4 years ago I had no concept of what being a parent, and working in advertising, entailed. Since then it has been a long, fun and sometimes painful journey as I have muddled through the twinned desire to focus on raising my daughter and continuing to develop the career I love. Each phase has been different – both as a mother and as a business leader.
The opportunities and the pressures change whether it’s the sleepless nights or the range of tasks that need to be managed when children enter school – remembering its silly sock day, a school outing or world book day – there is always something and forgetting them can seem like the end of the world for all concerned. Back at work there is a lot of adjustment for you and your team as you all settle into new responsibilities and ways of working.
As we celebrate international women’s day, I’m proud to work for an agency that has provided me the support and flexibility to develop my career whilst fulfilling my role as a mother. Looking back on the last four years I wanted to share some of things I learnt along the way for anyone else peering into the unknown of managing life as a working parent. I expect I’ll always be learning because the pull of responsibilities between work and home is always evolving and there’s always another way to do things.
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff: with increased pressure on time, you can only focus on things that really make a difference so pick your battles
2. Extend and use your personal and work networks: you need more favours! Having people you can rely on at home and work is fundamental
3. It’s OK not to finish everything in one day: at home or at work, there are only so many hours in the day to complete everything
4. Know your strengths and play to them: If you haven’t by now in your career, now is the time to learn the skills of delegation and negotiation
5. Do what makes you happy: businesses benefit the most from people who are happy in their job. Identifying what you need to deliver your role and be able to manage your home commitments makes a huge difference. Everyone’s needs are different and being open about what these are for you is important
6. Communication is key: spend time with your team discussing new ways of working if you find that your time in the office is more limited to what is previously. Don’t assume people will understand your responsibilities as a parent , everyone needs to adjust not just you and this can take time
7. Be authentic – don’t try to be all things to all people: the reality is you can’t please everyone all the time (whether you are a parent or not)
8. True work/ life balance is difficult to achieve: this might not be a popular one but lots of people now talk about work/ life integration and personally I think this is a lot more accurate and accessible
9. Flexibility is two way: generally speaking we are fortunate to work in an industry where flexible working is accepted. I have found this to be invaluable in making sure I can be at home when I need to be but remember that flexibility is two way. Showing your team / your company that you can also adapt and support them when needed is also important
10. Remember things will change: what worked when you first returned to work might not work in 12 months. Work with the business to adapt