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Working Mum Mentors And The Other Things That Will Help With Your Return To Work…

Next week, I’m going to be giving a talk to an audience of Working Mums who are either planning to return to work or are weighing up their options. Because one of the most important things for you to remember as a working mum is that you do have options.

When I was about to return to work after maternity leave, I didn’t think I had a choice. I had to return because we needed the money, and my company at the time also had a really good financial incentive to go back full-time for six months. It meant that I felt compelled to stay, even though the prospect of returning to my role, filled me with apprehension and I was still in the grips of separation anxiety.

Nicola J Rowley Founder of the Working Mum Association

One of the reasons that I ended up launching the Working Mum Association was to create a global community where like-minded mums could support each other. It’s the support that I’d felt was missing.

It’s why I’m now also working towards the introduction of Working Mum Mentors at high profile UK companies because hopefully others will then follow suit. Put simply it’s a way for mums who have already returned to the workplace, to support others who are new returners as they go through those initial first six-nine months.

It’s a way for non-judgmental support and advice from a fellow mum, who’s experienced how difficult it can be adjusting to life back in the office, the hours, the work culture and much more besides.

Other things that can help with your return to work include having a plan in place to help you cope with the transition. For instance, if you say to yourself you will give it a year and see how you get on, you will feel under less pressure.

If the company you’re returning to isn’t great when it comes to flexible working, then look towards joining another company that appreciates you and the talents you have, and will also be more accommodating to any such requests.

Other things that you can consider if you’re still on maternity leave is to use the time wisely to re-train, or to start a side hustle. Retraining will help you expand your skill set and starting a side hustle, such as a blog or expanding what was once a hobby, could be the thing that will help you more effectively balance work and home life.

The most important thing to remember in all of this is that you have to be happy. There’s no point dragging yourself into the office day after day, knowing how miserable you are, and how much you miss your children.

Making a change, any change – can seem scary. But please try and embrace the change, especially if it will lead to a happier, healthier you in the long run.

Nicola J Rowley The Working Mum Association

You may well be reading this and as a new mum, you managed to breeze seamlessly back into the workplace on your return. You feel that everything has gone well for you, and you feel valued and respected in your role. In short, little changed whilst you were away on maternity leave.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for the majority of mums who contact us. They miss their children terribly, are not afforded any flexible working, and feel stuck and unhappy in what was previously a fulfilling job or career.

Whatever your circumstances please remember you have choices that are yours and yours alone to make. You get to choose how your life pans out, and there’s simply not enough time for you to spend it being unhappy.

PS Coming soon I’ll be launching an affordable monthly paid membership for the Working Mum Associaton. To get yourself onto the waitlist please contact me HERE

Maternal Mental Health and Why It Matters For Mums In The Workplace

This morning marks the start of the second UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Week, with a theme of ‘Support for All’.

Worldwide about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth, experience a mental disorder, primarily depression. The thing to remember is that maternal mental disorders are treatable.

Sometimes just finding the strength to admit that you have a problem is key to finding the help that you need that will help you feel more like yourself once more.

I don’t often talk about this, but after J was born he spent a week in intensive care and it triggered a severe bout of separation anxiety in me.
I found it so difficult to still be in hospital but for him to be three floors up and away from me, even though I was often wandering the corridors in the small hours just to check on him.

When it came to returning to work, I really struggled with being apart from him. It didn’t help that we’d just spent an entire year attached to each other, and like many, we didn’t have any family nearby so it exacerbated the situation.

It’s fair to say that after a short while of me returning to work full time, I hit rock bottom. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that I was only getting to see J for 30 minutes a day. Something had to change.

Maternal Mental Health the Working Mum Association

The reason that I’m telling you this, is because, in this picture above, you would never have known that I was feeling this way. Of course, as soon as I was with him, I was fine again.

I tried counselling, which didn’t really work – I felt like I was helping the counsellor instead of the other way around. I was even sent for psychiatric testing. The middle-aged man with his clipboard was somewhat baffled as he couldn’t find anything wrong with me but said I should be prescribed anti-depressants as he couldn’t think what else would help! And yet throughout everything, I knew what the issue was – I just wanted to be with my son – but on my terms.

So, I ignored the man with the clipboard entirely and not long after hitting rock bottom – I put in place a strategy to make the life that I wanted. And part of that was building the Working Mum Association.

Because you never know when someone is struggling and you never know when someone closest to you needs support. Please just be there as much as you can for fellow working mums to help support them so they no longer feel alone on their journey.

