Finding a work/life balance as a mum
Finding a work/life balance as a mum is one of the toughest challenges I have had to face since becoming a parent eight years ago. Having had my first child whilst still studying at university, the initial career/motherhood juggle for me involved working my assignments around the night feeds, culminating in one of my proudest moments other than having the children, when I graduated along with the rest of my class with a one year old in tow. I had my second child, a daughter, when my son was a couple of years old and, after a further year out with the both of them, I decided I wanted to make a start on that career I had worked so hard for. Society had other ideas though. Finding a job in the Events industry, which I had a degree in, proved incredibly difficult when recruiters seemed intent on focusing on what they saw as gaps in my employment.
When I was rejected for yet another job interview, I decided to start my own business, in a bid to obtain the experience I was being told I didn’t have. This was an eye opening experience and one I would recommend to any mother struggling to be taken seriously in the workplace post kids. Through running my own events company, I met with a plethora of local contacts in the wedding industry. I also gained confidence in running events and public speaking whilst working on key skills such as building a website, filling in a tax return, and conducting business meetings, all around the children. It was a brilliant experience, and a career move I will never regret, but ultimately I needed a job that got me out of the house. Working around the children from home wasn’t easy, and I felt I couldn’t fully commit myself to my work or my children with the setup I had.
Finally after several interviews over the course of a year, against the odds I landed myself what I considered at the time to be my ‘dream job’, working full time as a wedding and events coordinator for a local hotel. It meant putting the children into nursery but, after spending all day every day at home with them for the past couple of years, I was more than ready for a change to the routine. Things settled down fairly quickly, and I was indeed happy with my new balance. I felt I valued the time I did have with the children more, and I made sure that I spent that time fully in the moment with them. I felt I could be a different version of myself in the workplace - I was no longer just my children’s mum, I was Emma again.
Unfortunately, due to a series of events, my employment at the company ended the following year but I managed to find another full time position, at a new build hotel as a sales executive in their events team. This job, although better suited to me in some respects, was incredibly challenging due to the nature of the role. I would be working 60 hour weeks, but being paid for 40, and I was barely seeing the children at all, mainly to take them to nursery and put them to bed at night. Something had to give. Working full time was one thing, but working long, exhausting hours and being too shattered in my time off to enjoy the children was just not the life I wanted for us. I quit the job after only 8 months and I was once again on the lookout for something new.
Don't be afraid to leave a job that's not right for you and your family
This time, I decided a part time role would be the compromise my family needed, and I was fortunate enough to find it just a month later, at another local hotel. The role was for 20 hours a week, and I didn’t hesitate in cutting my hours in half. After such a stressful period in my previous role, I was ready to take a step back and recuperate. You can’t keep going forever, one day you will burn out. As fate would have it, I found out I was pregnant with my third child at the same time as starting the job. The pregnancy was unplanned and unexpected but a lovely surprise for myself and my fiancé, who myself and the children had recently moved in with.
During my time in this role, I was much happier with my working hours, and felt able to balance home life with work fairly well. My manager was flexible, allowing me to come in following the school run in the morning, and my hours of work meant that, by skipping a lunch break, I could also leave in time to pick the children up from school and nursery as well. I felt that I had reached a good balance. I was both a mum and business woman, and I felt able to fully focus my attention on both areas of my life.
Last year, as my maternity leave was nearing its end, I realised that as much as the job had suited me with the two children in childcare, once a third had been added into the equation, the numbers simply didn’t work out any more. I made the hard decision to hand in my notice, and become a stay at home mum. For the time being, this is what works for us, but I am not fulfilled. I find being at home all the time, without the adult interaction a job provides, very tedious and lonely. We don’t have the money to be able to go to many groups and days out, so mostly I am just at home with my one year old son, with the school run bookending the day. To keep myself occupied, and to feel I am being productive, I have focused on my blog, which I have written for the past couple of years. I also took over the day to day running of a local network of bloggers at the end of last year and I do that on a voluntary basis. It feels good to be doing something I am passionate about, and I am confident that, once my youngest is eligible for funded childcare, I will be able to earn an income from my writing.
For now, I aim to enjoy the different pace my life has taken. Having worked full and part time, as well as having run my own business, all alongside being a mum, I’m not sure there is one right way to strike a work/life balance. You just have to do what works for you. This may change over time, but that’s ok. Like most aspects of parenthood, it’s all a learning curve.
My tips for other mums
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