As part of our “Inspiring Working Mums” series, Fiona Adler shares her advice to help other working Mums.
Fiona Adler, Co-Founder of WOMO (Word of Mouth Online) and Actioned (https://www.actioned.com)
My best advice for your career is …
When it comes to building a career, I think the most important thing is to really know yourself as this can help direct your career in a way that is the most fulfilling. “Knowing Yourself” has many dimensions to it though, and is always a work in progress.
Think about what you stimulates you, what problems you enjoy solving, what makes you feel good at the end of the day. It’s also good to think about how you like to work. Do you get a kick out of being part of a big, prestigious firm? Or would you rather be play a bigger part in a small organisation? Or perhaps you thrive on the idea that something is all your own making and would be better off running a business of your own. Do you love working closely with others and talking all day? Or do you think better alone and need time to recharge?
Of course, it’s easier to say “know yourself” and harder to do it! I think the best way to do this is to regularly spend time journaling and reflecting on your week. Talking to mentors can also be also a huge help. Rather than let the standard progression sweep you up, try to deliberately decide on your next move. Also remember that nothing is set in concrete! Each job or new venture is another stepping stone where you can learn a whole lot more about yourself.
My most satisfying thing about being a Mum is …
There are so many things about having kids that bring satisfaction that people don’t talk about. It’s easy to complain about the sleepless nights, restrictions on life, and general extra work in life. But it’s far harder to articulate the added dimensions and fulfillment that children bring.
For me, my favourite part of being a mum is sharing adventures with my kids. Now that mine are primary school age, I’m loving taking them to new places, especially exposing them new cultures and ways of thinking. We’re lucky to be living in Europe at the moment so we recently took the family to Jordan for a holiday. I loved seeing the kids trying new foods, learning a few words and interacting with the locals. Even getting inside great books and discussing other people’s stories is a fantastic experience.
Sometimes I think that the purpose of kids is to teach adults how to have fun again. They get us doing things we wouldn’t do as adults – experiencing everything through the delight and perspective of a child.
My best advice for managing the juggle of work and family is …
I’ve come to realise that there’s always going to be a tension between work and family. For someone who’s motivated and takes initiative, the needs of both are insatiable. It took me a long time to understand that I will never get to a stage where I’ve “done all the work”. What’s more, there is always more that you can give to your family. I think the best way to come to peace with this tension is to set boundaries that meet the needs of you, your family, and your work. These might not be traditional types of boundaries either! The boundaries you set come down to knowing yourself (again!), understanding your family’s needs, and being creative with the way you approach work.
For instance, it could be that you start early and finish early while your partner does the opposite, or it could be that one of you works from home and manages the kid’s drop-offs and pick-ups but then gets more free-time on the weekends. Or, it could be that you just work less! I’m not actually joking about this last point either.
Too many of us get wrapped up in “putting in the hours” that are expected and caring too much about what others think. We feel pressure from an invisible force that probably doesn’t exist. But, if pushed, we can challenge our own expectations and get a lot more done in less time by forcing ourselves to set some limits. For instance, set a finishing time and stick to it. Do your personal administration tasks at lunchtime. Get some exercise at lunchtime. Or come in late two days a week. I know it’s scary but try it for a week and see if anyone notices or there’s any impact on your work.
The most important thing is to remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint! Whatever seems urgent today, is likely to pass. Rather than be consumed by everything, it’s much more strategic to set up systems and ways of working that serve you in the long-run.