Sunday, 24 July 2016

#worklifebalance ... where does your partner fit in?

Being self-employed is hard. Being a mum is hard. And combining the two, especially when children aren't yet in full-time school is just a whole 'nother world of hard! And with families becoming increasingly spread across the country, (free) childcare is just not as easily available as it once was.

Our son is almost 6, and is by turn a ball of energy or an utter sloth. Our daughter is 18 months old, and on the cusp of angelic baby, and stubborn, mischievous toddler. She still breastfeeds, and we still co-sleep (more on this in another post), and so I don't have the freedom that I used to have when our bottle-fed son was tiny.

Work life balance?
Becca. 'Helping'.

Introduction out of the way, I will start by saying that I'm aware that I am extremely fortunate to be in the situation that I'm in. My husband supports us financially, so that I can focus on looking after the children. He's out of the house for 12 hours a day, Monday to Friday, but he is also a very hands-on, loving dad, who enjoys nothing more than some good old-fashioned Family Time. He takes responsibility for certain 'blue' jobs around the house, including garden maintenance, financial admin, and emptying the bins. He even irons his own work shirts! My 'pink' jobs naturally vastly outweigh this, given that's I'm at home, although we do pay a fab lady who comes and helps with the cleaning.

Between looking after the house and the children, any work I get done during the week is very disjointed, and so it's at weekends that I'd ideally get some nice big chunks of time to really crack on. Unfortunately, I'd be lying if I said this didn't cause some friction between my husband and me... He's more than happy to take responsibility for the kids and give me a couple of hours to myself one of the days, but this really isn't sufficient to do everything that needs to be done...

I feel a lot of guilt and pressure during the times I spend working at weekends. I even feel guilty about time spent doing household chores if he's looking after the kids! Is this just all part and parcel of normal Mum Guilt?! I have to sometimes rather indignantly remind myself that this is the only thing I do for myself, whether I call it work or not. If I didn't have it, and were always available for family duties 24/7 then I would be frustrated and resentful.

I do wonder if we just have fundamentally different ways of thinking, based on our own experiences. I believe that deep down, he sees my work as my 'me-time'. Similarly, he doesn't see the bigger picture, in that if I'm not physically making something for an order, then it's not 'work'. The hours spent blogging, photographing, listing products or generally working on my website, planning events, interacting with people on social media, researching suppliers etc, are seen as me just playing on my phone.  By contrast I do NOT see his 60-odd hours of working/commuting as 'his time'.

I apologise to you all, as I could probably summarise all of the above in just two sentences: I am supported in my ambition by my partner, however on a practical level, I do not have enough child-free time to work. I feel guilty about the time I do get, whether the pressure is real or perceived. Basically, it's almost all in my own head.

Ignore the dust!

To finish, here are some quotes from other #mumbosses, when asked how supportive their partners were...

"I often feel that my husband isn't supportive but the reality is that he doesn't understand what it's like to be at home full time with the boys and have your own business. I find it impossible to switch off and am always thinking about the next idea. He comes home and leaves his work at the door. He's as supportive as he's able to be and that's fine. I've started to meet other mamas in my situation and that's where I get the support that I need."

"My husband is amazing and very supportive but I still feel that he sees it as a hobby. I am getting spoilt if he looks after the kids while I work. If there are family/house things that need doing then they come first, work should fit around. There are always things that need doing so I am often distracted from work."

"I want to help bring in some income, I'm a SAHM, but my husband says I'm just wasting my time. Any suggestions I make he says is a waste of time or I'm doing it wrong and won't sell anything."

"My husband is nothing short of brilliant. He helped with the night feeds because he knew I needed sleep to get through the day, he always said having a whole 10 hours to himself was easier than my job of looking after the children and running the business. Now they are older he takes them out when I need some brain space."

The following, and final quote comes from a life coach and qualified NLP practitioner who I consider myself lucky to have happened upon:

"My advice for the partner thing: 1.) have a plan - it's the only way you can get the most out of your time (your plan/his plan/joint plan) 2.) don't nag, it's ugly (a friend once said to me 'shag don't nag') 3.) understand what works for you and him - it may well be different but if you can get under the skin of what makes you tick then use it to find a solution (eg I'm a starter and he's a finisher) 4.) get help from a mentor or coach - ask for help and you shall get it usually (people like Hayley Southwood have made it work as did Jo Malone and heaps of other women) or be clear to your partner what you want and why 5.) remember, even on the moaniest bleak day we have it so much better than so many people and we have a choice over what we do which is a gift..."

Right, I'm putting the laptop down now, and going to have an early night so I have enough energy to be superwoman again tomorrow! ;-)

Friday, 22 July 2016

#worklifebalance ... Labels

I recently completed a market research survey, which asked me to select from a list of 'employment status' options. Was I a stay-at-home-mum? Was I self-employed? A working mum? These were all on offer, as well as the standard full-time / part-time / unemployed options.

I was actually stumped! I do stay at home and look after my children, but I am also self-employed and work from home every minute I can. What do I want to be recognised for? Does it vary depending on who I'm speaking to? Women are so wary of being judged that we too often downplay our achievements and our roles. We don't want to make other's feel bad about their life choices either, which leaves us in a bit of a pickle! We NEED to have our family and friends on board with us as they are our support network and (hopefully) our main cheerleaders.

Stay-at-home mum?
Stay-at-home mum?
 To my 'mum friends', I have been guilty of massively downplaying my ambitions and the amount of time I spend working on my business. My small successes that I am so immensely proud of  might be mentioned in passing conversation, but I dread being seen as boastful, or as having 'changed'. As such, I (mainly) refrain from squealing and doing a silly dance whenever I get a new stockist, for example - even when that is TOTALLY what my instincts are yelling at me to do! I don't want them to think, that I think I am all Busy And Important, or that I think their lives are less Busy And Important by contrast. And yet I do feel that my business is a large part of my identity. So am I a stay-at-home mum? Not completely, no.

Fickle Craftroom stall at Blogtacular
To my 'girlboss' friends, I often feel a bit of a farce. Whilst I’m confident in certain areas, I have insecurities about my business. Do they take me seriously? I have no idea. Yet I am still doing the same thing they are – following my dream. Working for myself. Doing what I love, and doing my best to fit it all in around my family. Am I self-employed? Undoubtedly. But not in the high-flying, besuited entrepreneurial way that the terms suggests. And certainly not full time.

working mum
Working mum?
So a ‘working mum’. That fits, right? I wish it sounded more glamourous though. And so even though it is descriptive on both points, I don’t tend to use this either.

How do you describe yourself / what you do?