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Would You Ask a Man That Question?

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A real life snapshot from my life as a work-from-home mom

A few weeks ago I was asked a question that I initially didn’t hesitate to answer. It’s actually a question I’ve been asked on more than one occasion, so I felt prepared to defend myself with an explanation. The question was, “How do you plan to balance work with a family?”

It’s not an unreasonable question, right? It was asked in a light-hearted way by a new client who, I truly believe, felt like they were going through any normal paces of qualifying someone to be their new PR consultant. The board voted unanimously in my favor and I ultimately got the job. Sometime later, a female colleague of mine, who was also at that meeting, brought up her frustration that I had to answer such a “ridiculous” question. She picked up on the (not so subtle) sexism of that question that I’ve come to view as normal as a female business owner and working mom. Her point was clear. Would you ask a man that question? No, no you wouldn’t.

Picture a man being asked “How do you plan to balance work with a family?” during a job interview. I envision a bewildered look come across his face as he responds “What do you mean?” He would likely ask for clarification before he felt compelled to offer an explanation…an excuse, really. Meanwhile, I had my “excuse” locked and loaded because it’s one I’ve had to provide time and time again. Sometimes I even voluntarily offer it up as I can see the look of concern come across a client’s face when they learn I have two young children, one of whom stays at home with me 5 out of the 7 days of the week.

“When do you have time to do work?”

That’s another common question. I used to be proud to answer this with a description of my highly disciplined and efficient schedule that is required for raising a family, keeping up with the house and growing a business. But now I see that I was defending myself from society’s disbelief that I can be a mother and a business owner – and do both well.

I’m not angry or outraged at these questions. I hold no grudge against the people who asked them. Rather, I’m shocked by my own numbness toward sexist remarks made to women entrepreneurs daily. I’m sad that I allowed myself to feel guilty, even for just one second, for “balancing work and a family.”

It is without question that a woman most often gets the lion’s share of work and responsibility when it comes to raising a family. Rather than questioning her ability to work and parent, congratulate her, offer encouragement and be flexible with your demands.

How refreshing would it be to instead hear “I know you have a young family. It’s wonderful you’re pursuing your passion. We will flexible, as we know family comes first.”

I’m fortunate to work with understanding and encouraging clients who not only know I am a hybrid mom, but see it as a badge of honor. They know when they call me there’s always a chance you’ll hear a babbling baby in the background or that I may need to reschedule a meeting because I’ve got a sick toddler. But as a mother, I also know how to power through a challenge and multi-task like it’s an Olympic sport. If you want something done, give it to a busy person. And if you want something done quickly, correctly and with every distraction going on around her, give it to a mom.

Have you ever been asked a sexist or unfair question? Share how you responded, or wish you had responded by leaving a comment!

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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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A Working Mom’s Guide for Achieving Work-Life Balance

This week’s blog shares the personal perspective of Bennis Inc employee, Danielle Gouger. Danielle is our PR assistant and photographer and balances the unique challenges of life as a working mother. Learn more about Danielle here!


A Working Mom’s Guide for Achieving Work-Life Balance

A Working Mom’s Guide for Achieving Work-Life Balance

As a newly single mom of a four-year-old spunky little girl, I began working from home in January of this year, and I am still learning each and every day how to achieve work-life balance.

Transitioning from my former position as a photography studio manager where I worked almost every weekend, many late evenings, and was always on call to support to my team, I find working from home and setting my hours has enabled me to re-prioritize and find a better work-life balance.

I was afraid, after leaving my photography position, that I would not be able to find a career that I was passionate about that would still allow me to be the mother I wanted to be. I am so thankful and grateful at this time in my life to have landed a job with a local Public Relations company that is led by a working mom now of two little ones, who understands and has worked hard to balance motherhood and entrepreneurship.

This new position offers me the creativity I need to thrive in my career and also the flexibility to work from home so that I can spend more time with my daughter. But it’s important to note it takes organization and time management to make it all work! Here is my guide for achieving work-life balance as a working mom, based upon my personal experience thus far.

Get Focused

Balancing work life and personal life means being effective with the time you have to work. Simply put, I don’t allow for distractions! Concentrating while working from home can sometimes be challenging with all the distractions of wanting to do other things, so it’s important to treat work time as sacred.

After I drop my daughter off at her daycare down the street, I come home, turn my laptop on, pour a second cup of coffee, and get started with my work day with checking my email. Now is the best time for me to get focused and dive right into my workday tasks. Having a great work environment is proven to facilitate productivity, so when working from home, it is important to create and maintain whatever type of environment helps you focus. I have personally found that having a designated office area in my home has helped me to be more focused and separate my work and personal life.

