I recently did a survey asking 100 women on maternity leave and professional working mums what types of challenges and barriers they are currently facing, and what would be useful to help them successfully balance work and life.
I was flooded with a range of comments from re-building confidence, to how to use KiT days, to working towards promotion with a young family to dealing with constant childcare illnesses and keeping up with a demanding workload when working part-time: I’ll be incorporating these topics and more into my new digital course for working mums.
Many of you are finding the work/life juggle the #1 challenge
The survey data also showed that juggling a career and family is the biggest challenge and working women want help.
When I returned to work in 2019 to a bigger role, a six-month-old baby that didn’t sleep and a compressed hours schedule, I thought that I would just “slot” straight back into my old role, that my old corporate clothes would fit and I would work out the challenges as they arose.
I really struggled when I returned to work
I couldn’t have been more naive! I was really unprepared and had no idea how to approach juggling it all. It took a watershed moment: I was in the middle of breastfeeding George on my day off when my boss called to say I had to dial-in to an important meeting with the Executive team.
This was before Covid, when there was far less understanding of babies being breastfed in conference calls and children in the background of Zoom calls.
From this incredibly stressful afternoon – where I had breastmilk leaking down my front as I sat advising on the communications strategy for a commercial issue – I decided that I had to take control of my situation, otherwise it would continue to control me.
So what did I learn and what do I share with my clients?
- Set boundaries. I’ve got multiple blogs on this so do click through. One of the key things is understanding what boundaries look like for you, how they can help to build your resilience and importantly, communicating and re-communicating them. It’s going to be one of my main topic areas for my new course for working Mums so stay tuned!
- Ease the pressure on yourself. Please know that your house won’t always be tidy and there will always be washing to do. Even if you have lots of support – whatever that looks like for you – doing “it all” is an expectation that I had and quickly realised is not possible. Especially when there are bouts of illnesses, school holidays and you’re going through a busy period at work. Oh and the pictures you see on Instagram aren’t reality – let’s all be clear on that, okay?
- Exercise to destress. It’s often one of the first things that falls off for working parents, but it’s so important to help you maintain your sanity and your energy. It’s great for resilience, creating a calmer household and confidence too!
- Make time to do one thing each week or month that’s just for you – outside of work and family. Maybe meet a friend for a coffee and walk in your local park, take a yoga class, or simply take time to sit and read a book.
- Batch prepare healthy meals. We often cook large meals on the weekend to make getting through the week a bit easier – whether that’s a lasagne, casserole, batch of soup, or “fake-away” home-made curry. We always stock up on extra cans of chickpeas, tuna and tomatoes – pantry staples are a must! When you’re a busy working parent, you need lots of energy and eating well can go a long way.
- Try to do one to two things each day well. Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, narrow down your focus. You’ll feel more satisfied and less rushing will benefit your nervous system.
- You don’t have to do a bath every night! It’s an old wives tale that you must bathe your kids every night. Do consider trying it, especially if you’re all sick and exhausted!
I hope these points might help you – there’s plenty more information about many of the topics I touch on either on my blog (just click wherever you see a link), or I share daily advice on my Instagram account. Ultimately though, please remember that while many of us may look like we may be juggling it all, I know very few mums who don’t struggle behind the scenes. It’s one of the main reasons I created The Women’s Vault: I saw firsthand how many of us only realise we’re not alone once we have the confidence to share those worries with others. It’s amazing how quickly you then discover how many parents are in the same boat.
Getting my help
If you’re on maternity leave, or have recently returned to work, consider signing up for my Returning To Work with Confidence programme: it’s the course I wish I’d had when I returned from maternity leave and helps you return to your career with your best foot forwards (while navigating the juggle!).
Of if you’d like some other of my resources such as flexible working guides, or do talk to me about my coaching or courses for working parents, simply email me: firstname.lastname@example.org