Balancing work and motherhood (or fatherhood) is quite an art, so I approached some successful working mums for tips on how they manage. I hope you enjoy the insightful and practical advice they came up with, and please add your own tips too.
Kara Stanford from KMS Marketing says: “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!”
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 only action that one. “
“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.”
“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.” And learning consultant Maggie Piazza emphasises that “being ‘good enough’ is good enough – both at home or at work.”
Doctor Lucy Boyland emphasises how important it is to take time for yourself, and do something that is neither for work or parenting. And she counsels: “Don’t feel guilty about it! I know from my experience growing up that if you’re happy (or not) as a mother, it has a huge impact on your family.” Membership administrator Nikki Halliwell agrees “It’s important to have some me time/time out. I really enjoy my running class.” Kara’s time out must-dos include walking every day, and seeing friends at least once a week.
“Be very organised” is the top tip from Karen Guler, MD at Envision Financial Solutions. Nikki agrees “Being organised the night before, bags packed, lunch boxes on the side, clothes ironed…”
Nikki enjoys being self-employed: “…so I can work the hours that suit family life, and she has help from her parents who live locally. Lucy works part-time, which give her a good balance between a demanding job that she loves, and her family. And speaking 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.
I love all the wise words above. A tip that has helped me to stay organised and escape the multi-tasking trap is to use a to-do list app properly, and capturing 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 brain when 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.
This approach frees up so space in my head. We can only hold a few thoughts in our working memory (the part of our mind we have access to at any one time). So by writing things down, we can stop expending energy trying to remember them, thus freeing up energy for family and friends.
What tips do you have for balancing work and parenting? Please share in the comments below.