Mums doing their own thing

On a daily basis I come across Mums who in addition to raising their families and running their homes, thumb are out there doing more than that, generic viagra doing their own thing, for their own reasons. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be featuring some of these mums on the blog. You might feel inspired, you might be glad to hear there are others doing similar to you, perhaps picking up some tips or insights if you want to do things differently. I’d love it (and so would the featured mums) if you stopped to comment and shared some of the love for Mums doing their own thing.

First up in the series, Leigh, a married mum of 3 boys, identical twins, who will turn 3 at the beginning of October and new baby boy, who was born at the end of June.

What was your working life like pre children?

Prior to starting my family I was very academic. I completed my LLB Law Degree with Honours, followed by my Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice. This led to my two year apprenticeship from which I became a fully qualified Scottish Solicitor.
When I fell pregnant with the twins I decided not to pursue my law career any further at that point to allow me to focus on raising my new family.

How has your working life changed since having your family?

My working life has changed dramatically since becoming a mum. Prior to having the boys, my job was the main focus in my life. This completely changed when the boys arrived. Although taking the decision to postpone my career at that point was relatively easy, I knew full well that I still had to make some income. From this knowledge I embarked on becoming a self-employed childminder. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for me, I would be able to raise the boys myself whilst being able to work from home making an income.

How do you find free time in amongst all the family madness?

My husband and I have always been strict with the boys routines, and as a result of this the twins have slept 7pm-7am since they were 10 weeks old and the new baby sleeps 8pm-8am since he was 6 weeks old. Having all the boys in bed and sleeping relatively early each evening allows my husband and I plenty time to relax and have time for ourselves.
Now that my husband and I have taken the conscious decision that our family is now complete, all this free time in the evenings has allowed my mind to wander. With the family now complete I was looking for a new challenge, something for myself, out with the family and childminding.

How important is external support in allowing you to ‘do your own thing?’

My husband and I are very lucky in that both our sets of parents live nearby, who are always on hand to babysit. This ‘free’ time lets us have nights out, go shopping etc. This support is invaluable, as it gives us time away from the boys, which makes things a lot easier to do as you aren’t trailing 3 children around with you. I am also very fortunate that my husband works 4 days on then 4 days off, meaning he is around a lot to help out.

Tell us a little about your work life now?

I currently run my own childminding business, which I started when I was pregnant with the twins. However, recently I have been seeking a new challenge, something completely new to push myself. I decided to start my own business with the Health and Beauty Company, which provides quality skincare, make up and nutritional products. This opportunity suited me perfectly, as I was able to start a new business without interfering with my family life or my childminding business. This business allows me to utilise my free time in the evenings, building a new business from scratch.

What do you enjoy about what you do? What’s challenging?

I love my new business as I am constantly developing new knowledge and skills. I am thoroughly enjoying the new challenge of building a new business from the beginning and building a loyal customer base. I am excited about being able to help people with skincare and health problems, and helping these people feel good on the inside and out.

If you could be doing ANYTHING in ten years from now, what would it be?

In 10 years time I would love to be running my own successful business, which still allowed me to work around my family life, but challenged me at the same time. I hope to grow my Health and Beauty business, but I also hope to branch back towards my legal roots and start my own legal advice business. I wouldn’t have to return to becoming a full time solicitor, along with its ‘challenging’ clients, I would be working within the legal system on my own terms.

What three words describe your life at the moment?

Fulfilling, challenging and non-stop.

What tips could you share with other mums wishing to ‘do their own thing’?

One piece of advice that I would impart whilst still raising a family is to believe in yourself. Focus on your strengths and look for opportunities that meet both your strengths but also your family commitments. If you cannot find any suitable opportunities, try and look to create them for yourself, like I did with starting my own Health and Beauty business.

You can visit Leigh’s Webshop here

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How to focus on the best parts in all of the madness

It’s been a week and a half! Last time I checked it was Monday morning and I was laying flat on my back, hospital which believe me is not anywhere near as exciting as it sounds. I had a rather lovely bout of vertigo which resulted in lots of song lyrics with the words ‘spin’ and ‘spinning’ in them being thrown at me. There are more than you’d realise actually. Still, I donned my supermummy cape, doled out some garbled instructions to the Mr about school and nursery drop offs and managed to dial into a few work calls whilst lying out flat before the meds kicked in and I could stand without feeling like I was on a merry go round.

