Missed our Working Mums Club Facebook chat with working mums coach Amanda Alexander? Don’t worry, you can read all of the expert advice she shared here
Twice a month at Mother&Baby we bring you the Working Mums Club Facebook chat – a chance to get brilliant advice and tips for those who are either at work or are just about to go back. This week, life coach Amanda Alexander, director of Coaching Mums was on standby to answer questions.
Amanda is author of the e-Book From Chaos to Calm: 5 Simple Secrets of a Balanced Life for Working Mums. Coaching Mums is devoted to teaching and supporting working mothers around the world on how to break out of pressure-cooked, guilt-ridden vicious circles. Her company enables working mums to create career and business success on their own terms, ditch the guilt, manage their time better, enjoy their family and feel good about themselves as a mother.
If you missed the chat, here’s what happened…
Q: I only earn the minimum wage in my job. Is it worth going back to work once my baby is born? I’m worried that I’ll spend more on childcare than I will earning.
A: First of all, don't worry – get the facts. Try the Department for Work and Pensions first of all to find out what help you can get towards childcare costs because there IS help for those on low wages. Secondly – if you can make it work financially, even if you are breaking even, then keep your great attitude and focus on the fact that you have taken the decision based on the fact you love your job. It's all about choices! Thirdly, ask for a pay rise! Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Q: I feel like I’ve lost my confidence since going back to work after maternity leave. Whereas before I was happy to speak up in meetings and share my views, I feel like they don’t respect me because I’ve been out of the loop for so long. What can I do?
A: You're not alone in this! I've been coaching mums for over 10 years. Every single mum I've come across who is returning to work has a confidence knock. Here's a little exercise for you to practice, it's called the circle of confidence.
1. Think of a time when you don’t feel very confident
2. Now think of all the times when you HAVE felt confident
3. Imagine you are drawing a circle on the floor in front of you.
4. Pick one of those times when you felt confident and step into the imaginary circle thinking about it. Remember it as if you were there, notice what you can see (people, objects, colour), what you hear (sounds, internal and external voices, silence), and what you feel (emotions, sensations etc).
5. Turn up the experience by brightening the colour, intensifying the sound and emotions.
6. Step out of the circle when you’re ready, take a look around the room and then repeat step 3-5 three more times.
You have now created an "anchor" with the circle so that wherever you are you can imagine the circle, step into it and recreate that positive feeling.
Every single mum I've come across who is returning to work has a confidence knock
As for the feeling that they don't respect you – that's a story that you're telling yourself. In short, tell yourself a better story! And of course, you can be upfront and tell people that you need to get back into the swing of things. Your enthusiasm and can-do attitude will help you to gradually build up confidence. Lastly, courage begets confidence – so focus on stretching out of your comfort zone bit by bit – exercise your courage (which you are doing by getting back to work) and the more you do that, the more confident you'll feel.
Q: I am due back to work in a few weeks. My daughter is going into nursery for those days. How can I make getting back into work run as smoothly for me and her?
A: As long as you feel good about the nursery you have chosen, then I think the best thing you can do to help your daughter settle in is to trust yourself and trust your choices. Our kids really DO pick up on our feelings – so if you are happy and confident, then your daughter is more likely to settle easily. Ever heard of "secure attachment"? That's what you're aiming for, to drop her off with a smile and a hug and then, pick her up with another smile and a hug. And follow advice of your daughter's caregivers at nursery. Remember, they have seen it all and they are in a great position to know what helps little ones settle in best.
Try to prepare terms and conditions of returning to work before you go on maternity leave. If you can (I know it's only a few weeks until you return) schedule a meeting before you return to work to catch up on things. Build a community of supportive women and mums in similar situations. This is easier than ever in the cyber age. There are many online communities (Mother&baby for example!) and networking groups, so you can get support without even leaving home.
Our kids pick up on our feelings so if you're happy and confident, your daughter is more likely to settle easily
Q: I’m a working mum and on the lookout for any tips to help keep me happy and sane.
A: Take extreme care of yourself. You have to assume that nobody else will, so you must. This means you must quit protesting and create time for yourself. You've probably heard the analogy of putting your own oxygen mask on first before you help anyone else (a la demonstration on board an aeroplane). It's true. If you get depleted, you'll be no good to anyone! I have to hammer this home to mums. It's not a luxury, it's a must.
Here are my tips for being a happy mum...
1. Expect things not to go to plan – because they won't! And plan contingency for these situations. For example, what will you do on the day when nursery calls you and says your daughter has to be collected because she's poorly? And you are a two hour drive away at an important meeting?
2. Along the same lines, create reserves in your life of time, space and energy. Good habits to build, allow 15 minutes extra on top of what you think you need every time you make a journey.
3. If things start getting on top of you, start keeping a gratitude diary. End of each day, write down 30 things you are grateful for that day. Sounds a lot? It's not! the idea is to force your mind to look out for tiny moments of joy and pleasure each day. You get what you focus on. This exercise will build your resilience for when you have tough weeks. Promise!
If things start getting on top of you, start keeping a gratitude diary
Q: How can I overcome the guilt of leaving my daughter at nursery with somebody else?
A: Guilt is a waste of energy. Don't go there! She is getting a wonderful start by learning to socialise with other children and adults. She will get so many lovely opportunities to do things you might not necessarily have been able to do (or do as well) at home. Your job is to be a lovely mum when you are with her. Guilt happens when there is a gap between expectations and reality. In this case, you expect you can be in two places at once. The reality is that you can't.
Q: I’m going back to work full time when my son is one, my partner will then go part time to assist with childcare. I’m worried my closeness with my son will suffer and that I'll struggle with this. How can I ensure my son doesn't lose out and that I keep the strong bond.
A: I can reassure you that you will not lose the closeness with your son. You will always be his mum and as long as you spend time with together when you're not at work you'll still have that strong bond. It's great for your partner that he will get to spend that time with your son, too.
You will not lose the closeness with your son
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