Archive for February, 2012

Working women

Getting to grips with the guilt of the professional working mum

How can you possibly have a career and a family 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 cliché, 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 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 to 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 mum 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 über 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 is one of 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 others 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!

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 3 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. 

Returning to Work? - What to say at the interview about your career gap and recent work experience

Returning to Work? – What to say at the interview about your career gap and recent work experience

The Return-to-Work experts i-Relaunch, answer FAQs about job interviews from professional working mums returning to work.

How do I talk about the decision I made not to work for a while? It can be touchy depending on who is interviewing.

Yes, it absolutely can be touchy. And you can’t predict what someone’s reaction is going to be. The key to remember here is that you don’t have to justify your choices. Just say, “I decided to stay home for a while with my children (or take care of my elderly mother or to see if I could become a concert pianist or whatever the reason), but now I’m eager to get back to work. Spend the rest of the interview talking about the opportunity and how your prior experience, skills and passion make you a fit.

What should I talk about (or not talk about) in an interview when going back? (i.e. should I mention that I had to manage all household duties because my husband travels frequently? How about house remodeling? Volunteer work?)

Although managing a household with children without a husband’s involvement requires a lot of skills, this won’t be a great selling point in your interviews. First of all, if you’re conversing with a working mother, she may well have been managing the same load and have held down a job at the same time, so she may be either unimpressed or jealous. And if you’re interviewing with a man, he may be skeptical that you’ll be able to handle all those household tasks and a job, especially if he has a stay-at-home wife. So, bottom line, don’t spend time talking about your role as CEO of the home. Ditto for managing a remodelling project (unless you’re going for a job related to residential contracting).

Substantive volunteer work, however, is another matter. Absolutely talk about what you did as head of the PTO or any other major pro bono role. But describe your volunteer accomplishments, both on your resume and in your interviews, in business terms. For example, “I managed a 10-person team in organizing a fundraiser that netted 30% more money than in prior years.” Then describe the innovations that made your campaign so successful. A number of women we interviewed for Back on the Career Track reported that their accomplishments as a volunteer were meaningful to the employers who hired them.

What do employers value more—volunteer work (that may have taken a more significant share of my time), or more traditional paid project work?

Probably paid project work, because of the accountability. But you can turn both experiences into assets by describing what you accomplished, and the skills you developed, articulately and passionately. Also, don’t be afraid to talk about relevant prior work experience, even if it’s several years old. Experience is experience, even if it’s ancient. Take the time to review those experiences, so that you can speak about them knowledgeably. For example, one woman we know said her ability to describe in detail financial transactions she worked on over a decade ago was impressive to her interviewers and helped land her a job after several years out of the workforce.

Author: Vivian Steir Rabin, Co- Founder, i-Relaunch, the Return-to-Work Experts™. They produce career reentry programming, events, and content for employers, universities, organizations, and individuals. Vivian is co-author of Back on the Career Track: a Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms who Want to Return to Work. They are recognized experts in the career reentry space and are regularly quoted on the topic in the national press.

i-Relaunch will be holding its second London “Return to Work Conference” on 20 March, 2012, hosted by London Business School and in association with Sapphire Partners. Special Mum & Career registration discount: $140 (approximately £90) through 9 March; $185 (approximately £120) thereafter (versus $195 normal rate); for all sessions, buffet breakfast, lunch, coffee, gift copy of “Back on the Career Track,” and inclusion in raffle for professional CV review. Use coupon code LONDONGROUP in online registration 

Mum & Career has been offered 5 tickets to the Return-to-Work Conference to give away to you. Just subscribe to Mum & Career before 10 March 2012, via the box on the right, or click here to have a chance to win. Subscribing is easy and free, and you will receive 3 free Audio’s on Career Change too. Don’t worry, we do not send any spam. 

Returning to work? – how an Executive Coach can help get your corporate career back on track

Returning to work? – how an Executive Coach can help get your corporate career back on track

After having spent 6 months, a year, or longer being a mum at home, returning to work can be a great challenge. Yes, even if you have done well at university, excelled in our first job and got promoted fast.

It can also be a very lonely and stressful period in life. Your partner might be equally busy, not having an open ear for personal worries. At work your are expected to continue to project the image of being capable and in control, while sleep deprivation is your constant companion. Often the biggest challenge in this period is to get the right support to get your career moving again – this can be offered through executive coaching.

Working with a coach provides you with the time and space to tackle the issues which are important to you in this transition. Over a period of time, usually 3 to 6 months, you regularly meet with your executive coach, define your challenges, devise an action plan and have someone by your side to help you put your career back on track and refocus.

