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Mums Supporting Mums

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 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

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

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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