“The obligation for working mothers is a very precise one: the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.”
Annabel Crabb sums up eloquently the challenge that so many of us women are faced with every day. How do we stay connected to our family while also focusing on our career?
Can we have it all?
I think the answer is yes, we can have it all, but it’s not a one size fits all solution. And it’s not always easy either. However, there are some simple things that you can do to help stay connected with your family while you also pursue your professional ambitions, that will not involve losing sleep!
Here are some things that work for me:
Life has changed completely from when I was growing up. In those days your parents would come home from work and not hear from work again until they went back the next day. But now, thanks to smartphones, work often follows you around constantly. Lots of people check social media and emails before they go to bed and first thing in the morning; some even check them every time they wake up through the night.
The best way to stop the infiltration of work into the rest of life and truly be present is to create stronger boundaries around your time, energy and space.
If you have a home office in a separate room, turn off the computer, turn off your phone and close the door. Walk away and leave work behind when you’re having family time. It sounds so simple but I know it isn’t always easy to do. After school at night and on weekends I rarely turn my computer on and this helps me to switch off from work and enjoy quality, uninterrupted time with my family instead.
Notifications drive me crazy. They can be such a distraction and interruption if you let them be. I turned mine off completely a long time ago so I’m not interrupted by flashing screens and beeping sounds all day long. I’m always surprised by how much unnecessary and intrusive beeping other people allow in their lives. When I really want a break from work, I delete all my social media apps and even email completely. I’ve started doing this on Friday afternoons so I can have a proper rest and family time over the weekend. It has really made a difference to my ability to relax.
We have to decide when we’re going to work and when we’re not, or before we know it work will take over our lives. There’s always more work to do and unless we create the boundaries around our personal time, work will continue to fill it up. Having set ‘work’ times and ‘family’ time is essential. When you’re at work, be at work; when you’re with your family, be with your family. Be intentional with your time.
Find common interests
There are lots of things my kids have been into that I haven’t really been interested in. So, although I always support their dreams and passions, when it comes to doing things together I prefer to find things we both can really have fun with. My 16-year-old son and I both love photography so on weekends we’ll often go on hikes and walks through national parks or to beaches. My 6-year-old daughter loves to draw so recently I’ve been spending time getting creative. We each have our own set of colours and artbooks and reconnecting with my creative side has been something I’m really enjoying for myself too.
Decide what you can do, and let go of what you can’t
When my eldest son first started school, I wanted to go to everything, be part of everything and always be there. It wasn’t long before I realised that this was logistically not possible and that I would have to find a compromise if this was going to work. In the end I decided to be ok with not going to everything. Instead, I focused on attending and being part of the things that I could do. For example I love helping out on excursions but find it hard to get away overnight for school camp. This compromise has helped me to feel like a real part of the school community without having to be there all the time.
Make time for magic
I’ve found as my older children have grown into teenagers, their schedule is nearly as busy as mine! They have homework, band practice, part-time jobs, assignments to do and a busy social life of their own. Staying connected has become more challenging and I’ve had to find creative ways to do it. Some simple things we do are family movie nights, going out for dinner, going away for the weekend or all-day outings on a Sunday. We also have a family business so we ‘work’ together sometimes too.
What works for you might be different to what works for me. But as long as you consciously make an effort to spend time together connecting with each other you’ll find that there are a host of benefits for all of you.
Peace Mitchell and her sister Katy Garner founded the Women’s Business School in 2016 to provide entrepreneurial education for women. The WBS Accelerator has been designed to accelerate women’s businesses. Traditionally women don’t participate in accelerators at the same rates as men and they are committed to ensuring that women from a diverse range of backgrounds have access to world-class education, connections, mentoring and support in a safe and welcoming environment. This program has been designed for women with a particular focus on creating flexible and time-efficient learning through pre-recorded content, live-streamed video, audio recordings, printable transcripts, coaching calls and an online mastermind group.