It’s why I’m also going to begin work to encourage UK companies to start introducing WMM’s or Working Mum Mentors, where fellow working mums volunteer to buddy up with a mum returning to the workplace. Everything they say is between them, but it’s a start to end the common feelings of isolation and all the issues that can go with getting back into the swing of a nine to five.

Working mums are incredible but they need support to be able to constantly juggle everything that they do. And this is a good time for everyone to sit up and start to take notice. Because PND and Separation Anxiety and many more mental disorders really have to be taken seriously, not just brushed under the carpet.

I know this has been a bit of a heavy post for a Monday morning, but I didn’t want the week to not be talked about or discussed in some way here.

You’re all brilliant ladies – keep shining like the stars that you are… x

Impassioned Plea To All Working Mums – Can We Please Stop Beating Ourselves Up?

This Monday I dropped J off at his first ever all-day holiday camp experience. He was set to enjoy a week full of adventures surrounded by children from his class at school, and lots more besides. Bouncy castles, sack races in the field and lots more fun and games. There’s no way that I would have been able to have laid on the same level of entertainment. So why did I feel so dreadful after I’d dropped him off? It didn’t help that he started stroking my hand as we had to queue in line to get him registered. It was after all, unfamiliar surroundings and although he acts differently, I have to remember he is still only four.

Working Mum Association founder Nicola J Rowley

Once the paperwork was all taken care of, he went off with one of the members of staff who showed him to his class, where he spent the day with his friends and as far as I know everything passed off fine. He was delighted to see me at the end of the day and it sounded as if he’d had a great time.

So why then when I got home did I sit down to work and feel rotten? I spent much of the day on Monday beating myself up about him being there for the whole week. But the decision for him to be at the holiday camp was to help him gain confidence, have lots of fun and also for me to get my work done. It also means the more I have got through this week, the likelihood is I can have next week off to fully dedicate to him.

As I write this, we are on the final day of the week and I can tell that he’s reached his peak, and keeps asking does he still have to go to that school any more. This morning I told him it’s just one more day and then he gets to be with a combination of both me and his Dad for the next seven days. At the first mention of this, his little face lit up. He was genuinely so excited. So cue yet again me beating myself up about the decision for him to be at camp all week. In fairness, I did try to find an alternative play date solution for this final day of the week, but it just didn’t quite pan out.

I have absolutely no idea how we’re going to cope with the summer holidays at all!

What I do know though is that I need to stop doing this to myself, and I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in doing this either. Have you ever felt like it’s wrong to leave them somewhere? You know they will be fine when they’re settled but you can’t help but feel bad all the same. I’m sure there’s a way to counter it, but it’s made harder when you know that for the time being at least, they just want to be with you as much as possible.

Of course, I should just be super happy that he feels this way and leave the guilt mixed with separation anxiety at the gate. There will be many years ahead when he won’t want either of us around and will just be content with locking himself away in his room.

So my plea to you all is to not beat yourself up on any level. We’re helping them to grow up to be independent, full of confidence and resourceful. It is often the pressure we place on ourselves that means we end up as our own worst enemy.

I know that I’m going to at least try and park this feeling of ‘have I done the right thing’ as much as I possibly can. It doesn’t do me any good and let’s face it, by next week everything will all be forgotten; by both of us.

If you’re doing the juggle with the Easter holidays, it would be great to hear how you’re managing. And how on earth do you manage the six weeks at summer?

Whether you’re holiday juggling or otherwise, this post is written to send lots of love and support your way… x

PS If you haven’t already joined our closed Facebook group please head on over now – some exciting things are being planned for the weeks ahead and I’d love for you not to miss out… x

Why Should Mums Have to Choose How Present They Are In Their Children’s Lives?

This weekend is Mother’s Day and across the UK for those who are still fortunate to have their mums, or a mother figure in their lives, there will be flowers and celebrations by way of thanks.

Because let’s face it our mums are really special and it’s only when we become parents ourselves that we realise how much they have done for us, and in many cases, continue to do so.

When I was growing up it was the accepted norm that parents would split the work-life balance with Dad’s going out to work and Mum’s being around to look after us as children. My Mum also managed to re-train as a teacher so that she could be around for us in the school holidays. She, of course, made it look easy that she did this. And when you’re little you never question how or why things are the way they are, you just accept them.

Nicola J Rowley Founder of the WMA

It’s only now as a Mum myself that I fully appreciate just how much my Mum gave up career wise to ensure that her family came first. Having worked for years in a career both as a Journalist and Communications professional I ask why anyone should be expected to give up being as present as they would like to be for their children?

Because that is the reality that so many mums are now faced with. They are either extremely lucky and have flexible working that is actually flexible, or they have to rely on others for wrap around care to ensure their child gets to and from school on time. But with this comes the inherent guilt of not being able to be as present as they would like or being able to attend every school play or event that’s laid on.

