Finding your flex: 7 strategies for balancing a successful career and parenthood
Nicolette Rubinsztein has built a successful career as a senior financial services executive and non-executive director – all while working part time and caring for three young daughters. She shares her seven strategies for working parents who want to have a great career – and a happy family.
It’s no secret that balancing work and family is one of the challenges of our time – and is one of the reasons women remain poorly represented in executive roles.
But by taking a strategic approach, Nicolette says it may be possible to have it all – or at least the bits you really want.
Seven strategies to find your flex
Nicolette used her corporate expertise to find a solution to managing work-life balance, based on McKinsey’s 7S Framework.
1. Shared Values
What will make you happy? And what will make your family happy? The answers may be different for everyone, but Nicolette says it’s important for partners to be on the same page.
“You and your partner need to discuss and agree how you will approach parenting and work. Having the support of your partner is critical to enabling you to succeed as a career mum or dad.”
How will you structure your life? Are you able to work part time, or job share? Or work from home?
“I’m a fan of part time – it lets you keep a foot in the career door and stay up to date. But it can be financially challenging – as far as possible you need to ignore the financials for that time.”
“In an ideal world, I’d like to see a model where both parents work part time – that would be much more sustainable. Running two full-on careers in one household is very challenging,” says Nicolette.
This is all about creating a brand that enhances the perception of value to your business – building up brownie points that you can cash in for greater flexibility.
“Make sure you’re a star before you go on maternity leave, so you are in a stronger position to negotiate when you return. One way to do this is to build relationships by staying in the same company for a few years before you start a family.”
Nicolette claims that women in particular can underestimate their value in the organisation – which can lead to a lack of confidence when negotiating for flexible working arrangements.
“Statistics show that having women in the workplace reduces risks, boosts morale and lifts profits and brand image – so don’t be afraid to be yourself.”
Her advice is to use your skills and plan ahead of time so you are in the right role, with the right company and the right boss. This will make negotiating part-time arrangements easier. Of all these three things, the right boss is the most important.
“You might be in a company with great HR policies and a vocal CEO, but I’ve come across many women who didn’t manage to negotiate flexible arrangements because their direct boss wasn’t supportive.”
Childcare strategy is a key element of success – and a bit of a jigsaw, Nicolette says.
“You’ll probably need a combination of both parents, day care, grandparents or babysitters to fill in the childcare gaps.”
“But try not to overuse day care if you can help it, and make sure you have one on one time with your child every day.”
Nicolette says it’s important to get help with everyday tasks, to free up valuable time at home.
“Your partner will generally be the first port of call – but, if you can afford to, outsource some domestic work to create more time for work and family.”
“There are plenty of men and women in high powered jobs and children that are still doing their own cleaning. This may work for a while, but it’s ultimately unsustainable.”
Your systems can help keep you organised – whether it’s synched calendars to help you and your partner manage your time, a detailed ‘to do’ list, or online groceries delivered every week.
“Consider what you can do to save time and be organised, and make it easier to get through what you need to do.”