Tag Archives: Guest post

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

Guest post: Are you driven by guilt or aspiration?

I know all too well how hard it is to strike “the balance” (I’m not sure I ever have done). My talented, driven, inspirational friend Lucy – who managed to create and launch her halterneck support product, Halto, with her sister whilst also being a working mum and singer – talks about her lightbulb moment.  Thank you Lucy 🙂

Lucy CoxHaving worked harder than average to get pregnant and then being blessed with a healthy baby girl, being a mum became both my conscious and unconscious priority in life from that moment on. The role to rule over every other role. But something surprising shifted in my mind-set last week, and I can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner!

Just to scene set for a moment. Although we couldn’t really afford it, after having our daughter I took the full twelve months off work, and again with questionable affordability, decided to go back to work part-time. It felt right to build every detail of my life around my daughter. I had been waiting a long time for her, and this is what being a proud mum was all about, right? We needed to live, but my daughter needed me more than ‘stuff’, so that’s what she got. Me, as close as I could to 100% of the time. For five years.

Over this period I had also started a small business with my little sister, Halto, which we worked around the kids and other ‘stuff’. This was to be our ‘get out’ from the shackles of paid employment and enable us to spend more time being mums. The kids came everywhere with us, and anything we couldn’t do with the kids was banished to the twilight hours. It grew from a very small acorn, and soon gathered momentum.

I would tell people how lovely it was to work part-time, and how proud I was that I had built my life in this way, and I meant it. I focused solely on the positives of this situation, until I had a few health problems in 2015 that made me really question my lifestyle choices and I became far more aware of getting a better balance in life.

It took me far longer than it should have to understand that if you expect yourself up to be the perfect mother, wife, employee, friend, sister, daughter and business partner, you will fail. You will be enough to adequately label yourself as all those roles, but you won’t be 100% of what you aspire to be in any of them, and (from a bar set high in the first instance) that doesn’t feel good. It is so draining.

Fast forward to the present day, and during a business coaching session last week, I came to the crashing realisation that I had become driven more by guilt than aspiration. Satiating guilt was a much bigger priority than satisfying my own ambition. I keep my own business under the radar as much as possible, often being quite apologetic for it, and try to work when my family is either in bed or out so it doesn’t impact on them at all. And when it does, I feel guilty. I tie myself up in logistical knots making sure that I am there at the school drop-offs and pick-ups every day despite my ever-growing to do list, and I am so exhausted.

The coach at this session was discussing innovation, and what was stopping us achieving the goals we have for our businesses. Many talked of financial challenges, or finding the right staff. For some, it was how to access new countries or develop new products. Right at that moment it hit me so hard between the eyes. My attitude was the sole barrier to me and my business achieving. As long guilt was my main motivator, I would never be fully committed to growing the business to its full potential.

Another thing struck me at the same time. I had arrogantly always assumed that my family, friends and colleagues actually all wanted me 100% of the time! I had never asked them whether more was better? Perhaps less, but better quality would actually be preferable to all (including my sanity!).

The first thing I did was ask my family if they minded me condensing my employed hours into fewer days (meaning my daughter would need to go to after school club two days a week), and I would then take one whole day a week on my own business. To my delight (and frustration) they both said they were very happy with that. In fact, my daughter (who had been bugging me about going to after school club for months) actually sounded like she had just won the lottery!

So here we are, about to embark on a new chapter where I am no longer apologetic for being a working mum. I will never shed myself of mummy-guilt completely, because I am a great mum. But from now on I plan to be, at the very least, a realistic mum who can demonstrate a more balanced life.

And who knows, maybe my daughter will take over the family business one day!

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NOTHS: Christmas has got Scrip and Baby D’s names all over it!

My lovely sister donned her jingle bells for a preview of the notonthehighstreet Christmas collection this week. Here are her highlights. 

Anything personalised was always a big hit with me when I was little (remember those catalogues filled with pages of personalised coloured pens and pencils?) and if Scrip and Baby D are anything similar, NOTHS have got this aunty’s Christmas shopping sorted!

Tree decorations, wooden zoos, pyjamas, tents, dolls houses and Christmas stockings – you name it, you can have that special name put on it!

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A personalised tent will keep those furry friends safe

There’s a cushion for the cat, a monogrammed chef’s apron for the big chef, a kitchen for the little chef – and a coffee pot for the whole family.

Oh, and if it’s a baby bear or a little badger you’re buying for, they’re covered too!

notonthehighstreet.com Christmas in July 2016

Baby bears can keep snuggly in this sweet sweater

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Cute cubs cuddle up in this charming playsuit

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There’s no mistaking the owner of this beautiful dolls house

They'll have sweet dreams in personalised pyjamas

They’ll have sweet dreams in personalised pyjamas

Original tree decorations

Original tree decorations – flamingos, pineapples and cactuses

Coffee

Personalisation gets grown-up!

notonthehighstreet.com Christmas in July 2016

Christmas is looking beautiful at notonthehighstreet.com’s Christmas in July 2016

Guest post: Goodness gracious great balls of dough 

Bread making collageWe’ve been enjoying fresh bread at home for the past few weeks courtesy of my husband – and it all started with a notonthehighstreet.com Dad Academy session. Here’s more.

Arts and crafts, DIY, cooking… I’ll chance my arm at most things to varying degrees of success. I have never been blessed, as my mum often tells me, with naturally practical genes but I like to think what I lack in God-given ability I make up through endeavour and determination.

So when I was asked by my wife to attend a session of Dad Academy from notonthehighstreet.com, my naturally competitive streak kicked in and I started to psyche myself up for what I imagined would be the urban equivalent of zip wiring through mangrove swamps with fellow chest beating males.

Not so.

