Let me open with a disclaimer – I’m through that season and I survived.
In my 20’s this was my life: Creative, reading, love books, stacked everywhere. Forget it’s time to cook the dinner. Playing with my son. You get the picture.
Then maternity leave over and back to my high powered government job. My whacky unbalanced but happy life hit me like a runaway train. Suddenly I was facing the challenges as a parent, the challenges of being in business, the challenges of dealing with guilt.
Balancing work and life for women isn’t easy. But it is important to know that mums returning to work should not result in guilt. Women have always worked, whether by choice or need. It’s how we manage to balance these two parts of our lives that is important to discuss.
Here’s what I did – I trust it helps you.
I had four close friends, one of them was so organized it was frightening, so I spent time with her. She was a list maker. She knew where everything was in her home. She had a menu for the week. She had a shopping list for the week. Most importantly, she had a ‘no go zone’.
Let me start with the ‘no go zone’. From 6pm to 6am this was her family time. Saturdays and Sundays, family time. Of all the great ideas I took from my friend, this is the one I still keep to this day.
But here’s the thing, I had to learn the rest. How to manage my time. How to be organized. I read books on it. Eventually I found a pattern of managing my work/life balance that suited us.
Genuine work-life balance might seem unachievable but there is so much we can do to make it doable.
It’s too simple to say that business and personal life should support and strengthen each other. Life is tough. Not all employers are interested in knowing you need time off to care for a sick child. Many are not interested in knowing you feel guilty about leaving your children. And these kinds of pressures often result in stress and relationship challenges at work and at home.
There is no quick answer to this very real issue. I was fortunate because we four new mums decided to support each other. Over coffee one day we reminded ourselves of the old African proverb – It takes a village to raise a child. We then strategized on how we were going to cope with returning to work. We shared our concerns, our guilt, our sadness at needing to work financially and also wanting to work and build a career. From that conversation came our solution.
As I’ve already indicated, I spent time with my naturally highly organized friend and took on many of her excellent practices. Another of the four told us she was a qualified child minder and would care for our children, along with her own.
Between the four of us we worked together over the next four years to care for each other’s children when we were at work. We prayed for each other. We encouraged each other. We stood with each other through thick and thin.
Maybe I was just lucky, but I don’t think so. I believe having shared with my girlfriends my concerns, guilt and fear about returning to work we were able to voice all of our anxieties with each other, but more importantly, we worked together to find solutions.
Our kids are now adults. It’s interesting to watch them as they too navigate the work life balance of mum returning to work. They’ve taken on much of our experiences which is wonderful to watch.
I don’t want to over simplify a complicated issue – but maybe you might take on some of my experiences. Build a small network of friends in similar situations and figure out how you can support each other as you mums head back to work.
“She considers a field before she buys or accepts it [expanding her business prudently]; With her profits she plants fruitful vines in her vineyard.”
Carol Pocklington is a Human Performance Accelerator. She has worked with Hugh Massie since 2001 as the DNA Behavior concept was conceived. She works with people and businesses worldwide. Her real-world application of behavioural insights, gives her the capability to serve as a business strategist, coach, mentor, and trainer. She is also a prolific blogger, a public speaker and author, specializing in human behavioural insights.