Working mamas, would you classify yourselves as ‘blenders’ or ‘separators’?
As in, are you happy for the boundaries between work and home to become blurred so that you can dip in and out of emails in between supper, bath and story time, juggling both mama and professional roles simultaneously? (See here for an earlier post on How to Manage the Mama Juggle)
Or would you rather they were slightly less porous so that you were able to choose when to take off your work hat and when to fully embrace time as a parent and partner (not forgetting to ringfence the essential me-time that keeps us all sane)?
Sadly – for separators – technology has made blending an almost inevitable part of managing the mama work/life/parenting juggle. So most of us have had to become blenders whether we choose to or not.
This isn’t all bad - according to the recent Working Families Index research, most professional parents feel that technology has enabled them to better integrate the demands of work/life/parenting. The problem is that no-one is particularly keen on the scope of the demands upon us that require technological intervention to manage it all in the first place.
For we don’t necessarily choose to be online when out of the office and nearly half of us feel that we are only checking in to our emails at home in order to keep 'on top' of our jobs. In other words, our jobs are too big for the time that is officially allocated to them.
The research also reveals that a large factor in needing to be online is in order to keep our managers happy. But if checking work emails is just a masked desire to be available just because other people are, then surely this people pleasing is actually no different to our kids’ FOMO (the one we chide them for)?
The issue is, no-one has taught us how to create boundaries around ‘tech creep’ – the phenomenon by which technology has become far more of an intruder on family life than an enabler of increased quality time and we’ve been left to muddle through as best we can.
So how can we manage tech creep and create healthy boundaries between work and the rest of our lives whilst also modelling healthy screen time for our kids?
It’s a hefty challenge alright. And I’m not sure I’ve managed it myself. But in the absence of any official guidelines, here are my 5 top attempts at doing so:
Establish the rules of play early on. Choose an authentic leadership style and own it. Be bold and unapologetic about how you manage your time both in and out of the office and inspire others by your example (after all, everyone prefers knowing where they stand).
USE THE TOOLS AVAILABLE TO YOU
Create an out of office automatic email and make sure you turn it on when you are ready to fully log off. This may take practise – not being a people pleaser is a muscle that needs exercising – but the more often you do it the easier it will become. Nothing is so urgent it can’t wait until the morning and if you work in an environment where it sometimes is, make sure there are systems in place to help you manage this (see next point).
Set up a system at work that means you can truly delegate. Choose the right person to delegate to and then fully LET GO of the need to micromanage, resting assured that issues are being taken care of in a way that you would want them to be handled.
Limit your phone checking to the minimum. This might mean that you have to wean yourself off gradually but try to get it down to once an hour and then once an evening until you are able to switch off as you physically leave the office. Ideally, don’t check in view of the kids (which may mean pretending you are going to the loo – yes, we’ve all done it) and if you need support, get them to help by calling you out!
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
Be open about what you are doing and encourage other members of your team or those you might be mentoring to follow suit. After all, most people want what you do, so grow an individual effort into a movement and before you know it, you will have made a considerable impact on your company culture!
For more support on how to manage the work/life/parenting juggle or for more information on how to create a more gender-equal and inclusive company culture where you work, contact me to explore one-to-one coaching or an organisational restructure!