Category Archives: New beginnings

GUEST POST: 10 tips to negotiate a flexible return to work

0A9D254A-3031-4C07-9CD2-31D29C7A8D3AHolly and I have been social media friends for a while, and just as I’ve talked lot about the difficulties of returning to work, so has she on her blog, Pitter Patter Pither. She’s also in PR (which I didn’t know before but is nice to learn!) and is a new mum to little Amelia.

I’m happy to share a post from her on tips for negotiating a flexible return to work in the hope that it helps what can be a stressful and difficult time for parents.

10 tips to negotiate a flexible return to work

If you don’t know much about me then let me introduce myself. I’m a Holly Pither, I’m a mummy blogger, new mum to baby Amelia, wife to James and a fitness fanatic. I’m also perhaps what you might call ‘a career gal’ through and through (for all the negative and positive connotations that brings!)

I’m also not ashamed to admit that I simply love my job as a PR director… so much so, that as I neared the end of my pregnancy I dreaded going off on maternity leave. I was terrified of letting go and putting my career on pause, if only for a short while. Most of all I was terrified that it was my career that defined me. However that story, and everything I have learnt on that journey, will have to wait for another day (or feel free to read about it here) because today I’m talking about flexible working.

I’ve recently returned to work after 11 months of maternity leave and whilst it hasn’t been without its issues (for example I’ve struggled with leaving my baby and having to take time off work due to her being unwell), my discussions with my boss about returning to work were relatively smooth. However, like many parents, something had to give, and as such I needed to negotiate some degree of flexibility in my role. Without this I don’t think I would have been able to cope or reach any form of work/ life balance.

So if you’re in a similar position, and perhaps looking to return to work soon after maternity leave, then here are my top ten tips on how best to negotiate a flexible return to work.  

1.       Make a plan in advance: We will all want to enjoy every moment of our maternity leave, but I promise you getting a plan in place early will allow you to relax into motherhood. Going back to work is stressful enough without having a decision like this hanging over you. 

2.       Document everything: Whether you end up speaking to your boss in person or not, whatever you do make sure you write it all down and save your correspondence. This is a very important decision that will no doubt affect your future employment contract, so it’s best to get a written record of everything, even conversations over email that may seem irrelevant to the negotiations. This is especially important in case things go pear-shaped, let’s hope they don’t of course, but you can never be too careful.

3.       Think about what you offer: Begin by clearly identifying the key skills and experience that make you valuable to your employer. If you’ve been away from the workplace for some time, identify what new skills you may have acquired during your maternity leave. Pull out your recent appraisal forms and highlight your strengths, as well as what you have brought to the business during your time there. It’s time to showcase why you’re so great and how having you back on your terms is significantly better than not having you back at all. Do not let that dreaded imposter syndrome get the better of you.

4.       This isn’t just about you: I know you are negotiating ‘your’ flexible working hours, but spend some time considering the potential impact of your working arrangement on your work colleagues and your boss too. If you can show your boss you are doing what’s right for the business too, you will have a much easier conversation. Try to consider all parties in this arrangement as much as possible.

5.       Be open and honest: There is no point in saying what you think they want you to say and then later regretting it. Be honest and explain to your boss what you think you need for a good work/ life balance. Likewise if you feel your employer is being unfair tell them. This is no time to be a wall-flower. 

6.       Don’t just expect they will just give you what you ask for: They don’t call it negotiating for nothing! Make it clear that whilst you have a preferred option, you’re open to negotiation. Find a suitable middle ground and don’t be worried if there is a lot of back and forth, this is a big decision. 

7.       Speak to your colleagues: Find out what they agreed and what was declined when they returned to work. Chances are your workplace will want to be as balanced as possible, so you might find that if something wasn’t allowed for someone else, you may struggle to push it through. Likewise though, if something was agreed for a colleague, you should find that, in the interests of fairness, you can make a real case for it.

8.       Don’t take anything personally: This is certainly easier said than done, but try to remember that if your line manager declines your offer or sends you rather formal responses, it’s only because they are trying to do what’s right (most of the time) for the business. This can be especially tricky if you have a strong relationship with your boss or line manager or if you are used to a fairly informal conversation. Negotiations like this are likely to become quite formal and detailed, so if you feel yourself getting emotional, take a step back and remember it’s nothing personal. Don’t forget your emotions may be running extra high and you may need to step away and consider if you are looking at this objectively.

9.       Go back for a KIT Day/ Days: Keeping in Touch (KIT days) are so important in my opinion as they can really help you to feel what its’s like being a working parent in real-time. They can also reassure you that you will be able to get back into the swing of things easily when you return properly. I found them a great way to ease myself in and remind myself that I can still do my job just as well as before baby.

