Every Working Mothers Guide to Balancing Guilt

Guilt, we all have it at some point.  Guilt is all wrapped up with work/life balance. If we have a good balance the feeling of guilt eases.

We thrash the term work/life balance around….. Pretending we all achieve it perfectly with ease. But what is it? Is there a test to know when life is balanced and this is it, Am I doing it now? Working mothers talk to me about their guilt…often. It’s a tricky one so here are some thoughts.

This week we ran a seminar in London on Work/Life balance. It was very interesting even if I say so myself. I am going to share some of it here.

Work life balance came about in the 70’s. Before that people just grafted hard for as many hours as they could. In the 70’s people started to realise that there needed to be balance between work and life hence the term work/life balance.

Sometime I think we talk about work/life balance but it’s a bit of an unknown. Consider this, “daily achievement and enjoyment, including having pride in achievements, being satisfied and happy, being loved and having a sense of well being in each of the four quadrants of life which are; Work, Family, Friends and Self “ Anon.  Sounds nice doesn’t it?

Sadly balance is not constant, despite our best intentions. What balances one person doesn’t balance the next person. We can’t just copy each other, that just wouldn’t work. However I do think we can take guidance or work out what’s best for us as individuals. That way we can find our way.

It’s funny but I often think its easier to see when balance is out rather than in. Most people are shy of shouting out “hey I have really good work/life balance”…..it’s just not done. Perhaps thinking about how it feels to be out of balance will make it clearer. Consider the following:

  1. You are merely getting through the day
  2. You are exhausted before the end of the week
  3. You are on a merry-go-round and want to get off
  4. You are falling behind and never catching up
  5. You are constantly anxious and struggling to sleep

To gain balance as working mothers we must understand that we are in control of our situations or even go as far as to say of our lives. You can ask yourself three questions:

  1. We all have drivers. What’s yours?
  2. We all have decisions to make. Have you made yours?
  3. We all have choices. What can you choose?

I am going to leave you with a thought. Be clear about your goals for achievement and enjoyment in the four quadrants of life. If you choose to be a working mum don’t beat yourself up with guilt. Think about the plus points of your situation. If you choose to be at home with the kids but hanker over your career, perhaps its time for a change.

Guilt is a horrible feeling so managing  work/life balance with a bit more of a plan will see us effortlessly juggling work and family life. Hey presto!

Read our Relationship Scotland Blog

Read our Relationship Scotland Blog

We love the work at Relationship Scotland and we are delighted to be part of their newly established blogging team. This week we published our thoughts on Post Natal Depression. We hope you like it.

If you do have a read please leave a comment.

The GP, Health App’s and Families

Should GP’s really prescribe apps?

Health apps are hot news today as an option for us managing our own health in a more mobile and perhaps more modern way. When i read Sky News this rainy am my thoughts fell into two camps. Firstly I thought it’s a shame that healthcare management is moving towards a less personal approach with apps and online interaction with our GPs. I wondered if this  may impact on the instictiveness of diagnosis and management that our healthcare providers  do so well. Then it came to me that if we empower people to manage their own health and be able to access really good information I do people will be healthier in the longterm.

I have just had a look at what’s available for families and if they would be useful. I found four that I think are worth highlighting. Please note I  havent bought these or gone into great detail this is just flagging them up as worth a look:

Am I an expert in app’s? Well we are working on it (that’s another blog). However as a mother of three, a midwife, antenatal teacher and business women I do think i have some Klout.

My favourite is by far Moodscope. What a brilliant idea! The app is fairly simple allowing you to track your mood. The thought is that if you track the highs and the lows it may be possible to see what triggers each response. Next part is great and a really good way of people getting support: The app can send an email to trusted supporters alerting them to mood changes. Having done some research on emotional wellbeing with new parents i can see the huge benefit from this approach. Many mums would rather ignore a low mood in the hope it goes away. This app would be idea post baby to track emotional well-being. I even think it would be a better approach than the Edinburgh Depression scale which is paper based and although well established i consider it a bit dated.

FoodWiz – A really good simple idea. This app helps you manage an allergic diet. So for example my little boy had problems with dairy (additives, preservatives as well) when he was younger. The dietician explained which products contained milk which left me thinking she would have been better giving me the small list of products that didn’t! I personally spent hours researching foods and shopping. This app would assist busy mums in a flash.

Healthcare in your pocket (this is an itunes link, non-affiliate) – I realy like the simplicity of this app. The app allows access to an interactive A-Z as well as locating local NHS services. It also allows easy access to ICE (your allocated person In Case of Emergency). I would like to try this out more but in principle i think its simplicity is what makes this app most useful.

