We’ve signed the Armed Forces Covenant

Armed Forces Covenant logo next proudly support those who serve

Army of Mums has signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant.  We’re committed to helping families of our Armed Forces find work.  We are also proud to be an armed forces-friendly organisation.

 What is the Armed Forces Covenant?

The Armed Forces Covenant is a government initiative that sets out the relationship between the nation and the armed forces. It recognises that the whole nation has a moral obligation to members of the armed forces and their families, and it establishes how they should expect to be treated.

The covenant exists to redress the disadvantages that the armed forces community may face in comparison to other citizens and to recognise sacrifices made.

For businesses, the covenant is a public pledge to show their support and commitment to helping the armed forces community.

To find out more and to make your pledge click here

Army of Mums and Armed Forces Covenant logos together

Why did Army of Mums sign up?

Beyond borrowing of the word Army, we see a lot of crossover between the experiences of many mums and the experiences of partners and spouses of Armed Forces personnel.  And the word sacrifice sums it up.

When talking to mums, we often hear this word.  They’ve accepted a pause in their career paths for the greater good of their family.  That doesn’t sit well with us, so we strive to find opportunities for mums that use their skills, on their terms.

The same is true for many spouses and partners of armed forces personnel.  They too often sacrifice their careers to support the career of their serving partner.

The possibility of being relocated at short notice can interrupt careers, training and educational opportunities; this often makes employers cautions when it comes to selecting someone with an armed forces connection for a role.

When it comes to childcare, armed forces families are often under more pressure.  A position in the Armed Forces is rarely a predictable 9 to 5 career.  And that makes family dynamics and work another challenging path to navigate.

Sacrifices are made.  And these create stresses and strains in relationships.  They can even curtail a serving partner’s career as a more equitable, long-term family dynamic is sought.

How can Army of Mums help?

If we can help mums keep in touch with their careers, we believe we can help our Armed Forces families too.  Even if it’s just short-term engagements that build confidence, grow networks and secure financial returns – it’s a step in the right direction.

We hope to have a bank of businesses that are leading the flexible working way.  And a wealth of projects and tasks that support remote and flexible working.

Therefore, we’re only too happy to welcome this important group of people who, like many mums and dads, feel an element of sacrifice when it comes to their career.

An armed forces Family on a bench with Army of Mums and Covenant logos

How did you hear about it?

We were lucky enough to strike a conversation with mum of two, Amanda Johnson.

Amanda had an illustrious career serving in the Royal Navy for 23 years as well as being a military spouse.  Amanda’s husband was in the Army and so has first-hand experience of some of the sacrifices armed forces families have to make.  Now, Amanda runs VACT.co.uk , voted the UK’s leading VA training resource, where she fulfils the roles of a business coach, mentor and trainer with a focus on supporting virtual assistants.

Army of Mums is here to help

If you’re an armed forces family member that’s had to make career sacrifices – we’d love to hear from you

And we invite you to sign up to Army of Mums.  When we launch, we look forward to introducing you to businesses that welcome you and value flexible working.

#forourforces  #getthingsdone

Finding a Work/Life Balance in Adland.

Jo Coombs is mum of two and CEO of OgilvyOne, one of the world’s leading customer engagement agencies, shares her quest to find a work/life balance as well her thoughts on what structural changes are needed to bed-in flexible working across her industry.

Picture of Jo Combs the CEO of OgilyOne and mums of two

The adland landscape

With a reputation for long days & short-turnaround times, the advertising industry has begun to question how we can shape our ways of working to create conditions that support a better work/life balance for our employees. It’s an issue that a decade ago wasn’t without its justifications when you consider presenteeism; how could one do anything outside of the office when the tools used for work were exclusively held inside a company’s four walls – Hello days of PC’s, landlines, fax machines & photocopiers.

Now, in 2017, we have never been more able to mould ourselves to flexing schedules; to dial-in, virtually make an appearance – modern-day ways of working that should put ‘Work/Life Balance’ in logical reach. It’s no secret that happier employees make for better work, and increasingly we are becoming better acquainted with the knowledge that to create work reminiscent of the real world our employees also need to live a life outside the advertising bubble.

