Hello Melissa, tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do, how old are your children and what happens with your kids when you are at work?
I have worked in the travel industry for almost 20 years, but recently launched my own tour operator Melon Holidays, specialising in single parent family holidays in the UK and overseas. I am based from home which is a huge benefit for us as a family. Elliott is 12 and at high school and Nieve is 8 and goes to special school 20 miles from home. Unless I am travelling with work, I am home to see the kids off each morning. My mother-in-law, who is a Godsend, has them from 4-6pm Monday-Wednesday after school. Thursdays are pretty manic with Nieve at after school club followed by Brownies and Elliott at drama class in between! Fridays my husband finishes work early and is home for the kids after school so I can still work.
1. One word to describe how being a WoMo makes you feel?
2. What’s the funniest experience you have had juggling kids and work?
There have been a few, never funny at the time, but you can laugh afterwards! I have forgotten non-uniform days with both kids. I have forgotten to pick Nieve up from after school club – I was so embarrassed! The most memorable, however, was when Nieve was 4 months old, my employer at the time was adamant that they needed me to return to work early from maternity leave and attend a trade show (they dangled the carrot of more money and a promotion…). I did, but explained I needed flexibility as I was still feeding my daughter. So, my husband took a few days off work and travelled down to London with me and the baby and we stayed in an apartment. I fed her in the morning before heading to the trade show and rushed back as soon as it finished at 5pm – boobs fit to burst! The funny thing was sitting in a curtained cubicle in the first aid room at ExCel twice a day with my breast pump whirring away! I was on first name terms with the first aiders after a couple of days!
3. What is the one piece of advice you could offer another WoMo?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support from your husband, family and friends when you need it. Also, make sure that you give your children responsibilities as they grown – don’t do everything for them. My son made dinner for me and him last night and it was lovely 😊
4. What’s the least amount of sleep you’ve gone to work on and how did you cope?
Even though I love sleep, I seem to have trained myself to cope on fairly little. I tend to work well in the evening and at night rather than in the morning and so it’s not unheard of me to be still working at midnight or 1am. When Nieve was a baby I coped on very little sleep – somehow – for a few months. I would break from work at about 6pm to spend time with the family, put the kids to bed and eat, but I would then get the laptop out again at about 9.30pm and work until Nieve woke for her night feed (which could be 1am). I would then go to bed and be up again to feed her at 5am/6am. Not quite sure how I did cope to be honest!
5. What have you learned about yourself as a WoMo?
I can squeeze an unbelieve number of tasks into a very short space of time and I am a last minute specialist!
6. If you had a working mother’s anthem or mantra, what would it be?
If mum’s happy the family is happy. Look after yourself first, both mentally and physically, and everything else will fall into place.
7. What is your guilty pleasure to combat WoMo guilt the best?
To be honest, I don’t feel guilty for being a working mother, nor for having “me” time. There are times when I have to put in more hours at work, but I try to do this when the kids are in bed so that it does not detract from my time with them. I work so that my children have a balanced home life and know that women and men can both have good jobs and be successful. I also work to give my children opportunities that some children are not lucky enough to have – I love travel and my children have grown to love it too. We also manage to have great adventures.
8. Would you rather be dealing with a tantrum or presenting in a board meeting?
That would depend on my mood! Luckily, my kids were not big on tantrums, they were always quite short-lived stomping episodes rather than full-blown throw yourself on the floor tantrums!
9. If you asked your children what your job is, what would they say?
Elliott: “You are a single-person family travel consultant”
Nieve: “Mummy Melon!”
10. What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before you became a WoMo?
That “work-life balance” does not really exist.
11. To date, what has been your best WoMo achievement?
Launching my own business that provides a solution to a problem felt by single parents who want to travel and enjoy holidays without feeling isolated. Whilst being able to work from home and having the flexibility to be around more for my children.
12. What do you want to teach your kids about working mothers?
I want them to understand that women have a choice to work and have a career as well as raising a family. The key thing for me is to create a supportive, loving family unit so that my children to grow into caring, supportive adults. I think that it will just be natural for my son to meet someone who is career minded and they will work together to raise their children alongside pursuing their work goals. It is important for me to teach my daughter to be assertive and confident in her own decision making and pursue the path of her choosing.