Office Mum Stories – Rhonda Doyle

Rhonda Doyle has been working with eBay since they first set up in Dublin in 2004, taking on a number of different roles as the company expanded. She lives in Sandymount, Dublin with her son Jack and husband Jeff. Here, she talks about the benefits of flexible working, the challenge to find me-time, and why it’s so important to support other women.  

Thank you 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?

Jack, who turned five this summer and who to me is the happiest boy on earth, always smiling. We also call him Mr. Why sometimes – he is so curious and into everything and likes to be involved with everything. Even when we are out doing the garden he has to be the first one with the brush or the lawnmower.

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 joined eBay in 2004 and have effectively grown up with the company. I have held a number of roles along the way from Supervisor Customer Service when I first started to my current role as Director of Global Programs and Project Management. I moved into project management when I returned from maternity leave and from there took over leading first our project management team and next our global program and project team. My team care for all the new service and product launches ensuring our business and especially our front line customer service teams are ready for the change.

What kind of hours do you work? 

I have a global role so that requires some flexibility to travel or be available for calls but that flexibility actually helps me to better balance my work life. No two days are the same. Typically I am in the office 9am-6pm, I may occasionally take a call with our APAC region before 9am or go back to my laptop after 8.30pm when Jack is usually asleep. I tend to work from home at least one day a week, either a Monday or Friday, whichever day my calendar is a little lighter on meetings. This is very helpful in saving me my normal 50 minute daily commute and it feels great to get so much done in the early morning. My husband and I coordinate our calendars so that we are never travelling at the same time or we check in to see who has late meetings or calls that week. Keeping the communication going around the logistics is key so we don’t get caught out.

Do you have the flexibility to work from home?

Yes, I can work from home one to two days per week, generally Mondays or Fridays. It really depends on what is happening in the business, sometimes there are meetings you just want to be there for in person or when you lead a team you want to ensure your around in busy periods but the flexibility is great. When I know I have a lot of prep work to do, I tend to look for when I can work from home.

Do you have to travel for work? 

I travel to the States four times a year and within Europe maybe twice – it’s important to see my team or meet my colleagues. Travel is nice when it’s occasional, but especially since Jack came along its harder to be away from home. My husband also travels, he tends to have shorter, more frequent trips, especially at the start of the year so we really have to co-ordinate our calendars.

What kind of childcare do you use?

We use a mix, which has been great for us and Jack. Since he was three, Jack has gone to Montessori and in the later afternoons our family help which is great. I really feel fortunate that we have family to help. It is so much easier to go to work every day knowing that you have good childcare and family support. When I see Jack running through the door into his Montessori in the mornings to meet his friends and when he chats about them at night, you know you’re doing the right thing. Jack’s Montessori had a camp also for those mid-term breaks, which was super helpful.

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

This is something I found personally very hard to do in the beginning; self-care or me time. I wanted to spend every free minute with Jack, but I have been learning it’s important to take time for yourself and when you return refreshed you are a better parent.   Now every Sunday morning I go to a local Pilates class for an hour. I noticed how quickly Jack got use to this and it gave him one to one time with his Dad which is important. Getting my hair done every couple of weeks is also my other treat.

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

Definitely the logistics. For the first three years I did most of the dropping and picking up and always felt like I was running to beat the traffic or reach work or home for a certain time. Since we moved house and Jack attended a Montessori near my husband’s job we have a much better balance. This really took the pressure off me. The other part that was hard was the travel. Especially at first and when Jack was younger I found it so much harder. Now he is used to the odd trip and looks forward to what I might bring him back. And of course the housework, I am conscious not to be spending all my weekend time on housework when you want to be having fun and family time. If the weather is nice we try to get out with Jack first and leave the housework until later.

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

When Jack was younger I think I felt it much more, especially as I felt he was so reliant on me, but now that he’s older, more independent and looks forward to having time with my husband, I don’t find it as hard. I think though where this has shown up is my lack of self-care time or me time. I realized this year that I just wasn’t taking the time I should for myself. Any free time I had was either spent with Jack or catching up on housework. I am starting to feel the benefit of getting back in shape and taking care of myself but it’s a journey, I’m not there yet.

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 this is a very personal choice but that the optimal solution is flexibility. If the world of work no longer requires you to be tied exactly 9-5.30, five days a week and instead measures you on your output, this really takes the pressure off. When I first returned to work, I worked a four-day week. This really helped me to deal with the separation from Jack as well as get used to my new logistical schedule. I used to really look forward to our Fridays together. I say the choice is personal, because I know I want to work. My time at home with Jack was great but I started to lose myself. Returning to work was good for me, but having the flexibility to work from home or a reduced week has been hugely beneficial or to catch up on hours when Jack is asleep.

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

I really like my current role and the variety, but if ever I was to leave the corporate world I would like to venture into supporting either children’s charities or helping others in their career.

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

I think even if there were no financial considerations I would still like to do something 2-3 days a week where I was feeling I was contributing to something out there in the world. Three days a week would probably be the optimum. Perhaps in some ways this is the me time, getting some time away to contribute in another way.

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 can depend on so much, for example the industry and the role models in that industry. For me there are a lot of good role models around me but I understand that is not everywhere. I also understand that sometimes people have perceptions of working mums but I have seen so many working mums work so hard to prove they can still do just as good if not better whilst also managing their new logistical challenge. I once read that project management is great for a working mum or something similar where they can achieve the outcome in their own way. It’s not about how many hours you were in the office but what’s your output.

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

  1. Accept change, when you have taken six, nine or more months or years out of the business things will have changed. Believe that you will catch up, you will. If we hold onto how things used to be this can hold us back.   When I changed role it took an external networking event to highlight to me that I needed to focus on my new network and not just my old group from before my maternity leave.
  2. Logistics, do your best to think ahead with your calendar so that you can plan for busy periods in the office when you might need more support at home. You may need to shift your perspective, what worked for you before may not be what works for you now in terms of schedule. Share with your colleagues so they know to expect when you might be handing over work.
  3. Focus on quality time. I am really present with Jack in the mornings, evenings and weekends. Of course I have to multi-task a little to get the housework done or I sometimes have a call I have to take in the evening before his bed time but there are the exceptions. Jack was an earlier riser in the beginning and I quickly learnt that this was a great way for us to have a couple of hours of quality time and fun together in the morning.

Any other comments?

When you get through your own journey support other women. From the outside it looks like we are all making it look easy but it is not and it’s only when you talk to other women you normalize the challenges and realize you are not alone.

Thanks Rhonda for taking part!

What struck me most when we spoke for your Examiner interview and in what you said here, was this:

“…the optimal solution is flexibility. If the world of work no longer requires you to be tied exactly 9-5.30, five days a week and instead measures you on your output, this really takes the pressure off.”

I think for parents particularly but for everyone in general, if work could be more flexible, we’d all be happier. Of course there are jobs where it’s not possible to facilitate flex, but in cases where it is possible, I wish employers (more employers) could be open to it. It’s output that matters, not hours, and presenteeism is one of the most frustrating elements of work, especially when you have kids.

And I love what you said about being present with Jack during mornings, evenings and weekends. I think that’s key too – I used to fixate on the number of hours I spent away from my kids when I worked full-time, and overlook the quality of the time we spent together. 

And I love what you said about supporting other women – you’re right, it’s not easy, and I think even having those conversations is a good thing – letting other women know it’s a challenge, but it’s doable.

Thank you again and I wish you continued success in your career!

To read Rhonda’s interview for the Examiner – on diversity and inclusion – click here.

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Author: Andrea Mara | Office Mum

Blogger, freelance writer, author, mother - muddling through and constantly looking for balance.

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