Karren Brady on...being a working mother

March 26th 2015 / Anna Hunter

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She’s one of the UK’s most successful businesswomen and an advocate for working women and mothers everywhere. How exactly does Karren Brady CBE balance management and motherhood?

Baroness Brady of Knightsbridge certainly has a lot of corporate fish to fry- she’s West Ham United Vice-Chairman, Non-Executive Director on the boards of Mothercare PLC, Sport England, Arcadia and Syco, Chairman of Kerrang! and a politician, broadcaster, newspaper columnist, author and novelist, not to mention an ambassador for Pantene #ShineStrong, a £20,000 UK fund created to give practical help to women and assist them in the pursuit of their dreams. Just how has she built her own stellar career while raising a family? For tips on rising to the top and raising toddlers in the 21st century, look no further…

If it’s feasible, flexible working is your friend

“My daughter’s at uni and my son’s doing his GCSE's so both are adults, really. When my children were young, I was there all the time. I’ve only been afforded the luxury of travel as they’ve gotten older. I work from home on a Friday too. Everyone has the right to request flexible working from their employer now, which is a great move. Also, so many things have changed in the workplace since I had my children. The way that we communicate and the way in which we have instant access to technology mean you can be anywhere to do your job. You don’t have to physically be inside an office. If you’re a journalist for example, you can blog, you can write your articles and do your interviews and your research from anywhere and I think that’s been very helpful to working women. Obviously there are some jobs where this is impossible; if you work at a check out, for instance, you definitely can’t do that from home! In cases where it’s practical though, you have the right to request flexible working, so make the most of it.”

Rethink the balancing act

“I don’t often feel overwhelmed by combining my career with family life, but feelings of guilt can creep in. I always give my title as ‘working mother’, because my children and my work are the two most important things in my life. Finding that balance is very important. There are times when you have to make very difficult choices; you have to weigh up the nativity play vs. the board meeting. You won’t be at everything, but I always say that my children are healthy, intelligent, well mannered, bright, opinionated and well-educated and that’s not because the nanny drove them to school in the morning. It’s because of the time that I’ve spent with them, the times that I’ve talked to them, nurtured them and shown them how to express opinions. My daughter can’t make cupcakes but she’s at university studying something that she loves and doing really well, while my son’s a dedicated athlete and doing very well at school. They have other experiences that I’ve bought to them too. If you’re working, you should share your career with your kids and you should teach them what it takes to survive in a workplace. The toughest thing about being a success is to continue being a success. You can teach them these principles, and those things are just as valuable as providing for your kids in other ways.”

Childcare isn’t one size fits all

“I think that childcare responsibilities are becoming more equal. My husband doesn’t work and I do, but people always say “ohh, I wonder who wears the trousers in your house?”. It’s a ridiculous statement, because when he was working and I was younger, I was at home all the time with the children and working around that. Now he’s retired from his professional footballing career and he’s at home. If you share an interest in your children, you share your income and you share your life, then whoever has to do the work, does the work! I had three months off work when I sold my first business and before I started at West Ham and I stayed at home. Being a housewife and being a mother is one of the most underappreciated yet most important jobs that you can do. Unlike at work, where there’s someone to pack you on the back, to give you a pay rise and to make you feel worthwhile, when you’re at home, there’s no one to do that. Very often you’re taken for granted so I take my hat to off to anyone that’s dedicated their life to their family and their home. I think it’s an incredible sacrifice and one that I didn’t make.”

Thinking of starting a family? Do it on your own terms

“While it’s difficult, if you have your children while you’re growing your career, then when you’re at the pinnacle of your career in middle age, where I am, your kids are already adults. You think that when they’re babies they need you the most, but actually in my experience they need you more when they’re teenagers. The biggest transition we all make in our entire lives is between leaving education and starting work. That’s when you need the most guidance. Have your children (with a granny around to help if at all possible!) and grow up with them. When they’re becoming adults and things are getting more time consuming, they’ll already have the fact that you love them and that you’re always there for them instilled in them. Your career lasts a lifetime, is what I’m trying to say! Stop and have your children whenever you’re ready, not when your job ‘allows’."

Are you thinking of making the most of flexible working? Is childcare shared in your household? Let us know on Twitter @GetTheGloss or comment below.

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