As my daughter’s first birthday approaches, it’s not only been the most amazingly intense year on a personal level, but also on a professional level, as my business has soared to achieve peak performance. But while from an outsiders point of view I may have appeared cool, calm and collected, I can assure you it hasn’t all been a breeze.
As I reflect on the past 12 months there are six key areas that have enabled me to achieve business success in my first year as a new parent.
1. Boundaries over 24/7
As soon as I returned from my three months of parental leave, I updated the availability message in my auto reply and email signature to clearly communicate my official workdays. This doesn’t mean I haven’t worked outside of these times throughout the year; however, it has enabled me to more easily set and manage expectations.
2. Flexibility over structure
As someone who has long had a very structured approach to life (some might even say ‘over- organised’), prior to going on parental leave I was adamant that I would return three days a week for the first year and had client contracts in place to facilitate this.
That quickly changed when my daughter arrived, so I returned to work two days rather than three. While my clients were all very understanding, this put tremendous pressure and value on my time. As work spilled out across my ‘Mum’ days, I felt a large amount of anxiety and resentment form because I wanted to be fully present for my daughter as opposed to working in-between everything.
Following some business coaching, it became clear some things were in fact out of my control. So, I decided to let go of the work-life structure I had set myself and simply go with the natural rhythm of life. What has since surprised me is by letting go, not only did the anxiety and resentment instantly disappear, but new business opportunities arose that I could have never imagined possible. And for the most part, I’ve also been able to manage all things work related within my dedicated days.
3. Vulnerability over perfection
While I have always valued vulnerability within relationships, as a marketing communications specialist, I take great pride in my high attention to detail, and while I know I am far from perfect, when it comes to my work, I have always strived to be as close to perfect as possible. However, as I started juggling more work than I had time, I started to continually see negatives in my output — the main two being missed opportunities for more X, Y or Z, and meeting deadlines rather than exceeding them (in an ideal world I like to be one week ahead of schedule).
As the frustration grew, I felt like I was letting my clients down, so I decided to take my vulnerability to the next level with those I worked with and expressed these concerns. Interestingly no one picked up on these items, nor did they share my concerns.
What these conversations did do is strengthen my professional relationships and reiterate my value. It also made me realise that while my working style has changed over the past year, the quality of my work has continued to improve (as we’re always learning).
4. Space over ‘always on’
In a year that has seen me delve into a whole new level of intensity (it’s been amazing, but intense), I have been seeking space in any form or moment that I can in order to truly connect and be present. One of the best ways to enable me to do this was to go offline on weekends and do intermittent tech fasts — going offline for a 12–14-hour periods, mainly overnight — during the week. As a result, not only have my professional and personal relationships excelled, my creativity has increased and I have an immense sense of calmness, despite all that I have chosen to juggle in life.
My life coach once said to me, “Em, you are your business’ and family’s greatest asset”, and it has really stuck with me. If I am unwell then I am unable to show up how I want to in life — it’s that simple. While incorporating my daughter into my exercise regime and specialist appointments hasn’t been too challenging (and something I secretly love), my nutritional requirements over the year have changed and I’ve had to simplify family meals (I’d like to think they are still tasty, you’ll have to check that with my husband though).
While there’s no doubt my business wouldn’t exist without the support of my husband, he also has a very demanding career. After having my daughter, I quickly realised I wouldn’t be able to work and look after her at the same time. So from enrolling her into childcare, to calling on family members to babysit out of hours or when she’s been unwell, I’ve had to put my hand up and ask for additional help (something I am not good at doing) in order to work and continue my professional development.
Prior to becoming a parent, I felt a lot negative stigma within the wider corporate world (my clients excluded) in regard to the impact it would have on my career and business. However, what I’ve come to realise is that while life is certainly more intense, being a parent or carer of someone doesn’t mean everything else pauses or diminishes. As my experience demonstrates, it can actually do the reverse, far exceeding expectations and goals.
I can proudly say that 12 months in, becoming a parent has made me a much more valuable resource to my clients and professional connections, and now more than ever, I’m looking forward to the journey ahead.