I rarely meet women who have achieved the perfect work/life balance – I think it would be safe to say that we are all seeking this utopia – but I wonder does it actually exist? One thing for sure is that “one size fits all” doesn’t exist and the only way to achieve this perfect work/life balance is to discover it for yourself and not be swayed by the views upheld by the media and our friends and family. It never ceases to amaze me how everyone seems to have an opinion about the way I should run my life – my friends, my family and the media!
When my first son was born, I had just set up Diva Cosmetics and I simply had to work. William was only 8 weeks old and he attended nursery for 4 days a week – from 8am until 5.30pm. I had no choice in the matter (although some would and did argue that of course I had a choice) – I had set up Diva Cosmetics and it needed my total focus and dedication in those early days. William was part of my reason to set up Diva – I knew that I needed to secure financial freedom in order to provide for him and my personal goal was to be able to do this within 5 years – ready for when he started school and would have long holidays. I do not feel that William had a compromised early childhood – quite the reverse – he spent his days surrounded by other children (with whom he remains in contact still and he is now 11) learning to share and tolerate others and their views, he was cared for in a stimulating environment – discovering the joys of finger painting, full body painting, mud pies and cookery as well as spending 3 days per week with me at home. By having 4 days in an office, I was always able to ensure that Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays were William and me time and I was not distracted by work. I can honestly say that I felt that I had the perfect work/life balance. Of course, this arrangement would not appeal to everyone – but I most certainly felt that I had an ideal balance.
Things change however. The tipping point moves. I visualise the Work/Life Balance to be like a pair of old fashioned scales – you can adjust the balance by adding more or taking off elements on each of the scales to get a balance – but you can also move the central structure to the right or to the left to get the perfect balance without removing or adding anything. Where this tipping point is – depends on where your inner-guilt lies. And I am sure that this perfect work/life balance is achieved through management of your own guilt.
My particular “tipping point” moved on one poignant day in April. It was a beautiful day – the sun was out, the sky bright blue and I had been taken out to lunch by a supplier. We were at a restaurant on the Dorset coast – literally on the beach – The Branksome Beach Cafe. I spent the meeting watching the number of Mums and Toddlers on the beach – building sandcastles, playing in the water and having lunch and I remember feeling really sad. I felt I was missing out. I knew at that moment, that my utopia had shifted. I couldn’t resign though. I couldn’t simply walk away – how could I? I ran a successful business – relied on by customers, suppliers and all of my staff – I was a women with responsibilities! But I took a vow to myself that should I ever have more children (which seemed unlikely as I had just divorced William’s father) then I would become a stay-at-home Mum…..
About a year later, I did meet my current husband, and I fell pregnant with my second son, Charlie. And true to my word, I started to put into place my exit strategy. It wasn’t simple and took a lot of planning – but within 6 months I had found the right buyer for my business – one who understood the industry and I focussed on ensuring that the Diva staff would cope with a change of management styles.
In October, with 8 week s left of my pregnancy I left Diva and became a stay-at-home Mum. This enabled me to not only be with my new-born baby without being distracted by work but also coincided with William starting school and he was able to spend holidays at home with me and his new brother. So many people said that I wouldn’t cope with being at home – I was too much of a career girl – and I would be bored – again funny how everyone has an opinion! Of course, I disagreed with them – after all I had yet again achieved the perfect work/life balance – hadn’t I?
The arrival of my 3rd child – Harriet – again, tipped the balance – I woke up one day and realised that I was no longer happy at home without any work focus. I had spent nearly 3 years wearing my Cath Kidston pinny, creating the most amazing Annabel Karmel suppers (often to have my children turn their noses up!), attending Tumble Tots and having coffee with fellow Mums. There was only so much a “career girl” could cope with. I realised I missed working. I missed the buzz of an opportunity – of closing a deal, of making a profit, of being with other adults talking about anything but children! It took quite a while to admit to myself how I was feeling and then to realise that I could feel anything I wanted – everyone was different.
Once I had realised it was okay to want to work I spent considerable time evaluating what I exactly wanted to achieve and how – and also determining what I really enjoyed. I knew I loved working with people – encouraging and empowering them to achieve their own ideals. I knew that I loved business and had a great success story which I could use to help others – my Seven Business Disciplines form the basis of my Business Mentoring and Training. I have yet again achieved the perfect work/life balance – for me. I work 3 full days per week, and I am still able to support my children in their after-school activities, their homework and their sport. I feel privileged to have found such an ideal
My advice to others – discover your own ideal – find out what works for you and your family – taking into consideration time and finances and then go for it! Don’t be swayed by others and their opinions – unless of course it suits you!
Emma Wimhurst – Turn your business from a whisper to a BOOM don’t miss Emma’s fabulous one day seminar on the 6th November 2010. For further information follow the link below.