Somewhere between then and now I managed to do a great job on prep for a meeting I wasn’t really feeling all warm and glowy about. I attended an insightful and engaging conference about the commerciality of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and heard an inspirational presentation from Claire Strange, Coach of the GB women’s wheelchair basketball team about personal resilience. I put in a great show at earlier mentioned meeting, lunched with a good friend, read up on the event details for the Focused Womens’ Annual Conference I’m attending on Monday, started reading a book called May Cause Miracles (I’m becoming something of a self help junkie these days) had a follow up appointment with a superb Occupational Therapist (remember my anxiety post?) and ticked off somewhere in the region of 80% of the things on my work to do list.

It’s felt good.

But the best parts?

Watching the princess swimming backstroke with her goggles too far down her head making her little ears flop over at the tips. Swinging in tandem on the garden swing in the sunshine laughing into each others faces and wondering how on earth we created such a beautiful little being. Colouring in every single page of the monsters’ ‘Thats not my….animal’ colour book and naming each animal on the merits of its physical attributes – Cat = Paws, Tiger = Stripes, Horse = Mane and Fish = Mr Big Moustache…. because he had a tail like a big moustache obviously. Dressing the little man up as a Tiger for his ‘dress as your favourite animal day’ and watching the delight on his face as he checked himself out in the mirror. Seeing the princess gleefully skip out of Rainbow Guides with the tatty but much loved knitted dolly Sally who was coming to stay at ours for the week. Sharing a bacon muffin and smoothie with the monster and musing together over how lovely the ladies who’d taken a shine to my handsome little fella in the jewellers were. Driving to school with the roof down all singing at the tops of our voices and giggling manically at the odd looks passers by were giving us.

And now, I’m flopped on the sofa with my third glass of proseco, watching Sarah Jessica Parker in ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ on DVD show me her version of how it’s done, texting one of my besties, blogging, and thinking as I do every day just how exhausted, but bloody lucky, I am.

What beautiful things have you loved in amongst all of the madness this week?

The Contents of my Handbag – Part Two

When I returned to work after maternity leave, capsule three years ago now, troche I recall randomly doing a stock take on the contents of my handbag one rainy Monday lunchtime. Oh how lovely it was to have the luxury of time to do such things, particularly so when it was after I’d eaten and properly digested a sandwich, compared with my scoffing of four milk chocolate digestives and a mug of cold tea by way of lunch ala my maternity leave days.

Yesterday I bumped into a friend whilst we were both on the birthday party circuit (you know how weekends with kids can be) and she asked when there would be more on the blog, confessed she was missing it (*blush*) and had taken to re-reading old posts to remind herself she wasn’t alone in this mad journey they call motherhood.  She regaled me with one of her favourite posts – the handbag one – which prompted me this lunch time (after I’d called to pay the final balance on our holiday, rearranged Super Daddy’s doctor appointment for that nasty toe infection thing he has going on and booked the Little Princess into holiday club for a portion of the upcoming school holidays) to have a rummage through my bag and see how the contents stack up as a working mum to a six year old princess and a four year old monster….who’d have thought – not a baby wipe in sight. [Read more…]

I Don’t Know How She Does It – Part 5

Over the last few weeks, try I’ve been delighted to host this five part series written by Christine Brown-Quinn, inspired by the movie ‘I Don’t Know How She Does it’.
In Part 1, we heard that letting go can be good – we’re not all expected to be super women and it’s mainly ourselves who put this pressure on us. Part two enlightened us with some top tips for managing childcare. The topic of the third part of the series was guilt, and how working mothers can switch their mindset on the guilt trip and last week’s penultimate post explored work life balance and whether it’s a myth or a reality.
This final part looks at the importance of making time for your partner, something I’ve blogged about previously. It’s good guidance and common sense, yet I appreciate how difficult it can be to do.

 

 

  • This is your last chance to win!

 


As part of this series, Christine is kindly giving away four signed copies of her book ‘Step Aside Superwoman, Career and Family is for Any Woman’ and all you need to do to be in with a chance of bagging one is
Either sign-up to receive email notifications of all my new blog posts straight to your inbox and / or follow me @workingsupermum on Twitter and Tweet ‘I want to win with @workingsupermum’ / or ‘Like’ the Super Mummy Facebook page via the links on the right or leave a comment with your thoughts below this article. Phew! Lots of ways to win!
Competition closes at 5pm on 15th May 2012 and four winners will be selected at random. Good Luck!

