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Work/Life Balance by Nicole Reaney Director of InsideOut PR

 

As I type this, I’m a little hesitant that I just might jinx myself. Eight months ago I gave birth to my second son – and this time round think I achieved the perfect balance… so far.

I love working, I love our team and being part of the office. While I enjoyed working from home with my first son, this time round I just felt that I wanted to be back and part of the dynamic office environment. There is that defining moment though as I also love being a mum, chose to be a mum and didn’t want to miss watching Jackson grow either.

When it comes to working, I am a bit of a nut. When it’s your business it is hard to just put it aside. There’s a commercial reality in ensuring a pipeline of clients is sustained, current clients and campaigns are not compromised and that your team feel supported. The hard reality is that while discrimination protection exists within employment, they do not extend to external parties, and while pregnant and having a baby you are vulnerable to potential client discrimination.

But mostly, for me, working is just a big part of who I am and what I enjoy.

I couldn’t tell you my plan prior to having little J, but I did discuss with the team that it was likely that I’d need to take a few weeks off initially to find my rhythm with my baby and work out who we both were and what would be possible.

I was accessible to the team and clients right up to the start of labour, then switched off to focus on my baby’s arrival. Second time round, was so much easier for me, I didn’t have to learn how to put nappies on, feed or bath – first time round, I was a complete novice and it was all so new. Babies sleep so much initially and your recovery physically and mentally is so much faster (for me anyway). So I was able to keep in touch with work while my baby slept.

At one week of age, I surprised the team with a dual visit to be part of our WIP meeting – and Jackson’s first business meeting. He was great and slept the entire time. Initially this worked for us – I would come in for a few hours with him while he slept, then made our way home. I timed my work around his sleep – and worked to a 24 hour clock, there was no ‘day’ time for me, but I felt like I was getting the balance right for me.

Clients and prospects would be none-the-wiser. For new client meetings, my mum would be near-by minding Jackson for that hour or two while I had the meeting before returning to him. We did have one new business meeting at a café in the city, and my mum was nearby looking after Jackson – it was the early weeks where you didn’t know how long the sleep would last. But we managed and we laughed at the reality of working mums and what we do!

There were some new challenges with Jackson compared to my first son, he was a little refluxy – so hated laying on his back in the pram and also didn’t take to a bottle till he was four months. But I would just make it work by feeding him on demand.

Slowly with a more predictable sleeping time, and at 8 weeks of age, I came into the office every day. As I would arrive to the office, it would be Jackson’s sleep time and he would go down for three hours. I would then feed, change, have lunch at the office then head home.

Jackson would then have two sleeps in the office – and the time awake in the middle of the day would be our moment together where we would go for a walk, have a play on the mat and have lunch.

At seven months, Jackson’s sleep routine changed to a later time. So I would tweak our day to accommodate. I began to look for help where he would be looked after in the morning, I would go home to feed and have a little play, then return back to the office.

I watched the recent criticism online of Larissa Waters while she was breastfeeding at work. To be honest – I would be judgemental too if I wasn’t a mum as I had no idea of the inner workings of feeding back in my twenties.

The entire balance of mum vs work is so personal and so many factors come into play that there isn’t one solution. Here’s what I found worked for me:

  • Take the initial time to get to know your baby and how you feel to work out what arrangement will work for your circumstance. You really don’t know what it’s like until your baby is born and you have had those initial weeks to bond
  • As your baby grows you will be able to modify
  • Maintain communication with your team
  • Be mindful of respecting the office environment. This point is probably contentious, but I wanted to ensure the office environment was minimally impacted. While I fed with a cover in front of my team during our WIP meetings if needed, I may not have done this with a different team. As my baby discovered his voice, it was time for me to work from home or have some help in care
  • Reach out for help whether it’s your partner, mum, friend or a nanny
  • Understand you can’t fully control your day – and that’s ok. Just when you think you have discovered what works – it can be thrown into the air as your baby develops into their next stage or when illness takes hold.

Life is busy and sometimes days don’t go to plan. But I wouldn’t have it any other way – I’m so honoured to be a mum of two beautiful boys. I’m so thankful to the amazing team at InsideOut PR and my immediate support network including my husband and mum.

By Nicole Reaney, Director of InsideOut PR