It's working for Louise Parker, Founder of Louise Simply Fit
As challenging as it is for me to share my struggles, especially with anxiety, I know that it is therapeutic for ME and for other mums. So I write the post, hit submit, and just walk away!
That everything will work out, with grace, self-compassion and patience. When we look ahead at something scary or new (like having a first baby, facing a pandemic, starting a new business – delete as appropriate!) it can seem completely overwhelming.
But honestly, things usually turn out just fine, and I wish that I had known that I would grow into my role as a mother, and that despite my fears, I would be exactly the mum that my kids needed.
After having my first child, I was going through an immigration process (I’m from the UK), which meant that I had to return to work after 12 weeks, or I would lose my immigration status. This was unbelievably challenging, but also kind of helped that the decision was taken out of my hands.
When I had my 2nd child 3 years later, I had a green card and so I was able to make a choice regarding returning to work. I decided to stay home with my 2 kids, and consult to my former organization for about 10 hours a week. This seemed like the perfect set-up, and worked well for about a year. The primary motivation for this move out of the full-time workforce was financial, as all my income would be going to childcare (Boston daycare prices are extortionate, and I worked for a non-profit!). My ideal choice would have been to work part-time or to job share (which incidentally is really popular option in the UK) but this wasn’t an option in the organization I worked for.
Just before I had my 3rd child 2 years later, I started my own business, supporting & mentoring other moms with their physical and emotional health. I really wanted to be ‘more’ than a SAHM, even though I can categorically say that it is the hardest job ever! I wanted more for me, I wanted to show my kids that mom could do things too, and I wanted to help other moms in a more structured way.
I started this business during nap times, and early in the mornings. I made it work, but it was super challenging, and definitely took a toll on my own emotional health. Balancing 3 kids under 5, and starting a business was not easy, but it was so so worth it.
Now, 4 years later, things are definitely more balanced, and I am able to better balance working from home, remote learning, parenting and all the other things that come with life. Not perfect, but moving forward every day!
Being open and vulnerable did not always come easily to me to be perfectly honest. I grew up in the UK where we have/had a ‘sweep it under the carpet’ mentality and show your best side. It made it really hard to ever show weakness or vulnerability. But through a ton of therapy (over 10 years now & still going strong!), self-development and surrounding myself with women/moms who were paving the way with a vulnerability path, bit by bit over the past 5 years, I have turned around my vulnerability. Brené Brown has been a huge influence on my life too, acknowledging that vulnerability is not weakness, but in fact strength.
Because I know both sides of the coin, I know *just* how important it is to share about how we struggle, the difficulties we have with our mental health, with anything really. When we don’t share these things, it seems like we are the only ones who are struggling, and it just feels so lonely, and also like we’re such failures.
So even now, as challenging as it is for me to share my struggles, especially with anxiety, I know that it is therapeutic for ME and for other mums. So I write the post, hit submit, and just walk away!
When my 3 kids went from full-time education to full-time remote learning back in March, my whole world was turned upside down. Just like so many other families out there, we struggled HARD for a while. Remote learning was a disaster to begin with, with little structure, and lots of stress!
Because of this, I really had to re-think the way that my business was structured, for me and for the mamas that I serve.
Before March, when my clients and I had some control over our schedules, we could work together 1 on 1. Once March hit, it was just too hard to find a time to commit, and it added to the stress for these moms. They would schedule a time, have to reschedule, feel guilty, etc etc. It just wasn’t worth it for them.
I went from working 1:1 with clients, to creating virtual support groups and toolkits to support moms in a way that they could access on their own time. Accessing it on their own time, and in a really really simple format seemed to be the most important factors. We were all overloaded with information & resources from schools, scheduling our kids Zoom calls, keeping on top of COVID numbers, balancing work meetings with kids around….simple and straightforward was essential!
The support group with the biggest growth this year, has been my virtual running challenge support group. Running has been the most accessible exercise for most moms this year, because there is no gym to get to, you just lace up and go.
