Archive for October, 2011

The secret to keeping your Nanny happy

The secret to keeping your Nanny happy

The best tips for working mums that employ a nanny from experienced nanny Lisa Parkes.

She shares the stories that nannies exchange and gives you sound recommendations on how to establish positive outcomes for all parties.

A Nanny has many hats. To the parents she may be:

  • An extra pair of hands
  • A trusted reliable role model
  • A warm and friendly face
  • A cook or house keeper
  • A first aid and childcare expert
  • A source of affection, consistency and fun
  • A taxi for the school / nursery run

To the children, she may be:

  • A play friend
  • A fun, cuddly grown up who looks after me when Mum isn’t there
  • A homework helper
  • An understanding confidant
  • A safe, kind, loving grown up who makes sure I’m OK

The dynamics of a Family-Nanny relationship are complex

Always remember a nanny-position is not just a job. Your Nanny may be part of your family. After all, she is close enough to your children to wipe their bottoms and noses, and knows you well enough to duplicate your parenting skills when you are not there. She comes to your home most days and sees you all at your worst and best. Think of it in her terms, she is coming into your home to do a job – that in itself poses some very woolly boundaries and requires some strong interpersonal skills, resilience, sensitivity and discretion.

If you have a good Nanny and your kids are happy, I’m sure you want to hold onto her

Here are some quotes from an anonymous Nanny that highlight the internal conflict a Nanny can experience on a daily basis. These insightful and honest quotes are followed up with sound recommendations on how to establish positive outcomes for all parties.

‘I’m being asked to discipline the children and I do when I can, although it’s particularly tricky as the Mum is not consistent with her discipline and regularly undermines me.’
This is a tricky one. It’s essential from the offset to agree ‘House Rules’. Agree what is and isn’t allowed. What is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour? If needs be have a printed list that is stuck in a prominent place in the house as a point of reference if things get a bit muddled. Other common areas for House Rules, not just discipline but also:

  • Sweets and treats
  • TV allowance
  • Nap times
  • Foods
  • Mealtimes

It’s definitely a good idea to agree this even if the parents tell you they are relaxed about discipline for babies or small children as there will come a point where this will not apply. It may also be a good idea to have this incorporated into your job description so everybody is very clear about who does what and when.

‘’I’ve been asked to do extra duties as the Mum is pregnant and I’m happy to do so, however, I feel unappreciated. It’s not about the money, it’s more about the fact, that I’m valued as a person.’
As the old aged saying goes ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ and after a while of working together, little things can get taken for granted. Like any relationship, it’s important to nourish it with respect, value and kindness. Your Nanny works hard to ensure your house is run smoothly, your kids are happy and if she’s doing extra stuff too, a little appreciation wouldn’t go amiss.

It doesn’t take much effort, but would mean the world to your Nanny if you found little ways to show her that you appreciate and value her contribution:

  • Let her go home a little earlier if you don’t need her
  • Buy her favourite food for lunch
  • Talk to her and ask her how she is
  • Thank her in person for a job well done
  • Write her a card (in a virtual world, the hand written note is even more powerful)
  • Ask her if she minds if you ask her to do something she doesn’t normally do – don’t just assume she will do it
  • Pay her a bonus or buy her a gift card for her favourite store

‘Mum keeps arriving home from work late which is affecting my personal life. Even when I tell her, I’ve got plans, she is still late.’
If your Nanny kept on turning up for work late every day or kept on wanting to leave early, I’m sure you’d be frustrated and annoyed. Every once in a while, there is traffic or circumstances that cause you to be late. However, don’t make a habit of leaving your Nanny hanging on. If possible, have a back up number of a person you can ask to step in if you are going to be late home so that your Nanny can leave when her shift is finished.

‘My sick pay is discretionary; however I keep catching germs from the children and am unable to go to work. Sometimes I don’t get paid and end up having to do huge amounts of overtime to compensate.’
Some families cap their sick pay, so the Nanny gets an allocated number of paid sick days per year. You can read more about it at the Nanny tax website

‘My first aid course is due and my family expect me to pay for it.’
Be prepared to invest in your Nanny. She is committed to you and your family so show her you feel the same. If you cannot afford to pay for the entire course, make a contribution or find another way to show her that you are investing in her future. You are going to benefit from it too.

‘I’m flexible with my days and hours to accommodate the family I work for, however sometimes I’m asked to work late or come in earlier at short notice.’
Your Nanny has a life outside of her working hours. It is a good idea to have regular contracted days and hours that are not flexible. However, if things change and sometimes with children, that’s inevitable, give her as much notice as  possible - say at least 48 hours for a change to her regular shift.

