Karen McGuigan – Founder of Maths For Life
Today has looked like this… 6am start respond to emails that have come in overnight, send out invoices; 7.30am get boys up and ready for school; 8.00am log on to Education Forum to test technology works; 8.30am school run… still logged in to forum with video off; 9.00am attend and speak at the Education Forum; 10:30am catch up with Tammy my ops manager during a break; 1.30pm finish conference; 1.40pm jump on and do a quick Instagram Live; 1.55pm grab a packet of crisps; 2pm meeting with SEN parent and school on Zoom; 3pm collect boys from school; do two lots of reading; sew Cubs badges on jumper; cook dinner for 4 boys (1 extra on a playdate!); drop 2 at Cubs; cook dinner for me and Mike; 7pm start article about being a mum and running a business; 8.30pm do bed time; 9.30pm meeting with SEN parent; 10.30pm finish article; 11.30pm an episode of Below Deck - Mediterranean in bed on my iPad to unwind. Sleep! And repeat.
I am Karen McGuigan. I am an education consultant with a goal to improve the image and attainment levels in maths for everyone. I studied maths at a degree level as part of my Masters in Chemical Engineering at Imperial College. Originally from Northern Ireland, I live in Surrey, England with my partner, Mike, and three sons, Dexter, Lance and Cal. I set up The Maths Mum® in 2018 with the aim of ‘Helping parents help their children’. Inspired by my middle son Lance, who has Down syndrome, I began the development of the Maths For Life programme in 2019.
In lockdown, I published videos of Lance and I working through maths concepts. It seemed selfish not to share my knowledge. Parents of children with additional learning needs contacted me and, following repeated requests for my knowledge to be written down, I decided to sacrifice sleep for the greater good. Either side of home schooling my three boys I wrote. The Maths For Life Book 1 was self-published in August 2020.
I have always had a low boredom threshold and my career before children was varied – from chemical engineer to retail consultant, from an interactive exercise bike (long before it’s time) to managing contractors on the 2012 London Olympics. I am the ‘jack of all trades’ type girl. Following my career break to have a family my priorities changed. I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice the pre and post school time with my boys for a job that would earn enough to cover the childcare. I wanted to do something I wanted to do. I was always jealous of my partner’s genuine love of his job… coding was his job and hobby. I wanted a job I loved, a job that meant something and a job that would fit in around my boys. Maths + SEN + Lockdown meant that I could do something I loved, that could really make a different to a group of children close to my heart and that I could do sitting from my office at home. If only my 16-year-old shy, maths geek self could see me now – proud to be The Maths Mum®.
Motherhood taught me to multitask, compartmentalise and been efficient when running a business. Just like prioritising the needs of my son - I am able to quickly assess my list into those things that are urgent and important. And it has also taught me to accept that I’m human. Some days the dishwasher isn’t emptied and some days the email response doesn’t get written. Just put it on the list for tomorrow!
To find out more about ‘Maths For Life, visit the website here: www.mathsforlife.com
Aina Gomez – Founder of Family Memento and Franchisee of Razzamatazz Oxford
Eight years ago, I became a mum and a widow within half a year. My memory is fuzzy but I’m pretty sure I did not celebrate Mother’s Day that year. Two huge life-changing situations in one fell swoop.
I was running somebody else’s business at the time, and it gave me the opportunity to take calculated risks whilst ensuring I had a roof over my small family’s head. I was passionate and confident about what I was doing - running a language school that was much more successful than anticipated, and I was earning enough to get by and give myself a treat here and there. What else did I need? Well, for one, I barely saw my daughter and I thought it was not fair on her that, growing up without her dad, she was now forced into barely seeing her mum because she was out making enough. I also became passionate about other things, such as making sure other families had photos they were proud of. I only had one of us as a family (you know, the one where you haven’t lost the baby weight, look terrible, but you still absolutely treasure). I changed my life around and started my own business - I now actually run two; a photography studio aimed mainly at capturing families, and a theatre school for children.
There are many things I have learnt as a mother that have made me a better business-person, and vice versa.
