Self-employment is in the news today. It's being characterised as being an option chosen by those with no alternative work (not really a choice) or by freedom-seeking entrepreneurs. I believe there's another category of people who need to be considered: parents needing flexibility.
I'm lucky enough to say that self-employment, for me, is an active choice. I wasn't forced into it because there was no alternative work. Neither am I a freedom-seeking, globe-trotting laptop entrepreneur. Instead, I'm a talented and highly educated parent who needs (and wants) to share her gifts with the world whilst having the flexibility necessary to do the very best by my children.
Before I had children I was a teacher. Outside the profession teachers are seen as having family-friendly jobs, finishing at 3:15pm and having the school holidays off to care for their children. However, my experience of teaching in two 11-18 comprehensive schools was that it wasn't at all family friendly. The irregularity of parents' evenings and other school events, the need to work well into the evenings and at weekends as well as during school holidays on top of the field trips required of geography teachers made the job far from family friendly.
Like so many parents I need and want flexibility to look after my children in the way that I know is best. It's very important to me to be present for my children as much as possible as this is what my parents did for me and I believe that that's a large part of what's turned me into a secure, successful and balanced adult. I want to drop my children off at school every morning and pick them up at night. I want to be able to take them to swimming, music and gymnastics lessons. I want to cook them good nutritious food and to be able to sit down as a family every evening. I want to sit with them and support them with their homework.
If I was still in the classroom many of these things would be impossible for me on a regular basis. Indeed, only last week a friend who is head of science at a local secondary school asked to go part-time saying, "So that I can actually see my children." It will be the same for parents in many other professions.
For me self-employment as an Academic Coach offers the flexibility that I need to look after my family whilst also using my education and my talents. If one of my children is sick they can lie on the sofa while I work. If school decides to put on a phonics workshop for parents between 9am and 9:45am one morning I can go, only my own routine being inconvenienced. When school decides to close at lunch time on the last day before the holidays I can accommodate it. Best of all, if I manage my time properly I have to do very, very little work during the school holidays.
Self-employment isn't perfect. It's up to me to drive a regular income - it doesn't just arrive in my bank account every month like my teacher's salary did. It means putting myself and my work out into the world for public scrutiny which isn't always easy or comfortable. It means being a jack of all trades as well as master of the things that I'm really good at. However, there's more right with it than wrong with it for me as a parent and my family as a whole.
I know of many, many female solo-preneurs who have made this choice because of their caring responsibilities. Whether they've got children, elderly parents, a health condition of their own or all three the flexibility of self-employment is the answer to their prayers. It enables them to keep working but also to fulfil all the other responsibilities in their lives.
If you're a working mum who feels like you're not doing your best by either your family or your employer I'd urge you to consider becoming self-employed. You may never look back.
Lucy Parsons is an Academic Coach who empowers 15-18 year olds to get the top grades and into the best universities. You can learn more about Lucy and her work at www.lifemoreextraordinary.com.