Another good idea is to have a calendar, visible to all, that schedules in play dates, important meetings, hospital appointments and anything else that may cause her regular working hours to change.

The 5 Cs are the secret to harmony in Family–Nanny relationships

In order to maintain a healthy professional working relationship between both family and Nanny where there is mutual respect, I’ve discovered 5Cs that work very well.

Clarity
Everybody knows who is responsible for what, when and how often. It maybe an idea to have regular reviews to give both parties the opportunity to speak up if something is not working. Harboured resentment does not bode well for a flourishing Family-Nanny relationship.

Consistency
Yes the kids definitely need it, however, it isn’t just for their sake. If everybody is sticking to what is agreed and following through, there is less room for misunderstanding.

Communication
Keep talking. Communication really is King. If you are unable to talk face-2-face on a regular basis, keep a diary of communication. This is also useful if the children are taking medication or have hurt themselves.

Consideration
Your Nanny is a human being and it’s important her feelings are considered. If she is considering you, your children and your home, it’s not a lot to ask to put yourself in her shoes and see how it might be for her sometimes.

Collaboration
Yes you are your Nanny’s employer, however in order for the ‘in my home / extension of my family / I’m the Boss’ combination to work successfully, a team spirited - collaboration approach would help. Work together as a team. Address challenges together, talk together and find ways together to make it work.

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.

The inner conflict of the working mum

The inner conflict of the working mum

Many women experience conflicting emotions when they commit to becoming a working mum. You are not the only one!

Here’s what’s happening with you and the top four things that can help you deal with it.

Conflict areas, bringing you inner turmoil

  • Career and identity is often an important reason to keep on working. You might have worked hard to establish your career credentials and might be loath to lose your seniority and reputation. Taking a part-time or alternative option may seem like a sensible move but you might resist losing your financial independence and hard-won position.
  • Money is needed to support the family expenditure, but you realize maintaining a job often requires extra expenditure. Childcare, hasty food shopping, expensive treats to compensate, and the clothes and expenditure required to maintain the desired image for a work environment are all additional costs you incur.
  • Time is the big challenge for the working mum. Satisfying the demands of a job, family, partner and personal life are almost impossible, especially in the early pre-school days. You could feel the pressure to prove that you are committed and good at your job. Some women, however find that this results in other areas of their life becoming stressed and rushed.

It helps to know these conflict areas exist, and you are certainly not the only one experiencing them. For many women they are a source of guilt.

Top four things to do to make your life as a working mum easier

Apart from being aware of these conflict areas, you can also do a few things to make life as a working mum easier.

1. Remember: you need to be happy. 

A satisfied mother is far better than one who feels resentful about her decisions. Many situations in life require elements of compromise. When you find that you are doing what is right for you, you could find you feel happier as well when you are spending time with your children. Spend plenty of time finding good quality childcare.

2. Good quality childcare can help you feel positive about your children’s care and support.

Feeling confident that your children are well looked after is essential. Childcare can also bring benefits. Mixing with other children in a nursery or at a childminders’ teaches sharing, becoming more confident with others and often improves a child’s education and readiness for school.

3. Commit quality time to the family.

It is important to do this and value it highly. Ensure that regular time is allocated to spend reading with children, playing games and going for walks. These are far more important than expensive gifts and lavish treats. Children are adaptable. When they feel loved and important they settle.

4. Arrange help.

Help is essential. If your partner is unavailable perhaps you could find trustworthy grandparents, other mothers or neighbours who can provide overnight support occasionally. This provides a little personal time to relax, let go of stress and do fun things for yourself.

A working mum is often trying to have the best of both worlds. This requires planning ahead, being highly organised and having emergency back-up for when things don’t go to plan. If you feel that being a mother is only one part of your identity, you may find that you would like to maintain your pre-children role as much as you can. That way you become a more satisfied person and better able to modify your inner conflict.

Author: Susan Leigh is a Counsellor and Hypnotherapist who helps women and working mothers to feel better about their decisions, become more confident, assertive and positive about their needs and as such, improve their quality of life. She will happily give you further help, advice and has some great articles on her site lifestyletherapy.

Can women really have it all?

Can women really have it all?

I am the one who launched a not-for-profit web community for working mums that shows combining career and children can be done.

But can it really be done and, for that matter …. does it work for me?