But it’s the fact that nowadays we have to choose how present we are in our children’s lives that gets to me. Surely, it would be better for everyone if we are able to be there for our sons and daughters as and when they need us.

Don’t get me wrong, some employers are brilliant and fully embrace flexible working and should be held up as shining examples because they get that mums have dual roles that don’t just end when they leave the office for the day.

Equally, the thought of not working for me would just feel wrong. Ever since I stepped foot into our local bakery for my first Saturday job at the age of 14, I’ve worked. And I love it.

But surely there has to be a way for Mums to not feel they have to make this choice.

This is why so many women are stepping away from the workplace. So many highly intelligent, qualified, smart women who are now finding a way to make everything work for themselves by going freelance or by starting up their own businesses. Because that’s the way they can work towards the freedom lifestyle that they crave. They no longer want to be a slave to their nine to five roles or feel like they have to be seen in the office, just because they are seen to be.

All of the Mums I know with a job are far more productive when they’re given the support and trust of their employers to work from home or have a mix of both. They work smarter because they have to, and they appreciate the trust that has been placed in them. They might complete their work at different times to others, but they will never miss a deadline and as a result, they’re incredibly focused.

So on this Mother’s Day when we celebrate everything that our Mum’s do for us, please remember this. Your Mum has given up so much for you to be able to do what you’re doing right now. She may well have made it look easy, but somewhere along the line tough decisions were made. She might have taken a pay cut to spend more time with you, she might have found a job that worked around school hours, she may even have made the hard choice that another family member / Nanny would help out more than she would have liked.

But these are choices she has had to make. Not necessarily choices she wanted to make.

And there’s an army of incredibly talented, strong, smart professional women who right now are feeling the injustice of it all. Why should they have to choose? I don’t know the answer to this I just know that when all is said and done, it feels really unfair.

How To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed As A Working Mum…

As a working mum it’s easy for us to feel overwhelmed if not for the majority of the time, then for some of it at least.

There are so many demands on our time and plates that need to be juggled; sometimes it can feel like it’s a full-time job just being the juggler!

I’m no different to you in that as a busy working mum, I sometimes feel the overwhelm creeping up on me. But hopefully this post will at least help you know that you’re definitely not alone in feeling this way, and there are some things that you can do to safeguard your sanity along the way.

Nicola J Rowley Founder of the Working Mum Association on Beating Feelings of Overwhelm as a working mum
Nicola J Rowley, Founder of the Working Mum Association

According to a dictionary definition, the word overwhelm means:

  1. To bury or drown beneath a huge mass of something, especially water
  2. and
  3. have a strong emotional effect on.

I guess the first part of the definition is the one that’s associated with overwhelm the most. That feeling that we’re drowning with how much we have on our plates at any given moment. But it’s the emotional effect that overwhelm has, that can feel even more crippling.

Because at the heart of feeling overwhelmed is the thought that you can no longer do this. You can no longer cope and your emotional well-being suffers as a result.

As most of you will know by now, I’m no stranger to hard work. Up until August last year, I was juggling a four day a week full on role with running the Working Mum Association, my photography business (24 weddings and additional portrait shoots), taking the next steps in my journey as a children’s author (new Middle-Grade book coming soon this year) and most importantly of all, trying to be there for my now four-year-old.

As you can probably see from the above, it’s no wonder that at points I felt like I was quite literally drowning. But instead of sinking – I chose to swim and reached out to others who could help me.

So for the photography, I had to outsource a lot of the editing, whilst still retaining editorial control. For the Working Mum Association and my Author business – I would write the content but would get a Virtual Assistant to help make the graphics and post everything on a daily basis across my social media channels. And throughout it all, I had a cleaner.

That last point is really valid. Because as a working mum you can’t be expected to do everything all of the time; something has to give. So outsourcing to others is the best way to be able to get things done. And the cleaner just means that it’s one less thing I’ve had to think about, so I’ve had more time to spend with my family. Thankfully, ours is also a dab hand at tidying.

And it’s the same for you. Look at who around you can help you with something. If you have family living nearby or a helpful partner, can they look after the children one night, whilst you have a night out or go for a run?

Can the children help at the end of the day by getting into the habit of picking up their toys?

It sounds so simple, but after a hard day at work, the last thing you want to be doing after dinner is crawling around on your hands and knees picking up small pieces of Lego. Sound familiar? Get them to help before they watch any TV – that way the TV becomes a reward for them learning to put their things away. It also means you will get back a precious ten minutes to yourself when they’re finally tucked up in bed.