But sometimes your coach is simply there to listen: listen to the difficulties of keeping so many balls in the air, your ideas of how you want to change your situation or your thoughts on what can be done better in your job. Everything that is being discussed with your coach is confidential so it really gives you a space to open up.

How can an Executive Coach support you?

Every woman and situation is different – and so are the coaching assignments. However, the range of issues an executive coach might help you with include the following:

> Regain your confidence

After having been out of work, a lot of women have a sense of inadequacy. A number of worries might go through your head: ‘Am I still good enough to do the job?’, ‘How do I find my feet again after having had a break?’, ‘Will my colleagues or boss still take me seriously after I have been out for so many months?’ A coach works with you on getting back your strength and confidence and helps you assert yourself in these new circumstances.

> Help organise

The new complexity of having a family life and a career does require different organisational skills. You might address questions such as: ‘How can I balance the new demands at home while at the same time keeping my focus on work?’ or ‘How do I set up and manage a support network for when things don’t go to plan?’ Making sure you carve out some ‘me’ time, looking after yourself, is a key factor for making your return to work successful. Together with your coach, you develop a structured plan to identify your needs and how to address them.

> Set the right expectations

Even with the best of organisational skills, being a mother does require having some flexibility particularly at the beginning. It is important to set the right expectations with your manager. You might want to explore possibilities for flexible working in respect to hours and location. Your team and colleagues may need to reshape the way they work with you and understand your external commitments. Your coach will help you to manage the relevant discussions with your manager, team and colleagues.

> Move your career forward and reactivate your network

Having a child at home and a full day of work usually means there is little time left to think about the future. As a result women returning to work often neglect their long-term career aspirations, which means they can be seen as the person who is content with where she is rather than wanting to go places. Once put in this box it can be difficult to rectify the image at a later point. A coach helps you from the beginning to avoid falling into this trap. Together you will look at where and how you can build your internal and external networks and how you can get prepared for the next promotion. You might look at what responsibilities or projects you can take on to help build your profile while still maintaining the balance between family and working life.

Returning back to work is a difficult time for mums. Getting the right support in this period of your life is crucial and can really make a great difference to how you feel, how you are perceived and ultimately how happy you are with this new double demand. Engaging a coach to support you in this process is not just a wise decision but also one that really pays off.

Author: Ulrike Dadachanji is an experienced executive coach. For over ten years she has been successfully coaching and mentoring senior leaders in banks and other large corporate organisations, entrepreneurs and high-potentials. Over the years working in large and small corporate organisations, Ulrike realised that the biggest obstacle to success tends to be a lack of understanding: of oneself, of one’s colleagues, or the business situation. Her mission is: help people and companies to work together better, raise their awareness and be more effective.


Working mum? - Are you busy or focussed?

Working mum? – Are you busy or focussed?

“Hi, how are you? Are you busy?” Is it just me, or does it just seem most working mums great each other this way? Now I know they have my best interests in mind but how come ‘being busy’ is so important? And what if I haven’t been busy? Does that reflect badly on me when they are clearly so busy themselves.

Yes, there are certainly days when I’m very busy…….doing what though, who knows! And anyone out there who works from home, or isn’t currently working full time, will understand how easy it is to fill the day.

There are other days though when I’ve been much less busy, when I’ve been focused and productive, achieved the most important things in a short space of time and found time to go for a walk in the sunshine or meet a friend for lunch.

“There is more to life than increasing it’s speed” – Mahatma Ghandi

So how come we’re so interested in how busy people are? I don’t know many people who have a conscious life goal to ‘be busy’. And yet, with so much focus on being busy, it seems many of us have a subconscious desire to be busy and equate being busy with being successful, fulfilled or even worthwhile.

In his book ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’ Timothy Ferris turns a few traditional ideas on their head and explores how we can live the life of our dreams instead of our rules. And a couple of questions in the book that I really like are these;

1) “If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?”

2) “Am I being productive or just active?”

So I don’t know about you but my intention is to focus on what’s most important, and instead of feeling lazy for not being busy, feel good about making time for the people and things that matter most.

Follow this link and take a quick quiz to find out whether you’re addicted to being busy 😉

And remember “Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty four brand-new hours to live” – Thich Nhat Hanh

How will you use yours?


Author: Denise Parker helps managers and leaders in organisations, and small business owners, create more Authentic Success. This means that not only do they get to achieve outstanding results but they also find more enjoyment and meaning in the work that they do AND feel good about themselves too. She knows from her own experience, and the experience of her clients, that reaching our goals is only one aspect of success, how we are feeling is quite another.

A mum returning to university - how does she manage?

