Archive for July, 2011

Returning to work? - this worked for me

Returning to work? – this worked for me

I know it’s just not easy returning after a career break. I went back to work and re-invented myself several times in sixteen years of motherhood and would love to share what I learned. Because it can be done and, looking back, you might have surprised yourself.

Build local friendships

Find other mothers of children the same age – this was vital to me right from the beginning, as I had no local extended family. I sought out local parent and toddler groups and, luckily, had a thriving NCT group in the area, which ran weekly coffee mornings. It made a huge difference to know that others were going through the same experiences and we would help each other out by looking after each other’s children to enable ourselves to attend appointments or giving each other time to get on with some housework, and later would baby sit or cover for out of term work commitments. Some of the mothers I knew at the beginning have become friends for life!

Take time to think about what you really want to do

It is really worth writing down what it is you really want from life and trying to find the type of work that fits best. There is an excellent book, “Back on the Career Track” by Carol Fishman Cohen and Vivian Steir Rabin, who run Both the book and the website have useful self-tests, information and guidance for people wanting to return to work after a career break. And I can recommend browsing through the ‘back to work’ section on Mum & Career, as there is a lot of useful guidance on there.


It is never possible to fit everything into the day, so make sure you know which are the most important things for you and be ruthless about not taking on too much. I found, particularly when volunteering, that it was easy to say yes; often it was only later that the scale of what I had agreed to would become apparent! Particularly in school holidays, I have learned that work sometimes has to take a back seat.

Have a passion or a hobby in your life

A a mother, it is very easy to lose your own identity and just become someone’s mum. Balancing work and home-life is a major challenge and can become overwhelming, so it is important to have some “me” time when you do something for yourself!

My own story: re-inventing myself

Prior to 1996, I had a full-time career as a Product Manager in an international IT company, working long hours and travelling extensively. When my son was born, I chose to leave full-time employment to look after him. Whilst he was young, I volunteered for the NCT (National Childbirth Trust), local parent and toddler groups and later school parent committees. When he started school, I re-trained as a Kodaly music teacher. This became a ten-year career, teaching 0-6 year olds part-time at the music school where I trained as well as two local pre-schools.

I am now re-launching myself a second time, this time running my own business, following a great passion for golf!

Author: Lucie Robson runs Off The Red Tees, a new business, launched in March 2011, arranging social and networking golf events for women and providing golf-related information via . Lucie is a wife and a mother of a teenage son living in Berkshire, UK.


Running my own business – Why it works for me and my family

I am a Nutritional Therapist, specialising in women and children. I am planning for my business to grow up alongside my own two children. I love my job, but it wasn’t always like that. Let me tell you how it all started.

Becoming a mother – working part-time

Despite being told I may never be able to conceive I fell pregnant the first time we tried. That was of course, the moment I had just started my dream job in marketing for a blue chip company. For the first time in my career I was working for a great boss, in a great team, working with great brands and managing exciting projects. The timing wasn’t perfect!

I returned to work when my son was 7 months old, back into my old, supportive team but working three days a week, and it was great for about 12 months.

However, I changed jobs in the company, work pressure increased and my boss was very unsupportive. On top of that I had a miscarriage.

Changing direction

I was very lucky to become pregnant again four months later. I had accrued family leave which enabled me to stop work when I was 5 months pregnant.

Due to personal experience I have developed a strong passion for the power of food over our health. I used my extra time at home to research my options of making this passion into a living. I found the right part-time course and when Henry was 9 months old I started my foundation year.

My plan was to study part-time and return to work. But it turned out that fate was on my side, and I was made redundant when Henry was one year old, which gave me the means to fund my training for the next three years.

Studying and childcare

Juggling childcare and studying proved to be fairly straight forward for me, and as the demands of my course grew, so did the childcare provision for Henry. There is a three and a half year age gap between my children, so when I started my course Joseph was in full-time school and Henry was just 9 months old. The demands of my first year of study were fairly minor, and I did a childcare swap with a friend one morning a week. She had a little boy who was a year older than Henry, and this worked really well for a year. In my second year a friend’s Nanny looked after Henry two mornings a week. By my third year, when the study time required was greater, Henry went to pre-school three mornings a week, and then in my final year he was in school nursery for 5 mornings a week. The timing couldn’t have been better.

