By Anke Docherty
According to the Office for National Statistics UK, 3 in 4 mothers with dependent children (75.1%) are also in employment.
I juggle multiple balls on a daily basis, working as a Certified Life and Stress Coach and HR Director in a multinational company at the same time as balancing family life. I work with a lot of stressed out working mothers and I can relate, I went through it all too. In this article I would like to talk about how we can be confident working mums and be guilt free too.
The balancing act of the working parent
A lot of women are confused about where their focus is or should be. They ask themselves questions like, "am I good enough at work?", "do I spend enough time with my family?", "will I regret later not being there for my kids?". My advice, be clear before you start working about the fundamental basics:
How much time do you want to spend with your family?
How much time can you spend at work?
How much money do you need to earn?
How will you arrange childcare?
Managing employers expectations
When thinking about the basics you should differentiate between ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to have’. When you have the answers, speak to your manager about both your expectations and theirs, discuss:
How you can create value for your role?
What is important for your manager?
What are the outcomes expected?
How much face-to-face attendance is necessary?
How flexible can the company be when it comes to unforeseen events, like a sick child?
It is important that both parties are honest and that certain points are being talked about before you commence work so that you both have clarity and avoid frustrations. Now that you know what is expected from you at work and how you wish to handle your family life, it is a good time to put things into action and make a plan. I know that most of you will roll your eyes now and say: how can I plan with kids?! Yes, there will be unforeseen emergencies and events but by planning your time and being realistic about your plans means you will be better equipped to deal with them.
So get out that calendar and put everything on there. EVERYTHING. Getting up, getting the kids ready, driving to work, working - all of it. By doing this, you will get an overview of what is going on and how much time is needed for certain things. Don’t beat yourself up about not being able to stick to your calendar all the time, It’s a tool that helps you set out your days and tasks and not a tool to put yourself down. It is also important to remember that your plans need to be realistic so you don’t find yourself feeling frustrated when you don’t achieve them.
Making time for YOU
So many mums, especially working mums, forget to plan for their own downtime, everyone and everything seems more important. Occasionally that is fine, however, failing to take care of your own needs makes you a lot more prone to stress, frustration and anger.
Downtime does not need to be anything big, just some time to yourself around 30-60 mins a day. Go read a book, listen to music, go for a walk to meet a friend or even just have your favourite Starbucks coffee and a few minutes peace. You will feel so much better after having done this.
I just have to do one more thing. Who else will do it otherwise? Sound familiar? Here I would like to offer, that you don’t HAVE to do anything. If we tell ourselves all the things we HAVE to do, we make ourselves victims of the circumstance of being a working mum, rather than taking active control of it. What do you actually HAVE to do? Cooking dinner? There's nothing wrong with whacking a ready-meal in the oven! Making lunches for the kids? There are ready-made lunches in the supermarket, even healthy options, even better - once they're old enough they can make their own lunches. Clean the house? If you can afford a cleaner, it might be a good investment. Get the family to help you. Or don’t clean for once!
Another important thing which so many working mums fail to do, is ask for help. Because we are always overloaded with all our tasks and think sometimes, that we have to do certain things to prove ourselves, we fail to or don’t even think of asking for help.
Ask who, you may say? Well, it depends on what you need. It could be arranging a babysitter, getting a cleaner, taking the family out for dinner, asking another mum if you could take her kids and bring yours over in return one day - the possibilities are endless, provided that we are not too proud to ask for them. I guarantee you that some mums will love your initiative.
Remember that moment when your child comes home from school with a lower grade than expected, what did you do? Most of us will be supportive and hug the child, we will evaluate with the child, how he/she can do better next time. So why on earth don’t you do the same with you? Why does everything have to be perfect all the time? Your presentation at work wasn’t great? You made a mistake? You made a horrible meal? So what? Let go and see what you can do better next time, 80% is enough, it does not always have to be 100%.
All in all, I would say, what trips us up most as working mums, is our expectation towards ourselves. Everything has to work, our output at work always has to be perfect, we need no help, our children are always happy and cheerful. My fellow mums, this is NOT REALITY, life is 50/50 and this does not mean that anything has gone wrong. Everything is perfect the way it is and is exactly how it should be.
About the Author:
My name is Anke Docherty and I am a Life and Career Coach for women in construction and engineering who want to de-stress. As women, we have many different roles to play, which is already a constant juggle. Working in a male-dominated world does not help and when on top of this life life happens to us and we suddenly face things like a job loss, financial trouble or illnesses in the family, things may become overwhelming very easily. I work with women on how to manage that sudden stress and show them how to get their power back by managing their mind.
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