Tag: "Guilt"

Going Back to Work Guilt-Free? - Emma's Story

Going Back to Work Guilt-Free? – Emma’s Story

Before my maternity leave began, I was asked many times if I was going to go back to work. At the time I felt unsure but hoped I would make the right choice when the time approached.

Now I am about to go back, I am still unsure. That’s because whatever I had chosen to do, I’d still feel guilty.

Staying at Home – My Thoughts

If I stay home, I’m relying on my husband’s income which would put a strain on us. Then I’d have to ask him for money – he’d be paying for his own birthday and Christmas presents…

Then what would the rest of the family think? Am I a stay at home Mum or an unemployed person?

I’d also consider the lack of adult company. I could go along to toddler groups, but that involves conversations about babies. I wouldn’t mind that of course, but for how long? My job isn’t particularly challenging mentally, but I still need to do a bit of thinking. However, with baby brain, that makes me nervous.

Going Back to Work – My Thoughts

Then going back to work can have it’s down sides. Apart from the early morning stress of getting everyone up, washed dressed, fed and out of the house on time, there’s the worry of leaving my lovely bundle of joy all day long.

Will the childminder know all of her little quirks? When she’s tired will she just want Mummy? Then there’s the other children who could pick on her. She’s just a baby after all.

Okay, so it’s all about character building and not wrapping her up in cotton wool, but there’s no way I want to miss those milestones. I want to see her first steps.

Make the Most of Maternity Leave

The one thing I made sure I did was savour every day I had with my baby when I was off work. I did things I probably wouldn’t get the chance to do once I was back.

I did every baby group going from Yoga to Zumbini. I even did stuff around the house and garden I wouldn’t normally do.

It can be lonely with a small baby all day long, so I checked out what was going on at the local children centres.

What’s Best for You and Baby

I made the personal choice to return to work part time. That way I could still keep my job with a possibility of going back full time again one day.

As my daughter is getting older, she’s becoming more independent. There’s more to life than hanging out with Mum. She wants to go off and play and learn with the other children. In another year, she’ll be going to pre-school. Then what will I do?

At least going back gives me options. If it works then that’s great. I’ve got a little independence myself, a small amount of income and something else in my life to focus on. It’s all about adjusting and just trying to get the balance right.

If it doesn’t work, then it’s back to the drawing board. I just need to remember why I need a job and why my baby might actually appreciate that in the long run.

Author: Emma Harvey, Emma is a working mother with a 12 year old and a 9 month old. She works in the care sector and has just returned from maternity leave as a trainer. She writes and blogs in her spare time. Read more on Emma’s own blog: HubPages

Making your own choice on the working/stay-at-home mother decision

Making your own choice on the working/stay-at-home mother decision

A Daily Mail report this week that only 1 in 10 women are stay-at-home mothers, together with the judge’s ruling in a recent divorce case that a mother should ‘get a job’ once her children are seven, have reignited the debate about whether mothers ‘should’ be at home with their children or remain in the workforce. We’re at a strange point in history where there seems to be pressure both ways: a longstanding societal push, reinforced by some parts of the media, to be an at-home mother and a corresponding push from Government and other parts of the media to keep mothers working. Mothers are squeezed in the middle, torn as to the ‘right thing’ to do and feeling judged whatever path they take.

External Pressures

I hear these mixed messages played out on the personal level as well, from the mothers I work with. Some women feel pressure from partners/parents/friends to give total attention to the family, while others feel pushed to get back to work. And we then have our own internal ambiguity: “I’m being selfish and ungrateful if I want to work and leave my children” vs. “I’m wasting my education and sponging off my partner if I stay at home”. It’s not surprising that so many mothers feel guilty whatever they do.

There’s no RIGHT answer

What I’d love to tell all mothers wrestling with your work-home choices, either post maternity or career break, is this: There is no universal RIGHT answer. This is a time in your life when you need to acknowledge all the internal & external pressures you are experiencing, and then decide what is the best choice for you and your family, dependent on your desires and your personal circumstances (which can also change over time).

So which option do you choose?

If you have no real choice and need the income, then avoid the ‘pro-full-time mum’ press, focus on managing your work-home balance, read our articles on how to ditch the guilt and stop labelling yourself as selfish.

