Balancing family and work 

Before you put yourself back into the world of working it is essential to think of your values, what is important to you in your career and how you are going to balance things to get the most out of managing both successfully.

People work for different reasons. It may be financial for you, it may be because it makes you tick and it excites you, it may be a bit of both. It's good to identify the reason you want to work now, when you are thinking of the reasons you are returning and what will motivate you to get through the days that are more challenging. You will have revisited the reasons that motivate you to work if you read the section on returning to work.

Company culture

Each and every job and company is different. Companies have cultures which are embedded defining how they are run and sometimes this can conflict with your personal values. Hopefully you will be able to draw upon the experiences of another WoMo in your company. You may not even need to do this if you know instinctively the culture of the company and the expectations they have of women with children.

Flexible working

There are some very specific types of business that have a reputation for lack of flexibility.

  • If you have a job where you are expected at your desk at 7am every day, how will you make this work with a child?
  • If your job means you travel at short notice how will you make this work with a baby?

Legally (in the UK) you can request flexible working to modify your working patterns to balance the demands of the job and your child but your company may not accept the request.

You can read more here >

It completely depends on the job you do, the impact on the business and whether it can be accommodated. There is no one size fits all.

  • Your company will need to allow you to present your case, state the reasons why you believe you can do the job less than 5 days a week
  • In return they need to do the same. They need to give their reasons why the job needs to be full time if they decline your application and you will have the right to appeal.

Some countries are far more open to flexible working than others. Regardless of where you live and the number of days you work you will have some challenges accommodating work and family life. You will develop your own strategies which work and compromise in the places that suit your own personal circumstances.

Missing out

WoMo Network | The Working Mothers Network | Going back to work
I miss out on things for the kids but I hope that they are learning to be more independent.
— WoMo Davina, Melbourne Australia. Mother to two girls and a boy aged 8-1.

I know personally that one of the commitments I made to my children was to promise one significant person would be there for each school event that was attended by parents. It may have been me, it may have been their father and if not it was the nanny or occasionally a grandparent. The children knew who would be there and they were supported. When I was unable to attend I felt content the children felt commitment from the wider network that cared for them.

I like to think we have found a good balance but when I hear my girl has done something new at the child minders I feel a little down that we weren’t there to see it. My husband and I try to get a date night in once a month but that is not always possible.
— WoMo Debbie, Isle of Wight. Mother to one daughter aged 4.

Plan, communicate and diarise

WoMo Network | The Working Mothers Network | Going back to work

Fitting together work and family life can be a process of trial and error. Good open communication between you and your partner along with your child carer will keep the flow of information coming in all directions. What you want to avoid is any surprises.

Planning, organising and diarising are essential when you are trying to coordinate multiple diaries. Respecting the family diary and sticking to the agreed schedule will reduce stress and make life simpler. 

  • Put nursery pick-ups in the diary.
  • When you are away with work, be clear on who will be available to support.
  • Remember to keep time for you.
  • Don't forget time with your partner! It may feel a bit formal to be scheduling date night every other Wednesday and maybe this isn’t for you, but keep it in mind. Unless you are a single parent there is a relationship dynamic that can be forgotten when a baby comes along. One mother I interviewed admitted she was so busy worrying about her job, the nanny and the child that when her partner said he felt excluded she was genuinely shocked. There are a lot of people to factor in when maintaining the work and family balance!

Cut yourself some slack

When things all get a bit overwhelming something many women find helpful is to think about the example you are setting to your child. In years to come, as a working mother, what would you want your child to say if they were talking about you and how you managed?

No one is suggesting it has to be perfect and consider the things you think your child will remember. It is unlikely they will remember the day you forgot the school cake sale. It is easy to put excessive pressure on yourself as a working Mum and try and achieve it all. Beating yourself up because you forgot an extra nappy when you dropped your child at the nursery is only going to feed the negative voice telling you it’s all impossible. The nursery will have a spare nappy on hand and a spare pair of trousers if necessary. Cut yourself some slack.

I remember my son coming home from nursery wearing pink trousers. They were the only spare ones the nursery had. At first I was really upset and then I laughed. It was a really big sign to me to let go of some of the details and extra pressure I was putting on myself to make sure everything was perfect.
— WoMo Nicole, Manchester. Mum of two boys aged 2 and 4.
I know that my children respect me and understand that I can’t be around all the time when they need me. I know they have a mummy substitute in my nanny.
— WoMo Katy, London. Mother to two girls aged 8 and 10.

Actions

  1. Think about the key achievements you have had in your career. Write down one or two examples and the reasons these achievements meant the most to you. Consider whether you had to sacrifice anything to make it happen.

  2. Write down where you want to be in 3 years. How will you know you have achieved your goal? Write down what you will need to be, do and have to know you have to know you have got to where you want to be in 3 years. It will be…. I will do… and I will have…

  3. Be clear on what needs to be diarised. Have a shared online diary between you, your partner, the nanny and anyone else who is a significant carer.