In addition I would study in the evenings, and my partner is a very hands on dad so he looked forward to my study weekends, planning adventures with the boys.

My own business and childcare

The timing of my redundancy and study happened to be perfect, when Henry started Reception, I had graduated and was setting up my own business.

With both boys in school, and one day a week in after school club, I have enough time for my business and can offer clients later appointments one day a week. I also offer consultations on Saturday mornings, and this coincides with my partner taking the boys to their football lessons.

I am lucky to have a great network of friends who are also mums, and we all help each other out, which is a good back-up for unforeseen events.

Key challenges

I love working for myself – it’s so rewarding, challenging and exciting to see my business grow. Networking gives me my social contacts. Networking used the terrify me, but now I run my own network of local therapists; run a networking event of my own (Nutritious Networking), belong to Athena and Ladies at 11. My employed friends think I’m the queen of networking!

My key challenge is balancing ambition with what is actually achievable in the time that I have. I am someone who has lots of ideas, and I am constantly presented with new opportunities, but have to balance the time I can devote to my business, and the time that I want to spend with my family

One of my key principles is that I want to be able to pick my children up from school. I want to walk them home and give them their tea, and find out how their days went.

Making it work financially

I funded the start-up myself, and as I work from home this wasn’t a huge investment. I made a small loss in my first year of trading and in my second year I made a small profit, but increased my turnover by 500%. I expect that during this third year of trading that I will earn enough money to contribute to the family income – signs are good so far.

I have discovered that I need to have a number of income streams to make my business financially viable. As a result, as well as my core business of seeing clients on a one to one basis, I run weight loss classes (zest4life), host a networking event (Nutritious Networking), and work on a freelance basis for a branding agency on food brands drawing on my marketing skills and nutritional knowledge.

What next?

I know it’s early days, but I have ambitious plans for the future. I would like to open a holistic health centre, a one stop shop for all your health needs – with a store, clinic rooms offering a wide range of therapies, a workshop space and a healthy café.

I’m planning for my business to grow up alongside my children – as their need for my time diminishes, the more time and energy I will have to devote to my business.

Author: Emily Fawell, founder of 4Well People and zest4life weight loss coach, mother of 2 boys under ten.

Agora Jewellery

Starting a business with baby-twins – impossible?

Some might feel sorry for themselves living in a foreign country with baby-twins and no support network. Not so for Adriana, be inspired by how she makes it work for her.

I was born in Colombia, South America but I have been in the UK for the last thirteen years – 6 of those living in Claygate. I am also a trained jewellery designer. When I had my lovely twins I had to stop working full-time as I wanted to be able to look after them. I soon started thinking about having my own business as I wanted to be able to work from home and have the flexibility to look after my family but also to be able to continue my personal and professional development. Difficult? Yes of course – it was a big challenge!

I decided to start my own jewellery business as I had experience in the jewellery industry from my previous working life but I wanted it to be a business with a difference. In my heart it was very important to remain connected to Latin America and especially to Colombia as I wanted my children and my husband to feel part of that heritage but I also wanted it to be a business that gave back – that is why from the very beginning I knew I wanted it to be a Fair Trade business where the Artisans benefited fully.

The challenge between my lovely twins and my career…

When my twins arrived I wanted to dedicate myself to them. As they grew I began to look for the opportunity to build my own businesses. I had a whole team helping me during this time. Firstly, my family in Colombia which gave me full support and travelled all the time to help me. Also I had the luck to find a great nanny who helped me in the morning. Then, my husband and I decided to have an au pair. It was a brilliant decision as we now have very friendly and caring girls from Latin America.

How everything started…

I am a designer and I have a great passion for jewellery. I also had my own business in Colombia for five years so that gave me knowledge and structure that I needed to start Agora Jewellery. However, I needed to write a plan and think through what was necessary to organise my own business in the UK. I sat down with a good Colombian coffee! And everything began… I started with the visualization of my project and always with a very positive attitude; I never thought for one minute that anything could stop me. I started networking and that gave me the opportunity to meet the most amazing people; professional and with immense generosity.

Of course…life is a challenge!

