Self-reflection, Work-life balance

On life as a working parent.

Three things I often wanted my employer and colleagues to understand about me as a working parent:

1. By the time the official working day starts around 9am, I am likely to have been up since 6.30, getting children up and dressed and ready for school/nursery, dropping them off on an extended journey and then getting in to work myself. So yes, i do need that coffee at the 9am meeting;

2. After lunch, on days when I do the school run, I start to get panicky because my time is running out. I always try to cram too much in and am invariable late for pick-up. Please don’t try to stop me if you see me running down the stairs at 3.10pm;

3. After I have finally got the kids to bed (and mine were actually pretty good at this), the last thing I can face doing is to switch on my laptop. Pretty much the only thing I can face at that point is my pillow. please don’t send me the papers for tomorrow morning’s meeting at 9pm today.

As schools in the UK go back, working parents lives change. For some it gets easier, for others harder. Depends on the parent, child, school and childcare arrangements.

If you manage working parents, please check in with them over the next few weeks to see how they are and whether they or you need to change anything to be most effective.

If you are a working parent, please consider your boundaries, and let go of a) perfection and b) being able to do everything. It isn’t going to happen, and that’s ok. You are enough.

Goal setting, Inspiration, Self-reflection

On motivation, goals, and how they don’t always link the way you would expect.

Ellie outside on a tree-lined path in the rain, smiling to the camera
Ellie outside on a tree-lined path in the rain, smiling to the camera

This is the consequence of taking on a 25km, 16 km bridge walk – the Thames Bridges Trek. This isn’t the day itself (which was sunny and to be honest a little too warm). This is today. 3 days later, in the pouring rain, round the corner from home.

I signed up for a 25km walk over 18 months ago but for obvious reasons it got delayed and moved and altered. During lockdown I walked every morning in the peace and quiet. Virtual challenges ( 100km per month etc) kept me going mentally and physically. When my younger son returned to primary school I walked with him and then carried on. But I’ll be honest, over the summer, my motivation to walk nose-dived. Two weeks ago I really REALLY didn’t want to do the event. I didn’t want to walk and I definitely didn’t want to do trains into London. I thought I would do it because I had promised a friend and had done all the training, and then I’d be done.

But a weird thing happened. The event itself was hard (especially 19-23 km which was hot, seemingly endless concrete and crowds). My feet hurt. On Sunday I didn’t do much, though I didn’t get any other after effects. Yesterday I didn’t walk – busy working, but during the day I was aware that my legs and my brain were itching to be out again. So today, DESPITE having achieved the goal I was working towards, I set off for a quick stroll round the block in the pouring rain.

I guess I’m writing this as a reflection that goals, motivation and actions don’t always link and follow in the way you expect. My motivation really dropped as my goal became closer and has picked up again afterwards, even though I haven’t yet got another similar goal in mind. I suspect this isn’t news to some people – it’s why the UltraChallenge company who run the events immediately email us with discounts for signing up for next year! But, if your motivation has gone missing as you approach your goal, it might be the time when you just have to say “I’ve come this far now so I’m going to see it through whatever” and then use the motivation bounce after you reach the goal to set the next one.

Ellie holding up a medal in the sunshine at the finish line of the Thames Bridges Trek
Ellie holding up a medal in the sunshine at the finish line of the Thames Bridges Trek
coaching, coaching tools, Self-reflection

What would you write to yourself?

She manages to be a top quality student without being at all boring or a SWOT“. Classic letter writing there from my undergraduate tutor to my prospective PhD supervisors.

Today is World Letter Writing Day! What’s been the most memorable letter you’ve received?

The ones that stick with me are usually handwritten, and these days few and far between. But then I don’t write many either. My grandfather, who passed away a couple of months ago, was really the only person to whom I still wrote conventional letters.

My other memorable “letter experiences” include:

1. My mum writing to me weekly when I was an undergraduate – and occasionally including a “Guiness cake” that was so heavy it cost more to post than to make;

2. A series of postcards and letters from undergraduate students telling me what they were up to after graduating;

3. A letter from a Dutch amateur atmospheric chemist telling me all about his pollution measuring bicycle and addressed to “lady Eleanor”. Accompanied by hand-drawn illustrations.

I have been fortunate enough never to have received hate-mail unlike many climate and diversity and inclusion colleagues, though no-one likes rejection letters and I’ve had a few of those.

I do write letters to myself sometimes (though I try not to make those hate-mail either!). I had one on my wall at work reminding me of all the good things about my previous role. Writing to ourselves can be more effective than giving ourselves a good talking to. What would you write to yourself?