Schedule, Schedule, Schedule!

I’ve always been a planner, but once you have children it is so much more important to plan and keep a schedule, not only for yourself but kids need a routine, too! The most beneficial tool I use in my everyday life, besides my cell phone, is my calendar. Penciling in appointments, meetings and activities, really gives me a realistic view of my time. It’s important to factor in driving distance between places!

Also, you need to allow enough time to settle into an activity. For instance, when I take my daughter to daycare in the morning, it takes us some time to say our goodbyes to make sure we are both comfortable with her acclimating to her day. One final element I like schedule in my day or week is catch up time. This allows for life’s unexpected moments that, even with planning, can and do happen with work and especially when raising a four-year-old!

Prioritize

Watch for patterns in your day. Are you more productive in the morning or the afternoon? This is an important question to ask yourself when prioritizing your day and week.

I personally get more accomplished in the morning. So in my case, I try and tackle harder tasks in the morning as that is when I get my best work done. I also try to maximize my time by breaking down my day into smaller, bite-size tasks. Doing this allows me to get a lot more accomplished and to stay focused on the task at hand.

When it comes to household chores and errands (yes, they’re a necessary evil), I try and write a list for the week and pick two things to accomplish off my list each day. This prevents these responsibilities from piling up over the week and overflowing into my previous “family time” over the weekend.

Finally, as a single mom trying to balance work and life, you can sometimes forget to prioritize yourself. It’s important to take even 20 minutes for yourself each day, whether that’s catching up on a favorite TV show, going for a walk, or simply sitting in peace. Taking that little time for yourself allows you to be more available and present to do everything else you need to do as a working mom.

Close Down for the Night

There is a saying “every day has a new beginning,” so I believe there should be an end to every night. It is important to try and accomplish as much as you can off your daily to-do list to prevent these tasks from flowing into the next day and making tomorrow more overwhelming than it needs to be.

I try to get my workday accomplished by 5 o’clock now, so that once I pick my daughter up for the day I can focus the evening on her. Right before leaving the house, I will once again go through my emails to make sure I haven’t missed anything and then close down for the day. Once I pick her up, we will occasionally run a small errand or I will complete a household chore before supper. Except for Tuesdays; this is a night fully dedicated to her as she goes to her gymnastics class that evening and I love to be there and watch her in her element!

I now make it a priority to sit down with my daughter for dinner, and the rest of the evening we spend quality time together before bath and bedtime. Once my little one is sound asleep, I will give myself some time to read a book or catch up on a favorite show, as I have learned you deserve some “you” time the close the day. We work too hard not to reward ourselves with this! Finally, as important as it is to close down for the night, on Friday’s after I wrap my day up, I try to close down from work for the weekend, and leave what can wait to Monday.

How do you achieve balance as a working mom? Share your personal thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Finding Balance as a Work at Home Mom

Finding Balance as a Work at Home MomA while back, I used the term “Hybrid Mom” to describe my work-life scenario since my son Holden entered the world in May 2013. Now just over two years since I adjusted to this new (and wonderful) role as a Work at Home Mom (WAHM), I’ve learned quite a few things about maintaining, as well as losing, the balance between personal life and professional life.

Because of some smart and strategic adjustments I made in recent months, I feel like I have been better able to balance my “mompreneur” responsibilities as well as dedicate some time just for myself – which is so very important for an introvert.

In reflecting on what has contributed to this positive change, I pulled together some key pieces of advice I would offer any fellow mom (whether you work at home, from home or outside the home). In fact, it’s not limited to just moms at all! For anyone who is looking to improve their time management, organization and work-life balance, I offer you these tips that have personally made a difference in my life.

Wake up early

I’ve always been a morning person (who also prefers afternoon naps), but that doesn’t mean I choose to get up at a crazy hour to get a jump start on my day. I’ve found that unless I have a special project or deadline, waking up just a half hour before the rest of my family is all the time I need to get organized and acclimated with my to-do list.

How do I use this time? It’s a well-rehearsed routine that makes me efficient, focused and energized. I begin with a big glass of water (it wakes me up mentally and physically). I then organize the items I need to make my breakfast and Holden’s breakfast so it flows like an assembly line. Finally, I dedicate the rest of my time to cleaning up my inbox, completing reoccurring tasks and prioritizing the other tasks that must get done today. Then, when the rest of the family begins to stir, I am alert, relaxed and ready to give them my full attention.

