So back in December I wrote about why I was taking the giant leap and quitting my 'proper' 9-5 job and turning to 'flex' (flexible working) to suit my changing lifestyle with two kids in tow (see here). I wanted to make the most of spending more time with my family and working around their needs. The scary full time fees for two in the nursery system meant all my earnings would be going on childcare - so working my butt off to be stressed out and losing out on all important family time, along with the addition of Finn starting school in September meant a big change had to happen. The other day it dawned on me that 6 months, sorry by the time I have finished this actually 8 months (!) have passed and it may be nice to update you all on how I'm getting on and the honest realities of what has come with the 'flex' route I have chosen - the good the bad and the ugly.
I've been working as a website partner for Olive Loves Alfie (an iconic kids clothes store) the last 8 months and we successfully relaunched back in February along with a tonne of inspiring sold out events (I realise you need to pat yourself on the back sometimes for these achievements!) to promote the brand. From January I started to get two child free working days a week as V started at Finn's nursery. That equates to 16 hours to get shit done. 16 hours to try and not be distracted. 16 hours to get through meetings, work and also finding time to keep my blog going (an on-going battle).
I always thought I would find it easy working from home and by myself. I've always been very self motivated so I thought it would be a doddle but nooooo this has been such a change and one of the biggest challenges. I've been so surprised at the adjustment and how long it's taking to settle into a new way of working and thinking. No office environment, no team of lovely people to chat to and bounce ideas off, no one to report into on a daily basis. I'm a bit of a workaholic and used to working hard, head down just getting on with things so having to cram a lot into two child free working days I thought would be easy. Nope, when you may not always be in that working or blogging 'headspace' it's a major challenge and you frequently have to have meetings with yourself! Finding that elusive work/life balance as a mama is hard, even more so working from home.
This is what I've learnt so far (and believe me I'm learning every day how to deal with it!):
-I'm better working at home than from a coffee shop - I can concentrate more and am less distracted by cakes, but find what works for you
-Working in 50 minute time slots works - your mind needs a rest regularly and you will work more efficiently this way. It's worked well but I do find my mind wanders very easily most of the day...
-Working without my phone next to me (OK I admit I still have it there a LOT of the time) or at the very least putting it on silent does make the difference of not getting distracted by it
-Checking Instagram, Facebook and Twitter first thing, lunchtime and end of the day (not 500 times a day) - much easier said than done but it truly is a massive distraction! The more you look at your phone and social media the longer it takes to switch back into what you were doing, FACT! But it is really hard to not to be on it all the time, I do know this :) I have an addictive personality
-Treating myself to a nice lunch out on one of my child free days - be it meeting with a friend or treating myself to something healthy at Whole Foods is a good thing. Do not feel guilty about taking a proper break!
-Working in the evenings sadly doesn't work for me, I'm just too tired and my mind doesn't work efficiently then, but social media and making lists of what I need to get through the next day do. Find what works for you.
-Lists - stock up on notebooks (I wish I was a bullet journal person), I find I use lists now more than ever to keep myself organised - work, blog, life admin, kids, holiday - I have about 200 on the go
-Reward yourself every now and again - be it a cheeky online purchase, a nice smoothie or ice cream on a hot day. You deserve it, it will brighten up your day.
-Coffee - save money by using an espresso/ coffee machine at home! Money saved can go towards those nice purchase treats ;)
-Washing - yay to actually being able to do some washing at home in the day and it not piling up in the week, Although more often than not it still sits wet in the machine until I remember after the kids have gone to bed...
-Excercise is key - biscuits and sitting on your butt a lot = not good. Pilates and jogging works for me but just a walk to the shops to get bits for dinner is better than nothing
- Pat yourself on the back for any achievements - be it getting through a to do list, managing to work a whole morning non stop or simply contacting a person who you've been nervous about approaching
-Water - make sure you have a big bottle of water sat next to you and get through the whole thing by the end of the day. I went though a stage of not drinking enough and it honestly does make you feel better (bar the million toilet trips)
-Remember to stop every now and again and reflect on why you are doing this - to be with your family more and have a slower pace of life for a while (as slow as it can be with 2 kids in tow)
Here is my good, bad and ugly of flex working...
- Not having anyone to report into can be REALLY lovely most of the time
-Working in your knickers or loungey comfy clothes if you like or glamming it up in some red lipstick - anything goes - it is nice to be in my own space
-If you need a nap you can take one, if you need to pop to the supermarket or the docs or get a haircut last minute - you can
-Dropping the kids off for 2 child free days is GLORIOUS! Only yourself to think about, hop skip...
-Sunshine - when that sun is out you CAN hit the park or knock off early for a pint in the beer garden
-There is less pressure and sometimes that feels pretty healthy in itself!
-Life is good and I am spending lots of time with family and enjoying a slower pace more than before
- I'm SO excited for Finn to start school in September and that I get to drop him off and pick him up everyday and I will be there for him, to hear how his day was (OK I know the reality is they don't tell you anything!) and see his happy face thats its me picking him up and no one else
-I feel healthier and better about myself than before, my confidence (although still a daily battle) is growing and I'm discovering who I am and new skills!
-When you do have a bad day you tend not to have anyone around to rant about it to, there is no one to really blame or bounce your anger/ issues off
-It is lonely and my mind can struggle to concentrate 50% of the time
-It is hard to switch off a lot of the time. On days I have V with me I am still learning to be stricter and not have the temptation to sit and work when she is around - however when she naps it's a different story, and you are winning at life when she naps at home for 2 hours and you can get a bit more work done.
-That Friday feeling can be hard to come by when you have no 'office' to leave
-It can be easy to become frustrated if you have to send an email on a day you have the kids and hear yourself saying to your little one 'in a minute' A LOT!
-The kids drive me mad a fair bit on days when I do have them - but I am working at this, I know this time will go really fast and am trying to be a more patient person and live in the moment more!
-Money - we are pretty broke and I do miss my 9-5 salary but I need to remember that all of it would have gone to the nursery anyway!
-I thought I would have blogged more but in fact I haven't
-My desk is a mess and makes me feel overwhelmed 90% of the time!
- Wow anxiety is a bitch! Back in May I went through a really bad patch of feeling very anxious about everything. It was really hard to pinpoint what it was but maybe too much time on social media and lack of sleep were playing havoc on my mental health and wellbeing. It is so important to take a break and seek help. I spoke to lots of friends who helped me and made sure I took time out for a bit
- Mindfulness is still an area I'm working on and taking more time for myself - this is really hard
-Guilt - I still feel this all the time about pretty much everything be it posting on Instagram when I have the kids to not having enough quality time with my hubby
So to summarise...
Flex working has changed my life for the better - it does have its fair share of challenges and shitness but getting out there and talking to people about it - creating a network of friends and advisors is really important to make you realise we are all struggling in our own ways and keep perspective as to why you are doing it. I'm loving being closer to my family and not having to commute across London everyday with a slower pace of getting out the door each day. I'm working to protect my weekends as family time and I think this is really important.
If you have recently switched to flexible working I would love to hear from you and how you have found it as I know its no smooth sailing...
Also a massive shout out to my husband who has supported me and been a wealth of knowledge and advice through my tears and good and bad days.
Please follow Anna Whitehouse here and support her Flex Appeal campaign.