A Working Mums Interview With Mandy Garner

Mandy Garner is a mother of four and is also editor of Workingmums.co.uk ,  a website that has both guided and influenced me throughout my own career. Having been interviewed for Workingmums.co.uk recently, I really wanted to find out a little bit more about Mandy and her own life as a working parent.

She started her career in journalism working for the writer’s organisation, International PEN, researching attacks on freedom of expression around the world. Mandy has since worked for a number of different media, including the BBC and the Times Higher Education Supplement. Here’s what she had to say on working from home, pursuing a career and juggling four kids.

 

As editor of Working Mums, what is the best thing about your job?

There are so many things. One of my interests when I started the job was finding out what choices other women had made after having children and what motivated those choices. I was fascinated by all the possible alternative ways of doing this working parent thing. I’ve been able to talk to such a huge number now – and to dads too. I also get to interview academics and policymakers and to find out from progressive employers what they are doing to get the most out of their employees. I love writing about policy developments and new research, given that is my news background and given it’s a very lively area to cover these days, and I like being able to put people in touch with experts who can give them sound advice about their rights or suggestions for where they can go next jobs wise. All in all, the job is very varied and I can’t think of many aspects I don’t enjoy.

What does a typical working day look like?

There isn’t really a typical day, but most days are fairly full on. I start early, checking emails soon after I get up and also making sure I’ve covered the main news of the day relating to working parents while simultaneously making the packed lunches and breakfast. I then do the school run and then I have six concentrated hours of getting my head down and getting as much done as possible. I may have interviews lined up or conference calls and then there is a lot of writing up, whether news, features or reports. I also do the PR for Workingmums so I might have to do an interview or find case studies. I then break for the school run. I have to pick up from primary school then go to the secondary school which is 20 minutes away so I treat the school run like my lunch hour. It’s great to have a break and it’s a good time to chat to the kids because they are trapped with me in the car and have to talk! They’re also much more lively in the afternoon so I get to hear about all the latest failings of every single teacher. Then I check emails again and catch up on anything urgent before making dinner.  My partner gets home at around 6pm and I go back to work while the kids are doing their homework, unless they need me to talk about algebra or why time is a theoretical construct [my eldest daughter is always trying to justify her tendency to lateness]. Then I get stuff ready for the next day, eg, school admin and do bedtime stories with my youngest and we chat about sums and the Great Fire of London which he thinks is still raging. I then talk to my partner [briefly!] before checking emails again because a lot come in at night, particularly emails to our experts.

What is your biggest challenge as a working mother yourself?

There are a lot of challenges, but the main one has to be logistics. I spend a lot of time on logistics, back-up planning, crisis management, whatever you want to call it, whether it is sickness, inset days, meetings scheduled for odd times when no-one can pick up the kids, etc, etc. With four children, there always seems to be a parents evening or an inset day in the offing.

What or who is the driving force behind your career?

That’s a difficult one. I haven’t had a very linear career. I started in human rights, then went back to do local journalism, then hopped around a bit in health, social affairs and education, did some book editing, worked as a press officer, organised debates. I’ve always gone with what I thought was interesting at the time. I guess the main thing is that I am interested in understanding how things and how people work and making connections between different ideas. In terms of Workingmums,  I am more driven by my own personal experience of lack of support and seeing what happened to women around me after they had children. I’ve channelled my anger into trying to do something about it.

Have you always known that you wanted to work in journalism? Is a career plan important?

I was always interested in writing, but also in acting. I did an acting course before I trained as a journalist. I think the same things apply to both careers – an interest in people. When I trained as a journalist some people had a five-year plan. I have never had a five-year plan. That is probably where I went wrong! I just went with what I was interested in and was lucky enough to be able to do that. I think it is very much down to the individual. I am not a career plan sort of person, but I do put 100% into what I do.

What is your opinion on ‘having it all’ as a working mother? Possible or not? What does it mean to you personally?