If you do have a choice, then focus on deciding what you want to do, not agonising over what you ‘should’ do. There are many options: working as an employee full-time/part-time/flexibly, setting up your own business, going freelance, pausing your career with a clear strategy to return later, or being an at-home mother. And it’s fine to chop and change over the years as you create a life balance that works for you.

Finding my way

Personally, I was taken aback by the pull I felt to stay at home for a few years when my kids were small – I’d always pictured myself as someone who would never take a break. Being at home suited me best in the early years but after four years I was desperate to engage my brain again in other interests and went back to university to retrain, doing some consultancy alongside. I then worked part-time and grew my own business, working longer hours as my children got older. Many of my friends and colleagues had different experiences; from those who were very happy get back to full-time work after maternity leave to those have remained at home until their children are much older and are only now considering how they can find their way back into work.

Feeling content with your life

There is no single and perfect solution. But you’ll know you’ve made the best choice for you when most of the time you feel (fairly) satisfied with your life and rarely feel frustrated and stuck in a place where you don’t want to be. And if you don’t feel satisfied, that’s when you need to make a change, not when other people say you should.

julianne&katerinaJulianne Miles, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

How to make time for your return to work job search

How to make time for your return to work job search

Two recent conversations with returners have reminded me how difficult it can be for women to focus on their return to work activity: there always seems to be something more important or time-consuming for them to do.

As former professionals used to managing busy careers, women on career break often fill their lives with activities that keep them busy, engaged and feeling productive. As well as looking after family and home, they frequently take on voluntary roles or small paid projects, develop new hobbies and simply ‘help others out’.

The difficulty comes when trying to return to work: how do you fit a job search into an already busy life? The truth is that finding a new role, especially when you have left the workforce, is a job in itself. Your return to work will only happen with dedicated time, energy and commitment.

Why it’s hard to find space

Somehow, it’s especially hard for mother and this is why:

  • you might not be sure whether you are ready to return, so you don’t give it your attention to avoid having to make a decision
  • you don’t know how to get started on your return to work, so you procrastinate
  • you’ve made some small efforts and have been deterred by the response (or lack of) you’ve received
  • it’s the wrong time of year (eg pre-Christmas/Easter/summer holiday)
  • it feels selfish to be focusing on yourself after so many years of putting others first
    you don’t know which of the other activities to cut out, in order to make space for your return to work plans


How to create space

Here are some ideas on how you can start to create time for yourself, so you can address some of these barriers, both practical and psychological:

  • start small – make a date with yourself! It could be sitting in a coffee shop for half an hour after school drop off, on your own with the purpose of doing your own thinking and planning. If you can do this once, you can start to make it a regular habit and then expand the time you devote to it
  • enlist a buddy – this could either be someone in the same position as you with whom you can meet regularly and share experiences and ideas. Or it could be someone who is simply there to support, encourage and celebrate with you and keep you on track
  • give your search a project name – to give it focus and make it more like a work project
  • sign up for a relevant course – this will enable to you dedicate time to your new direction, introduce you to others who might be helpful to you and signify that you are taking positive steps for yourself
  • address your reluctance to put yourself first – by trying it out! This post on Banning Selfish may be useful
  • delegate – perhaps you don’t have to keep doing all the things you currently do whether at home or elsewhere
    work with a coach – this will commit you to spending time (and money) on your return to work in a structured way and get you into the habit of giving time to this activity.

Remember that no-one else can do the work required for you, so your return to work will only happen if you give it – and yourself – the time and attention you deserve.


julianne&katerinaAuthor: Katerina Gould, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

Working Mothers need to ban Selfish

Working Mothers need to ban Selfish

Sheryl Sandberg’s Ban Bossy campaign has sent a strong message to young girls. It illustrates how powerful words can be in labelling ourselves and shaping our thoughts and feelings. Personally, I’d like to ban the overuse of a word that both holds back mothers from enjoying their work-family lives and can even get in the way of a successful return to work. Mothers, let’s Ban Selfish!

How often before having children did we label doing something positive just for ourselves – playing a sport, learning a language, reading a book – as ‘selfish’? Never, that I can remember. In fact, we usually felt quite pleased with ourselves that we weren’t just slumping in front of the TV but were staying healthy or continuing learning new skills outside of work.