Cycle Streets – Again simple but brilliant concept allowing you to plan cycle routes. It has a “find me” thingy which I would definately use. Having been lost many times with 3 children on bikes i consider this a great idea. As cycling is a brilliant way to stay fit and healthy the route planner may prompt more families to dust down their bikes and get going. I also liked the photo map which gives me an idea of the terrain!

So after having done a bit of research on this I am starting to see the benefits of  this GP/health app concept. I can see this being great for the future health and well-being of familes, which can only be a good thing.


P.S I do at this point wonder how our children will be managing their own health. I am sure if my gran was alive today and I said that I had a consultation with my GP whilst drinking coffee in my kitchen she’d be surprised. Even more so if I told her the consultation was via a mobile phone! (computers filled rooms when she died).

Five things you need to know about The Baby Gurus

People ask us what we do and sometimes we don’t know where to start.  So as a Christmas present we thought we would let you in a little. So here are 5 things that you may not know about us:

  • Before we started The Baby Gurus Emma and I (Sonya) met. I, Sonya as a Midwife attended the birth of Emma’s second baby (now a lovely teenager). Little did we know we would start a business a few years later. Funny world!
  • We started the business to make a difference to others and be able to work around our young families. We did and still do believe that parents need to be supported at every stage and we can do this by providing suitable training at the correct time.
  • This year we have worked on our e-communication as we have a tendency not to shout about what we do. We now have two newsletters: one for families and one for managers. The managers newsletter is called Knowledge Booster and its very good for busy people, even if we say so ourselves. Our Family newsletter focuses on two key topics each issue. If you wish to get these just pop us a line at info@thebabygurus.com.
  • Between us (Emma and I) we have 6 children and 2 dogs (Max and JJ). We both live the juggle of life and work…..sometimes its easy and as we all know sometimes it’s not.
  • We have been involved in research with Healthy Working Lives, Scottish Association for Mental Health, The Grange Group, Glasgow University and Robert Gordon University. As a result we have produced a resource for parents and established interesting facts regarding working parents. We have given a lot of our time to research as we feel this is really important.

This year has seen many changes for us as we started working for some amazing forward thinking companies wishing to retain their working mums and dads. Our Corporate Bumps workshops are now tried, tested and now proving their benefits to business. This is where we would love to write who we work for but for now alas not.

We hope that gave you a little insight into us as a company. We both wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Sonya and Emma

The Baby Gurus 

Things We Love – Lianne’s Quick Guide to Babies

As part of our new Things We Love series here is our honest review of Lianne’s Quick Guide.

What is it?

Lianne’s Quick Guide (for the busy woman) Babies 0-6 months

A little paperback guide for new parents on babies 0-6 months. It’s a small and handy book divided into sensible sections.
This quick guide is just that – quick. It covers all the essentials for a new parent with a new baby in a really nice way.

Why do we love it?

The guide is well written and factually correct (as far as we could see). Subjects covered include first few weeks for mums and babies, feeding options, feeding guidance, sleep, crying, teething, first aid for babies and how to play with baby. Its a perfect pop in your bag or jacket pocket book.

Who would love it?

This book is ideal for expectant women, busy parents and dads who want a quick read.

Overall Love factor

Do we love it? Yes. Its simple and gives sound information which is ideal for a busy new parent.

Best points – Well written excellent format.

Safety Pin Rating 

Rating – 4 safety pins out of 5. (bare with us we are working on the art work for this 🙂 )

The Entrepreneur, Four kids and Her Bike

We recently reviewed Lianne’s Quick guide to babies as part of our Things We Love and as we discussed her guide we realised that we had found a great mum who works around her children. So we invited her to take part in our working mum interviews and we are delighted to say here it is. How amazing is that bike?

Tell us a bit about you

I am Lianne Bergeron, 41, Canadian living in NL. I am married to a Dutchman (11 years and counting) and have 4 kids aged 4,5,7,8 and I have a bicycle built for 6 that I power with my own legs.

I am an entrepreneur and have always had many ideas that I wanted to work on.  I am publishing a series of booklets for the busy woman (all of us…) called Lianne’s Quick Guide. It’s a culmination of a lot of my experience: translating concepts, sharing information and experience as well as working with other great women.

How do you fit in work with the family?

At the moment, I work 2 days a week while my kids are at school and my youngest is at daycare. Even though I often work from home, I don’t do anything else around the house other than work on those days. I also work once the kids are in bed and since acquiring an i-phone, also check email and read up on things when I’m waiting for kids at swimming lessons and when I’m on the bus travelling to Amsterdam.

