WORK/LIFE BALANCE – SUPPORT IS THE KEY
Work/life balance is the holy grail for most people. But once you become a parent, it can feel elusive. At the time of writing this article, it is International Women’s Day 2023. In this article, we look at, dissect, and answer the question “can women have it all?” with another, more important question.
As I type this question into the search engine, I received over 10 billion results in 0.42 seconds.
The first two titles are ‘why women still can’t have it all’ and ‘executive women and the myth of having it all’. [Deep intake of breath.] After two scrolls, I found what I was looking for; “Why are we still asking if women can have it all?”. Now that’s more like it.
Researching the theme of this article, I was torn between feelings of outrage and natural curiosity. The outrage that in today’s society we are still asking “can women have it all?” as if women are somehow expecting too much to have children and a career. How very dare we. And curiosity that, as a professional woman and mother, I too am seeking wisdom and advice about how to find this perfect balance between work and home life (spoiler alert; this word ‘perfect’ is where we’re going wrong!)
During my research, I learnt three important things:
1. We still have a long way to go until equality exists
2. Women are fighting harder than ever for the right to “have it all”
3. Support, in all its forms, is a powerful thing
WORK/LIFE BALANCE BEGINS WITH EQUALITY
“Women can’t expect both,” were the recent words of Conservative MP Miriam Cates when quizzed on the subject of women having a career and spending time with their children. Her comment sparked outrage on social media before the thread was deleted.
This headline followed shortly after the news that Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister for New Zealand, had resigned. The BBC headline read, “Jacinda Ardern resigns: Can women really have it all?”, prompting accusations of sexism. There was no mention of the fact that at the time of Ardern’s election in 2017, aged just 37, she was the youngest female head of government in the world. Or that during her five-and-a-half-year tenure, she had witnessed the horrific events that were the Christchurch attacks, the Covid-19 pandemic and the Whakaari eruption.
Yet, despite these monumental events throughout her time in office, reporters decided to focus on motherhood as being the reason she was stepping down.
Ardern commented, “I know there will be much discussion in the aftermath of this decision as to what the so-called ‘real’ reason was… The only interesting angle you will find is that… I am human. Politicians are human. We give all that we can, for as long as we can, and then it’s time. And for me, it’s time.”
In fairness to Cates, a working parent herself, she makes some valid points stating “It is far too difficult to be a mum in the UK right now.” With the second most expensive childcare system in the world, this is an understatement of mass proportions, But with a government disinclined to do anything radical about it, it’s up to us to find grassroots solutions in the meantime.
FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT
According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), more than three-quarters (75.6 per cent) of mothers with dependent children were currently at work. This is the highest number in any equivalent quarter over the last 20 years.
Incidentally, further reports show that a third of working mothers are now accessing special working arrangements such as flexible hours – a higher level than compared to fathers (23.6 per cent). It is clear that, from a business point of view, allowing better access to those with care responsibilities is improving employment rates and employee satisfaction. If one good thing came out of the Pandemic, it’s a more inclusive and flexible approach to working.
A mother myself, I was never someone for whom staying at home filled ‘my cup’ aka life, to the brim. Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter more than life itself. It just turns out that repeating the words ‘oopsy daisy’, wiping someone else’s bottom, and tackling a mountain of carrot-stained onesies all day was not filling me with the zest for life that Instagram would have me believe.
However, my short stint in the full-time stay-at-home trenches taught me one thing; parenthood is one of the hardest jobs on the planet. No employer in the world would get away with the demands that our children require from us. If parenthood was a job ad, it would read:
“New kid on the block in need of someone to shape their training and development programme. Some intermittent night wake-ups. Lie-ins will not be tolerated. Critiques of your performance will be given daily. Annual salary £0.00 + living expenses deducted. Minimum notice period – 25 years.”
WORK/LIFE BALANCE STARTS WITH SUPPORT
At Platinum Recruitment, working mums and stepmothers equate to 39% of employees, and whilst I may be biased, I think we’re pretty awesome. So are my colleague’s experiences of juggling motherhood and a career? In the following interviews, Anna, Nicky and Rachael all give their experiences and advice on the different stages of motherhood. From going on maternity leave for the first time and returning from maternity leave to working as director of a flourishing recruitment company whilst raising two boys at home.
NICKY FAITH – PREPARING FOR MATERNITY LEAVE
“ Although there is never a “right time” to have a baby, after our wedding, my husband and I felt we were ready. Having amazing female models in my life, all of whom have successful careers and happy children, I feel ready and supported to become a mum.
As I approach Maternity leave, I am feeling the usual emotions of excitement and anticipation. I would say that ensuring your team is equipped for your leave is just as important as ensuring you are. Our team is great, so having spent the last nine years building the division, I feel confident knowing that I can leave one baby to go have another.
I feel incredibly supported from a business perspective and confident in the knowledge that Platinum are flexible enough to allow mothers who work a chance to thrive whilst helping the business grow and develop.
I do have one worry, nevertheless. When I return will there be enough coffee?”
ANNA MABEY – JUGGLING IT ALL
“The first time I left for maternity leave I was working for a different company within hospitality. Due to childcare constraints, I undeniably did a lot on my own during the week and worked evenings and weekends. Parenting isn’t easy at the best of times but battling two careers with a newborn was tough. The support just wasn’t there.
The second time I went on maternity leave, I was working at Platinum. At first, I was a little apprehensive because I was beginning to build a new division and was fully committed to it. Whilst out of sight during maternity leave, I was by no means out of mind. The team kept me in the loop by sending me important business news and inviting me to staff socials. Overall, I felt included and part of the team.
Returning to the office, the directors of the company couldn’t have been more supportive. In brief, they spoke regularly with me to see how I was managing. They also allowed me the autonomy to build my division whilst giving me the flexibility to be at home when I needed it.
My advice for working parents is to enjoy family life to the full. Ensure you have a nice balance of work, family and personal time – however, this looks to you. For me, it’s being able to take time to have my own space, having a glass of wine with friends or taking a bubble bath with a book. By making sure you are happy, everything else will fall into place.
Lastly, organisation! Planning ahead and getting everything prepared the night before work and school runs allow you to start your day ready to hit the ground running!”
RACHAEL FRANCE – A ROLE MODEL FOR HER BOYS
“I am a busy mum of two boys, a wife, and the director of a fast-paced company. In all things I do, I strive to do the best job that I can. Ensuring that everyone and everything has the attention and the time they deserve and need. For me, support is the foundation for everything. The people I have around me, both at work and at home, allow me to keep the wheels in motion.
As part of a senior team at work who all have family commitments, we all support each other in achieving an equal balance between the needs of the business, and our needs at home. Can women achieve balance at work and at home? Absolutely – if you have the right teams around you!
Questioning how women can juggle a career with motherhood will always give cause for debate. The implication is that in wanting “both”, women are somehow expecting too much. Despite the costs of UK childcare being the second most expensive in the world, statistics show that more women are returning to work after childbirth.
Whilst changes in government policies won’t change overnight, I think we can all agree, the question is no longer “Can women have it all?” but “How can we better support women to have whatever they want?”
If you’re looking to join a company that supports work/life balance, why not consider Platinum? Get in touch today to hear about our current vacancies and the benefits our company has to offer.
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