The start – my frustration at not having it all

I had always been focussed on my career. So, when after having a baby we moved to the UK, I set out to find a job here. It was much harder than expected as our son seemed to never sleep and I only managed some serious job-hunting after we hired a nanny. I started working 4×9 hours in a more junior job, within a year that got quite boring though and I was keen to move on. So I accepted a full-time job that I loved as CSR Consultant in a Business School.

However, my long commute and more than full-time schedule on top of my husbands’ international job, made our family life feel very stressed. When I lost my job due to the recession I was upset, but also secretly relieved. Finally I had some time to breathe!

The years after having the baby seemed such a struggle: it hadn’t been easy to find a job, a less-demanding job bored me and a full-time senior job was too stressful. Aaah! Was I expecting too much? Was it just me? My own struggle to combine career and family, made me wonder why women struggle. Surely becoming a parent is a wonderful experience and being able to combine this with a career must be like having it all. But how do other women do it? Would it not be great if we could learn from each other’s experience? It surely would have helped me!

The idea

I have always been passionate about women and gender issues, and saw a chance to pursue that passion now. I found it’s not just me, many of us have similar issues figuring out what works for us AND our family. Becoming a parent is a profound change, and each one of us is figuring out how to make it work and running into the same issues. I also found there was a lack of on-line support for professional working mums like me. There are a lot of sites aimed at mums, but most are about lifestyle and parenting.

I became keen to share what I had learned, all the research I had found, the websites that help me, the insights that worked. So combining my own experiences and passion, I started Mum & Career. I created a place that is a first stop for women looking at ways of combining career and family. It is filled to the brim with inspirational stories and a great selection of links, guidance and discussion from mothers who have been there before.

It is meant to give mums a place to learn, share and find support and recognition on-line. Wouldn’t it be great if running work and family would be much easier and more fun? Wouldn’t it be great if we could feel more empowered and dare to jump towards choosing work on our own terms?

The result – am I now having it all?

I love what I do now. I finally have time for a social life, sports and our son, and we only have occasional childcare. As I work from home we have also been able to extend our family with two lively dogs.

My work is flexible enough to grow when I would like to do a step up. In case it is needed or I want to, it can become a source of income. I am building something, developing myself and achieving results and keeping myself sane in doing so. It’s perfect. It’s the best of both worlds.

The challenges

Is there really no catch? Well there are some challenges.

I expected to miss my colleagues and be rather lonely. To my surprise I have found that I meet enough people during the day: other parents at the school run, dog walkers and networking-contacts. I have joined several women’s networking groups off-line and on-line, and I really love meeting and sharing experiences with other professional mums. They are starting to feel like a group of colleagues to me.

To be honest, it did take 6-12 months to learn to be focussed, and find time to work efficiently at home – You can read what I learned in my article: 10 commandment for WAHM’s. And I do miss having my own income and the sense of achievement and independence that comes with. I didn’t expect it to have such a profound impact. I hope it is temporary thing though.

It’s great there’s no manager who evaluates your decisions, and checks your targets, but…that also means you have to initiate everything yourself and solve all your own issues. I have now started working with a business coach to keep me on track and focussed, and that seems to be giving me what I need.

In total it has been so much more fun than I expected. I have gotten so much further than I had imagined since I had this idea I might do something for women. I have enjoyed working on my own venture and having the flexibility I need. And..wouldn’t it be fantastic if Mum & Career could just be that place working mums need!

Sinking Superwoman -  learning that “OK” is good enough

Sinking Superwoman – learning that “OK” is good enough

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 first started out 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 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 mind-set 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 Redding’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. Ah. Doesn’t that feel better?

Author: Christine Brown-Quinn. As a former managing director, wife and mother of 3, Christine Brown-Quinn shares her 20+ years experience in banking (as well as recent experience as an author and entrepreneur) and offers practical strategies on how to get the most out of your work & life. Christine’s recently published book Step Aside Super Woman… Career & Family is for Any Woman offers professional women time-tested advice on how to create work-life balance. She is also co-founder of the Women in Business Superconference series.

This blog is Part I of a 5-Part Series: ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’. Sign up for our monthly update to receive them directly into your mailbox – just enter your name in the top-right-hand box to sign up. 

Quick and easy way to research your business ideas

Quick and easy way to research your business ideas

Thinking about starting a business? But what if you haven’t come up with the next big invention? Can you still run your own successful business?

