HR & Management

Flexibility for families – juggling parenthood with business ambition

8 min read

05 November 2015

Many parents face the tough juggling act of raising a family combined with holding down a nine to five job. For women who have taken maternity leave there is also the dilemma of whether to return to work after they’ve had a baby and indeed whether to continue to pursue a demanding career alongside bringing up young children.

For some parents it’s merely logistics and for others it’s yet another life-changing decision which will have a dramatic impact on family life both financially and emotionally. Add to that a whole host of other worries – bills, feelings of guilt towards a partner who is perhaps working full-time and the additional money pressures of surviving on one salary – and your mind and blood-pressure are racing before you’ve even started re-evaluating your career plans.

Some people are lucky enough to work for an employer who sings from the same hymn sheet and is prepared to give them the space and flexibility they need upon returning to the workplace after maternity or paternity leave, and indeed as they pursue their career. For others, it’s not that straightforward. Perhaps you work in a stressful or high-pressured environment? Maybe your job is dangerous or involves a lot of international travel taking you away from your young family? 

Whatever the reason, some parents can find the prospect of juggling a career and raising children a huge burden fraught with anxiety. As a mum of two myself, I’ve been there and I know how stressful this time can be, but I also believe that everyone is entitled to pursue rewarding career opportunities regardless of whether they have children or not. I also believe that they shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting a career and that there are many different ways to obtain greater flexibility at work.

For many of us, it’s about finding the right balance between work and spending time with your family. If you have worries that your current role simply won’t give you that balance, then trust your instincts because you are probably right. For some it simply means accepting that fact and making plans to accommodate it. Or you begin making empowering changes in your life which allow you to create your own work-life balance.

Meeting with your employer to discuss flexible hours, a reduced part-time role or a change in role entirely is a possibility. You need to know where you stand and you need the facts now. Once you have this information you’ll have a clearer picture of how this might (or might not) work for you. It’s important at this stage to remember you are not alone; there are many other families out there in exactly the same boat as you and I’m a firm believer in “where there is a will there is a way”.

Some people find speaking to their employer about flexible working very difficult and for good reason. It’s no secret that many employers may not be receptive to the idea, or they may agree grudgingly which can cause problems later down the line if they change their mind and it begins to affect your working environment, your career opportunities and how you are treated by your peers day to day.

Read on to find out how to go about setting up a franchise that will give you more time with family.

Becoming a parent for the first time is a big enough life-changer and the thought of making any further big changes can fill you with dread but sometimes this can be exactly the right time to make a change. Bringing a new baby into your world really makes you re-evaluate your life and makes you appreciate what is most important to you – and you might find it makes you feel a little braver and more confident to ask for what you want. If you decide not to return to your previous role but are still passionate about a career, there are so many other options to consider, some that you might not even have thought about.

You could look for a completely new role with more flexible hours (perhaps part-time) or something with the option of working from home. If it’s not a financial issue, you might consider voluntary work at your local charity shop or helping with community support? You might decide to return to college to re-train in something you’ve always dreamed of doing? Many colleges offer evening classes and some even have a crèche too. It’s never too late to try something new.

Taking the plunge and setting up your own business is always a possibility. But for many the prospect of setting up on your own is daunting and risky financially. This is why many parents consider franchising as a viable option. It is often seen as less risky to buy into an established brand which already has a reputation and it’s not always as expensive as you might think. But always treat such investigations with care: check out the British Franchise Association – the national franchise body which works towards best practice franchising – it you refer to the members list here you can rest assured that you are dealing with a vetted and genuine business which has adhered to strict criteria.

Setting up a new business whether on your own, with a friend or via a franchise, is a big decision. You might choose this route to gain a more flexible and beneficial work-life balance in the long term, but remember – setting up a franchise business takes time, passion and a lot of self-discipline. You have to invest blood, sweat and tears into getting it off the ground and that might mean less “free time” to begin with but later down the line the benefits and change in lifestyle can be dramatic (for the better). Starting a business half-heartedly is not advisable. Give yourself a reality-check. Is it the right time for you?

Buying a reputable franchise business is certainly something that parents may consider when market conditions are unpredictable. 2014 will see more families entering into franchise ownership options, where the risk of business failure and financial loss can be greatly reduced providing you have a strong managed support network and the comfort of an established brand to fall back on.

There are currently 39,000 franchised units in the UK and despite a very difficult recession in recent years Franchising has continued to grow and all franchise businesses combined generated £13.7 billion turnover in 2013, just under 1% of GDP. Franchising is a proven business success story and certainly one to shout about.

Caroline Crabbe is general manager at Jo Jingles.