 

 
Make time for your partner – Your kids will thank you in the long run – by Christine Brown-Quinn
We often think that when the focus isn’t directly on our kids that somehow they are losing out. And if they’re old enough to talk, they’ll certainly tell you that that’s the case… When we’re at work and they’re at home, they lose out. When we’re out in the evening at seminar/night class and they’re at home, they’re missing out. It even extends to our relationship with their dad. When we’re spending time with our “other halves”, the kids are missing out. Is this really the case? If you’ve read any of the previous blogs in this five-part series, you’ll know that it’s not. Investing in yourself IS investing in your family. And here’s why investing in your relationship with your partner is also investing in the family.
The kids are happy when the family unit is happy so your relationship with your partner is as important as your direct relationship with your kids. And let’s face it, any partnership or marriage isn’t easy – there are a lot of things to work through. Also, too much focus directly on the kids can actually be detrimental. (The real world doesn’t work that way – they’re not the centre of the universe and the sooner they learn that the better off they’ll be). Keeping the flame alive has other advantages as well – the kids will eventually grow up and leave home (trust me, it does happen!) so it will be just the two of you again so it’s good practice for the future.


During most of the film I don’t know how she does it, Kate Redding played by Sarah Jessica Parker treats her husband Richard like a second class citizen or worse yet, a totally incompetent carer. He doesn’t seem to have any rights when it comes to taking care of the kids or running the household. I cringed when I heard Kate say “how could you let that women look after MY kids when I was away?” as if to say Richard is not competent enough to make his own decisions.
Kate was referring to Richard’s choice of a back-up carer when the regular babysitter cancelled while Kate was away. The husband evidently gets no say in the matter! Think about your own circumstance. Do you ever treat your other half like he doesn’t have a clue when it comes to anything associated with the kids or house? Is that fair? Have you given him a chance? Have you showed him the “ropes”? Remember, people are people and just like micro-managing people at work, your other half will feel humiliated if you adopt the ‘Ms Dictator’ approach. I’ve tried it – it doesn’t work. In the long run nobody likes Ms Dictator!
Over the years I’ve learned that I’ve got to trust my colleagues and my other half to “run the ship” when I’m not around. They need to feel empowered to make decisions and I need their buy-in on how things are run. Otherwise, when it doesn’t work, it’s all my fault. On the other hand, when I do trust them and listen, better decisions can be made. The road to Super Woman is a dead end – you’ll end up burning yourself out which Kate nearly did too.
Gaining respect for your partner’s parental skills is something you have to work on together. It requires constant communication and discussion on approaches to food preparation, discipline, schooling, and childcare. One of my favorite parts of the film I don’t know how she does it was when Richard shows he can take care of things at home – like sorting out his daughter’s ballerina tights while Kate was on a business trip. He had a wonderful look of pride and satisfaction when he told Kate he had sorted things out. Kate glanced at him lovingly as if to say “yes, you’ve done it and I love you for it”.


But running a really efficient Grand Central Station where each parent is pitching in and all the home logistics are running smoothly isn’t enough. Do you have time for just each other? I really felt sorry for Richard when he announces to Kate that she doesn’t seem to have any time for just him. Couples that play together stay together. What was that common interest that brought you together? What interests have you developed together as a couple? I know it’s a struggle to find the time but it is possible – be creative. Plan it out and get it in the calendar.
My other half and I played basketball together when we first met. Later, when the kids started playing tennis, we decided to take lessons and joined a club. Playing tennis for us was really about going back to basics. Both of us have always liked sports and it was part of our relationship from the very beginning. Be prepared for the kids to be jealous of your time together. They will try to make you feel guilty like somehow you’re short-changing them. Funny isn’t it, some of the best things you can do for your kids are the ones where it’s not about them.

 

I Don’t Know How She Does It – Part 4

In Part four of this series, medical brought to you by Christine Brown-Quinn, author of “Step Aside Superwoman Careeer and Family is for any Woman”, the topic of work life balance and whether it can be a reality is explored.

If you’re  still enjoying the series, and haven’t yet entered our competition, why not do so today to be in with a chance of  WINNING one of four SIGNED copies of Christine’s book. Simply sign-up to receive email notifications of all my new blog posts straight to your inbox and / or follow me @workingsupermum on Twitter  and  Tweet ‘I want to win with @workingsupermum’ and link to any of the I don’t know How she does it’ posts on my blog / or ‘Like’ the Super Mummy Facebook page via the links on the right or leave a comment with your thoughts below this article.

