Hi Jess, 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'm a consultant. I work with businesses to develop their leaders and create strong engagement within their workforce. I'm also looking forward to studying for an MSc in Integrative Psychotherapy next year. My children are Ava (11), Morris (8) and Raymond (15 months). I rely on a combination of nursery and grandparents for my little one, while my older children spend Mondays and Tuesdays with their dad, which affords me flexibility to travel and work long days at the start of the week, then work from home towards the end of the week to accommodate the school run!
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?
Several years ago I worked with a client based in Boston, USA. Once a fortnight I would fly to America on the Sunday night and catch the red eye home on the Thursday. My older children were little at the time and would always want to speak to me before bedtime - a 2pm Skype for me when I was away. One day they came on the call brandishing Goodnight Moon (which I know by heart) and demanding a bedtime story. As I finished quietly reciting the book to them, I looked up to find a little audience of office workers gathered around my desk, rapt!
3. What is the one piece of advice you could offer another WOMO?
That if you hope for your children to find fulfilment, satisfaction and joy in their work, and indeed in their adult life, the best way to teach them that is by living that way yourself. They learn by example. Whenever I'm uncertain of anything, I imagine my children as adults and the advice I'd give them if they were in the same situation. I would encourage them not to feel wretched, guilty or martyr-ish about pursuing their work, so I do my best not to let those feelings drive my choices.
4. What’s the least amount of sleep you’ve gone to work on and how did you cope?
2 hours. I had a power nap in a toilet cubicle. It was not a day I'd care to repeat!
5. What have you learned about yourself as a WoMo?
I've learned to focus and to be in the moment. I try not to obsess about the kids while I'm at work and vice versa. Also that I have the capacity to do way more than I think.
6. If you had a working mother’s anthem or mantra, what would it be?
Mine is borrowed from Nora Ephron: 'Be the heroine of your own life, not the victim.'
7. What is your guilty pleasure to combat WoMo guilt the best?
On the mornings that I do the school run, I don't make breakfast at home. Instead we leave early and have croissants at a little French cafe near their school. If we're at home I never sit down with them, I'm always unloading a kitchen appliance or scrabbling around for missing shoes. At the cafe we laugh, talk, eat yummy things, and enjoy each other. It feels like an extravagance, but it makes a real difference to how we are with each other.
8. Would you rather be dealing with a tantrum or presenting in a board meeting?
Board meeting. Does anyone pick tantrum??
9. If you asked your child / children what your job is, what would they say?
Morris: playing on the computer. Ava: something to do with conferences.
10. What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before you became a WoMo?
Do not waste energy entertaining other people's doubts about your choices. No one is more invested in doing the right thing for your children than you. Other people's criticisms are often an expression of their own insecurities. If what you're doing bothers them that much, they should probably take it to a therapist.
11. To date, what has been your best WoMo achievement?
Both of my big kids had fantastic school reports this year where their teachers highlighted their great attitudes, maturity and empathy. I was all 'IN YOUR FACE HATERS' to the people from my past who told me that travelling for my job would give my children an attachment disorder. I realise this story isn't the best showcase for my own attitude, maturity and empathy!
12. What do you want to teach your kids about working mothers?
That mothers are people not saints. That we have many needs and desires that sometimes contradict each other, or are in conflict with one another. That our love for them doesn't mean that everything is about them (everything being about you would be a huge burden anyway, right?) That the world needs people with a rich diversity of experience to find common ground and work together, if we want it to change for the better and working mothers are a huge part of that.