Is It OK To…?

 

 

Our guest blog is from Dr Caroline Marlow of L&M Consulting Ltd.  A Chartered Psychologist,she specialises in wellbeing and performance psychology. Caroline has some wise words about caring for ourselvesduring the covid-19 lockdown.

 

Is It OK to …

 

Feel Anxious, Stressed, Out of Control? When life takes a bad turn or is different to what we know, expect or hope, feelings like these are normal. Further, life is about experiencing all emotions in both good times and bad; they make us stronger and better able to engage with others and our world. So yes, it is OK to experience negative feelings. But when you are ready, you should do what you can to address them. Also, if negative feelings continuefor a long time or have a severeand immediate impact on your mental health you should seek informal or professional support as appropriate.

 

Feel Positive? Positive emotions are good for our psychological wellbeing and are socially contagious. So yes, you can feel positive and you should not feel guilty for feeling it. Use your positivity sensitively and wisely with others, and use it to optimise your now and future.

 

Grieve? There are many things that can lead us to experience grief. Alas, it could be the loss of someone special to us,or the loss of your job, goals or dreams. Grieving is a natural process that enables us to process information in a way that is healthy and best allows us to move forward appropriately into the future. So yes, it is OK to grieve.  Expect to feel different emotions, e.g., denial, anger, sad, in control, positive, etc., and expect them to change throughout the day and over time. Again, seek support if the feelings are severe or long-term.

 

Feel Lucky? Whatever the situation, there is always something to feel grateful for. Whether it be the small things, e.g., opening the curtains to a sunny day or hearing your child laugh, or the large things, gratitude is a key dimension of our psychological wellbeing. So yes, cherish and reinforce it.

 

Ask for Help? Whether it is for a quick bit of advice, an introduction, or professional legal, financial or mental health support, yes, ask. You may well typically be self-sufficient, know what to do, and be able to cope, but we all need help sometimes. Remember, people like to help, it gives them wellbeing benefits.

 

Connect? We are social beings who thrive when we feel valued, supported and part of a reciprocating community. People therefore connect to both give and receive. So yes,connect – especially if you are feeling isolated and lonely. Connect with those you know well and those you don’t, but be respectful of any demands you place on them and appreciate any replies. Remember connecting can be quick – telling someone that you are thinking of them, as well as long- for a proper catch up.

 

Disconnect? The news, social media and emails can come into our lives too easily. With time on your hands, the feeling that you should be ‘in the know’, or the need to look for that opportunity, it is easy to become overwhelmed with information.So yes, consider how often and when it is most appropriate for you to look. Be aware of how you are feeling, why you are engaging, and what you are likely to come across; this will enable you to properly decide whether connecting or disconnecting is best for you at that moment.

 

Laugh and Celebrate? Normal life should go on, and whilst scientific support for laughter may be limited by current convention, laughter as medicine has a long social history. Yes, be respectful of others, but the good times recharge us and help us connect positively with others. Celebrate events that you would normally celebrateand enjoy opportunities to laugh and smile.

 

Say “Not Right Now”? You normally give everything, so yes, it is OK for you to say “No.” Follow thiswith an explanation as to why it is important for you and them that you have time and space right now.  If you are able to help with the request, set their expectations by giving a realistic timeframe and probable level of support. Thereafter, keep them up to date with any changes. Very typically people understand.

 

Pause… Stop… Properly Stop…? Yes, for 30 seconds, for an afternoon, for however long you need. Breath…Breath again… Notice your environment, how you feel.Do what you need to do to adjust. Take perspective. If it helps, complete fuller reflections on; how you are doing, what you want in the future, and how to best make it happen.

 

Most of All …It Is OK That Sometimes You Need To Take Care of Yourself. Whether we are alone or with others, our lives are entwined with others. Our natural tendency is often to support others and not to think of ourselves, but sometimes we need to do what is best for us if we are to cope and move forward. This brings benefit both for ourselves and others in the near and more distant future.

The power of the menopause

Our guest blogger is Trustee and coach Katie Day of RDP International Ltd.  Her own experiences of the menopause helped shape her inspiring delivery of uniquely designed workshops for women and companies on the menopause.