I’m not really sure what it means. I don’t think any of this stuff is easy. You have to make compromises all the time. For instance, today, three of my kids had inset day yet it is one of my busiest days work wise. One wanted to be dropped off in a town half an hour away; another was in the other direction wanting to be picked up from the tube while my son was very annoyed at being the only one having to go to school which he considered very, very unfair. I had quite a bit of driving around to do so I have to make up the time later by working till very late. Is that having it all? At the end of the day, though, I enjoy my work and I enjoy being around for the kids so it works.

What would you like your daughters to know about being a working woman when they grow up? What is the one thing you hope to pass  on to them?

I want them to understand that work is a two-way street. If they give their best they should expect that their employer has their back. And if they don’t feel that, they should not be afraid to walk away.

What I would like to pass on to them in the current times we are living in is hope for the future.

 

I’d like to say a very big thank you to Mandy Garner for taking part in this interview and if you haven’t already, I’d suggest you check out Workingmums.co.uk as it’s a really useful resource for working parents.

 

 

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55 Comments

  1. January 31, 2017 / 9:14 pm

    Great to hear the personal experiences of a fellow working mum. Mandy sounds like she has (most) things under control. I’m still working on juggling full time work, a home and toddler but I’m getting there. I don’t regret my decision to go back to full time work – I just need more hours in the day!
    Kat recently posted…Baby number two?My Profile

  2. Julia
    February 1, 2017 / 6:57 am

    What a very interesting interview. “Hope for the future” vital, isn’t it, in these uncertain political times.
    ” Not being afraid to walk away” if an employer doesn’t have one’s back takes courage & optimism, both vital attribtes we wish for our children.

  3. February 11, 2017 / 8:11 am

    She sounds like she has everything under control! My employer wouldn’t let me do flexible hours but it’s interesting to hear how working mums juggle everything. #fortheloveofblog

  4. February 11, 2017 / 8:19 am

    Wow sounds like superwoman!! I can barely get the children to school on time and I’m a SAHM!!

    #fortheloveofBLOG
    kerry recently posted…Your son is obese!My Profile

  5. February 11, 2017 / 8:42 am

    Organisation is not my strong point, I’m a working mum and I’m completely in awe reading this post! #parentinggoals

    #fortheloveofBLOG

  6. February 11, 2017 / 9:00 am

    Good interview. My wife is a strong working woman/mum and is setting an example to not only our daughter but our son too. Very proud of her #fortheloveofblog

  7. February 11, 2017 / 9:04 am

    Great interview – the juggle can really be a struggle. I’ve been luck and have been supported in the workplace but still have to make tough personal decisions about what is best. #fortheloveofBLOG

  8. February 11, 2017 / 9:35 am

    Really interesting interview. I love reading about how other people make working and families work. #fortheloveofBLOG

  9. February 11, 2017 / 9:37 am

    Wow she works long days! I’d never heard of the website, think I’ll go have a look at it! #fortheloveofblog
    blake recently posted…The incompetent housewifeMy Profile

  10. February 11, 2017 / 9:49 am

    Good interview, and really important and interesting work too! I hope she keeps up the good work and helps make the workplace better for women (and dads too!) #fortheloveofBLOG

  11. February 11, 2017 / 10:45 am

    brilliant interview and example of how we can make it work being a working mum and still be there for the kids x

  12. February 11, 2017 / 11:19 am

    this is a fab interview Fi and inspiring to read 🙂 I find it hard to manage crisis-management and meetings with just one so hats of to Mandy with 4! I’m def not looking forward to school hours and inset days come Sept ! #FTLOB

  13. February 11, 2017 / 12:43 pm

    I think compromise is key – we’e all trying to be superwoman and it’s not easy! #ForTheLoveOfBLOG

  14. February 11, 2017 / 3:11 pm

    I love reading stories about other working mums who have managed to build a successful career while still maintaining their family life. It’s great that there are support services out there like Working Mums, because I know so many mothers who have struggled from lack of support when returning to work. I still don’t feel like I’ve managed to find the right balance for me yet, but I’m working on it. #fortheloveofBLOG
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  15. February 11, 2017 / 5:51 pm

