Mastering the practice-parenting balancing actby
Trying to find your work-life balance can feel especially tricky when providing for your family as a practice owner. But, Samantha Mitcham says it’s all about remembering the “why” in what you do.
Practice ownership can be a bit of a rollercoaster for the hungry accountant. With stresses and pressures rife, as well as exciting opportunities and potential for growth, it can be easy to quickly become engrossed in your work, sometimes to the detriment of other areas of your life.
For accountants with kids, the pressures and time-consuming nature of the profession can leave some feeling what has been termed “parental guilt” among mental health commentators.
A balancing act
As the founder of SJCM Accountancy and mum to her young daughter, Samantha Mitcham has experienced parental guilt first hand and has been candid when sharing her story on social media about the balancing of responsibilities as a mum and a practice owner.
“It’s tricky because, generally, the more we work the more money we earn, which means the more activities we can do together and the better life we can provide for our children. But on the other hand, the more you work the less time that you have to spend with your kids,” Mitcham said.
“There are still times when you can feel very torn between your work and being at every single school play, assembly or recital. It’s a constant battle in your mind asking yourself: ‘Do I go or do I stay at work and make more money so that we can then do X Y Z in the next school holidays?’”
The flexibility of practice
While Mitcham admits that it’s difficult to ever feel that you have the balance of parenting and work perfectly set, her newfound flexibility since striking out on her own in 2019 has made putting aside time for her daughter much easier.
“Things are a lot more flexible since moving into practice. While I never had any issues asking for things like doctors’ appointments for my daughter, stuff like leavers’ assemblies, Christmas plays or birthday parties rack up and I certainly felt a bit of pushback as an employee in terms of just guilt.”
Working on her own schedule has allowed Mitcham to take the time she needs to fit around her daughter’s life, while offering a better level of flexibility to her clients, something she said has made a fundamental difference to her relationship with her daughter.
However, while Mitcham understands that her position as a practice owner offers her the flexibility she needs, others may not have the same privileges, and although steps have been made towards better supporting accountant parents, Mitcham argued that more can be done, both on a business and societal level.
“You could be seen as putting yourself on the back burner as an employer by offering a more rigid form of employment compared to a firm giving that flexibility for employees to say, have 20 minutes to get their kids from school, and I think employees are looking for that kind of flexibility.
“But I think there’s definitely a societal issue involved here as well, especially when it comes to the pressure on women. Since the shared maternity/paternity leave changes to help mums back into their careers came in, I have seen zero uses of it. I think there needs to be a push by businesses and the government to help share the load when it comes to parenting and parental leave, as women are still struggling in 2023.”
It gets easier
Offering advice to other parents struggling with feelings of guilt, Mitcham emphasised the importance of remembering your “why”.
“I think it’s really, really important that we all remember why we’re doing what we do. A lot of practice owners will have started in order to gain some kind of flexibility and balance in their lives. We need to remember that when things get overwhelming.
“At times when it feels almost unbearable because you are feeling guilty that you couldn’t attend a school event, or you had to put them in childcare because you had a meeting, remember it won’t be like that forever.”