Clare Wood, Marketing Manager | Marvellous Mums

Most recent mum featuring in  our series of ‘Marvellous Mums’ is Clare Wood. She is a British expat living in Dubai, and recently was placed in a part-time role by Mums@Work with an automotive company in Dubai. Clare talks to us about her life, her work and how happy she is with her new part-time role helping her to achieve the perfect work-life balance.

Let’s meet Clare Wood

I am a British Expat who has been living in Dubai for just over 8 years, after re-locating here in November 2008, with my husband and my daughter Olivia, who is now 9 years old.

By profession, I am a Marketing Manager with a UK Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma and over 12 years of marketing experience building brands as diverse as Chivas Regal Scotch Whisky and Sharwood’s Green Label Mango Chutney in markets all around the world.

After Olivia was born, I took 6 months maternity leave and then went back to work full-time in the UK.  But, only a few months later, when she was just 1 year old, my husband took up a new role here in Dubai.

With a young toddler, no job offer, and flexible work options here in Dubai non-existent at that time, I took the decision to set myself up as a freelancer.  It turned out to be a great decision, and I spent 7 years working from home, here in Dubai, mainly for UK clients on a freelance project basis.

Move from freelancer to part-time

Freelancing gave me a certain amount of freedom to work when and how I wanted, but the work can be very episodic and job security is always a challenge.  It was also quite isolating and lonely at times, and I began to crave a more traditional role, working as part of an established team, and having more structure to my work life.

I wanted to re-integrate into the workplace but was worried that I wouldn’t be able to commit to the long hours and time away from my family, which most jobs in Dubai seemed to demand.

That’s when I approached mums@work after reading about them in a magazine. I attended one of their fantastic networking events, which gave me the inspiration and confidence to seek out a part-time role and in November 2016, I was lucky to start a new job, working 20 hours a week for a company in the automotive industry here in Dubai.

Work Life Balance

The best thing about working part-time hours is having the ability to still be the kind of mum I want to be.  I want to be as present in my daughter’s life as much as I can (while she still wants me!), and knowing that I can finish work each day and be there to collect her from school or watch her play sport, is a real blessing.

I don’t have live-in help at home, so I rely greatly on the great support of my husband and friends to carry me through the stressful times.  Most of us don’t have close family here in Dubai, and the reality is that there will always be times (sick kids, work deadlines) when you just can’t be in two places at once and that’s when you need a good back-up network.

Also, as any mum knows, being super organized is essential!  Planning meals for the week ahead and bulk cooking food on the weekends is a must for me – and I have endless to-do lists.

There are still times when you feel like you are falling short as a parent – when you miss an event at school, or you are trying to send work emails when your child wants to play.  But, I believe that the sense of purpose and fulfilment that working gives me (not least knowing that I am contributing to the family finances) makes me a happier person overall.

Benefits and Responsibilities of Part-Time Working

Working part-time makes you very aware of the value of each and every hour you are putting in, and, in my experience, the women I know working part-time are always super-focused and hugely productive.  Working only 20 hours a week, means that I am meticulous in planning my objectives for the week ahead and making sure that I will deliver them in the time I have.

However, I personally believe that to make part-time working a success, there has to be flexibility not only on the part of the employer, but also the employee.

There may be occasional evenings when you need to take work home to meet a deadline, or perhaps there will be days when you need to start earlier or finish later to attend a critical meeting.  I think you have to go into a part-time contract with an open mind and a willingness to be accommodating on your side as well.  This is not the same as being expected to work a full-time role, for part-time pay and contracted hours – which is a path some people get forced down! It’s about respecting both sides of the working relationship and I find that approach works well for me.

I feel very lucky indeed to have found this part-time role in a company which is open-minded and progressive enough to know that part-time employees can bring huge value and benefits to a company.  I love my job but if I had to be at my desk from 8.30am to 6.30pm (or longer!) every day, it would put a huge strain on my family life.

I understand that for some women, there are financial constraints which mean full-time working is the only option and certainly, before I came to Dubai, I was in that position.  But in my case, part-time working has made our family a much happier place to be!