IF ONLY I HAD KNOWN...
Three things working mums wish they had known earlier
For many working mums, spinning plates and juggling conflicting priorities goes with the territory; something we mostly take in our stride.
But what mistakes might we have avoided if we’d known just what life as a working mum would be like?
We asked a range of working mums about the things they wish they had known about juggling work and family life, before they set out on the path to parenthood.
Guilt is normal. Now get over it.
Janine Rudin, 38, from Newcastle, is a mother of three, and an antenatal teacher, doula and owner of Birth Basics (www.birthbasics.co.uk). She wishes she had known that guilt is part of the package of working motherhood.
Louise Holland, 38, lives in Bedfordshire and has a two year old daughter. She also wishes she had known how guilty she would feel about not being able to give 100% to either work or home.
“I was desperate to get back to work after maternity leave as full-time motherhood wasn't great for me,” she says.
“I loved my job as an HR Advisor but thanks to a long commute I was spending 12 hours a day out of the house. Once our daughter started nursery she picked up all the usual illnesses so we were both taking a lot of time off, and it almost felt as though we had to decide whose job was most important each time she was ill.”
Louise adds that she felt guilty about wanting to work, and felt she was supposed to want to be at home.
“I'd also just lost my cousin to breast cancer,” Louise adds. “So I felt I had the opportunity to do things in life that she would never have - like spending time with my child as she grew up.”
Louise says her boss was very supportive, and had already agreed to adjust her working pattern when she returned to work, but Louise still felt she wasn't putting enough into her job.
Eventually Louise decided to resign. She says; “I spent the summer at home but after three months I was desperate to get back to work. Miraculously, I got a call from my old boss offering me some home-based project work on an interim basis. I've been doing that since September and it’s great. I love having the contact with my old department, but the flexibility to work my hours around my life is brilliant.”
Juggling isn’t easy. Unless you’re a clown.
Kerry Harrison, 37, is a photographer from Surrey (www.kerryjphotography.co.uk). She has two daughters, aged 4 and 7. Kerry says; “When you’re a working mum sometimes some things just have to give. I’ve realised it’s ok not to be one hundred perfect all the time in both areas. For me, compromise is the key word. So my house is never particularly tidy - in fact, the words toy explosion would be more accurate! And in running my own business I have to accept that sometimes I just can't pick up business calls - they’re just not always compatible with a four year old in the middle of a meltdown. I am very passionate about my business and my family, so sometimes it is hard to juggle them both.”
That’s a sentiment shared by Monica Strydom, from Essex, who runs www.myfunnybunny.com, an online baby boutique. “I wish I had realised that the house doesn’t clean itself, that only an octopus could get everything done, and that you can easily end up working 24/7 between work and home,” she says.
Chetna Parmar, 40, is a mum of two who runs an online cake company from home(www.bluelotuscakes.co.uk). She agrees with Monica. “I wish I had known how much of a challenge it can be to keep family time and work time separate,” she says.
The job of Superwoman is already taken.
Lisa Talbot is a personal stylist (www.lisatalbot.co.uk) and mum to Robert, 22, and 6-year-old twins, Thomas and Maisie. She wishes she had known that there was no need to be superwoman.
“I put huge pressure on myself to do everything and do it well,” Lisa explains. “The school run, generating business leads, acting on the business booked in, writing my blog, working with new clients, updating my website, networking with other business entrepreneurs, spending quality time with the children, making sure the house was clean and tidy and that the cupboards were full of food - plus the added pressure of making time for yourself. Oh, and your husband/partner!”
Lisa admits that she thought asking for help was a sign of weakness. “But I’ve learned to prioritise my workload and do one job at a time, whether it be home or work - that way I will do all of them well. If something gets left until the next day so be it,” she says.
Lisa’s advice is to forget trying to be Superwoman. “Just make sure the most important activities get done first and, where needed, ask for help. By doing this the whole family benefits and so does my business,” she adds.
And finally, “Make sure childcare is a shared responsibility from the start,” says Rebecca Clarke, 35, from Warwick. Sage words, from a mum to two boys aged four and 22 months, who runs a print company with her husband (www.swcprint.co.uk).