Work-life balance, once you have children, is a re-education. You learn over time that what you need to for you, your career, business and family is never going to be a balance; not if you think balance will be an equal, level, and unchanging thing. I always describe balance as more like riding a bike; micro-adjustments to allow for changing priorities and attention, constantly adjusting to keep moving forward. So often, the focus is on the early years, finding childcare post parental leave, then balancing work against a pre-schoolers needs. However, once the school year starts, and your bundle of joy has their own life (trust me, it happens quicker than you can imagine!) work-life balance takes on a whole new meaning.
This month’s Inspiring Parent blog re-introduces us to Kelly Round. She describes how she manages her work-life balance. As CEO of thriving Community Interest Company (CIC), Our Place Community Hub, she lets us in on her secrets of how she balances being a full time working mum now her daughter is in school.
Over to you Kelly …
Today I want to tell you more about my experience of being a full time working Mom and CEO of my thriving Community Interest Company; Our Place Community Hub.
The early days of being a working parent are all-consuming, with sleep deprivation and the guilt of leaving your little bundles of joy with your parents, childminders or nursery. The challenges change as they grow with you and for the newer parents out there I’m sorry to say they don’t get much easier I’m afraid – just different! But hey, they do say a change is as good as a rest, don’t they?
My daughter began school three years ago and to say this was a shock to the system is an understatement…it all began with two weeks of half days at school. Great for the little ones to settle in but wait…how the heck do I fit my full-time hours into half days? Gone is the luxury of the 8am-6pm nursery hours with flexible drop off and pick up times, plus my daughter’s new school wasn’t on the same bus route as my Nans home, who has always been my faithful childminder.
Although this was just two weeks; with plenty of planning, doing work from home and putting a few things on hold it was manageable and actually, I wouldn’t change it; my family will always be my priority. I wanted to see my daughter on those first few days going in and coming out of school, hearing the stories of the day, the friends she’d made and show my delight at the ‘grown-up’ work she was bringing home to show me. ‘Family’ is one of my personal values, something very important to me and relationships that I want to invest in, nurture, protect and enjoy.
Once the initial transition period passed what remained is the new constraint of the school day. The dictated school run times continue to be a challenge; when booking meetings in a completely ‘clear’ diary day the first things I have to think about are ‘Am I doing school drop off that day?’ and ‘Is that an after-school club day?’
When a great conference or training opportunity comes up, that means travelling into the City Centre or further afield, previously, this would be booked up straight away. When you’re a working parent the first thing is mentally checking out who can do the school runs, if you have enough time from when breakfast club opens to make it to the event in time through rush hour!
Work planning around the school day is now second nature to me and I’m lucky to have made some great new friends at the school gates, between us we all manage to work and pick up each other’s children on different days giving us all that little bit more flexibility in our work-family life balance! To these ladies – THANK YOU!
How it works for me
So; for the first few years of school life-work life, I found a balance that worked for us. I would get up early and do some work before the school run, take my daughter to school and then I’d head into the office most days, sometimes into the city center and other times I would work from home. Always working to the 3.15pm deadline when I was often the parent racing across the playground late for pick up, full of anxiety that my daughter would think I’d forgotten her and that the teachers thought I was a bad mom for always being late! After arriving home, I would spend some time with my daughter, have tea, we’d talk about the day and look at the week’s homework and reading tasks. Once the bedtime routine had been done I’d get back to work on my laptop for a good few hours and this routine worked for me for a while. A great but perhaps unusual work-life balance.
Then came the social life….at aged Seven! Yes, that’s right, at aged Seven, my daughter has a better social life than I do and I’m almost at the point of buying a ‘Mums taxi’ sticker for my car!
Firstly; the new range of after-school activities in Year Two was great! She started football and dance which she enjoyed and I gained an extra two working hours per week, perfectly bolted onto the end of the school day. Bingo! Steadily the out of school activities began; Swimming, Rainbows, Gymnastics. Fantastic opportunities for children to learn new skills, socialize with new groups of children and discover their own personalities, likes and dislikes. For this, we as parents also become cash machines and taxis! I once calculated that I spend around four hours per week going to and from social clubs and waiting for my daughter’s activity to finish.
I soon saw this as an opportunity; I now have one of the most productive hours of my working week sat in the local leisure center canteen whilst my daughter is in her gymnastic class.
The new style diary management
With this in mind, I now plan my week with work and home meetings and activities in one diary. This helps me to ensure I can get all my work-related deadlines met timely, undertake my parenting taxi duties, be available for parents’ evenings and make sure I have dedicated family time in between. I always consider the opportunities I have in the coming week to work flexibly and mobile…with personal hotspot and free Wi-Fi areas the opportunities to work mobile are now fantastic; play areas, coffee shops and even pony trekking centers!
One tip though; plan the work you can do in public and never work on confidential information on unsecured WIFI or where your screen can be seen. Plan the work you want to do, charge your laptop, phone and get an external battery charger too.
Two of the most valuable things I have learnt in this journey so far is the ability and confidence to work anywhere and work smartly in order to give yourself the ideal work-life balance for you. Today there are many roles that you can do and work flexibly giving the opportunity to have a successful career and a hands on parent.
Today there are many roles that you can do and work flexibly giving the opportunity to have a successful career and a hands-on parent.
How have you managed your work-life balance since the school run became a reality? Join The Balance Collective with Clara Wilcox to share with other working parents.
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