What if you decided when it was time to leave work today?

If you’re a professional, you know what you need to get done at work. If you’re a professional who’s also a mom, you know when you really need to make time for your family, and when choosing work is the better option.

You are the one – sometimes the only one – who understands all the moving pieces that go into that decision.

But if you work for a large firm, you don’t always get to decide where you’ll be based on what’s best for everyone involved. The decisions get made for you.

So what if you could decide what was best for your family, and it was up to you to balance that out with what your clients, your company, and you, need?

What if you decided when it was time to leave work today?

Almost 18 years ago, I decided to find out, after my boss told me to find a daycare that stayed open later.

I had left work the night before and flown across town to get to our daycare before they closed. Being the last one picked up always terrified my oldest, who was three at the time. And so the pickup rush was a daily source of anxiety for me.

It had been three weeks since my husband had graduated from college and accepted a job out of town, coming home on the weekends. Before graduation, he picked our son up right after nap time each day, which allowed me to work as late as I needed. I was usually the last person out of the building. (Although very nice on the inside, my office was on ‘that’ side of town. The cleaning guy used to sit in my office and wait after he finished – I usually bought him a Coke – because he was uncomfortable with me closing up and walking to my car alone.)

With my husband gone during the week, I could no longer stay at the office after we closed. I had never missed a deadline at work, and that dedication continued; I still put in the time, just not there. I took work home and worked in the early mornings.

I found that I could get as much done between 4 and 6am as I could in four hours in the office, and I was proud of my productivity. But the top management in my organization was looking at more than productivity. They wanted face time – their version of dedication.

I had long dreamed of starting my own company. Months before, I had even put together a business plan. But I was absolutely terrified of going out on my own; I was still the main breadwinner in our family and didn’t want to risk our security.

That Tuesday, my boss’s ultimatum changed that.

Even though we had an awesome daycare, I already didn’t like how long my son’s day was, and I wasn’t about to make it longer. My boss’s ultimatum was the push I needed. I borrowed money for startup expenses and to cover our bills for three months. That Friday I turned in my two weeks’ notice and told everyone I knew that I was starting my own company.

Fortunately, in those two weeks I booked enough business to hit the ground running, and I’ve never looked back. Since 2001 I’ve helped countless business owners create ad campaigns, marketing strategies, logos, and websites, and I still love what I do. My oldest is now away at college, but I still arrange my schedule in the afternoons to be there for his teenage brothers.

Owning your own business is hard work, and there are days when I put in long hours, but those hours are on my terms. And every day I’m grateful for my freedom to choose what’s most important for my schedule.

I am convinced that professional women, moms especially, can figure out how to do everything we need to get done, but only if we’re allowed the freedom to choose our schedules.

For some, that may mean starting work at 4am; for others, 10pm to midnight is more productive.

Taking time off during the ‘work day’ for things that really matter allows us to be there, fully, wherever we are – whether it’s at work or with our families. And being there fully makes us more productive.

If you’re struggling with the balance between corporate life and taking care of your family, there’s a better way: Become an entrepreneur.

You can create a ‘job’ that you love, that works for your family, with the freedom you need for the best life possible.

–Leslie Smith
Owner, Heron Design

Want inspiration for starting your own business? Subscribe to our newsletter!

Top photo by Igor Starkov from Pexels