ActivOT article on work-life balance

How do OTs achieve work-life balance?

Helen Whait, ActivOT founder and franchisor, is a dedicated mother of three boys. She wrote this article about how ActivOT has transformed her work-life balance: 

2022 marks fifteen years since I started ActivOT and ten years since I launched the business as a franchise. Back in 2007, with the birth of my third son, I knew I needed to redesign my work life so that I could be the kind of mother I’d always wanted to be.

They say that women are expected to parent like we don’t have a career, and to have careers like we don’t have children. Women know how impossible it is to do this without a support network – and even with an army of helpers we can become overwhelmed and burnt out.

We shouldn’t have to choose between career and family, but as OTs we’re too often expected to compromise one, or the other, or both – putting aside our own needs for the sake of family and clients or employers. We are professionals that care for others, but often we compromise on self-care.

Having worked in traditional OT roles previously, as well as having had experience with employing OTs as a private practitioner, I’m all-too-well-familiar the practical challenges that both employees and private practitioners face – as well as the opportunities for empowerment and a satisfying, balanced life.

With the ActivOT franchise, I set out to create a community of like-minded practitioners that would support each other in their journeys as therapists, parents and people. Support and resources – professional and personal – can be the biggest barriers to long term success for OTs in private practice. The ActivOT business model is designed so that each private practitioner has all of the practical things they need to thrive and succeed – proven business systems – as well as support in the form of coaching and mentoring.

The goal I always kept top of mind has been for ActivOT practitioners to be able to practice their core values alongside the freedom to be there for those crucial times in their families’ lives. Those magical, important moments in their children’s days – for the after school ‘download’, sports, music performances and graduations.

ActivOT practitioners are strongly encouraged to prioritise self-care – not just the kind of ‘time out’ activities like pampering days, but meaningful, satisfying ‘getting needs met’ kind of self-care that truly ‘fills the cup’. That in itself – discovering what self-care means to us – can be a body of work – but an important one!

My sons are almost fully grown now, and I couldn’t be happier that I made the decision to be present for them. There are also more than 40 ActivOT franchises in South Australia and South East Queensland – most of these are owned and operated by women with families. The community that we’ve built supports each other to make balance between work life and family life easier.

Getting here hasn’t been a straight line. There have been major bumps in the road for me personally, including a life-threatening illness that reinforced my need for rest and recovery. The biggest lesson has been to surround myself with the right network of people – professionally and personally – and to ask for help when faced with new challenges. Together, we’re stronger.

I’d love to hear from OT mums about how they’ve found a balance between career and motherhood. What are some of the day to day challenges you face and how do you manage these?