- Choose your battles. That sock your child ABSOLUTELY wants to wear as a glove? It’s not a real problem is it? No one is going to die or be injured. I won’t battle that. The same happens in business. That client who has objections to your pricing? They’re not your client - at least not yet. I won’t battle that either.
- Patience and perseverance. These are two skills that I am quite sure I didn’t have before becoming a mum, I was especially lacking in the “patience” department. After persevering with my daughter to get to read every day (that IS a battle I choose) I can persevere with any objective I may have in business. In fact, I need to learn when to give up, as some projects might just not be meant to happen. However, having patience and persevering has meant that I’ve had some amazing clients that I’ve had to wait for, and that, even when I was not hitting any of the goals I’d set for myself, I kept going.
- It is hardly ever glamorous. Having a child, and having a business, are both great, but my goodness they’re hard work! Every now and then you enjoy the rewards but most of the times it’s just grind and effort.
- Don’t give up. There is always a way around every single problem. Sometimes it can be as “easy” as picking the peas from the plate because she doesn’t like them, but others it’s school or health problems and you just can’t give up, it’s time to put even more effort than normal and keep going. That’s the same for business, although luckily in business you can give up if you really want to.
- Take time for yourself. It’s easy to keep going at all hours of day and night - both when parenting and when running a business, but you will burn out if you don’t ever take time for yourself. I find it hard, not for lack of wanting, but for lack of family nearby, but I still make sure I find sometimes when I am child-free.
- It’s never perfect. And that’s absolutely fine.
Whilst I work many hours, I now have control over which hours I work, meaning I am free for the school run, dinner time, and the very dreaded homework time. While running a business might not be for every mum out there, I am very happy to be a mum and a business owner.
To find out more about Family Memento visit www.familymemento.co.uk, for Razzamatazz Theatre School Oxford, visit www.oxford.razzamataz.co.uk
Ashley Millan – Founder of COAST & COMPANY
I welcomed my first daughter in the early hours of a Wednesday morning in the Spring. She weighed 6lbs and looked exactly like her dad. I will never forget the smell of her, that new baby smell, and how tiny and vulnerable she was. At that moment in time, I knew I had been given the most important job in the word – to be a mother. To care, protect and provide for my daughter. As I sat with her in my arms all day with the sun beaming in through the hospital window, I daydreamed about all the wonderful things we would do together and how excited I was for the future.
At the time of my daughter’s birth, I was employed as a senior manager with an international banking group. I had been head hunted for the role due to my success in other areas of retail banking and had not long been in my new job when my husband and I found out I was pregnant. I knew I couldn’t do my job part time and that returning full time was the only realistic option for me and whilst I was pregnant, I was comfortable with returning to work on a full-time basis and that was certainly my plan.
Becoming a mother changed me as a person, my views and opinions on certain matters changed, I felt I had softened slightly, but what hadn’t changed was my ambition and desire to succeed in whatever my chosen line of work was to be. I did however feel bombarded with views and opinions form other people, other parents shared views such as mothers shouldn’t work, nursey isn’t good for children, your child will have attachment issues if you leave them, what is the point in having children to go back to work etc. All of which made me doubt my plans and what I wanted to do. I felt so incredibly guilty for wanting to go to work.
It was at that time that I decided to take the leap and start my first business. A property letting firm. Having always had a keen interest in all things property related and having manged to create a small portfolio myself at a young age, I felt that having my own business and being my own boss would allow me to work around my family, create a really great work life balance and allow me to achieve my ambitions whilst still being around for my child. How wrong I was! The business grew and demands were high, increasingly more of my time was being spent working and less and less time at home. We decided to put my daughter into full time nursery at 13 months. This was best decision we made. Up until that point I had been trying to be something to everyone – a mother to my daughter, wife to my husband, a leader of my new business and a point of contact for all my new clients whenever they needed. I don’t know what I was trying to prove at that time, perhaps that I could have a career and be a present mother working from home. What I learned at that time, is that each family unit is different and there is no right or wrong way when it comes to who stays at home with the kids and how to raise a family. I learned then not to judge, not to judge mothers who work or don’t, fathers who stay at home whilst the other parent goes to work or if both parents work and children go to nursery full time.
