Working Parents: Lucy

Lucy is a life coach and hypnotherapist and also teaches antenatal preparation classes. She has two children.

I am married (it took us 17 years of being together before we got round to it! We finally tied the knot 6 years ago); and we have two children aged 9 and 7, a girl and a boy. I was a teacher for 16 years before I left to become self-employed. I worked with children with SEN, particularly Autistic Spectrum Disorders. It was great work, really interesting and inspiring. I loved working with the children – and staff – to help to develop their coping skills, resilience and self-esteem. It was really fascinating looking at how we learn, and how to develop emotional skills as well as academic.

When I was pregnant with our first child I was certain that I wanted to continue working as I am very passionate about the work I do; I was also aware of wanting to not miss out on my own child’s early years. My husband had started his own company, along with two other people, a few years before. The business had taken off far better than we had ever imagined, so we worked out that I would return to work part-time after my maternity leave, and my husband would also go part-time. We were incredibly fortunate to be in that position.

Returning to work was not as great as I had imagined, however. Teaching is not as family-friendly as a lot of people think; by the time our second child was born (I had a miscarriage in between them too), after lots of other internal difficulties that the school went through, I decided to accept voluntary redundancy.

This was an incredibly tough decision. I had trained as a hypnobirthing teacher during my first maternity leave and had been teaching hypnobirthing classes in the evenings at the same time as returning part time to my teaching career, but I still wasn’t sure I could make it on my own as a completely self-employed person. I was passionate about what I was doing – I had been so terrified of giving birth when I was pregnant, and learning hypnobirthing had completely changed how I viewed birth and also a lot of the negative thinking I had been prone to beforehand. It completely changed my experience of childbirth, and even though things really didn’t go to plan on the day I felt confident, empowered and really happy with the decisions we had made.

I realised that a lot of what I had learned through hypnobirthing had so much relevance to the work I had previously been doing, in supporting others to develop their coping skills. I decided to train as a hypnotherapist to complement my hypnobirthing work. Over the past 7 years, I have been on the most wonderful journey as the various parts of my business have grown and developed. I have done a lot of work with parenting and early years development, plus mindfulness training for children, and eventually have settled on my passion of supporting mainly women through changes in their lives; I work with my clients to help them find balance within the crazy hectic rollercoaster that is many women’s experience of juggling work, life and family.

I work part-time but that is spread throughout the week. I read a wonderful quote recently, that describes entrepreneurs as the only people to work an 80 hour week in order to avoid working the standard 40 hour week! This is so true, so I have to work hard to apply what I teach to clients – to find that balance between everything. I have ‘responsibility’ for the children on 3 days a week, and my husband takes responsibility for the other two.

Things are a little easier now they are both in school – we home-educated them for 3 years before they decided they were ready to give school a go. I usually have a really great balance between seeing clients, the inevitable admin work, my family and ‘me’ stuff – I love climbing, running, yoga, walking my dogs and working in the garden. Things are easily sent out of kilter when we hit those busy periods when too much stuff is going on all at once. It is particularly hard when my husband works away as we have no family support at all. I have come to accept those times and let some things slide in order to cope; I have also learned how to ask for and accept help from friends!

My children really take an interest in what I do. We talk a lot about the things I do to help others, and I teach them useful tools to cope with anxiety and stress too. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds, of course, my own kids see me more as ‘Mum’ than ‘therapist/ life coach’. I do notice them using the strategies and language that I have taught them though, they are generally pretty good at problem-solving. I decided to start writing a sort of ‘family life’ book to guide families through helpful ways of communicating with each other, and the kids were so enthusiastic when I talked to them about it that they decided to co-write it with me. Watch this space!

The best thing about my situation is that I know my boss appreciates me because I am my own boss! I choose what to prioritise and when, and I have the flexibility to be there if my kids need me. I take time off through the holidays and really enjoy that family time. I love being able to share these ways of thinking with other women and inspire them to make changes to empower themselves and enjoy life. I also love the baby cuddles I get with my birth work! Seeing couples move from apprehension or downright fear to confidence and empowerment, and hearing the amazing birth stories they share is indescribable. I feel so fortunate to be able to do the work that I do.

The most difficult thing has to be the lack of support we have had right from starting our family. I really believe that we’re not supposed to bring our children up in isolation, as the saying goes ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. I have worked hard to find the support I need to get through the tough times, although I do also recognise the huge personal growth this has provided for me and feel really positive about the way everything has worked out. In terms of work, the most difficult thing is the huge fluctuation in monthly income; it seems so random, it can make financial planning much more interesting.

I would advise all parents who want more flexibility in their work to really work out what they want and how to make it happen. You make your own destiny, no one is going to provide all the answers for you! Collaborate with your partner, work out any financial issues – and remember that this will often be short-term solutions as your young children soon grow into older children. Ask for what help you need; go to your boss with solutions, not problems. Be confident, be brave – you won’t get these years again and it is a privilege to be able to enjoy them. And remember, in financial terms if you haven’t got it you simply can’t spend it – this mantra allowed us to really cut back on outgoings.