This interview is part of my series Leaning In. My aim is to shine a spotlight on successful women who are ‘leaning in’ to their careers. By sharing the stories of other women, I hope to help change the focus from what we can’t do to what we can do and to show other women that it is possible to have it all.
If you would like to share your story, please contact me.
Kim Stone has many roles including wife, mum of two, career woman, business woman, friend, daughter and sister (in no particular order!). When I asked Kim about her job, her reply was that she doesn’t have a job, she has a career and a business! Go you, Kim!
Kim works part-time as a community and stakeholder engagement advisor 3 days a week. She also runs Undercover Mum, a business and blog in which she aims to mentor women and to help them understand what they want and how to make it happen! Kim says that people are always amazed that she has ‘spare time.’ She likes to spend that spare time at the gym, at the beach, watching television shows and movies with her husband or occasionally on a weekend with her best friends.
What I love most about Kim is that she believes in having it all! (Hooray! An interview series about ‘having it all’ and Kim is the first to agree that it’s possible!). Here are Kim’s thoughts on being a working mum and having it all.
What is the meaning behind your business name, Undercover Mum?
Undercover Mum describes the way I felt when I first became a working mum. I felt like I had to hide my true identity as a mum in the workplace. Initially I felt as though I had a double identity as a professional and a mum and I struggled to combine them. I also felt like a detective in some ways too as I tried to figure out how to achieve work life balance and have it all.
Have your career goals changed since you had children?
Yes. Before I had children I was very ambitious, determined and focused on climbing the corporate ladder in my career. I always made time for my relationship, friendships and myself.
After I had my first baby I realised that my definition of success had changed. I was still as ambitious as ever but I needed to redefine my version of success as a working mum. The difference was I wanted to spread my ambition across my career and family. I wanted to be a professional with a thriving career and be a good mum. Initially I tried 2 days a week in a role that no longer matched my professional interests and strengths. I decided if I was going to spend time away from my son, my career had to be more meaningful than ever. So I found a role that better suited my new work life goals. I found I was able to feel fulfilled at home and at work by working part time (3 days a week).
What were the biggest challenges you faced when returning to work after having children?
Learning to work part time, overcoming fear and self doubt and being focused on work at work. It requires a completely different mindset and approach to be a successful working mum. You need to focus on work at work, even though you feel as though you’re always on call for your child. Over time I stopped checking my phone every 5 seconds and even stopped taking it to meetings so I could give colleagues my full undivided attention. I also overcame fears and self doubts such as ‘I can’t be a reliable professional if I’m only part time and now that I’m a mum’.
Have you faced discrimination in the workplace as a result of being a parent?
Thankfully, no. I have chosen my workplace very carefully though to ensure they are supportive of working parents. During my second pregnancy I was even invited to interview for a role in my third trimester! I graciously declined as I knew that I didn’t want to be rushing back to my career for a new role.
Do you agree with Sheryl Sandberg’s idea that women need to ‘sit at the table’ and ‘lean in’? If so, how do you implement her ideas yourself? (If you want to know more about these ideas there is a link to Sheryl’s TED Talk on my About page)
Yes! My interpretation of Sandberg’s ethos is that of personal leadership. I believe anyone and everyone can be a leader. Regardless of age, experience and title. Especially in the workplace. So it’s important to speak up in meetings, no matter who else is in the room, and share your ideas and solutions. This takes practice and a mindset of worthiness. Being part time or being a working mum has no bearing on your ability to contribute or be a leader in the workplace. The more you share your ideas, opinions and solutions (lean in) the more you will find yourself invited to sit at the table.
Do you believe we can ‘have it all’?
Absolutely! We can have it all when we know what we truly want and are not trying to meet other’s expectations of us. There are so many different ways of having it all and it’s such an individual thing. We can also have it all when we don’t try to DO it all. I think sometimes the two concepts are confused. For example I want to have a clean house and I do because I outsource that to someone else. With everything else I do and have in my life, cleaning my own house is unrealistic and not the best use of my time.
How do you achieve balance between parenting and your career?
I’ve established and maintained boundaries with my workplace so that I can further my career and be available to my kids as well.
I also have an incredibly supportive husband. We’re a team and we’ve created our ideal work life mix so we have time for everything that matters to us. We share parenting and household chores so we can both have careers and businesses. Our work life mix isn’t static either and we change it based on our circumstances, wants and needs.
What do you enjoy the most about being a working parent?
Being able to experience personal and professional fulfillment as a career and business woman while also experiencing the challenges and joys of parenthood. I enjoy knowing that my children, career and business are all helping me to become a better person.
What aspect of being a working parent do you find the most difficult?
Sick kids. When I have to unexpectedly cut my work day short or miss work entirely, especially on days where I’m leading an important meeting or workshop, to care for a sick child. I’d much rather my kids be happy and healthy in daycare and spend time in my career.
What is one piece of advice you would give to mothers wanting to lean in?
If leaning in is something that you really want then understand what they means to you and find ways to make it happen. Don’t give up on your work life goals and dreams!
What book or blog would you recommend to working parents?
Anything by Danielle LaPorte. And of course my blog Undercover Mum.