The running challenge is made up mostly of moms, who are all on their own journey towards physical, mental, spiritual and emotional growth. They support each other in an incredible way, and the group is thriving. I love being a part of this group, because I can be in there supporting the women every day, but on my own time. They also develop connections and relationships with each other.
I also have another virtual support group that I am developing for the mamas who purchase my toolkits. This will enable mamas to connect with like-minded women, who know how challenging life as a mom can be, but also want to strive for personal growth.
My toolkits are packages created by moi, that are designed for different areas of parenting life. My most popular two by far at the moment are ‘parenting in a pandemic’ and ‘dealing with stress & anxiety’.
Both of these toolkits are 4 weeks, and include yoga classes, guided meditations, mindfulness exercises and breath techniques. What I love about them the most, is that they are designed for busy moms, by a busy mom. I don’t expect anyone to get up and meditate for 2 hours every morning, and I think moms appreciate that 😉
When I first started to dip my toe into the meditation and mindfulness waters, I just wanted to find someone that would take my hand and guide me down the path. This is what I try to do for my moms.
So many things keep me motivated! It’s honestly one of those labors of love where I just wish there were more hours in the day!
I LOVE the feedback I hear from other moms about how the support groups and toolkits have changed their lives. It is an absolute honor to hear that I have made a difference in mama’s lives, because I know just how challenging it can be to look after ourselves.
And honestly, it is motivation for me to prioritize myself and my own self-care too. I know that I need to walk the walk when it comes to self-care, delegation and saying no, if I’m going to talk to other mamas about it too.
That’s been one of the biggest areas of growth in my life.
Pre-pandemic, it was pretty ‘easy’. We had an incredible preschool & daycare setting, and we were really happy.
This past year though has been something else entirely. There was zero childcare for the first 4 months (March – July). We went from full time school & pre-school with after-school activities to NOTHING overnight! That was a big adjustment for the kids, and for me.
In the first few months, we just did not feel comfortable bringing someone into our house to help with childcare and tutoring. We were also able to figure it out so that my husband and I could share some of the schooling and childcare. For this I felt so grateful.
During the summer, we were able to hire a part-time babysitter, who had a similar approach to COVID as our family, and most of the time was spent outside. It was an absolute godsend to us as a family, and the kids thrived over the summer months.
After the summer, my youngest returned to his tiny home daycare (with only 2 other kids from the neighborhood), who has transitioned to a preschool this year. This has been a great compromise for us, getting some socialization, but in a reasonably safe environment.
We were so lucky to find an incredible tutor who worked in our neighborhood during the summer. It was a great fit, and for this I was grateful, because I didn’t have any luck on sites such as Care.Com, as tutors were in such high demand in September.
These situations have worked really well for our family, and we continue to adjust as needed, depending on what is happening with numbers.
AMAZING QUESTION! I think the ‘new normal’ keeps on changing, so I think we keep adjusting, keep transitioning, and keep trying to flow.
I think I realized in around May that we were in this for the long haul. School closures went from 2 weeks, to 4, to 6. Once we had confirmation that we wouldn’t return until September, we were able to settle into a solid routine.
My biggest challenge I think has been juggling everything, and trying to feel like I’m not failing in every area of my life! I feel like this is a massive cliché but it’s true. When I’m working, I feel like I should be with my kids, and when I’m with mu kids I feel like I should be working. This has been heightened this year as the boundaries between work and home have been blurred almost beyond recognition!
Get used to saying NO
Acknowledge that your to-do list will never be finished. Once I acknowledged this fact, the constant stress of never feeling ‘done’ with anything receded a little
I would honestly say that my husband has been my biggest source of support in returning to work. He has always been my biggest supporter, and saw my greatness years before I did! He is also always the one that pushes me towards childcare and outsourcing, when I get stuck in the pattern of thinking “but I *should* be able to do all of this myself”
As a working parent, I never expected the anxiety of juggling so many things would be so hard and _dropping kids off at preschool/school would GET so much easier.