According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of flexible is:
- capable of bending easily without breaking;
- able to be easily modified to respond to altered circumstances; or
- (of a person) ready and able to change so as to adapt to different circumstances.
Well it’s been a while since I could bend easily and my gymnastic days are 100% behind me! But I can definitely say that I fit into the next two definitions!
Parenthood is a whole exercise in responding and adapting to altered circumstances. We all know that from the moment you realise you’re pregnant, everything is completely changed and you find yourself having to deal with situations you’re completely unprepared for. For example, my youngest decided it would be hysterical to try and wear her soiled nappy on her head at the weekend. I’ve no idea how she got it out of the nappy bin but as she wandered around the house showing us her latest fashion, I wasn’t quite sure how to explain to her that this was not going to be a hot trend! She was quite distraught when I took it away.
If flexible parenting wasn’t hard enough, two years ago I set up Parental Choice. The business is my third baby. It takes up as much if not more time than my children, a fact I feel guilty about every day, and I’m constantly having to juggle phone calls, emails and meetings around available childcare, repeat episodes of Peppa Pig and the odd nap my children still have during the day. Fortunately Parental Choice is all about helping parents with children so most of them understand when, half way through a phone call, my two decide its time for round 3 of their latest boxing match and start screaming the place down. They might understand but it does nothing for my stress levels! I can completely understand why working mothers are quickly becoming the biggest consumers of Sauvignon Blanc in this country.
I used to work as a lawyer in the City where the demands of my clients were always the priority. If they said they wanted a contract drafted within 2 hours, you sure as hell tried to get it to them. I used to think my job was fairly hard core but it wasn’t flexible. There was one goal and that was getting the job done and there were no distractions until it was finished. Now, everything is flexible. I could be trying to feed the children tea at one moment, whilst taking a call from a prospective client the next. All of Fiona’s suggestions in her blog earlier this week as to how to make flexible working work are vital if you are going into your employer to ask for a flexible working pattern, however they don’t quite work when you are your own boss and everything in the business revolves sadly around you to be available.
It would seem from the above that I live in a permanent state of stress. Well that might be the case but you know something I don’t think I would change it for the world. I love my children to bits and having my own business affords me precious time with them (meal times, bath time, the odd afternoon off that I can choose to take myself without asking anyone’s permission!) that I would never have been able to have in the City. There I would have been bound by long working hours and other people’s demands and politics. I work well into the night now but I’m doing it because I really believe that I can help other parents get the right balance between their family and their jobs. We work with Fiona at Lexington Gray to put together the right package of flexible working and flexible childcare. and the biggest reward I get is when one of the mothers we have helped says thank you. A genuine thank you, not because I’ve just made her business millions of dollars through the capital markets but because she now gets to have the right lifestyle to suit her and her family. Sounds cheesy I know but I get a lot more job satisfaction out of working with the team of people around me now than I ever got in London (no disrepect to my former colleagues! 🙂 ) We all work flexibly and we all juggle family lives around working for PC. Its not easy but so far it works.
Having children is hard work. Running your own business is equally hard work and both demand a great deal of flexibility. So yep I am “able to be easily modified to respond to altered circumstances” because well I have to be, otherwise nothing would work! And yep I am “ready and able to change so as to adapt to different circumstances”! My advice to anyone who is thinking of doing the same is go for it! You never know until you try and you never know it might just give you the flexibility as a parent that you are looking for.
- Shaping a flexible work agreement (parentalchoiceuk.com)
- Flexible working changes – your rights explained (parentalchoiceuk.com)
- ‘Working mothers cannot focus on jobs and have no place in top roles’: BBC fat cat’s claim after employee asked for flexible hours (dailymail.co.uk)
- Childcare, and flexibility, are both important to working parents (terrimbutler.wordpress.com)
- Flexible Work Is Healthy, Studies Show (huffingtonpost.com)
- Better Relationships With Flexible Work (universalscribbles.com)