Outsource where at all possible to help you beat any overwhelm

The other thing that I’ve found is a good way to cope with overwhelm (and I don’t recommend it gets to this stage for you) is to have a good rant or cry. Many a time I have found myself in the past sitting at 11pm at night dealing with work issues – asking myself what on earth I was doing. One time it got so bad that after I cut my leg open during a media launch and needed stitches in A&E – I was still the only one sorting out transport issues and responding to people, not only from the hospital waiting room but then afterwards from my sofa, whilst drugged up on painkillers. Needless to say, after that episode there were a few tears shed and a rant was had. Returning to everything five minutes later, everything felt so much better. Sometimes it’s just so much better for things to come out rather than stay in.

And that’s the other thing – you need to know when enough is enough. Is there something going on in your life that really you could do without? If so, work out how you can get rid of it or find a solution around it so that you can get the support you need.

Your health and your well-being should always be of paramount importance and nothing should ever take priority over that.

Another thing to think about is prioritising and a great tool to help with this is time-blocking where you plan out what you’re going to do and when so you’re maximising the little time that you do have. This way you won’t get sidetracked by things that aren’t as important but will still manage to get through the really important ones first. And let’s face it, usually it’s the big projects that can seem insurmountable at the beginning.

Probably the most important thing to mention though is please don’t suffer in silence. Let someone else close to you know how you’re feeling – it will really help. I know as working mums we’re so used to just getting on with things – but sometimes you just need to vent or let everything out. There is no shame in admitting that you’re struggling. It’s actually a real strength.

And if you don’t feel you have anyone you can confide in enough – come and join us over on the Working Mum Association Facebook Group. It’s a closed group for a reason. You can say what you like and it won’t go any further. And we welcome rants any day of the week, no matter how big or small.

Together, we can beat the overwhelm… x

Don’t Beat Yourself Up For Not Having Enough Time…

Dear Working Mum, when was the last time you found you had enough time in a day to get everything done?

By that I mean, when you were able to seamlessly tick off all the items on your to do list, to catch up with everything around the home and to juggle a high pressured project or five at work at the same time?

I’d love to know the answer to why we put so much pressure on ourselves to do everything, but for some reason we do. And why do we set expectations that everything will be completed to absolute perfection and that it will all run smoothly?

Rowley the Founder of the Working Mum Association
Nicola J Rowley, the Founder of the Working Mum Association

The fact is, good enough is enough when it comes to so many things. For me, the thing that’s noticeably dropped since I became a working mum is the tidiness of our home. I’m by no means a domestic goddess but I used to at least know where everything was, and there was a semblance of order.

But for now, I think it’s the least of my concerns.

At the top of my list of my priorities is my family’s health and well-being, then work and then everything else besides. Each of us will look at our lives in a different way and try and balance as much as we can. But we’re only human and so if we drop one of those many balls that we’re juggling it’s ok. And it’s also ok to admit when we’re not ok too.

Please don’t beat yourself up over a forgotten PE kit or a missed payment for World Book Day.

These are all things that can be rectified – but your health and well-being cannot.

I’ve found that getting up earlier than everyone else even for just 45 minutes every day, makes a real difference to how my day pans out. I have a chance to sit and reflect, to cram in 10 minutes of regular exercise and to journal.

But I get that it’s not for everyone. And if your child or children have had you up and down like a yo yo in the middle of the night, you’re going to crave all the extra rest you can get.

The other thing is that by the time your little ones are finally in bed, the last thing you want to do is to continue working again. Unfortunately for many of us, this is the reality and the flipside to having a flexible employer or being able to run our own businesses. There’s no choice, additional hours have to be put in so you’re meeting client demands or deadlines. But when you reach the stage when you can outsource some of the work, please make this a priority.

For some of you, that may mean hiring a cleaner, a Virtual Assistant or both. Manage the little time that you do have to make things as streamlined as possible. Doing an internet grocery shop to cut down on the amount of time spent traipsing through the supermarket aisles can be a quick win. Although if you’re anything like me, in those early months and years, if I’m honest I used to enjoy the escapism it provided.

Try as much as possible to get things sorted the night before. Packed lunches should be made at the same time whilst you’re cooking dinner, the washing should be going simultaneously and then drying overnight so it’s ready for the morning. We’re not juggling superstars for nothing!

Working Mum Association image for lack of time for working mums Nicola J Rowley

This way at least, when you finally get to sit down and have that much craved YOU time, it really is that. With no distractions no little niggles in the back of your mind that something still needs to be done.

This way at least, when you finally get to sit down and have that much craved YOU time, it really is that. With no distractions no little niggles in the back of your mind that something still needs to be done.

