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Careers Coach Blog, Children & Relationships, Editor's word, Staying sane, Staying Sane

The truth: How working for myself made me a better mother

You know you’re not in a happy place when you don’t want to talk or play, or do much with your family – especially your children. And that’s a situation I found myself in many times before I bit the bullet and starting my full-time business Geek School Tutoring a few years ago.

I was in a job that I loved, but the place of work and some of the dynamics were weighing me down. I also had some anxiety about what would happen when our eldest child started secondary school – would he become a latch-key child, coming home to an empty house and not being supervised for hours before my husband or I cam home with his younger sister (who would stay at afterschool club)? It was a huge weight on my shoulders, and I often panicked about it.

Added to that, I was full of guilt. Whenever I missed a school activity for either of my children and was sent videos or pictures by my husband (or other mums with children in their class), it was gut wrenching. I really wanted to be there, and I didn’t feel that it was worth missing, but working full-time means being very selective about the assemblies, choir performances and so on that my husband and I could attend between the both of us, while juggling school holidays.

So, when the second redundancy opportunity came along, I took it. I made a quiet decision not to go back to working the way I was working…ever again! Working is very important to me, but so is spending time with my children, being there when I want to be (obviously, when they need me, as well!) and not having to justify it to someone else who seems to have control over my life, when all they’re paying me for is 35 hours a week of my time! I also wanted to work on my own terms, changing a little bit of my world as I go along. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made, and if you have the fire in your belly for working for yourself because of the same or similar reasons, then read on!

I was happier
The saying, ‘happy wife, happy life’ was obviously coined by someone who knew well that when the wife is happy, it can change the whole dynamic of the household. Why? Because we have more patience, we laugh and make the rest of the family laugh more, we’re not (as) grouchy, and we are a lot calmer. Those were all tick boxes for me. There’s little worse than knowing you’re grunting at the people you love every day, but being to tired or irritated to recognise it or change it.

I had more time
One thing I resented mist about working for other people was the culture of dragging out tasks. If I can finish a piece of work in a couple of hours, why should I drag that out between unnecessary meetings, constant interruptions from colleagues and all the other nuisance factors that are often out of our control in the corporate world?

Working for myself meant that I didn’t have to answer the phone if I was really busy and trying to get through a task – I could set aside times to call back clients and not have to worry about someone marching up to my desk because my phone appeared to ‘not be working!’

What that meant for me is that I could structure my day so that I could blitz through pieces of work and have so much more time left over to do other things, like take a break, think about where the business is going, the goals for the rest of the week, month and year. Or just work less that day because I could! This had the knock-on effect of making me happier because more time meant that I felt a great sense of achievement at having finished my work so efficiently. It makes you want to get going again because of the success of completed work.

Greater flexibility
Leading on from having more time, or managing my time is not having to gripe so much about missing assemblies and school plays etc. I can let my clients know far ahead of time that I’m busy and make up for it by mutual agreement. I don’t have a boss to beg and plead with, or begrudging colleagues who think my time off is unfair because they don’t have children.

 

I choose my salary
If I want a pay rise, I have two options: give myself one, find more clients or customers so I can give myself a pay rise. Notice, I do t mention grovelling, self-justification or anything like that. I choose my salary, not someone else. I know my worth, and I know what I need my bank balance to look like to make me happy and keep me working for myself, so it’s up to me to make it happen. On that note, all my efforts co e to me – I work hard and get the rewards, it doesn’t line someone else’s pockets and then get a fraction of that effort, which is based one what they think my work is valued at.

My ideas are golden
If you e had an amazing idea at work and have been stopped from pushing it forward because of budgets, or company vision, or any other nonsense, it can be a little demotivating. Yes, it’s true that not every idea can go ahead, but sometimes you have to jump through your line manager’s hoops before you can get to the real decision makers. If you are managed by someone who doesn’t have your creative passion, ideas may just end up in an idea graveyard, and never get suggested to the right people. When you run your own business, there’s so much control. If I want to change part of the website for Geek School, my tuition business I just need to plan it to happen. It can be changed that day, week or month and I can track the progress almost immediately. There is no bureaucracy, company systems, IT requests and so on.

Technology is up to date
Unless you prefer to work with outdated systems, you can use the most up-to-date IT software because you don’t have to worry about an upgrade affecting another archaic system. This matters a lot because new technology and upgrades are supposed to make us more efficient, but if you don’t use them, you can literally get left behind.

I’m following my dream
If you’re a mum who has a dream that you’ve been putting on the back burner until your children grow a little, or until you go part-time, or until you e saved enough money to start, can you see a theme there? Excuses? It can be easier to convince ourselves that we should wait…but for what? Would it really hurt to chase your dream a little a day and get closer to making it a reality? Sometimes, the reasons are actually excuses, but to recognise that we have to be honest with ourselves…live your dream one step at a time, every day and you’ll get closer to making it a reality.

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Joycellyn Akuffo

Founder and editor of www.motherswhowork.co.uk, a mother of two wonderful children, wife, entrepreneur (check out www.geekschool.co.uk) and journalist.