Trying to have it all: The truth about being a working Mum


Elaine Barclay, HR Director for Europe discusses the challenges of balancing a career and motherhood.

I’m the HR Director for FLEETCOR Europe and I’m about to embark on an increased role scope where I will be responsible for HR operations and digital transformation across Europe. Very exciting indeed! My responsibilities include developing and leading the people agenda whilst considering the wider business impact; partnering with the business to review and identify key HR challenges and opportunities to ensure we attract and retain key talent, as well as bringing the HR agenda into the digital age with various tools.I’m also a mother to my three year old daughter Abigail!

Having a full time career whilst being a Mum can very tough and challenging. Some of these challenges include balancing work priorities when you have pre-school events to go to, looking after Abigail when she’s poorly and travelling across the world with work and hearing your daughter say “Mummy I miss you and want you to come home!”

Juggling work whilst being a parent can have its funny moments, whether it’s celebrating Abigail learning the alphabet or her having a complete meltdown when I’m on a conference call or occasionally chiming in to offer her opinion on the latest Disney princess (thank goodness for the mute button)! The mornings are probably the most challenging when you can guarantee Abigail decides to become a 13 year old when I have an early morning meeting - she’s not a fan of early starts. I check up on her to make sure she’s getting dressed into the clothes I set out the night before and mentally brace myself for the challenge of brushing her hair, which can sometimes take forever to do! Once the hair brushing ordeal is over, I drop her off at nursery and head into work to begin my busy schedule!

Abigail wanting to play with Elaine whilst she works from home!

Abigail wanting to play with Elaine whilst she works from home!

Speaking to other females in leadership roles, it seems that there is a number of women who put pressure on themselves to make sure they are succeeding at work whilst being a great mother - they try and give 100% at the office but at the same time at home, they want to make sure they’re fulfilling their role as a mother as they feel like they’re missing out during the week. It’s not easy to balance but 3-years on, I feel like I’m doing okay and my career has gone from strength to strength. I’m still learning to get a better work life balance and most people would probably say that I spend more time in the office than I do at home but that’s why I really appreciate weekends, as I get to have quality family time. I’m really lucky to have a great support network; I couldn’t do my job and be a good mother and wife without my husband Paul, my parents and pre-school support.

If there are any women out there wondering if it is possible to have a family and build out a successful career, then my answer is it is absolutely possible! If you have the drive, determination, are organised and have a great support network, then anything is possible. One thing to note is that it is also perfectly normal to feel the dreaded ‘parent’ guilt too, especially in the early days. It is extremely important to make sure you spend quality time with the family and to not miss key events in your children’s lives. Having a solid support network and a supportive employer is absolutely key!  

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