On Mother’s Day, here’s one experience of being a working mum from our co-founder Kirsty Trafford-Owen…
There are many new experiences and challenges we face when we become a mother. The list is endless. The conversations I’ve had with other mum-friends in the past 7 years of me being a mum have lasted for hours and hours, perhaps even days, and they will continue as our children grow. Being a working mum, or can I please correct that to working parent (as I know my husband is as involved with the juggle as me and I know that not all mothers are in the same fortunate position) is a whole new experience.
As a parent, whether working or not, I think the constant guilt-ridden feeling of not quite being ‘on top of it’ is there for us all. I don’t think you need to be a working mum (and by that I mean in paid work – after all, we are all working 24/7) to forget to pay for clubs at school, to neglect to ask your child about their school trip, to suddenly remember homework is due tomorrow, plus the endless cooking cleaning and washing – the list goes on and on.
I have decided on this Mother’s Day to try and write down a few of my best learnings for doing your best to keep on top of it.
Things I do to keep me sane and to make it work;
Get organised. I am an avid list maker and planner. This is something that comes naturally to me and I am lucky as it helps me immensely (and does my husband’s head in). It means I can compartmentalise (to a degree) and I have lists for short term, mid term and long term planning. I also delegate A LOT. I write things that need to get done and the things that push me over the edge, I give to my husband to do. There is no permission I am asking for. This is a joint partnership that he has signed up for, and we muddle on through together.
Get yourself a good employer. An employer who actually gets it and doesn’t judge you. Someone who understands you can work a compressed day and still get your job done. I work 9am – 4pm on some days and then switch on again after the children are in bed at 8pm or so. It might sound terrible for some but it works for me and for my family. I’ll never forget the employer who said to me when I was 32, “it would be such a shame if you got pregnant. You’re so good at your job and it would just ruin your career”. Little did he know I was 9 weeks pregnant. I handed my notice in the following week.
Encourage your partner to ask for flexible working. It might be one day working from home, or condensed hours, or potentially like me – you might be really lucky (!) that your husband is away a lot on work trips, so their employers need to show flexibility and understanding. I could write a whole separate piece about men in the workplace and the fact that they should “leave loudly” and not be judged by others for having responsibilities outside of the office for which they need to head home. They should get shared parental leave and shouldn’t even have to ask for it. Most men don’t know they have a right to push for six months of leave after their baby is born. Maybe some don’t want to take the leave because it will be the hardest job they have ever done (FACT) but if they don’t, we will never, ever have equality of opportunity.
Treasure the weekends. I often work at all hours Monday – Friday, but the weekends are for me and for my family. Unless something is super urgent (and I can’t think of an example of anything urgent at the weekend), it can wait until Monday morning (or Sunday night at a push).
See your friends – that means, both your friends with kids AND your friends without kids. It’s so good to meet your friends and not talk about children at all! Make an effort with people you love and people who make you feel good about yourself. Encourage those around you to do the same and to have as much fun as humanly possible. Don’t waste time with people who don’t add something to your happiness. Life is too short.
Have your kids take accountability for things! Obviously not the baby – although I do get them feeding themselves as early as possible I encourage behaviour like helping “mummy/ daddy” with tidying up and cooking. Plus we talk to them about getting themselves dressed from about the age of three and see it pay off by the age of four. So yes, you could say I want them to pull their weight, but of course have fun and be proud of themselves in the process.
Ask for help. Often this is paid help for me as my folks don’t live nearby. I have learnt SO MUCH from professional child carers. They have actually been formally trained to do this job – something most parents haven’t been (well I never did, I 100% learnt from the day my first son was born). I think a lot of parents don’t want to ask for help, they feel they should do it all by themselves. Life is a slog and there is nothing wrong with asking for help!
Exercise. This is probably the most important one for me. It’s not for everyone and I’m not saying you have to run half marathons (even though I like to). A walk at lunchtime or getting off the tube, train or bus one stop early is great. I often find some of my best ideas happen when I’m walking or running and not looking at my screen. Physical activity boosts my positive energy every day and gives me a different perspective.
I don’t mean to say for one moment that I have found being a working mum easy. In fact, it has become easier with each child I’ve had. The first was hard – but that would need to be for another time! So, this Mother’s Day, whether you are a mother or not, I hope you look after yourself and that something I have written gives you help or comfort.