Plenty of ways to win!

Competition closes at 5pm on 15th May 2012 and four winners will be selected at random.  Good Luck!

 

Is Work-Life Balance a Pipe Dream for Professional Women – by Christine Brown-Quinn

If you looked up to working mom Kate Redding as a role model, (Kate is played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the film I don’t know how she does it), I suspect you’d come to the conclusion that work-life balance is a pipe dream.  Kate does a fantastic job taking on responsibility for everything and everyone, leaving little time to do anything for herself. Just watching the film tired me out!  But does it have to be that way? Are there no alternatives if you decide on a career AND a family?

At a recent women’s networking event I was horrified when I heard that one of top tips for getting ahead was to “work harder than your male colleagues, partner, husband, or brother.” Really? Is this what we are teaching the up and coming women in business today? Aren’t we creating this burden for ourselves by promulgating such superwoman behaviour? It’s not about working harder. It’s about working smarter and focusing on a few critical things that matter in building a career. Since we’re not superwomen, we’re only humans, promoting such behaviour as goal surely results in a lack of work-life balance.

Work-life balance is NOT a pipe dream, but there are 3 key ingredients which are often overlooked in making this aspiration a reality:

1. Keep yourself motivated and challenged

WorkingMothers.com 2010 survey Career vs Paycheck revealed that a working mother was happy in all aspects of her life when she had a high level of job satisfaction.  It’s worth noting that job satisfaction was highly correlated to a meaningful career or job – it wasn’t just about the money. Once we lose the buzz we get from our careers, the whole work-life dynamic falls apart.

How many women do you know who come back from maternity leave, feel side-lined, and   subsequently give up. “What’s the point?” they begin to wonder. If they’re going to leave precious little ones in someone else’s care, the job has got to turn them on.  I remember one day when my elderly neighbour saw me coming home from work and how amazed she seemed that I was chirpy and energetic after such a long day in the city. The secret? I felt challenged in my corporate career – the things I was learning made life very interesting.

2. Map out a routine for maximizing your individual level of performance

Organize your easy and tough tasks and challenges around those peak performance times.  Tackle the tough challenges when you feel at your best. For me it’s the first thing in the morning.  My confidence and patience levels are up and my head is clear.

I learned this by trial and error and being aware of how productive I was (or not as the case may be) at which times. There’s a key piece missing here. In order to be at your peak at work, you also need to figure out how much exercise and other activity you need to do (and how to make it happen) to keep your enthusiasm up at work.  What do you really like to do in your personal time that re-energises you. There’s so much focus on time management. It’s misplaced. We need to be focusing on managing our energy rather than our time.

3. Think Like a Business Owner

Point 2 leads really nicely into this point.  At the end of the day, what does a good manager really care about? That’s right, performance. I recently gave a talk about how important it is to invest and enrich in both the personal and professional dimensions of our lives, highlighting that it’s having both parts that can help you achieve optimal performance in each. Huh? Simply put, by having a varied life you avoid getting burned out, whether it’s caring for an elderly parent, hyper kids or a demanding career.

Dipping in out of both lives makes you appreciate each life and the benefits it brings. At the end of my talk an eager member of the audience asked, “But Christine, if I tell my boss how important my personal life is, he or she won’t get it, they won’t care.” I replied, “Well your boss may or may not care, but that’s not the point. As your manager, your boss expects you to organize your life so you can be at your best. That’s YOUR responsibility. Your boss wants to know where you are on your projects.”

The best rule of thumb to use when thinking about how to blend our increasingly complex professional and personal lives is to think like a business owner.  A business owner wants you to be as productive as you can and to manage your life to achieve this. Working 24 x 7, losing your enthusiasm, creativity and motivation isn’t good for you and it’s not good for the business.

Work-life balance is not a pipe dream. Like anything though, you’ve got to be strategic and focus on the most important parts or you’ll get lost in the detail.

This blog is part 4 of a 5-part series: I don’t know how she does it. For other blogs connected to this series, click here.

I Don’t Know How She Does It – Part 3

It’s part three of the five part series we’re running on the blog, sovaldi and this week Christine talks about the guilt we experience as working parents and how our professional life can enhance every other aspect of our lives.

