Tag: "Female Breadwinners"

How to manage a senior position and children – Jane Michell

How to manage a senior position and children – Jane Michell

Jane Michell runs Jane Plan, a business that has quickly grown from the kitchen table to a large business with thousands of clients, and 4 employees. She is the main breadwinner in her family and also has 3 children between 10 and 18. How does she manage to do it all? We scheduled a call with Jane. She speaks to us on the hands free, while she drives home from work, to make best use of her time.

Why did you start your own business?

Things weren’t going so well for my husband at the time, and I wanted to step up to the mark, take responsibility for our family finances and contribute financially in a much more significant way than I had done before.

At that time I was working as Director of Nutrition in a hospital, and my department was managing weight loss programmes. It was a good job, and I worked mainly school hours, but it didn’t contribute enough to provide for my family’s West-London lifestyle, with 3 children, private school and a couple of holidays a year.

The idea for the business came from several things that came together in my mind. In my work I felt personally disillusioned that a lot of the people we were treating were referred for surgery (gastric bands etc.) . Professionally I also felt disillusioned as there are a wide range of diet plans available that range from :’very good and very expensive’ to ‘not good at all’. I felt women were victims of the diet industry, and that really annoyed me. I wanted to do something about that. In addition I have a personal history of weight-loss too.

So I started building on my own experience and my professional expertise to develop Jane Plan, a weight loss programme. When I started, two and a half years ago, I worked from my own kitchen, and my clients were my friends. But now I have my own premises, two kitchens and work with a number of food suppliers. We do a personal consultation, develop a tailor made diet, and deliver the food daily to our clients’ home or workplace.
Taking on financial responsibility has worked. I have found, though, that the more financial responsibility you take on, the more you have to live up to it.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I typically leave at 7 am for the office, only to return home by 8 or 9 pm. I work Monday to Friday, and 3-6 hours on both Saturday and Sunday too. If this was a lifestyle job, I could shut up shop at 3pm and ignore the ringing phone. However I am in the unexpected position of being the breadwinner and can’t afford that, so I make long working hours. I have to say I love my job too – so working such long hours is not too onerous!

What kind of support have you got at home?

My husband leaves just after me in the morning, and comes home about the same time. We don’t have childcare. Basically the children look after themselves. The youngest, who is 10, travels independently, and often pops into the supermarket to buy dinner for everybody. In the evening the children cook their own dinner. My husband gets something himself or gets leftovers when he comes home from work.
Up till recently we also had a cleaner, but as we are now renovating she doesn’t come. – with the mess of the building project it wouldn’t be worth while. However, we normally do have someone to do the cleaning.
We do not have any family near, so unfortunately do not have any support there.

How do you manage support after school, with homework or during the holidays?

I have not had summer holidays for the past 2 years. In half-term I organise play dates for the youngest, but he mostly organises them himself. My daughter, who is 16, is out with friends or studying in holidays and my eldest son plays sports or studies. The first year of the business the children went to the Isle of Wight and stayed with their grandparents in summer holiday. Last year my husband took them to Italy.

Homework isn’t an issue, as my youngest comes home after school and there is a culture of studying in the house. My daughter is doing GCSE’s this year, and my eldest son, who is 17, is doing his IB. So the youngest just joins in and does his homework, and the other two do help him.

They organise it all without me. For example, all my kids see an orthodontist, as I don’t have time to take them, so I order a minicab to pick them up from school and drive them there.
I am blessed with three of the most amazing children. As a mother, I feel I have failed them in the past 2 years. I am not sure how they have managed. I guess what happens is, they see me working really hard and feel a sense of obligation to do what I expect them to do.

I don’t think my eldest suffers from the current situation and the youngest perhaps a little bit. However my daughter in the middle takes on most of the burden. She tends to organise dinner, tidy up the kitchen and calls me in the office to organise domestic details: ‘I think he needs his rowing kit for tomorrow, where is it?’. I do manage the burden on her, and get cross with the boys that she gets to do the donkey work. It seems so unfair that it’s always the women that step up to the mark – even at the age of 16!

Now I keep my Friday nights free for some special time for me and my daughter. I take her out to a fun restaurant of her choice, e.g. in Notting Hill and we have some mummy-daughter time together. The boys don’t seem to need that sort of input as much, so I do different things with them.

In weekends I do watch the occasional sports match, and I take my youngest son to the school play of the eldest. So I find time for each one of them.

How did you manage when your children were younger?