During this process I have had many challenges, and the most difficult one has been the start-up capital, but thanks to my positive attitude and my determination I have been able to continue and to find the resources that I need. I believe in any business we will find continuous challenges …its life! But depending how we face them they will either be part of an experience or a failure.

Author: Adriana Walsh, Director of Agora Jewellery, London – sells beautiful, classic and stylish, hand-made, sterling silver jewellery. All items are Fair Trade and are made in South America.

Two nannies - shocking?

Two nannies – shocking?

Or would you like this too, to help you juggle. The Daily Mail wrote today that Anna Friel, actress and single, has two nannies for her daughter. Nigella Lawson the TV-cook had a full support team, and Kirstie Allsopp, tv-presenter, a nannie, cleaner and personal assistant. Do tell us about your support team! Just post a comment below.

Can you live without it? Would you like one? Join our discussion below, post a comment and let us know what you think. We would love to hear your views.

 Read the full article in: Liz Thomas, The Daily Mail, 16 July 2011,

Image Consultant

Networking – what’s in it for me?

Not that long ago if you had asked me to go and ‘network’ with twenty-five business women, my response would have been “I would rather stick pins in my eyes!”. I was used to working in a male-dominated environment where there was a distinct lack of support between working women. It was just easier to be ‘one of the lads’.

Breaking free from the 9-5

I made the bold move of starting my own business a little under three years ago. Many people advised on the importance of networking, but I couldn’t get past the thought of walking into a huge room and nobody talking to me.

On my first day as a Sole Trader, I took the bull by the horns and attended my first women’s networking meeting. Guess what? I survived! I would even go as far as saying I relaxed and enjoyed myself.

I discovered that when women are doing something they believe in and are passionate about, they are not only interesting to talk to; they genuinely want to help and support you in being a success.

Some of the most inspiring networkers make you feel like you are the only person in the room. They seamlessly introduce you to a number of people with effortless style, as though they had known you for years.

I got hooked, and became an avid networker. You can find me in a networking event at least once a week. I am now even running my own group in Richmond for Ladies@11.

Running a group

I always remind myself, when chairing a group, that it is about the group, not about me. I bring a coaching mindset and a genuine desire to help and support women in business. My role as chair is to organize and facilitate meetings, attract an interesting range of successful business women and to ensure the group is a success. Even after running the Richmond group for over a year, I still find myself in awe of the women who contribute at our meetings. It’s fabulous to see those ladies who are growing in confidence.

I was told running a group would gain brand exposure for me and my business and help me to create a support network of wonderful women. And indeed, as a result of networking, I have generated business, been asked to speak at a number of events and evenings and created a support network of fascinating and inspiring women in business.

Author: Keely Buston.  Keely is the owner of pa consult offering marketing advice and she runs New Perspectives – image consulting. She gained a lot of experience while running a networking group.  07979 863012

Life Coach

Learning to love life’s little imperfections!

This week, the smell of school – that disinfectant floor smell mingled in with sweaty cloakrooms and school dinners took me right back to being young again.

Some old fears came to the surface, just by being back at school this week and working with the kids at Coaching Club. Right there, I had a little moment with myself as I remembered.

The little girl who wanted to be perfect

As a little girl, I developed the knack of finding things that weren’t quite right and making it my mission to adjust them to perfection. When I made my dollies tea, every teacup had to have a saucer and when I was colouring in, I had to start from scratch if I went over the edges. Being in a classroom where erasers were banned was my worst nightmare!

You could say it was borderline OCD but actually, we call it something very different in our house: RMS or ‘Rattly Mudguard Syndrome.’

Rattly Mudguard Syndrome

RMS (Rattly Mudguard Syndrome) was discovered at an early age and came from an ongoing saga with the back mudguard on my bike. My idyllic cycle through local woodland to school was muddied by its constant rattle. It was a daily joke with my Dad who on my return home from school would repeatedly shake his head and laugh. ‘Nope, it’s not right. It’s rattling again!’ I would tell him and every day, he would shake his head, laugh and tighten the screw to fix it. Despite my careful mastering of the smoothest path to reach school; avoiding potholes in the road and anything that caused the rattle to kick in, the rattle never went away. My obsession with the rattle did not fix it but frustrate me further.

