2. Set boundaries
The hardest part of transitioning to a flexible role is setting boundaries. You’ve made the call to reduce your hours for your own reasons and so now you need to work accordingly. That’s means you may not be able to accept the project that requires you to travel to 5 African countries or daily status meetings at 17:30. You may need to decline the projects that don’t fit within your new structure.
I’m not saying it’s easy. But you need to be aware of what you say yes to because you may land up resenting the work because it contradicts your values. Remember, you made the decision because you value time with your kids at this stage of your life. You don’t need to lose out on the entire opportunity but people are open to negotiate.
So when you do take on a new project or role, be clear on your hours of work. If you don’t set your boundaries at the outset, you will be at the mercy of the client’s/suppliers/ requests. I interviewed a female CEO who used to ask clients who requested meetings in the afternoon to come to her son’s school and have the meeting on the Hockey field because those were her boundaries. Not one person declined the meeting!
Boundary setting is not just in a work capacity but you need to set personal boundaries for yourself. Decide on a quitting time– give yourself the permission to switch off for the day. If you are continually ‘always on’, you will start to feel mental exhaustion despite how much sleep you are getting. Set boundaries to balance work and family.
3. Be present
When it is time to switch roles from businesswoman to mom, remind yourself to be present with your loved ones. Often we have the intention of spending quality time with our kids in the afternoons but the reality is our mind is still in the pitch that morning or in Woolworths wandering what to make for dinner tomorrow or just thinking about work commitments.
Never mind, not just being present mentally but often we try to sneak in some extra emails, finish the last quotation – you can fill in the blank. And believe me – kids will call you on it quick! For me, the best solution is to leave my phone and laptop in a separate room. Nothing is so urgent to keep it on you and if it is, you’ll get a phone call.
The same goes for dinner time – create a tech-free environment and replace screens for real connecting communication. The same goes for your work time – when you are focusing on your work commitments, ditch the guilt. Focus, be present and give it everything. And you will balance work and family like a pro.
4. Shift your perspective
I have spoken to many working moms and the same theme comes up over and over again. I know I tend to put my self-worth on external achievement. If I can see progress and I’m busy with talks or writing engagements, I can give myself a gold star. I’m A-type, a recovering perfectionist (still not quite there) and I know my biggest mental hurdle was giving myself permission to be with my kids in the afternoons – guilt free.
In theory, I know I am giving them a huge gift of being there and I know I’m not doing ‘nothing’. But honestly, I found it really difficult to cut myself some slack and not constantly feel I’m not achieving. I met with parenting expert and coach, Nikki Bush who gave me the most life changing advice I would like to share with you.