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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

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

Use the Mummy Guilt to Help Not Hinder You…

The one thing that no one mentioned when you became a Mum for the first time and decided to return to work was the Mummy Guilt.

Each and every one of us will experience this at some time as a Mum. It goes part and parcel with taking on the parenting mantel. But it seems to be far worse for Working Mums, who have to juggle competing demands and priorities around the clock.

Nicola J Rowley Founder of the Working Mum Association on the Mummy Guilt

But the thing is you don’t need to see the guilt as a negative thing that has to be overcome. It can actually be quite positive and here’s why.

You can use how you’re feeling to spur you on to achieve more in your day.

Parking the guilt at the office door is a good thing. Remember, you’re setting the best example ever; you’re helping your children to become independent and resourceful.

Instead of feeling like you’re handing them over for someone else to look after, re-frame it so you make the most of the time that you do have together. And that time becomes even more precious.

It means you will feel more motivated to plan fun activities and days out for when you’re not in work.

You will be the fun Mummy when you’re around, not the Mummy who’s knee deep in chores (outsource everything at any given opportunity for your own preservation).

And you will be the best version of yourself because you will also feel more fulfilled and still have your own identity.

There are so many times when the Mummy Guilt will, of course, make you feel like rubbish. But if you re-frame it and carry on, then at least you will have made the best of it.

There is no magic formula or wand to wave as the Mummy Guilt creeps up on the best of us. It’s at its worst when your child is too ill to go to nursery or school but well enough to be up and about and you have to juggle working from home and looking after them at the same time. But it’s nothing that a small dose of television won’t solve and there’s some great educational content available nowadays which can help you get through any key meetings.

There will no doubt be those who will scoff at such an idea – but then they haven’t had a four-year-old walk up to them, shut the lid of their laptop whilst they’re typing and say, “enough Mummy, it’s my time now.”

Or the other spectacular one I once had, which was “Mummy I don’t love you anymore,” because I dared to be working.

I’ll admit it, that one really got to me and I’m not sure how productive I was after that.

The thing to remember with the Mummy Guilt is that it’s ever present.

But until employers start realising that we don’t need to be chained to our desks from the hours of 9am-5pm and if we work from stupid o’clock in the morning, take a breather and then again until stupid o’clock at night so we can make it all work, it is what it is.

It is though forever a juggle. I’ve switched to working on a freelance basis so I’m able to make the school run, and be there as much as possible for J. But with it comes the uncertainty of earning enough from month to month, and all those things that never bothered me when I was in a pre-child phase.

Whichever path you go down, there is always a trade-off. I have to get up crazily early to be able to fit everything in during the day and to stay on top of what I have to do. Yes I’m tired, but I keep going because he needs me to and hopefully somewhere down the line I’m helping you too as a Working Mum. At least hopefully you will realise that you’re not alone in your journey. And you’re certainly not alone in feeling the Mummy Guilt, day in day out.  Just use it to become even stronger, more resilient and even more fabulous than you already are… x

PS If you would like to feel more support, inspiration and motivation as a working mum, come and join us in our Facebook group. Together, we’re stronger

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.

Why Working Mums Need to Know They’re Not Alone

Nicola J Rowley the Founder of the Working Mum Association on Loneliness and Working Five years ago J was born and just like most first time mums experience, my world was turned upside down and inside out. It was far more than just the lack of sleep or that initial lack of routine. Something in me literally shifted. I had so much love for this little person that I immersed myself so fully in his well-being and care that I lost my own identity.

And then there were the tears.

At first, everyone assumed it was the so-called ‘baby blues’ but there is never really a one-stop explanation as to why you feel this way. Why something so seemingly innocent can set you off.

I remember the day that I was waiting in line in the Apple store as my iPad had seemingly given up the ghost. J could only have been about five weeks old at the time. I’d taken my number and had sat patiently for 45 minutes waiting to be seen. Thankfully, this was also the longest time that J had ever slept during the day. But as a new mum still finding her way in the world, after an hour I knew he wasn’t going to last much longer. So when I went to the counter to ask about my number, which hadn’t been called – and was told “Oh that was called half an hour ago, and when no one came forward, we moved on. We’re on to seeing other customers now,” I spontaneously dissolved into tears in front of everyone.

That poor sales assistant probably didn’t know what had hit him and I’ll admit it wasn’t my finest moment but the iPad had come to symbolise, in a very short space of time, a way to stay in touch with the outside world. The world with no spit up, no smelly nappies, no endless walks around the block to ensure there might be some rest from the crying of which there was a lot.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course, but the truth was, despite having so much love for this little person, I had never felt so alone.

The mental health charity, Mind says that people usually feel lonely for one of two reasons:

  • They simply don’t see or talk to anyone very often
  • Even though they’re surrounded by people, they don’t feel understood or cared for

During my maternity leave, knowing what I know now – I can identify with both of those.

We’d joined an NCT group, though because I’d wanted to do a specific maternity keep fit class, which was only held on a Tuesday night, I’d had to look at classes outside of the village where we live. I naively thought it wouldn’t matter.

In reality what it means was that each member of the group although not far away was more scattered.

We used to meet regularly on a Wednesday afternoon, the same time when all the local mums to me were going along to the nearby children’s centre and forging those early friendships.

But it didn’t take long before I felt like an outsider.

It didn’t start that way of course, but it became apparent that there was a lack of understanding if I was tearful about something and after the sleep training (which had to happen to safeguard our sanity), myself and J were always the last ones to arrive. Then on any rare nights out, I couldn’t afford to spend as much, and would always be the one bowing out early, mainly because I had work commitments the next day.

I was lucky in that I had a lovely friend who was introduced to me not long after J was born whose daughter was the same age. We used to meet and go for long walks to catch up. But outside of those times, it was very much just myself and J.

And then of course after a year I went back to work.Working Mum Association Supporting Inspiring and Motivating Working Mums Everywhere

Now, this is the point for most mums where they start to feel more isolated. They are no longer able to hang out and have playdates or meet by the swings because they have now swapped mid-week nappy changing for meetings and achieving a decent ROI for their companies, whilst they focus on their KPI’s.

I was talking to a fellow working mum just last week and she mentioned how when she did have a day off, she would go along to the toddler groups and just feel like she was completely by herself. There were the mums who all knew each other, and then there was her, sat on the sidelines with her daughter.

And that’s why I launched the Working Mum Association in July 2017, because I never wanted any other mum to go through what I had done. The massive shift in returning to work, feeling that I was doing a daily juggle whilst missing my son terribly was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do.

And that is why no working mum should feel she is alone. The Working Mum Association provides an online community of like-minded women and mums, who do what you do – the daily juggle. The mums who balance work life and family life and miss their children so much, and some days it really sucks.

But there is also so much to be grateful for. The fact that we’re setting an example by showing our children we’re strong, independent women who work hard for a living. And the fact they will grow up knowing their mum did all she could to give them a better future.

Together as a community of working mums, we’re stronger.

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