But I’ve noticed that a strange transformation comes over many women when children arrive. Suddenly doing something for ourselves starts to make us feel bad, rather than good … it becomes ‘selfish’.
In the last few months, I’ve heard mothers describe all of these as ‘selfish’:

  • Going for a run on a Saturday morning / a yoga class on a Thursday evening
  • Signing up for a Monday evening cookery class
  • Re-reading Jane Austen on a Sunday morning
  • Going to an evening work event to make new contacts
  • Catching up on reading work journals for an hour on a Saturday

Taken further, some women describe their desire to return to paid work as ‘selfish’, usually if they don’t financially need to work but are feeling unfulfilled at home. It can be seen as a personal failing: “Why can’t I just be happy looking after my kids?”

By using the term ‘selfish’, we’re telling ourselves that we are lacking consideration for others and prioritising our interests above everyone else’s.  In fact the opposite is true. We see these choices as selfish because we’re putting our needs at the bottom of the pile. Driven by caring for others, we can end up becoming martyrs to our family.

Taking time for ourselves alongside the needs of your family is not selfish. It’s a healthy and positive attitude that is likely to improve your family life as you will be happier and more energised. Who wants a bored, frustrated and ‘selfless’ mother?

Are you ready to Ban Selfish?

julianne&katerinaAuthor: From the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.


Help! My Nanny is More Popular than Me

Help! My Nanny is More Popular than Me

There are often times when it seems like your nanny is more popular with your children than you are. That hurts. No matter how often you tell yourself you want your children to like the nanny. It still hurts. Let me tell you what can help.

Why is Nanny Popularity Good?

First you have to remember that the more comfortable your child is around your caregiver, the better any situation will be. Ideally, you want your child to look up to this person and trust them without doubts. This can be beneficial in a number of ways:


1. Safety – If your child feels threatened by any situation, you need someone there that he or she can feel safe with. It’s incredibly helpful if your child views your nanny as a form of security.

2. Openness – Older children may have problems bringing sociological problems to the parent, but would feel more comfortable speaking to a confidant. If the child is more comfortable speaking to the nanny, at least he or she can get help. Imagine what could happen if they would just let the situation fester inside.

3. Emergency – If something were to happen to you, the child will need someone they can be comfortable with. The nanny isn’t going to adopt your child if you pass away, but they need to have that familiarity in the worst case scenario.


Why is your Nanny more Popular than You?

So it’s good your nanny is popular. But perhaps it is also a sign, perhaps your child is telling you something you need to know. Your nanny may seem more popular than you because the nanny is providing a need to the child. This can be in a variety of forms depending on what aspect is being neglected. Although you may try to provide everything for your child, there could be something that he or she is missing. This can be boiled down to paying attention to your child. If you are attentive to his or her needs, you can fulfill them. It could be good to look at what is missing and how you can help improve your relationship with your child.

Try some of these tips:

1. Daily Discussions – Make sure you speak with your child on a daily basis. From the moment they can focus on your face, you should involve yourself with them. It doesn’t matter if they can’t understand you. Eventually, the will.

2. Play – You are no less of an adult if you can get down to the child’s level and play. Whether it is a regular tea party with dolls and animals or blowing up an enemy Lego stronghold with action figures, the child simply wants you to play with them.

3. Affectionate Reminders – Children love to feel safe and secure. Regular hugs throughout the day with verbal reminders of how much you love them will offer solidity to their feelings of being safe and provide them with a level of affection they need.

Feelings of Abandonment, On Your Part

And last you you need to look at yourself. Why are you feeling abandoned? Why does it hurt so much? Perhaps it’s connected to guilt, if so it’s worth reading these

articles on guilt.

It might also help to realize that it is common to feel like your child has abandoned you. However, you shouldn’t put too much stock in this infatuation your child has for the caregiver. There are several aspects you need to remember:

1. The Fun Factor – Children usually gravitate more towards someone who is “fun.” If your nanny puts forth extra effort for a child to be entertained, the child will most certainly associate fun with the nanny.

2. Respect – If the nanny provides a level of respect that the child is comfortable with, he or she will certainly respond better. Sometimes, this can be nothing more than the nanny placating to the ego of the child. This isn’t a bad thing, but it could be considered by some to be a form of spoiling.

If it’s any of those two, there really is nothing to worry about, as they are quite superficial and a good thing. It’s nice if your child has fun and feels respected. And here comes the key bit: you have something your nanny doesn’t  have. Regardless of how much fun or respectful a nanny may be, you are still in a better position. You have a bond. You have been there from the start, and you – hopefully – will always be there.