And in between all of the things you need to get through, being able to carve out just 10 minutes a day before you go to bed just for yourself is really important. It should also become non-negotiable. Set the boundaries, and try and time block any activities so you’re able to effectively do as much as you can, but with the understanding that you time is just as important.

And never be afraid to say no to someone or something that will add to your workload, either in the office or at home.

If you take on too much you will just end up feeling overwhelmed and then your health could suffer.

Hopefully some of the above will help you have some more time in your day.

Please just remember you’re doing a brilliant job juggling everything all at the same time. So be kind, and treat yourself whenever you can, because let’s face it, you deserve it… x

PS if you would like to join a supportive community of like-minded working mums, please visit our Facebook Group for the Working Mum Association

Being Confident As A Working Mum…

Being confident in any given situation is seen as the key to living a successful, happy life. But there are so many times that as a working mum, our confidence can elude us.

If you think back to those first sleepless nights and the moment when it dawned on you, that little person was reliant on you to survive; it was a big thing right?

Being a mum doesn’t come with a guide book. The first time around, let’s face it you wing it, until you get into a routine of how things should be done. Most of that is led by your child, and them letting you know how they feel; usually by screaming in public. Red faces anyone?

Nicola J Rowley Founder of the Working Mum Association PR Strategist and Author

At the start you’re surrounded by people wishing you their best, making the effort to visit and generally being hands on, which is very gratefully received. But what happens when the door shuts and they have all disappeared almost as quickly as they arrived?

For me, J had bad colic and used to scream the house down, sometimes for hours. He refused to sleep during the day, and was up every two hours at night. Here I was, a new mum – alone for the most part of a day, trying to entertain him.

So when it came to returning to work, having spent 12 months nurturing and caring for him, I think it’s fair to say my confidence wasn’t where it once was.

For a start I’d had a loss of identity. My priorities had also changed significantly; I was no longer the career-focused girl I once was. I’d forgotten lots of what I’d previously done, and whilst trying to get back up to speed the technology had also changed. When you spend time at home, you also get little in the way of feedback as to what a great job you’re doing. You’re just expected to carry on as that’s what you do.

As a result, you can become more self-critical, feel like your life lacks as much focus, and without meaning to, you take things more personally. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

It didn’t take me long to realise that I could turn all of this around by looking at things in a completely different way, which is exactly what I did.

Being Confident as a Working Mum by Nicola J Rowley Founder of the Working Mum Association
Nicola J Rowley, Founder of the Working Mum Association

For you as a working mum, no matter what stage of your journey you’re on, if you’re feeling that your confidence could do with a boost – here are some things that might help:

  1. Take on any situation with a can-do positive attitude. Remember, pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is a good thing its how you will learn more.
  • Ignore that critical voice that can appear. You have so got this. Listen to your gut instinct it will guide you to do what’s best for you.
  • Write down all of the things that you feel confident about. Think about these things daily to remind yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to.
  • Carve out some space for you to do the things you enjoy. Go for a run, take an exercise class or treat yourself to a massage. Whatever will make you feel good about yourself will really help boost your confidence?
  • Put yourself in the position of someone who believes in you. And if they do, then why shouldn’t you?

And above all else smile. Even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing. You may well need to trick yourself into appearing happy initially, but colleagues will respond far better to it than if you’re miserable.

If you’re feeling that you need additional training to get used to new tech on your return to work, ask for it.

And if you’re asked to stand up in front of everyone and give a presentation and you’re dreading it, channel your inner Angelina Jolie. Give your best performance, not as you, but as you wearing a mask – no one need know how you’re really feeling.

Hopefully the above tips will help you as you navigate any tricky moments as a working mum, but if you have any others that have worked for you, please get in touch as we’d love to hear from you.

And if you would like to join our community of working mums, supporting, inspiring and motivating each other – please head on over to our Facebook group here.

A Thousand Mums…

When I first launched the Working Mum Association, I remember sitting on my sofa thinking, if only this Facebook page reaches a thousand mums’, it will have been a great start. Little did I realise that within four weeks an incredible 13-thousand of you would be on board.

I’m all about visbility and putting yourself out there, after all that’s why I run my PR agency, helping female entrepreneurs in particular, do the same through the power of storytelling. It’s all about communicating a message.

But nothing prepared me for the response.

Nicola J Rowley Founder of the Working Mum Association
Nicola J Rowley, Founder of the Working Mum Association

You see, I thought there was zero support for us as working mums and there certainly was when I looked and needed it most. So I stepped up and created somewhere for you all to be. To join a community where we can discuss everything that we’re going through. How hard it is to find last-minute childcare when you have been let down, how it’s really annoying when a meeting gets scheduled in your calendar at 4:30pm and then you have to re-arrange everything or pay extra for your child to be looked after. Or how hard it is to carry on working when you have a poorly child that also needs your attention and you’re also facing a big deadline.

