There's been a lot of press and debate about flexible working, mumpreneurs, mindfulness and women in business this year. All these topics are interconnected into the trials and tribulations that come hand in hand with motherhood and raising a family. Having been on mat leave and attended a fair few events and talks this year on all these subjects, all close to my heart, it's inspired me to write and share a bit about personally what I've learnt from them. How they are inspiring me to make changes in my life and what I'm up to at the moment.
Back in September I decided not to return to work after having my second child (I was due to go back in January), this was something I had never planned to do, I was always going to be a working mum. This was a really hard decision to make and one that didn't come lightly, many weeks of weighing the pros and cons and thinking about the future and what was important, not just to me, but my family. Having worked for over 12 years (in the amazingly bonkers, brilliant and hard working world of fashion buying), I always thought I had to have a steady job and that was just 'what you did' your whole life unless you were lucky enough to win the lottery. Motherhood changes that all and you don't know it until you're in it how hard juggling work and family life is. Since becoming a mum and learning new skills, from dealing with constant evolving change, demanding little personalities, multitasking a million things at once to realising how we are all just winging it you realise how important family life is. Its made me open my eyes really wide and re-think my values and purpose and realise how quickly time passes. I also realise life is a changing, evolving journey and you need to adapt it to suit yourself and your set up as you grow. Nothing is impossible and we can all be brave and do things we never thought we could. Having experienced child birth, post natal depression and some serious lifestyle changes I literally feel anything is achievable and motherhood has empowered me to be the best I can (albeit through a coffee haze).
When I began to realise that going back to work meant having two children in nursery (serious £££, in our case this would be £3,500/ month for two in full time nursery care) and that all your hard work won't even cover the extortionate monthly fees it just doesn't seem to add up. Add to that the cost of your mortgage and monthly outgoings (living in London prices) and you're crying into your coffee. Commuting to the other side of London, going on long trips to the Far East and US leaving a logistical childcare nightmare behind and strains on your partner (who has his own other baby - his own business). Trying to prove yourself at work and rushing out the door an hour earlier than anyone else to do the nursery pick up (having arrived an hour earlier but no one sees that!). It just seemed like the wrong decision to make and sometimes you have to go with your gut and heart and it was all telling me - DON'T GO BACK! I want to spend time with my kids and be around for when Finn starts school next September. I need flexibility at this stage of our lives. Putting him in pre and after school clubs and paying someone else to pick him up from the school gates just feels so wrong. I know women all over the country have to do this everyday, I know sometimes we don't even have a choice so I feel very lucky to have the support of my family and husband around me to make a change in my life that will suit us, for now. Although financially we will be the tightest ever but the happy moments I can have with my family are sure to compensate for the shortfall right? And who knows, the door isn't completely shut, I may change my mind and be desperate to go back to 'proper' work when the kids are at school but for now this works, and this feels right.
The first event I wanted to mention was the All About Me Mama Mothers Meeting // Quility App Event. I've been going to Mothers Meetings on and off for a couple of years now and they are a great place to network, make new friends, contacts and get totally motivated and inspired. I've made a whole new girl gang of friends and we support and advise one another and have built our own new community. This event was to promote the Quility mindfulness for mothers app. Endorsed by the likes of Edith Bowman who was on the Q&A panel about all things 'me first' alongside insta mum, mother_of_daughters, Clemmie Hooper, Anna Whitehouse of Mother Pukka fame and Jenny Scott who set up Mothers Meetings. We started with a mindfulness meditation session by expert Tessa Watt who had the room in a state of trance (albeit a few proseccos to help chill us out!) with her soft words and gentle tone. Yes we all want to restore calm and balance in our lives and it's the holy grail of seeking balance as a mum, something I often don't feel in control of and stricken by mum guilt and parenting fails.
There were some good tips such as taking photos on instagram - If you take photos of your family life hold off putting them up on social media until the end of the day. Make the most of those moments you have with them, be 'in the moment', get off your phone!! (Guilty). I also liked Edith's advice about getting your kids involved in as much as possible (her son enjoys using the quility app himself), play i-spy in the car, engage with them, go camping and let your phones and iPads run out of battery and be at one all together living in the moment. I genuinely do want to do a camping trip with my kids and no connection to the outside world... watch this space...not sure the husband's so keen though...
What did I learn?
Taking time out for yourself - be it 2 minutes in the shower or taking 10 minutes in the morning to do some deep breathing before getting up is really important in setting the standard for the type of parent you want to be. If you're stressed and overloaded this is only going to show and take a strain on your family life and reflect in how your kids grow up to be. I have downloaded the quility app and it is fantastic, can't recommend it enough. There are various guided meditation exercises that you can pick from but it really does need to be built into part of your everyday life. I have to admit I am not good at prioritising it and taking time out to commit to it as much as I would like. It's an ongoing skill I'm trying to get better at and I need to do it more. I do feel like I am more mindful about what I do now though if anything it does make me more conscious of the fact that I need to be better at it! 2017 will be all about taking time for myself and disconnecting from computers and mobile phones more! Much easier said than done.
