“Don’t beat yourself up…learn from the experience and work out a way to deal with it next time, even if it’s to be more realistic…”
Karen Morris is the force behind Underground Communications. She is a talented writer and communicator providing multi-channel communication services to clients through her business Underground Communications. Oh and she is also a Mum of three.
I always enjoy reading about amazing women who manage to juggle the demands of family and work life. Every single time without fail I learn something new that I too can apply to my complicated family and work life. I hope you too pick up a tip or two from Karen or at the very least understand there are other women out there who juggle the demands of family and work because they love what they do.
Q: Can you tell me about your business?
Karen: I run a boutique communications agency on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We specialise in developing and implementing holistic communication strategies for conscious businesses who are driven by passion and commitment.
Q: Can you tell me about your family?
Karen: I have three gorgeous, energetic and not-so-small-anymore boys! The eldest is now 14, taller than me and with an attitude to match. Two of the boys are in High School which doesn’t necessarily mean you’re off the hook, you just don’t have to visit too often any more. The youngest still has two more years of primary school, at which point my baby will officially no longer be a baby (except to me!).
Q: What are your strategies for juggling your family and business commitments?
Karen: I’ve found that my strategies have varied considerably over time and the age of the boys. When I first started out my baby was, quite literally, a baby and I used to work much less than I do now. I had two full days without the older boys and juggled delivery deadlines around sleeps, often working at night and on weekends to catch up.
Since the youngest started school I have worked virtually full-time, with the exception of two days a week where a finish at 3pm and then spend the next 2 – 3 hours driving around to various after school activities and balancing the laptop on my knee in the front seat of the car.
School holidays present a different challenge altogether, especially the long school holidays. My most recent strategy with that, since the youngest now refuses to attend vacation care without his brothers, is to hit the keyboard at 6am, work through until 11am and then devote the rest of the day to the boys, periodically checking in on emails just in case there’s anything important that can’t wait until the following morning. This seems to work reasonably well, much better than the ad hoc approach I had last summer holidays!
Q: What are the advantages to having your own business?
Karen: The flexibility to be able to be there for my kids so that I can cheer on the sideline, applaud their musical prowess and boogie on down with them at dance concerts (the boy’s dance group is always the best spectacle of the day!). And, it allows me great satisfaction in creating something that I can be proud of at the same time as showing my boys that dedication and hard work can count for something and that if you strive for something important you will achieve.
Q: What do you find challenging about running your own business?
Karen: Sticking to the program! I have to force myself to stick to an agenda and I have lists coming out of my lists to make sure I deliver on time. When you work for someone else there is usually a set procedure that you have to follow. I’ve had to develop my own but I’m pretty happy with how we’ve done so far. I’m lucky that I’ve had great staff to help me get to where we are now. I find that I’m much better at being disciplined now that I have an office outside of home. Although the flexibility and convenience of just walking downstairs was wonderful in the early stages of working for myself, eventually I found the isolation crippling.
Q: Do you have any tips for other Mums thinking of starting a business or going back to work?
Karen: Try and set specific work times rather than just ‘working around the kids’. Although it seems like a great idea, even if you’ve set them up with something to keep them occupied, you will always find that there is an interruption of some kind no matter what age they are.
Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a deadline – learn from the experience and work out a way to deal with it next time, even if it’s to be more realistic about what time you have available.
Don’t jump on the bandwagon of guilt. Even if you work for yourself, you can’t be everything to everyone. If you are happy doing what you do and you give your kids quality time in addition to your work then everyone takes away a wonderful memory of the growing up experience. Comparing yourself to anyone else does not serve you or your kids. Just be happy with your choices and, if you’re not, change them (I have emphasised that word on purpose!).
mums@work 19 Dec 2013
By: Celeste Kirby-Brown,
Director of Sales, Marketing and Relationships, Ezypay, mums@work Contributor