The past couple of weeks have been a time to reflect on the amazing women who have helped shape us into the professionals and leaders we are today. So we thought it was also an appropriate time to acknowledge the many amazing mothers in our office.
We talked to some of the mothers at Weber Shandwick to understand just how they navigate the increasingly complex and chaotic worlds of family and work – a feat that continually astounds us.
They shared some of their advice for any parent looking to strike a balance between headlines, deadlines and bedtimes.
- Set realistic expectations
The communications industry tends to attract those who set objectives but always want to exceed them. Whether that’s to increase awareness of an issue, or shift debate on a topic, or deliver sales in record time using new and different engagement tools.
When we return to work after time away, we can be a little tough on ourselves.
After having two babies within 15 months, Claire Plasto, Weber Shandwick’s Marketing Director, returned to work on a part-time basis. “I had never worked part time before and totally underestimated it. I was trying to get five days of work done in three, while managing a household and two children under two – crazy,” Claire said.
“After experiencing a few ups and downs like sick children on work days and work pressures on days off, I was able to reach a balance. Just like when you begin your career, you start at a level with achievable expectations. Being a working mum is similar, you need to build your confidence, change things around to see what works, and experience this new role before you can expect to settle into it and feel comfortable and satisfied.”
Senior Account Director Kara Jecks also believes it’s important to be realistic about what you can achieve: “Be kind to yourself. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be great at our work, great parents and great partners. It’s important to set reasonable expectations, take some time out and make a bit of ‘headspace’ to just enjoy life.”
- Focus on outcomes not outputs
Measurement has always been one of the biggest challenges in our industry. It’s certainly not about how many words you craft or how many releases you issue, it is about reaching the right eyeballs and causing a change in behaviour.
This is important to remember as you measure yourself and your contribution to your people, your clients and the organisation you work for. According to Natalie Duncan, Client Relationship Lead at Weber Shandwick’s sister agency, Creation, becoming a mother can improve prioritisation.
“It’s a bit of cliché but I do believe becoming a mum makes you more efficient with your time,” Natalie said. “Rather than focusing on being in the office for a set number of hours, I focus more on what I need to achieve each day to make both my team and clients happy. I’m fortunate to work for an agency that embraces flexibility and provides the freedom to do my job and fit in my motherhood commitments, including working from home one day a week.”
Account Director Aviva Waks agrees that becoming a mum doesn’t mean your career will stagnate. “It’s important to find opportunities that allow you to continue to challenge yourself, grow and develop just like everyone else in the organisation. I would also say it’s about finding other ways to provide ongoing support where needed and where possible to help mums, as well as dads, through the various milestone moments we face as parents.”
- Embrace your community
As the communications industry evolves to reflect the ‘tribes’ that make up our society today, it is just as important to be open-minded about the people around you, who can help you blend work and life.
Having no family in Australia means Megan doesn’t have the luxury of people to call on for help with the school drop off or pick up, but she has found other ways to get around this. “I have built a surrogate family and community of people in similar circumstances to us. These people are our Aussie family,” Megan said. “They are amazing at offering to drop off or pick up the children when we can’t get there and in return they know we will help them out when needed too.”
It’s equally important to surround yourself with people at work who respect you for the professional you are, but also recognise that you can work from a range of locations and hours, and still deliver the support, counsel and results they need.
“The ability to adjust my hours at the office to navigate the commitment of running a family has enabled me to be better at what I do, both at work and as a mum,” says Min Chow, Senior Account Director. “I don’t have to stress about missing out on Mother’s Day afternoon tea because I know I can get back online later to work on the plan for the client, and do a better job of it!”
- Establish open communication
Weber Shandwick’s Managing Director, Ava Lawler believes it’s important to set clear boundaries and stick to them. “Over time I’ve become more confident and decisive with my commitments on both a home and work front,” Ava said. “This has made it easier for both my family and my colleagues. I am really open with my family so they know how important my work is and I am also clear with my colleagues, clients and managers, that my family comes first. I think this understanding helps with some of the tougher decisions you have to make along the way.”
“I also try to stay in the moment as much as possible. When I am with my children I try really hard to give them 100% of my focus and enthusiasm and then I am more positive, clear and refreshed when I am in work mode,” Ava concluded.