“So do I think women can ‘have it all’ when it comes to career and motherhood? You’re damn right I do.”
When motherhood and career collides – can we really have it all and make time for everything that matters to us?
Adjusting to life as a working mum comes with a long list of challenges that we don’t often talk about. For both career and business minded mums we can really struggle to navigate through motherhood and re-establish ourselves in career or business.
How many of you struggle with the feeling of being torn between work and home? How many of you face the emotional day care drop offs, manage school drop offs, work part time but with a full time load, are drowning in housework, always thinking what to cook for dinner whilst responding to emails, deal with family sickness, self-doubt, feeling unreliable, finding time for your-self, investing in your relationships, finding time for your partner…. All of it, the list goes on.
Before I had children, I was very career oriented, I always maintained a plan and focus. Children were part of this plan, but I honestly had no idea of what to expect on the other side, how my career plans post children would un-fold. On the outset, I figured it was just a matter of taking some time off and then arranging a date to return with my boss….. man was I wrong! I mean, of course arranging a date to return is high on the to do list, but there are soooo many other important things that had not even entered my head to consider, and the frustrating thing is you can’t even necessarily plan for these things.
That’s the hard part, the stuff we don’t often talk about when it comes to re-entering the work force post children, is the array of emotions that comes with it. Literally, the emotional pull that it has on us mums is incredible. Returning to work after Darcy was born was a challenging and emotionally charged time for me, fortunately second time around I am now much more prepared for what lies ahead.
If you’re a mum about to re-enter the work force, or a stay at home mum thinking about jumping into that business venture you have had brewing for a while, then read on!!
I reached out to a local mum who is killing it in biz, Leah Ladson is an insanely talented photographer who has built up a very successful business whilst also hustling the shit out of mum life. I have been following this amazing woman on social media for a while now, and when I made contact with Leah it was no surprise that she was more than happy to share her experience of the mummy juggle with us all.
What has been your biggest challenge about juggling the role of motherhood and small business owner – how are you managing to balance the two?
What is the secret to the perfect balance between work life & mum life… The question that has been on literally every WAHM’s lips at one stage or another (or in some cases, every day questioning themselves) – Well… I have the answer! Wanna know what it is? Drum roll…. There is NO SUCH THING as the “perfect” balance. And the sooner we resign to that, the happier we will become. Honestly, I’ve been through every emotion there possibly is in relation to this matter. I’ve search high and low for this thing they call balance… And it was only last year (after 5+ years of searching and about 5 burnouts) that I came to the conclusion that it’s just not gonna happen. You see, you will go through waves… If you’re killing it at business, you’re most likely feeling pretty shitty as a Mum/Wife/Friend. When you are feeling like you have this Mum stuff sorted and you’re cooking like Martha Stewart, you are probably neglecting those emails, PM’s, DM’s texts and all the biz things that are on your to-do list. It is literally impossible to do it all, yet for some reason society has created this unrealistic expectation that we should be able to do it all. I say fuck society, and just do the best YOU can.
It’s so hard, when you’re working from home. How tempting is it to just put that load of washing on, or quickly make the beds? Can I get a hell yeah?! Well… My husband probably thinks I’m the shittest housewife in the history of… ever! (But guess what? I don’t care cuz’ I never wanted to be a housewife!) But… When I’m at work, I’m at work. No housework is done on my work days – I treat my office as though it is away from the home and I just won’t do it. I also don’t schedule play dates, do groceries or see friends on my work days for that reason too. I’m sure some of my friends don’t understand that my job is a ‘real job’ and wonder why I won’t use my child free days to catch up for a hassle free coffee – But that’s it. My work days are so precious to me, and to be able to maintain the level of customer service I give my wonderful clients… These are my rules. Same as any other office job – It’s just the perception of being a WAHM is different. Write down your non-negotiables and stick to them the best you can. Some of my non-negotiables include no working at night time and no working on weekends (aside from weddings) – I decided this last year too after a few months of literally working every single night on the computer and not seeing my husband. From when the kids go to bed until we do, is my time with my husband and I don’t want to compromise that. The same for weekends – I sacrifice my Saturdays for a good 6 months of the year to photograph weddings, and that is valuable family time that I miss out on. So in the off season, you will not see me with a camera in my hand on weekends unless it’s taking photos of my own kids.
My biggest challenge currently? Would have to be the sick days & school holidays. Having to schedule a “no-work zone” for school holidays is super hard, especially for my regular shoots. But I have amazing clients who are so flexible (and have even invited my 5yo to come along to the shoot) and we just make it work. One of the reasons I started my own business actually, was so we never had to worry about who would have our children on school holidays. I see family & friends struggling to arrange their work/children so often and I just knew that this was the right thing for us. The sick days do my head in though. Really, they do. I am such an organised and planned person, so when I am thrown out of whack due to sick kids I really do struggle with that.
There still seems to be such a divide in society about the ability to ‘have it all’ – career and motherhood. What are your thoughts about this?
So do I think women can ‘have it all’ when it comes to career and motherhood? You’re damn right I do. I think what you need to look at though, is that everyone has a different version of ‘having it all’… I personally think I do have it all. I am in love with the business I have created and the company I keep. I am in love with the fact that I can do THIS, and also have so much time at home with my children. I wouldn’t change a thing, honestly. But there are Mum’s out there who would rather be a Mum full time, and there are Mum’s out there who want to work full time. And my hat goes off to all of them, because whatever version you choose is equally as impressive as anyone else’s version.
What valuable advice or tips can you share with new mums about to return to work after a period of full time motherhood?
My advice going back to work after maternity leave? Be honest and transparent to your boss (or yourself if you plan to run your own biz) – When I returned back to work the first time (which was to an office job) I felt pressured to go back early (Missy was only 7 months old) and I deeply regret that. They ended up making me ‘redundant’ after 5 months because I wouldn’t go back to full time hours – An absolute prick of a company to put that kind of pressure on a young, first time Mum. I just wish I was stronger, and I will always be angry at them (and myself) for how that played out. So I would say, only go back to work when you are ready to. Second time around was much easier for me, I took 12 months maternity leave from my office job (different company – Amazing boss!) and while I was on mat leave I decided to give my business a real crack. When it came time for me to talk to my boss about returning to work, I knew I didn’t want to – So I resigned. Although I was sad, as I loved by boss and old job – I just knew this was my new path. The best thing you can do for yourself if be upfront about the hours/days you feel comfortable working, and don’t resign to pressure.
For me, I’m incredibly lucky to have a supportive husband who literally doesn’t care what I do as long as I am happy. Whatever decisions I have made with my work over the years, he has just gone with the flow and helped me make it work.
Any extra advice I can share for my WAHM’s out there? Create yourself a schedule 6 months in advance. Write down how many bookings/sales you can make with a blank space next to them, fill it in as your sales/bookings roll in and DO NOT NEGOTIATE any more than you first allocated. People laugh at me, but I have this A4 piece of paper with 9 months worth of bookings handwritten on it. I do use my computer calendar too, but this particular sheet let’s me know when I’m booked for the month and any enquiries after that? I say a big fat NO to.
So… if you visit my house and notice there is shit everywhere just know that I am not embarrassed, I am just busy building my business/making memories with my kids – The mess can wait!
Leah is an insanely talented photographer, check her out at Leah Ladson Photography.
All images via Leah Ladosn.
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