“This is probably not a popular answer but I really enjoy going out to work. I don’t think I’d like to be a stay at home mother.”
Ruth Chambers is a sports journalist and editorial designer, living in Kildare with husband Mike, and their two small children. She also writes a weekly “mammy column” for the Leinster Leader and for the blog she co-authors, www.itsjustaphase.ie
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?
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 Deputy Sports Editor of the Leinster Leader, Kildare’s best selling local paper, while I also do editorial design work for company that owns the paper called Iconic News.
I am almost eight years working for the Leinster Leader, having moved to Kildare from another newspaper in Offaly. In short my role entails watching sport, reporting on all things from Gaelic football, hurling, boxing and horse racing. I also help with design work and page make up for the weekly sports section.
However, I am currently working more on the design element as the company prepares for a move to a new editorial/content management system.
What kind of hours do you work?
I start early on a Monday as it’s the paper’s deadline day, so it’s 8am to approximately 5pm, while the other days I work 9am to 5pm. I normally work four days mid-week as sport requires me to be out and about covering games at the weekend, while I also work some evenings.
Do you have the flexibility to work from home?
Yes, luckily. I have virtual private network (VPN) connection, which is essential when I’m out and about working at the weekend. I also work from home at the weekends, writing reports from games I would have attended earlier in the day.
So you have to travel for work?
Yes I travel most weekends. A lot of my work would be Kildare based, with a few trips to Croke Park thrown in. Early in the year I would be on the road more covering the Allianz National Football and Hurling Leagues.
What kind of childcare do you use?
I use a childminder who works from her own home and I can’t speak highly enough of her. We’d be lost without her, as we don’t have any family living close by.
Do you have any regular “me-time” or do you have something that you for yourself, apart from being a mother and an employee?
I try to always reserve Wednesday nights for myself and I love to blog and write my weekly mammy column that night.
On a practical level, what do you find most difficult about balancing work and home?
I find the weekend work really tough. If I’m honest sometimes it’s lovely to leave the madness of the kids and pop out and watch a few games but taking that chunk out of the day seems to have me chasing my tail for the rest of the day. Going out and covering the game is just one element. I then have to come home and write it all up and sometimes transcribe interviews. All the while there’s still batch cooking to be done, washing, lunches, cleaning. It seems never-ending sometimes!
To many looking from the outside in, it’s a dream job. I get paid to watch something I love and in some ways it’s great but it’s definitely harder since the kids came along.
It doesn’t just impact me – because I’m working, my husband can’t make weekend plans because he needs to be at home with Aidan and Sarah. Also it’s very difficult to make weekend plans away from home, like visiting my husband’s family in Galway or even my own in Co. Meath.
And psychologically, do you find it challenging or stressful to work outside the home – do you suffer from working-mother guilt?
This is probably not a popular answer but I really enjoy going out to work. I don’t think I’d like to be a stay at home mother. It’s not for me personally. Now don’t get me wrong, I feel awful leaving them sometimes and I miss them terribly but as I alluded to before, I have an amazing childminder who adores my children and they her, so that makes it that bit easier. Working full-time makes me cherish the time I do have with Aidan and Sarah and we always do fun family stuff when we’re all off together.
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’m not convinced there is. I have a friend who gave up working so she could stay at home until her children went to school. She’s highly qualified in her field but the big gap in her CV has made it hard for her to return to the workforce.
My husband is currently re-training, having been badly affected by the economic downturn, so reducing my hours is not an option at the moment anyway.
If you could do any job, what would it be?
I just love writing and I count myself lucky to work in the industry. I would absolutely love to turn my ‘mammy’ writing/blogging in to a full-time and feasible career.
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 if a working mother is driven enough and puts in the hard slog then they will get what they deserve in the workplace. However, for a lot of women, their priorities change after having children.
Do you have three top tips that you could give any mother returning to work, to make her life easier?
Be organised. Before I had children, my evenings used to be spent in the gym and on the sofa watching TV. Now I rarely sit down mid-week. My evenings these days include making lunches, emptying lunch bags, sterilising and pre-making bottles. I go so far as leaving out the kid’s clothes for the next day and my own and I even leave all our breakfasts out and ready to go for the morning.
Batch cook. I pick up the kids at 5.30pm and they go to bed at 7pm so there’s no way I’d find time to cook a proper meal for them when I get home. Instead I batch cook healthy dinners and take them out the night before to defrost. It’s a lifesaver.
Put on a load of washing every night. I have to do this because otherwise it would be piled high and I’d be snowed under with laundry at the weekend. What with exploding nappies, evening baths and messy eaters I always seem to have a load at the ready.
Thanks Ruth! It’s great to hear from someone who is working long hours and managing to hold it all together – a good reminder that it’s doable, albeit challenging! And it’s really interesting to read about your job – going to matches at the weekend is quite different to what most of us do. I suspect when your children are older, they will think mammy is very cool.
And I think, like you, lots and lots of women enjoy working, and wouldn’t necessarily give up work even if it was financially possible to stay at home. What I find, via this interview series and chatting to people on- and off-line, is that most women want to work, but most don’t want to work fulltime. We’re all looking for that elusive balance. I sympathise with your friend who is trying to get back in – I think it’s something a lot of women fear, and it influences decisions about taking time out when kids are small.
Thank you for sharing your story and best of luck with the blog!