So, you’re a rising star in your PR job, but you want to have a baby. How do you juggle both without compromising either?
More than 10 years ago, I was on the fast track at Edelman Chicago working with great people on huge brands like Kraft Foods and Korbel Champagne. I certainly loved my job, but also wanted to start a family with my husband, Mike. At the time, it was my biggest life dilemma—how do you have kids and not fall off the radar? I wanted to be able to do what I loved and take care of who I loved.
No one tells you what it’s going to be like coming back to work after you’ve fallen in love with your baby. After a standard 12-week maternity leave, I came back to the best agency in the city—and realized my head was barely above the water. I kept wondering how could I do my job well and be a good mom. I figured the answer was that I needed a job switch—but I was wrong. After being at a boutique firm for a brief stint, I found out life had other bigger plans for me. I had a six-month-old and another baby on the way. How would I care for two babies and still work? That’s when I realized that I had to create a situation that would offer me the flexibility that no other firm could—I would be my own boss.
If you’d asked me 11 years ago, before my daughter Emily was born, if I would someday have my own bustling PR agency and be a mother of five kids by the age of 40, I would have said you are downright crazy. But life is unpredictable and that’s what makes it fun. I founded Henson Consulting in January 2001, in my family basement. Armed with only a phone, an Internet connection, and a lot of drive, I took a huge risk knowing that I would do whatever it took to make it possible to be a great mom and a PR pro. By creating my own gig I was able to do it all on my own terms—something that created the ultimate pay off—true work-life balance (or at least a better one).
What I always say is, if you love PR and love being a mom, why give one up? Here are a few tips on how to be a mother and still hold down a career:
- Find the right path for you:
The moment you have a child your priorities shift. In order to remain a presence in the PR world, you need to find a path that fits those priorities. Talk to your employer about making a schedule that works for both you and your family, start freelancing, get a nanny or even start your own agency, as I did. The key is to find the best fit for you.
- Work on things that inspire you and follow your passions:
When you’re giving back and working on projects and with clients you truly love, you’ll feel less guilty for not spending every minute with your children. By following your passions at work, you are also teaching a good life lesson to your children. Earlier this year, in honor of my firm’s 10th anniversary, I decided to create a branch of our agency called HC3, dedicated to giving back through cause-related marketing, to help give back and fulfill my need to work on meaningful projects that make a difference in our world.
- Use your time efficiently:
When trying to balance home life and work life, the hardest thing is finding that balance. If you use your time as efficiently as possible—i.e. schedule conference calls when you know you’re going to be in the car commuting, make client meetings over lunch, wake up an hour early to answer emails and get your kids to school—well, you get the picture. By efficiently utilizing your time, you will be more productive. If I check everything off my list before the day is over, I know that I will be able to make it home in time to help out with homework, make dinner and relax with my husband.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself:
Whatever you decide—give yourself a break. I have many female colleagues and friends that are great examples of juggling being a mom but still a fixture in the PR world. No one is perfect and no one expects you to be. Do the best that you can do that day. I’ve learned that no one sees you or your “faults” as much as you do. We need to be kinder to ourselves.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up:
It’s okay to ask for help. I’m not too proud to admit when I need to take a break, ask for help or find a new solution for me and my family. Remember that not one person can do it all and shouldn’t have to. Whether it’s at work or at home, if you need an extra hand, ask for one.
The best thing about being a working mom is that you are setting an example for your children that you can be successful at both work and home. I love that I’m teaching my three sons and two daughters that women can be great mothers and great at their jobs. I hope that all new moms out there can find the courage to pursue both a family and a career. And if you need any help figuring it out along the way, you can always come find me on my iPhone juggling a client and a toddler.
Kathleen Henson is founder and CEO of Henson Consulting, a boutique public relations and communications firm recently named a finalist for PR News' Platinum PR Awards Small Agency of the Year. She is also a wife and mother to five beautiful children. She can be reached at Kathleen@hensonconsulting.com