I thought it would be useful to introduce myself to those who don’t know me. I spent more than 25 years working in corporate (in professional services and legal but I’m not a lawyer). After my first daughter was born, I had severe postnatal depression for a very long time, perhaps 2 years before I felt fully recovered. It took me several months to ask for help. When my second daughter was born, the PND was less severe, less deep and no doubt would have been easier to handle if she hadn’t been such a wakeful baby. When I’m talking to new parents or parents-to-be, she’s the one “sleep” history that I do not share. There were a few of us in my online antenatal club with babies who refused to sleep and we created our own badge of honour, sleep is for wimps.
I was promoted while I was on maternity leave both times – it’s not often that you hear about that! I negotiated flexible working – 2 days from home, 3 days in the office. I was based in London and my job was based in Chicago so I worked odd hours and I travelled frequently. It was at this time that I started to train as an NCT breastfeeding counsellor.
In 2009, like many law firms, we had large scale redundancies, and I lost my job. I was out of work for a few months and toyed with the idea of setting up my own business. While I was still playing with this idea, I was asked to set up the UK office of a US outsourcing company specialising in legal IT. I did that role for 3 years. In this time, I qualified as an NCT BFC; my boss was really supportive when I requested reduced hours so that I could take up a part-time role as a breastfeeding counsellor in my local NHS. Those types of positions are few and far between, and he knew I was seriously committed and passionate to this work. So then I had two jobs, effectively doing a 6 day week. The nature of the outsourcing company meant that my hours were very inflexible for a working mum with two young children. Eventually this was all too much (the hours, the inflexibility) and I quit the better paid outsourcing job to set up my own business.
I had been coaching & mentoring internally for many years – I was always the manager that “troubled staff” were sent to see because the other managers knew I’d give the troubled person a “good listening to”. While I was at the law firm, my HR manager, started sending all the pregnant staff to see me to talk about breastfeeding, being a mother, home birth, attachment parenting etc. You’d be surprised to learn that I was Head of IT if you’d heard some of the conversations that took place in my office.
You might be wondering … where were your babies while I was working? Who was looking after them? For the couple of years, we used a childminder. I had gone back to work full-time in a pretty full-on job but my husband was self-employed as a driving instructor and therefore his hours were flexible. Childcare, as any working parent knows, is expensive. After my second daughter was born, it didn’t make sense to work simply to earn enough to pay our childminder while we worked to earn enough to pay her. My husband then became a full-time stay-at-home Dad. He recently started working again now that both girls are in school.
So it made great sense to me to launch my own coaching business in 2012. At first, I stayed within legal IT as my specialist area however more and more of my private clients were women, and especially those struggling to find their way as mothers. I have come to realise that my true passion is to work with women, helping them to be strong confident mothers – it really is my true calling – to be able to give women time and space so that they feel accepted and valued. Everything I have done in my life up until now has been preparing me for this. My struggles with postnatal depression, training as a breastfeeding counsellor, my work in the health visiting service, my work teaching peer supporters. So here I am today, using my inner strength and confidence to nurture and inspire women so they can make strong confident decisions.
I am telling you this story because I wanted to share some of the passion that I have for The Confident Mother virtual conference. It is something I have wanted to do for a very long time. I want all mums to know that good enough really IS good enough. You don’t need to be the perfect mother. You don’t need to carry all the guilt baggage. Guilt has its purpose (as I discussed in an earlier blog) however it’s not essential. I want all mums to feel confident in their abilities as a mother, whether you are a stay-at-home mum or a working mum, whether married, single or divorced, whether you breastfed or not. To me what is most important is that being a mum is an incredibly valuable role yet often undervalued. I want you to feel good about being a mum. We all have different values, different expectations, different norms and I want all mums to feel valued and accepted. I want Dads to feel this too, but right now, I am focussing on mums.
I am so excited about this project, and hope you will love it too. I am speaking to some wonderful people who have agreed to be guests. I am working hard behind the scenes to introduce one or two celebrity mums to the mix too. More details soon.
If you want to keep up-to-date on this fantastic project, come and join in the conversation on Facebook Or simply follow this blog as I will bring you news here.