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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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.

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.

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!

A useful equation – Mum Plus Business

I have long been a supporter, sick nay champion, discount of ‘mums doing their own thing.’ Like many others, I too grappled with the challenge of having a baby, considering career options and thinking about business ideas that would allow me to positively strike a balance between spending quality time with my family, whilst doing something for myself and earning a living to boot.

At the time I felt I had no skills to talk of which would naturally fit with home working or lend themselves well to business opportunities that could flex around my family.  What I did have however was passion, enthusiasm and buckets full of desire to do something. And so, whilst on maternity leave with my eldest, I set up a lovely little lifestyle business, which filled a gap in the local market at that time.  As well as giving me confidence to do my own thing, and proving the mantra I set down to the kids that “we can do anything we try” I could also work it fabulously around my family. Since then I know and have actively encouraged many other mums to do similar things and put their skills and talents to great use in their own business.

Five years ago, I’d have loved to have been able to use the services of Mum Plus Business, an innovative free online service to help local mothers form business partnerships. Mum Plus Business is a hugely useful resource for mums and expectant mums of all ages, backgrounds and with different levels of experience. The key aim of this venture is to connect motivated local mothers in a similar position, who can collectively support each other whilst also complementing each other’s skills. In certain cases an individual may be lacking the confidence, motivation or skill set to independently create their own company but can be very successful in a partnership. Maybe a mum has already thought of a business idea or she could be the perfect match for someone looking to launch a business. The site is brimming with helpful resources to support the setting up of a business, the writing of a business plan, as well as useful contacts, information and helpful tips that those in the know have shared. There is a quick online database search facility, which allows mums to select their local area and the business sector they are interested in, in order to generate possible pairings.

The response to Mums Plus Business has been very positive, and already they have developed partnerships with local Jobcentre Plus centres and single parent organisations such as OnlyMums, not to mention being nominated for the Mumpreneur Awards 2011.

I’m looking forward to hearing about many successful business pairings that have started with Mum Plus Business. I’m no mathematician but Mum Plus Business is one web resource which definitely equals fantastic!

Packed Lunch, Gym shoes, Calpol.

We’ve all done it, here cure haven’t we?  One of the littlies complains of a sore tummy or is a bit on the warm side and not too fussed for their Weetabix of a morning, seek but we pack up their school or nursery bag, page dispense cuddles and a spoonful of Calpol and send them on their merry way. The reasons why we do this vary from person to person, but a recent poll by the Daily Mail indicated that just short of 30% of 2000 mums asked were concerned that taking time off because their child is poorly would result in them losing their job. If those numbers are anything to go by, I think I fall into the ‘very lucky’ category. My organisation makes provisions for the fact that as working parents, it is inevitable that at some point one of our offspring will be struck by dreaded lurgy and we need to be there for them at home. It doesn’t stop the feeling however that somehow, we’re in the wrong as working parents for wanting to be at home with our poorly children.

I’ve had many instances in the last four years where one or other of my brood have had an ailment of illness that has precluded them from going to school or nursery on the basis of them either being a) genuinely too poorly that I wouldn’t dream of letting them leave the house or b) slightly under the weather but sporting a runny enough nose / sticky enough eye / higher than normal temperature (despite being fine in every other way) that nursery won’t allow them across the threshold in case they start an epidemic.

Despite my boss being very understanding, and not a working parent herself,  I can’t help dreading having to tell her I can’t come in because one of the children is sick or that the nursery have called and simply insist that I collect a very hot and bothered two year old.  My boss trusts me and knows that I’m a big enough girl to know what I need to do to get the job done on those days where I just can’t be in the office, the buck stops with me at the end of the day if I don’t deliver what I need to. But I still can’t help feeling bad.

I do recall being back at work only five or six days after a year of maternity leave, and receiving a call from nursery – Little Monster Blue has conjunctivitis. Whilst my first and very natural response was a feeling of sorrow for my little man as its a yucky ailment and not very pleasant at all, I quickly moved to wondering how long I could get away with staying in the office before leaving  to collect him. Quite simply, I was afraid of telling my boss that I had to go.  I had absolutely no reason to be, but well, it just doesn’t look great, especially to my colleagues who have just seen me return from my year long ‘holiday’.

And to top it off, there has been many a time I’ve been called to collect a nipper who has been really under the weather and by the time I’ve gotten to nursery (and after a dose of Calpol) he’s running amok dressed up as a cowboy and swinging a pink leopard print handbag. Yes, really. Now I don’t for one second suggest that the carers at nursery shouldn’t have called, quite the opposite, I secretly believe this is my two-year olds way of getting me back for those mornings where a spoonful of Calpol has helped me get out the door and into the office when perhaps a longer morning at home filled with cuddles, cool drinks and CBeebies might have been the better option.

I have to confess also that I am guilt ridden when I think of the time where I played to the ‘off you pop, you’ll feel better when you get there’ approach when it was nursery photo day.  Poor Little Monster Blue was actually suffering from tonsillitis (though I absolutely didn’t know that at the time) and I have a photo collage full of prints of the little guy looking downright sorry for himself. Gulp. Bad mummy.

Yesterday we turned a corner.  Little Monster Blue is poorly once again (we’re not a disease ridden family generally, I do believe nursery breeds everything but the plague, and it is that time of year isn’t it?) but this time Super Daddy got the nursery call, and bless him he was there in a flash. This morning when it was clear that LMB would be banished from nursery if we dared take him anywhere near the place, Super Daddy donned the stay-at-home-parent mantle and I went to the office.  Sad though it is, there was something fairly empowering about me being able to say, yes I have a poorly child, but here I am. Aren’t I dedicated? Aren’t I committed? Look at me, I’m showing how much of a priority my work is to me.  I rang home ever hour to check how he was of course. I looked at the clock and gauged that he’d be finished watching his movie of choice (Tangled!) by now.  I ate my lunch wondering if the wee scone was able to manage his.  I dashed out of the door at home time, took my rightful place beside him on the sofa, and settled down for an afternoon of CBeebies.

And that made everyone feel better.

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