This year’s International Women’s Day campaign theme is #EachforEqual which draws attention to the difference individuals can make in the pursuit for equality.
The message at the heart of the campaign is that by celebrating women’s achievements, raising awareness of bias and calling out inequality we can all bring about change.
In light of this we asked Michelle Boon, CEO & Founder of SEEN Group, to share her career story and reflections on being a full-time working mum.
Michelle Boon, CEO & Founder of SEEN Group, a global group of creative agencies focused on the beauty, health and wellness industries with offices in London and New York. Michelle is a Mother of two cuties, 17 months in age apart- her son Finn, and daughter Luna who was born 6 months ago.
Mum life hey, but working mum life….
Can you really have your career AND happy little babies and do this without an ounce of working mum guilt?
Society says no but is that because of society’s expectations of us or our own?
I’m passionate about promoting a positive example of being a full-time working mum, that does not focus on guilt, by setting my own expectations of myself and this juggle.
Why? Because it is still a little frowned upon, with a real lack of role models for those mums that head out to work every morning and leave their kids at home. We know Instagram is heaving with incredible mum inspirations, documenting their beautifully curated lives while building clever, successful insta-led businesses that support this. However, when you work full-time in an office removed from motherhood and spent in budget, HR and planning meetings, where there is nothing but a cup of tea and excel spreadsheets to share on Instagram, you can feel as if there is nobody else leaving their babies to go to work.
Yet, the reality is the majority of working mums are getting on the tube or bus every day, leaving crying babies at nursery doors or with a nanny they are not that sure about, worrying if they have booked little Tommy’s vaccinations at the same time as that all important work meeting.
I never take it for granted how incredible it is that we are living at a time when mums have such choices. When I left university, I felt you either chose to be a career woman or a mother. I left having babies pretty late as I had no true role models of women who could do both well, and it actually took me a long time to reconcile that you could. Even after 2 under 2, I believe that you can.
Why? Because I love my job, I love what I do, it’s my baby too, it has nothing to do with children or being a mum and that’s actually what I love about it. My babies might get annoyed at me for it somewhere along the line, but I know they will mostly respect me for it in the long run. It still does not make it any easier, so I thought I would share my tips for working mum guilt and how to get rid of it…well make you feel better about it at least…
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries
Setting clear boundaries for yourself and for others is so key to succeeding in this mum/work juggle. Strong boundaries set up healthy working and personal relationships and ensure you don’t fall into resentment or disappointment, which can happen when you have so much on. Be clear on your boundaries both at work and at home. Always go the extra mile and push yourself, but there is no point saying you’ll take that 8pm conference call if you’re going to miss your baby’s bedtime for the second night in a row and as a result resent the meeting and everyone in it. It’s much more productive to be transparent and find alternative solutions, then everyone will win in the end.
Don’t be proud
Take the help!! This is what I have learnt most from having baby number two. Let me tell you I’m usually useless at this but it’s become a necessity and it’s made me a better person. It has also let so many more people into my life and led to stronger relationships with my family and friends as I have opened myself up to them. So at home I lean on people, and get support from people who are better than me at certain things to fill the gaps that you can’t fulfil. Ultimately, this will leave you with more time to spend with the bubbas and to succeed at work.
It’s not just about work networking, it’s about mum networking
One of the best things about being a mum has been the wonderful women I have met outside of my usual work and social networks, and the bond you create around the vulnerability of being mothers and the journey you go on together. They are a mix of different people; some stay at home mums, some mums who work 16-hour days and sleep in the office during busy times, but all supportive of the decisions we make, or the necessity that inspires us. Those WhatsApp pings from my mums group keep me grounded during my work days and remind me that I am a mummy but also, they are a sounding board for work moans alongside the mum moans, as their support is not exclusive to motherhood alone.
Don’t think flexing it is a sign of weakness, it is in fact a sign of the times. If you know a board meeting or big client pitch will mean you miss bedtime that night, then flexible working should allow you to take your toddler to that music class in the morning. Stand up and make this work for you as you know you will always give more than you take.
The Mum to CEO transformation
The commute becomes my transformative time, from mum to business woman. I might spend the first half sorting my home admin then when I hit my tube changeover, I start on setting myself up for my working day. Make lists for home and work but keep them separate. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, just choose one or two things that you want to tick off that day. By focusing on your chosen tasks each day rather than the whole list, you will you feel you have succeeded. People hate the London tube commute, but I might be the only person that love’s it, my me time.
Perfectly imperfect Goals
This is my new moto, for me and my children. We are all perfectly imperfect, and we should never strive to be anything more. So, when you’re feeling that juggle and you don’t feel you’re doing anything right just think…. but I am perfectly imperfect. That’s the goal and all we can be, then the guilt and the pressure drops off and everything seems a little more…. well…perfect!
So, let’s celebrate being perfectly imperfect mums and career women and hope that we can work to build a community of mothers proud to work outside of our mum jobs. We need to build more honest role models that support and nurture those that do. What is certain however, is every day is a different juggle and you never know what’s coming next, but every day is the best day when you know you're going home to those little squidgy faces.