The bond a child has with a parent can be stronger than many may realize. Children know exactly the difference between you and the nanny. They know who is the parent, and might even give you a hard time because they know you will always be there, they feel safe with you. Remember, that is such a powerful thing for a child, to know they are safe.

The stronger your bond, the more solid the foundation is for your relationship.

It’s never a bad thing for your children to be enthralled with your nanny. There are many situations that could happen where the children need someone that is immediately available should something happen. Take solace in knowing that your nanny is doing a spectacular job and that your children are safe. Don’t doubt yourself as a parent, you are most likely doing a fantastic job. Do reflect on the tips above though, and if you can improve on any, just try and everyone will notice, especially the children.

SaraDawkins_150x150Author: Sara Dawkins. Sara is an active nanny as well as an active freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor of Nannypro

Clever marketing: promoting your business through opinion on motherhood just like Katie Hopkins

Clever marketing: promoting your business through opinion on motherhood just like Katie Hopkins

What message would you like to send out to your clients and potential clients? Something like ‘I am loveable’ or ‘We are THE specialist’ or ‘Here is the Super Bitch, that will take care of you in the way she takes care of her family’.

I believe Katie Hopkins used herself as the branding of solid, reliable, ruthless and rational consultancy firm. In an article in the Daily Mail she presented how efficient she had organised her own family, never felt any guilt and is employing 10 staff to make it run smoothly.

The total lack of affection and joy for her family were compensated by the way she had ensured that the family machine runs smoothly. All the burdens carried by other people, leaving for her just the bill to pay.

I did not warm to her approach in life, but it made me think of her as a professional. If I had to spend my money, and you can spend it only once, so it needs to be done wisely, I might choose her. She would be focussed, nothing would get in the way of our goals, there would be no emotional upheaval and her determination would serve me.

She did a great job in promoting her business this week. I don’t believe she creates a happy family, but I do believe she creates happy clients.
I wonder if she will knock on my door, one day in the future, when she realises that her work-life balance is out of kilter……………

Mariette 2011 cropped face_150x150Author: Dr Mariette Jansen / Dr De-Stress, Mariette is a work life balance coach and helps women to find the work life balance that makes them happy, fulfilled and relaxed!
LinkedIn: Mariette, Call: 07967 717 131, Blog: Twitter @Mariette_Jansen

How to manage a senior position and children – Jane Michell

How to manage a senior position and children – Jane Michell

Jane Michell runs Jane Plan, a business that has quickly grown from the kitchen table to a large business with thousands of clients, and 4 employees. She is the main breadwinner in her family and also has 3 children between 10 and 18. How does she manage to do it all? We scheduled a call with Jane. She speaks to us on the hands free, while she drives home from work, to make best use of her time.

Why did you start your own business?

Things weren’t going so well for my husband at the time, and I wanted to step up to the mark, take responsibility for our family finances and contribute financially in a much more significant way than I had done before.

At that time I was working as Director of Nutrition in a hospital, and my department was managing weight loss programmes. It was a good job, and I worked mainly school hours, but it didn’t contribute enough to provide for my family’s West-London lifestyle, with 3 children, private school and a couple of holidays a year.

The idea for the business came from several things that came together in my mind. In my work I felt personally disillusioned that a lot of the people we were treating were referred for surgery (gastric bands etc.) . Professionally I also felt disillusioned as there are a wide range of diet plans available that range from :’very good and very expensive’ to ‘not good at all’. I felt women were victims of the diet industry, and that really annoyed me. I wanted to do something about that. In addition I have a personal history of weight-loss too.

So I started building on my own experience and my professional expertise to develop Jane Plan, a weight loss programme. When I started, two and a half years ago, I worked from my own kitchen, and my clients were my friends. But now I have my own premises, two kitchens and work with a number of food suppliers. We do a personal consultation, develop a tailor made diet, and deliver the food daily to our clients’ home or workplace.
Taking on financial responsibility has worked. I have found, though, that the more financial responsibility you take on, the more you have to live up to it.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I typically leave at 7 am for the office, only to return home by 8 or 9 pm. I work Monday to Friday, and 3-6 hours on both Saturday and Sunday too. If this was a lifestyle job, I could shut up shop at 3pm and ignore the ringing phone. However I am in the unexpected position of being the breadwinner and can’t afford that, so I make long working hours. I have to say I love my job too – so working such long hours is not too onerous!

What kind of support have you got at home?