As leaders, we need to encourage our pool of talent to prioritise family & pursue interests that provide them with the opportunity to gain knowledge, perspective and balance. I caught up with Campaign Magazine to discuss the quest to provide a Work/Life balance, why it remains a crucial talking point & how we can best go about achieving this.

Scales showing work/life balance

1. Do you think it is possible to work in advertising and have a work/life balance?

Not only do I think it is possible I think it is essential to have a good work/life balance. If we are not out there living our lives in the real world then we cannot do our job in creating communications that engage consumers. The more we can do, see, read and embrace with both arms the more we can bring to our jobs.

None of my friends outside of work are from this industry. They are the first to say to me “stop telling us you can’t come out because you’re working on a pitch, just write your silly proposal and come out. It’s hardly rocket science”. And they are right. (Wrong about the proposal being silly but right about us not solving for world peace). Sometimes we get so consumed by what we do that it’s easy to lose perspective. And that’s usually at the very time when perspective is exactly what you need. What we do is important but it’s not everything.

Clients appreciate interesting people who bring fresh perspectives more than agency people who take the job too seriously. I think we need to be accommodating of people’s other interests. At OgivlyOne we have people who are DJ’s & actors, studying acupuncture, training for competitive iron man competitions. We also have an ex Olympic fencer and one of the 4 women who rowed around the world last year.

Work shouldn’t be confined to 9-5 and ‘life’ shouldn’t be confined to evenings and weekends. A real work/life balance is having one life and enjoying all aspects of it – the bits you get paid for and the bits you don’t. And as employers, we should see value in our people doing other things because it makes them more interesting people.

For me, every single thing I do or that happens to me is a learning experience. And every single one of them makes me a better person and that makes me better at my job.

2. What structural changes would encourage greater work/life balance?

I think we need to realise that the advertising world in which we work, whilst already one of the more tolerant, inclusive and progressive industries, is by no means perfect so there is still a long way to go. As an industry have a chance to lead the way. But to be more inclusive & progressive we need to be more flexible and offer more flexibility in the way that our people work.

Unfortunately, it’s still only a minority that chooses flexible working arrangements. And until this percentage increases, there is a considerable divide between those working flexibly and those not. With those who work full-time feeling resentment that they are constantly having to pick up the pieces for those who leave early or work part-time, and those who work flexibly feeling guilty because they work differently or leave before the rest of their team. We need to get over this.

We need to increase the percentage of people who work flexibly. And that means encouraging more people to work in different ways, places and times by not only allowing them to do so but also incentivising them to. And leaders need to set an example.

I had 12 months off when I had my children. Now I work 9 days out of 10. 8 in the office, 1 at home. Before I had children I actually worked a 4 day week for 5 years. I was offered it by our CEO at the time and I remember saying to him “why are you offering me this, I don’t even have children?” His response was “what difference does that make, if it will make you happier then it will be good for us”. It did make me happier. But I also said to him “aren’t you worried that if you offer me this, others will want it too?” His response was “I hope they do”. The sad thing is they didn’t.

Now 10 years on, I’m in his shoes and now I am trying hard to bring more flexibility to how we work. Because according to research once more than 30% of a workforce is working flexibly then you reach a tipping point and the whole organisation goes from seeing it as a problem to seeing it as an opportunity. Resulting in the entire organisation is more nimble, agile and responsive. It basically cures itself.

The organisational culture shifts and business results improve. Companies in countries like the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden have proven this to be the case. But it does require trust. We need to trust all of our employees to work responsibly and do a great job without dictating the hours or the location of when and where they work.

All the other wellbeing things we offer, like massages, yoga, acupuncture & sleep coaching, are all important but it’s actually the way we work that we need to change which is more fundamental. We need to increase flexibility in when, where and how people work in order to really practice well-being. Then the other things are added bonuses.

3. Is the notion of “bringing your whole self to work” rhetoric or reality?

I only ever take my whole self anywhere. Bits of me are pretty useless if I’m honest! If I’m not 100% present then I get no satisfaction and only do a fraction of the job. But this does require me to be able to switch modes and switch off at night. Sleep is essential. It’s the best gift you can give yourself. I’m lucky I can sleep and switch modes.

I have seen others struggle with it, particularly working mums who are woken at night and suffer from guilt during the day. I’m trying to lead by example. I’m a single mum. I have to work, but I also have to be a parent. There’s no room for guilt about either of those things. I never apologise for leaving the office to do children stuff. And I never (outwardly) show my children my upset at leaving them every day.

4. How do you bridge the divide between having a life and thriving at work?

I check-in with my team each morning (this is each of us sharing anything that might impact how we work that day – a lack of sleep perhaps, or worrying about the health of a family member or friend) for me it’s starting the day by acknowledging the other things going on in each other’s lives. Getting it out on the table helps us get on with the job with more empathy for our team around us.

I switch modes but I don’t compartmentalise. I’m still a mum even if I’m in the office. It’s just I’m focussed on work while I’m there. And for the hours I get with my children in the morning and evening I am present. I’m not taking calls or doing emails (I do that once they are asleep!). One of the things I have learned is that there really is nothing that can’t wait a couple of hours.

But you do need to be able to switch modes so you can be present in each. My commute is my switch over time. I try not to work or do lists of kids stuff. I just ‘am’ for 30 minutes. I listen to music or read. Or I just breathe. And then I before I go to sleep I always try to articulate the successes of the day (big or tiny) something that makes it worth it. That always helps me sleep.

5. Is burnout an issue in the industry?

Not as much as it used to be because people move a lot more. But still, more than it should be. None of us is paid enough to put our physical or mental health at risk.

I have always been able to work hard and long hours when needed but then switch off completely when I’m not at work. When I leave the office I go home and I carry on with the other bits of my life. In my twenties, this meant partying hard. In my thirties, it meant travelling. And now in my forties, it means trying to raise my children as best I can and helping them to be interesting people themselves.

But there have times when burnout was possible. Either because I was playing too hard or pitching too hard; basically not listening to my body. But thankfully I had an incredible mentor in Annette King and a very supportive company in OgilvyOne which has enabled me to flex how I work and what I do.

At one point I took a month off work and went to Mexico to train as a yoga instructor. It was one way of me coping at the time and giving myself the tools to cope with whatever else the future might throw at me. It’s important to recognise the source of any pressure you might feel and then seek help (internally or externally) to change the situation before you suffer.

6. What causes people to burnout?

Burnout is often due to loss of perspective through too much pressure. In most cases, the pressure comes from the individual themselves because they:

  1. Can’t say no
  2. Can’t ask for help
  3. Are trying to prove something
  4. Are in the wrong job
  5. Don’t know the signs / aren’t listening to their bodies

And whilst individuals need to be self-aware and be kind to themselves, managers also have a role to play in spotting the signs. But I think we need to ask ourselves are we giving our managers the tools to do so? And are we creating an environment where individuals feel safe to say no or ask for help?

As leaders, we do need to change the system and our ways of working, helping our organisations cure themselves by encouraging flexible ways of working and a more inclusive culture. But this isn’t a holiday camp and there is real work to be done to run a viable business in this day and age, so performance management is an important part of leadership. We obviously need to look after our people. The right people are the only thing we have. But they do have to be the right people. We need to help the wrong people find other paths (before they burnout).

Finally, what’s the one thing you need to find a work/life balance?

You have to have a passion for what you do. If you don’t enjoy what you do, you need to change it. No one is responsible for that but you. It might seem like a glib thing to say, but the day I stop really enjoying my job is the day I’m packing my bags (and the kids) and heading to India to practice yoga!

What helps you find a better work/life balance?

We’d love to read your comments about how you achieve a work/life balance.

And, to keep up-to-date with our launch plans, visit the AoM homepage and click on ‘get notified’.  Or follow us on Facebook @armyofmums

Note to readers:

This interview originally appeared as part of an article in Campaign Magazine – The world’s leading business media brand serving the marketing, advertising and media communities.  Please click through to read the full article.

Four Flexible Work Options For Mums That Pay Well

Scales depicting work and family balance through flexible working
Pic Cred: www.talentedladiesclub.com

Hi, I’m Jess from Jessica Martin Coaching. I’m a career woman and now Mum of two boys, age 9 and 5.  And I strongly believe the working world needs to become more flexible.  Only then can it benefit from the untapped pool of talent that is skilled Mums. As a rule, UK employers seem to work on a flawed principle which writes off women after childbirth if they no longer want full-time work or set hours.

Pre and post children the equation seems to be:

BEFORE CHILDREN:   Able to commit to full-time hours EQUALS well paid, high skilled work

AFTER CHILDREN: Able to commit to flexible hours EQUALS low paid, low skilled work

A better equation post children would be:

Able to commit to flexible hours EQUALS well paid, high skilled work

Often Mums move from senior management positions, such as Management Consultants or Finance Managers, and go into low paid work.  Roles like Coffee Shop Assistant or School Office Administrator are all that seem to be available for those needing to work fewer or flexible hours.

Progressive employers are changing their view of flexible workers

Flexible working, like part-time work, can often deliver increased productivity, motivation and determination to succeed over their full-time counterparts.  Aren’t employers missing a trick here? There is a massive pool of talented Mums out there, desperate to undertake rewarding work and contribute to the economy.  And employers aren’t tapping into this because for many, “flexible” has become a dirty word filled with under-performance and low motivation.

It is true to say a lot of work still operates on the principle you need to be there in person; Estate Agent, Field Sales Representative, some senior leadership roles. However, in this digital age, a lot of work can be done, in part or in full, from home.

The reality is women are just as valuable an asset in the workforce after having children as they were before.  And maybe even more so, as they learn key skills such as time management, multi-tasking, prioritisation, patience, empathy and leadership skills.  Another big advantage is that it saves on unproductive commute times.  This makes many homeworkers able and willing to get cracking earlier and finish later in the day, fitting in childcare as and when needed.

Things are getting better

The good news is some progressive employers are now realising this and starting to offer flexible working opportunities.

Mum and baby on sofa with laptop working

So here are four options for well-paid, flexible working:

1  Work for a progressive employer

Here are three sites that can do the searching for you:

  1. 2to3days.com – founded by Juliet Turnbull. Amazing flexible working opportunities, usually paying upwards of £25,000 pro-rata, and often much more.
  2. armyofMums.com – who are connecting Mums with creative work-from-home opportunities such as copywriting, design, editing and social media management
  3. digitalmums.com – offering work-from-home opportunities across all things digital including social media management.

2  Start a network marketing business

Also known as Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) these are self-employed positions working as part of a team essentially selling brands or products you are happy to recommend to your friends, family and close network. This is the modern equivalent of Avon or Tupperware (for those of us of a certain age).  Some of the more popular ones include Forever Living, Arbonne, Tropic, Utility Warehouse, Nu Skin, Neal’s Yard Remedies and Juice Plus. The list is endless. Although these can be nice little earners be warned they are not necessarily an easy option and do require some serious time commitment and focus. Many women take on one of these ventures alongside something which offers a more steady income due to the fluctuating nature of MLMs.

3  Buy into an existing franchise

Again this is self-employment and like MLM you have the backing and support of a parent brand, but there’s more autonomy and accountability with a Franchise. Some examples include Cheeki Monkey’s preloved baby and children’s markets, MAD Academy movement and dance classes, Parenting Success Coaching. The difference with Franchising is you own and operate your region or area as your own business. Whether you can decide to offer or tailor your own products to suit your area is up to the Franchise owner. Each will be different. There is normally a fairly high annual fee associated with buying into a Franchise (in the £1,000’s) and sometimes an ongoing management fee as well, so you would need to be sure you have a robust business plan to make it payback before jumping in.

4  Start your own business

The final option if none of the above float your boat is to go it alone. If you can spot a need or gap in the market and have the right experience and personal skills to make your own venture work then this could be a real option. Self-employment is increasingly popular and especially part-time for all the reasons cited here; the Office for National Statistics states the rate of self-employment grew from 3.8m to 4.6m between 2008 and 2015 with part-time self-employment rising by 88% compared to full-time at just 25%*.

I spotted a need supporting multi-level marketers with business skills training.  I get to use my own corporate experience to help them make a success of their businesses.

There is also a plethora of supportive networking groups for mums that have sprung up. For example, in the Surrey and Berkshire area, there’s Real Networking, The 10-12 Business Club, Ladies who Latte, Wrapped Up Networking and The Talented Ladies Club – all offering advice and support for those that choose to go it alone. Many are even child-friendly making them even more accessible.

In terms of further advice and support, Facebook groups are awesome for tips and testimonials of those who have been there and done it.  And there are likely to be several in your area. For example Weybridge Mummies or Cobham Mummies in Surrey.

Plus dedicated Facebook pages, such as www.facebook.com/MindMyOwnBusiness, are awesome for tips, support and guidance.

The big trade-off

There is a clear trade-off between security and autonomy here. The more autonomous you think you want to be, the more security you will most likely forego. You need to work out where you personally will feel comfortable on that continuum.

What’s new is the wealth of employed flexible working that is becoming available for mothers. The world of work really is changing, the best way to help continue in this positive direction is to be a part of it yourself!

My journey into businesses and Career Coaching

Now as a Business and Career Coach I have chosen option 4 and am dedicating my time to supporting Mums in career transition – whether that be into employed work or starting their own business. There is a huge vacuum of the right sort of support for Mums at this critical stage in their careers.  Helping them succeed at something new gives me as big a buzz as it does them.

Jessica Martin running a flexible working workshop

Jessica Martin Career Coaching offers unbiased and confidential help and guidance to help you move quickly to a more fulfilled career outcome. Please do get in touch for a free, 30 minute, no-obligation consultation:

Jessica Martin Coaching Logo

Tel: 07976 129758

Email: jessicamartincoach@gmail.com

Web: www.jessicamartincoaching.com

For details of forthcoming workshops check out www.jessicamartincoaching.com/workshops

Competition – Like and share www.facebook.com/MindMyOwnBusiness on your own Facebook with a comment on how you think the page could help Mums setting up their own business to be in with a chance of winning a FREE session of Return-to-Work Career Coaching. We’ll announce the winner on Facebook on the 31st January 2018.

What’s working for you?

We’d love to read your comments on how you made returning to work, work.  And, to keep up-to-date with our launch plans, visit the AoM homepage and click on ‘get notified’.  Or follow us on Facebook @armyofmums

*Stats from Office for National Statistics: Trends in self-employment in the UK: 2001 to 2015

Introducing Matt Mason, one of the Army of Mums team

We thought it might be nice to share a little about the Army of Mums team.  I picked the short straw so have to go first!  Here’s some fun stuff and then a little about my experience and why I think Army of Mums is such a worthwhile project. Here goes…

My best present ever

Piranha BMX Bike from the 80'sFor my 10th Birthday, as I left the school gates, mum asked me to check the front of the car.  To my joy and astonishment – I was used to hand-me-downs – there gleamed a brand new, Piranha BMX with oval tubes, stunt nuts and Shimano brakes.  I wish I still had that bike.

Sporting moment of prowess

My first try in rugby, for the Lichfield colts.  For a nanosecond, I was so chuffed as my dad was the coach.  Unfortunately, I’d run the wrong way.

Most prized possession

My grandfather’s wallet.  After I inherited it, I found a farthing hidden away in a small pocket.  It had a wren on it which was his favourite bird, so the sense of connection was even more special.

Best fancy dress?

John McEnroe being a brat When I was about seven while on a family holiday, my parents entered me into the Aberystwyth Carnival.  I was ‘Matt the Brat’; dressed in white with a tennis racket broken over my heads.  All my parents’ friends loved it. I didn’t quite appreciate how the joke was on me.

The Time I made the news

 I was riding a pony through some lanes and it fell into a ditch and got cast upside down.  I’d long been dumped on the verge so was safe and sound but it took 14 fireman and 2 policemen and 1 journalist to get the pony safely out of the ditch.  I made the Lichfield Mercury but was observed to be a 14-year-old girl.  Not a complete disaster as I was actually only 12.

What’s your perfect day?

I could happily spend all day playing with a dog on a beach.

Matt Mason playing with a dog on a beach

What’s your career background?

My first job after Uni was with HJ Heinz in their marketing department.  I started out in the with infant feeding team and then, eight years later, left as the Marketing Manager of Kids Meals, working across all of the core categories.  Coincidentally, my career at Heinz grew alongside the very first customers I was feeding baby food to.