So whilst I knew that I needed something like the Working Mum Association (WMA), it’s never really been about me. Rather, it’s always been about you.

Yes, I believe I had to hit rock bottom as a working mum myself so that I could build myself back up and piece together my life, my career and everything else besides. But I always believe that we go through experiences so that we learn something. And my learning was that I don’t want any of you to ever go through what I did.

So that’s why I started the Working Mum Association, and that’s why I will always strive to ensure that you feel supported, inspired and motivated on YOUR journey.

And it’s also why I’m so passionate about it continuing to grow and thrive, and reach those of you who need support, inspiration and motivation, the most. But in order to do so and for me to be able to be there as much as I truly want to be (and not end up burnt out in the process) I’m creating the Working Mum Association Membership Club.

For those of you who join now as Founding Members, you get to shape how the Membership Club will look. You get more access to me, so I can share the exact steps that I took to get to where I am today (having quit my nine-five and now running my own successful Communications Agency but more importantly being the mum on the school gates for the drop-offs and pickups).

And that might not be what you’re looking to achieve. You might want a promotion, a new job entirely, or something that will work better for you and your family. The steps will still help you get there. It’s like your own pathway to happiness or being H.A.P.P.Y as I like to put it (Having A Perfectly Positive Year).

And you will also get monthly expert online trainings. The best bit? You get to decide on the subject – so it’s always helping you on YOUR journey. It could be you’re lacking in confidence, you want to feel more balanced, you would like to learn more about nutritional meals for your children. Whatever it might be, it’s for you to decide and to let me know.

Here’s to a great rest of your working week… x

PS The Working Mum Association Membership Club opens on Monday and the waitlist is already filling up. Make sure your name is on there too so you don’t miss out. Join HERE

Knowing You Do Have A Choice…

Yesterday, I spoke to a room full of like-minded mums about to return to work from maternity leave and start the juggle of work and family life. Looking back at how I felt before I embarked on this journey, similar to becoming a mum for the first time, nothing really prepares you for it.

Nothing prepares you for the knots in your stomach when you realise you have to leave the office to collect your child but are being prevented from doing so because of transport issues. Nothing prepares you for the pressure you feel under from every part of your life to have everything perfectly worked out. And nothing prepares you for the ache you carry with you every day as you miss your child more than words can express.

Nicola J Rowley Founder of the Working Mum Association

After I’d answered lots of questions after yesterday’s talk, I was approached by a lady who has set up her own business as she tries to make the juggle work for her. What she said made me smile in a realisation of how far we have all come as working mums. “In years to come,” she said, “these mums will look back at your talk and realise exactly what you were saying. Right now, they might not get it, but I sat and nodded my way through your talk because it’s so true.”

The things I talked about for those new mums returning to work, also apply to you as a working mum too. The most important takeaway of them all is that you absolutely do have options and you have a choice. Knowing this and choosing to act on it, can be incredibly liberating.

The thing is, when I was set to return to work after my year’s maternity leave with my son, I didn’t feel as if I had a choice. We needed the money, and because of the financial incentives offered for me to return full time for six months, I felt trapped. It meant that I didn’t explore my options.

But you absolutely do have a choice and there are so many things that you can think about doing. If you’re concerned that your current employer isn’t going to be flexible, first ask them about your options for returning. If they say they just want you back full-time in your role, at least you know where you stand.

If, of course, this isn’t going to work for you, then you can think about an exit strategy. The big thing to remember in all of this is that you’re in control. It’s your life and no one should make you feel as if they’re dictating how you live it.

Options could include returning, but starting a side hustle and building that side hustle up so that it will become your exit strategy. You could look for another more flexible role closer to home so you limit the daily commute.

There are great sites in the UK especially such as 2 to 3 Days and Timewise that post out relevant jobs for returners or mums in particular. If you know you definitely don’t want to return and are feeling overwhelmed with everything that lies ahead, think about what you’re qualified to do ie what is your zone of genius. Could you focus on providing your skills to a niche market on a freelance basis whilst you figure out what else you want to do?

I know of mums who have bought baby class franchises, have become yoga and pilates instructors, who have used their maternity leave to re-train and become laser focused on how they want their lives to be, both now and further down the line, whether that’s working just three days a week or full-time but with home-working as an option.

You see, once you start looking at the options you’re opening yourself up to opportunities. These are opportunities that might not have otherwise been there before because you were so focused on one particular outcome with tunnel vision.

