Mothers and entrepreneurs: Your key to success
by Annemarie Robson – International Editor – Middle East Business News & Magazine – UK
Women’s participation in the labour force in the Gulf, Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries is lower when compared with the rest of the world.
Employment for women in the Gulf and MENA region is especially tricky for those of childbearing age (18 – 42) – finding affordable and appropriate childcare is a problem the world over, but especially so in this area.
This might explain why you’ll always find more female entrepreneurs in this age group in our region. Many feel that their first duty is to be a mother … and then an entrepreneur; this can place women under even more pressure, as they sometimes – whether by choice or by obligation – find themselves working from home. Whether the business is simply a one-person enterprise or employing hundreds, many women have found success across our region. It may be something to do with the high numbers of women entering higher education, or it may be out of pure financial necessity.
What works best for you will be your key to success
If you Google “working from home with kids”, results offer anywhere from seven to twenty tips about how best to manage the situation. Many of the suggestions seem nonsensical to me – such as allowing your child to be in your office space “with a good pile of toys to keep him/her occupied”. No way would this work! I’d put money on it that if your child is in your office they will either be fiddling with your all-important work documents, will want your full attention or not appreciate that you’re looking at some funny machine and ignoring them!
My solution of choice, working at night, means that my husband has to support me by doing the early morning feed for our baby and breakfast for both kids the next day – a challenge sometimes – but it enables me to work into the early hours then catch a few hours of extra sleep. I can’t do this for more than two nights a week without feeling like a zombie, but it enables me to complete work if deadlines loom and complete quite a bit of work when the house is silent.
The best overall list I’ve found is the following from Stephanie O’Dea, author and mother to three children. In an abridged version of her blog, “Working from home with small children in the house”, she advises:
- Print out a 5am to 9pm schedule.
- Fill it out – every slot – with detail such as breakfast, getting kids out of the door, nap times and outdoor play.
- Schedule any business ‘phone calls during nap time.
- When taking ‘phone calls when kids are awake, have a full-on snack prepared, sippy cups filled, and entertainment on tap.
- Take ‘phone calls out of sight from the kids in a closed bedroom, or the backyard or the garage. (Author’s note: this depends upon the age of your child and if safe to do so).
- Inform whomever you’re talking with that you are working from home with small children and you’ll need to keep the call under 20 minutes.
If you have to write a report or have quiet thinking time, I suggest working when you can be fully off-duty as a parent. If you have childcare help, or the kids are at school, use that time. If not, I suggest using the early morning or late night hours, depending on your own personal biological clock.
There is no end to the work day. I don’t care how many work-from-home books there are that tout putting away the computer or the ‘phone or the book at 6pm to fully “unplug” and be present with your family. It just doesn’t exist when you work from home and are also in charge of the family. You are home. You are lucky. Don’t make arbitrary rules for yourself that you have no intention of keeping. That said, don’t be obnoxious. Don’t always put the ‘phone next to your dinner plate, or use it in a restaurant. If the kids are talking to you, close the laptop and pay attention to them.
Enlist help. One of the cool things about working from home is that I can pop in a load of laundry in between tasks, and go outside and weed during a conference call. I love that I have this flexibility, but there are times when I just can’t do anything more than put out fires online, or over the ‘phone.
Sage advice from Mrs O’Dea – I particularly like the rule of not being obnoxious. It really is worth its weight in gold, as people will like you as a human being if you don’t always default to “work mode” every time your ‘phone rings.
Take time to smell the coffee and enjoy working at home
Personally, being able to earn money and spend time with my children is a massive benefit that many of my former colleagues envy – but they don’t know how hard it can be! Whilst I do miss out on those lovely lunches in town, intellectual conversations and even silly things such as dressing smartly on a daily basis, I have accepted that my life has changed for the next few years and I shouldn’t berate myself about those small issues that niggle me – such as the house being less tidy, or the fact that I take longer to get back to people who email me. I constantly remind myself that I’m lucky to be able to enjoy a sunny afternoon with my new family, totally guilt free, knowing that my work is up-to- date. No more commute to and from work for me, thank you very much!