I did, however, have the opportunity one reasonably balmy August evening to roll up my man sleeves and get mixing, kneading and baking through Ma Baker’s bread making course.

So off I went telling myself I’d be competing in The Great British Bake Off – albeit at Sunday League football level. A glass of bubbly down the hatch, I and fellow dads were welcomed to our pristine work surfaces with all our ingredients laid out to make our first bread – a lovely sourdough.

Nervous laughter aside at the thought of losing face in front of each other, Liz from Ma Baker cut through all our barely concealed bravado and took us back to the classroom with a fun and easy to follow session. Balls of dough at the ready we set about kneading our dough with the delicacy of heavyweight boxers.

I was jokingly reprimanded for some over-vociferous dough banging on the table but I knew, you see, that it’d give my mix the competitive advantage it would need. Off to the oven they went and off to the bar we went for discussion about the merits of dough scrapers and the quickest ways to remove congealed flour from our hands.

Back we came for round 2 and growing in confidence we set about delivering our second batch, this time a traditional white farmhouse loaf – the process once again expertly curated by Ma Baker herself.

It was a lovely evening and very good fun. Ma Baker was also very open to even the most basic of questions about baking and we were all happy another string had been added to our bows.

Whether my home creations have the same sparkle as those made on the day I’ll leave others to judge. I, on the other hand, look forward to the next instalment of Dad Academy: no doubt zip wiring through those swamps.

Guest post: soft play for dads – survival tips from the front line 

Soft play advice for dadsMy husband has shared his thoughts on soft play survival. To be fair he’s an expert as I haven’t been able to clamber around the oversized climbing frame of doom for at least the last six months (and he secretly loves going).

Given I’m imminently to go on paternity leave for child number 2, I’m already plotting where I may deploy myself when I’m not changing nappies or burping the little one. My wife and I are well aware of the effect our ‘new kid on the block’ may have on Scrip. After all, she won’t have our undivided attention anymore and she won’t, for the first time, be the biggest draw when others visit. Based on this, and to give myself some convenient excuses to escape the intensity of a post-birth household, I daresay I’ll be escaping with Scrip for the odd adventure and treat.

Once the cafes and playgrounds that are our regular haunts have been exhausted, it’s almost inevitable a trip to Soft Play will be reluctantly mooted (by me) and readily accepted (by Scrip).

The words ‘soft’ and ‘play’ do not a relaxing concept make. For any parent. But you can’t get away from the fact that it is to toddlers what rolling in s**t is to a pig. They can’t get enough of it. And Scrip is no exception. The unbridled joy and fidgety excitement as we approach is a sight to behold. I can barely get Scrip’s shoes and coat off in time before she’s launching headlong into the red, yellow, green and blue melange of apparatus.

The thing is, when you go to Soft Play with Scrip, you don’t just sit at the side, read the paper, have a coffee and generally let the madness wash over you. Oh no. At her insistence, you’re in there with her, following in every footstep, climbing over everything (including children), fitting through gaps you shouldn’t and getting stuck halfway down the slide. It’s more of a workout than a trip to the gym, but she goes back in again, and again, and again. And it doesn’t get boring or tiring for her. She doesn’t even want to stop for food or drink. The pace is relentless.

Here are some tips to surviving a trip to Soft Play:

1. Arrive there as soon as it opens
And never a minute after. If only to snare a table on which to put your coat and bag, you’ll be glad you did so. The play area is fairly empty and you get a number of clear runs on everything before the masses arrive and you wish you never turned up.

2. Vary the activity
As soft play is made up of hard core climbing and more genteel, quieter pursuits, it pays to mix it up. If only to catch a breather. It’s like being at a party where you’re being pursued by unwanted attention (I’m sure that happened to me once in my youth) and escaping to the chill out room for some respite until you’re found out. By going to play shopkeeper or doctor in a side room it keeps them entertained and they get to interact with you, too.

3. Be firm with other children
Other peoples’ children at soft play are horrendous. No, they’re not mine to tell off, but if they’re bigger than Scrip (which they invariably are) and devoid of any sense of what is going on around them (always) then I need to fight Scrip’s corner for her. It’s best to be firm with other children rather than bottle it up and huff as that makes it more stressful. Plus you can guarantee that slightly podgy six year old boy will give Scrip a wide berth when next ‘queueing’ for the slide.

4. Cap the trip at two hours
You’ll certainly have had enough by then and, though they won’t admit it, they will too. Fight the inevitable protests, get the shoes and coat back on and take them to the loo. And get them in the car sharpish. The last thing you want to do is pay for an over-priced sandwich and risk being pulled back into the melee.

Guest post: Out of the mouths…

Evening beach walk with moonWe’re in Cornwall for a week and our walk on the beach just before bedtime inspired another post from Scrip’s Granddad aka Grandy. Here are his thoughts on the logic of children.

I am sure that the following is no surprise to those with children about them all the time but Scrip’s recent but all too infrequent visit to the now not so sunny Cornwall set me thinking about how, as children develop language skills, their actions and thought can make perfect sense in the context of their experience whilst not necessarily Continue reading

Guest Post from Grandy: bear-hunts, bamboo thickets and Giant Bolster

Scrip and Grandy cuddleMy dad, AKA Grandy, (who was undoubtedly the hit of the holiday for Scrip) wrote a few words after our recent stay in Cornwall. They made me cry (in a good way). Thank you Grandy and you are always welcome to come and see us in the Big Smoke, chickens allowing.

Just for the record now they have all gone back: IT IS ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO SEE MY FAMILY.

In the far west one gets used to isolation; that and age have combined to produce post-visit exhaustion syndrome. My mind doesn’t recognise my body’s insistence that I’m a 70 plus OAP. For that I’m glad, otherwise I would not have  been catching Scrip time after time to stop her falling into the pond as she Continue reading