    A very interesting read. Especially as I’ve been using Mandy’s site for a long time now. Very interesting. #fortheloveofBLOG
    Briony recently posted…Feeling Calm #49My Profile

  16. February 11, 2017 / 8:05 pm

    Great interview #fortheloveofblog

  17. February 11, 2017 / 8:05 pm

    Great interview #fortheloveofblog

  18. February 11, 2017 / 8:27 pm

    This is a great interview. It is great to see people motivated about what they do. I find things hard with two kids, let alone four lol.
    #fortheloveofBLOG
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  19. February 11, 2017 / 9:17 pm

    I both admire and envy working mums. I miss my part time hours and the vague sanity it offered but I know I couldn’t do full time whilst the girls are little, nor would I want to really. How women work these hours I just don’t know. I certainly don’t think you have it all just as I don’t think stay at home mums or work at home mums have it all. Everything comes with a compromise and a sacrifice. A great read, love seeing ‘the other side of the fence’.
    #fortheloveofBLOG
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  20. February 11, 2017 / 10:20 pm

    An interesting read. I don’t know what the answer is when it comes to working and parenthood. I think there must be a way to be able to earn a decent wage and have time at home and with your family but I’m yet to find it. The pressure on our generation to work, be a mum and also do the lion’s share of the homemaking (in most instances) is just ridiculous! #fortheloveofblog
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  21. February 11, 2017 / 10:53 pm

    I am looking forward to returning to work in some ways but in others I am apprehensive. For me it is important to show my children that I won’t forgo a career I trained for 3 years for, and for me to earn my own money and not be solely reliant on my husband. I would love to be able to stay at home and earn money but it will never happen!#fortheloveofBLOG
    Louise – Mummy Miller recently posted…Getting ready to return to work after maternity leaveMy Profile

  22. February 12, 2017 / 6:36 am

    This is an interesting interview. I hadn’t heard if workingmums.co.uk and will certainly check it out. Her day really des sound full on! This gives me hope I might get my career back when my daughter is older and starts going to school. #fortbeloveofBLOG

  23. February 12, 2017 / 8:06 am

    This was a really interesting read and I have big respect for Mandy she is an inspiration! Four children Alonr is tough but a successful career too , hats off. #forthoveofblog
    Tammymum recently posted…I am Always On Your Case.My Profile

  24. February 12, 2017 / 9:40 am

    I’m amazed by women like this. How do they get so much done in a day? It’s incredible. I find it so inspiring and motivating. Her day has only 24 hours just like mine. I should be just as productive. #fortheloveofBLOG

  25. February 12, 2017 / 11:46 am

    Absolutely love Mandy’s comment of six concentrated hours of head down – this is what I really need to do and after half term I am going to make this my goal! Woohoo watch out world!! Great interview #fortheloveofBLOG
    justsayingmum.com recently posted…You Were Once a Baby in My ArmsMy Profile

  26. February 12, 2017 / 12:23 pm

    It’s great to gain inspiration from such passionate, hardworking women and mothers. Fab interview x

    #fortheloveofBLOG
    The Tale of Mummyhood recently posted…Blogstravaganza #6My Profile

  27. February 12, 2017 / 1:34 pm

    Very interesting. Sounds like Mandy has found her niche. Sounds a bit too full on for me!! Mind you the first year of blogging has been as mad as that but I’m hoping it will settle!! #fortheloveofblog

  28. February 12, 2017 / 2:52 pm

    Really interesting read and a really honest perspective on ‘having it all’. I personally really dislike that term because it means different things to different people. Plus there are only 24 hours in day and 168 hours in a week – there is a hard limit on how much anyone can do without sacrificing something else. I think the comments in this interview about compromise are one of the most important messages – compromise is something that mums really have to accept and embrace! #fortheloveofBLOG

