How can women and men fulfil their caring responsibilities and manage their pharmacy business? Deborah Evans explains…
There is no doubt that society’s attitude towards childcare has changed since I qualified in the 1980s and brought up my family of four children, yet it is estimated that around two-thirds of mothers are still the primary carer for their children, compared to just a third of fathers.
While workplaces are increasingly family-friendly and offering flexible working hours, if you’re a business owner, working in community pharmacy and managing a family, the chances are this flexibility is almost impossible to achieve.
So what practical advice is there for women and men with significant caring responsibilities whilst managing their own community pharmacy business?
Independent contractor Rifat Asghar-Hussain says her biggest challenge is not being able to switch off, especially as the superintendent.
“You can be with the family on a day off and have staff calling and messaging. You can’t put urgent queries on the back burner. My family are used to it now,” she says.
To help manage these demands, Rifat has her family as support – her sister is manager and superintendent in one of her pharmacies and her father, a keen businessman, provides input on running a high street business.
Rifat’s husband manages the paperwork. To deal with the unpredictable challenges, Rifat suggests putting in place contingencies and having a locum you can draw on last minute if the children are sick and “someone who can grab your children from school” if you get held back.
She goes on to say “apart from the running around and the massive cuts (in funding) and sleepless nights, it’s still somehow rewarding.”
Reena Barai, an independent contractor and National Pharmacy Association board member, is responsible for planning the week for her staff and family, so fitting in annual leave, sickness, school assemblies and meetings with the day-to-day running of the pharmacy can be a challenge.
She insists “no day is the same and there is often an unexpected change to the plan that I need to adapt to.” To manage this, she ensures she has a good team at work and at home.
“I am very aware that I can't do everything and so delegating duties and making sure I communicate the plan for the day to my staff and family every day helps us all support each other.”
Her advice to others? “Learn to think ahead and think on your feet. Both are essential to multi-tasking and juggling a career and family life well.”
My own children are mostly grown up now and my eldest daughter is now managing young children of her own with a career as a midwife. How to manage work and family life is a very personal choice but as I reflect on juggling it all, there are some things I learned along the way which may help:
· Having a sense of purpose and direction in both career and home life, will help you feel in control when all around you feels chaotic! Decide what you want to achieve from both.
· If you have a partner, have the conversation about who will do what around the house and with the kids – you both work, you’re both parents and so you split the chores and childcare responsibilities. The more structure there is to this, the fewer misunderstandings.
· Accept that things may not be perfect – the ironing may not get done, the fridge will be empty and you can’t stay late at work. Good enough is good enough.
· Find the working arrangement that works for you – I tried part-time and found it more stressful than full-time as I felt I was neither a good mother or good in my work. We’re all different and for me, full-time with support around me at home worked best.
· Keep healthy and invest in yourself – if you are in peak condition physically, you will have more energy and resilience. You’re also be less likely to pick up the kid’s illnesses.
· Surround yourself with as much support as you can. Have a network of friends who also have children so that you can support each other when you need emergency childcare.
· Continue to focus on your own development; continuing to learn and build your skills and qualifications is evidence to progress.
· You can combine career progression with having a family – it will be hard at times but incredibly rewarding.
Finally, the children grow up very fast so remember to take time out to enjoy some moments and create a little bit of time for you.
Deborah Evans is a community pharmacist and managing director of Pharmacy Complete.