One of the questions I often get asked by other women is how I manage to have 3 kids and work full time in my job. My instant response is that you just need to give up sleep and drink a lot of coffee, and although that maybe slightly true, I think there’s more to it than that. I wanted to share what I think is the recipe to balancing a successful career and family life. I’m proud to be part of a company with a very gender balanced senior leadership team and an inspirational female CEO and President in Talbott Roche.
As everyone’s lives seem to get busier and busier, it gets harder to manage a work/life balance.
In my life I’m trying to be a great mum, wife, daughter, sister, friend, employee and manager and I’ve realised over time that it’s impossible to be great at all of these roles at the same time. The media provides us with a glossy, technicolour image of the perfect life; but when you speak to other women you soon realise that this doesn’t reflect our day to day reality. I am a self-confessed workaholic and I love what I do. I know after having 3 kids that I don’t want to be a stay at home mum, however there are days when I know I would welcome it.
Here are 5 simple things that help me create some form of balance in my life and allow me to be the best I can be:
I was lucky enough to have some really great training with a fantastic coach – Michael Finnigan early on in my career. Michael taught me the power of self-talk, positive thinking and goal setting. I’ve used the tools he taught me through my career to get the roles and lifestyle I’ve wanted and to stay positive in whatever life throws at you.
One of the tools that Michael used was for everyone on the course to write a letter to him in 20 years, 10 years, 5 years and 2 years (this was back in 2005). My husband found these letters after we had gotten married and had two of our children and was shocked at what he read. Everything from the year I said I was getting married, the names of the children we went on to have, the car I was driving and where we were living was in this letter. He’s now thinking he was brainwashed!
I’ve learnt you can do anything if you want to do it. A lot of what gets in the way of life is excuses. Seize every opportunity, stay focused on what’s important to you and you can achieve amazing things.
I’ve generally worked for male bosses and I think all of them have been surprised by the amount of my holiday I spend with my girlfriends. I probably spend almost a third of my holiday time on breaks away with my friends. I find that I completely switch off; I laugh until I cry, we talk about everything (and I mean everything) and come back to reality feeling like I’ve had therapy.
I’m very fortunate in that I have a very hands on husband to help with the kids - and before you feel sorry for him, he also gets time away with his friends. I appreciate that for everyone this isn’t possible, but you can’t under estimate how powerful this away time is.
Harvard’s Women’s Health blog reported that social connections also influence our long-term health in the same way that adequate sleep, a good diet and not smoking can; so put your screen away and go and spend some time with your friends!
Don’t try and be a super hero pretending that you can do everything without delegating to the people around you. When your friends ask you if you want help, accept it. At work create a solid team around you that can help you manage your workload. I don’t always practice what I preach here and often try and do everything myself as I think it’s easier that way, but it’s just not sustainable. Often when you do delegate, you find that the people you delegate to do a better job than you anyway!
Life isn’t perfect
The more people you speak to, the more you realise that everyone has the same struggles as each other, we just still live in a society that doesn’t encourage people to talk about it. I realised several years ago that I can’t be perfect at everything. I’ve had plenty of times when things haven’t gone to plan, but I’ve learnt not to beat myself up about it.
I’ve forgotten key events for my kids, pretended dinners that I’ve bought have been made by me and on a recent girls weekend even forgot to take my bag.
I still remember landing from a business trip in New York and being excited that I could pick my daughter (now 11) up from school when she was in reception. I stood outside her classroom and watched as each child walked out the door in their World Book Day fancy dress costume only for Amber to follow in her school uniform. Just to add salt into the wound, the teachers took a picture of Amber looking sad in her school uniform and put it in her book for me to see with some writing underneath saying ‘Amber on World Book day’! It’s something I will never forget, although Amber can’t remember it happening at all. I now have a multitude of WhatsApp groups to remind me of these events.
No matter what happens, try to see the funny side or at least try and put some kind of perspective on the situation - it’s never as bad as you think it is. Learn to manage expectations, set yourself realistic deadlines and ask for support when you have too much going on.
I see a lot of women lose their identity and confidence, particularly after they have children. I remember particularly with my first child, feeling like my life was on pause when I had her, whilst the rest of the world continues around you. Everything changes – your body, your priorities - and you find yourself realising that everything that was so important to you at work suddenly isn’t for that period when you’re off. When you come back to work, you’re feeling like you need to prove yourself again, often sleep deprived and not feeling that confident about yourself in general.
Many of my female colleagues and friends at this point stop focusing on their career and settle for the job that they are in as they don’t have the energy, confidence or time to think about where their career is going and what they want from their job. This is where employers need to help nurture female talent to support and enable them to progress through the business to create more equality at senior level.
When I had my 3rd child, Ruby, the company that I worked for at the time advertised a role that I wanted 2 days after I had her. I applied for the role as there weren’t many opportunities that came up at this level and was surprised that they invited me in for a face-to-face interview with a 2-week-old baby. I think at the time I did it to prove a point that I could do it, however in hindsight I could have easily been interviewed over the phone and the company I worked for shouldn’t have put me in that position. It would have also prevented the embarrassment of me having to breast feed half way through the interview!
Businesses should encourage and allow employees to invest time in themselves and boost their confidence through reading, training, coaching and mentoring to allow people (men and women) the support needed to make themselves the best they can be. On a personal level make sure you ask for what you deserve, be clear on what you want and help suggest ways that the business can enable you to develop. Make sure you’re in the driving seat and believe you can achieve anything!
Heather Rogers, Senior Business Development Director, has spent over 20 years working within the sales and customer engagement industry. Since moving to Blackhawk Network in 2017, Heather focuses on driving performance improvement and revenue for clients like Tesco and Morrisons, by heading up a team that provides first-class rewards and incentives to both their customers and their employees.