When I’m talking to HR professionals who are considering self-employment, the most common reason they are looking at that option is the desire for flexibility. Although flexible working in conventional employment is increasing (and there are some wonderful employers out there who promote a good work-life balance), it can be very hard to get the level of flexibility some want from an employed role.
The HR profession is very female-dominated, which means getting to a relatively experienced, senior role in HR is very likely to coincide with maternity leave and/or wanting more flexibility for family reasons. I’ve done this job with small babies and school-aged children. For both it has been a godsend, although perhaps with school-aged children even more so.
I started when my eldest was a year old, and had my youngest while building my business. I was able to stop marketing, keep existing clients, take some maternity leave then work around nap time and nursery to an extent and build things back up again at my own pace. Because I could arrange meetings largely to suit the hours I wanted to work, and could work evenings and weekends, I could limit the amount of time my children were in childcare far more than I could have done in traditional employment.
Now they are both at school, being able to arrange my own work and my own diary has really come into its own. There are sports days, school plays, parent consultations, mothers’ day events at school, visits to have school dinner with your child, and teacher training days, all of which have been easy for me to deal with. Our school is fantastic at getting parents involved and welcoming parents to school for various events, but clearly for those in traditional employment attending all of these can be very challenging.
Even leaving aside those events, being able to do the school run most days and be at home to help with homework or music practice, and able to ferry children to clubs and other after-school activities is wonderful. If I’ve had a week with lots of school-related demands on my time, I can make up time in the evenings or at a weekend if necessary, or plan things so that deadlines fit with that schedule.
Just as an added (purely selfish!) bonus to this flexibility, even if there is no school requirement, if I’ve had a tough week, aren’t feeling great, or am just tired, I can schedule in a morning off to recharge the batteries whenever I need to. I have a lot on my plate as most working mums do, and being able to stop for a few hours and breathe can be invaluable.