I have read a lot lately about Mums who have founded their own businesses, as found it hard to balance returning to work with being there for their children as much as they wanted to be.
There are some very inspiring stories and it’s encouraging that so many people have taken the leap. However, it should be possible to continue with your current career but unfortunately a lot of employers are still getting to grips with offering flexible or reduced working hours and the changes in technology and mind-set required to support this. Mums who work fewer hours also often face criticism or judgement from colleagues who feel that they are missing out on flexibility as don’t have children themselves.
Often the hours of a role are reduced and it sounds great at the time. Maybe working a shorter week or fewer hours each day so that you can balance being Mum, being there for school drop offs and pick ups, helping with homework, attending school plays or football games, whilst keeping on top of things at work and continuing your career.
Wow that sounds ideal doesn’t it. Perfect!
This is all great until calls are booked in on your “day off” or you’re asked to join a meeting half an hour before you’re due to leave for the day. You may dread saying no as you’ve only just negotiated your new deal and don’t want your colleagues thinking you have it too easy or are less committed than them. Then you start checking your emails at the school gates and panic sets in because you know that your clients or colleagues expect a reply before you’re next back at work – your evenings and time with your family is then disrupted.
Here are my tips as someone who became Step-Mum several years ago, found myself in the scenario above and didn’t help myself! It’s easy to offer this advice afterwards…
Before you start:
- Agree with your manager before you start your new hours exactly what that means so there is no ambiguity on either side.
- Ensure that this is communicated to all colleagues and senior management so that you don’t feel uncomfortable saying no to things.
- Be realistic – work out what you really can complete during your new hours.
- Work out a plan for any larger projects and someone reliable who you can delegate tasks to.
- Be comfortable with saying no. If you keep saying yes to things you can’t complete, it won’t work for you or your employer.
- Set clear expectations with clients and business contacts.
- Add your working hours to your email signature and set your out of office message as soon as you leave for the day.
- Switch off the email push notifications on your mobile phone and don’t go hunting for new emails until you’re working again – it will backfire!
- If you have a separate phone for work, switch it off once you finish work; if not try Another Number to keep work and personal calls separate.
When you’re at home:
- Try not to meet your children at the nursery or school gate whilst clutching your work phone – they’ll know that you’re distracted and they’ll soon tell you off!
- Don’t try and take work calls whilst helping with homework or you and your children will become impatient and frustrated.
These are tips from personal experience and I am sure there are many more – please contact me if you have your own. The next post in this series will look at Mums who have taken the leap and started on their own.