Tag Archives: work-life balance

Working Parents: Stop Hiding Your Children at Work

Supercharging my career and nurturing my family at the same time has always been a struggle for me….until I brought my children out of the closet and into the workplace.

Join our Women in Procurement group, Bravo,  here.

Last week,  Professor Robert E Kelly and his two mischievous children starred in one of the funniest viral videos of all time. The whole world laughed when, in the middle of a live BBC interview, Professor Kelly’s children burst in to the room and hilariously upstaged him.

If the clip has, by some miracle, passed you by, here it is in all of its side-splitting glory:

Yes, it’s pretty funny. But let’s face it, how many times have you closed the door on your children, locked them away in a (metaphorical) closet or pushed them away when you had to perform your professional duties.

In reality, we’re constantly keeping our families behind closed doors so we can get on with our working lives. For years I have felt the need to downplay my family commitments in order to be seen as a serious career professional.

My stress levels were continually going through the roof. I was gliding over the surface with style at work, but paddling like a crazy duck under the waterline in an attempt to manage all the demands of my personal life.

But a year or so ago I decided to bring my children more visibly into my work life and it has made a big difference to me, my children…and – most importantly – those I work with.

My first foray with bringing my children to work was to take my son to Europe’s largest procurement conference, ProcureCon, Berlin. I was a speaker on a panel and thought it would be a great chance for my son to see me in action. So much for him learning about my work: he didn’t look up from his iPad once! I don’t think he learnt a squat about what I did, but at least I made the effort. Importantly, I was really touched that people were positive about my son attending the event.

One of my fellow delegates sent me this note –

“You and I met in Berlin last month at the ProcureCon Europe Conference. I admired how you were able to be real without dropping the ball on exuding leadership and kindness! But, I think that what really impressed me was that you brought your beautiful son to the conference, he was so sweet and shy! In bringing him with you, without realising it, you managed to reflect what most women go through when we have to work long hours or travel a great deal, away from our families and loved ones. There have been times that in my travels or long hours I wish I could just have my babies near me…the guilt of being dedicated to the person that makes me who I am, can be a bit heavy. But we all do, both men and women, to provide for our families, while at the same time try to get something out of the sacrifices that we may have to make. So, I sincerely thank you for bringing your son with you.”

My second foray was to take my younger son to listen to a speech I made at the Australian Embassy for Future Leaders. When I asked him about the experience afterwards, he thought about it and said, “The lemonade was great”. Another breakthrough (not)!

I know not everyone has the same flexibility as someone who runs their own company. However, as business leaders, we can do a lot to help manage the stress levels of working parents. We need to walk the talk and recognise that everyone has priorities (and not always children) that compete with work.

Here are my four ideas on how we could stop hiding our children at work and build more fluid relationships between work and home.

1.  Talk about Family

In the early days of parenthood I never spoke about my children in the workplace because I wanted to be seen as “professional”. When I first started sharing small amounts of information about my family, I realised that most of the people I worked with were parents too and could totally relate to my plight. In the right circumstances, sharing family stories has actually helped me build business relationships.

2. Take your children to work 

I have lived through so many tough days when I felt I really had to be in two places at once.  For example, having a “career-changing” meeting planned (luckily these are few and far between and the skill is in knowing which meetings really count) and, just as I was about to get started, receiving a compelling, competing call for my attention,  from a family member. These were the times when my stress levels reached an all time high and I started to think that the only solution was to quit my job and focus solely on family.

Working from home is widely accepted on these types of days, but if you were still wanting to fulfill your work obligations for just one or two hours, wouldn’t it be great if we were “allowed” to bring our family into the office?? I can hear the pressure valve release at the mere thought of it!

3. Put children in the picture 

We need more imagery of children in the places where we are building our careers. Perhaps you’ve seen the image that went viral of a US Professor who picked up and carried a crying baby during a lecture? He calmed the child, allowing the class to continue and, most importantly, the parent to complete the class.

Some of the most popular photos of outgoing US President, Barack Obama, have been with children within the White House, which is his normal place of work. We need to see more child-friendly work imagery.

4.    Remember – Everyone has priorities 

Having said all of this, working parents need to be cognisant that we aren’t the only people in the universe with priorities competing with our work. Whether you’re a parent of one, four or ten children (heaven forbid!) or even if you don’t have children, everyone struggles at times to manage their personal and professional lives in the best, and most healthy, way possible.

What we can do, as people who understand these struggles, is to be understanding of every individual, make accommodations where possible and offer flexible working environments. That way, we’ll get the most out of our happy, stress-free team!

Procurious has launched Bravo!, a group that seeks to celebrate and promote women working within procurement. Get involved here.

Talented New Mothers – Please Don’t Quit!