You may find yourself reacting to the above title. Menopause and power are rarely two words that women automatically put together in the same sentence!

However, with the right support and information, it can be one of the most potent times of our lives. The majority of women will reach menopause around 50 – 52. This is also the time most of us with come into our real strength in our careers and our personal lives.

Once we find how to navigate this life transition and important ‘rite of passage’ it allows us to truly get in touch with our values, passions and vision. We are likely to have far less invested in the opinions of others when we reach our 50s, and this frees us up to live our lives with purpose and clarity.

I can remember when this all kicked in for me I mentally retrieved the painting other people had painted for me when I was born, depicting my life. I examined the scene, decided which parts, if any, I wanted to keep and then repainted the picture.

At the age of 60 I am just getting going! I see at least another three, possibly four, decades in front of me that are full of adventures, excitement and possibility. The only person who will get in my way is me, and I don’t intend to do that.

This life transition presents a brilliant opportunity to reassess, re-evaluate, redefine and, if desired, re-invent. It is when we start to live our life congruently, in harmony with our meaning and purpose. It offers us an opportunity tosupport other women coming up behind us, and tap into our wisdom and experience.

If we work we offer our employers, even if our employer is ourselves(!) a woman who is strong, independent, experienced, confident, wise and a real asset. We are not invisible. We are very visible, if we choose to be, and for the right reasons. Our grounded wisdom represents the foundations upon which companies, teams and people can grow. We provide the strong roots that support everyone around us, guiding the young saplings and encouraging them to grow and flourish.

Give yourself permission to acknowledge your greatness and your magnificence. Accept willingly your power and potency. Be comfortable accepting this rite of passage and be clear in your communication that you are now offering even more to those around you.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it! Get yourself a notebook and write at the top of the page:

If I were my close friend, the ten top things I would value about my friendship and me would be:

And then complete the list, also capturing the evidence to show how good you are at each thing you write down.

Finish by writing yourself a personal statement. This is when you get full permission, and encouragement, to really step into your greatness, without embarrassment or censure. Start the statement with the words ‘I am …’ then complete, using as much space as you need.

The reason you start with ‘I am …’ is that you are bringing everything you write into the present tense and telling yourself you are already there, already this person and already living what you write. Then breathe in the words and really own them. Accept your brilliance as a peri- or post-menopausal woman and live it!

 

Living in lock down

Our guest blog this week comes from Tania Long, one of our volunteers who also runs FantaSea Art with a Heart As someone with an underlying medical condition she started to self-isolate before the country went into lock-down.  Here’s how she’s been occupying her time and you might find inspiration from her story.

Hi! I’ve been having to self-isolate since March 23rd before the lock down. I’m one of those at home for 12 weeks (due to asthma.)

I go for a daily walk round the back lanes and quiet streets. Taking photos some days, little details, flowers, textures I’ve spotted. I’m really getting to know the local streets well now and spotting some amazing houses on my solitary walks.

 

Some days I have been doing ‘frottage’ art on wood grains I come across and started working into those with black ink.  It’s amazing what images have started appearing! It’s become a new project for a story book as more characters appear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, I’ve been having fun making a fishing game out of dry paper mâché and got back into my Woodland Folk project; one of many creative projects that had been put on the back burner due to business with other things.

 

 

 

Structure is important

I find it helps to have some kind of structure to the day.

I journal in the morning (after all it’s an historical event!) Feed Luna (my black fluffy cat). Have breakfast.  Do some chores or online work. Or work on creative projects till lunch which is usually a sandwich. After that I will go for a daily walk;20 minutes to an hour.  I take my boots off in the hall as soon as I get in, and coat and hat and gloves if I’ve needed them, wash my hands (of course!) Then I have a 30 minute rest and drink. Do more creative work, or some reading or writing.

I’m trying to limit social media as it’s so negative. I have chill out time in the evening with dvd films or music, and some catch up on Facebook if I haven’t been online the day before. I’m continuing to do and to facilitate WayfinderWoman’s Creative Joy & Artists Way course virtually, sending out task sheets and encouragement on a Friday evening. We are on week 5 at the moment, ‘Recovering a Sense of Possibility’.

