Hi Jessica, 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?
In a nutshell, I’m a coaching psychologist, author of Mothers Work! and founder of The Talent Keeper Specialists. I’m a runner, feminist, mama, politico and loved-up whippet owner. My children are Monty (age 10) and Artemis (age 8). A huge part of the problem mothers face when trying to return to work and develop their careers post children is the culture in which they work. The Talent Keeper Specialists got off the ground in 2011 when the then Head of Talent at Veolia Water, Alina Sandell, commissioned me to produce a line manager ‘s guide to positive maternity transitions. Our work at The Talent Keeper Specialists has evolved from being female focused to fueling engagement, confidence and performance in all employees as they go on and return from extended leave – think maternity, sickness, sabbatical, shared parental and adoption leave. I also blog at www.jessicachivers.com
1. One word to describe how being a WoMo makes you feel?
2. What’s the funniest experience you have had juggling kids and work?
I have done an interview with a BBC radio station from the airing cupboard to avoid detection by the children during the school holidays when they were too young to be trusted not to fight outside my study door at just the wrong point. It’s a place where all external sounds get muffled and it’s warm.
3. What is the one piece of advice you could offer another WoMo?
Say yes to any opportunity that feeds into your ambitions (whether professional or personal) because you’ll somehow find the time.
4. What’s the least amount of sleep you’ve gone to work on and how did you cope?
I was working on a big project for HMRC, coaching groups of their senior leaders, and I must only have had 2-3 hours of sleep the night before the first day. I really don’t know how I got through the next day but I did. I reminded myself what a health visitor told me when I was getting myself in a state when Monty was a newborn and I was exhausted from all the night feeds: you’ll cope.
5. What have you learned about yourself as a WoMo?
That I can be patient and calm but I have to choose to be so. It’s really easy to fly off the handle and shout at the children when they’re winding each other up and causing unnecessary stress and hassle but it never leads anywhere good. They’re now ten and eight and often go into full on wrestling mode on my bed in the morning before school when I’m kneeling at the mirror on my window ledge doing my make-up. So long as they don’t come near me whilst I’m holding eye pencil or mascara I left them get on with it.
6. If you had a working mother’s anthem or mantra, what would it be?
“You don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it going.” This isn’t particularly a mantra about motherhood, more about business and life. I spent a lot of my life wanting to get things perfect or not starting something until I can see the end product in my mind and feel it will be a success. I’ve developed much more of an entrepreneurial spirit over the last year or so (it’s take me long enough – I’ve been in business 13 years) and it was the mantra behind me starting to write my book Mothers Work! How to Get a Grip on Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work (published 2011 by Hay House).
7. What is your guilty pleasure to combat WoMo guilt the best?
Hmmmm I don’t really have a lot of guilt – guilt for me comes from being away from the children too much but that rarely happens. Guilty pleasures? Nope, don’t really have any of those either. Everything in moderation. Now I sound like Mary Poppins. Seriously, I used to be fat and now I run, spin, walk and Sh’bam so if I want to eat cake and chocolate I do. My mum was an alcoholic so I’m not bothered about booze. As for crap TV, not a chance, not got time for that.
8. Would you rather be dealing with a tantrum or presenting in a board meeting?
Short, focused board meeting where everyone has read the papers in advance, started to form a view and comes prepared to listen and be persuaded by another’s argument and make a decision.
9. If you asked your child / children what your job is, what would they say (exact quotation if possible)?
I just asked my ten year old and he said: “Coaching psychologist.” The children are very aware of my work as evidenced by this drawing left on my office whiteboard when Monty was nine.
10. What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before you became a WoMo?
Just how draining sibling bickering is. I’m not sure how knowing that would have helped though.
11. To date, what has been your best WoMo achievement?
Probably getting my book written, published and helping women get back to work. People are still buying it six years later and writing to tell me how it’s helped. I love that.
12. What do you want to teach your kids about working mothers?
That working is a normal part of adult life and that it should give us pleasure and meaning. It isn’t something you endure to get to the weekend.