Balancing work and parenting isn't always easy. In this guest blog, career coach Felicity Dwyer shares a round up of practical tips from working mothers on how they cope.
Prioritise This was a key theme for the mums I spoke with. Kara Stanford from KMS Marketingadvises: “Know what you absolutely must do for work and family, then do those things first. Know what are the "should do's" and do them next. Finally, know what are the "nice to do's" and fit them in when you can. ”Kara subdivides this into work, family and “staying sane”. Her work must do’s include paid client work as a top priority. Family must do's are: never working when she is looking after the children. And her stay sane must do's are having at least one day at the weekend where she does no work at all. “When I stop ruthlessly prioritising, it all falls apart...! This week, as we are on day 15 of chickenpox, I have only been able to do my "must do's" but once we're through it all, I'll be able to do everything I want to again. Until then, top priorities first!"
Don’t multi-task Barbara Graham from jewellers Stella and Dot advises ring fencing your time - don’t fall for the multitasking myth “We are far less efficient if we try to do more than one job at a time. Your business and parenting will both suffer and you’ll be exhausted and stressed by the feeling you are constantly underperforming in all areas of your life. Determine when your office work hours and when your mummy hours are. Tell your team, tell your customers, and tell your friends and family!” Helen Cousins, decluttering consultant at Fresh Spaces agrees: “Don't try to multi-task. It actually stops you being present and scatters your thoughts making you less effective. If you are with you children - then 'be with' them. If you are working - then pick one item to prioritise and then fully focus on actioning that one. “
Get the help you need “If you need to pay for childcare to give yourself some free time - DO IT!” says Barbara. “I see a lot of women who are just starting their business and not earning huge amounts who feel they need to wait until they are earning more to justify the cost of childcare. But how can they expect their business to grow if they aren’t giving themselves the time to work on it? Time is the most crucial investment your business needs, so if you need it, do it, and reap the rewards in years to come.” Be comfortable with “good enough” housework “The world won't stop spinning just because you didn't empty the dishwasher'. I've recently learnt this one myself and so far we are all still surviving”, says Helen. And Kara agrees, her must dos when the pressure is on include “cleaning just enough so that I know we won't get ill.” Take time for yourself Taking time out for yourself is vital. I go dancing which gives me an energy boost and takes my mind off any day to day concerns. Kara’s time out must-dos include: “walking every day, and seeing friends at least once a week”. And Lucy, a Hampshire based doctor, emphasises how important it is a mother to do something for yourself that’s neither work nor family.
Find a work pattern that fits Nikki enjoys being self-employed: “...so I can work the hours that suit family life.” She also gets help from her parents who live locally. And when I spoke recently with a group of women in technical industries, I heard examples of husbands working part-time or staying at home to care for young children.
Be well organised The need to be organised is a common theme. Nikki makes sure she gets organised the night before, with bags packed, lunch boxes prepared and clothes ready to wear. And a final tip from me to escape the multi-tasking trap is to use a to-do list app properly, and capture EVERYTHING I need to do in one place. From a quick phone call to a new project, it all goes in the Wunderlist app (other to-do list apps are available!) It's on my phone so if an idea comes into my mindwhen not working, I can make a quite note and forget about it. The app syncs to my desktop so I can take time to review, sort and prioritise my notes when I'm next at my desk and in work mode.
About the author Felicity Dwyer is a career transitions coach. She helps you get clarity about your career options and next steps. Felicity’s clients include people who are unhappy in their current job, mothers returning to work after a break, and individuals facing redundancy. A version of this article was originally published on Felicity’s website www.heartofwork.co.uk and you can also find Felicity on Twitter @felicitydwyer and Facebook.