When my daughter was just six weeks old my husband and I took the trip of a lifetime. Instead of taking maternity leave at home, I strapped on the baby-carrier and toured Chile, Argentina and the US.
I didn’t check in at work every day or even once a week. And when I returned to my role as a chief executive, it was in a part-time capacity.
I now work 32 hours a week and my company has never been in better shape.
There is a misconception that mums in leadership roles can’t succeed if they don’t work full-time. To do a proper job of being a boss they need to sacrifice time with their children and work more than 40 hours a week.
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Mums who work part-time can lead strong, innovative companies.
My six months of maternity leave and my current working arrangement have taken my company to the next level. My team thrived having larger responsibilities placed on their shoulders and as a result we have well and truly smashed our financial targets.
Of course, it’s not easy. Last week a new staff member commented, “I just don’t understand how you do it all”.
It all comes down to these five strategies:
1. Being flexible
My weekly routine looks a little like this: Mondays and Tuesdays in the office and then I choose which other two days I will work and which day I’ll spend with my daughter. These days or times can shuffle to ensure I’m available at the right times for my team and our clients, not just at the times that are convenient for me.
Childcare for my daughter is also flexible. We rely on childcare, nannies and family. It means planning our schedule a week out and being comfortable without having a set routine for her.
2. Being focused
When I’m at work, I’m at work. You’ll rarely find me trolling social media channels or taking long breaks.
I have less time than ever to do more work than ever so it requires rigorous focus. I try to work across the projects that are the best use of my time and those that bring the best value, not just what I love doing.
3. Defining my own version of success
In order to stay focused and have the resilience to get through tough decisions, you need to know what long-term success looks like to you. For some people, that may be financial, for me it’s about the skills I want to acquire to ensure I can build a business that has a positive impact on the world.
4. Being okay with not being perfect
I’m not a perfect leader, daughter, sister, friend, wife and mum. I definitely feel the weight of wanting to do more for everyone.
But often doing more is just not possible and I am confident enough to know I’m doing the best job I can.
5. Taking care of me
I recognise that if I don’t take care of myself I’m pretty useless. I have an active business coach that helps me get to where I want to be and who I aspire to become. I try to eat well, exercise and sometimes I put my daughter in care on my day off so I can have a day off alone to write, reflect and just love myself.
I always come back from my days away more energised and resilient, more compassionate to others and ready to take on the next hurdle.
It’s easy to look at part-time work as a ‘mums-only issue’. But I think mums provide a window into what the future is going to look like for the workplace. In fact, out of my 19 staff over half of them are employed part-time and only two of them are mothers. So the more that business owners see this as a testing ground, the more they’re going to be prepared for the future.
This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.