Elizabeth Cowper, founder of the brilliant WoMo Network - ( WoMo = affectionate term for the modern Working Mother) asked to interview our Co-Founder Helena Chapman on her honest account of juggling home and work life, read the article here:
Hi Helena, tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do, how old are your children and what happens with your kids when you are at work?
I set up Rosalena Skincare 5 years ago after a varied career in the city, ranging from recruitment (with head WoMo Elizabeth!) to psychology and business coaching. I have 3 children, Bella 16, Ollie 13 and Alex 10. I work with two other incredible WoMos and between us we have 7 children to juggle, all with differing needs including special needs plus the normal amount of child/teen challenges thrown in for good measure! We cover childcare with a combo of before/after-school clubs, nannies, grandparents, kids clubs and extremely understanding husbands! Term time is ok as all our children are of school age; school holidays continue to prove a challenge and we are not adverse to the occasional bit of child labour when a big order comes in!
1. ONE WORD TO DESCRIBE HOW BEING A WOMO MAKES YOU FEEL?
Lucky - because I love both the Mo and the Wo (in that order) duality of my life and feel fortunate to have both.
2. WHAT’S THE FUNNIEST EXPERIENCE YOU HAVE HAD JUGGLING KIDS AND WORK?
Firstly, love the fact this question uses the word funny, as opposed to stressful/disastrous, as reframing events to funny is the only way to deal with the juggle- especially when it all goes wrong, which it frequently does!
One funny experience was a call from school (you know that heart chilling feeling when you see the school number on your phone and you catastrophise every possibility within the millisecond it takes for you to answer the phone?) only to be told my son has some bluetack stuck in his ear. Due to some ridiculous child protection issue the staff couldn’t remove said bluetack so could I please whizz up to the school immediately to remove it or else they would have to take to him to hospital to have it taken out. It was an interesting one to explain to the attendees of the meeting I was in at the time! But I was at the school, removing bluetack from sons ear and back in time for the remainder of the meeting and if that’s not juggling I don’t know what is!!!
3. WHAT IS THE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU COULD OFFER ANOTHER WOMO?
Accept shit happens and laugh about it. It’s impossible to sail calmly through WOMO life without incident, curve balls will be thrown, don’t bother trying to avoid them! Remaining present and dealing with the situation without attaching emotions like guilt to it is my aim (not always achieved!).
4.WHAT’S THE LEAST AMOUNT OF SLEEP YOU’VE GONE TO WORK ON AND HOW DID YOU COPE?
Thankfully I’m past sleepless nights now with my more grown up kids, but in the early days I definitely zombied my way through meetings . I only ever worked part time and here’s a FACT: the sleepless nights only EVER happened on the nights before a work day.
4. WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF AS A WOMO?
Being manically busy is a state of mind. If I don’t take time to get my mind under control it all goes to pot! Mindfulness, spinning and yoga play a huge roll in helping me to stay grounded and positive.
5. IF YOU HAD A WORKING MOTHER’S ANTHEM OR MANTRA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Well, my family motto is “this too shall pass” and that works pretty well in the work place . And the thought is always worse than the reality is a healthy reminder to just go for it.
6. WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE TO COMBAT WOMO GUILT THE BEST?
I really believe that you can’t pour from an empty cup – so I think looking after yourself is not a luxury but a necessity. Everyone around me, colleagues and family alike benefit if I am topped up with high self-esteem, energy and self-love.
8. WOULD YOU RATHER BE DEALING WITH A TANTRUM OR PRESENTING IN A BOARD MEETING?
Presenting in a board meeting every time- at least they pretend to listen to you.
9. IF YOU ASKED YOUR CHILD / CHILDREN WHAT YOUR JOB IS, WHAT WOULD THEY SAY?
Well my kids get it now as they are older but when I started Rosalena Skincare I do recall one of them telling their teacher that mummy mixes special potions at night that make people feel and look good! I was fully expecting the drug squad followed by social services to come knocking.
10. WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN BEFORE YOU BECAME A WOMO?
As Michelle Obama very wisely said “a mother is only ever as happy as her least happy child” and you can’t compartmentalise life so if one of your kids is unwell/unhappy you can’t pretend like everything is ok at work. Openness and honesty around this and not striving for 100% parenting and 100% work efficiency is a realistic and kinder way to operate the WoMo existence
11. TO DATE, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BEST WOMO ACHIEVEMENT?
Conducting a very high level journalist interview for the FT How to Spend It whilst watching my son in a rugby cup match and managing not to shout “ go on!!” to the journalist and explain ingredient content to my sons rugby team.
12. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO TEACH YOUR KIDS ABOUT WORKING MOTHERS?
Not to define someone by their work or their role as a mother but for the person they are outside of these labels. Working and non-working mothers alike, we are all just trying our very best, so don’t judge others but instead focus on yourself and what’s right for you, which can and will change so be insightful and flexible.