  29. February 12, 2017 / 3:58 pm

    My mind is completely blown when I read stuff like this. I can’t even begin to imagine being a successful working mum. Sometimes I can barely be a successful sahm. I’d be forever dropping balls. I admire those who can and do #fortheloveofblog
    Anna recently posted…The Bedtime TagMy Profile

  30. February 12, 2017 / 4:03 pm

    Amazing interview. Loved reading this as a HR bod as its great to see people not have linear careers. Working Mums is a great source of support. Whether we’re in employed or self-employed careers we need all of the support we can get. It’s great lots of that is online too! Thanks Fi and Mandy #fortheloveofBLOG
    Sunita recently posted…How I feel about not having any more children?My Profile

  31. February 12, 2017 / 7:53 pm

    Great interview – I always find it interesting to read how other working mums cope with it all! #fortheloveofBLOG

  32. February 12, 2017 / 8:01 pm

    Such an interesting interview, Mandy’s job sounds fascinating and very full on! Great to read posts like this as I’ll be a working mum soon #fortheloveofblog

  33. February 12, 2017 / 10:23 pm

    Wow! Inspirational lady! I think logistics must be the hardest part of any working parent’s job, and I only have one child!! How she does it with four…well, I’m im awe!! #fortheloveofBLOG

  34. February 12, 2017 / 10:38 pm

    Really enjoyed reading this! She sounds very impressive! Good on her for working hard and doing so well, and for looking after four kids!! #fortheloveofBLOG
    Emma recently posted…#WeekLOT3My Profile

  35. February 12, 2017 / 11:39 pm

    I love the honesty in this – the whole ‘having it all’ thing really bugs me, because exactly as Mandy says, being a full time working parent means a lot of hard work, and as with any work (whether you’re a parent or not) you get out what you put in. If I can teach my kids one thing it would be that – you get out what you put in. if you want things in life, you have to work for them, there’s no ‘get rich quick’ or ‘be successful overnight’ schemes that will beat good old fashioned hard work. Great interview #fortheloveofBLOG

  36. February 13, 2017 / 8:02 am

    i love reading behind the scenes with fellow bloggers and working mums. It gives me motivation and inspiration to know I can do both and successfully – it is all about persistance and determinatiion! #fortheloveofBLOG

  37. February 13, 2017 / 6:16 pm

    It’s fantastic that she’s channelled her feelings into making a difference. Good for her. #fortheloveofblog

  38. February 13, 2017 / 9:41 pm

    I’m very similar to Mandy in the wanting to know how everything works aspect. I’m really struggling to fingers out what I want to learn in college and uni because I just want to know so many things and do so many things! Great interview 🙂 #fortheloveofblog
    Amie recently posted…My MumspoMy Profile

  39. February 14, 2017 / 7:19 pm

    Such an inspiring interview..I am in awe of all working parents. I just can’t not imagine how I could do it. If I ever do become a working mums though I will be sure to check out the working mums website. Xx #fortheloveofblog
    Wendy recently posted…SafeBreathe cot wrap and baby soft toy reviewMy Profile

  40. February 17, 2017 / 4:48 am

    Not being afraid to walk away from a job that doesn’t suit you or your family is the best advice I wish I had received. #fortheloveofblog

  41. February 17, 2017 / 4:48 am

    Not being afraid to walk away from a job that doesn’t suit you or your family is the best advice I wish I had received. #fortheloveofblog

  42. February 17, 2017 / 5:48 pm

    Realy interesting to hear about her career. I’d love to work again when my daughter is older and hope I can turn my broadcast journalism into written work. I’ve never been on the website so will check it out. Xx #FortheloveofBLOG

  43. April 24, 2017 / 6:45 pm

    Thanks for all the really positive comments. I mentioned some to my eldest daughter, particularly the ones about my organisational skills, and she just cast a raised eyebrow towards my desk! I just wanted to say that it took a while to get to this point and even at this point, there are some really bad weeks. I just know now that those weeks pass.

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