Nicola J Rowley Founder of the Working Mum Association
You’re a mum, so you’re already amazing

The most important thing in all of this is to believe in yourself. You’re a mum, so you’re already amazing. Now take that fire inside of you to either get a promotion at work (but make it work for you), re-train or find yourself something that is going to complement, not hinder the juggle of work and family life.

Good luck with it all – and please let me know how you’re getting on as I love hearing from you about your journeys. Our journeys are just that; ours. And no one’s is every the same – each is as unique and special as you and your children… x

PS – The waitlist for the Working Mum Association Members Club is now open. To register your interest visit HERE

How It Can Be Hard To Just Keep Going When You’re Ill…

As a working mum there are days when it just feels hard to keep going and to keep juggling; especially when all you want to do is retreat back under your duvet and stay there for the rest of the day because you’re ill.

This week has definitely been right up there in terms of wanting to retreat.

Taking care of yourself by Nicola J Rowley Founder of the Working Mum Association

But as with all things, I’ve had to try and balance the need to rest and listen to my body and the need to get through as much as possible within the timeframe I’ve had and to be there for my son.

By Tuesday of this week, I was down to just a vocal squeak and was swallowing razor blades. Thankfully my earlier bout of viral conjunctivitis was on its way out – but having both of those combined meant a very poorly me indeed. And it was a good reminder of how much as a working mum we still have to do, no matter how unwell we feel.

The need to get some additional support at times like these is so important. Not only does it allow you time out to recuperate even for just a little bit, but it means you’re more likely to get better sooner.

I don’t think there’s anything worse than when both yourself and your child are simultaneously struck down with the same lurgy and feel just as bad as each other. It’s at times like these that I wish we had a magic wand that could be instantly waved so everything can return to normal.

But magic wands aside, there are some coping strategies that you can adopt to make the whole illness scenario feel not quite as painful as it could be.

If you can muster the energy, move both of your duvets downstairs and lie underneath them preferably on separate sofas. It can feel like a real novelty and a bit of an adventure even for a poorly little one and it allows you to be in the same room as them should they need you.

Jelly. For as long as I can remember, no matter how awful I was feeling as a child, my mum would always make me a jelly. It’s of course a pure comfort food, but I’ve introduced the same for J and he knows if he’s ever ill, jelly will be coming. The thing is, yes, its pure sugar and water, but then when you or your little one is poorly and not eating, it’s a great way to ensure you both stay hydrated. And they will love you for it too.

I always said that when J grew up he wouldn’t be watching lots of television but if there’s illness in the house, there is a great selection of educational programmes that will keep everyone entertained. I’m thinking here of Numberblocks and Alphablocks in particular – that way at least they’re still vaguely taking on board easy Maths and phonics even if they are missing days from school.

Rest. This is by far the most important thing you can do where at all possible. Sometimes it’s easier said than done when you’re both ill, but see if your partner or a friend/family member can pop in if need be to take over on the care duties, and if you’re contagious and can’t even venture outside, then try and encourage quiet time.

I have to say that after this week, I’ll be glad to see the end of the illness, and now that we’re heading towards spring, hopefully that will be the end of the deluge of winter style bugs.

Hopefully when all is said and done, you have an understanding boss or company who has been sympathetic to your need to either work from home if your child has been off ill, or if you have too.

Illness is your body’s way of saying it needs to rest and the most important thing that all of us have, is our health. So please respect it and look after yourself as much as you can.

Sending lots of support your way… x

How Changing Your Mindset Can Make a Huge Difference To Your Life As A Working Mum…

For those of you not familiar with my story, everything changed for me when I had my son four and a half years ago.

Up until that point, I had been career focused and thought nothing of working from early until late to get the best possible results for both my clients and the company I worked for. But I struggled with returning to work, mainly because I was only getting to see my little boy for half an hour every day Monday to Friday. It’s not what I’d signed up for when I became a Mum. Added into the mix was a severe case of Separation Anxiety and what it culminated in was a very unhappy person indeed.

Nicola J Rowley Author and Founder of the Working Mum Association

Something had to change and without realising it at the time that change had to come from me.

I spent a lot of time looking at where I wanted to be, what kind of life I wanted us to have and how we could get there. And the unavoidable truth was, I had to change the way I looked at things. I had to embrace positivity and make things happen myself.

Never being one to shy away from a challenge, I began looking for ways that I could improve so that I could become the best version of myself. A lot changed for me when I read The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, and I started to embrace a more positive approach to everything. I began getting up early, journaling, exercising for just 10 minutes every day and almost overnight I felt much better.

