Are you a mother or a business person? You have 30 seconds to choose one…

I have juggled many roles in my life – a sister, friend, wife, colleague, team mate in a dragon boat, and partner – but there is one role that I will be performing for the rest of my life – being a mum.

My role as a mother is probably the most important one I will perform throughout my adult life. I made the decision to bring other human beings into this world – to teach them how to be good people, to care about others, to stand on their own two feet and to be an integral part of the community.

I am also a business person, committed to building a successful and profitable venture. A vehicle to express myself creatively, connecting with other business people for mutual benefit. My business is my other ‘baby’ – something I created from scratch. I nurture, love and care for my business – it is a tool to make me money and to do something good with my skills and expertise.

Here’s the rub – which role is more important?  Do I need to choose? Or can I do both well?

Some do not think so.  I was recently told I had to choose whether I was a mother or a business person.  This comment came after I had to bail on an event because of an injury to my child.  I prioritised his wellbeing over business … and that was a no no, apparently.

Mind you this is not the first time I have been forced to choose between my children and work. When I was in employee-land, taking a day off to care for a sick child raised eyebrows – ‘Can’t you get someone else to look after him,” one boss said. Gobsmacked, I said no. When the children were sick, I was in knots when I had to call to say I had to stay home to care for them.  I could feel the judgement through the phone.

How did we come to this point where women (and men) are made to feel less because their kids are their priority?  What is wrong with a world that pushes women back into the workforce after having children and then makes them feel like they need to disconnect those maternal instincts for 37.5 hours a week?

Being a parent and being in business are not mutually exclusive. The challenge is in the planning and managing those perceptions and expectations. I want to be great at both these roles. I want people to understand that mothers (and fathers) are doing the best they can; hold off on the judgements because if everyone was perfect the world would be a different place. We all have our own challenges – not just parents – the key to successfully juggling the plethora of roles we have is to put into place some strategies and guidelines.

Here are five ways I manage my client’s expectations when it comes to working with me – PR superhero and supermum.

1.    Manage Expectations Up Front

When I take on a new client, I have a WHAT TO EXPECT flowchart – it covers how we will work together but during the initial start-up of a contract.  I also let my clients know that I work from a home office and I am mother, which means that from 3 to 5pm I can and will be continually interrupted by questions about what is there to eat, what is on TV, where the footy socks are and what is for dinner. This way they know to call me before then or that I will get back to them first thing in the morning.

2.    Be Organised

I have a paper calendar that I use to manage my days.  I block out anything that is kid related – football, appointments, school events and social activities. This way I limit the potential of double booking and having to cancel business appointments. I carry this diary with me everywhere.   The written diary works for me because I find writing information down locks it in my head, but you can use your phone, tablet or an online calendar.

3.    Don’t Do Business With People Who Do Not Align With Your Values

One of the most valuable things I have done this year, is to work with a business coach on locking in the values and vision for my business. I mean, how do you know where you are going if you do not have a map?  This process (thanks Kevin Gammie) has helped me clarify WHO I want to do business with based on my values.  When it came time to flesh out my ideal client, I was able to clearly see the type of person I wanted to work with. I have these values on all my documentation and during the initial enquiry stage with a potential client make sure they know what these values mean to me.

4.    Keep Clients In The Loop

Another valuable lesson I have learnt being in business for myself is to communicate with clients on a regular basis.  When you work from a home officer, by yourself, it is easy to become immersed in the activity.  You know you are working hard but unlike when you are in an office, no one can see how hard you are working on a task.  Twice a week I send my clients an email letting them know where I am at – even if there is nothing to report. This way they are engaged in the process and are emotionally connected to what I am doing.

5.    Set Your Office Hours

It is a short commute to my office from the kitchen – five steps to work – I have to be wary of becoming too immersed in work. I have clear working hours (yes, I sometimes break that rule but I work in PR so things come up). I let my clients know that my hours are 9am to 4.30 pm. I also have clearly defined meeting times (otherwise I never get work done).  It all comes down to communication.

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Annette Densham is a PR Superwoman who runs Publicity Genie, a bespoke PR agency that works primarily with small business and entrepreneurs helping them get noticed. She also loves working with people teaching them how to do their own PR with her GET IT DONE=YOU+ME collaborative training program. Working one-on-one with those who want to know how to get free publicity but find weekend and online programs overwhelming and time consuming. A former print journalist, Annette loves a good yarn … don’t be surprised if you share a story with her to hear her say “that’s a ripper of a story…let’s share it.”  For more information visit www.publicitygenie.com