Before my journey into motherhood began, I was an ambitious career focused professional. I was full of confidence and ambition. I was determined and unstoppable. Always positioning myself for the next promotion and career opportunity. Busy climbing the corporate ladder. My definition of success was based on financial reward and position within the organisation.
So it came as a surprise to me that after 8 months of maternity leave I was full of self-doubt and fear about how I was going to dedicate myself to both my career and family.
It became abundantly clear that if I was going to spend time away from my son, the time spent on my career needed to be meaningful.
I wanted to enjoy motherhood and my career and not feel as though I was sacrificing one for the other.
I now believe there are many ways this can be achieved. It’s not a one size fits all approach. Creating the right mix of motherhood and career for you depends on your values and choices and how you define success for yourself.
My definition of success changed dramatically after I became a working mum. I wanted a meaningful career and quality time with my family.
Once I had clarity on this I was able to find a part time role that fit the bill. I found I could do meaningful work three days a week and spend four days a week with my son (two of which I didn’t have to compete with Daddy), with only slight overlap between work and home.
As a working mum I have found mastering these 3 skills essential to achieving my new definition of success:
Underlying everything I do is a strong appreciation for communication. The more I communicate with my family and colleagues, the more organised and confident I feel about being a working mum. I’ve included more examples of communication under team work and time management.
At home: My husband and I send each other calendar invites for after hours appointments which may affect the family. This ensures we always understand each other’s availability and there is always someone available to look after our children. Sometimes negotiation and compromise are required when we have conflicting appointments.
At work: Communication with colleagues and customers is more critical when you work part time and even more critical when you are a working mum. The likelihood of my absence from the office is higher, compared to when I was a childless full time employee, due to my family responsibilities and sickness. I want to minimize the impact of my absence on my work and my colleagues though and have adapted to ensure that everyone knows enough about my work, who to contact and when. I do this through out of office messages and good record keeping.
2. Team Work
At home: my husband and I share household chores and parenting. I’m not solely responsible for cooking, cleaning, washing, folding and parenting just as he isn’t solely responsible for earning money. My husband is the breadwinner and I spend more time on household chores and parenting. We divide and conquer. We are clear on our responsibilities at home. In the beginning I had to learn to delegate household chores to my husband when I was feeling overwhelmed by them. Simply because he couldn’t read my mind and didn’t understand what needed to be done. After years of delegating household chores to him though he has a much greater understanding of how he can contribute at home and I have become more comfortable asking for his help when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
At work: In lieu of a job share arrangement, if there are certain aspects of my work that need attention or action when I’m going to the away from the office (and can’t be done remotely) I make sure one of my colleagues is able to act on my behalf. It is my responsibility to ensure they understand enough about the project to assist.
3. Time management
At home: We now prepare simple meals, do our grocery shopping online and outsource housekeeping and ironing so we have more time to spend with each other and our children and doing things that we enjoy.
At work: As a part time working mum I have learnt to focus on work at work and prioritize tasks. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by my to do list I ask myself, what must I do today and in what order? This maximize my productivity at work. I have also set clear boundaries with my manager and colleagues about my availability. I negotiated start and finish times and days that suit my family responsibilities. In exceptional circumstances and with enough notice the boundaries can shift temporarily.
You’ll notice there is an overlap between communication, team work and time management. None of them can exist without the other.
Being a working mum is not about striving for perfection at home or at work. It’s about doing your best in the time that you have and with the support that you have. You also need to be honest with yourself and others when something isn’t working, reassess and find a better solution.
How do you define success for yourself and what strategies help you achieve it?