Clara from Work Life Balance gave a very thought provoking speech at our West Midlands meeting recently, it certainly got me thinking as to whether I could ever get it right, or even if it is possible!
I sat there thinking I took redundancy two years ago in an effort to get a better balance and “be there” for the kids and Steve, but I can still hear myself saying, I’m busy, in a minute, you’ll have to wait, so am I really any better off working for myself than when I had a full time job.
For me somewhere along the lines I became work focused, whether it was money driving me, the next promotion or just that underlying need to prove myself who knows.
It didn’t start like that, I left school at 18 with little idea as to what I wanted to do and I ended up getting a job in a laboratory testing Bricks and Clay (I know exciting stuff) to BSI standards. A year later I’d decided to move to retail, and that’s how by the age of 19, I was working in excess of 65hrs a week, the need to prove myself was starting to kick in.
A move to an Administration role was when the career instinct really kicked in and I was studying at night, firstly a Diploma in Administration followed by the Institute of Personnel. By the time I moved to Chesterfield a couple of years later, I was single, in a new town and work had taken over. It was a combination of money, recognition and status driving me. Of course by this time email was becoming the staple of business and just another excuse to be working in the evenings. That was pretty much how it continued always looking for the next promotion.
I then moved to a Business Analysis role and was working on Projects, now working on IT projects is never a 9-5 role, it’s a roller coaster of deadlines and targets and ridiculous hours. When the twins came along it never occurred to me not to go back to work, so after 6 months I was back. Due to the horrific cost of childcare for twins, my husband Steve ended up giving up work for a year and then going back part time. However, by the time they started school we were both back full time.
It was at this point I guess I realised that work meant sacrifices, school plays etc became a challenge and they couldn’t do any after school activities, from this point on its been a question of trying to find a balance. I was lucky in some respects, I had reached a level where I was able to work from home as long as the job got done, and I also managed to get an annual hour’s contract, which basically meant I could do a few extra hours each week to build up and use as time off in the summer. Summer childcare for twins with no family around is quite a headache!
By the time Sydney came along in 2012, I was in a role I wasn’t enjoying, things at work were changing, there were few roles around for my skill set, and the contract I was working on, was likely to be lost when up for renewal in 2015. It was decision time! The job, childcare and wanting to move back to Leicestershire, meant it was time to make the leap! Dec 2013 I left and for the first time in 26 years I didn’t have a job.
I always knew I’d want to do something else, but didn’t want to go back to being employed, hence creating Bluebell Business Services. I wanted the flexibility to work around the kids and be able go to school events. I didn’t want them to be at the childminders before or after school. I didn’t want to miss out on the early years with Sydney as I had with twins.
So is it possible?
At the end of the day it is your own definition of what that balance is, I would say I had achieved a better balance, but I know I still tend to put work first, I just can’t help it that’s me, so if you asked the kids or Steve they’d say no, but for my own sanity and until we win the lottery it is likely to be tipped towards work, and as for that illusive me time, I’ll come back to you on that one!