From my own experience, trying to raise a young family at the same time as advancing your career can seem an impossibly tall order. It’s not just that time and energy is in short supply, but emotions and relationships can be put under immense strain.
As a former lawyer, and COO and co-founder of beauty tech platform LeSalon, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to achieve the ‘perfect’ work-life balance. I’ve made sacrifices, made mistakes, felt the guilt, and it definitely hasn’t been easy, but I firmly believe that no woman should feel like they have to make a choice between being there for their children and professional success. I’ve also found that the ‘perfect’ work-life balance doesn’t exist. You can only do your best.
Knowing your options and making the right plans is absolutely key though, if you are to enjoy the best of both worlds. Here are a few things I’ve learnt along the way.
Explore Flexible Working
Being self-employed or participating in a flexible working scheme is often the ideal arrangement for parents seeking control over their time.
It’s not a possibility for everyone, but if you can work on a self-employed or flexible basis, try to schedule your working hours so that you can be present for key moments in your children’s day. This might mean working whilst they are at school, then again after their bedtime.
If such scheduling is not officially permitted in your workplace, try talking to your boss and explaining your specific needs. You might be able to arrange a late start after you’ve done breakfast and the school-run, or the option to leave early on certain days in order to be home for storytime.
Choose Your Workplace Wisely
If you are looking to start a new job, or to change employers, make sure that you properly consider how your needs would be met. This means thinking about the length of the commute, the childcare packages, the annual leave allowance (and any date restrictions on it), and the expectations regarding evening and weekend work. Do your research, and don’t be reserved when it comes to asking the important questions.
Be Fully Present
With the constant presence of digital technology in our lives, it’s tempting to scroll through your emails whilst your children eat their dinner, or to step out from a playdate to take a call. But splitting your attention like this can send out the wrong messages to your family; you need to be signalling to them that they are your priority. This means that when you’re spending family time, devices are off until ‘work’ time re-starts.
Schedule Family Time
Reserve a block of time each week to spend enjoying yourselves as a family. Take turns in choosing the activity, and use the opportunity to share, learn, and have fun. My favourite family activities include summer picnics in the garden, and Saturday morning trips to the pool.
Don’t Forget to Make Time For Yourself
Burnout is the worst enemy of the working parent, but it’s all too easy to leave yourself at the bottom of your to-do list. It’s essential that you carve space in your schedule to relax and clear your head. I personally like to use the Calm app for ten minutes of daily meditation, but you could also try a lunchtime yoga class or reserve one evening a week for a date-night with your partner.
A big motivation behind setting up LeSalon was to provide a platform which connected women with beauty professionals who offered home visits – enabling these women to access some essential me-time, without having to worry about childcare or time constraints. Making use of these sorts of services to ensure you’re looking after yourself is essential if you’re to succeed professionally, whilst also being present for your children.
About the expert
Natasha Pilbrow is COO and co-founder of on-demand beauty platform LeSalon (www.lesalon.com). Not only does Natasha want to provide a beauty service that clients can easily access and enjoy, she also wants her technicians to be able to work flexibly and safely. Her mission is to use technology to create a platform that allows women to work on their own terms, honing their skills and expanding their client base under a discerning brand associated with high-end and quality treatments.