Why flexible working is suddenly so political
The most common reason that women come to me for coaching is because they feel that they can no longer work the hours they used to pre children. My clients are predominantly professional women who have built up successful careers in the city, in professional services, in the public sector or the creative industries. They are usually people who were in senior positions pre-child and their job was a huge part of their identity.
The average age that women are having children is rising and this is even more noticeable in London and other big cities which means that you are even more likely to be higher up the career ladder when that baby is born. Being higher up the ladder often means it is harder to go back, especially on a part time basis, as the expectations of you are higher (and the expectations you place on yourself)
After having children the balance between work and life gets more important as you have another person to think about. Many mums can't physically put in the same amount of hours at work and balance it with looking after their children. The majority of nurseries close at 6, 6.30pm at a push which realistically means that mums have to be out of the door by 5.30pm at the latest if they are going to do pick ups.
The fact that part time work is harder to find and at a senior level in many fields near on impossible leaves women with the inevitable choice. Work part time and be passed over for promotion or do something else. It is no wonder that more and more women are deciding that if they want truly flexible working the best choice is to start up on their own.
It is becoming increasingly normalised for women with children to start up their own businesses on maternity leave or soon after. These are professional, educated women who want to have a career but also want to be around for their children and this is now becoming the sensible choice. Who, realistically, wants to commute to a job where you are often doing the same role that you were years before as it is "flexible" and have to rush home relying on the not-so reliable public transport (or road) network?
The stereotypical mum business has often been viewed as a "hobby" and many mums have said that they struggled to have their ideas taken seriously by their partners and others in the beginning. It can be confusing for others as well as faced with a choice about what they really want to do people make dramatic u-turns - I have worked with high fly bankers who have become photographers, head teachers who have designed children's clothes and a lawyer who set up her own online clothes shop.
Equally many mums extend their existing skills into their new business, I work with lots of web designers, accountants, graphic designers, social media experts and consultants who saw the natural step as working on their own.
The women that I work with (and my friends) are unique and they set up the business that work for them. Some of them might require re-training and some use their existing skills. These aren't little hobbies they do when the kids are at school, these are genuine businesses with intelligent, capable, highly skilled women at the helm leading them to success.
In a way it is no great tragedy for our economy that all of these mums are setting up on their own and having success doing it. However, for every mum who has made a success of it there is another mum who is not confident enough to go it alone or thinks she doesn't have the skills. The world of entrepreneurship can be lonely and it can be daunting to do everything on your own.
When I work with clients who are starting up on their own we spend time thinking about exactly what it will look like for them. If you enjoy the team aspect it is worth investing in a desk in a co-working space so you don't go completely stir crazy, if you need help with accountability coaching is ideal and if you can't do it all (which very few of us can) look at outsourcing some functions for example your web design or your accounting.
In an increasingly connected world you can set up an online business with relative ease and serve customers all across the road. You can choose when you want to work and who you want to work with, You can create the life that you want for you and your family.
But, it isn't easy. It is hard to work for yourself after years working for someone else. It can be hard to pick yourself up when things don't go to plan. It can be really difficult to bounce ideas off someone when it is only you and a laptop (and maybe a coffee). It can be even harder to switch off and value that time with your family as you might be worrying where the next pay check is coming from and are feeling insecure without your regular income.
I will tell you a secret, it is all worth it. It is worth the tears, the mistakes, the loneliness. To have something that is 100% yours that you can build and create for your children is the best feeling in the world. The reason I know this, I have done exactly that.
Whilst I was working full time, pregnant and had an energetic toddler I set up my own business. The idea had been in my head for a long time which meant that I had the qualifications and experience when I started up. I initially started up on my own and did everything myself - web design, admin, finance (eek). After a few months and the safe arrival of my second daughter I realised that I should take my own advice so a lot of my business functions I now outsource to other mums with expertise in those areas.
I focus on what I am good at coaching clients (which I love), creating online courses and talking at events. I have big dreams and I want to help as many other mums create their ideal business and be successful and happy.
If flexible working truly existed in my industry and I did have the option of working from home, having shorter days and working less hours I would have thought harder about starting up a brand new business with two kids.
We are the generation that grew up with equal access to universities, (supposedly) equal pay and more equality of opportunities in terms of careers than any women before us. This is why when we become mums we find the lack of opportunities in our more traditional careers jarring. We aren't going to be silenced and we aren't going to sit back and see how things change. Things need to change for every woman and every mum. We need to have genuinely flexible roles so women have more choice when they go back to work.
At the moment these flexible roles don't exist in many industries so we create our own opportunities. We are building a better future for our kids and a better economy for the country. I am passionate about helping mums build these businesses and work with mums through one-to-one coaching and my online courses to give you the confidence and skills to set up your business.
I have set up a growing Facebook community called career change mums where I provide free training and masterclasses focusing on confidence, career change and starting up your own business. If you join you also get discounts off my coaching packages and my online courses. Join here; www.facebook.com/groups/careerchangemums
If you want to learn more about coaching with me and how I can help you get your business up and running book your free discovery call today at bit.ly/freediscoRK