What impact has being a working parent had on you? I think it’s had different impacts along the way and has definitely evolved over the years (my children are now 15, 13 and 11). It has brought me perspective and a sense of what’s important. It’s not that I didn’t care when I returned to work, but it just wasn’t all consuming and I had other things to pay attention to. My ability to manage complexity and bring order have grown as well. As the children have got older, the challenges have changed, andI’m figuring out new boundaries and managing lots of jigsaw pieces. When I’m at work, I’m there physically and mentally but when I’m with the kids that’s where my attention goes. I think as they’ve grown up there are more balls to juggle and they’re bigger – managing exam stress is a big one with teenagers! Spending time and caring for parents is becoming more important too, so there are lots of different energies required.
Did you always know what you wanted life after having children to look like? I remember training as a career counsellor pre-children and we had to draw a picture of what we wanted our life to look like. I drew a bike wheel with different spokes, and one of them was work which I described as ‘an activity with purpose’. I knew then that it was important for me to do something that was going to have a wider impact, which is where coaching came in. I know that through coaching I can make a real difference. When the kids were born, for me to be true to myself I needed to nurture and grow that part. I always wanted to do it in balance with my family so I’m very clear on my values. I’ve made deliberate choices so that work fits around the children rather than the other way around.
What’s the best thing that parenting has taught you? Lots! To pause before saying yes or no. Not to make assumptions about what someone is thinking or feeling. Definitely to keep things simple, have fun, never stop asking questions and be curious. I’m even more aware of difference now especially because all three of my children are very unique in their own different ways. I also like that children say it as it is, there’s no filter!
What happens when work and home collide? How do you cope? I don’t always! Acknowledging that I don’t have to cope all the time and remembering that I’m supported from a work and home perspective is really important. Balance is constantly moving. Sometimesit’s hard to put boundaries in and the line between work and home becomes grey. We are constantly having conversations as a family unit and within my fabulous team at work, exploring what we all need. Somehow we manage it in a way that’s right for us. It requires a depth of honesty and trust.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself when you began juggling kids and working?
* If they don’t eat at nursery don’t worry about it!
* You will be challenged in different ways every single day – just go with it.
* When I returned I was greeted by a desk, a phone and nothing else. I thought I’d been forgotten – I needed to trust myself that I could be ME through all the ups, downs and challenges.
* Trust that you’ll do things in a way that will work for everybody.
* Spend time with your children because it goes so quickly. They will need you in new and different ways and conversations will change. Sometimes they will want to talk when you least expect it. Be there and listen.
* Do your best and keep the lines of communication open.