Even after 20 years of being a working mum, I still have regular guilt trips about work and kids depending on the day and time!
I have two boys – Josh is 20 and safely out of guilt’s way at university but that leaves Jasper, my 15 year old, who, despite being the tallest in the family with the deepest voice, biggest feet and closest thing to a moustache, is at that stage of not needing me but needing me (as other parents of teenagers may recognise). He doesn’t necessarily speak to me but likes knowing I’m at least in the same building even if I’m working away upstairs.
I am lucky to be able to work flexibly and have done since 1992 so woebetide any manager who tries to get me to clock in and out now! I work full time as an Associate Director in the NHS in central London with a commute from semi-rural Kent of anywhere between an hour and 90 minutes each way depending on what major catastrophe befalls SouthEastern trains – the wind blowing the wrong way, signalling problems, too hot, too cold, broken down trains – which between them happen more days than they don’t.
It’s a busy job but I try and get the best balance for work and family by working one day at home (today – yippee!) and four days in London. The other days I drop Jasper at school so don’t get in till 8.30-9 then leave between 5 and 5.30 catching up from my home computer in the evenings. I limit evening work events as my husband works away but make sure I schedule some in to keep my networks broad and perspectives fresh.
The day I work at home is my saviour in so many ways – after a hectic four days of meetings, coaching and learning events; I can catch up on thinking and writing with the time and space to do that without interruptions apart from the cat sitting on my keyboard when it’s extra cold. I am extravert and introvert in equal measures and the day to myself helps me recharge after being with people and working in an open-plan office all week. We are trying to sell our house so I can work around appointments with viewers, decorators, phone-calls, and religiously take half an hour to do the school pick up. From my study window I can see trees, horses, and a multitude of birdlife. In the summer I can do my work calls from the garden and have been known to be picking strawberries whilst debating health policy and strategy with colleagues in the middle of town!
Technology of course makes this achievable. I log on to my desktop through field worker access so can get into all my folders, intranet and email as if I were at work. Telephone conferencing makes a massive difference and I am practiced enough now to chair phone meetings with people in up to six different locations. Next month we are getting new laptops with Skype for Business which makes connecting even easier, although does mean that I may need to wash my face, put on some make-up and ditch the running gear I normally wear on a Friday!
In my organisation we are supporting new ways of working including home working, not only to support health and wellbeing and retention of staff, but also to reduce the amount of office space we need which costs the Trust a lot of money. To make this a success, we support staff and line managers to develop healthy team working including trust, and managing by outcomes not presence.
We are also promoting job-share as a way of being able to work part-time without dropping back down the career ladder – we now have Directors of Quality, Clinical Directors and Heads of Nursing who are all job sharing.
Check out www.timewise.co.uk who help businesses to attract and develop the best talent through flexible working.