Be fully present in each moment

This piece of advice is so critical and one that I have to consciously follow every day. Before I found a good sense of balance between work life and family life, I never felt full present in either scenario. I was either haphazardly checking emails while “pretending” to be engaged with my son. Or I was using his nap time to tackle household chores when really I should be focusing on work tasks during these quiet hours.

Now, on the days when I have the pleasure of having Holden at home, we spend the mornings at the YMCA or at the park where my cell phone remains out of sight. Trust me, I dive right into work tasks as soon as he’s tucked in for his nap, but during those precious moments when his attention is all mine, I try and do a much better job of returning the favor.

On the days when Holden is happily playing at Grandma’s or at daycare, I remain focused and efficient so that I clear as much off my to-do list as I can. This also allows me to be more present when I am with my family. And while I enjoy working from home, rarely do I turn on the TV or surf social media during this undivided work time. I remain present in this moment as well.

Grow your relationship through your hobbies

Each and every day, I like to be active in some way. This can range from a challenging long-distance run to simply checking in with Mother Nature on a walk to the park. I also prioritize spending quality time with my husband to catch up on what is going on in each of our lives. I’m fortunate to have a spouse who shares my love for physical activity as this allows us to do both of these things simultaneously.

Every Sunday we take a family run (Holden gets to cruise along in the jogging stroller) which is when we talk about anything and everything. At the end of 45 minutes or so, we have accomplished a killer workout and caught up on things that have been weighing on our minds and hearts. During the week, we take a walk in evenings and when weather isn’t in our favor, we utilize the YMCA’s free childcare while we engage in some friendly competition in the gym. I’m extremely grateful for this shared hobby for it strengthens us emotionally as much as it does physically.

Ask for help

Out of all the pieces of advice, this one seems to be the hardest for mothers to put into practice – myself included. For 12 months, I balanced caring for Holden fulltime, 7-days a week while steadily growing my Public Relations business. I managed to get everything done in a day, but it was a house of cards waiting to blow over. I was more stressed than I realized and forgot how to relax, unwind and do something for myself.

In September, I finally had the realization that I could ask for help! I found a great in-home day care center that Holden absolutely loves. He started with going just two days a week and now he goes three days a week while my mother-in-law watches him another day. This gives me four dedicated work days! On those days, I feel like a true entrepreneur running her own fulltime business and conducting client meetings. On the one day a week (plus weekends) that Holden is home with me, we fully enjoy our time together far more than when I was striving to “do it all.” Asking for help is something to be proud of, not ashamed. It’s been a huge part of restoring my balance between work and family.

Outsource when you can

Similarly to asking for help, I have learned the value of outsourcing tasks when it makes sense to do so. It’s become my personal policy that when something does not bring me joy, make me money or improve my physical/mental/spiritual health, it’s acceptable to consider outsourcing it (there will be exceptions to the rule, but you get the gist). I cannot describe how happy I was the first time I outsourced cleaning my house. In two hours, my house was cleaner than it has been in my three years of attempting this feat. I used these same two hours to take on some new client work which actually earned more than what I paid to outsource the cleaning. Why did I wait so long to do this?!

My husband and I still keep up with light housekeeping on a regularly basis, but we agree that outsourcing the deep cleaning once a quarter to someone who does a better job, in less time and for less money than what we could is a no-brainer. Additionally, I’m happy to provide this income opportunity to for someone else (who doesn’t despise housework as much as I do).

Clear your slate every night

I don’t let clutter – whether this be actual physical clutter, email clutter or mental clutter – build up beyond the end of the day. Every night before bed, I put away my toddler’s toys, fold the laundry, clean and put away the dishes and clear out my inbox. Inevitable emails will come in after I shut down for the day and there will be new household tasks awaiting me in the morning, but by not letting anything slide over from the day prior, I significantly reduce the stress with the start of the day.

Just like anything in life, if you keep up with the little tasks as they present themselves, you prevent them from piling up into bigger, seemingly unsurmountable tasks later on. This applies to chores, work tasks, errands and of course bills. If it can be done now, do it now.

Always go to bed together

Finally and most importantly, my husband and I try our hardest to “go to bed together” each and every night that we can. There are many nights where my husband, in particular, will need to stay up late to catch up on work, but when I turn in for the night he comes and lays with me until I fall asleep. This still provides us with important bonding time and we have some of our best conversations during these moments. Ending our day together helps keep us on the same page and in touch with each other’s lives.

