Can you be there for your kids and have a successful career?
I have been thinking a lot about flexible working and work / life balance this week as there have been a couple of threads on some of the mum groups on facebook, coupled with a report by PWC. The amount of mothers in work in the UK is 66.6% compared to 83% in Sweden.
I don't believe this is a due to a fundamental difference in the amount of mums that want to work.
We are all trying to navigate our own path where we have time for our kids and have a career. Often the career is the thing that gives, women are so used to prioritising the needs of others (their kids, their partner, their partners career, their parents, their partners parents.....)
When you do go back to work (usually) they have to juggle child care and the transport system as well as their role. Working shorter hours can make women feel that others are judging them. I have heard endless reports of meetings booked which overrun so mums have found themselves sprinting to the nursery, getting late fees and feeling crap.
Some sectors, and larger organisations have listened to mums and really thought about their offer of flexible working, the civil service for example has lots of mums working for them as they have a flexible approach. There are many places that are really trying to make things easier for mums.
However, there are other places that structurally lack the systems to be flexible or that don't understand the value of it. When you compare to Scandinavia it isn't hard to question why this is the case.
he genuine alternative for a lot of mums is starting their own business, however this can be the most overwhelming. The amount of mums who work for themselves is multiplying and organisations such as digital mums are offering training so mums can upskill themselves and work more flexibly.
Owning your own business isn't the easy way forward - if you aren't careful you can find that you work even more than when you were an employee. The key thing is to be realistic and set yourself "working hours".
When you are your own boss you can decide when you work however the onus to bring in money is firmly on your head. You need to work out your financials before you start and break it down - how many products / services do you need to sell weekly / daily to make the money that you need? Often you will take a reduced salary as you don't have travel costs, you can have your coffee and lunch at home.
For me, setting up on my own was a no-brainer, it means that I can have quality time with both of my children whilst doing something that I love and building something for the future. I would lie if I said I have always got the work / life balance thing right and I have felt pretty lousy working whilst my kids are around.
My survival tips for any of you thinking of starting up are:
- Plan your time, sit down and look at how much time you can give to your business every week and stick to it
- Plan me time - you need to work on yourself as well as your business so make sure you plan in me time, this could be working on your mindset, exercise or lunch with friends once a week
- Schedule everything (and I mean everything!) this helps you manage your time when you are time poor
- Have time every day when you switch off and spend that quality time with your children / partner
- Think about what you can outsource (get someone to do for you) whether it be cleaning, social media, making your product
- When things get tough remember why you are doing your business
- Network with other mums in your local area who are business owners, some days you just need to meet someone for a coffee
You can create the work / life balance that you want whether that be through working for an employer or working for yourself. The only person who is holding you back is you.