(My column last week for Gloucestershire Live.)
With International Women’s Day on the 8th March women around the UK have been celebrating just how far we have come whilst remembering our sisters around the world who have yet to find equality in the home, the workplace or society. Many people reading this will be balancing motherhood and a career and will be smashing glass ceilings, paving the way for our daughters to live truly equal lives to our male counterparts.
But many Mums (myself included) in recent months and years have made the choice not to fight this battle. They’ve decided that balancing work and family is just too hard and have either resorted to becoming a stay at home Mum (sometimes contentedly) or they have joined the growing army of MumBosses (mums setting up alone or in pairs or groups, in business) and not satisfied with the traditional work life solutions on offer they are creating an entirely new one.
Now eight months in to my journey as a MumBoss it’s probable that women struggling with the 9-5 are watching me and others in my situation wondering if they ought to give it a try. They see the social media posts of us working in coffee shops, networking on a Tuesday afternoon, feeding our kids while we take calls on Skype – surely it’s perfect? I can do that right? In many ways of course it is and I’ll get to those later but before you ditch the day job in favour of your own perfect path remember to think about all the perks you might have to go without.
•Time is money. Unless you really hit the jackpot or stumble upon a business idea that is really unique and in demand you are realistically not going to take home anywhere near the same hourly rate as you most likely did if you had worked your way up the career ladder, at least not for a few years. When you were employed you were paid for the time you spent totting up your expenses, you were probably paid for the time you spent making your coffee and you probably didn’t have to pay for your coffee either – every purchase and every non essential activity eats into your MumBoss profit so making it work financially can involve a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
•Working from home may look idyllic and sure on those winter nights when snow is forecast I rest a lot easier knowing I won’t have to figure out what to do when school is closed and I can’t get to work. It is however incredibly difficult to define work time as opposed to family or household chore time. I write this article with the biggest load of washing you may ever have seen sitting on the sofa alongside me. Am I finding that difficult to ignore? Yes I am. Will I probably end up interrupting what I’m doing to deal with it…….(twenty minute pause) yep. I just did.
•You miss your colleagues! Yes they can infuriate you. Yes your boss is a real stickler for detail. Yes they might use more than their fair share of milk but when you have a problem you can’t quite solve or the weight of a task is sitting heavily on your shoulders they are there to share it with. Working in a team has so many hidden benefits that you really miss when you go it alone. It’s great that you can be decisive and don’t have to justify your business direction to anyone else but sometimes it can be incredibly lonely and the responsibility for not messing it up can be overwhelming.
•It’s also really hard to set a limit on the amount of hours you work. When you are responsible for the success of your business you can find yourself feeling guilty if you are not constantly looking at ways to make it work. You will need to become a jack of all trades and your experience making a beautiful product or providing an amazing service won’t mean you are great at doing your accounts, marketing yourself or fixing IT problems and when you plan out how much time you have chances are you won’t take these less interesting and creative jobs into account.
BUT! There is something magical about the freedom of doing something that YOU want to do and I wouldn’t take back a moment of the last eight months. I have learned so much and still have so much to learn but it’s all been such an adventure and I’ve met so many wonderful new people. If you are toying with the idea of packing in the day job and starting out doing something you love take the time to speak to friends and family. Do your market research and if at all possible be really honest with your current employer about your endeavours, If you’re great at your job they may find a way for you to scale down your hours or take a sabbatical to give your dreams a shot. They may also tell you that if it doesn’t work out they would re-employ you – that’s a fantastic security blanket to have should you need it.
It’s also definitely worth making sure your Partner is on side. You will need them to have your back, to be your cheerleader and a listening ear and this can put a real strain on a marriage if that support was never agreed to in the first place.
Once you’re committed make sure you sign up to the Cheltenham MumBoss Club for support, networking , training events and articles all targeted towards mums in business – whether you are selling your knitting or running an empire we’d love to have you in the club. (Book tickets for our April networking lunch here.)
So this International Women’s Day I was celebrating the fact that I’ve done something that I hope will make my daughter proud. I’ll be celebrating the fact that women all over the world have never been more free to make choices that are right for themselves and their families. But of course there is so much more work to do and this year I’ll be searching for charities and campaigns to support that can take the rights and quality of life of women all over the world one step further. Baby steps or giant leaps. Progress is progress.