Being a parent made me organised, focused and more determined to succeed than I had ever been before. Whilst I had these skills prior to becoming a parent, having a child super charged them and really, I owe my success to date to my children. Two girls who have made me the best I can be. Not only a boss in the workplace but a caring, empathetic leader who is focused on supporting and encouraging others to be the best they can be, whilst growing my business and continuing to raise my happy, healthy girls, to whom I hope I am an inspiration.
To browse and purchase products from COAST & COMPANY you can visit the website here: www.coastandcompany.com
Chantal Dempsey – Founder of Forward Life Coaching
Being a mother and running a business:
What it is like, lessons I have learnt from motherhood that I have taken into business and vice versa.
I am a single parent of three, founder of a thriving Life Coaching company. Being a mother and entrepreneur compares to running two businesses alongside each other. The key is to not have them competing against one another, but to create a symbiotic balance that allows me to give 100% of myself to each of them at one time.
Of course, if there is ever a conflict of interest, my ultimate priority is always my children, but because my business is also my much-loved baby, decisions are not always easy and clear-cut.
Greatest Challenges and Joys:
The greatest challenges are time and headspace. I enforce a strict compartmentalisation of time, allocating time specifically for my business, time for my children and also some time for my own self-care. Self-care is often dismissed by busy Mums, but it is essential to relieve the pressure and recharge your batteries. Our most irritable time with our children (and at work) happens when we are stressed. So, yes, carving up some time to see a friend or go paddle boarding makes me a more effective and relaxed mother and professional.
My greatest joy is that I am able to do something I absolutely love, with full control over my time. I can go to all the school plays, take my kids to their swimming lessons and have more time off during their holidays.
As I keep learning and growing in business and motherhood, my new skills transfer and benefit both worlds.
Four Things That I Have Learnt From My business That I Have Applied into Motherhood:
Make a ‘to do’ list
I have three children in three different schools, three sets of uniforms, world book days, sports, activities and so on … I have a dynamic ‘to do list’ which ensures I (mostly) don’t forget what needs to be done
Put everything in the diary
The diary, my best friend and life saver… Football games, parties, school events, ideas. I have the same diary for home and business, with colour coded entries for both. Once written down, it is not lost forever in the crazy matrix of my brain.
Running a business greatly diversifies your skills, but also requires outsourcing and delegating, to enable you to concentrate on the important tasks. This has been a great implementation into motherhood, getting the kids involved in tasks and chores to relieve the pressure and free up quality time with them
There is no failure, only feedback
Mum guilt is a real issue for most of us. Every perceived failure as a parent feels like a rip in the heart. As an entrepreneur, every ‘failure’ is actually an opportunity for feedback. Applying this into motherhood has changed my entire perspective to a positive -and very liberating- one.
Four Things That I Have Learnt From Motherhood That I Have Applied into My Business:
This is unequivocally the greatest element motherhood has taught me. You don’t need to appear strong and altogether all the time. Actually, you can connect with people at a much deeper level when you show your vulnerability first. This is an incredible lesson that my children and fellow mothers have taught me. It has changed my life and the way I operate my business.
I know what is important in life. Health, happiness, values. So, I don’t sweat the small stuff
This too shall pass
Your kids don’t eat vegetables? they don’t want to put their shoes on? Once you’ve had a little run at motherhood, you realise that no phase lasts forever. This has really helped me to relativise things in business. Will it matter in 5 years? No? then don’t worry about it.
Keep it simple
Spending a lot of time with my children made me realise how much we adults tend to overcomplicate things. Keeping things simple and focused are refreshing foundations to running a business.
I love the flexibility to carve my own time so that I can be fully present for both my children and my business. The drive and passion of running my business makes me a happier person and a more chilled mother. Equally, my experience as a parent fully integrates into all parts of my work and growth as an individual. And yes, it can get a little (a lot) crazy at times, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Chantal Dempsey is an award-winning life and mindset coach who helps men and women improve confidence and create a life they love. Visit www.forwardlifecoaching.co.uk
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