When I had the first son I had a senior job in the BBC. When the baby was 6 months, I went back to work. That certainly was too soon, and I deeply resented being the only mother in my group of friends to return to work already. My son was in a nursery, and although it was a wonderful nursery it wasn’t a positive experience for us. It was heart-breaking and he kept getting ill, so I had to take days off work all the time. I would recommend anyone in the same position to hire a nanny instead.

I had the next baby pretty soon, as I felt it would be economical to have the children close together to keep childcare costs down. I hired a nanny for the two of them and that was cheaper and worked out much better with my work.

When I had the third child the eldest was 7 and I gave up work for a year. I gave up the job at the BBC, as I felt it would interfere too much with my children’s lives. I re-trained as a personal trainer, just as something fun to do, and ran training programmes from my home. We had an au-pair to help out.

Following a course in Nutrition I found the job at the hospital, which was part-time and we had an au-pair to cover after-school care. I started working full-time again when the youngest was about 5. By then I was Nutritional Director. I worked mostly school hours at the hospital, so childcare and being there for the children wasn’t an issue.

When you started your own business, is this how you imagined it?

No, I started a business from home. I didn’t expect it to be like this. The business just grows and grows and has taken on a life of its own. It has powered forward and pulled me in. It’s such a pervasive presence, it’s always there, I talk about it all the time. It’s like a baby attached to my hip, it’s like my fourth child and I care passionately about it. To the point where I come home and my youngest son will ask: ‘How many orders did you get in today? Is your profit still okay?’

There’s nothing quite as dominant as your own business. The buck stops with you. I am responsible for 4 employees, clients, the rent of the location, the premises and everything else. If the locks break on the door, it’s my responsibility to get them fixed.

The biggest price I pay is the time I have lost with my children. That, to me, is the price of success. But you cannot run your own business with a part-time attitude. That’s just not how it works if you want real success, if you want to see your brand on the high street you have to work for it.

I don’t want it to be like this the rest of my life though. My end-goal is to make this a saleable business in the next 3-4 years.

Do you ever feel guilty?

I feel perpetually guilty. To me, motherhood is a state of guilt, I don’t manage it, I live with it. I deeply resent the time I miss with my children and am hoping it will be for the greater good. Perhaps in a couple of years they will be able to say ‘We are going off to mummy’s ski-ing chalet. It was my youngest sons Christmas wish ‘for mum not to make any work phone calls during Christmas’.

I would love to be a mummy that is at home, cooks meals, makes sure her children are well turned-out and has a beautiful home. The reality is I come home to that, and my children have been home organising it. But I do it like this, because I know there is no other option for now, I love my job and we rely on the financial income my business provides.

What do you hope for your own children?

My own daughter is currently choosing her A levels, and I have discussed work-life choices with her. I told her that if she chooses a career she needs to consider how it will fit around a family. She has got it all mapped out and certainly doesn’t want to do what I do. She would like to work in a hospital in her twenties, and then become a GP when she has children.

It was different for me, as I come from a generation that was told ‘You can have it all’. That is not true, you cannot have it all.
To be honest, I give my sons a different message. I tell them they need to step up to the mark and be responsible for their families. Interestingly, I don’t tell them they have to choose a career that fits around the family.

What would your advice be to other female entrepreneurs?

When you start out, do it with your eyes wide open. Do not underestimate the commitment required to make a business work and be prepared to make that sacrifice. Be prepared to work tooth and nail. You want to be sure you want to do that, as it will have quite an effect on your family. You are not going to have a work-life balance and be truly successful, have a good income and support your family.

However, it’s like when you are having babies and they are little. It is a phase in life. When you run your own business there will be phase in your life where you are going to run ragged.
My business has given me some of the biggest highs I have known in my life. I have changed as a person. I have become so much more confident, outgoing and together. I don’t take any crap anymore, I really don’t have time for that and feel I have truly changed for the better.

I genuinely think it is all worthwhile, but I know it will have come at a price. We live hard, and we play hard. The Friday nights with my daughter, for instance, are very special, and that special time would not have come my way if I had been at home more.

Both of my sons are incredibly proud of me. My eldest says ‘Mum, you really stand out from the mums in school and I wouldn’t want it any other way’. I do get tremendous support from my kids.
Personally, I love it, as I feel I could be on the cusp of something quite wonderful.

As we end the interview, Jane arrives home and she walks into the house. Her 10-year-old boy greets her enthusiastically and asks: ‘What shall I get you for supper mum?’

Interview by Inge Woudstra, Director Mum & Career

 

How to manage a senior position and children - Aparajita Ajit

How to manage a senior position and children – Aparajita Ajit

Find out from Aparajita Ajit how she does it – She is Vice President and Head Banking & Capital Markets UK and Europe at MphasiS, an HP company based in Bank, London. She works flexibly and has a three-year-old son and lives in New Malden, Surrey. She volunteers for the Mayor’s Mentor Programme.

