Are you a working mum? Do you push yourself to the breaking point and still feel guilty? You are not alone! A working from home mum shares how managing time like a sergeant major made her marriage suffer, and what helps her to find more balance.
I said to a girlfriend the other day, ‘I really need to re-organise my life priorities. I mean, who else goes to the gym at 9pm rather than see their husband because there’s just no other time in the day to do it…after looking after the kids, dinner, bath, bed?’ Her reply was, ‘I go to the gym at 9pm!’.
She has recently returned to a full-time job after maternity leave with her second child. I am a stay-at-home mum who is also trying to start up her own business. That’s when I realised that my schedule was pretty typical of any working mum.
I’m not sure if having kids later in life is anything to do with it, but we do all seem to want it all – a job that gives us status, independence and an income; children who we enjoy; a great marriage; and a fabulous, fit body – despite getting older and having less time!
What I’ve realised recently is that something has to give or else you just crack as you set the bar too high for yourself. However, giving yourself a break isn’t so easy when you’re running at a million miles and hour and totally focused.
Choosing which area of your life needs to give a little is hard and there’s no right answer. If we choose family life and spend more time with our kids, rather than putting them in childcare or pre-school then the stress of tantrums and thinking of fun ideas for you and your kids to enjoy every day can be hard. For others this comes naturally and is an easy choice.
If we choose work then it’s a risk – you can dedicate yourself to a job and be side-lined for promotion, made redundant or just find the whole rush from home to childcare to work and visa versa utterly exhausting. For others the time on the train is relaxing and they thrive on the self-satisfaction of the job.
We are all individual and no one size fits all.
I thought that running my own business would be the best of both worlds and to a large extent I’ve been right. I get to be there every day for my son during his waking hours. He sleeps for Britain, so the afternoons and evenings are free for me to work and by the time he wakes up I’m ready to down tools and have fun.
But recently I’ve realised it’s my marriage that has taken a side-line – not my work or my son. It’s happened slowly but surely until I suddenly noticed that we’ve both started putting our jobs above our time together. Juggling our son between us and both running off to our respective offices or negotiating who gets the chance to go to the gym when he sleeps.
It doesn’t mean to say I’m about to get divorced…far from it. Realising this slide in priorities has given us both a wake up call and we now follow a ‘no work on the week-end policy’. You might be thinking that it’s odd that we even have to make this rule but if you’re a workaholic then it’s definitely a must. For me, the only way to be successful in business and remain happy in marriage and family life is to time-manage like a sergeant major.
The reality is that there is no perfect parent. And you can’t always achieve the job success you want at the pace you might have achieved when you were single. Perhaps it’s an all round compromise rather than always thinking it’s one single thing.
A friend who runs her own business from home made me realise this when she came over for coffee the other day and reeled off the routine she follows each week which means she does not dedicate more than 20 hours a week to work: two days a week her son does after school club to give her space to work a bit longer, 2 hours per day on dog walking so she got in a dog walker twice a week to free up time, 4 hours to managing her son’s mini-rugby team etc.
I was so impressed with her rigidity and honesty in managing her time, and finding space for what is important to her without feeling guilty or pushing herself to breaking point, that I have since tried to do the same.
It is tough to pull off, which is why I’m writing this article at 12.30am before I go and tidy up the kitchen…but I’m getting better and am happier for it!
Author: a Surrey-mum who works from home