As I was walking my dog in the woods this morning, protecting her from a bird of prey and taking in the beauty of the autumn leaves (I know it’s not autumn) and watching the squirrels enjoy their natural habitat I was acutely aware of how happy I am to have the flexible work /life balance that I have created.
Whilst I was enjoying my dog walk, Outlook was sending summary e-mails to my clients that I had scheduled at 11pm to send at 9:30a.m. Facebook was posting pre-scheduled posts and my washing machine was washing my clothes! How easy we have it these days compared to our elders.
When I became a mum – all I really wanted was a secure, well paid, engaging role to keep me busy 30 hours a week whilst my daughter was in school allowing me to occasionally swap lunch for parent assembly or sports day. The reality of how difficult this was/is forced me into a battle of creating self-employment and asserting myself non aggressively with availability. I fought to sustain my business and utilise my skills wherever possible to help that happen.
This week I have been extremely busy with networking in my capacity as freelance BDM, seeing clients at KIH Holistics, having conference calls in my capacity as freelance assistant in Civil Litigation, planning to attend an exhibition for the KIH Bed, studying and dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.
My point is that people don’t mind if you control your diary, often we are too keen to please and consequently we compromise our own wellbeing. My clients do not mind that I am unavailable between 3pm and 7pm. They are happy with a conference call at 2pm or 9pm. I am happy to prepare summary e-mails at 11pm and schedule them to send at 9:30 a.m. My BDM clients do not mind that I am only available to network for them during school hours. What matters is that I am committed to helping them and I do what I do well. Sometimes we fear reactions too much.
As a mum I have 30 hours in the week that I can manage my workload and 21 hours in the evening that I can prepare my workload. I attend every parent assembly and I pick my daughter and drop her off. I look pretty rough and it would be easy for other parents to assume I do not work, but that does not concern me, what concerns me is that I can do homework with my daughter, cook tea for her, bathe her, read her a story and accompany her to groups.
*You do have to fight for work /life balance. It doesn’t knock on your door, you need to actively contact people and don’t be shy about your availability and fee. I ran a Facebook campaign to find the flexible legal experience. I targeted solicitors and such like within an hour of my home, and it paid off. You have to make it happen. With every 100 no’s follows a yes (ish).
*Whilst we are still fighting for work/life balance due to this stiff British mindset there are some fantastic companies out there leading the way with part-time or flexible employment that does not insult the brain or pocket, and these companies are game changers, leaders not followers, they recognise the importance of being able to juggle what matters to you without this affecting your professional output.
Don’t give up, it can take years to get the balance right and the correct fulfilling work, you just need to be honest with yourself if something is getting you down and keep looking for work that fulfils you, pays you correctly, and does not make you feel like a bum for wanting to be a ‘full-time’ mum.
Note I schedule late night emails to send in the morning as it can be very stressful to receive work e-mails in the evening, we should be free to relax unless we ‘choose’ not to, that is the difference between scheduling and email and actually sending it. We are primitively wired to be on high alert as the day becomes night and so fight or flight response is much more likely if an email stresses us out in the evening. Send serious (or possibly invasive) emails in the day when people are better placed to receive them.
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