The balancing act of being a parent and a partner

The balancing act of being a parent and a partner

Anna Draper shares how she balances being a parent of two young children with being a full-time audit partner at BDO

Anna Draper is a full-time audit partner at BDO and has been with the firm for nine years. During that time, she has had two children, Emma (8) and Jack (6), grown an impressive client base, and become a partner in BDO’s strong audit practice. Here she shares her top tips for juggling partnership with parenthood.

My first official day as a partner at BDO happened to also be the first day of maternity leave with my second child. Since then I have often been asked how I manage the competing demands of being a partner with a young family without the help of a nanny or stay-at-home husband.

The good news is, I do manage. But, in reality, it’s not always easy. I often use the swan analogy about myself where I appear to be gliding along the water but underneath I am frantically paddling.

Throughout my career I have learnt a lot of lessons; one of which is that everybody works in different ways. My most important advice to anyone trying to achieve a work-life balance is to ‘be yourself’ and give ‘yourself’ a break.

While everyone’s experience will be different, these are just a few of the rules I live by to help keep my head above the water, and my family and firm happy.

1. Surround yourself with people who understand and support you

This is key both inside and outside of work. I am extremely lucky that my husband, who is a deputy-head teacher, has been able to work four days a week rather than five. At work, the team lives by the ‘we are all in it together’ mind-set. There is often perceived pressure to be present and to do everything yourself in order to prove how well you are performing, but I think this is often self-imposed pressure rather than a reality. Do not be afraid to ask for help and be honest if you can’t do something. The chances are there will be someone willing to assist.

2. Try and keep your diary under control

I am notorious for having an extremely busy diary but I would be nowhere without my personal assistant who ensures I leave the office when I need to. I have learnt that leaving time to breathe and digest information between meetings will always be more beneficial. Being in back to back meetings, day in day out, is not sustainable in the long run.

3. Be honest with your teams and your clients

As an audit partner, my clients are what inspire me to be successful.  However, working for a firm that’s flexible and in support of agile working means that giving the best client service does not always mean having to be in the office 9-5. I like to be able to pick my children up from school, attend their special events and be there for them when they need me.

By being honest and open with my team and clients about these commitments, I am able to manage expectations. Clients know that I will always deliver even if it means logging on later in the evening once I have looked after the children. I also think my clients appreciate the fact they know the real me and my commitment to them.

4. Expect the unexpected

Despite being able to plan school pick-ups and audit sign-offs well in advance, the nature of being a mum and an audit partner means that there will always be surprises – often at the most inconvenient of times.

My life experience and support network both in and out of work means that these events do not need to be a disaster. Be rational, think before you speak and remain cool, calm and collected. I know myself and the team around me will be able to deal with any challenges that may be thrown our way and, more often than not, they are never has bad as they first seem.

5. Don’t compromise on the ‘brain breaks’

As a working parent, there will be many compromises along the way but I always prioritise certain commitments such as my children’s birthdays, school plays, and parents’ evenings.

Free evenings and weekends are a thing of the past, however mental health and wellbeing are extremely important in both my role as partner and as a mother. Now I ensure that I have what my daughter calls ‘brain breaks’. For me, going running or cycling is a great stress reliever but figure out what works for you. Whilst it is important to have priorities, be careful not to over-promise and under-deliver. Saying that, I do try and beat deadlines whenever I can as it gives more flexibility in the long-run.

Ultimately, I believe the true test of whether or not I’m getting the balance right is down to whether my family, my clients, and the firm are happy and so far it is working out, which in turn makes me happy too.

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