Being a new mum isn’t easy; being a new working mum is even harder so Parental Choice asked Luciana Andreoni, working mum at a leading cosmetics company, for her thoughts, tips and advice:
“As I finished my last Zone visit before going on maternity leave, nothing felt easier than looking after a baby. The year leading up to that moment had been the hardest in my career – poor business results, a demotivated team that was never complete and the chaos of work that can make it particularly difficult to deal with situations like this.
Fast forward a year and nothing seemed easier than coming back to work. In a way, it was like coming home – still crazy, but also familiar, welcoming and where I could be my old self again. And I haven’t looked back since, which is probably why I find myself writing this article.
This is my attempt at sharing with you what I have learned since coming back to work 6 months ago and how I am (trying) keeping myself sane, organized and fulfilled as a professional and a mum.
I will insert here a health warning for those still reading: this is by no means prescriptive and I cannot promise it will work for you and your specific situation. As with any parenting tips, self-help books and style advice, take what fits and leave the rest behind.
This does not mean having a to-do list. Writing this article has been in my to-do list for over a month without being prioritised (sorry Parental Choice). For me, it means starting every day by deciding the one thing I need to achieve that will make the biggest difference – even if it seems small and unimportant. For example, if I had a bad night sleep my priority can be to go to bed early. I will then organise my day in a way that allows me to achieve that as a minimum.
This seems pretty obvious and something that anyone should do. But what I found as a working mum is that it can be difficult to feel in control. You may have a really busy day planned and then you have a sick child to look after. When you are clear on what is the one thing you HAVE to achieve on a day-by-day basis, it becomes easier to deal with dropping other things to a latter day. There is always something that can wait until tomorrow – in my experience, even 80% of those I-need-it-now requests.
Prioritising also doesn’t mean choosing between your job and your family. Sometimes the priority is work. Sometimes is my family. And sometimes (less often to be honest) is me. As long as there is balance, there is no need to feel guilty
LEARN TO LET GO
This is one of those clichés you get told as a working parent: “you won’t be able to do it all”. The reality is you are never able to do it all, child or no child. I have worked enough 13, 14h days to know that the longer you work the more work there’s to be done.
In a weird way, I find being a mum liberating. No one questions you when you say you cannot attend a meeting or when you push back on a mundane request. My time both at work and at home is limited and therefore I have become absolutely ruthless about what I will do and what others will have to do for me. It feels a bit odd at first and you worry that things will fall apart. But in most cases it doesn’t take you long to feel like a fool for not having done so before.
Letting go is also about leaving your job at the office and your family at home. I worked hard to find the best childcare solution for me so that I could let go of everyday decisions on meals and nap times, as I know my daughter is with someone that will make similar choices to the ones I would have. As for leaving work behind – my daughter is at a childminder around the corner from the office and so after singing “the wheels on the bus” for the 30th time on my way home I find it quite easy to forget about that email I didn’t reply to.
The next cliché I hate about being a working parent is that you have to be terribly organised and have a very fixed routine. I’m sure that works for some, but it most certainly doesn’t for me. I am constantly late. I also have a manager that can be really difficult to pin down between the hours of 9h and 16h45, so saying “no meetings after 16h30” really doesn’t work for me.
Rather than constantly beating myself up about being late and disorganized, I chose to be flexible instead. I have chosen a childminder that is quite relaxed about when my daughter needs to be picked up. I also have agreed an “evening-off” with my husband when he will pick Gabi up so that I can stay at work a bit later to catch up on things, have after hours meetings if needed or even go for a drink with my team.
As for being organised, everything within reason. I had this wonderful idea about pre-planning menus and having my outfits all chosen on the weekend that fell through on my first week back. I now always have eggs in the house – omelettes make a wonderful last-minute-haven’t-planned-anything meal for a 15 month old.
The one thing that I am quite organised about and will not be flexible on is time with my team. Knowing that they are clear on objectives, supported and able to deliver makes it much easier to leave the office behind, let go and all those other things above.
It is a collective delusion that burn-out is the way to success and that slowing down is for lazy people with no ambition. As a parent, you can sometime feel that you need to be always-on at work given your working hours are more limited. Personally, I have never felt more tired than doing a 9-5h at work and looking after a child pretty much every other waking hour of the day. You still need breaks. You can still have lunch, do some online shopping or read a magazine for 5 minutes. Everyone has 5 minutes.
Also, let’s be honest here. Most of us won’t retire by the age of 50 as our parents did. That means you still have a good few years of your career ahead of you, so relax and allow yourself to take it slowly for the first few years as a parent.
STOP LOOKING AT YOUR EMAILS
This is the only thing I will be prescriptive about. It’s distracting. It diverts you away from the priorities you had set yourself for the day. Most of the time, if it was really urgent, someone would have called you or tried to contact you another way.
Just do it. No one will die. I promise