Are you a new mum? Thinking about starting your own business? Tania Seary lays out the benefits for new mothers of staying employed in the corporate world when children arrive.

New Mothers

The wait leading up to our launch of Procurious was killing me.

It was like re-living those last few weeks waiting for a baby to be born. There’s not much I could do other than hope and pray for a safe delivery. Fortunately we launched successfully and have had some great traction so far.

This waiting period, in conjunction with my eldest son’s 9th birthday (yikes!), and the daily juggle between work and family, gave me cause for some reflection on the whole topic of motherhood and career.

Australian procurement superstar Georgia Brandi recently posted this very thought-provoking article on LinkedIn written by Sramana Mitra. Dramatic opening paragraph aside, the rest of the story covers just about every tricky point of this highly political debate. To stay at home, or not? To work for someone else, or yourself?

Career Super Women to Working New Mothers

I’ve had some flashbacks of those awkward first days transitioning from career super woman to working mummy. Highlights of which mainly focus around breastfeeding, but, given we have a mixed audience here, I’ll save some of those stories for another forum.

I could write a book about my journey as a working mother. But in the interest of brevity, I would like to put forward my thoughts on the benefits of staying employed by a company, vs. opening your own business, when women become new mothers.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love owning my own business, I have had a fantastic time, working with, and for, some great people. But it hasn’t been easy. Also, my business was a few years old when I had my first child, so I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch when I first “went on maternity leave”.

Employee vs. Mumpreneur

I had a lot of reasons for wanting to start my own business. Primarily I had a strong vision of what I wanted to create – I wanted to create a specific workplace culture, more than a specific company. And twelve years on, I’m happy to say that culture is alive and well.

I also wanted to do my own thing, be free of the corporate hierarchy which I found very frustrating. I was tired of being judged by peers and leaders I didn’t always respect. This of course was a very naïve reason, as you will always be judged – when you’re in your own business, your clients/customers are the ultimate judge!

I also wanted to have children and travel with my busy husband. So there were lots of forces driving me to do my own thing.

But of course, the path I chose took a lot of hard work and perseverance. It took a year before we won our first big client, so I had to fund the business (and myself) during that period.

And then we needed to (and still do!) keep proving ourselves and winning new business, while we’re working on producing quality outcomes. When I had my children, I asked different people to help run the business, with varying degrees of success.

But in the end, it has all worked out. And if you’re feeling an affinity with all the above, I fully encourage you to pursue your dream.

However, I can also see many benefits in remaining employed by someone else during your child-bearing years.

Here’s my top 5 reasons to work for an employer when having children:-

  • Do it for the Sisterhood

Australia (and the wider world) still has an appalling lack of female representation at the highest levels of business. The more women that actually stay in the workforce will provide us with the greatest chances of increasing the number of women in the senior ranks.

  • Do it for the Money

How much money you generate from your own business in the early days totally depends on the business model. However, in my case, I had to fund the business for at least the first 12 months of operation. You need to be prepared for this loss of income.

On the flipside, if you stay with a corporate employer today there is more financial support than ever before. When you return to work, you will continue earning at the same rate as previously, and hopefully continue on your career trajectory, which will be compensated with salary increases.

  • Do it for the Recognition

I am going to make a broad assumption that most corporate women have reached their late 20’s, mid ‘30s when deciding to have children. This means you have reached a certain level of success and have built a reputation within your internal stakeholders, suppliers and other third parties.

Starting a new business is very humbling (I’m trying to be positive here). You will have many setbacks on your journey to success..and when you do achieve success, it will be only you and your team there to recognise you.

In a corporation, you will be recognised and rewarded (well, not always, but more so than working for yourself!).

  • Do it for your Development

There’s no doubt that you learn a great deal running your own business, but nothing as formal (unless you organise and pay for it yourself!) as the quality and frequency of training you receive in a large organisation.

Think about it. Companies train you on everything – from Microsoft office, to the latest legals, compliance and your professional training. And there’s maybe even the odd corporate off-site or incentive travel.

  • Do it for your Sanity and Self-Esteem

Really, this is a point in favour of either working for yourself or someone else.

If you’re the kind of gal that finds domestic life a struggle, just knows she needs to work, or has the all-important financial imperative – then you will no doubt need to get back into the workforce in some capacity.

I’ll never forget those early days going back to work. Buying a cup of coffee from my favourite barista, then sitting at my desk in a zen-like state for at least five minutes soaking up the serenity.

That was heaven. It saved my sanity and definitely kept my struggling self-esteem somewhat in tact.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Have I been too harsh on the entrepreneurial option? We’d love to hear from all the new mothers (and any career super women who are also supermums) on how you made the choice.