There is no such thing as the perfect work-life balance but Kim Palmer – founder of Clementine, mother and strategy director at Wunderman-London – has found ways to make the juggle work for her. Here, she shares her tips…
Firstly, let’s get one thing straight: my home is not some harmonious idyll; there’s stress, tears, mess and everything else that comes with family life. But I’m a firm believer in tweaking things, wherever possible, to make it all run more smoothly. It will never be perfect. And there’s no right or wrong way to combine work and motherhood. But here’s what works for us…
1. Set really clear boundaries and tell people about them (they can’t read your mind)
This applies for both work and home. Be clear from the outset with your boss, your team, your partner – and even your friends, if necessary – what you will and won’t be doing each week. This includes working hours in and out of the office.
I work a four-day week and said I was happy to take work home in the evenings on my working days, as long as I could get away in time to be home for the bed-time routine with my son. I set out a very clear expectation that I wouldn’t be working on Fridays so I was un-contactable. Unless it was pre-planned – for instance, a pitch – Fridays were no-go.
On a more positive note, I was clear that alongside being a mum, I also wanted to progress my career so I was open to opportunities to work abroad, join pitch teams etc. I’ve seen far too many people just expect that everyone knows that this is what they want. Don’t wait for it, tell people.
At home this meant being really clear about the stuff I would and wouldn’t be doing. Over time, I realised that I’d taken over too many of the household responsibilities so I handed many of these back over to my husband or they have been outsourced.
For example – no more ironing of his shirts. This is now outsourced. I decided to give up spending the day with my son on a Friday and he started going to nursery … outsourced. House moves – outsourced to husband. Organising holidays – outsourced to husband. You get my drift.
Adopt a ‘good is good enough’ attitude
This means stop striving for perfection in everything you do and cut everyone else in your life some slack around living up to your expectations, too. Have a think about what ‘success’ really means. Here are some ideas…
Getting to work on time is success. Getting work delivered on time is success. Getting home on time is success. Everyone surviving the week without any major injuries is success.
Reframing what ‘good enough’ means for you and your family will massively transform your mindset and make you feel better when stuff slips through the cracks: when the house is a tip, when you forget to buy your kid nappies and they go to bed in their swimming nappies (happened to me on more than one occasion). It just doesn’t matter. Unless someone is hurt, it’s fine.
By cutting everyone else some slack too, they will naturally start to take more ownership, feel better about what they are doing and it will free you up. Case in point: we’ve moved twice in the past two years. I almost had a breakdown the first time and micro-managed my husband who was organising the move. Some of my clothes went to storage so I was swanning about in all my best clothes for about a week – but hey ho, he got it sorted.
Then when we moved last year I literally did not get involved at all. I turned up home after work and we were all moved into our new house. He did it. Without me interfering. Result.
The same goes at work. Many moons ago I was so critical of my work colleagues, my team, the agencies – it must have been exhausting for them and I know it was exhausting for me. Realising that everyone comes to work to do a great job is a good starting point. And giving them the platform to do great work, but building in enough check-ins along the way so that you can share feedback and provide support is a healthier way to work. This gives everyone space and amazing things happen when people have space and support.
Learn to love the small things that bring you joy vs waiting for that holiday that only happens every so often
So, this is going to sound cheesy but one of the game-changers for me with juggling so many different priorities has been trying to find things that I enjoy every day – and acknowledging them. Almost having a mini-celebration around them.
What I used to do was wait to get most of my joy from the weekend or from a holiday or from a big event. Well, the problem is those things don’t happen often so you end up feeling flat for longer periods of time (I did) and then you put pressure on those moments to top you up. But what if they don’t top you up?
I love coffee. So, I treat myself to one nice (expensive) coffee a day. My route to work is a little longer because I go to a specific shop but it’s worth it and I savour every sip.
I have two rituals to book-end my days. This means I get off to a good start and I finish the day well too…
In the morning: I’m a morning person so I always have breakfast with my family at the table. No matter how late we are running or how chaotic it is, we protect this ritual and do it every day. It helps me to start the day in the right way… mostly.
In the evening: no matter how late I’m working (which is often way too late and something I need to work on) I will always read a book before I go to sleep. Even if it’s just five minutes. Only ever a real book. I find I need something to help take my mind off the day so that I have some clear space before getting to sleep.
How do you make it work, balancing work and motherhood? I’d love to hear your ideas…