SARA ELLISON WORKING MOTHER INTERVIEW
SARA ELLISON WORKING MOTHER INTERVIEW
Originally from Rochdale in Lancashire I moved to Sheffield for University and I am yet to leave! I met my husband Chris here in Sheffield and we have one child, our son George who is 5. We’re both working parents with no immediate family close by as our parents live in Nottingham and Manchester and for the majority of the time we have to rely on external wrap around care outside of school hours ( although grandparents are a big help during school holidays).
I currently work for Banner Jones Solicitors as a Chartered Legal Executive providing HR and Employment Law advice. When working with employers who I act for in all sectors, I offer a wide range of support whether it be ensuring they are compliant by having the correct contracts, policies and procedures in place, dealing with internal issues such as grievance and disciplinary or full Tribunal representation. I also represent individuals which can involve anything from negotiating an exit package for a Senior Executive Director to supporting a working parent experiencing difficulties returning to work after maternity or parental leave.
The best part of doing what I do is you never have two days the same and it can be hugely rewarding helping resolve disputes that can consume those involved.
What were or are the biggest challenges you faced going back in to the work place after children?
Finding the right work/ life balance.
I think until you have children you completely underestimate what having a good work/life balance is. Initially I returned to work 3 days per week because we do not have family members who are close by (and not working) to help with childcare. Leaving George for more than 3 days in childcare when he wasn’t yet 1, for me felt too long ( I’m not criticising anybody who does this was simply my own personal feeling at the time). Whilst I initially thought 3 days would be a good balance I found it really difficult. I didn’t feel like I was giving enough time to work or to George and started to question how I was contributing to two key elements in my life! I felt guilty which is ridiculous. There had been some changes at work when I returned including an office move and new faces and I felt completely out of the loop. To add to this we had some childcare issues shortly after I returned to work and I moved George to nursery which was very close to work and suited him a lot better. Shortly following this I was then promoted to the Head of Department which involved me increasing my hours to
4 days a week. Despite this going against my initial thoughts and feelings around leaving George this worked much better and I felt more useful at work and less distracted by work when I was at home.
How do you achieve your work life balance of career and family life?
It involves a little bit of planning and learning to turn off from work when at home. Checking my e-mails on my phone in the evening has caused no end of arguments in my house! I am lucky enough to do the school run every morning giving me a couple of hours each day before work to spend with just George. I have now got in to the habit of being more prepared with our evening meals to ensure that we all sit down together for dinner even on the evenings we have swimming lessons, football or I want to squeeze a Trib3 session in. This means that once George has gone to bed my husband and I can actually chill out together rather than rushing around to sort out our own dinner. For me, it’s invaluable that as a family and as a couple you have that down time together rather than feeling like passing ships in the night.
If you could give your past self-one piece of advice about being a working mother what would it be?
Stop beating yourself up and make time for yourself! I am my own worst enemy for trying to do everything( work, looking after George, cleaning the house, gym, the list is endless) and putting too much pressure on myself. This usually manifests itself in my other half then getting an earful as well. The reality is that no one actually cares or notices if your house is not immaculate and giving yourself an hour out to exercise and regain your own insanity is not child neglect.
Have your career goals and aspirations altered since becoming a working mother from that prior to your children?
It’s not that they have changed but circumstance meant that I was given an earlier opportunity to take on management responsibilities. I have recently moved firms to Banner Jones where my focus is on growing the HR and Employment work in our Sheffield office. This is a great opportunity and new challenge which I am really enjoying getting stuck in to.
What are your future goals in your career path in the next few years, what do you hope to achieve?
As above. My plans for the immediate future is to proactively grow the HR and Employment Law services we offer in Sheffield whilst retaining the quality of the support and advice we deliver. As the work grows hopefully the team will as well.
If you had the power to change one thing in the business market for working parents, what would you change?
The perception about part time working. I do think that a lot of businesses are now seeing the benefits of offering more flexible ways of working but some people still view part time working parents as being less committed to their work as full time employees. In my experience those working parents that are offered more flexible ways of working truly value this and feel more committed and dedicated and in return want to give more back.
What is the best piece of business advice you have been given?
If I am being honest I cannot think of one stand out piece of advice especially when there is a lot of useful and motivational advice out there. For me I think it is important in business and in life to be yourself, if you’re not people will soon see straight through you.
If you could recommend one book to our readers leisure or business what would it be?
Enough? How much money do you need for the rest of your life? By Paul D Armson. Really good for making you think about what you are working towards.
Question from previous interviewee. From Hayley Koseoglu, Director of Crystal Clean Service Ltd – What does success mean to you?
Having the right balance. This probably sounds a little vague but it’s about getting a good mix of everything you are involved in and enjoying the time you spend doing it.
What question would you wish to ask our next working mother who takes this short interview?
If there was one major change you could make in your life ( business or personal), what would it be?
Read Hayley’s interview from Crystal Clean by clicking here