Perfectionism – it works for me

I’m laughing out loud right now as I share my silly story with you, but to this day when things aren’t quite right in my life (and I still work hard to make them so), my Dad refers to my ‘RMS – or Rattly Mudguard Syndrome’. As a child I always believed that this peculiar little characteristic was my fatal flaw but it has also been a massive contributor to my success as an adult. I have the tenacity of a bulldog. I don’t give up easily. Although it is a relief that as an adult I’m learning when it’s time to quit! I have high standards and I want the best out of life. Although, at 37, I set myself achievable and more realistic goals that don’t obstruct my path to happiness and fulfilment.

I thank RMS for helping me embark on a Life Coaching career. Wanting to help others create the life they want and to be the very best they can be. My very real and practical experience of solving problems and helping others is so apparent. The desire to have this for myself is a burning one, so imagine, how that is converted into energy, passion and motivation for my clients. I’m completely ecstatic when I see them overcome their challenges and achieve their goals.

Almost perfect = failure

Of course, nothing in life is ever perfect. The mudguard was never truly fixed but it became my focus. Worrying stops us from getting things done and also from enjoying life. Perfectionists tend to set high goals and work hard toward them. However, a high achiever can be satisfied with doing a great job and achieving excellence (or something close), even if their very high goals aren’t completely met.

Perfectionists will accept nothing less than, well, perfection. ‘Almost perfect’ is seen as failure. Nowadays I don’t believe in failure. There is only feedback. Learning from what is missing or imperfect or what we don’t want helps us to see what we do want and can be used wisely to initiate change.

RMS, is it cured?

To be honest, my life can still be exhausting in a quest for perfection. However, I now have an awareness of it. I simply catch myself in the moment, smile and gently adjust my thinking from ‘all or nothing’ to being kinder to myself and allowing myself to learn. It didn’t happen over night but it’s better. So my RMS is not completely cured. I’m Not P.E.F.E.C.T! Who me?! But I can almost, nearly, sometimes not perfectly live with that!!

Author: Lisa is a Professional Life Coach who believes in squeezing every drop of happiness out of life! Life Coaching closes the gap between how your life is now and how you want it to be. Being happy is contagious – it will touch other people around you too. Discovering new things about yourself and creating a different way of living is fun and inspiring. Discover Life Coaching with Lisa Parkes to help make happy changes to your life.

Flexible working after the Olympic Games

Flexible working – your rights in bird’s eye view

Would you like to go part-time, do a job share, change your working hours or work more often from home? Find out what the new UK law says on flexible working.

What is flexible working – in the law?

The Employment Act 2002 introduced new employment legislation designed to help working parents with new options to flexible working. In this act flexible working is defined as any working pattern other than normal working pattern, whether this be changes to the hours an employee works, the times when the employee is required to work or working from home.

Who, legally, has the right to apply?

Parents of children aged under six or of disabled children aged under 18 have the right to apply to work flexibly. In such circumstances employers are under a statutory duty to consider employee’s applications seriously. Any such application must be in writing and give a clear plan of how the new pattern would work, showing that the changes will not harm the business.

This right enables mothers and fathers to request to work flexibly. It does not provide an automatic right to work flexibly as there will always be circumstances when the employer is unable to accommodate a request for a desired work pattern. The right is designed to meet the needs of both parents and employers. It aims to facilitate discussions and encourage both the employee and the employer to consider flexible working patterns and to find a solution that suits them both. The employee has a responsibility to think carefully about their desired working pattern when making an application and the employer is required to follow a specific procedure to ensure requests are considered seriously.


In order to make a request under the new right the parent must:

  • Be an employee
  • Have a child under six or under 18 in the case of a disabled child
  • Have been continuously employed by the employer for at least 26 weeks at the date the application is made
  • Make the application no later than two weeks before the child’s sixth birthday or 18th birthday in the case of a disabled child
  • Have or expect to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing
  • Be making the application to enable the parent to care for the child
  • Not be an agency worker
  • Not have made another application to work flexibly under the right during the previous 12 months

The application can only be made to assist the employee in caring for a child (for example to enable the parent to spend more time with his or her children to enable him or her to drop their children at school) and for no other purpose.