If you’re a fan of Dragon’s Den, you’d be forgiven for thinking that to set up a successful business you need to have a Eureka! moment and create a fabulous new invention that no one has ever thought of before. Well that’s certainly one great way to do it, take as examples the impressive Cara Sayer who invented the very wonderful, Snoozeshade and Elisa Everitt and Vickie Bryars who have just launched a clever scooter hand warmer for kids – Scootearz, but there is another way – provide a product or service that is already popular and in demand.

But how do you find out what that thing is and how much demand there is for it?

Market research is the answer but before you click away at the thought of standing in the middle of a shopping centre, clipboard in hand there is a simpler and less mortifying way to start. Get yourself a coffee and settle yourself comfortably in front of the computer. Google, as is so often the case, has the answer.

Using the Google Keyword Selection Tool

Every day, millions of consumers use Google to find a solution to their problems. Google knows exactly what we’re searching for and magnanimously (?!) shares that information with us in the form of the Google Keyword Selection Tool. Use it well and this resource will help you discover how many people are searching for your product, how much competition there is and even how much it is likely to cost to advertise.

Let’s say you are interested in gardening and quite like the idea of setting up a garden design or maintenance business.
Google helps us find out which words and phrases people are searching with to find gardeners. We can also find out which is more in demand – garden design or maintenance.

1. Fire up the tool by clicking here.

2. Enter all the possible words and phrases that you think someone with a weed ridden garden might search for. Some examples could include:

  • Garden design
  • Garden maintenance
  • Gardener
  • Gardener surrey
  • Landscape gardener
  • Landscape gardener surrey
  • Garden design surrey

Include variations of the phrases, geographic locations if you want a local business and plurals. When you’ve exhausted every possible variation enter them into the Word or phrase box, with one on each line.

3. Type in the characters you see in the captcha code box (this ‘weeds’ out the spammers) and hit search.

4. Now before you get too excited, stop and click on the box which says Exact Match on the left hand side, this puts all your words into [brackets] and only shows you the results for people searching on those exact phrases.

5. Sort your results by clicking on the ‘Local Monthly Searches’ column. This will show the keywords and phrases with the highest number of searches in your area first (edit your location using the ‘Locations’ link further up the page if it is not showing your country.)

How to use the results to take decisions?

The bar chart shows that the competition for all these phrases is fairly high (hover your mouse over the bar) and that there are many more people looking for garden design than maintenance which might help inform the way you choose to set up your business.

If you want to find out how much it would cost to advertise your garden design business on Google, then sign in to your Google account before starting your research and a new column with average cost per click charges will appear. [See Google Search Screen.jpg]

By narrowing your search down geographically your numbers reduce dramatically but the relevance of that search for you increases too, especially if your business is going to be specific to a certain area as Garden Design would be.

Remember that small, local businesses do not need huge numbers searching for them on Google, a few can keep you very busy indeed, but the larger the search numbers and lower the competition the easier it will be to gain traction and visibility in that market.

You also need to think about the commercial value of each phrase. You might be excited to see in the suggestions that Google helpfully provides below (which will help you expand your research and comes up with ideas you might not have thought of) that the word ‘Garden’ has 33,000 people searching for it in the UK each month with only medium levels of competition! But is this word being typed in by people needing someone to mow their lawn? Unlikely! This kind of term is too vague to target, we want phrases that indicate that someone is looking for something to buy and has a credit card in their hand.

Of course the numbers that Google gives us need to be taken as indicators of need rather than a hard and fast calculation of the number of customers we are likely to get. There are many more factors at play here. Once you’ve found your niche you need your site to appear on page 1 of the search results (no mean feat!), your description needs to entice someone to click on your listing and then your site needs to convert that browser into a buyer. But, if you’re in the early stages of finding your business idea, then this tool is a valuable resource that can help you narrow your ideas down to products and services that are in demand in your local area.

It’s also the first step in search engine optimising your website – once you know the main keyword or phrase that most of your potential customers use to find products and services like yours then you can focus your site content on them and start working your way up the rankings to page one.

There is no replacement for real time, real person feedback and market research, but that can come further down the line. Get started researching your new business now, you never know, your Eureka! moment and idea for a fab new invention may well appear soon after!

Author: Anneve Hutchinson is a marketing and web consultant at e-Vis offering web design in Surrey and jargon free on-line marketing workshops for business owners who want to promote their businesses cost effectively on-line. Next Online Marketing Workshop: Harness the Power of the Internet and Take Your Business to the Next Level – 19th October, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. Visit e-Vis workshops for more details.