Tell us about your life/work balance

Wow. I wish I had this great story about work and life balance but it’s work in progress for me I’m afraid… It’s my big challenge. These last couple of years I’ve been trying to figure out how to combine keeping the businessperson satisfied and not compromising on how I want to raise my kids.  It’s never a perfect balance. I do get out every week with friends (even when I’m tired, makes me feel good in the end) and exercise (though often when the kids are in bed). We have a good group of babysitters that are always happy to sit at night so that my husband and I can get out together.

What are the challenges to being a working mum?

Well, we can’t do it all which means that some things (ok, a lot of things) don’t get done. And we try to do it all which means we are left being exhausted all the time.

How do you cope with these challenges?

Trying to accept the saying “Women can do everything, just not at the same time”.  I am trying to let go, accept that the house won’t ever be clean, that the photo-albums are still not made, that the frames are still on the floor etc. It’s better for me not to start thinking about this list… also I have some great friends – we remind each other how great we are and what a great job we are doing…

If you could give mums a couple of tips on coping as a working mum what would it be?

  • Keep work and play separate.
  • Try to let go of your phone/computer when you are having quality time with your kids.   It’s hard enough to focus on them with all of the other things we have to do when we get home.
  • Good time management – when I was about to publish my book, I had proof readers on the phone at all hours and the kids didn’t understand, I got irritated, they got irritated. I published the book but it caused a lot of stress so next time I am planning better time-management.
  • Plan the week and get your partner involved when you can.
  • Make sure the kid’s activities fit into a manageable schedule (for us, if I can’t bike there, it’s off the list).

What do you plan ahead?

I always make the school lunches the night before. It’s too hectic in the morning and I can’t get up.  I have a good overview of what’s happening every week with appointments and activities.  I buy shoes ahead of time, in all sizes, shapes and colors (we have a whole closet full of shoes so when someone’s feet have grown, we go to the shoe closet instead of trekking out to the store).  And I plan travel to Canada.   I also only do the laundry every 7-10 days.  That’s not really planning ahead but I hate the idea of doing laundry every day – so when the hampers are full, I wash and run the machine all day. At night, I fold with a glass of wine and a favorite TV show.

What is your favourite plan ahead family meal?

I’m a big fan of the 15 minute from pan to table meals – easy stir fries, pasta’s etc. and no – my kids do not eat everything I make… We have “wrap” night on Tuesdays (kids have sports after diner) which means I don’t ever have to think about what we are eating on Tuesdays.  I also have a lot of frozen veggie burgers, tofus, etc. that I can thaw and serve in a flash.

I did go through a phase of planning the meals for the month, which was actually a really good idea. No stress about what to eat, just a look at my calendar.  I also cut up a big plate of raw veggies while I’m getting diner ready and give it to the kids to munch on.  The plate always comes back empty.

What is your favourite book?

I love so many books but my absolute favorite this year was “The Many Secrets Lives of Josephine B”, a trilogy by Sandra Gulland. I also really loved “Glass Castle” & “Half Broke Horse” by Jeanette Wells, “The Help”, “Life of Bees”, “The Namesake”.  For the kids: The Magic Tree House Series, Geronimo Stilton, everything Doctor Seuss, Charlie & Lola and all books by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Favorite family holiday destination

Maine, USA – at my uncle’s cottage on a quiet lake & Italy.

Best family day out destination

Day at the beach, walking in the dunes, kids running around.  We also love using our Museum cards (Dutch) that let us go to every museum in the country for free.  And, we also find ourselves at the great zoo in Amsterdam (Artis) on a regular basis.

Favorite family film

It’s hard to come up with one… Nemo, Ice Age, Nanny McPhee series, Tinkerbell, Tangled.

Tell us a bit more about your work

In today’s busy society, women are rushing to get to the next meeting or rushing to get their kids to their next activity. There is no time left to learn, only a push to know more, do more, be more. My booklets are designed for the busy woman who has lots of questions about specific subjects but no time to do the research. Have a look & there’s a lot more to come! Click Here for more info on Lianne’s Guides.

Thanks Lianne. You are inspirational especially using a bike to go everywhere! We know its not easy juggling children and work and your honesty, we are sure will help others. We wish you the very best with your guides.

Research And The Importance Of A Pregnancy Rest Room

We have worked with a lot of pregnant women in our time and one of the most common ailments of pregnancy is tiredness. For women who are working this can be a problem and a big one at that. So what can be done to help? How can pregnant women help themselves to reduce tiredness? Read on and we can help both the companies and the pregnant women.

