Tag: "Guilt"

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

female breadwinners

Walking the female breadwinner tightrope – 5 steps to getting the balance right

  • Feeling guilty about being a working Mum?
  • Torn between family commitments and work?
  • Thrust into the role of breadwinner when your partner has retired or become ill?
  • Non existent work life balance?

You are not alone, a fifth of women in the UK are the breadwinner, and the number is growing.

Not sure if the term breadwinner fits for you? If you’re a working woman from any background, class, heritage and culture, married or co-habiting, with or without children, and you are the main or sole income earner in your home, then I am talking to you. Surprisingly, being a female breadwinner is one of the last taboos in society.

Often juggling work, life and family in secrecy, you’ll rarely discuss or seek coping strategies for your complex role in the world.

Rhonda, a successful business woman, working in a male dominated environment, with a child under one year old sums up the challenge of being the breadwinner eloquently:

“By being a working career woman or career mum, I’m trying to get the best out of both worlds. I’m trying to be true to who I am, not to who other people want me to be or what people think people I should be. And that is difficult”

Jenny Garrett, executive coach and author of Rocking Your Role, the ‘how to’ guide to success for female breadwinners, shares 5 tips to success from her experience of coaching hundreds of female breadwinners.

1. Check Your Ego

Victoria, a 40 year old entrepreneur with one child, has a growing training company found that earning the bulk of the income was giving her an over inflated ego, she decorated her home around her husband, after all it was ‘her’ money. It’s only when the cracks started showing in her relationship that she realised her husband was resenting her behavior.
The combination of your role at work and being the breadwinner at home can become a heady cocktail intoxicating you into thinking that you are the only one who has something valid to say in your relationship. If you notice yourself thinking that your opinion is the only one matters because you’re the one holding the purse strings, it’s time to check your ego.

2. Drop the Superwoman Syndrome

Femi, an accountant, in her thirties with two boys, found that her husband was waiting for her to come home to decide what to cook for dinner. She understood that she had created this problem, always wanting to be in control and make sure things were done ‘properly’. She had to take a step back and give her husband permission to cook.

“Now the children are fed before I get home in the evening, it’s not always what I would have chosen, but they’re happy and healthy and it’s one less thing for me to worry about.”

Listen and listen carefully, it’s OK not to be able to do it all. Repeat after me, it’s OK not to be able to do it all. Now say it out loud, it’s OK not to do be able to do it all. Trust others to do it their way, you might even learn something.

3. Talk about money

Andrea said:

“subconsciously I just don’t talk about any element of my work success. I would say I work mainly because it’s interesting, it’s never because it’s financially lucrative, it’s paid for the extension or it’s paid for the car”.

Don’t let money be the elephant in the room, talk about money with your partner. Decide who manages money, how it’s managed and how you will make financial decisions. Ensure you have two-way communication about finances, your relationship and your work.

4. Look after your spiritual, physical and mental well-being

Connie, married with grown up children, has a senior strategic role in education. She found that contracting our chores like the gardening and visiting the hairdresser were life savers for her.

“That little bit of me time restored my sanity”

You physical, mental and spiritual health are critical, investing in you now will avoid painful derailment of your work and family life later. Take time for you, it could be with dance classes, developing yourself through courses, dates with your partner or even full on retreats. My thing is meditation.

Do whatever restores balance, gives you space to breathe and let go of all the roles you play in life.

5. Ditch the Guilt

Sally, an interim manager recalls times when she was trying to work with the children climbing on top of her for attention. She has come to recognise that it is quality rather than quantity that matters.

“We’ve had really good weekends where I’ve just been able to focus on the family possibly better than if I spent more time with them feeling distracted. Yes, I think I’m finally learning that one”

If you’re feeling torn between many roles, such as: spouse, carer, mother, home-maker, career woman, guilt will drain your energy and take away from the freedom up have to enjoy your life and time with loved ones. Choose quality time over quantity of time.

