To say I’m a “busy working mum of two” seems a bit of a cliché. Do you know any working mums who aren’t busy or come to think of it, any working people or any mums that aren’t either?
Life nowadays is just busy for the vast majority of us. It’s becoming complex and our families are more complex too. Where the once definitive line between work and home life was clear, it’s now blurred beyond all recognition. The number of professional and personal commitments we have increases with each passing month – as well as the horror stories we hear around the state of our pensions, which means we’re going to have to keep on being busy for a lot longer!
I remember hearing about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead and thinking I would love to be able to dedicate myself to climbing the career ladder and reaching those upper echelons: a place where all the decisions are made, the robust debates held and people zoom off to meetings at short notice without a thought of who will take the kids to school or get them to the evening activity (we’re always being told how important physical exercise is for them!). But my reality is different, and every so often, like many working mums, I feel the guilt of “am I doing enough for my children, am I doing enough for my team, my colleagues, my company?”. I think the question that’s often missing for people is “am I doing enough for myself?”
I’m one of the fortunate ones. Yes I have a busy, demanding job, and two children and a husband who works away. However I also have an understanding employer, great colleagues, fantastic parents and reliable friends. It’s only with this support network in place (and with a tremendous amount of planning) that all the plates keep spinning. Where I know I am most fortunate is that each week I have a little ‘me-time’ – whether that’s just meeting some friends for a coffee and a chat, having a massage or going for a swim. What I have learnt is that it is as important to schedule these in as it is all the work meetings and the children’s activities, otherwise they just don’t happen.
What’s my advice for anyone wondering how they’re going to figure it all out?
- Plan ahead wherever you can and explain the importance of doing so to your colleagues. Changing the location of a meeting from your home office to somewhere 200 miles away might not be an issue for them but it can create a logistical nightmare for working parents.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself. None of us are superheroes – just people trying to do the right thing. Don’t punish yourself if you don’t manage to do everything. The washing can wait another day to get done so you can listen to what your child is trying to tell you about their day.
- Ask for support. Find out whose child goes to the same clubs as yours, find out where the other parents live and offer to take turns with lifts. Bank the credits when you can so that when you need to ask for help you feel less guilty.
- Talk to your employer. Ask for flexibility and understanding. They won’t want to lose a valuable employee and you know you’ll work twice as hard to make any time up.
- Schedule in your “me-time”. Even half an hour a week in the bath with a book and a glass of wine can make all the difference to how daunting those tasks look.
Bronwen Burton, Head of Corporate Marketing and Communications, Bright Horizons