I was a keyworker when the pandemic hit and with 2 school age girls at home, I was filled with fear and dread about how I could manage my work and my family. My husband's job is also so busy that I knew he couldn't take the brunt of things at home. I lost 4 of my clients within 2 months at the start and there were so many others I was worried about. I was part of a busy assessment team and the decisions we were being asked to make scared me. My job role also entailed speaking about a lot of difficult situation in relation to domestic abuse, mental health, severe sickness and illness and the things I spoke about in my day job just couldn't be spoke about at home with 2 young impressionable girls in the house at the same time. I had absolutely nothing left to give them and my bosses response was that he wanted me in the office more and out doing visits more, even though we had no PPE and there was no where for my girls to go.
As my husband is in a different sector to me, I saw that he was getting good support from his employers. He got a desk, a computer and told to work flexibly around his family and that this was absolutely ok. I on the other hand was carrying a heavy caseload of responsibility, and could see that there was little end in sight in terms of my work. I loved my job in many ways and was well respected but I absolutely felt I had to make a choice between between my family, and my job.
We are in a fortunate position so I applied for something with a salary basis of over £10,000 less a year. I got the job and it is a breath of fresh air. I feel more protected but I do really miss the responsibility and I guess some of the respect that my old job gave me. However, I can do my job with the girls in the room and feel that it is safe and ok for them to listen. I can give them more attention when they need it and my boss knows my circumstances and knows that I'm keen and that I care. I get thanked for work I do, and I don't feel terrified that I'm going to make a decision which is really life or death for someone else and that is really positive, and I also can give my girls some of my emotional energy, which I never could before.
It is awful though that women have to chose, that we work so hard for something (in my case a senior position and a good reputation) and then we have to lose it all again when push comes to shove and when the children need more for us. I wish it didn't have to be this way and that employers could be flexible and understanding of the needs of their staff. I really hope that women in the work place can stand up for each other and support one another to have a good balance and in recognition of the personal needs of staff. This is so important in order to get the best out of staff, and get staff that are loyal and committed.