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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

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

On Top of Things…

Staying on top of things is the aim of the game at this end at the moment.

That’s not always easy when you’re up at 3am to look after a little person’s needs, and then feel as if you’re pulled in every which way like a stretchy toy throughout the day.

Running on empty is what we as working mums do best – tending to everyone else’s needs rather than our own.

But once in a while it’s great to set aside some time for ourselves. Doing something little that will help re-new those all important energy levels will really help you have a sense of perspective on everything that’s happening in your life right now.

It’s why tonight I’ve made the time to finally book in to get my hair done and to find time for an all important massage. Self care is so important. No one will thank you if you run out of steam and there are no prizes for just keeping on going no matter what.

Hope this helps you if you’re feeling overwhelmed and under pressure to keep going no matter what… x

Never Giving Up…

Never giving up…

One of the biggest and most important things that my mum instilled in me, was never to give up.

It’s stood me in good stead over the years, even when the going has been tough and I’ve questioned whether I could do what I started out to do.

Long before J even entered our lives, I knew that I wanted a child; I had too much love to give for it to not be invested in a little person who could be nurtured and guided. But life has a way of throwing you curve balls and he took at least three years to arrive.

During that time there was plenty of despair, tears and sadness, but above all else an unswerving belief that one day that little person would arrive. And I never gave up even when I was told it just wasn’t possible. Even when against the odds and a severe case of tokophobia later, we then went through a further week of him being in intensive care.

Sometimes deep down, you just know. And you don’t know how you do, but it’s as if it’s your destiny pointing you in the right direction.

Sometimes though it’s easy to ignore the path that is in front of you – and what you originally think you want isn’t where you end up.

But life has a funny way of working out in the end, and whilst it’s hard to see where we’ll be in a few years, let’s celebrate each and every moment of the here and now.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and what have you learnt from it?

What’s Your Vision?

At the start of this year, I created a vision board of things I wanted to achieve and I set goals for each month to ensure that I stay on track to get to where I want to.

One of the key things for me is getting a balance between working and being a mum to J. It’s not easy and at the moment, I am like the proverbial stretchy man but I know that I’ll get there.

I said that I wanted to book 12 more weddings in by the end of this month – and I’m pleased to say I’m almost there – having secured eight already. I also wanted to be able to take the family to Disney World Florida and this is also now about to become a reality.

You see the more you set clear intentions, the more likely they are to happen, and the harder you will work to ensure they become a reality.

So what things would you like to achieve this year? Let’s see if we can help and support each other to get to where we would all like to be.

Here is my vision board so that you can see how I set about everything… x

Setting Goals…

The importance of goal-setting…

Have you ever tried to set yourself goals and if so how did you get on?

The reason I ask is that at the start of this year, I began to get laser-focused on what really matters to me and I thought about how I could achieve it.

So I began to set goals for the year and then broke them down into monthly and where I could weekly ones so they became more achievable.

And lo and behold it’s working!

In January, I said that by the end of April I wanted to have booked in 12 more weddings to photograph. By 30th April, I had secured 10 bookings, and have just taken the 12th booking in addition to the others I already had. I’m seriously so excited that everything is coming together as I’d hoped.

When have you become intentional about something and what has happened as a result?

Would love to hear your stories… x

Feeling Bad…

Feeling bad (or not as the case may be)…

Morning ladies and here’s to a fabulous start to the week.

I had a great meeting on Thursday, albeit extremely intensive, with a business coach for a project centred around the WMA and we discussed all things about being a working mum.

What I came away thinking is that there are so many common threads no matter who you are or what your background is.

As a rule of thumb we tend to put the little people first and everyone else we care about, ahead of our needs. Then there is the feeling of constantly being torn between making the right decisions that will impact on others. And then there is the feeling that you’re never quite giving enough in any one area of your life.

But please remember who made these rules and decisions in the first place? And it is absolutely within your power to shift the goal posts to beat any of the feelings you’re currently having.

Please see this as a timely reminder to go easy on yourself and to give yourself permission to just do something for you once in a while.

Whilst there are many days when I’m sure you’re like me and have no idea how you will even get to the end of it, I still believe that each of us, deserves a break every now and then. And if that means that you let up on some of the high standards that we set ourselves as working mums, just once in a while then so be it.

So on this Tuesday morning, let’s make a commitment to doing one thing this week for ourselves. As a starter for ten, I’m going to read some books that I’ve been meaning to start for a long time. Make yourself accountable by leaving your commitment to yourself in the comments below… x

Listen to Yourself!

I started writing a post this morning at 8:30am. I will now finish writing this for you – think it pretty much sums up what I was planning to share with you.

All too often as working mums, we’re pulled in every direction, with lots of people and things competing for our attention.

At the moment at this end, we have a poorly little man, I have a horrendous toothache and work is as busy as ever. But there is so much to be grateful for, not least our upcoming holiday, which I began dreaming about within a few months of J being born.

You see there will always be competing demands on our time and everyone will want things from you as if it were yesterday.

But what matters most is this. You are surrounded by those who care and even the smallest things like getting a car park space should and hopefully will still put a smile on your face.

This is a stretchy man. One day last week he was over-stretched by our 3-year-old and his head came off.

Even though he was just a toy – It’s still a lesson to us all.

Listen to your body (your health is the most important thing you have) and listen to your heart. Doing what makes you happy is so important.

And if you’re surrounded by things or people that don’t put a smile on your face and you feel stretched to the max; then start putting a plan in place so you can walk away or change the situation you’re in.

Lovely ladies, never forget that you’re in the driving seat and no one else. Life is short – let’s make the most of it… x