The highs and lows

The things I miss most? Meeting friends for a chat in a cafe, hugs, human company, being able to buy my own food shopping, visiting the beach.

ALSO! There are blessings in this time. Enjoy this time. A time to slow down and reflect on your life.

The air is so much cleaner. It’s quieter.  Listen to the birds they are loving it! The Earth is healing. The ozone layer is healing.

The new future

Let’s not go back to ‘normal’ when this is over but come out of it with a new perspective of what is really valuable in our lives and a new sense of community.

I feel that the Earth has sent us this virus, because WE as humans have been acting as a virus on the Earth, it’s a message for us to STOP mindlessly consuming the planet.

Wishing everyone well, stay safe.  Tania

A New Start for a New Year

Our blog is from the inspirational Nelly Khawaja.  If you’re thinking about a fresh start for 2020 here’s a story that will give you heart that, regardless of the obstacles along the way, you too can achieve.

On the 26th November 2019, I was called to the Bar of England and Wales by the Honourable Society of Lincolns Inn. During the ceremony, I gazed in space and embraced my surrounding. I took a moment to myself and thought about my journey.

I emigrated from Norway aged 9 without any prior knowledge of the English language. To avoid the extensive details, I was mistreated and I experienced a distressing upbringing by the hands of my father. As a witness, I felt lost in a system where the legal professionals were unrelatable and at times, condescending. I really thought there was no escape, I convinced myself ‘this is my life now, and it will never end’.

I turned to education and started finding peace in studying. I told myself I will study until I can be that voice for the most vulnerable members of our society! Just reading alone made me feel stronger. It’s true what they say ‘knowledge is power’.

I had many obstacles along the way, and one of the main ones was being questionable of my own abilities. I didn’t achieve the required grades to get into college. I had to do BTEC’s and NVQ’s. My journey to become a barrister started to feel impossible. I started to self-pity and blaming everything around me. That didn’t get me far. As much as I wanted someone to feel sorry for me and help me escape, no one was able to do that except me!

Despite the adversity, I did a year’s access course to get into University. I then completed my three years Law with Criminology degree and graduated in 2018.

Things were starting to look up and life started feeling meaningful. I was getting more independent and I had a better understanding of my rights. Being able to discover that in itself made me feel so much happier! I felt like no one could touch me now!

So, here I am today, having been called to the Bar. It truly is my biggest achievement to date.

I feel the importance to encourage people to stop thinking you can’t do something because of your past. Coming from a broken family or a deprived background doesn’t make you any less capable! Find your determination in the negative things that happen in your life, never allow yourself to relive it!

 

A Pregnant Pause

We’ve teamed up with Eastbourne CAB to help raise awareness of women’s workplace rights when pregnant.  Here’s some insights from  Karen Costello-McFeat, who was heavily involved in researching the issue.

Amid all the preparations and excitement of an anticipated birth, it is easy to forget to take a little time out to ensure that all is in order for your maternity leave and subsequent return to work.

At Citizens Advice, we see the consequences of this omission. We have had cases where clients have been treated prejudicially, lost hours of work and even been dismissed or asked to resign.

Due to the frequency of these cases, we decided to create a survey to get a better sense of what is happening in the workplace. The results were disappointing. Almost half felt that they had been treated unfairly or faced discrimination; an equal number felt that their employers didn’t follow guidelines on health or offer suitable work alternatives and a staggering number had not been given adequate information about their maternity rights.

Those fortunate enough to work in larger organisations or those with good HR teams were generally fine; however, those working for small businesses, on temporary or zero-hour contracts were the most vulnerable.

But it should not matter who you work for to ensure that you receive the help you need. Here, knowledge is going to be the best way to protect your rights. And the good news is that it is readily and freely available to everyone.

The best place to start is the GOV.UK site (put maternity in the search box). Here you will find everything you could possibly want to know about your rights and responsibilities. You can guide your employer to the site also if he/she seems a little bewildered by all the legislation.

They will no doubt be delighted to hear that they can reclaim 92% of your Statutory Maternity Pay and up to 103% if they qualify as a small business. (Search: Statutory Maternity Pay and the Small Employers’ Relief Fund.) If you are self-employed or do not qualify for SMP, you may be entitled to Maternity Allowance instead.

