In a two parent working household, does one career always have to come second?

Sun 22 Oct 17 | Lifestylish | 10 comments

11am. Your phone starts buzzing on your desk. The caller ID?


Every working parent’s heart sinks. Commitments later that day are already downloading in your mind when you answer the call to the inevitable:

“Her temperature’s 39C, we’ve given her Calpol but you need to come and pick her up.”

You’re both in the office and the awkward WhatsApp ‘whose day is busiest’ debate commences. Whose meetings are more important? Whose commute is quickest? Whose boss is the most understanding? How ill is she really and how long can you push it before leaving..? (terrible parent thought, but we’ve all been there)

I recently set up my own business, in some ways to allow for dealing with this exact kind of situation. After months of terrifying and exhilarating moments, as parents of very little people my business partner and I both decided that #ThisMumCan and launched Talented People, our rather special recruitment company for TV production. For me it means an exciting new career direction, no London commute, flexible working when possible but also an ambitious project with endless opportunity.

But for all those moments I’ve already been more present for – like Harvest Festivals, nursery pickups and school phonics masterclasses (don’t say I don’t know how to live!), I’m now the one with the more vulnerable position in our two parent working household and the pressure to make my career choice work. Financially as well as for myself – as with any startup, you work your backside off with not a lot to show for it for a long while.

So I may be around the house more, but does that make my job the one that has to give when nursery call up with a sick toddler?

I’m very thankful that my other half and I are a brilliant team and split all house and child admin 50/50. He also works locally, so in an emergency he’s generally be able to pick up from nursery or school too. But to be fair, he’s the breadwinner right now, so his job is the most important in terms of security. He couldn’t risk too many child sickies, cancelled meetings or networking events in case of jeopardising his work and our mortgage payments…

But when I’m also at a crucial point in my own career, albeit a slightly more flexible one these days (flexible in that, it’s possible for me to work til the early hours if I’ve had a sick baby on my chest all afternoon), shouldn’t mine come first right now?

It’s a tricky one though isn’t it? I know it’s mainly Mums whose careers are compromised – because we’re the ones who grow them, push them out and often have the time off work to bring up baby for a bit. And getting back to work brings a whole new wave of difficult questions – can we do the same job now with childcare hours to consider? Do we want to? Perhaps it’s just more natural for us to alter our own work set up seeing as us Mums have already had time away from the office, whereas for the Dads, nothing has actually changed at work – whether that’s right or not?

For me, the answer is that both careers should of course be equal at all times. And in an ideal world they would be. But with little people in the equation, adding the other pretty big job called parenthood into the mix, perhaps one career always has to take a backseat for those 39C moments.

Or does it?

Feat image credit: Shutterstock / NotarYES


  1. Nicole

    It can be a very tough situation but a supportive partner makes all the difference. I am able to be more flexible in my job for sickness etc but my husband is always available if I have something on which can’t be moved or missed. Being a working parent is who I want to be and I could not imagine it any other way.

    • Kimberly

      Thanks so much for your comment Nicole. I feel very much the same – and I love talking to my 4yo about my work. And then playing cars with him ☺️

  2. A

    I am that terrible parent who sounds like the least caring mother in the world when nursery calls, dreading to be asked to pick up the LO. I have fewer meetings than my husband, so my days are technically more flexible, but I’m also the breadwinner and I work to tight deadlines so it is a nightmare. My work are mercifully very understanding and my husband is wonderful, but inevitably it is me that goes home more often. And then the blasted can’t return for 48 hours once sent home rule (completely understand for health reasons, infuriating from a work point of view with no nearby family around the help). Oh the joys of parenthood!! Great post!

    • Kimberly

      That policy!! That and 3 ‘dodgy’ nappies and out 😫😫😫 I’m sure my opinion of a dodgy nappy is different 😂. But yes very understanding in terms of other children’s health at the nursery and all that…!! Thanks for reading x

  3. Plutonium Sox Blog (@PlutoniumSox)

    Oh I know this feeling. It’s really tough. I know that my husband is currently earning more than me and has a more stable (and let’s face it more responsible) job than me. But oh my goodness it makes me cross sometimes. I often feel like he’s annoyed at me for working, and I’m working with two children jumping on me because he’s sent them upstairs to ask if they can have some fruit because he was incapable of making that decision on his own when I was in the house. No. I. Am. Not. Bitter.

    • Kimberly

      Ha! Well fruit eating is an important crowd sourcing topic dontcha know… it does make me cross too – working hard, also doing pick ups and swimming and tea cooking and entertaining those hours you have no
      Childcare, even though a client is ringing or you have a new business lead email! Arghhhh x

  4. Orla

    Thanks for posting this. It rang so many bells with me at the moment. Not sure what the answer is either. Life feels a bit like an experiment at the moment.

    • Kimberly

      Well you’re certainly not alone. Experimenting isn’t a bad thing, as long as you’re honest along the way and happy in the end… goof luck Orla x

  5. Emily

    Saw your post on sw18. Well we mostly due to two factors. My husband has a great career and is now in a position to say when he will work from home if necessary rather than ask. And secondly I had to give my career up as half way through maternity leave my employers gave me no chouce to work part time despite me trying to find solutions. So I now have a low stress job doing admin 3 days a week and therefore have a lot less responsibility. I’m very lucky that my current employers advertised on 2-3 days so knew they would be getting a parents with other priorities and they are very flexible. So far sometimes James has worked from home or picked up our son, sometimes I have. But to answer your direct question yes one career is second in my mind because I gave mine up. It is however what is driving me to start my own business. If I had returned to my old job I would have been working 9-6 five days a week and cleared just over £10 a week after travel and nursery fees, so I had no choice. I don’t want to go through that again with number 2!

    • Kimberly

      It makes a lot of sense if you’re willing to make that sacrifice. Good luck starting on your business – it’s terrifying but exciting at the same time! Thanks for reading 🙂


Leave a Reply

Who is Media Mummy?

I’m Kimberly, a London/Surrey based juggler of many balls including a TV career, motherhood & this blog malarky. Quite a lot of people follow me apparently, although about 65 million others in the UK don’t. But hey – sometimes the cool crowd is small…


Don't miss a post - subscribe here and each month one lucky person will WIN something I've blagged. Normally, baby stuff/coffee/gin.

Be Social

%d bloggers like this: