Apprenticeship Levy, Case studies, Management

Advice from a working Mum to parent returners

06 August 2019 by Isla Lightfoot

Teresa Roberts is Mum of two and the Professional Development Expert for the Mumsnet, Corndel Leadership Accelerator programme. She is the perfect coach for this programme. Not only does she bring a wealth of coaching and leadership experience, she has also been in the same situation as her learners.

Returning to work after maternity leave and facing time-management pressures; the juggling act of parenting small children whilst pursuing a career; the guilt and feelings of not quite doing either thing well enough, are not only things Teresa can empathise with, they are issues she faced and overcame.

Her children are now 15 and 11 and have grown into well-rounded, confident, wonderful people who she is justly proud of. A lot of the things she worried about, such as the impact of putting them into childcare, never came to pass.

I went back to work full time after having each of my children. My husband worked part time and the children were in childcare for the rest of the week. I was fortunate to work for a supportive organisation, who valued family life, which was a big help; as they got older I only ever missed one school event. Despite this level of support at the start though, it was difficult to leave the children and I felt this overwhelming pressure to be the perfect parent, that is so often portrayed in the media. Most of the time I felt torn, like I was doing half a job as a Mum and half as a colleague — doing neither particularly well.’

Teresa was lucky to have people around her for support, her parents, husband and Uni friends who were in a similar position. ‘One of the benefits of the Leadership Accelerator programme is that the learners have this amazing support network of other working parents in the same life stage as them. I really encourage my learners to connect, not just at workshops, but throughout the course. Having people you can talk to, bounce ideas off, share concerns with, is so important at this stage in life.’

Balance is a key part of parental life and as Teresa explains, ‘balance is what you define it as.. We can make lots of assumptions about what balance is “supposed” to look like, but in reality you need to shape it to what works best for you and your circumstances. We run a workshop on Work Life Balance as part of the Leadership Accelerator programme and my job is to help people think through what is most important to them and, therefore, what works for them so that they can create a plan that aligns to their own values. This is totally individual. There is no right or wrong.’

It’s ironic that at a time in life, when parents need the space to think things through and work out how to address some of these issues, they have less time than ever. This, together with the enormous changes that come with becoming a parent can lead to feelings of stress. Teresa confesses to not managing her own stress levels well for many years, but now advocates a mindful approach to her learners, becoming aware of the thoughts running through your head and accepting what’s outside of your control so that you can make more conscious choices about how to deal with things: ‘Discovering mindfulness a few years ago now was a life-saver; I worry far less and don’t give myself such a hard time about things. Being more mindful means I can act rather than react, which leads to better choices as a parent and a professional.”  The masterclass on effective stress management, is another key component of the programme.

The opportunity that the Leadership Accelerator programme offers working parents to step away from the doing and be given permission to take time to think about how to lead, where the organisation is going and how to do things better, is really important. The quiet space afforded in the coaching sessions, has become an invaluable part of the course. ‘Everyone I’ve worked with values the time out from their day-to-day business activities to think about how they are approaching things and where they want to make changes.’

Society and organisations need to be doing more to support working parents, particularly when they return to the workplace after periods of leave. Mumsnet is championing this and Corndel is very proud to support them by delivering this training. Teresa explains, ‘I needed the working part of my life. I love being a Mum, but I wanted to still push myself in the career space and help people. Training like this is so important for working parents. Organisations who adopt programmes like this are indicating their commitment to parents and that kind of commitment helps to retain top talent.’

Find out more about our Leadership Accelerator Programme for parent returners and other Corndel Diplomas.

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