If you’re enjoying the series, troche you might want to  WIN one of four SIGNED copies of Christine’s book. To do so simply sign-up to receive email notifications of all my new blog posts straight to your inbox and / or follow me @workingsupermum on Twitter  and  Tweet ‘I want to win with @workingsupermum’ and link to any of the I don’t know How she does it’ posts on my blog / or ‘Like’ the Super Mummy Facebook page via the links on the right or leave a comment with your thoughts below this article.

Plenty of ways to win!

Competition closes at 5pm on 15th May 2012 and four winners will be selected at random.  Good Luck!

Women in Business: Getting to Grips with the Guilt Trip by Christine Brown-Quinn

How can you possibly have a career and a personal life and not feel guilty that someone is getting short changed?  Is it a no win situation which just can’t be resolved?  Sorry for the cliche, but it’s actually a win-win situation.

First, let’s take a look at your personal life. You have a lot of commitments, right? But isn’t this what makes you feel connected to this earth?  Commitments are a good thing – you may have a commitment to a sports team, a local school, a charity or a family matter. These commitments take you away from work, both mentally and physically. (Again, this is also a good thing which I’ll come back to later). Your instinct is that your priorities are in the right place, but you still feel guilty leaving clients or colleagues with unfinished business.

Now let’s take a look at your professional life.  You are no doubt enjoying the challenge and collaboration of working with other adults.  Knowing you, I bet you’re really throwing yourself into the new job, the new role, or project.  But I hear you. You’re telling me that despite this job satisfaction you still do experience that tinge (or on a bad day, that pang) of guilt that you should be home having a glass of wine with your partner or reading that bedtime story with your kids.

Well, if it’s any consolation we’ve all been there. The point is you’re not alone and it’s not personal – it’s part of the human predicament.  It’s  part of what defines us and you’ve got to stop beating yourself up about it. It’s not your fault, so there’s absolutely no reason why you should feel guilty!

Kate Redding, the working mom played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the film I don’t know how she does it, demonstrates beautifully that so much of the guilt we experience is self-imposed. We set unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve – whether that be at home or at work.  Kate seems to feel guilty about everything and as a result she seems almost scatter-brained and unfocused in almost every situation. Her guilt seems to be driving her to be uber human.  (She really stoops low when she dresses up a store-bought cake as homemade for the school bake sale. She doesn’t want her kids to feel like she’s contributing less than the other mothers. Oh, please!).  In a way we set ourselves up for feeling a sense of failure, a sense of guilt, because we can’t meet a pie in the sky expectation.

Ok, so although you buy into my logic, you’re still not over it.

Here’s the real key to getting to grips with the guilt trip. What you have to realize is that it’s because of your personal life (rather than in spite of!) that you’re a better professional, a better business person. People like to deal with other people. The unique approach, values and integrity you bring to the work environment are your greatest contributions. Your uniqueness comes from your personal life, your upbringing and your personal experiences.  Also having a personal life pulls you away from work – it saves you from burn-out (I saw plenty of this in my corporate life!).  It allows you to break away and recharge your battery, which of course makes you more productive in the long run. Ever notice how much easier something feels once you’ve had that mental break?

Fine, I get all that, but I still feel guilty about not spending enough time with my partner.  I feel guilty about leaving the kids. Did you ever think about how your professional life makes you an interesting person – how it broadens your perspective? Have you ever thought about how your professional life enables you to support your partner’s career (you realize just how tough it is out there in the real world!)  So many skills and qualities that you apply in your personal life have actually been developed in your work life.  You’ve got it – your professional life makes you a better person – you as a partner, daughter, friend or mother. You can help your relatives and close friends get out of those tricky situations because you solve problems at work all day long!

Bottom line?  Although you want perfection, just focusing on that one thing doesn’t get you there either.  Once you accept that you can’t possibly be everywhere and do everything, and also accept that it’s the varied dimensions in your life that might it worth living, you’re well on the road to recovery.  No more guilt.  Time to enjoy life’s variety!

This blog is part 3 of a 5-part series: I don’t know how she does it. For other blogs connected to this series, click here.

