinking about this solution for a while and what finally made up my mind, was putting the numbers down on a spreadsheet. We were spending more on childcare than what I was earning so that kind of made the decision for me in the end! Of course we knew that, but seeing it written down made us realise how ridiculous the whole situation was.
Mirva, I loved this interview – there are so many points I want to come back to. First of all, it’s really, really interesting to hear your perspective while you’re still transitioning from working full-time to being at home with your children – I think your advice to go back after maternity leave and see how it goes is very wise. Anything to prevent self-doubt later is a good thing, especially for those of us prone to self-doubt!
I was very interested too in what you said about the glass ceiling and IT – in Financial Services it is also the case that there isn’t a glass ceiling for women, or even for mothers, but there is for mothers who don’t want to work full-time. That’s what it comes down to in my opinion. And perhaps that’s fair; you can’t be CEO on a four-day-week. But there are also many women who are high-achievers and highly capable who are being written off in the workplace because they want some flexibility. It’s an interesting topic.
And I love what you said about teaching dance in the evenings, and having found your balance. Throughout this series, over and over, the mothers who have a balance between being with their children and having something for themselves (whether that’s work or a creative outlet or a business) shine through as feeling happy and fulfilled. It’s not surprising really that that’s what so many of us are seeking.
Mirva, I really enjoyed your interview and am delighted for you with your new set-up – your happiness is visibly glowing through your words!