How you can have a successful career when you’re a parent.
When you’re building your career or your own business, there are plenty of times when your confidence will slip. But when you’re also a mother your confidence can take a leave of absence and forget to come back.
Caring for your child can often feel like another chore. You have lunch boxes to make, school runs to do, after school clubs to co-ordinate, homework to supervise, internet usage to monitor, dentist appointments to remember, playdates to arrange, dinners to cook, clothes to wash and iron, rooms to tidy… The list is never-ending.
Offhand comments about being a working mother can leave you feeling on the defensive and make you feel the need to justify your choices. Particularly coupled with the challenges of aligning home schooling and home working during lockdown.
You constantly question yourself and your decisions, and you worry endlessly if you’re doing the right thing.
Will your business life affect your child in a detrimental way?
Will they grow to hate you?
Will you have enough time with them or become an absent parent?
And never mind taking time out for yourself! That’s a guilt inducer if ever there was one. Even worse, you can’t receive a compliment that recognises the work you’ve done without making an excuse saying “you were lucky”, or “it was nothing”.
It’s important to remember that this happens to all of us. Even the most (seemingly) successful mothers. We are our own harshest critic and are far harder on ourselves than anyone else will ever be.
I know how you feel
I was a working parent throughout my daughter’s childhood and adolescence, and I frequently felt all of these things. I worried that I was the only one thinking this way too. And even though she’s now a grown woman, these thoughts and beliefs can still creep in. Whatever she’s doing, or the challenges she’s facing, I want to be the best mum for her.
Over the years, however, I’ve come to realise that just by being myself, whatever that looks like, I am being the best mum for her.
She didn’t want perfection. She was more than happy to go to school with a crumpled uniform, scruffy hair or in trainers. It was me who viewed these things as a failing. All she wanted was quality time with me, something that she still cherishes now.
I learned to ignore the other mothers at the school gate who didn’t work and who I felt judged me. I mastered leaving the dishes or the ironing until later, and instead we would watch and discuss a film or a soap, just so she could express her views and explore her values.
I acquired the skill of turning a blind eye to the mess in her bedroom when she was a teenager and just handed her the hoover and let her get on with it.
How to learn to balance
Of course I didn’t acquire all this knowledge overnight. We had plenty of heated discussions until we worked out what we both needed to live as harmoniously as possible. What did help was building and creating habits that worked for her, for me and my business and for our family as a whole.
Here are my top five that I want to share with you. If they resonate, think about if you could start implementing them today. I’d also love to know what strategies you have yourself and what has worked for you.
1. Build relationships
This is the most important one as getting to know your children on a deeper level pays dividends. I thought I knew my daughter until I asked her about what was really important to her; her goals and dreams, her core values, her viewpoints and opinions. I realised that she was becoming her own person with different ideas and goals than I had at her age and it was important to understand and listen to her, to know what motivated and inspired her.
Treating your child as an individual with valid opinions and views also keeps you from falling into toxic behaviours like blaming and defensiveness.
This is also true for all your relationships, especially when you’re in a leadership role and are building your career or your business. We all desire recognition, not only for what we achieve but also for who we are. We want to feel seen and we want to feel heard.
Have a think about your team and what you can do to make sure they feel valued in this way so you can build your relationships on a deeper, more personal level.
2. Build trust
What is crucial in any relationship is trust; building trust in all your relationships. What worked for me as a parent was listening without judging. Whenever my daughter came to me with an issue or a problem I learned to not immediately react as a critical parent and condemn the situation and their behaviour. Not easy I know but if all they receive is criticism then they’ll think twice before trusting you enough to come to you another time.
This is also applicable in your workplace. Trust is vital. When there are difficulties people are looking for a calm and reassuring response and to know that you still respect their contribution, despite what may be going on.
Your default might be to immediately advise and resolve the situation, allowing others to develop their own way of making decisions helps you to gain trust in them and in turn they start to trust and build confidence in themselves.
Have a think about your approach? What would you like to change or adapt more? Simply recognising your behaviour can usually have the most impact.
3. Build structure
As a parent, having a structure with definitive boundaries helps manage expectations and prevent unnecessary conflict. Especially when it comes to arranging things like attendance at events, time with friends, contributing to household chores, how they are grounded and social media time.
This works as well in the workplace. Building a flexible structure can create security and space for everyone to create, stretch, expand and more importantly be themselves.
How effective are you at creating a structure for your workplace and team? What else would you want to add?
4. Be yourself
Being authentic might seem like an overused term but I believe it’s important in all parts of daily life.
No one is perfect, especially when it comes to parenting or managing others, but people need role models who are prepared to show up as who they really are. It takes courage to stop trying to be the person you think you need to be in order to succeed, to stand up and be yourself, and this is something that your team will see and want to emulate. It’s also pointless and exhausting trying to be something you’re not.
Think about your most important values and where they show up in your life. If honesty and openness are important you, are they present in your key relationships and daily interactions? Where might you be compromising your authenticity?
One of my favourite quotes comes from Brene Brown who said that “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go who we think we’re supposed to be, and embracing who we are.” 5. Ask for help
This is something I talk about all the time with clients. No one can do it alone. Successful women know they need the support of family and friends, whatever their endeavours, and that’s especially true when it comes to having a successful career. All of us to a varying degree are unwilling to ask for help because we think it makes us look weak, yet I believe the opposite is true.
Knowing where you need support and acknowledging to others, and asking for help shows great strength.
And people like helping others. Think about when people have genuinely asked for your help, I’d imagine you’re only too pleased to be asked and offer whatever assistance you can. It’s the same for the people you ask. It not only empowers you but them as well, and makes them feel good about themselves.
It doesn’t have to be anything major and it can start either at home or in the workplace. Make a list of the people who are in your life who have helped you in the past.
What sort of help did they provide?
Was it practical like childcare support, or more like workplace advice from a colleague or mentor?
What about sharing with other likeminded women? Are there Facebook groups you belong to or could join where you can chat about the issues and problems you’re dealing with?
Realising you’re not alone with whatever is going on in your life, can make a big difference.
I belong to several groups myself and I’ve set up both paid and unpaid leadership membership groups because we all want to feel connected and to have a shared sense of community and belonging. You can find out more on my website
I hope that these have been useful to support your confidence and have given you ideas and strategies you can apply today.
The next time you accomplish something that was a challenge, that took you out of your comfort zone, don’t attribute your success solely to chance or having a good team. Acknowledge the hard work, skill and experience you have and which played a part in your success. If you let it, the challenging stuff you accomplish can build inner confidence in your abilities.
My mission is to support women like you to bring all of yourself in to how you lead, whether that’s at home or in the workplace. You don’t have to feel less than or to compete with others. You can show up and lead from the heart and more importantly be your best self.
If you want to find out more about tapping into your confidence, I have a free e-book that will give you five confidence techniques to get noticed and get ahead in the workplace, all without losing your authenticity. Download it today
I’m always open to chatting to women like you who want to step up more as leaders in their own lives wherever and whatever that looks like. If you have any other questions, get in touch and we can chat through how I can support you and how you can take action right now.