Author: Jenny Garrett is a female breadwinners and leadership specialist, and motivates women to live their best life. She is the author of ‘Rocking Your Role’, she’s appeared on Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ and mentors for the Cherie Blair Foundation. Find out more about her, and her specialist programmes and one to one coaching at Reflexion Associates

Jenny has kindly offered to give away a  free 30 minute One to One Rocking and Shocking Consultation via Skype, and a copy of her new book ‘Rocking Your Role’, to anyone signing up to our Monthly Update in September. Read more 

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






Can you still have a good relationship after children?

Can you still have a good relationship after children?

Actually you can! And it’s not just for you, you do it for them. We working mums often think that when the focus isn’t directly on our children that somehow they are losing out. And if they’re old enough to talk, they’ll certainly tell you that that’s the case… When we’re at work and they’re at home, they lose out. When we’re out in the evening at seminar/night class and they’re at home, they’re missing out. It even extends to our relationship with their dad. When we’re spending time with our “other halves” , the kids are missing out.

Is this really the case, are the children really missing out? If you’ve read any of the previous blogs in this five-part series, you’ll know that it’s not. Investing in yourself IS investing in your family. And here’s why investing in your relationship with your partner is also investing in the family.

The children are happy when the family unit is happy so your relationship with your partner is as important as your direct relationship with your children. And let’s face it, any partnership or marriage isn’t easy – there’s a lot of things to work through. Also, too much focus directly on the child can actually be detrimental. (The real world doesn’t work that way – they’re not the centre of the universe and the sooner they learn that the better off they’ll be). Keeping the flame alive has other advantages as well – the children will eventually grow up and leave home (trust me, it does happen!) so it will be just the two of you again so it’s good practice for the future.

During most of the film: ‘I don’t know how she does it’, Kate Redding played by Sarah Jessica Parker treats her husband Richard like a second class citizen or worse yet, a totally incompetent carer. He doesn’t seem to have any rights when it comes to taking care of the children or running the household. I cringed when I heard Kate say “how could you let that women look after MY kids when I was away?” as if to say Richard is not competent enough to make his own decisions.

Kate was referring to Richard’s choice of a back-up carer when the regular babysitter cancelled while Kate was away. The husband evidently gets no say in the matter! Think about your own circumstance. Do you ever treat your other half like he doesn’t have a clue when it comes to anything associated with the kids or house? Is that fair? Have you given him a chance? Have you showed him the “ropes”. Remember, people are people and just like micro-managing people at work, your other half will feel humiliated if you adopt the ‘Ms Dictator’ approach. I’ve tried it – it doesn’t work. In the long run nobody likes Ms Dictator!

Over the years I’ve learned that I’ve got to trust my colleagues and my other half to “run the ship” when I’m not around. They need to feel empowered to make decisions and I need their buy-in on how things are run. Otherwise, when it doesn’t work, it’s all my fault. On the other hand, when I do trust them and listen, better decisions can be made. The road to Super Woman is a dead end – you’ll end up burning yourself out which Kate nearly did too.

Gaining respect for your partner’s parental skills is something you have to work on together. It requires constant communication and discussion on approaches to food preparation, discipline, schooling, and childcare. One of my favorite parts of the film I don’t know how she does it was when Richard shows he can take care of things at home – like sorting out his daughter’s ballerina tights while Kate was on a business trip. He had a wonderful look of pride and satisfaction when he told Kate he had sorted things out. Kate glanced at him lovingly as if to say “yes, you’ve done it and I love you for it”.

But running a really efficient Grand Central Station where each parent is pitching in and all the home logistics are running smoothly isn’t enough. Do you have time for just each other? I really felt sorry for Richard when he announces to Kate that she doesn’t seem to have any time for just him. Couples that play together stay together. What was that common interest that brought you together? What interests have you developed together as a couple? I know it’s a struggle to find the time but it is possible – be creative. Plan it out and get it in the calendar.
My other half and I played basketball together when we first met. Later when the children started playing tennis, we decided to take lessons and joined a club. Playing tennis for us was really about going back to basics. Both of us have always liked sports and it was part of our relationship from the very beginning. Be prepared for the children to be jealous of your time together. They will try to make you feel guilty like somehow your short-changing them. Funny isn’t it, some of the best things you can do for your kids are the ones where it’s not about them
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 5 of a 5-Part Series: ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ by Christine Brown-Quinn