My husband leaves just after me in the morning, and comes home about the same time. We don’t have childcare. Basically the children look after themselves. The youngest, who is 10, travels independently, and often pops into the supermarket to buy dinner for everybody. In the evening the children cook their own dinner. My husband gets something himself or gets leftovers when he comes home from work.
Up till recently we also had a cleaner, but as we are now renovating she doesn’t come. – with the mess of the building project it wouldn’t be worth while. However, we normally do have someone to do the cleaning.
We do not have any family near, so unfortunately do not have any support there.

How do you manage support after school, with homework or during the holidays?

I have not had summer holidays for the past 2 years. In half-term I organise play dates for the youngest, but he mostly organises them himself. My daughter, who is 16, is out with friends or studying in holidays and my eldest son plays sports or studies. The first year of the business the children went to the Isle of Wight and stayed with their grandparents in summer holiday. Last year my husband took them to Italy.

Homework isn’t an issue, as my youngest comes home after school and there is a culture of studying in the house. My daughter is doing GCSE’s this year, and my eldest son, who is 17, is doing his IB. So the youngest just joins in and does his homework, and the other two do help him.

They organise it all without me. For example, all my kids see an orthodontist, as I don’t have time to take them, so I order a minicab to pick them up from school and drive them there.
I am blessed with three of the most amazing children. As a mother, I feel I have failed them in the past 2 years. I am not sure how they have managed. I guess what happens is, they see me working really hard and feel a sense of obligation to do what I expect them to do.

I don’t think my eldest suffers from the current situation and the youngest perhaps a little bit. However my daughter in the middle takes on most of the burden. She tends to organise dinner, tidy up the kitchen and calls me in the office to organise domestic details: ‘I think he needs his rowing kit for tomorrow, where is it?’. I do manage the burden on her, and get cross with the boys that she gets to do the donkey work. It seems so unfair that it’s always the women that step up to the mark – even at the age of 16!

Now I keep my Friday nights free for some special time for me and my daughter. I take her out to a fun restaurant of her choice, e.g. in Notting Hill and we have some mummy-daughter time together. The boys don’t seem to need that sort of input as much, so I do different things with them.

In weekends I do watch the occasional sports match, and I take my youngest son to the school play of the eldest. So I find time for each one of them.

How did you manage when your children were younger?

When I had the first son I had a senior job in the BBC. When the baby was 6 months, I went back to work. That certainly was too soon, and I deeply resented being the only mother in my group of friends to return to work already. My son was in a nursery, and although it was a wonderful nursery it wasn’t a positive experience for us. It was heart-breaking and he kept getting ill, so I had to take days off work all the time. I would recommend anyone in the same position to hire a nanny instead.

I had the next baby pretty soon, as I felt it would be economical to have the children close together to keep childcare costs down. I hired a nanny for the two of them and that was cheaper and worked out much better with my work.

When I had the third child the eldest was 7 and I gave up work for a year. I gave up the job at the BBC, as I felt it would interfere too much with my children’s lives. I re-trained as a personal trainer, just as something fun to do, and ran training programmes from my home. We had an au-pair to help out.

Following a course in Nutrition I found the job at the hospital, which was part-time and we had an au-pair to cover after-school care. I started working full-time again when the youngest was about 5. By then I was Nutritional Director. I worked mostly school hours at the hospital, so childcare and being there for the children wasn’t an issue.

When you started your own business, is this how you imagined it?

No, I started a business from home. I didn’t expect it to be like this. The business just grows and grows and has taken on a life of its own. It has powered forward and pulled me in. It’s such a pervasive presence, it’s always there, I talk about it all the time. It’s like a baby attached to my hip, it’s like my fourth child and I care passionately about it. To the point where I come home and my youngest son will ask: ‘How many orders did you get in today? Is your profit still okay?’

There’s nothing quite as dominant as your own business. The buck stops with you. I am responsible for 4 employees, clients, the rent of the location, the premises and everything else. If the locks break on the door, it’s my responsibility to get them fixed.

The biggest price I pay is the time I have lost with my children. That, to me, is the price of success. But you cannot run your own business with a part-time attitude. That’s just not how it works if you want real success, if you want to see your brand on the high street you have to work for it.

I don’t want it to be like this the rest of my life though. My end-goal is to make this a saleable business in the next 3-4 years.

Do you ever feel guilty?

