People often say to me “You work for yourself, that must be easy?”
To be completely honest, it depends what you mean by easy? If, by easy, you mean I don’t have to battle the Melbourne city traffic, then yes, it’s easy. Or if you mean because I am my own boss, then yes, it’s easy. However, working-from-home is not as easy as it sounds. I have tried to adapt my lifestyle to suit, but working from home doesn’t mean avoiding responsibilities.
Misconception: You don’t have to wake up early.
Reality: I wish that were true! I set my alarm for 5:40am and start working before the rest of the household wakes up.
Misconception: You don’t have to work back late.
Reality: The opposite is actually true. Most nights after the kids go to sleep, I log back in to clear out the emails and do some work.
Misconception: You can catch up for coffee with friends any time you like.
Reality: Wouldn’t that be wonderful! But if you ask my friends and family, they probably see less of me during the week because I am so busy trying to fit everything in whilst the kids are at school at kinder.
But please don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change it for the world. And why? Because it’s all about balance. Which is probably a loose term, because it’s not always as balanced as we may like. But it is still more balanced having my own business.
As a working parent (whether a mother or a father), it means juggling work amongst kinder/school drop off and pick up – as well as appointments and after school activities. I am so blessed to have support from my husband, kids, parents and sister, who all help out when work is not as ‘flexible’ as I may wish. But client’s needs also need to be juggled amongst the mix too.
Whilst some think it would be great to be your own boss, others could not imagine anything worse. The fear of the unknown and uncertainty of some things can be quite intimidating.
- Networking to build a client base and a network of other consultants to gain a stream of projects to work on;
- The never-ending admin work that you need to keep on top of – everything from accounting through to marketing;
- The self-doubt of whether you are good enough, because you don’t have a team to support you. There’s nobody there when you have a bad workday or when you want to bounce ideas.
But in my case, the advantage of flexibility outweighed the fear of the unknown. The 9am-5pm ‘work-life-balance’ did not support the needs of myself and my family once we discovered our little boy, Jayden, was autistic. And the importance of early intervention.
Many people say to us “I would never have guessed Jayden is autistic”. But what does that even mean? Does autism have a certain look? Does society have an expectation of how an autistic child is supposed to act? As a mum of an autistic child, my journey is different to another mother’s journey with their autistic child as each child is completely unique. That’s why it’s called a spectrum, because the ‘autistic traits’ are so very different from person to person and the ways to help each person adapt are also so very different.
For me and my family, it is about trying to maximise the therapy appointments to help Jayden cope with the expectations of his age (kinder/school and social play with other kids). These include speech therapy; occupational therapy; counselling; case workers; social skill classes; one-on-one swimming lessons and paediatrician appointments. But more than that, it means
- explaining to Jayden why we are going outside and what the schedule is for the day;
- covering Jayden’s ears from the wind or his eyes from the sun;
- reading every sign as we walk pass it and explaining what it means;
- battling with the clothes he wears as he can’t tolerate all fabrics or zips some days;
- not being able to go into a public toilet if there is a Dyson hand dryer because of the noise;
- calming anxiety over new and unfamiliar situations; or
- meltdowns when he can’t control his own emotions;
But we wouldn’t change our family or lifestyle for anything. “Autism” also makes us see the world differently and for that we are grateful. It makes us stop and slow down to appreciate all the small things in everyday life that others miss as they are running past. It has allowed us to meet the most amazing and supportive people and organisations who do not judge or question our parenting styles, but instead, welcome us. It has also made us laugh so many times as every day we say so many things that when interpreted literally make no sense and Jayden’s literal interpretation of everything we can have us in stiches with laughter most days!
Jayden may be quirky to some but to us he is the laughter of our family. Seeing the world through Jayden’s eyes is enlightening. It has also allowed me to see what is important – and that is balance.
Balance to be there for my children when they need me. Being there for my clients because I love being a lawyer and I love practising law. Being there for all the appointments to learn more about Autism so I can try to make Jayden’s days easier. Being there for myself (not so good at this one!) to remember that I am just one person and I am doing the best that I can.
And so, I am grateful for the ‘balance’. I am so very grateful to my clients who have allowed me to build my dream. I am so grateful to my husband for trying to help out (between all his clients) and for being there for our kids. To my supportive family who are there when I need to go to VCAT or a client’s office for an urgent matter. And to my friends, who are there to check-in on me and catch up for a wine. I am so grateful for the balance.
So, whether you work for yourself, or you work 5 days or less – remember life is about balancing what is right for you! It shouldn’t necessarily be about choosing one or the other. It should be about trying to combine (as best as possible, never perfect!) your family, health, friends, hobbies, exercise or just life in general. You won’t always be able to have the perfect mix, just like I am not always able to be as flexible as I would like. I cannot be at every appointment or every school/kinder event. But as they say, you take the good and the bad with everything – and that’s what creates the balance.