By this time I’d just started a new role where I’d successfully negotiated working one day a week from home as well as starting and finishing hours that worked better for me and my family.

Admittedly international travel was involved, but it was also a Maternity Cover contract and that was a conscious decision that helped me know that an end was in sight at the end of the 12 months.

And whilst I was in this job, I successfully self-published and launched my first children’s book and I started the Working Mum Association.

Both of these things fed into my dual purpose in life that I’d identified during that period, where quite frankly I pretty much hit rock bottom. But now both of these things, (helping children love reading and writing and building a supportive community for working mums so they would never feel alone) were starting to take shape.

Working Mum Association

And I want to let you know that no matter where you are in the world, or what your life is like as a working mum right now, you too can make a change.

Step by step, day by day. It’s so true that anything is possible. I’m living proof that you can change and make the changes you need that will make you happier and eventually be able to do what you always wanted to do.

And yes, of course, there will always be challenges along the way. Life isn’t going to just be plain sailing once you have this all figured out. But by embracing change, no matter how small, things start to shift and align and opportunities you had never considered before start to come your way.

So please know that if you’re looking to change your job, or start your own business or just spend more time with your family, all of this is achievable.

You just need to draw up a plan. Get intentional about where you want to be and by when and then really focus on setting yourself goals and targets that are measurable so you know when you have made it there.

And celebrate every little win along the way, bearing in mind how far you will have travelled to get there.

We’re all on a journey and as working mums hopefully by now you have worked out that as part of this community, you’re now no longer alone.

To join our hugely supportive Facebook Group for the Working Mum Association – just visit it HERE

International Women’s Day – Stress And The Impact On You As a Working Mum

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I’d like to focus on a topic that resonates with working mums on a daily basis; stress and the impact it can have on both you, and those closest to you.

Researchers across the world have found that the stress levels of working mums are much higher compared to those women who dedicate all their time to either parenting or working.

Is it any wonder – with the long hours, lack of sleep and plate juggling that we do on a daily basis?

So what can we do to try and make the situation a bit better for ourselves?

Nicola J Rowley Founder of the Working Mum Association on International Womens Day and Stress
Nicola J Rowley, Founder of the Working Mum Association

I know I say this all the time but your health and your well-being are just as important if not more so than those around you because who will help them if you’re not there?

So if everything feels like it’s getting too much, please step away from the situation that’s stressing you out the most. Sometimes just a five minute walk around the block to breathe in some fresh air and try to re-frame how you’re feeling can really help.

Sometimes just sharing a problem can also really help so if you have a fellow mum that you can confide in, then all the better. Of course, feel free to share away in the Working Mum Association Facebook group too – that’s why it’s a Closed group and we’re there to support you.

Please also take a look at what can be done in terms of outsourcing. Is there someone else such as a colleague that can help you? And if the issue that’s causing you the most concern is to do with family life, then please lean on those nearest to you.

Suffering in silence as you try and get everything done is never a good thing.

You will only become more stressed and it will become a vicious circle, from which you will find it harder to escape.

Outsourcing is a great idea especially if you’re feeling like you can’t stay on top of everything in the way that you would like to. Get a cleaner, so you have more time to spend with your family. Use your journey to and from work to maximise the precious little time you have and complete a weekly internet grocery shop. And breathe.

The reason that yoga is so good for us is not just about the stretching, but it is about allowing yourself to breathe deeply and positively and to concentrate only on your breaths. In the time that you practice this, or any form of meditation, it will help you to declutter your thoughts and leave at least some of the stress behind. Please try it, even if it’s just a grabbed 10 minutes every few days.

Honestly, it will help you feel more centred.

And if yoga isn’t your thing, then try some form of exercise. I’m a big fan of running – but even if you go on a long walk – you will find that you feel so much better afterwards.

Time blocking is also a great way to fight any stress you might be feeling. It allows you to assign certain tasks for set times in the day and not to veer from what you need to get done. It means you will also be super productive in your day as you will be able to avoid any distractions – social media notifications anyone?

Nicola J Rowley Founder of the Working Mum Association on International Womens Day 2019
Above all else, please look after yourself

The most important thing about stress is to give yourself time and space to not focus on the thing that’s causing all the problems. Easier said than done, but even if you manage it by concentrating on something else that the children are doing, it has to be better than getting upset about the issue at hand.

This time, should hopefully also allow you to look at any given situation with a fresh pair of eyes.

Above all else, please look after yourself. Sometimes as working mums we’re so busy looking after others that our needs fall to the bottom of the pile. Make yourself a priority and hopefully you will soon start to feel more like your old self once more.

And on this International Women’s Day please take time out to recognise the amazing things that you do on a daily basis. You really are incredible… x