I feel perpetually guilty. To me, motherhood is a state of guilt, I don’t manage it, I live with it. I deeply resent the time I miss with my children and am hoping it will be for the greater good. Perhaps in a couple of years they will be able to say ‘We are going off to mummy’s ski-ing chalet. It was my youngest sons Christmas wish ‘for mum not to make any work phone calls during Christmas’.

I would love to be a mummy that is at home, cooks meals, makes sure her children are well turned-out and has a beautiful home. The reality is I come home to that, and my children have been home organising it. But I do it like this, because I know there is no other option for now, I love my job and we rely on the financial income my business provides.

What do you hope for your own children?

My own daughter is currently choosing her A levels, and I have discussed work-life choices with her. I told her that if she chooses a career she needs to consider how it will fit around a family. She has got it all mapped out and certainly doesn’t want to do what I do. She would like to work in a hospital in her twenties, and then become a GP when she has children.

It was different for me, as I come from a generation that was told ‘You can have it all’. That is not true, you cannot have it all.
To be honest, I give my sons a different message. I tell them they need to step up to the mark and be responsible for their families. Interestingly, I don’t tell them they have to choose a career that fits around the family.

What would your advice be to other female entrepreneurs?

When you start out, do it with your eyes wide open. Do not underestimate the commitment required to make a business work and be prepared to make that sacrifice. Be prepared to work tooth and nail. You want to be sure you want to do that, as it will have quite an effect on your family. You are not going to have a work-life balance and be truly successful, have a good income and support your family.

However, it’s like when you are having babies and they are little. It is a phase in life. When you run your own business there will be phase in your life where you are going to run ragged.
My business has given me some of the biggest highs I have known in my life. I have changed as a person. I have become so much more confident, outgoing and together. I don’t take any crap anymore, I really don’t have time for that and feel I have truly changed for the better.

I genuinely think it is all worthwhile, but I know it will have come at a price. We live hard, and we play hard. The Friday nights with my daughter, for instance, are very special, and that special time would not have come my way if I had been at home more.

Both of my sons are incredibly proud of me. My eldest says ‘Mum, you really stand out from the mums in school and I wouldn’t want it any other way’. I do get tremendous support from my kids.
Personally, I love it, as I feel I could be on the cusp of something quite wonderful.

As we end the interview, Jane arrives home and she walks into the house. Her 10-year-old boy greets her enthusiastically and asks: ‘What shall I get you for supper mum?’

Interview by Inge Woudstra, Director Mum & Career


Time is not the issue – says mum and senior manager Paula

Time is not the issue – says mum and senior manager Paula

Talking about being a working mum at the BBC ‘Women at the top’ programme triggered senior manager Paula Leach to think about female leadership and motherhood. This is what she learned about being a working mum in her own words.

Being a working mum for me the key challenges have come down to Time. I’m nearly 7 years into my parenting journey, with 2 beautiful daughters and a worklife balance many would envy, combining my part time senior management role with being an involved and present parent to my girls. So what’s the problem? Haven’t I ‘got it all’? Haven’t I ‘got the best of both worlds’? Well, it’s an interesting question, and one I have a bit of a constant wrestle with myself.

In a quest to try to work out why I feel like this, I recently tentatively took part in the filming of a BBC documentary which was examining the reasons why so few women are represented at the senior levels of management in business. Scary as it was to put myself ‘out there’ and actively join the debate, I wanted to share my perspectives, experience and optimism and learn as much as I could on the way.

The process of being filmed and trying to work out in my head what was my overriding perspective on the subject of combining motherhood and career, was all a bit of a new step in a new journey for me. Of course I was only going to be featured on the programme for 3 minutes or so, and I was happy with the footage (although I just find watching myself very uncomfortable …. Surely I don’t really look or sound like that??!!). However, the finished programme was one thing, the journey that asking these questions has started to send me on, is something else.

So …. Back to Time. I have always known, ever since I returned to work after my first daughter was about 1 year old, that it was about time. There are only so many hours in a day, and I was already madly busy with all my work commitments before I then had to fit in my new job as Mum. I’m super organised though, so went about the process of creating a jigsaw of childcare, greater efficiency, working different times of the day to make up for dashing out of the office early to get to a nursery pick up etc. We all do it- it’s how it works. And over that period where I have continued to make this jigsaw of activity squeeze into my 24 hours, I, like many other women I know (and probably countless more I don’t know), have felt various new emotions about my working and home life such as guilt, low-confidence and questioning what other people were thinking of me, feeling not quite as reliable as I always had been (or the risk that I wasn’t that reliable) amongst other things. A wise friend once told me, it takes 5 years to come to terms with the situation of this balance and feel at peace with it rather than trying to be everything you were at work before.