Judith Zerdin, journalist, went to find out how she manages it, and when, if ever she ever gets to see her son.

You have the word “Europe” in your job title. Does that mean a lot of travelling?

Part of my job involves looking at new client acquisitions, and that does mean a fair bit of travelling. I was in France last week, next week I’m in Edinburgh, after that I’m in Luxembourg.

I could have a week when I have to visit two or three countries, but I tend to make them day trips rather than staying over. I’ll catch the first flight out in the morning and the last flight back at night.

How much work do you have to do in the evenings/at weekends?

My boss is based in New York and my team is scattered between the UK and Europe, but we do have a few members in India too. We have to speak at a time that works for everybody, so we’ll often get on to a team call at about 9pm. Once my son’s in bed I’ll go back to work.

I try to avoid working weekends if I can, unless there’s a major bid or some urgent time-consuming project.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I get up at about 5.30 – quite often I have to make early morning calls then to my Indian colleagues.

My son wakes up between 6.30 and 7am and then we’re getting ready and out of the house by 8am.

I drop him off at his day care and then I catch the train to Waterloo and then the tube to Bank. I’m in the office by 9am.

I use my commute to catch up on a lot of my business reading; keeping abreast of what’s going on in the markets. I check my phone, but I try to avoid doing emails as I deal with a lot of confidential information.

I don’t usually take a lunch break; I’ll just grab a salad or sandwich and have it at my desk, and then I leave at 4.30 to pick my son up from day-care.

I like to spend 2-3 quality hours with him before he goes to bed, after which my husband and I will have dinner and then I’ll catch up on work I’ve missed from the two hours not being in the office, and make any conference calls to the US or Canada.

I have a cook who comes once a week and the rest of the week my husband and I share the cooking. I also have a cleaner once a week.

It’s about juggling it all, but the good news is, as long as the work gets done and I put in the hours, my company doesn’t clock-watch. It helps that it’s a trust-filled atmosphere.

What about ‘downtime’?!

Weekends for sure – on Saturday nights my husband and I catch up with friends either at our place or go out for dinner, or go to the theatre. I go to a zumba class on Saturday mornings and Wednesday nights and I also go to the gym on Mondays after my son’s in bed and my husband’s home from work. I’ll fit my work around it.

My husband and I try to take off at least one Friday every three months to get some “us” time, too. Then we might go and see a film, or just chill out.

What about your husband – how do you share childcare responsibilities?

Each week we’ll share our schedules for the next week or couple of weeks so we can plan our diaries. We make sure, as best we can, that if I have to travel somewhere he will pick our son up, and he can work a bit from home.

My husband and I share responsibilities equally and he is extremely supportive and understanding. I do pick-up more often because my husband works for an Investment Bank and it does make it quite difficult to leave as early as me. However on days that I travel, he plans his schedule accordingly.

What would you say are your best coping mechanisms when things get tough?

It depends on how you define ‘tough’! For example, my son had chickenpox not that long ago. We had all our annual leave planned already and I only had three or four days to spare, but I decided to work from home, and my husband took some days off.

His company also offers an emergency nanny service, so we got one for the last three or four days.

I think drawing on any flexibility your employer gives you is very important. It’s all about having a very understanding employer, and an extremely helpful and reliable husband. We don’t have our parents in this country so we can’t rely on them.

When things get tough I just have to deal with it – it’s a bit of a trade-off. When it comes to childcare it’s just really important that we’re planned and organised.

At what point in your life did you decide this was what you wanted to do?

I grew up in India and I didn’t have everything just given to me; I had to work hard for it. Moreover, my parents were role models and I learnt a lot from them.

I’ve got two Master degrees and I was studying while looking after a baby and working full time, but I invested in all of that and started to see the results of my efforts and I realised the sky’s the limit. I believed that all the way through it.

What would your advice be to mums who presume they can’t go further in their careers if they have a family?

Many of my friends are highly educated, while some of them decide to stop working out of choice, many of them feel they have to give up their career once they have a family. A lot of the time we presume that’s how it has to be, but I think you need to talk about your aspirations with your family.

Look for other options: working flexibly/part-time/job sharing, and be a bit shameless with the resources made available to you at work.

For many people childcare is very expensive – you should work out how many days you can afford it and see what options are available for the other days.

Has any part of your life suffered in your quest for success?