I then moved from client to agency side working for TEQUILA\ & TBWA\ London.  As a Group Account Director, I had a broad base of clients and challenges to overcome.  I really enjoyed the move from the more corporate world of Heinz to the energy and creativity of a communications agency.

About six years ago, I realise I had only worked for two companies.  I thought it was time to mix things up a bit.  I started contracting and got the chance to work with a whole host of brands and agencies, often when they were about to do something brave.

Best Career moment

Other than starting Army of Mums, my two years working for National Citizen Service (NCS) were awesome.  Being part of a programme that helps teenagers negotiate their way into adult life was a privilege.  It’s something that I’d recommend to every 15-17 year old (and it gives parents some time off as much of it is residential – what’s to lose!).  www.ncsyes.co.uk

Why Army of Mums?

The end of my last placement with Sainsbury’s presented the perfect chance to do something for me – Army of Mums.  It’s an idea that had been brewing for a while and friends gave me the nudge to finally make it happen – and here we are.

Why is Army of Mums so important to you?

From the excellent women in business that I’ve worked with to friends with young families, it’s very apparent that work life and family life often sit at odds with each other.  Especially so for mums with younger families.  Their shared experiences left me wondering why it’s made so hard to be a great employee and a great mum.

I don’t think for a second that Army of Mums is the only answer.  But I do think, for some mums, it could play a really important role in allowing them to stay connected to their careers whilst extending the time they can give to their families.

AoM Logo #tag getthingsdone

I really want the business to be a champion of flexible working.  From marrying mums to projects and tasks they can fit around their life, to creating workspaces that support mums.  A force-for-good that, by promoting modern working practices, helps families achieve a more successful and rewarding home and work-life balance.

What about dads?

Dads are more than welcome to join and we hope, one day soon, to have something a little more tailored for them too.

Keep in touch

We’d love to hear what flexible working solutions work for you and how you make them work.

And, to keep up-to-date with our launch plans, visit the AoM homepage and click on ‘get notified’.  Or follow us on Facebook @armyofmums

My 4 top tips for returning to work

Nothing is as you think it will be when returning to work, by Helena Jevons

Since becoming a mum and returning to work, I have realised that nothing is as I thought it would be. The things I thought would be challenging have been a breeze. And the things I thought simple have been enormously challenging.
And it’s not just me! I don’t know anyone who has found motherhood as they thought it would or returning to work happening the way they assumed it would.

Applying work skills to motherhood and vice versa

Had I spent any of my pregnancy preparing for the first few months of my baby’s life – rather than living in a bubble, fitting hypnobirthing and pregnancy yoga around work – what I would have realised is that I could actually use a lot of my work skills to successfully support myself during the early weeks.
It’s those good old ‘Transferable skills’ that we’d look for when recruiting at work.  And they’re just as relevant to women who are about to take on motherhood.
A cartoon image of a rad mumAnd those same skills might just be the ones that will help you make a smooth and successful transition from full-time mum to a full-time mum who is returning to work.

Mastering your version of motherhood

It goes without saying that we’re all different. But here are the top four things, and their impact on returning to work, that I wish I’d cracked sooner!

1. Delegate

For some reason, I can delegate like a good’un at work: When somebody’s given me a title, a team and a paycheck I was great at it!  But when it came to having my first baby, I wanted to hide away from the world and try and do everything myself. Big mistake!
Sign reading delegateDelegating as a mum isn’t falling short of expectations.  It’s about getting the most out of the team around you for you and your baby’s well-being.
If you’re lucky enough to have some home-help, ask them to do the dishes.  If your partner volunteer to do the weekly shop, bite their hand off!   Look at your world around you and build your team and use them effectively.

Impact on returning to work:

It will help you share the stresses and strains of motherhood (as well as the joys).  If and when you’re ready to return to work, this same network of helpers and supporters will be there to make the transition a much smoother experience.

2. Look after YOU too

Health food to help returning to workSimple things, like eating good food, are so important.  The body has an extraordinary way of rebuilding itself after you have had a baby so getting good food in now will pay double dividends.  And if people say, ‘What can I bring?’ Ask for a meal for the freezer and not more baby-grows or flowers.