 

We would also recommend that you get your employer’s name and a written contract or statement of terms and particulars before you go on maternity leave. (It’s best to put any requests for these in writing, ideally via email). This way, should you feel that legal action is required at a later date, you will have all the information you need.

Whatever happens, you need not feel alone. There is excellent advice available at www.maternityaction.org.uk and of course, from your local Citizens Advice.

Hopefully, you won’t need us, and can instead focus on keeping well at work and looking forward to and enjoying the new arrival. All the best!

Stepmums in the workplace

Our latest blog is from Magriet Steyn who is a Stepfamily Dynamics Coach. Every stepfamily is unique but the challenges facing working stepparents are very common.  Magriet takes us through tools and techniques that can be used to improve the situation.

 

 

We can all agree that being a working mum is tough; juggling childcare and household responsibilities while maintaining a professional career can take its toll.

Among us working mums, however, are stepmums who carry much of the same responsibilities, without any of the authority or recognition. Since becoming a stepmum in 2009, I found that stepfamily life added another layer of complexity to an already challenging family dynamic. Not only at home, but also in the workplace.

For working stepmums, some of these challenges include stress and anxiety that are part and parcel of stepfamily life, which can have a negative impact on work-life balance and professional performance.

Writing this article, I was able to draw on my own experiences as a working mum and stepmum.I also asked a group of 150 stepmums and found these three most prevalent challenges.

Challenge #1 – Avoiding time at home with your stepkids

Many stepmums end up avoiding time at home when their stepkids are there to avoid having to deal with potential conflict like disruptive behaviour or sibling rivalry. When my stepkids were living with us full time, I worked longer hours. However, due to the stress at home, I was unproductive and couldn’t fully focus on my work.

What you can do about it

It’s essential to communicate with your partner, in a non-confrontational manner,about your difficulties.   Agree how you will both deal with challenging behaviour, household rules and consequences so you don’t take these anxieties into work.

Schedule time for yourself doing the things you love. See it as re-filling your tank rather than avoiding your stepkids.  It puts you back in control, which will have a knock-on effect on your mental attitude and productivity at work.

Challenge #2 – Dealing with harassment and abuse from the ex

I was shocked but not surprised by the number of stepmums who reported that they’ve experienced harassment and abuse from their partner’s ex in the workplace.

What you can do about it

Speaking with your manager or confiding in a colleague can help reduce the pressure of dealing with it on your own while at work. Keep a record of all abusive communication;block their phone number during working hours if you can. If your partner shares emails or text messages from their ex with you while you’re at work, let them know that for you to be supportive, you don’t need to know the nitty gritty of what is being said.

Challenge #3 – Stress and anxiety

Stepmothers are very prone to stress and anxiety; differences in parenting styles and values, contact schedules, finances, ex-spouses and external factors outside of their control all contribute to feelings of isolation, helplessness and frustration. Symptoms of anxiety can range from negative thought patterns and excessive worrying, panic, restlessness, irritability and mood swings.

What you can do about it

It is essential to have a support network in place, someone who can lend a sympathetic ear. However, a lot of stepmums say they have nobody they can talk towho can relate to what they are experiencing. There was a period where I was so absorbed with what was going on in our stepfamily, it was all I talked about. I’m sure people at work were avoiding me and they lost interest in the ongoing saga of my stepfamily life! It was all-consuming.

Seeing a Life Coach and a Hypnotherapist helped me put things in perspective. Other things you can try to reduce your stress and anxiety levels are acupuncture, yoga, reflexology, meditation or activities such as kick boxing or body combat.

 

If you are a stepmum who is experiencing any of the above and it’s impacting your work life balance, please know that you are not alone. You are a wonder woman, and you very much deserve to be happy!

Retirement doesn’t mean retiring

Our guest blogger is Caroline Coxon from Quirkyworks .  When 60, 65 or 67 starts looming into your horizon it can feel as though you’re entering the world of retirement, paid work is coming to an end.  But that’s not the end as Caroline tells us.

I can’t do everything, but I can do something

Making a difference – pathway to empowerment

Go on any social media platform and there are always, everywhere, those uplifting quotes that might inspire you – or might make you reach for the sick bucket because they’re so tearfully sentimental. At risk of causing an instant bout of nausea, here’s one that’s important to me:

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” 

It was written in the late 19th century – not by a woman – but by an American author, historian and Unitarian clergyman, called Edward Everett Hale. Fine words indeed.

A little about me first, to put all this into context. I’m 63 and I recently retired so I found myself with considerably more time on my hands. At first, I really enjoyed waking up every morning thinking that, beyond the household chores and looking after the animals, I had nothing that I had to do. After a while, that thrill wore off and I began to feel lethargic and unmotivated, which isn’t like me at all. What to do? This. Take some actions that would make a difference in the world.

Just to be clear, this blog doesn’t set out to enrol you the causes I care about. Everyone has different things that they’re concerned about and how good is that? Life wouldn’t work too well if everybody cared about the same thing.

As for me, for several years I’ve been involved with a grassroots organisation which supports refugees stuck in Northern France with no safe passage to the UK even if, in many cases, international law says they’re entitled to have their claims for asylum heard.

This found me, on a bitterly cold New Year’s Day, plunging into the sea at Brighton to raise money for and awareness of so many people, including young children, who had drowned attempting to cross the Mediterranean of the English Channel to seek sanctuary in another country. It’s also found me collecting clothes and supplies to send out to the camps there, to provide a little comfort for some desperate people.

Until February, all my work for had been carried out in the UK. Going over to France to volunteer wasn’t something that I thought of particularly, but more and more, I wanted to see for myself what the situation was so I could report it first-hand.

Believe me, it was at the same time the most uplifting and the most distressing thing I’ve ever done. I worked with the Refugee Community Kitchen for three days. There, not only are 1200 meals a day provided for people scattered in small enclaves around the area, but clothes, tents, sleeping bags and other supplies are distributed. And distributed again, because the French national police have been tasked with creating a ‘hostile environment’ for them, so their tents are slashed, they are doused with freezing water or tear gas, and their warm clothes and shoes are confiscated. Night after night.

I can tell you it was a tough environment, even as a volunteer – and I was lucky enough to be able to retreat to the comfort of a little hotel every night and have a glass of wine and a satisfying meal.

The point is, the experience left me empowered. I was working amongst a group of wonderful people, mostly women, who had seen a need and wanted to do what they could to make a difference. To me it was inspiring. We were told never to assume that just because someone was female and slightly built, they hadn’t the strength to carry out physical tasks. So, one day I worked in the woodyard, breaking up pallets andoperating a powered chop saw – the sort that my dear husband wouldn’t let me go near at home. How formidable and fulfilled I felt!

I was exhausted when I got back, emotionally and physically, but without doubt it made me feel less impotent and useless, even though my contribution was only tiny. Rant and rave all you like about issues that upset you, no matter what they are, but nothing beats taking action. Even tiny ones.

 

Top ‘stand out’ tips to nail that perfect job

Our guest blogger is Nicole Holden one of the team from Flexibility Matters.  With flexible working hitting the headlines now Nicole gives you her top tips about how to stand out.

It can be hard coming back to work after maternity leave or a long absence and there’s a lot of women out there who want to work part-time.   It’s the answer for many of us in order to get the right work-life balance but I know that competition for the available work is fierce.   I’ve found that you need to step up your job hunting tools to stand out, get a dazzling CV,a cracking cover letterand make the right impression once you get to the interview to get the job that’s really right for you.

 

YOUR CV

 

  • Personalised gets picked: Tailor your CV content to individual roles. Take the job requirements and match them to your skills and achievements from your most recent roles.
  • Catch the eye:Make sure your CV format fits the position you are going for. If it’s a creative role, for example, then how it looks is important.
  • Highlight transferable skills. Especially important if you are making a career change. Highlight in the first page your relevant skills and experience drawn from your entire career history and make the connections explicit, so employers recognise them as transferable to the role.
  • Nail it with the opening statement. Think about the recruiter and what they would need to know immediately. A succinct opening statement, tailored to the specific role, could make all the difference, especially when CVs are scanned.
  • Keep it short:The maximum length for a CV is 2 pages, so focus onmaking relevant your two most recent roles and pulling out transferable skills from previous roles into an overall competencies section.
  • Edit and edit again. Make sure there are no typos in your CV. As well as self-editing, get a friend to check through it too. Nothing screams sloppy worker than a spelling mistake on a CV.