Both mothers and fathers, whether they are the biological parents, legal guardians or adoptive parents can make the application. Spouses or partners of such employees are also eligible, including spouses or partners of the same as long as they have or expect to have responsibility for the upbringing of the child.

Eligible employees are able to request:

  • A change to the hours they work
  • A change to the times when they are required to work
  • To work from home (whether for all or part of the week)

This covers working patters such as annualised hours, compressed hours, flexitime, home working, job-sharing, self-rostering, shift working, staggered hours and term-time working.

Flexible working – government policy
It is encouraging to find that the Government believes that flexible working should be available to everyone. The Equality Strategy – Building a Fairer Britain report published in December 2010 acknowledges that the best businesses already understand that offering flexible working makes good business sense and helps to attract and retain the best staff.

Remember, flexible working not only allows you more flexibility, it also brings business benefits to your employer and allows all businesses to adapt working patterns to their needs, rather than fitting in the business to a restrictive 9-5.

Author: Avinder Laroya, invites you to contact her for any queries regarding the law on this subject or detailed advice. Avinder is partner at Serenity Law LLP. They are a full service commercial law firm offering company and commercial, employment, dispute resolution, intellectual property, real estate and immigration legal services to businesses and entrepreneurs ranging from start-ups to public companies. They are also very much a “green” business relying upon modern technology to limit environmental waste and of course encourage flexible working!

Email:, 0800 019 7773

Women's Coach

Seven tips to take the stress out of returning to work

Prepare for going back to work after a career-break or maternity leave. It will help you feel in control and take the stress away. Here’s how to make returning to work more pleasant and joyful for you and your family.

  1. Childcare. The number one worry that needs to be sorted. Whether you choose nursery, nanny, childminder, you will make the decision that is suitable for your circumstances. nb
    However, flexibility in timings is essential. You can’t control train delays or last-minute emergency meetings, and knowing that you can be home later, or pick up at a different time will be a great reassurance. Sometimes a backup plan with a babysitter or next door’s au-pair might just do the trick. It is worthwhile thinking through all scenarios and making arrangements for the unexpected. It will give you peace of mind.Define your three most important roles in life. It could be mum, professional and partner/friend. Explore how much time you need to play each role in order to be happy. Then put a system in place, that will help you to balance the roles. Remember, if you are a happy and balanced person, everybody in your environment will benefit.


  1. Put boundaries in place, communicate clearly about those and stick to them. Once you know what is a good balance for you, talk it through with all parties involved. What are the numbers of hours you want to work? How many are you expected to? When is your quality time with the kids? Allow for dedicated time, which is not taken up by something or someone else. Equally, with partner or friends. You may appear rude and uncaring when you don’t immediately respond to a request, but a boss, a child and a friend can usually wait if they know you will be there for them at the agreed time. With boundaries clear, play one role at the time; be the professional at work; be the mum at home; be yourself with friends and partners. The clarity this brings will help to guard your defined balance and your happiness.


  1. Let go of perfectionism. With so many balls in the air, things are not going to be perfect and do not need to be. If internet shopping offers you an extra three hours of free time, embrace the free time and accept that your apples were not your first choice brand. Let the house be less organised, because the nice weather allowed some great time in the park….


  1. Learn to de-stress. A busy life requires concentration, alertness and focus. This can easily turn into tension and nervousness, but with the right relaxation in place, you will be able to prevent that. Learn to do short meditations that you can practice a few times a day, perhaps find a Zumba class or take up piano lessons.


  1. Look at life as ‘work in progress’; and an ‘ever changing process’ with a positive attitude. What works today, may not be effective in a month time. Even if all systems are working, keep on top and make changes when you need to. If you are going through a tough patch, don’t forget it is temporary.


  1. Above all: don’t lose track of the most important emotion FUN. Laugh about situations and misunderstandings. Find that lightness and let it shine through. It will make you and everyone around you feel lighter and happier.

And that is ultimately what we are all after: stress free and fulfilling happiness with our loved ones.

Women's Coach

Author: Dr Mariette Jansen MBACP, Stress management coach and meditation teacher. She offers face to face, Skype and e-mail support and enjoys working with groups as well. nb