And get as much sleep as you can (so you might get near to what you’ll need).  Everyone said ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’. I either didn’t or couldn’t. We’d just moved house and it was decorated like an eighties nightmare that I felt trapped in.

80's living room

So every time DD slept, I painted, stripped, decorated or some such. It could have waited and I should have looked after myself rather than worry about how the house looked.

Impact on returning to work:

It will make you feel like a happier and better person.  A better woman and a better mum. Because of that, you will feel more YOU which will, in turn, make you feel more confident when returning to work.

3. If you have a partner, clarify how you being a mum will work

I have a partner and, don’t get me wrong, he’s a good man. But his expectation of me on maternity leave was that I was doing nothing all day at home and that he wouldn’t have to do anything around the house. Erm… WRONG.  Just because you have a baby, it doesn’t mean that you are now the skivvy.

Cartoon image showing housework toolsMy mistake was to not make this clear in advance of being sleep deprived and hormonal. He has a working day in which he does what he does to earn money. I have a working day, during which my job is to look after our baby and me. AFTER THAT we SHARE the jobs that need doing to create/maintain/develop our home: the shopping, cooking, cleaning etc.

Impact on returning to work:

Returning to work won’t feel like a scaling a cliff face.  If you’ve chosen to have a child with a partner, you’ll be used to sharing responsibilities and adapting.  It will help make this next important stage in your families development just another adaptation rather than a complete reboot of your family dynamics.

4. Listen, learn and then adapt to make things work for YOU

My best example is that I wish I’d given myself permission to combination feed (may God strike me down). I’m a science-based, well-educated woman who breastfed her two children for three years solid, WHAT WAS I THINKING!! Of course, I was thinking that I needed to give my baby the best start in life – the long-term impact on everything from your child having fewer allergies to being less likely to be coeliac etc. etc. was all so compelling.

But if I’d given myself permission to combination feed, I would have actually given myself some much-needed freedom. Instead, I militantly persevered with the breastfeeding for the first 18 months when I could have been just a little pragmatic and made my life that little bit easier.

You may fancy doing baby-led weaning and your baby will only eat puree. You may want to use a cot from day one but your child will only sleep on your chest. Or, you may think you will leave your baby to cry but be unable to bear it. Allow yourself to be whatever type of mother you are, and stay away from anyone who doesn’t support you.

Impact on returning to work:

Baby boy playing with toy train

Only by finding your boundaries as you go will you figure out how you’re going to manage your return to work.  And that’s, to a large extent, a process of trial and error, as you discover what does and doesn’t work for you and your babe.

Grow your emotional and mental strength to help you get ready for returning to work

This isn’t an exhaustive list.  It’s just the things I’d wish I’d got to grips with earlier on because it would have made me happier and healthier.  This, in turn, would have put me in a stronger emotional and mental position to go back and negotiate the return to work I actually wanted.  And that’s the first step to returning to work, as it may or may not turn out like you thought it would and you may need a fair bit of mettle to get things as you need them to be.

Hipster woman with tattoos and child

Finally, use this time wisely.  Work out how you’ve changed, what you want and the kind of life you want to create for yourself, your family and your future.

P.S. What nobody also tells you is how many bananas and batteries you’re going to need. If you have a baby shower, ask for shares in Chiquita and Duracell, not nappies and wipes.

What’s working for you?

We’d love to read your comments on how you made returning to work, work.  And, to keep up-to-date with our launch plans, visit the AoM homepage and click on ‘get notified’.  Or follow us on Facebook @armyofmums

I’m Helena, founder of Cherry Sites a web design business which offers small businesses and mumpreneurs with great value business consultancy, brand and web design. I’m mum of DS Luke (3) and DD Charlotte (2) and most recently the founder of Beanstalk Box.
Beanstalk BoxBeanstalk box logo is a monthly subscription box of seeds, crafts and flowers delivered to your door to make growing together fun and easy.
I live near Brighton and I am glad to be now putting twenty years of corporate nouse to better use. By January, you’ll find all this and some other content about surviving early motherhood on my blog: Slings and Roundabouts.