 

YOUR COVER LETTER

 

  • Do your research:Demonstrate that you are up to date and have done your homework on the company, perhaps citing challenges, impending regulations and recent trends in the sector relevant to the position.
  • A dazzling opening paragraph: The perfect opening paragraph should contain who youare and why you are so excited to be applying for the role. It’s your opportunity to impress them with your personality and how much you know about their work.
  • Tick-off the must-haves:Follow the introduction byhighlighting what you understand the role to be and how you match the job description must-haves.
  • Concise and clear:Keep sentences short. Edit and edit again the next day with fresh eyes. Read it aloud and then get a friend to check it.
  • Finish strong:The closing line is your last chance to underline your interest in the company and how you’d be a great fit for the position. It could be a personalised version of:“I’m excited by the opportunity and look forward to speaking to you about how I can contribute”
  • Don’t send your CV without one: The cover letter is your chance to write about how committed you are to the role and the company. If its optional in an application or doesn’t ask for one, always provide one anyway.

 

THE INTERVIEW

 

  • First impressions last: Given that employers come to conclusions about a person in the first minute, first impressions are key. Be smart and punctual. Offer a confident hand-shake with lots of eye contact and be genuine.
  • Do your homework: Demonstrate that you have fully researched the company’s background, current challenges and recent trends within the sector.
  • Know your CV: Your CV will generally structure the process. Knowing it inside out and preparing what your project and competency examples are that match the job spec is fundamental.
  • Show your social side: Building a rapport with the interviewer can be as important as matching the skills criteria and will demonstrate that you are pleasant to work with. It’s notjust about smiling. Use your body language to display interest – nod in agreement, maintain eye contact and no slouching.
  • Identify your expectations: Knowing what you expect of the role and respectfully seeking the answers to ensure the company is a good fit for you too is important and demonstrates confidence.
  • Be ready to ask questions: It’s important to have a few questions in mind to ask at the end of the interview. They can be about the company, the role, or the team. They will demonstrate your assertiveness and enthusiasm in being the right fit.
  • A good follow up: It’s a nice touch and not something often remembered to follow up with a thank you email letting them know you are looking forward to hearing from them.

 

Good luck!

 

 

Flexi-working and flexi-schooling

Our guest blogger is Dushana Pinfield who faced a dilemma that all working mums face: how to carry on working whilst giving her family the attention she thought they needed.  Dushana decided to choose a creative way to solve her problem of getting her work-life balance right for her.

I am a part-time freelancing mum because we are choosing to flexi-school our children. Being a working mum can be tough. You always seem to making some sort of sacrifice but I continue striving to achieve the balance between the ‘career me’ and the ‘mum me’. I’m not sure I’m exactly winning, but it feels like the right choice.  In this blog I share how I am doing it and a bit more about why.

In 2015, with a 4 year old and a one year old, I was working part-time in an office and taking on the child care the rest of the week.  I was ‘time poor’ and felt I was not really achieving with either! This all came to head in the September when my eldest son started school and we chose to part-time school him. I needed to work differently in order to free up some more time to add flexi-schooling into our family mix.

Flexi-schooling is when your child is in school part time and home schooled for part of the week. For me this is 2 days a week at home with the kids and 3 days (+++) trying to keep my business and career on the track that I want.

England is one of the few countries that sends its children to school at 4 years old (88% of the world’s school starting age is between 6-7).  We felt it was too much too soon and flexi-schooling seemed like the perfect solution. It’s a constant battle to get the school to allow us to continue flexi-schooling.  It’s down to the headteacher’s discretion and in a busy, oversubscribed London school it’s hard to get them to support our thinking, but maybe this is for another blog…

So I decided to set myself up as a freelance event management specialist.  I left behind the security of a regular salary, sick pay and holidays and in return I got a chance to fit my working life around my family life.