You can download the Quility mindfulness app for free here
Next up was the Mother Pukka Flex appeal campaign in Trafalgar Square. Now you'll see a running theme from this year - Anna from Mother Pukka has been a massive influence on my life and at a lot of the events I have been to (sorry if you feel I've been stalking you Anna :) ). She is a total inspiration to modern motherhood and having met her a few times now is the nicest person you'll meet, down to earth with a great sense of humour and mega supportive of all mums and mumpreneurs. She's been heading up a new campaign called Flex appeal which is all about promoting flexible working in business and finding 'work that works'. I felt super honoured to be part of the flash mob dance at Trafalgar square (the first of many to come apparently) to help promote this cause which you can see here. Yes I got a little bit of flexible work at my old job after going back from mat leave - I could leave early to pick up my son and worked 4 days a week (although lets be real I did often do work on Fridays and wasn't paid for it) but ultimately a career in fashion buying and young kids does not go hand in hand and the reality of flexibility around my role was pretty limited when I had to manage such a big team and had meetings everyday. Super sad to leave a career I had worked blood sweat and tears over to get to the top of my game and it does feel a shame that so many industries lose such great talent to motherhood, it seems all kinds of wrong!
Anna has had great success with her campaign and seen some big companies sign up to the Working Forward pledge. I have high hopes for the future of our children and that the landscape will be changed, go Mother Pukka!!!
The third event I went to was the Santander Breakthrough// Start up Women event in Spitalfields Market. The panel, hosted by June Sarpong, included Kelly Hoppen OBE, Kanya King OBE, Jacqueline Gold OBE, Connor Walker and Melissa Obadash. There was a lot of discussion about women and leadership in business, leaning in and the push for normalising the flexible way people people work these days. Also that both men and women need to do flexible working, it affects all of us. Top tips for starting your own business included - build a network of people you respect and/or admire around you to meet with and exchange ideas. You need constant advice, perspective and encouragement to keep you going so make sure you have those safety walls around you. They also highlighted that you really need to know your unique selling point, what is going to set you apart from the crowd to stand out?
There was a lot of talk around achievements (and boy were there some serious achievers in this room!) including advice on emailing yourself your biggest achievements every few months to remind yourself what a great job you're doing and to really highlight what you've achieved, don't be scared. Also that any success you need to prove to yourself, not anyone else - great but tough advice!
I also attended the Motherland (sadly this online magazine for mums has since shut it doors) Women and Work panel and Q&A event with the Step up Club, Motherpukka (hi again Anna!) and Mentor MatcHER. This panel talk was about all things women and work gave some good advice to mums out there and how to juggle it all, flexible working, confidence in the workplace and starting a business.
What I learnt?
Remember why and what you are doing it for - FAMILY. Family is the most important priority.
Dress for the role - if I'm on mum duty comfort takes priority but if you're working (even if its just at home) and need a smarter or stylish head on dress to suit that way then you can switch from role to role...this will also help with confidence in the right situation
Lets make change happen - Anna yes!! Change is coming and it's going to be a revolution! Everyone needs to ask their work about flexible working and finding work that suits your lifestyle.
Don't compare yourselves to others. Stay in your lane - don't get distracted by what other people are doing.
When women support women amazing things happen. Have a network of friends and family around to support you. Cull any negative people from your life and unfollow on instagram if they drive you mad or you don't believe in what they're doing.
Finally I wanted to mention the Be Badass YOU Workshop I attended run by The Supercharged Club. Emma and Mary are two down to earth straight talking mums on a mission to make other mums feel good about themselves. They are two of the nicest and inspiring women I've met and I can now proudly call two of my friends. I learnt how to set small, achievable goals - in my case I wanted to stop using my phone so much in the evenings. Lying in bed scrolling through instagram for an hour each night I realised was not a healthy way to unwind and relax and I have to say my husband didn't really approve either! We learnt about ways and techniques to help what we were setting out to do (to enjoy it) and sent ourselves a letter about how we should be feeling 6 weeks from the goal setting...mine is due any day now! I have to say its still an ongoing battle but I am now leaving my phone outside my bedroom at nights and I do feel better for it. I am m0re mindful of it too. We also learnt about posture (that darn mum hunch) and practical, achievable, stretching exercises we could work into our day and I now have a stretchy band that sits by my computer (that I do need to use more) for stretches. Natalie from Style Me Sunday was also there to give advice on clothes, colours and the power of a great lipstick. This has definitely been a game changer for me this year - pop some lippie on and I feel so much better about myself!
So that finally leads on to what Im up to now....Everyone says oh so you must be just doing your blog full time? Yes I am still doing my blog but monetising it is an ongoing challenge, not even nearly enough to cover the bills sadly. But please continue to support my blog, comment on my posts and follow me on social media to see my exciting journey ahead, I really do appreciate every single like and share I get!!
So I am very excited to be working with Olive Loves Alfie in re-launching their website in 2017 - a partnership and new project that means flexibility around my family life - one that suits me well right now. Watch this space...