There are days when I really wish I could just put my feet up and go to the Bahamas! On the other hand, we do make the most of our holidays, and I love spa days – I’d be lying if I said not. But I’m very happy as a mother, wife and professional woman. I’m very pleased with the life I have.

female breadwinners

Walking the female breadwinner tightrope – 5 steps to getting the balance right

  • Feeling guilty about being a working Mum?
  • Torn between family commitments and work?
  • Thrust into the role of breadwinner when your partner has retired or become ill?
  • Non existent work life balance?

You are not alone, a fifth of women in the UK are the breadwinner, and the number is growing.

Not sure if the term breadwinner fits for you? If you’re a working woman from any background, class, heritage and culture, married or co-habiting, with or without children, and you are the main or sole income earner in your home, then I am talking to you. Surprisingly, being a female breadwinner is one of the last taboos in society.

Often juggling work, life and family in secrecy, you’ll rarely discuss or seek coping strategies for your complex role in the world.

Rhonda, a successful business woman, working in a male dominated environment, with a child under one year old sums up the challenge of being the breadwinner eloquently:

“By being a working career woman or career mum, I’m trying to get the best out of both worlds. I’m trying to be true to who I am, not to who other people want me to be or what people think people I should be. And that is difficult”

Jenny Garrett, executive coach and author of Rocking Your Role, the ‘how to’ guide to success for female breadwinners, shares 5 tips to success from her experience of coaching hundreds of female breadwinners.

1. Check Your Ego

Victoria, a 40 year old entrepreneur with one child, has a growing training company found that earning the bulk of the income was giving her an over inflated ego, she decorated her home around her husband, after all it was ‘her’ money. It’s only when the cracks started showing in her relationship that she realised her husband was resenting her behavior.
The combination of your role at work and being the breadwinner at home can become a heady cocktail intoxicating you into thinking that you are the only one who has something valid to say in your relationship. If you notice yourself thinking that your opinion is the only one matters because you’re the one holding the purse strings, it’s time to check your ego.

2. Drop the Superwoman Syndrome

Femi, an accountant, in her thirties with two boys, found that her husband was waiting for her to come home to decide what to cook for dinner. She understood that she had created this problem, always wanting to be in control and make sure things were done ‘properly’. She had to take a step back and give her husband permission to cook.

“Now the children are fed before I get home in the evening, it’s not always what I would have chosen, but they’re happy and healthy and it’s one less thing for me to worry about.”

Listen and listen carefully, it’s OK not to be able to do it all. Repeat after me, it’s OK not to be able to do it all. Now say it out loud, it’s OK not to do be able to do it all. Trust others to do it their way, you might even learn something.

3. Talk about money

Andrea said:

“subconsciously I just don’t talk about any element of my work success. I would say I work mainly because it’s interesting, it’s never because it’s financially lucrative, it’s paid for the extension or it’s paid for the car”.

Don’t let money be the elephant in the room, talk about money with your partner. Decide who manages money, how it’s managed and how you will make financial decisions. Ensure you have two-way communication about finances, your relationship and your work.

4. Look after your spiritual, physical and mental well-being

Connie, married with grown up children, has a senior strategic role in education. She found that contracting our chores like the gardening and visiting the hairdresser were life savers for her.

“That little bit of me time restored my sanity”

You physical, mental and spiritual health are critical, investing in you now will avoid painful derailment of your work and family life later. Take time for you, it could be with dance classes, developing yourself through courses, dates with your partner or even full on retreats. My thing is meditation.

Do whatever restores balance, gives you space to breathe and let go of all the roles you play in life.

5. Ditch the Guilt

Sally, an interim manager recalls times when she was trying to work with the children climbing on top of her for attention. She has come to recognise that it is quality rather than quantity that matters.

“We’ve had really good weekends where I’ve just been able to focus on the family possibly better than if I spent more time with them feeling distracted. Yes, I think I’m finally learning that one”

If you’re feeling torn between many roles, such as: spouse, carer, mother, home-maker, career woman, guilt will drain your energy and take away from the freedom up have to enjoy your life and time with loved ones. Choose quality time over quantity of time.

Author: Jenny Garrett is a female breadwinners and leadership specialist, and motivates women to live their best life. She is the author of ‘Rocking Your Role’, she’s appeared on Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ and mentors for the Cherie Blair Foundation. Find out more about her, and her specialist programmes and one to one coaching at Reflexion Associates

Jenny has kindly offered to give away a  free 30 minute One to One Rocking and Shocking Consultation via Skype, and a copy of her new book ‘Rocking Your Role’, to anyone signing up to our Monthly Update in September. Read more 

Looking for more tips, guidance and insights on Navigating your Career and Children? Why not join us for a high-impact fun workshop on 9 October in Central London. Speakers from Ernst&Young, Sapphire Partners and more