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Work-life balance

balancing act_29_10_12Seven women reveal how they try to juggle work and life commitments – with varying degrees of success

‘I am the master of multitasking’
Joanne Dewberry, 31, business owner and freelance writer

‘I have three children (aged four, three, and 10 months), and run my business from home, so I tend to work from 7.30pm to 11pm and do odd bits during the day when the children are at school, nursery or asleep. ‘I used to struggle to balance things but now I joanne dewberry_29_10_12have a system that works for me. This includes making sure I don’t worry about what other businesses are doing, and not stressing out about the children being sick, and so on. ‘I balance my day between children’s activities and work, which is useful during holidays. I’ll entertain the kids with soft play or by scribbling in a notebook, hang my washing out at 9pm and block book as many meetings as I can when my children are at pre-school. I’m a multitasking master. I also take my 10-month-old, Olive, everywhere. She’s a regular on the networking circle and people are more surprised now if they see me without her! ‘I spend so much time juggling work and children that it’s hard to fit “me” in.

My middle daughter is three years old and she and I will have our hair cut together at a salon – it’s just one of our many girly treats. ‘I try to balance my activities, so I’ll take the children to the beach or the park in the morning. Then, when we’re home, I’ll set them an unsupervised activity while I do some work. They’re happier to give me five minutes’ peace now that they understand mummy works so they can have days out. ‘Communication is the key for me and my partner. Even if he is walking into the house and I’m walking out, we still take five minutes to chat. We’re a team. We discuss everything. We try every so often to have a meal without the children or catch up on TV shows.’


shital patel_29_10_12‘We don’t have children, so we can do the jobs we do without feeling guilty’
Shital Patel, 41, events director

‘I’m responsible for organising events for the company I work for and I clock up at least 40 hours a week. I have to travel quite a bit and can be away from home for a night or two each week. There are also a lot of early starts and late nights involved when we’re busy. ‘My partner and I don’t get enough time together. We both have very busy jobs with erratic hours and when we are together, we generally end up napping on the sofa because we’re so exhausted. I think the fact that we don’t have children allows us to do the jobs we do without feeling guilty that our work/home balance isn’t quite right.’


jennie field_29_10_12‘I joined the work netball team and a samba class’
Jennie Field, 32, head of marketing

‘I work full-time for Panache Lingerie. Officially, I do 37.5 hours a week but in reality it’s more like 44. It can be difficult if I’m working away from home but I enjoy my job so I understand that there will be times when that’s part of the deal. ‘In previous jobs, I’ve had to commute. Now I’m only 20 minutes from home so I’ve reclaimed more than an hour a day – time I use to go to the gym or to relax. ‘I recently decided to have some “me” time. My boyfriend plays football so spends quite a bit of time with his mates. I wanted to do some activities with other women so I’ve joined the netball team at work. I’ve also signed up for a samba class with some school friends and it’s definitely entertaining and fun. ‘This year, my boyfriend and I have made a conscious effort to do the things we rarely find time for – putting aside one weekend a month so we can spend time together. You need to plan time for yourself and time with your partner and stick to it. When life gets busy, this time is always the easiest to cancel, yet when you keep to it, it can be the most precious.’


hayley chalmers_29_10_12‘An extra hour won’t change the world’

Hayley Chalmers, 47, business owner

‘I have my own business which provides office wear for petite/short ladies. I have all the garments made and do everything from finding designs to sourcing zips. It takes up 40 to 45 hours a week. ‘Fridays can be frustrating because I want to carry on working. But, in general, I don’t work weekends. When I think I’ve done enough work in a day, I stop. Doing an extra hour or two won’t change the world but it will stress me out – and no one will thank me for it.’


teri larsden_29_10_12‘Work will always be there in the morning’

Teri Larsen, 37, interior designer

‘I’m a self-employed designer and freelance writer, and I work 40-plus hours a week, some at night or at the weekend. I think every working woman struggles with balance and owning a business takes more of my time than I’d like. It’s so easy to work into the small hours. This isn’t healthy for me or my family as it cuts into our time together and means I don’t get to recharge my batteries. Giving myself a cut-off time is the best way to tackle this. Work will always be there in the morning!’


stefanie hopkins_29_10_12‘Don’t get distracted by household chores’

Stefanie Hopkins, 34, PR consultant

‘Officially, I work 20 hours a week from home, though often it’s far more. I’ll frequently work in the evenings to catch up. It was easier before I had children as I’d do a full day’s work and that would be that. But now, with two little ones, I’m back at my desk once they’re in bed. ‘Working from home is great for me as I’d far rather work in the morning, spend the afternoons with the kids, and catch up on any outstanding work at night. ‘I don’t have much time to myself; it’s something I need to work on. I do try to go out for dinner with girlfriends once or twice a month and get to the gym twice a week, and my partner and I try to go out for dinner together at least once a month. ‘It’s important to prioritise and not to fall into the “instant and immediate answer” syndrome, which is so easy with all the mobile technology that’s available. ‘Also, stop work avoidance! If you’re working, be disciplined and make sure that nothing distracts you. If you work from home, don’t try to catch up on the household chores instead. And turn off your personal phone and don‘t log on to your email and Twitter accounts.’


georgina maric_29_10_12‘My husband and I don’t get enough time together’

Georgina Maric, 42, deputy editor of at home magazine

‘I do around 18 hours a week (two days one week, three the next) at work. I try to go to the gym at least twice a week, which I see as “me” time, and I’m doing a creative writing course once a week. ‘I don’t get any time on my own and my husband and I don’t get enough time together. He does taekwondo twice a week but, because we both work part-time, we don’t have much spare cash so can‘t often pay a babysitter so we can go out. Otherwise, I think I have a nice work/life balance. I have two small children and can pick the oldest up from school on the days I’m not in the office and spend time with my little one, but I also get to do a job I love. ‘My little boy is at nursery in the afternoons, either two or three days a week depending on my work. My oldest is picked up from school by my mum once a week, goes to an after-school club, one day, whch she loves, and my father-in-law collects her one day every other week. ‘My secret is to leave work at work and home life at home and to be very good at juggling the two of them!’

Sally says… ‘As a working mum, I do spend quality time with my kids when I can, such as at meal times and before bed. Planning is the key. You can achieve anything if you plan it correctly.’ 


Picture credit: iStock


This article was first published in at home with Sally Gunnell in August 2012. [Read the digital edition here]


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