The secret to becomming a natural-born charmer

Exclusive invite to Super Mummy readers, cialis sale brought to you via the ‘Women in Business Superseries’

The secret to becoming a natural-born charmer

“Ever wonder how celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, mind Barbara Walters and Piers Morgan became so popular? In our experience there always seems to be one person in the office too who seems to get along with everyone and they make it look so easy, don’t they? How annoying! What do they know that the rest of us don’t?”

Join this free, invitation only webinar on Thursday 3rd May 2012  11.30 – 12.00 (GMT) to find out.  

I want to join, register me now, thanks!

I Don’t Know How She Does It – Part 2

In Part 1 of this I don’t know how she does it series, sales  brought to you by Christine Brown-Quinn, she talked about how you need to stop trying to be Superwoman – learn to let go (stop micromanaging!) and give others a chance to grow and develop both at home and at work.  This second part takes a closer look at how this applies when it comes to looking after your kids.

To WIN one of four SIGNED copies of Christine’s book simply sign-up to receive email notifications of all my new blog posts straight to your inbox and / or follow me @workingsupermum on Twitter  and  Tweet ‘I want to win with @workingsupermum’ / or ‘Like’ the Super Mummy Facebook page via the links on the right or leave a comment with your thoughts below this article. Phew! Lots of ways to win!

Competition closes at 5pm on 15th May 2012 and four winners will be selected at random.  Good Luck!

 

Super Manage Your Childcare – My Top 3 Tips by Christine Brown-Quinn

Anyone who juggles work and family knows that the childcare arrangement is one of the most critical things to get right if you want your life to run smoothly – it’s the linchpin. “Well, if you can afford it, just hire an expensive nanny,” you say and “its’ all sorted.” Sorry, money certainly helps, but it’s not what makes or breaks the situation. YOUR people skills and management skills are what counts. Just like at work, simply paying someone doesn’t mean they’ll perform. As humans, we’re a lot more complicated than that.

Whatever your arrangement – nursery school, childcare in the provider’s home, or some sort of help in your home, whether it be a nanny, grandmother, or perhaps student – think about how you would like to be treated if you were the one being hired to look after somebody else’s kids. Also is there anything you’ve learned in your professional environment about working with people – how to motivate, work effectively in teams, resolve conflict, resolve problems – that might also be useful when it comes to interacting with the person looking after your most precious asset?

You’ve got it. IT’S EXACTLY THESE PEOPLE SKILLS THAT YOU USE IN YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT THAT YOU NEED TO USE WHEN MANAGING YOUR CHILD CARE ARRANGEMENT.

Here are my top three strategies:

1. Manage the relationship day by day – Don’t let problems boil over. Deal with them as they arise. There’s a scene in the film I don’t know how she does, where Mom Kate comes back from a business trip and her husband Richard says they need to talk to the nanny about her being late all the time. Kate screams, “No! I don’t want her to leave.” Tiptoeing around these kind of sensitive issues may avoid some pain in the short term, but in the longer term it only makes the pain that much worse. By not dealing with issues as they arise, you are also setting a dangerous precedent. In this case Kate & Richard are saying it’s ok to be late and are opening up the door to other potentially unwelcome behaviour.

2. Empower the carer – In another scene Kate’s on a business trip and she’s about to go into a very big meeting. She gets a call on her cell phone from her nanny who’s after a telephone number to arrange a play date. Understandably so, Kate is frazzled and searches her handbag looking for some sort scribbled note. Kate clearly is trying to manage the play date and her big deadlines at work. Is this really necessary? Isn’t Kate causing her own stress? Empower the childcare provider to take responsibility for this kind of detail. After all, you’ve got other things on your mind and that’s why she is likely to do a better job than you. Just like at work, when you empower people, they feel appreciated and trusted and are able to handle the situation brilliantly. They figure out how to do things on their own.

The payback is huge when you follow this principle. Currently we have a university student (Callum) who picks our 11 year old son Zach up from school and helps him with his homework. I make it clear that it’s Zach’s responsibility to get his work done and Callum’s responsibility is to support him. When we get feedback from the school that a certain piece of work is done well or not so well – we share that with Callum too and by doing so make it clear that he shares in Zach’s successes and’ not so good’ results.

I always ask Callum for his views – eg how can we motivate Zach to do his work more quickly (he has a tendency to let his mind wander like any healthy 11 year old boy.) What’s his response? He suggests great ideas like promising to play football if there’s enough time after Zach completes his homework. Does Callum feel empowered and personally responsible? You bet he does! The irony is when you give people personal responsibility, their job satisfaction goes up – they feel like they make a difference. The upside for you is your time is freed up and it’s a real joy to see others develop. (I’m even teaching Callum how to cook!)

