Barbara Collins

“As a mother of four children, the ability to work flexibly has always been important, but this became critical when my youngest child left nursery and all my children were at school. I was fortunate enough to have a really enlightened manager – who was willing to think and act flexibly – and he agreed to a personalised flexible full-time working pattern, which enabled me to start work early in the morning (7:00) and leave in the afternoon to collect the children from school. We also agreed a back-up plan when occasional urgent afternoon work emerged, but the ability to pick issues up later in the evening largely solved any problems. This early-early arrangement worked for the family because my husband (who works for the Ministry of Justice) was able to negotiate a complementary late-late pattern and look after the children in the mornings.

We all benefitted: my husband felt fully engaged with caring for the children; I have been able to support my children with their studies and after-school activities; and, the children (now in their twenties) never considered us to be working parents. This pattern wouldn’t work for everyone and is ideally suited to couples. The early mornings are sometimes tough and the days are busy and long. Nevertheless, it has been rewarding to share the care and has enabled us both to progress in our careers.”