Pregnancy Rest Room at work

Women don’t need a designer room (although that would be nice)….. just somewhere to sit, find a little peace and quiet which ultimately leads to rest.

The good news for women is that The Health and Safety Executive state that companies are legally required to provide somewhere for pregnant and breastfeeding employees to rest. So to summarise companies have a legal obligation to have a pregnancy rest area which is private. This extends to where necessary this should include somewhere for women to lie down.

Sounds lovely in theory but it can be difficult for companies to provide such facilities and this depends on many factors including size of the company and even understanding of complicated maternity legislation.

Our Research and Pregnancy Rest Rooms

We recently completed research with Healthy Working Lives, The Grange Group and Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH). As part of the research we asked 91 participants about their experience of pregnancy rest rooms.

● 68% rated rest facilities as poor

● 48% of women were not encouraged to use facilities

● 8.3% were given a limited time to use facility

What did the women suggest to improve the pregnancy rest room?

Interestingly the feedback on how to improve pregnancy rest areas involved very little money to be spent. This means that companies could improve facilities with little or no financial input – great news. Here is a snap shot of some of the ideas the women, in our research told us would improve their experience.

  • Make people aware of the pregnancy rest room
  • Improve privacy for users
  • Use chairs rather than a bed in a multipurpose room
  • Improve support and understanding from colleagues

Really interesting feedback and the fact that the feedback was easy to implement was great. Let’s hope that companies acknowledge the importance of these rooms and increase their support for working women and new mums.

If you are a pregnant women who is working and have access to a rest room – use it. You will feel energised by a five minute rest.

Maternity Leave, Great Childcare and Corporate Bumps

Our programme Corporate Bumps is a workshop based programme which support and retains women in the workplace. We all know going back to work after having a baby is a challenge. This week we interview Heather who works in the Oil industry as she tells us about her experience of Corporate Bumps and returning to work.

Tell us about yourself

I am Heather Maxwell and I work for Apache North Sea Ltd as HSE Technical Assistant. I went back to work on 1st August 2011when my baby, Lindsay-Rose Maxwell was 11 months.

What were you looking forward to most about returning to work?

I was looking forward to returning to the working environment, mixing with Adults and using a different part of my brain.

What were you most anxious about?

Being separated from my baby, loosing time with her and giving up being a full-time Mummy.

What did you find most enjoyable about working again?

I generally find my job quite interesting and I enjoyed being back in the work place – the feedback you get from colleagues etc.

What was most challenging?

Being away from the baby – handing over control and responsibility to other people takes a lot of trust and adjusting to not doing every little thing for her is difficult!

What is your top tip for other women going back to work?

Try to test run your childcare arrangement in advance of starting back as you need to ensure you are happy with the provider, to avoid you worrying all day on your first day back.

What would you say, if anything, helped you most from the Bumps workshop?

The Bumps workshops helped me in a number of ways; I felt better at preparing myself for finishing work and even swayed me into changing where I wanted to have my baby which turned out to be a very positive decision and gave me a brilliant experience! The Return to work course helped me to visualise being a working Mummy and gave me lots of practical advice on how to make the transition work and allow me to adjust my routine.

Thanks Heather for this nice interview. It’s interesting you mentioned leaving your baby as a worry. We have found this to be a very common concern. Here are some ideas for those worried about going back to work after maternity leave

  • Find the  childcare which best suits your family.
  • Use the childcare before going back to work.
  • Use Childcare for Keep In Touch Days. You can have up to 10 days.
  • Once mums find that they are happy and content with their childcare going back to work is much easier and smoother.

12 Things You Need To Know When Holidaying With Your Baby

With summer behind us many people choose to head away in search of some sunshine in autumn and who can blame them. A subject we visited a while back was packing for a baby. It may seem a simple task but if this is not carried out with some sort of plan you may find your self with an extra case load of “stuff”. Heres are some great ideas to get you sorted, fast!

Here is what the very helpful Baby Abroad advises when packing suitcases for your family :

1. Make packing lists – add to them as you think of it.  Then don’t do that scour of the house last minute for all and sundry to throw in the case.

2. Find out what you can buy when you get there (nappies, milk) etc.  Here is a guide.

3. Take toys that double up – my all time favourite toy travel toy has to be stacking cups for toddlers great for beach, bath, stacking, colour identifying, teddies tea party.

4. When flying, check beforehand what you can take onboard or check in the hold – for pushchairs, travel cots, car seats, checked in baggage allowance and cabin allowance.  So you can maximise what you can take if needs be.

5.  Try not to let my children help pack as you end up with too much or an argument about why they can’t take their 3ft Winnie the Pooh.  Let them choose specifics – which book do you want to take, which jigsaw etc.