A mum returning to university – how does she manage?

Six months ago Louise started a full-time university course, she is also a mum of 2 children. The course is certainly full-on, it involves lectures, assignments, reading, self-study placements and a dissertation. I was keen to learn how she is getting on.

What made you, as a mum, decide to return to university?

I have been mostly a Stay-At-Home mum since my children were born and we moved abroad and that was over eight years ago. But, really, this is what I had always wanted, it is my passion, but in New Zealand we don’t have a specialism in play-therapy. Now that we are here in the UK for a number of years for my husband’s job, I felt I had to take this opportunity to realise my dream. First I learned that one of the best courses is right here in my area. Then I happened to speak to a mum in school who is doing the course and that really decided it. It’s not easy as I am one of the only students with caring responsibilities. I am certainly not doing it because you’re going to earn more, but I did consider there would be more part-time options in this field.

What does your week look like?

Monday and Tuesday I spend all day at school. Tuesday evenings is reserved for personal therapy, which is also part of the course. For those two days I have an after-school nanny till 9pm, who also takes on jobs around the house, including some cleaning.

From Wednesday to Friday I study during the day, and then do the children. This means I don’t really look at studying much after 3pm. In the weekend it varies, if there is a large assignment due, I work over the weekend and my husband takes the children somewhere, to a museum or another outing.

What has been hardest in managing study and children?

I have really had to lower my expectations, both at home and at school. I used to get really good grades, now I have to be satisfied with good enough; just because I don’t have more time to put in.

The same with the home, I just ignore the mess, there are no gourmet meals for the children and when I see something on the floor, I just have to walk on and ignore it. I haven’t done any weeding over the past 6 months and have not read any books for pleasure. I have really just had to let go. And, you know what, I have learned now that my husband hasn’t even noticed it is messier. The children don’ t notice either.

Also my friends have to be really understanding, as I have to be really choosy with every single social event. At the same time I expect them to step in when one of the children is unwell, I have a big week in school, or my nanny is ill.

What are the key factors that make returning to university as a mum work for you?

I have a fabulous support network, which is really vital, I wouldn’t be able to do it without that. The nanny is really flexible and I really trust her, my husband takes the children out in weekends, and other mums have been great at stepping in too.

Also I am really enjoying it, I love working in this area, it is really pulling me in. If anything, I would want to spend more time on it, and find it hard to put my books away sometimes.

I am really motivated, as I haven’t worked for so many years. Now I know exactly why I am doing it and where I want to go next. You have to really want it, but if you do, it is certainly worth it.

author: Inge Woudstra, Founding Director of Mum & Career. The name of the interviewee has been changed for privacy reasons. 

Waving or Drowning? - 9 simple tips to help working mums stay on top of things

Waving or Drowning? – 9 simple tips to help working mums stay on top of things

Are you a working mum keeping on top of things? Or do you sometimes feel like you’re drowning under a deluge of information, demands, commitments, responsibilities, emails, advice, ideas, tweets, offers, promotions….and so the list goes on!

And now here I am, offering even more…….sorry 😉

In the last few weeks, I’ve spoken to so many people who, for a variety of reasons, have been feeling stressed, anxious, exhausted or just completely overwhelmed. And in this state of mind stress levels rise, our minds become cluttered and we find it even more difficult to think clearly, solve problems or cope effectively with the challenges that face us.

So what can you do if you feel affected?

Well rather than overwhelm you with lots more information, here are 9 simple tips to help you regain your balance and feel better too;

  1. The devil is in the detail – avoid getting bogged down in too much detail and keep a sense of perspective
  2. Choices, choices – indecision is exhausting and time-consuming, identify your criteria, decide now and move on
  3. Can’t say No – create healthy boundaries and practice saying No more often
  4. Not enough time – prioritise what’s really important, not just urgent
  5. Getting ahead of yourself – whoa! come back to the present and take one step at a time
  6. Fear – stop worrying about the consequences, or not being good enough, and go for it
  7. Perfectionism – have realistic expectations and don’t judge too harshly, very often ‘good enough’ will do
  8. Breathe – pay attention to your body, notice the signs, take time to stop…….. and breathe 😉
  9. Help – you don’t always have to fly solo, ask for help or get some support

And remember ‘The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it’ – Sydney J Harris

Author: Since 1997 Denise Parker has been helping managers and leaders in organisations, and small business owners, create more Authentic Success. This means that not only do they get to achieve outstanding results but they also find more enjoyment and meaning in the work that they do AND feel good about themselves too. She knows from her own experience, and the experience of her clients, that reaching our goals is only one aspect of success, how we are feeling is quite another.