Five years ago, I couldn’t see how I was going to be able to find a work situation that worked for me. I had a three little ones at home — ages 6, 4 and 2. My husband was working long hours in his job as a litigator. After stepping back from my work as a lawyer for a few years while I stayed home with my babes, I was excited to start a new professional chapter — but I also had clear priorities in mind.
Yes, I wanted to return to work. But I also wanted to have the flexibility to spend time with my kids. I wanted to dive back into the world of client meetings and challenging projects. But I also wanted to help with homework, shuttle kids to and from baseball practice, cook dinner and sing goodnight songs.
Our life felt very full and I couldn’t see how I was going to squeeze my work into the equation. I knew that two parents working 12 hour + days just wasn’t going to work for us. Frankly, I struggled for several months trying to figure out which road I wanted to travel because I couldn’t see how I could make it all work.
Then I had a major change of heart. Rather than wait for something that seemed “perfect,” I figured that I might as well give it a go. What’s the worst that can happen any way? Over the next few months, my business partner and I launched our new boutique marketing business. As our client list grew, I started to feel more and more demands on my time. And I organically fell into a schedule that seemed to work for my family (most of the time any way).
I spend the early morning hours with my kiddos getting them dressed, fed and off to school. Then it is off to work, work, work from 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. until school pick up. The reality of our lives is that our late afternoons and early evening hours are beyond busy. Between homework, way too many afterschool activities and my kid’s constant demand for a daily dinners and semi-regular baths, these hours are jam packed. Every day. I need to be running around and meeting my family’s needs during this time.
And then 8:00 p.m. rolls around. Kids are in bed. The house is quiet. I’ve had time to check in with my husband. And that is when my “power hours” begin. I find that while I spend much of my day running around to meetings, the evening hours were when I could really get stuff done. After a few hours at my computer, I hop into bed feeling like I somehow made it all happen.
When I first started working my unconventional schedule, I worried that clients would think I was lazy or just generally MIA. But I found that the more honest and forthcoming I was about my work schedule, the more supportive and understanding my clients were. The bottom line was that the work was getting done. Of course, some days I have 4:00 p.m. meetings and I make that work. But for the most part, I came to understand that I had to find a schedule that worked for me AND be unapologetic about my choices. I also found that many of my clients were mothers themselves so they got it because they felt the same demands that I did (and p.s. — dads sometimes find that this sort of schedule is a must for them too).
If you are struggling with your schedule and considering other options, I encourage you to keep the following in mind:
- Be honest with yourself. No one can do it all, mama. Spend time honestly taking stock of the various demands on your time, supportive resources available (like that amazing babysitter your kids love) and YOUR own needs (yes, you).
- Be honest with your employer and clients. If you are working a flex schedule, own it. Don’t lead your clients to believe that you can hop on a conference call when you are really at your son’s karate class. I live in the real world and I know that clients have demands. But I have also come to understand that NO ONE is available at all hours of the day — whether that is because I am with another client or because I am feeding my son fish sticks for dinner.
- Don’t be afraid to break your own rules. In a perfect world, you could totally control your schedule. But that just isn’t possible ALL of the time. There are weeks when I have to travel for work. Other times, I have clients in town and work 14 hour days. It happens. But I know that my flex schedule awaits on the other side and that helps me get things done.
- Try hard to be present where you are. Work when you are working. And put that darn phone down when you are with your family during your down time. Otherwise, you might as well just go back to your desk.
I would love to hear tips from other women struggling to find a work schedule that works for them. How did you approach your employer or clients with your desire for a work schedule that varies from the 9-5 norm? What schedule works for you?
Caitlin Murray Giles is the co-founder of 2 Moms Media LLC.. Caitlin wears many different hats, but her favorite gig is being mom to the three little people in her life. After the birth of her first child in 2004, she traded her days as an attorney in Cook County courtrooms for play dates on the Chicago park scene. Inspired by her new life as a mother, Caitlin began writing about her parenting experiences. Caitlin saw first-hand that many traditional marketing strategies simply didn’t resonate with savvy moms and she knew that there were better ways to make authentic connections. Before long, she found herself in the business of marketing to parents in Chicago and beyond. Caitlin is grateful for the opportunity to grow her business by leveraging her experience as a modern-day mom and a marketer to help clients looking to do “mom comm” right. She resides in Wicker Park with her family.