So, I am a reflector, and this has all got me reflecting a lot about Time. I actually know for a fact, that I am equally if not more capable at delivering in my chosen profession than I was 7 years ago. And I feel optimistic about those contributions. I simply am not in a position to work the same days and hours, or work between “9 – 5” in the accepted business tradition. Interestingly, where I have felt a dip in confidence or worried about my reliability or felt guilty …. Pretty much all of this is rooted in Time – or lack of it!

Coupled with that realisation, I was interested to explore whether this perceived issue of time was external or internal to myself. Generally, there is some expectation from others, but on the whole, my reflection leads me to conclude that most of the pressure I feel regarding time is actually pressure I am putting on myself.

Light bulb moment! (I had this a couple of years ago). Just forget about worrying about the time -what I can’t fit in that I used to, how to be like everyone else (or as I perceive everyone else) – and get on with the excellent outputs and contributions that I make, focusing on my energy and quality and creativity. Let go of that guilt and that lower confidence and see what happens – I would soon work out whether this was mostly me putting that pressure on, or whether it truly was real. Result: Yep – mostly me!

So, my feeling is really this: As a professional woman, I have certain expectations of myself which I literally could not replicate once time got squeezed. I wasn’t prepared to make the sacrifices so many women did a generation ago with regard to seeing their family grow up … surely they had no choice, but because they did that, it has paved the way for women and mums like me to have a choice and take on the mantle of the next challenge with confidence and energy! That challenge being the challenge of demonstrating that Time is Not the issue … having personal confidence, and the confidence of others, in output, creativity, leadership, quality – these are the things business should be really interested in and I for one plan to demonstrate that it doesn’t always need to matter that you are seen to be doing the 9 – 5.

Having confidence to do it my way will hopefully open the eyes of business that mums and business can work and can thrive, with a little open-mindedness on both sides to being flexible and focusing on the output. By having the confidence to be doing, delivering and succeeding, we can perhaps grow and open up the opportunities to work flexibly, be involved with our families at the times that we need to be during the 24 hours we have, and still achieve what we need to at work (and beyond!). I don’t see working flexibly as simply a temporary accommodation to ‘help’ me – I see it as a win-win for me and the business. I achieve everything that is required of my role and beyond. I cost less than a full-time resource. I am committed to making that work and being the most efficient that I can be. The biggest barrier I believe I truly have faced is actually my own personal perceptions and expectations limiting myself, so I am taking deep breaths and not apologising for working a different schedule – I am embracing it and demonstrating it’s value! And at the same time I am very present in my children’s lives and fully engaged in their school life and activities which is important for me.

Obviously I appreciate that I am fortunate to work with an enlightened employer where the foundational elements of flexible working and empowerment mean I can take responsibility for my own schedule and working my way to achieve success. Technology is such an enabler here to allow us to move forwards – so we don’t waste the talent that is out there with so many people who have chosen Motherhood. My mantra moving forwards … it is ‘Mum AND career’ not ‘Mum OR Career’!

And what about me ‘having it all’ already? …. Yep that’s all fine and maybe a perception could be that I do, but I have ambition to progress in my career, learn more, take on interesting challenges and add greater value – and I plan to do that still with only 24 hours in the day!

I have learnt so much about myself, and others, over the last few years having become a parent. Perhaps I may continue to progress my career because I have children, and not in spite of it.

Author: Paula Leach, She has 2 beautiful daughters aged 6 and 3 and works 3 1/2 days per week in a senior leadership role as Learning & Development Manager at a large Multi-National automotive organisation. Since having her daughters, she juggles her career with her family and is constantly striving towards achieving a balance which means she can be present and involved in her children’s lives, schooling etc, in addition to not only ‘holding down’ her role, but continuing to develop, grow and contribute professionally. As part of this journey, she recently took part in the filming of the BBC2 documentary ‘Hilary Devey’s Women at the Top’.


  • Looking for more tips, guidance and insights on Navigating your Career and Children? Why not join us for a high-impact fun workshop on 9 October in Central London. Speakers from Ernst&Young, Sapphire Partners and more