A Guest Blog Post from Yvonne Hopkinson
In her CheltenhamMaman blog post at the beginning of the month Jenni Phillips wrote “I am a mum and I work full time and I love it”. Yep – me too. I also have my own business, I’m studying for a PhD (part-time of course!) and I have 2 children. I used to feel guilty about doing all this whilst having children but I’ve realised over the last couple of years that this is who I am and my children aren’t worse off because I am working. It means they get different experiences and they get a better and happier mummy when I am around because that is our family time. It isn’t always easy for others to accept but to be quite honest it isn’t for them to have to accept. It works for us.
How does it work?!
I hadn’t really considered this much to be honest – it just does. I have people asking me a lot how do you do it all? What is your secret? Do you have extra hours in your day? And so on, but I hadn’t considered that I was doing anything particularly unusual. But I have been giving it a lot more thought recently and here are my tips for how I combine all of these to the best of my ability – and still remain relatively sane.
- Done – not perfect!
I openly admit that I struggle with this one but it is something I’ve had to get more used to. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist so I have had to accept that I would never quite be happy with what I produce and could procrastinate for ever if I had the chance! Now I try to focus on getting tasks done and off my list rather than worrying about making it perfect. It is a heart stopping moment when I send my supervisor a draft of my PhD work but I just have to make myself do it. I heard someone say recently that the only place perfect exists is in the dictionary and I am agreeing!
- Dry shampoo
30 minutes extra sleep or washing and drying my hair in the morning? Enough said!
- 3,2,1 Relax!
I say this a lot but hypnobirthing techniques really are for life! I would not be half as calm or able to cope with life without these really simple breathing, relaxation and self-hypnosis techniques. I also love my #YESMUM affirmation cards to surround me with little positive reminders, encouragement and inspiration.
- Lists, lists, lists!
It is the only way I would have any idea of what is going on and when! Lists give me some feeling of control and I usually have one next to my bed so that I can clear out all my jobs and tasks from my head before I go to sleep. I do have a slightly unhealthy stationary addiction and I love a cute notebook – well you can’t put a list onto any old scrap of paper. I also love an excuse for buying a new notebook so I often have several on the go at once!
I also fill my Outlook calendar with everything – school/work/business/husband so I can see clearly in one place what is going on where. I’ve not forgotten to collect a child yet so it seems to be working well for me so far.
- Resist the urge to compare or worry what people think and ditch the guilt!
I’ll be honest and say I’ve not cracked this one completely yet – but I’m getting there. When things are going well and I feel like I’m coping with what life throws at me I can easily resist the urge to compare myself with others and ditch the guilt. I can be truly happy in our world. But when I get tired, hormonal or if I have a little blip I do find that mummy guilt kicking in. It is a horrible and dangerous thing and can make you feel rotten. Fortunately I have the most amazing circle of friends who have my back and just know when things are getting tough and can turn me around in an instant – and I hope I can do the same for them. I am one lucky Maman.
- Work out when you work best.
This is a big one for me. With my day job (which often generates evening work), my own business, my PhD and my family life to fit into my day I have to acknowledge and accept what I am most able to accomplish at different times of the day. Some people are able to get up really early and work before their children wake – this is not me! I love my bed and don’t spend nearly enough time in it! Working when my children are around is also a complete no. I can’t concentrate and so get frustrated that everything is taking longer, I then feel guilty because I should be with my children and the work I produce is not at the standard it needs to be. I’ve learnt it is not worth the stress and have accepted that my time between coming home from work and bedtime is family time. Work has to come later. I actually work a lot better later in the evening which is fortunate! Once my children are in bed my evenings are spent teaching, planning classes or working on my PhD. Often clients or colleagues will comment on the timing of my emails in the middle of the night – again it is just when I happen to work best. Which leads me to my next point…
- Teamwork – play to your strengths
I have to say that a major reason that I can do what I do is that I have an incredibly understanding and supportive husband. In our house we have to share parenting and household jobs or stuff just wouldn’t get done. I tend to take our children to school and nursery in the morning before work but often school pickups are done by my husband. He is also a regular at the birthday parties and swimming lessons during the weekends when I am working.
Whilst I can happily get the children up, dressed and out the door on time in the morning, I am terrible at bedtime. I will actually put it out there and say that I hate bedtime. I don’t seem to have the ability to get my children to go to sleep. They want to talk and play and tell me stories and I love that bit. I want to listen to their adventures and stories so that I don’t miss anything (oops there is the mummy guilt sneaking closer) but it could end up being incredibly late before they eventually do go to sleep and on a school night that would be terrible. So instead most nights my husband puts them to bed and on weekends, holiday or others times when they can get away with a later bedtime I go and indulge in the stories, the cuddles and the chat.
I don’t think I need to explain why I need this one!
I’m not going to say that studying, working and parenting is a breeze and I have it nailed – far from it. But with the right support, determination and sheer bloody mindedness it is possible to achieve whatever it is you want. Follow your dreams Maman.
Yvonne moved to Gloucestershire from Somerset in 2012 and immediately felt at home. Her Gloucestershire connection is a little older than this having moved to Cheltenham in 2000 to study for her degree. After graduation she was employed as a lecturer at the University of Gloucestershire and while she moved back to her home town of Taunton in 2003 to get married and eventually have her first child, she commuted to glorious Gloucestershire every day for years!
When Yvonne isn’t at the university she can be found teaching antenatal and hypnobirthing workshops for her business Relaxed Birthing or as part of the Nurture 4 Life team in Cheltenham. She is also ploughing her way through a PhD on the topic of exercise during pregnancy and so is keen to hear about any Mamans experiences! You can find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/relaxedbirthing, drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or give her a follow on Instagram .