My story is not that unusual. Did well at school, went to uni, got a great job, traveled, lived overseas, got married, progressed well in a career I loved and then had kids. I have to say, when I was younger I never expected to be a stay at home mum.
I did make an attempt to go back to my post-motherhood role. Part time, with a one year old. That was in about 2001. Early days in the ‘part-time working mum’ revolution. It didn’t go well and I left after a year.
I spent the next decade raising my three beautiful kids, living life and enjoying my family. But there was always a sense of unfinished business for me as a professional.
But, the longer I stayed away from the professional world, the harder the road back seemed. The less confidence I had in my own abilities and the further from my professional self I became (or at least that is how it seemed at the time!)
As the kids got older, my thoughts did drift back to my old professional life, but by that point I felt that I was so out of touch that I no longer had anything to offer. It felt disappointing and insurmountable.
I was lucky enough to have an old friend and colleague offer me some part time contracting work about 5 years ago, which was a great way to begin to be back into the workforce,
This was pretty convenient, but not particularly rewarding from a career perspective. I found myself wanting more. Wanting a career, to be part of a ‘tribe’ again.
Then another wonderful friend thought I would love working at KPMG. It took a while, but I finally took him up on his offer to talk to some people at the firm. I was sold.
That was a year ago. It’s been equally fun, exciting, challenging, overwhelming and rewarding. I think I’ve learnt a few things about what it takes to be successful and part-time – but there is still a way to go before I get everything right (perhaps I never will).
Here are six of my thoughts about what helps to make you successful and part time – and stay sane.
- The world hasn’t changed since you left on maternity leave (no matter how long ago that was!). It might feel like it, but actually, we are a people business, and people are still the same. There might be a bit of technology to catch up on and some organisation changes to get across, but fundamentally it’s still the same.
- Back yourself. You are the same person that you were before kids – in fact you are better. The ‘soft skills’ you have gained are real – logistics, true multi-tasking, efficiency, and people management…don’t underestimate how negotiating with a three-year old can hone your skills for the business world.
- Be clear about what you can take on – especially when you first return to work. The adjustment will take some time for everyone. Once you have your feet under the desk, you can increase your load in a balanced way. For me, the firm has been incredibly supportive in this, but it is still up to me to make sure I am not taking on too much. I think it’s better to state up front what your constraints are than let people down or alternatively drive yourself into the ground trying to meet expectations.
- Learn to live with the odd unmade bed (in my case every day the cleaner isn’t there!) and a couple of extra take-away meals. This isn’t the end of the world, and helps you to actually maintain a life. Nobody really suffers but you have to get comfortable with this – it took me quite a while to be happy with this.
- Get help. As much as you can afford/justify. The last thing you need to worry about when you get home from a long day is uniforms and cleaning bathrooms. One of the answers to the “how do you do it” question I asked a lot of part-timers before I went back to work was “I hired some help”.
- And, lastly, reach out to other part-timers and men and women around you with flexible work arrangements – everyone has a different story, and different challenges, but they all have great advice and can be huge supports when you need them.
About the author: Jayne is an Associate Director at KPMG, successfully working part time – and loving it. Jayne lives in the beautiful northern beaches with her husband Symon, and her three kids – Tom, Jamie and Lily.