“I hate the housework with a passion but I would say the worst thing is the tiredness. I am sick of talking about how tired I am… I can’t say there is any point in the week where I wouldn’t take a nap if it was offered to me”
This week I meet Yvonne Hogan, a mum of one from Cork who now lives in Dublin. She edits magazines for the Independent and is passionate about fitness. She has been a working mother for just over a year, and as you’ll see below, her views on this are constantly evolving.
I have one daughter, Ava. She is 20 months old.
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 edit magazines for the Irish Independent. At the moment I am editing Health and Living and FIT magazine, which come out every Monday. I have been working at the Indo since 2007.
What kind of hours do you work?
Full time, five days a week in the office and plenty more outside that. I love my job so I do find it hard to switch off sometimes.
Do you have the flexibility to work from home?
I can work from home if I need to but I rarely do it. I tend to do it only if I am writing something important – like our 100FITDays, and I need to concentrate, but generally I prefer to work in the office. I enjoy the banter and the interaction. Also, I like the separation of work and home. I think it’s important.
What kind of childcare do you use?
I use a crèche. I love it. It is about 10 minutes walk from our house and my favourite part of the day is picking Ava up and seeing how happy she to see me, but also I like observing her before she sees me to see how happy she is there. It is very well run, the staff are lovely and the lady who owns it is very involved. That was important to me. I like to do business with people who own their own businesses where I can. I think they are great to be so brave and independent and I also think you do get that extra special service.
On a practical level, what do you find most difficult about balancing work and home?
I hate the housework with a passion but I would say the worst thing is the tiredness. I am sick of talking about how tired I am, but that is the main thing. I am back on the wagon now with exercise and healthy eating so that has really helped, but still, I can’t say there is any point in the week where I wouldn’t take a nap if it was offered to me. I am blessed with my family so if Ava is ever sick my mum or my sister step in and I am so, so grateful to them for that.
And psychologically, do you find it challenging or stressful to work outside the home – do you suffer from working-mother guilt?
I feel bad if I am not there in the mornings or the evenings as I think she misses me then. She expects me to get her ready in the morning and be there in the evenings and if I am not, usually for work reasons, I know she doesn’t like it. My husband tells me that she runs from room to room calling for me and that does make me feel a bit guilty. However, it doesn’t happen often. I don’t feel guilty for working per se, but I would like to have another day at home with her. I think she would benefit from that but it isn’t an option right now.
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?
Yes I do. I think families where there is one stay-at-home parent – whether it is the dad or the mum, work very well. Also, families where there is one ‘big’ job and one less consuming one.
Having your own business seems like it could work – I know a few women who make that work very well. The hardest one to manage I think is the family with two relatively equal corporate careers in terms of time required and salary.
There are lots of different ways of being there for your children, and everyone has to find the one that works for them. I think it is more important to be present – as in no phones, no ipads etc – when you are with your children, than it is to be there all the time. I get up at 6am to make sure that everything is done before my daughter gets up in the morning, so that I am not rushing her. I want her to leave the house feeling relaxed.
I think being a working mother requires constant review. At the moment, I think our arrangement is working quite well, but Ava’s needs will probably change as she gets older. Lots of mums have told me that the older the child gets, the more they need you so I am open to the fact that I might have to review working full-time in years to come. I do worry about that – especially since I am not just working for the joy of it – we need the money!
If you could do any job, what would it be?
I am doing it.
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?
Do you know what? I don’t know. I don’t think so but I really change my mind on this one a lot. Last year I was all Sheryl Sandberg, and this year I am more Anne Marie Slaughter. Each serves a purpose. Sandberg gave me the confidence to go back to work after maternity leave – and I still think she has immense value in terms of giving us a pep talk, but her thesis is overly simplistic. It puts all the onus on the individual. Slaughter makes me realise that there is a lot left to do in terms of changing the workplace to make it an easier place for working mothers who want to be there for their children. But, who wants to neglect their kids to do it? Because that is what would be required.
On the whole, I would say no. There is no glass ceiling – I know quite a few women in incredibly powerful positions. They work full-time, long hours. A couple of them have stay-at-home dads and one is a widow. I think you can have whatever career you want to have, but if you want to spend a lot of time with your children, you can’t expect a business to make allowances.
One thing I do think we have to accept is that the corporate structure is not designed to accommodate parenting – be it by a mother or a father. It is a hangover from the 1950s and is designed for people who have no other significant pulls on them. That will not change for a long time, but the good news is that it has never been easier to freelance, to consult, to do your own thing.
Do you have three top tips that you could give any mother returning to work, to make her life easier?
It’s never as bad as you expect and take joy from the small things – hot tea or coffee, conversations with colleagues and intellectual stimulation.
You will be amazed at how much better you will be at your job because you are watching a clock. You will be more efficient and driven and it will show in your work. Take confidence from that and leave at whatever time you have arranged with your boss from day one and do not apologise for it. If there are special projects or deadlines that require you to stay late, you must of course be flexible but make sure it is worth it.
Get up early. If you are organised, you will be much happier about the whole thing. And do something for yourself daily. Exercise – even if it is just 10 minutes before the house wakes, do it. The worst thing you can do is forget to look after yourself.
Thank you Yvonne for taking part in the series! I loved your answer to the glass ceiling question – all Sheryl Sandberg last year and Anne-Marie Slaughter this year. I have a tendency to be swayed week to week on how I feel about working motherhood, so I can relate. In fact I remember reading an article you wrote some months back, and thinking “I can do this working mother thing” directly after reading something else that had me thinking stepping back was the way forward (so to speak). And perhaps it’s because there’s really no right answer – families change constantly as kids get older, as work changes, and as our ability to manage everything increases or decreases. I think we’re allowed to change our minds, and I think we should be allowed to step in and out of our careers, but that one is more difficult. For too many of us, stopping temporarily means unintentionally stopping for good.
And I completely agree with your point about being present when spending time with children – it’s about quality, particularly when working makes quantity impossible. I hide my phone when I come home from work each evening to avoid being distracted! At least for an hour…
And yes, families where both parents have “equal” jobs can be challenging – it can be good in terms of sharing the domestic workload and the responsibility when a child is sick, but it can be very difficult when neither parent has the flexibility to drop everything.
Thank you for sharing your insight and your tips and I hope you have continued success with 100FITDays!