10.   If all fails, why not try something new: If I have learnt anything whilst being on maternity leave, it is that maternity leave is a time to think. It is also a time to reevaluateRemember you’re under no obligation to stick with the organisation you left (obviously be aware of the rules around leaving and having to pay back your maternity pay). If your current role doesn’t end up working, perhaps it’s time to take the plunge and move on

So, are you missing London?

missing londonI still love going back to London. We all do. When people ask if we miss it it’s a difficult question to answer. I think my husband does more than me. I love being back there – the buzz, the scale, the opportunities – but I’m seeing it through different eyes now.

I don’t feel like it was the best place for us to continue our family life, and that was one of the most important reasons for moving. However, I didn’t fall out of love with it (when you’re tired of London etc.) and I’m glad it’s still only an hour and a half away. My sisters live there as do some really good friends and I do miss them.

I’m enjoying our life here and making friends at Scrip’s school, our local toddler group and in the village generally. I love the fresh air, big skies and space. I love the fact we can hear owls in the garden and see buzzards overhead. We can walk to school past fields and hills and head out to pick blackberries from our door.

So, I do wish I could bring some of my London life here – particularly my family – but I appreciate why we moved and everything we all have here.

On the eve of my little girl going to school

Going to school

 

Tonight you let me wash your hair
No fuss, as if the water wasn’t there
You dried yourself and put nightclothes on
Tolerated the toddler’s evening fun
You chose two stories and patiently waited
You spelt out some words, really concentrated
Then I kissed my little girl goodnight
Set the gro-clock, turned off the light
And closed the door on our life so far
Four and half years of my biggest star.

You’re excited, apprehensive, keen to start
I echo your feelings, but there’s also a part
That can’t let that eager little one go
Feeling sadness I’m trying not to show
School’s like a marker, a new path we must find
And I’m worried we’ll leave a little bit behind
I know you must learn, and change and grow
The journey’s exciting and there’s a long way to go
But in a way I suppose you’ll always be
My bright, loving baby, indefinitely.

 

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A guide to turning one – by Baby D

A guide to turning oneBaby D’s first birthday has been and gone with all its ripped tissue paper, cake crumbs and crawling in and out of cardboard boxes. We were joined by family from both sides of the country and it was a lovely day, despite some worrying news hanging over us.

With Scrip, turning one meant so many things and some were similar to Baby D but some totally different. I keep getting told not to compare the two but she’s my only other baby template so it’s hard not to. With D, one year seems to have been a real marker and he’s been frantically upskilling in the last few weeks so he could hit the milestone with a bang.

So this is Baby D’s guide to turning the ripe old age of one year old:

  1. Reveal your lightning quick crawling and start pulling up on everything – particularly relatives. Remember, walking’s for wimps (but if ‘helpful’ people encourage you to try to walk, respond with stiff legs and an instant sitting position).
  2. Use this occasion as an opportunity to eat as much as you can (don’t forget, honey and runny eggs are now fair game). If there’s a party, polish off crisps and at least a few pieces of cake and hoover up any dropped crumbs quickly and efficiently.
  3. Grown ups are likely to be distracted with ribbon and nibbles so now’s the time to try and get into those places you’ve only ever dreamt of going. Like the understairs cupboard, toolbox or a peep inside the (hot) oven [yes, this happened].
  4. New toys are for exploring – namely banging together or throwing, whatever kind of toy they are. Ride-ons are for pulling up on or pushing over. And it’s important to move on from each toy with record speed.
  5. Lull your parents into a false sense of security with a few nights of sleeping through around your first birthday (‘we’ve finally cracked it!”) and then bring them down to earth with a bump the day after.
  6. Your sister is now fair game for hitting (hilarious), pulling hair (even better) or wiping your nose on (convenient).
  7. And whatever you do and however much mischief you cause, know that your family couldn’t love you any more if they tried.

Happy one year Baby D. 🙂

 

The big move

So, we’re in and it all feels a bit surreal! The walk to pre-school past fields, sheep and a few ponies. The need for wellies everywhere! The frost in the mornings and stars at night. The pheasants on the high street (well, we’ve seen one). The shops that don’t open for milk until breakfast is over (that definitely caught us erstwhile Londoners out!) We’re in rural South Gloucestershire and I can’t quite believe it.

Scrip has done brilliantly so far and baby D LOVES the tractors. While I’m still absorbing it all here’s a taste of life over the last few weeks. I’m all boxed out (and there are still 15 to go…)

moving house collage

Wow 2015 and hello 2016

Hello 2016Judging by my Instagram feed, it looks like I’m not the only one seeing in the New Year with a glass of Shloer and a boxset. Last year I was pregnant and tired, this year I’m the parent of a baby and a pre-schooler and still tired!