3. Support the carer’s authority – Empowering also means that you need to be careful not to undermine the childcare provider’s authority. I’m sure you don’t like it at work when you’re given a job to do, but then somebody comes along and completely undermines the direction and actions you’ve taken. Always support the carer’s actions, especially in front of the kids. If you have a disagreement, you need to deal with that offline.

Mom Kate in the film loves to avoid conflict. When the nanny takes her son to get his first haircut, she never discusses with the nanny that she’d prefer to be part of these “first” moments. With some discussion and planning lots of things are possible. I remember many times with our two older kids that I had to have a quiet word with the carer about restrictions on television or snack food, usually because the carer was new. Children are natural arbitrageurs!

The biggest gift your childcare provider gives you is the opportunity for you to be you. Without this trusted partner, you can’t go out in the world and show your full talents. Like any relationship it’s a two-way street and this one certainly deserves day-to-day managing and investing. You won’t regret the long-term rewards!

This blog is part 2 of a 5-part series.

I Don’t Know How She Does It – Part 1

Christine Brown-Quinn knows what she is talking about when it comes to managing career and family. The author of Step Aside Super Woman, sick Career &  Family is for Any Woman reflects on her own personal experiences and draws upon those in the ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ movie starring Sarah Jessica Parker as Kate Reddy, the working mother in Allison Pearson’s book that inspired the film.

I’m delighted to be collaborating with Christine’s and bringing you this five part blog series over the course of the next few weeks to share with you some of those wise words that might just help you get the balance without the need for your Super hero cape.

To WIN one of four SIGNED copies of Christine’s book simply sign-up to receive email notifications of all my new blog posts straight to your inbox and / or follow me @workingsupermum on Twitter  and  Tweet ‘I want to win with @workingsupermum’ / or ‘Like’ the Super Mummy Facebook page via the links on the right or leave a comment with your thoughts below this article. Phew! Lots of ways to win!

Competition closes at 5pm on 15th May 2012 and four winners will be selected at random.  Good Luck!

 

Sinking Superwoman –  learning that ‘OK’ is good enough – By Christine Brown-Quinn

Have you seen Sarah Jessica Parker’s latest film I Don’t Know How She Does It?

I know how she does it because I do it. But, I’m no Superwoman. It’s the team that I have around me that does it –  my husband, our childcare provider and our kids all pitch in and make the career-family thing work.  When I was first starting out and doing the juggling act of career and family over 20 years ago, it certainly did feel like I did it.  But the downside was I also felt like everything was solely my responsibility. 

Like working mom Kate Reddy in the film (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) I used to feel that I singlehandedly had to hold it all together. How was I going to make the school meeting and meet the deadline at work? How was I going to get the promotion and still take full control at home.  How was I going to have the time and energy to bake a cake for the cake sale having worked another 10-hour day. I’m sure you get the picture.

The funny thing was my husband never said that it was all up to me. I made this assumption. I put this unrealistic expectation on myself that I had to be perfect home and perfect at work.  The day I stopped trying to be Superwoman (for the benefit of my own health and therefore for the benefit of everyone around me) was the day I started enjoying my life as a mother, wife, and professional. I realised that unless I changed my mindset I was headed straight for a meltdown.

What I also realised was that I was putting my personal life in one box and my working life in another without taking advantage of any transfer of skills between the two environments. I was gaining some fantastic management skills at work which I wasn’t using at home: delegation, prioritization, working in teams and managing teams just to name a few.  I admit that when it comes to delegation, it’s sometimes hard to give up control, especially at home. Let’s face it. You do do things better than most people.  No argument there. However, if you try to do most things all by yourself, you will burn out.  Constantly striving for perfection in every aspect of your life leads to a miserable existence.  Like Kate Reddy’s husband Richard says in the film, “OK, is good enough”.

Did you ever think about what you’re like when you act like a control freak? I have. Do your kids like you? Does your childcare provider like you? Does your partner like you? Let others in. Let them help out. Make them feel appreciated as part of the team.  Get them to own some of the problems and challenges. And yes they will do things differently, but don’t sweat the detail. We often criticize our partners for not helping out. And then when they do help out, but they don’t do things exactly like we do, we criticize them for that too! My husband’s approach and style to managing things at home is very different from mine, but no less valid (although I still think my way is better!) But the point is, I do let him get on with it and I try not to interfere. He’s a smart man. Why do I think I need to treat him like an idiot?

