As a 42-year-old Managing Partner of a multi-million pound business, constantly travelling the world to service my clients, and with two kids to boot, I often get asked the question ‘how do you do it?’. In fact, when I mentor young women this is the question I get asked the most.
So, I thought it was time to lay it on the table, get it out in the open and tell all those aspiring young women the truth. The truth that there is no such thing as a ‘Super Working Mum’ (women who seemingly have it all and make no sacrifices). But, you can have both a successful career and kids if you really want it, and are realistic about what that looks like.
This is what I have learnt after reflecting on my own experience and those of my friends. I hope it is useful and helps prepare you for what might end up being the most challenging, yet highly rewarding, period of your life.
I don’t mean to scare people but deciding to have kids and still progress in your career is never going to be easy, and no manager in the world can change that. Even if you are lucky enough to work 9-to-5, by the time you’ve got home, have done the nursery run, battled with bath time, read the bedtime story, logged back on to finish off emails ... you’re knackered! Don’t give up, it’s amazing how you soon normalise to a new level of tiredness and stress, and eventually learn to thrive on it!
I see so many amazing women give it all up as they automatically take on the role of primary carer. This means they are always the one picking up the sick child, always the one having to slip off early for school pick-ups / school events / dentist appointments ... in fact, pretty much everything. This is unfair. If your career is important to you and, even if he/she earns more, don’t take all this on. Share it, and share it from day one.
If you try to manage work, kids and the running of the household all on your own, you will break. If you have a partner then he/she has to share the load ... fully. Decide who does what and then be prepared to both roll up your sleeves and work as a team, 50/50 all the way.
I know childcare is criminally expensive, especially in London, but go for the best and most reliable care you can afford. Juggling multiple arrangements and constantly having to manage gaps in care will drain you of the will to live. It’s not worth it, it will cause you no end of unnecessary stress, and it may be the thing that finally breaks you.
If you are lucky enough to be able to afford a nanny, don’t be surprised if your kids really like them ... or even love them. You should see this as a good thing, you’ve found Willy Wonka’s ‘golden ticket’ as it means your kids are happy, even when you’re not there. And, remember, they will always love you more than anyone else (even if you can’t style their hair in the shape of a heart / dancing horse / rainbow).
My kids are now 9 and 12, and I consciously decided many years ago to just not do school stuff. I don’t bake cakes, I don’t do handmade production outfits, but I do pray to the church of 2 A’s – Amazon and Asda. Here you can instantly buy anything you could ever need – including last-minute requests for dolphin outfits.
Yes, you will drop a few balls every now and again, you will be the only mum to send your kid to school in uniform on ‘non- uniform’ day because you forgot. But sh#t happens and no one (usually) dies.
You will have to miss some precious moments with your kids because you were at work but there will be many, many more. Let it go and enjoy the millions of moments you do have with them. You and your partner may also have to ease up on the hobbies for a bit, especially if your kids have hobbies. My ‘down time’ is now spent driving my son back from gymnastics at 8.30pm, five days a week – but, I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kids leave... eventually. This is what you hope for anyway, so don’t build your life around your kids. You need to make sure you have something for yourself once they’ve spent all your money and gone. I find this (and the small matter of paying the mortgage) a good motivation to keep going.
This is true, no matter what you do, or how many times you mess up. Never forget it, and show them how much you love them whenever you are with them.
So, stick with it ladies. Do your best, dust yourself off when you fall and make sure you pick your teammate wisely.