It’s not easy.  I am competing in a job market where the majority of employers still prefer full time working, and a bum on a seat, 9-5pm.  This dwindles your job pool significantly and might be why my contracts so far have been with past colleagues!

And that’s how I started.  I contacted friends and former colleagues letting them know that I’d set up on my own and was available for work if they ever needed it.  I didn’t set myself up as a limited company. I didn’t spend hours creating a website. Whilst I may do this at some point, I have been lucky so far and the network of contacts I have built up over my career has been invaluable.

I have had to learn to work differently. Gone are the days when I had the luxury of an 8 hour day to manage my workload.  You learn to break up work tasks into 1-2hr chunks.

I prioritise deadlines, meetings, liaising with external organisations etc during core business hours (when everyone else is at their desks!). I keep the background tasks that do not need immediate collaboration on to evenings, weekends.

I put in extra hours during crunch times and I’ve learned to ask for help from family.

Most importantly is that even though I may not at my desk, working on my laptop, during work hours I am available on the phone.  Always. (well nearly…). I may have a child in the background shouting on repeat ‘who are you talking to mummy… Mummy? … MUUUMMYY?’ but I’m contactable.

And what do I get in return? 2 days a week with my children to explore life and learn outside of the classroom.  This for my 4 and 7 year old is currently dinosaurs, monster trucks, biking, skateboarding, museums, supercar spotting and most importantly – one to one time.  Learning in outdoor spaces – bug hunting in the forest, snail racing, supermarket trips – adding up your shop, counting people getting on the bus.

Is this the work/life balance thing that they talk about?

It’s pretty hectic, but freelancing has definitely made this balance achievable for me and I enjoy it. Working on contracts keeps things interesting and fresh. You aren’t bogged down by an organisation’s politics as you parachute in and are that fresh pair of eyes that can refocus a project. You get to learn your trade inside out (in my case organising events) as you have just been hired to do this one job for each client. Working from home means I don’t spend time commuting to and from an office. There are no work interruptions. These all definitely help with getting as much out in the short time before I’m back being a mum/teacher!

And this is my motivation and the compromise.  Time is precious and my children are growing up fast.  I am taking this time to see them grow and educate them outside of the norm.

Reasons to be Brave

Our guest blog is from Tania Pieri.  A talented singer, songwriter she also runs PA for creatives.  Her blog deals with something that we all face at some time in our lives – being scared. 

Fragility, Fear and Bravery. Do they all fit together? And what do we need, to face our fears and do something brave? To go and do that thing that scares us even though it’s absolutely, well….. Scary?!

I repeatedly find myself in situations requiring bravery. It always feels the same: Huge, Big, and Scary, and always feels like the first time I have ever had to face a scary task. Which of course it isn’t at all. Being an introverted performer – singer & dancer – I have faced many of these feelings time and time again. I have been through endless situations where I have had to find my inner strength and yet each time feels new. You might think it would get easier to face these things, but often to me, they are still big mountains.

And yet, climb them I must. Every, single, time. Sounds like a person who likes a bit of torture right? But no… So why do I do it? What drives me? I believe it is because of my ‘Why’. My driving force in life. When we can recognise this in ourselves it can help give us strength when we need it.

Personally, my ‘why’ is all about growth, development and sharing my voice. Therefore, I have to do the scary things that I am faced with so that I may continue to grow. Perhaps knowing what drives us helps us to face things with even greater Bravery because you know it will be beneficial to you.

Another great thing about feeling fear is it gives us the chance to exercise our bravery muscles. So each time we can choose to face slightly bigger or more challenging tasks. Also, we can’t know how strong we really are until we have something that tests us.

The timing of writing this post couldn’t be more fitting because I am just about to face something that needs my own brave-self to come out and present its self. I am having to dig deep, as it’s something that makes me feel pretty sensitive, but I know out of that, my strength will rise. I know, too, that if I don’t face it I won’t be able to live with myself and I will feel even worse for not having the courage to even try. So try I must. Whatever the outcome.

We can’t hide from opportunities for fear of failing. But we can grow through trying! So onwards we go….

If you want to find out what drives you I recommend this short quiz: https://wwwviacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey

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