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Yes, you can have a great career and be a good mum
Cheryl Goldenberg has seen high-flying fashion editors and lawyers crumble under the pressure of motherhood.
“Having children is a great leveller,” says the motivational coach. “It doesn’t matter who you are and what you do for a living, you will still face at least some of the same challenges.”
Facing the bosses after a year out of the office, and the emotionally wrenching feeling of leaving your little one behind, is a challenge for all mothers who go back to work.
But Cheryl is on a mission to ease the transition.
She is hell-bent on instilling confidence in women and showing them it is possible to find a balance between family and work.
Cheryl interviewed several high-profile women as part of her research, including Marie Claire editor-in-chief Trish Halpin, investment banker Nicola Horlick, and Rachel Elnaugh, one of the original “Dragons” from Dragons’ Den. It gave her an insight into how tough the juggling act can be.
Cheryl says: “Trish said managing a team of 300, getting up at 7am to go to the gym and working until late in the evening was a breeze compared to looking after twins! She admitted that being a mum completely floored her, because they were so unpredictable and she had to find new ways to cope with her schedule.
“Talking to a lot of different women about this specific subject showed me that there are a lot of women going through the same things.”
She has set up a six-month course, called the Pickle Shed, where mothers come for coaching sessions, which prepare them to go back to work.
The courses have started in Leigh, where Cheryl is based, but she is looking to roll them across Essex and the UK if enough women are interested.
She says: “Women tend to play down their talents as a professional and begin to see themselves as only a mother. They see who they were when they were working to be so far away from what they are now. “There tends to be a pattern of behaviour in the coaching sessions. When a woman first voices her ambitions, whether it is starting a business or returning to work, their shoulders tend to drop a little and they let doubt creep in.
“Then the other women acknowledge their goals and take them seriously and you see their confidence rise. Also the fact that we meet monthly means everyone is held accountable to making changes to reach their goals.”
Why do so many women find going back to work after children so difficult?
Cheryl says: “It is scary walking back into an office having been away for maternity leave. The job and office may have changed and you might have lost your confidence, as well as feeling emotional about leaving your baby for the first time.
“I want to help empower women to go back to work with confidence and to value themselves and their experience in their professions.
“Women have families, but there is no reason why it can’t be a positive thing. They naturally nurture and their experience and influence can have a positive effect on the business.”
Cheryl does concede that businesses and government policies also need to change if women’s rights in the workplace are going to improve. She says: “A lot needs to be done in terms of how businesses treat women when they take time out to have a family, but my focus at the moment is helping empower the women first to set boundaries and find a balance.
“Businesses are losing millions of pounds by not investing in women who have families and who do not return to work. It makes sense for them to support these highly-skilled women to come back to work, instead of having to retrain someone else to do the role.”
Cheryl has some key strategies when coaching women.
She says: “I ask the women in the groups to prioritise the things that are most important to them. If the main thing is balance in their work and family, then they should aim for a job that suits that.
“If it is money, then they need to be honest and go for the career that suits them.
“If they are returning to work, they should go in with confidence and set boundaries with their employers, so they can strike a balance between work and family life.”
So can women really have it all?
“We can have it all. Just not at the same time. The reason for a lot of the emotional and mental stress on women is trying to do so much.
“I spoke to Nicola Horlick, who was called superwoman in the media for being an investment banker and bringing up six children. I asked her what she thought of being called ‘superwoman’ and she said she thought it was a load of nonsense. “At that time she had nannies, chauffeurs and assistants helping her. She also spoke about her eldest daughter, Georgina, who died of leukaemia at 12 and the relatives who would come and visit her bedside. She said they were the real ‘superheroes’.
“It was very interesting speaking to her and a real eye-opener. She was very down to earth and showed that it is possible, but there are sacrifices.”
Cheryl worked as a computer programmer and had her first baby at 25. When she looked to get work after her third baby at 33, she found everything had changed. She said: “By the time I was ready to work again, my previous job had gone and I was a completely different person after having children and my priorities had changed.
“I retrained as a counsellor and later went into coaching, because I found that it suited me better. Counselling focuses on past events, whereas coaching is more proactive and focused on changes you can make.”
The six-month course costs £150 and is currently running on a monthly basis at Went to Market deli in Leigh. Anyone interested in the course can contact Cheryl on 07956 528349 or 0845 4588205.
There will be a taster session being held on Thursday, September 19 at 7.30pm at the deli. Tickets cost £10.
Visit www.thepickleshed.co.uk for details.
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