6.  Take jigsaws that children are familiar with. Take them out of the boxes and pop into plastic food bags – seal!

Thanks Baby Abroad – really interesting. Just to add to that here are some helpful ways of planning family suitcase packing from The Baby Gurus HQ.

  1. Download evernote. It’s brilliant for setting up packing lists which can be edited and reused. You may find another you like.
  2. Use the note part of your phone. If you think of something you need to do, then quickly take a note.
  3. Plan shopping – online or in person. Take a shopping list and get what is on it.
  4. Set a time frame for packing – possibly a bit boring for some however worth considering. When do you have time?
  5. Check documents – passport in date? European Health Insurance Card (replaced E111)? Insurance got baby added?
  6. Its also worth having a peak at our previous blog – 9 top tips for packing.

Hope this helps. Happy holidays from The Baby Gurus!

The Working Mum And Her Fabulous New Shoes

We return to our series of working mummy interviews. This week we interview Michaela Oliver who manages to juggle a full time job, a new business and her family. Read on to hear how she manages to juggle her life/work balance.

Tell us about you

I am Michaela Oliver, 36. I work full time as an account manager /marketing manager for a training provider. We have set up babychoes in our spare time – not easy with a toddler! Fortunately I live in the same town as my office so I can walk to work and spend more time at home in the morning than a lot of working parents.

Tell us about your family

I am married to Phil and we have a little girl Poppy was 2 in August. We also have a cat Alfie, which if Poppy were to be believed, eats all her food including tomatoes and strawberries! We live in Steyning, just outside of Brighton.

How do you fit in work with the family?

I returned to work when my little girl was 3 months old, leaving her in full time care of her daddy. She has been going to nursery one day a week since she was 1, and more often more recently so that Phil can work on the babychoes business. We don’t like to send her too often, but hopefully it will all be worth it.

Tell us about your life/work balance?

We are lucky as I work locally so all get to eat breakfast together in the morning, and I am always home by 6. I am in charge of bath time and putting her to bed. In the early days I was popping home at lunchtime to breastfeed, but that seems a long time ago now. Setting up babychoes eats in to all our spare time, and we have to try hard at weekends to make sure we have good quality family time together. We manage it – most of the time!

What are the challenges to being a working mum?

I go through phases. Some times I forget life has ever been any different. There are times though when I feel I am missing out and feel like campaigning for better benefits so I wouldn’t have to work full time. Some of the other European countries have it much better than us. Working full time means I miss out on the mummy groups and can feel a bit isolated. It’s also hard to leave for working the morning when Poppy is saying ‘ mummy stay with me’. The biggest challenge through is tiredness, and trying to not complain about it. I am the only person at work with a young child so Fridays in the office can be strange listening to everyone’s weekend plans – which are very different to mine!

How do you cope with these challenges?

Better sometimes than others. I just have to work a little harder at keeping in touch with the mummy network. My biggest concern is not being able to pick Poppy up at school and feeling excluded, so I have 2 years to focus on changing our circumstances to make this happen – hence our new business start up.

If you could give mums a couple of tips on coping as a working mum what would it be?

Try to smile as much as you can and keep optimistic. I collapsed at work twice last year with anxiety and it’s really not worth it. A job is important but it really is only a job at the end of the day. It’s your family that matter. And if it’s not working for you then put a plan in place to help shape the future.

What do you plan ahead?

I’m rubbish at planning ahead. I think if I were at home we’d be more organized (sorry husband!)

What is your favourite plan ahead family meal?

We don’t eat together – 6’oclock is just too early for us. The family favourite is spag bol – we just eat our later.

What is your favourite book?

My favourite book is The Alchemist, but I’m more likely to read Peppa Pig books these days.

Whats your favourite family holiday destination?

Anywhere with a swimming pool, park and soft play area! We’ve taken to borrowing the in-laws caravan for family fun in Devon.

Tell us about your best family day out destination

We love to go to farms and look at the animals (and buy cakes from the farm shop). If they have a bouncy castle or a bouncy pillow then the day is complete.

What’s your favorite family film?

We haven’t got in to family films yet. But life has been made much easier since the arrival of the Peppa Pig DVD. I am a fan of Peppa Pig and Ben & Holly’s Magic Kingdom.

Tell us about your company?

Baby choes are the first baby shoes to be designed to captivate babies and stimulate their senses.

Thanks Michaela for sharing your story. We take our hats off to you. Your shoes look great and we wish you all the best for your business and your family. Thanks for taking part. The Baby Gurus