Between juggling work, family, hobbies, sleep and relaxation, how do you maintain balance in your own life? Share your tips and secrets by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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The Working Mom/Stay At Home Mom Hybrid

The day I started my own business, it became my first baby. I devoted my time and energy to watching it grow and take on a sustaining life of its own. But in May 2013, it was no longer my sole priority. As we welcomed our first son into the world, I knew that my life as an entrepreneur would gain one more layer of complexity. People were both curious and concerned as to how soon I planned to return to work. The honest answer is that as soon as I stepped foot out of the hospital and through our front door, I was back at work. Of course I slowed the pace considerably for a few weeks, but by June I was running at full speed.

We live in a world where people want things to fit nicely into little boxes, but my career has never packaged up so neatly. Becoming a mother didn’t make me any less of an entrepreneur. I’m sure some wondered if I would continue working or if I would just transition into a Stay At Home Mom. I had moments where I wondered the same thing. Now over 5 months in, I’m proud to raise some eyebrows when I explain that I am both a Stay At Home Mom and a Working Mom – I am part of a growing generation of Hybrid Moms. As a Hybrid Mom you truly work two full time jobs. It’s not a part time gig or a hobby on the side. It’s a full time workload and an equal source of income for your family. I’m fortunate to have the flexibility in my schedule to take on both responsibilities and to have clients who understand my commitment to also serving as the sole caretaker for my son during the work day.

Defining your career as a mother has become a hot button issue and one that I’ve seen argued from many different viewpoints. Now that I wear both hats, I’ve become emotionally invested in this topic and am discouraged to see such strong accusations and hurtful generalizations being strewn about. Many women are choosing to become Stay At Home Moms and in an effort to mainstream this career choice, have put down other women’s choice to work. I am most bothered that these choices are made to feel mutually exclusive, like you aren’t a full time mom if you choose to work. As a Hybrid Mom, I don’t get to turn off my motherly responsibilities just because I have a looming project deadline. If Holden needs me, I’m always on-call.

My mother worked a full time job while raising three kids. She didn’t have a cleaning lady, cook or personal assistant to run her family’s errands. She was all of these things, plus she worked outside the home for an additional 40 hours per week. As a child, I never felt I lacked time with my mother either. She had a home cooked meal for us each evening, helped us with our homework, was involved in our activities on the weekends and she even stayed home with us many days that we were sick from school. One argument supporting the Stay At Home Mom claims that their job is to be the CEO of the house. I don’t disagree. I only wish to make the point that my mom was every bit the CEO (and a fierce one at that) while working full time. You can do both and be both – they’re not mutually exclusive. The growing number of Hybrid Moms brings hope that we are beginning to realize this and that we have enough support to give us the confidence to make this choice if it’s right for us.

By definition, yes, I am a Stay At Home Mom. I take care of my 5-month old son full time (this also includes being his sole source of food). But I am a Working Mom too. I provide a range of Public Relations consulting services for anywhere from 8-12 different clients on a daily basis. In addition to these two full time jobs, I still have time to attend weekly networking meetings, write for fun on my blog and hit the park at least once a day. You may wonder what I sacrifice to “do it all.” It’s not mental or physical health—I run 20+ miles per week with yoga scattered in between. It’s not sleep – we all get 8+ hours per night (with our cat, Pinot getting quite a few more throughout the day). We have a clean house, fresh groceries and clean clothes. I’ve even chosen to go the route of cloth diapers and making my own baby wipes, which certainly adds a few extra steps to our daily routine. It’s quite often that I get the response, “Well you’re just not normal.” I find this to be the most offensive of all. I feel what I accomplish in any given day is very “normal” and attainable with merely organization and discipline.

My life is not perfect – there are absolutely days when I feel like this balancing act may all come tumbling down. I’m fortunate to have a husband who is supportive and involved. It’s teamwork that makes raising our little family possible. Because I’m a Hybrid Mom, I can attest that each career has its own unique challenges and rewards. I’m fortunate to do both, but I won’t say that it’s luck. It comes with hard work and determination to make it work. The best we can do for each other is to support our decision to do what is right for us and our family. For some, one career is quite enough. For others, we may enjoy balancing a bit more. Whether our title is Stay At Home Mom, Working Mom or Hybrid Mom, the most important word comes at the very end – and no matter what, that means we have the hardest but best job in the world!

park

Monday afternoon at the park with Holden

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2013 in Business & Success, Life

 

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