So by adopting this team approach, does this mean your life will be perfect? No, life is never perfect.  Sorry to break this to you. By adopting the team approach, however,  you can sustain a rewarding lifestyle that combines your career ambitions with a fulfilling family life.  Do it now. Let go. Ahhh. Doesn’t that feel better?

 

A Mothers Work

I stumbled across this lovely lady and her blog this week, cialis and in the two days I’ve been reading her posts, medical she’s done a bit of an ‘Opal Fruits became Starburst, Jif became Cif, Marathon became Snickers’ type thing and changed her name. So as tagged by Pret-a-Mummy (formerly known as Bargain Mummy Buys)  this is my addition to A Mother’s Work Meme.

 

  • Rules:

Please post the rules
Answer the questions in as much or as little detail as suits you
Leave a comment on mother.wife.me so we can keep track of the meme
Tag 3 people and link to them on your blog
Let them know you tagged them
Tweet loudly about taking part (well ok, that isn’t a rule, but how about if we start a
hashtag – #amothersworkmeme)

Questions:

1. Did you work before becoming a mum?
2. What is your current situation?
3. Freestyle – got your own point you’d like to get across on this issue? Here’s
your chance…

 

  • Did you work before becoming a mum?

I’ve worked since I was a sixteen, first as the Saturday girl in a stinky shoe shop, then a fuller weekend gig bagging up buns in a bakery. Then, when I went to University I had two part time jobs in a Golf and Country Club, then latterly in an Estate Agents, which I adored, neither felt like work, both felt like I was a little girl playing grown ups. These jobs saw me through University before I then took on a graduate role in the Financial Services industry. I’ve changed companies twice since then but have worked full time from the age of 21 until I had my first child at 27. I went back to work part time and set up a small business and then eventually took on another full time role before having nipper number two.   I returned to work after the little monster came along working four days a week, and packing quality family time into all other available waking hours. With a boy who prefers our bed to his, there were plenty of waking hours to fill!

 

  • What is your current situation?

I work flexibly, having just reduced my hours to 22 hours a week to allow me to drop off and collect my daughter from school four days in the week. My job is challenging, relatively demanding, requires me to dress sharp and have polished shoes,  and I really love it. I’ve only just discovered I’m really quite good at it too which is a bonus.  Career is important to me, and I’m hugely fortunate to be able to work part time and still be on a career path. I would say though this is by design and not default as I’ve previously written. And it’s been bloody hard work!

 

  • Freestylin’

I read recently that part time work restricts women’s
opportunities to progress in the workplace. I know I am incredibly fortunate to work part time and work hours that suit me and my family. I feel truly valued by my employer, and I’m properly engaged as a result. There is no doubt in my mind that building a flexible work force is a sound commercial decision.  The traditional 9-5 working pattern is significantly out of sync with consumerism and global working. Businesses who leverage a flexible workforce have a competitive advantage in my view. Notwithstanding the commercial benefits, (round the clock working, meeting customer demand when its needed) the increased commitment, engagement and productivity from those supported to work flexibly makes for better business sense all round. Whilst flexible working opportunities may be most requested by parents, particularly mothers, opportunities to work around ones family life, or indeed other pursuits should not be the sole domain of women. Over the years I’ve heard a variety of reasons given, yes, mainly to women, as to why flexible working can’t be supported, and unfortunately many of those reasons fail to include a robust business rationale. I do believe it’s the responsibility of the employee – female, mother or otherwise- to demonstrate how they can make flexible working work for the organisation, not for the employer to show how it can’t work. I appreciate this approach can’t apply in all industries and jobs, but where it could, I think employers should dip their toe in the water and suspect they’d be pleasantly surprised with the results.

The long and short is, I’ve found that part time working didn’t signal the end of my career. I’m hopeful I’m not in a minority and there are lots of other women who have been able to make this work.

Has part time working stunted your career or have you been able to balance the career ladder with the school run? And more perhaps more interestingly and  importantly, what do you sacrifice to do this?

And so, to the tagging …. Scribbling Mum , LovelyLeosmum and AMummytoo – do you ladies have any thoughts on the matter? I hope so – you’re tagged!

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