Are you one of the 43% of highly qualified women who's taken a career break or left your career entirely, after starting a family? This percentage might surprise you, but for ambitious women, having children can throw a major spanner in the career works. Many mothers are forced to make the difficult choice between a challenging career and quality time with their families because the modern workforce still hasn't caught up to the changing role of women.
But what if you didn't have to choose? What if there was a way for you to feel challenged and fulfilled AND still spend time at home with your children?
According to Forbes the number of freelancing mothers has increased by 70% in the last 10 years, with mothers now making up over 15% of all freelancers. And here's why it's such a great option for ambitious women with children:
Being self-employed allows you to choose the hours you work around nursery and school drop-offs and pick-ups, without the stress of organising wrap-around care for your children. Not only is wrap-around care expensive, especially when you have more than one child to pay for, you're also likely to be greeted with a very grumpy child after a long day away from home. The standard 9-5 working day leaves many parents with a daily challenge of working out how to care for the kids.
I also see how much my working mum friends struggle to find childcare during the school holidays. Holiday camps and clubs are a great option but they're expensive and can't provide childcare to cover the entire working day.
While you might need to make up your hours early in the morning, or after the children have gone to bed, you're able to arrange your workload so that it fits around your family. Not the other way around.
Before I had my first daughter I'd had a well-paid career in the City, meaning that I'd been able to make a meaningful contribution to our household and I felt a deep sense of pride in my work.
To an extent my career defined who I was. And then I had a baby. My working hours were 6.45am-5.30pm, so the only childcare option for us was to employ a live-in nanny. After doing the maths I'd have taken home around £200 a month and missed out on watching my daughter grow up. My husband and I made the decision that I'd stop working for a few years because it just didn't make sense to work so hard and bring in so little.
I don't regret that decision for one minute but before starting my own business I felt constant guilt about spending money on myself. If I went for a nice meal with my friends or bought a pair of slightly extravagant shoes, I'd feel like I ought to ask permission first. (To be clear my husband never once complained or gave me any kind of limited allowance – it was my issue with myself).
If this is where you're at right now, I know that feeling well and it sucks. To go from fierce independent woman, to lowly dependent housewife feels like a kick in the teeth. But I also know how hard it is to make work work around children.
Working for yourself can give you back the independence you had in your pre-child life, without worrying about exorbitant childcare costs or missing out on time with your children. It allows you to get back that sense of pride you once had in yourself instead of feeling the need to apologise when you tell people you're 'just a mother at the moment.'
Less Mum Guilt
I'm not going to lie, there's no known cure for mum guilt. (But I will let you know if I discover the secret). Being your own boss isn't going to be a magical solution to make the mum guilt go away but it can help to get you part of the way there.
In any given day you probably feel guilty about at least one of these things:
Letting your child watch TV so you can have a shower
Feeding your child a biscuit to stop them screaming
Spending too much time checking your emails while your child tugs your leg
Not cooking a meal from scratch
Letting the laundry basket over-flow
Giving your child an ipad so you can empty the dishwasher
Sound familiar? For many mums, working a 9-5 is yet another reason to feel wracked with guilt every day. If you're fed up of feeling bad about missing school plays, showing up late for pick-up and not having as much time as you'd like to read with your children – working freelance is a great way to allow you to work around all of those things.
By setting your own schedule you can prioritise the things that matter to you the most, without the whispers from colleagues that you're skiving off again.
Becoming a mother is one of the greatest gifts there is, but with it comes a whole load of guilt and stress around how to balance a career around the needs of your children. You deserve to have an amazing career that you feel proud of when you wake up in the morning, but you shouldn't have to sacrifice your family in order to get there. While it's sad that more employers aren't waking up to this and pushing for change, there are options out there until more companies catch up. Being your own boss allows you to have your career cake and eat it. If you want freedom, flexibility and an end to unnecessary mum guilt then freelancing could be the best career choice you ever made.
Author: Anna Iveson
Anna Iveson in an entrepreneur, mother to 3 children and campaigner for work freedom, based in Yorkshire.
She’s just launched VAzoom - an Online Community connecting entrepreneurs with virtual assistants. She also writes a regular blog where she gives tips to newbie VAs and entrepreneurs on how to pursue their dream of career flexibility, and get more done every day.
You can find her at www.vazoom.co.uk