Career women don’t need to walk away from their career success simply because they become mothers or choose to work part-time.
I’m delighted to feature Kim Stone from Undercover Mum as my Ordinary but Extraordinary woman this month. As a working mum myself I am only too aware of the complexities and many demands that working mums face both at home and in their career so I love what Kim does.
Kim turned her challenging return to work after maternity leave with her first child into a valuable learning experience and now helps career mums redefine their version of success as a mother and have satisfaction and fulfilment in the workplace and the home.
In Kim’s own words, before she became a mum, she was completely devoted to her career in urban planning and stakeholder communication, but she found that returning to work was “more challenging than she ever could have imagined’. For the first three months after she returned to her corporate job, Kim worked two days a week, which was challenging because she was out of the office most of the week. I also worked two days a week for a short period myself and found it to be very challenging – it took half a day to work through the backlog of emails.
When her son was inconsolable on his first day at daycare and had to be collected by her husband, Kim quickly realised that returning to work after maternity leave was more complex than finding available daycare and negotiating dates and hours.
She was unprepared for the amount of carer’s and sick leave that would be required (I think all mums of littles know how often they get sick when they start daycare!). Kim returned to a workplace that knew her before she was a mum and knew her value in the workplace, but she still felt she was letting the team down.
Kim found the the first few months back at work emotionally challenging because nothing went according to plan – something I’m sure most working mums relate to.
Working part-time and being a mum led Kim on a steep learning curve in finding a new type of success and meaning in her career. She had to overcome her own doubts about whether she could have it all as a working mum, without sacrificing either family or career (or both). Kim had to get to know herself all over again – her values, priorities and definition of success changed after she became a mum. Once she understood the ‘new Kim’ it was easier to make decisions and choices that aligned with her core values, without the guilt, stress, overwhelm or self doubt – or at least most of the time.
Kim soon realised that the work she was undertaking two days a week didn’t match her skills and interests so she started job hunting. She found a part-time role (3 days/week) in another organisation that matched her skills and professional interests. The work and the increased days actually suited her better than working less because she was in the office more, more connected to her work and colleagues and she enjoyed the work she did, whilst still having the days at home to enjoy being a mum.
Kim worked with a leadership coach to overcome limiting beliefs about having both a career and a family, which were stopping her from embracing and excelling in her new role as a working mum.
Shortly before commencing maternity leave to have her second child Kim started a blog for mums returning to work and from there it was a natural progression to become a mentor and coach. Mentoring and coaching also gives her a way to utilise her skills and experience to help others. She wanted to offer personalised support for working mums looking for happiness, success and fulfilment at home and at work.
When Kim launched her new business, like most new business owners, she felt overwhelmed by the volume of things she needed to learn, but she applied the same strategies that she used in her corporate career to manage this overwhelm.
Kim recommends an action/to do list, “Whenever I feel overwhelmed by my to do list I ask myself – what must I do today and in what order? Prioritising is so important and also setting realistic expectations for yourself. You can’t build a blog or business or learn everything you need to in one day. It’s about taking action everyday, no matter how small.”
Kim also went looking for the help she needed with her business. She utilised free information available on the web and found a couple of good business coaches and online programs to accelerate her learning in the right direction.
Kim is returning to her part-time role in the new year. She still believes in the work she does in her corporate career and believes it contributes to her feeling successful as a working mum. Kim has a plan to manage the many facets of her life as an employee, business owner, partner and parent – boundaries around when I am available to my corporate career, my family and my business, with no overlap. I’ll be making time for everything that matters to me and if I feel it’s not right I’ll reassess and make adjustments until it does.
Kim doesn’t particularly subscribe to balance, because it strikes her as a theory that leans towards spending equal time and energy on all aspects of your life. Kim believes you can make time for everything that matters to you. For her it’s about finding the right mix of career/business, family, me time, fun, sleep. Kim says, “the things that bring you satisfaction should be in quantities that best suit you, rather than in equal measure. If you have the right mix you’ll know. It will feel right. Life will be relatively easy and enjoyable most of the time. Mix is not static either. It can change over time depending on your situation. I love helping working mums find the right mix and work life design to suit their aspirations.”
I don’t know about you, but I find this lady inspirational. I love that she took such a big and common challenge, refused to be conquered by it and has now turned it into a way to help others and fulfil her own needs.
I’m definitely going to be taking a leaf out of Kim’s book about allocating times for the various areas of my life WITHOUT OVERLAP because that’s something I really struggle with.
If you are returning to work shortly or feel overwhelmed by being a working mum – Kim might be just the lady you need to have a chat with. Visit the Undercover Mum website to learn more about Kim’s services or to catch up on her blog.