I have been fascinated by the reactions that people have had to me when I was on maternity leave, when I was getting ready to go back to work, and now that I am back at work. I find that some people are very judgemental about how they expect families to work. Well, I’ve got news for you everyone, we’re all different, we all have different needs and that is one of the amazing things about us.
My aim is to share the stories of families of all different types and spread the word that we are all playing a #BalancingAct to get through and raise our little people the best way we can. Let’s celebrate the diversity between our families, let’s not judge each other.
This week, I’m very excited to have a special edition of #BalancingAct as we’re joined by Naomi, one of the creators of the Sussex Pregnancy and Family Fairs which take place in Brighton, Worthing and Chichester over the summer.
1. Tell me about your family
I’m Naomi, mother of three little people aged 7, 5 & 3 and owner of uflourish Pregnancy & Family fairs
2. What was your job/position before you started your family?
Prior to baby number three, I worked for Coca Cola in Sales, full time for 10 years. My last position was as a Merchandising Sales Team Leader, managing a team of 10.
3. What was your work-life balance like?
After my first two children, I was very lucky that I had great family support from both my mum and my mother-in-law and in exchange for a bit of pocket money they looked after my two girls (born 18 months apart) allowing me to continue my corporate career. My employer was very supportive and I worked flexible hours allowing me to cram my hours into a couple of long days and a couple of short days over a 4 day week.
When I look back now it was great being able to switch off from work and switch into mummy mode (now days it seems to all blur into one!), which coupled with a good old dose of mummy guilt, I ensured that the time we spent together was real quality time. The girls had my full attention when I wasn’t working….. days out, art & craft, cooking, etc and lovely weekends doing family things with my husband too.
4. How did you find being away from work when you were on maternity leave?
Again, I was fortunate, Coca Cola valued women in the workplace and our maternity package was really generous. I am very grateful for that as I was able to take three years of maternity leave with my three children to be with my family without having the common financial strain and feeling that I had to go back to work before I might have been ready.
5. Have you returned to some kind of work since having baby and how did you come to that decision?
My children were all born so close together that when my “whoops” baby arrived when my eldest was 3.5, it felt impossible to return to the long commutes and tiring working hours of my employed position. My baby boy changed everything for me. I decided to focus upon making my hobby as a Hypnobirthing teacher into more of a business to provide an income. This worked amazingly well and over 3.5 years I developed a busy Hypnobirthing practise working closely with other local professionals.
I taught my lessons during evenings and weekends when my husband was home meaning I didn’t have to pay out for childcare (which would have been astronomical for three under 5’s!!) and had plenty of time to spend with the children during the week. As part of my desire to share Hypnobirthing skills with as many pregnant couples as possible, I began to organise Pregnancy fairs 3 summers ago which have grown organically and gradually in size and popularity.
6. What made you establish the Pregnancy and Family Fairs?
During my Hypnobirthing career I also trained & qualified to become a BabyCalm & ToddlerCalm teacher to extend my services to support families throughout their parenting journeys. I learnt so much myself as a parent and saw how a little support and information transformed parent’s lives, enriching and empowering their experiences.
I was inspired to develop the uflourish Pregnancy & Family fairs to be able to share all the great resources I’d discovered via my hours of networking on both a social and professional basis. There was so much helpful support available but it seemed that local parents were completely oblivious that it existed. I wanted to pull it all together on one day under one roof so local families could find what they needed. Reducing the stress and strain involved with raising a family and making it a more positive experience.
7. How have the Fairs evolved?
Our first event was back in June 2013, it was in Shoreham and 15 local businesses were involved in promoting positive pregnancy information. We were astounded to attract 75 visitors with no marketing budget and very little notice. We held 4 more fairs in 2013/14 and have welcomed 1850 parents along to these events.
As our loyal regular visitor base has grown, all those bumps have now turned into toddlers and pre-schoolers so we’ve expanded our brand to support families with children under 5. This summer we’ll be offering a range of free workshops to also assist parents through the toddler and pre-schooler stages and help cope with the demands of their expanding families and roles. Over 150 businesses will be offering support, advice and wonderful shopping opportunities across our three events in May, June and July in Sussex.
8. What are your hopes for the families that attend?
I kind of feel like uflourish is a bit like a dating agency for parenting support! I hope that we can introduce parents to the help and inspiration that matches their need at that time. There’s so much on offer during our events from free workshops & seminars, demos, informal talks, contests, prizes, discounts, giveaways so I genuinely hope that every visitor gains a little insight, finds a helpful group or product that’s going to make their lives a little easier so they can be a wiser parent and enjoy more fun with their little ones.
9. Describe your work-life balance now in 3 words.
10. This might be difficult to answer, but are you happy with your work-life balance?
The weeks in the lead up to our events are pretty stressful and involve long hours for the uflourish team so right now’s probably not an accurate reflection of the rest of the year! From September all three of my children will be at school so the family dynamic has shifted and now my weekends and evenings have become my precious time with my children. I feel 100% grateful that my business has now evolved into one which works around the school run and I as I am self-employed, I can take the school holidays off (in theory anyway!).
I’ve taken a break from teaching as I develop the uflourish brand and am very excited to be spreading more positive pregnancy and parenting inspiration across Sussex with the launch of our new look magazine at the Brighton event. Everything feels like it’s falling into place. Balance still feels like it’s a way off (if ever actually achievable when running your own business) but I’m hoping having all my children in one place for the first time ever and the extra daylight working hours will allow me to make a huge step towards more balance and being able to be a better quality mother when we have time together. Rather than my roles being constantly blurred!
Ask me this time in 6 months’ time and I’ll let you know…!
For all the previous posts, see the #BalancingAct page.
If you think you’d like to get involved in this feature and share your story, please leave a comment, tweet me @mamavsteacher or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’ve been enjoying my struggle for balance and my journey as a full time working Mama, then I’d love it if you could spare 2 minutes to nominate me for the Mum and Working Working Parent Blogger 2015. Click the link and follow the website through.