Even if I don’t make it to the full 12 bongs of Big Ben, it’s been a pretty amazing year this year and we have a lot to be thankful for. There’s also been a lot of change and there’s a lot more to come. My top five moments from 2015? Probably these:

  1. The birth of baby D on 15th April. Simply amazing (if a little fast!) and Scrip becoming a fantastic big sister
  2. Our family holiday to France in August. Fun, family and more than a dash of good red wine
  3. Handing in my notice from my job this November. Liberating and terrifying in equal measure
  4. My husband getting a new job in Bristol after what seemed like endless interviews this December. The start of a new era
  5. Our first Christmas as a family of four. Truly magical

And what I’m most looking forward to in 2016?

  1. Moving into a proper house with a garden and bigger rooms for Scrip and baby D
  2. Scrip’s first day at her new nursery and then, *sniff*, new school next September
  3. Going it alone with work. Eek
  4. Family and friends visiting us when we move (please come soon!)

I hope you have a truly lovely night tonight and an even better 2016. Cheers.

New home, new (affordable) decor

   

 So, as of last week, the big move out of London is on…

With any house move comes organisation, paperwork and expense, but also the fun stuff like planning new bedrooms for Scrip and D and of course, us. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to our airy loft room (although it does reach extremes of heat in the summer and cold in the winter), but my Pinterest account has also been buzzing with new home decor pins.

I love neutral shades that can be accessorised, so we’re going for alternate walls in light green and yellow for D and light peach and yellow for Scrip. We’re recreating our calm light grey walls in our bedroom whilst most of the house will be off-white.

As for bedding, I’ve recently discovered Yorkshire Linen, a British, family-run company who offer luxury bed lines online or via one of their stores. I like the range and the site is easy to navigate. I also love The White Company for stylish inspiration.

For the children’s rooms I usually head to Ikea for cheaper styles, Vertbaudet for reasonable bed linen (look out for sales) or the Great Little Trading Company which has some great fun designs.

I’ll try and post as we get into the decorating and accessorising but in the meantime, my dream (affordable) home will mostly be emerging via Pinterest.

This is a collaborative home furnishings post.

Life with a newborn – #winning or #failing? 

 Ten days in and having sent my mum my standard morning sleep progress report text – a positive one – she replied ‘#winning’. Which made me smile. I’d had a few hours’ sleep strung together not once but twice. Result. 

It made me think. These last few days of starting to get grips with a newborn again as well as becoming a mother of two have had their ups and downs. Those winning moments are brilliant – you feel you can achieve anything. But as with anything, they’re balanced out by the little challenges (or fails) along the way. 

And that pretty much sums up the first week and a half (in between all the lovely moments and staring in amazement at our gorgeous little boy):

#win – putting him down and him settling straight away in the Sleepyhead
#fail – next wake up was a five hour feeding session. Who knew they were even possible? From one side to the other on and on (ouch) and grizzling in between

#win – soundly sleeping all the way around our first shopping trip
#fail – then taking 45 minutes to latch on…

#win – first time in proper clothes (including Little Brother top, obviously)
#fail – changing after 5 mins due to suspect yellow stains appearing

#win – figuring out the Ergo Baby carrier and having a nice stroll 
#fail – struggling with playground/swing pushing logistics with carrier on (frustrated Scrip)

#win – calmness in first bath – we use a Tummy Tub – and a helpful Scrip to sponge him
#fail – D inconsolable after leaving the water

#win – Scrip being curious and loving with him (mostly)
#fail – her enthusiasm bubbling over as noisy toys piled on top of him, waking him up (instant wailing)

I expect the pattern will continue like this for a little while, but the wins of being a family of four definitely outweigh any of the bumps in the road so far. 

Introducing our newest arrival 

 

Little D arrived on 15th April – the day before my birthday and the best early present I could ever have. I say early – he was 12 days overdue in the end and although it was all pretty intense and quick I was able to have a water birth in the birth centre and avoid an induction planned for two days later. 

Scrip is everything all at once – excited, proud, confused, a bit jealous. I guess it’s all to be expected but we’re involving her as much as we can whilst making sure it’s not all about D. She suddenly seems so grown up and even more loveable. 

And as for him, he’s pretty perfect. We’ve already had a tongue tie diagnosed and snipped, poor mite. So feeding is challenging but we’re getting there. He’s also very hungry so very little sleep but what did we expect?

Mostly I just can’t believe we have a new addition – and a male one (Scrip’s freshly washed baby clothes are largely redundant!) and we’re enjoying these special early days as much as we can. I know all too well they don’t last long. 

Going back to work – 6 tips I’ve learnt

Toddler spilling pensBeing 31 weeks’ pregnant (it still doesn’t seem real – even when it’s there in black and white) work should be something I’m thinking about winding down rather than starting afresh. But a few things recently have made me cast my mind back to when I started again post-mat leave just over two years ago. I had a difficult time back then, partly down to issues that I hope I don’t ever have to face again. And that’s without factoring in missing your little one, parental guilt etc. etc.

But there are definitely also positive learnings to be made from my experiences and if I could help my younger self to cope and can also remind myself for next time, here’s what I’d say. Continue reading