Category Archives: work-life balance

Direct Sales

Happy New Year!!  New Year is traditionally a time when we think about making a new start.  Many Mums start doing some Direct Sales as a way of earning a bit of extra money in a sociable role that they really love.  Direct Sales means getting a group of people together and showing and selling them your products.  It’s a way for a group of friends to have a nice evening in and do a bit of shopping from the comfort of their own home, but with the opportunity to try before they buy.  It’s perfect for Mums as it’s so flexible, you set your own hours and targets.  It’s also great for Mums as becoming a Mum has likely introduced them to a whole new social circle who are likely to be in their target market.

There are so many companies now offering these positions (Pampered Chef, Neal’s Yard Organics, Craft Superstore, Avon, Kleeneze, Usborne Books, Body Shop to name a few), you are bound to find one that sells products that you are passionate about and can enjoy selling.  You can choose to sell at evening parties at a host’s home, daytime groups (playgroups etc), a party in your own home, at events like school fetes, or door-to-door.  With most of these companies you now also get a personal website so you can do some online sales as well, and customers can buy your products again and again without coming to more parties.

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Anita started working as an Usborne organiser in Exeter in 2012. She is a mum of two and already worked part time, but needed to find a way to boost her income. Direct Sales was a good option for her, as it had such flexible hours to fit around her part time work and children. You can even take your kids along with you when you are hosting book parties so this saves on childcare.

“I love their children’s books and also meeting other people so the work is enjoyable. It doesn’t always feel like work because parties can take the form of coffee mornings, playdates or even an evening with wine and nibbles! I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for people trying to get back into employment, especially parents with young children.”

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Caroline is Mum to Jack, 4, and works part time in Customer Services. She became a Pampered Chef consultant in October 2011. Pampered Chef sell high quality kitchenware, and during their parties consultants use the products to cook some goodies for all the guests!

“I was recruited at a Pampered Chef party hosted by a friend. It’s not something I would ever have dreamed of doing but I love it. I love the flexibility, meeting new people, my new cooking skills and newly acquired confidence.”

As well as the social aspect of hosting parties, most of these companies bring their consultants together on a monthly basis, so there are additional networking opportunities. Caroline has met many other Mums at these meetings who have also used Direct Sales as a stepping stone into work after having children:

“Having children seems to lower women’s confidence and it can take a while to build this back up. I can honestly say that the women I meet now are so confident and love what they do.”

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Nicole has two young daughters and works as a Supply Teacher.  She attended a Neal’s Yard Organics Party at a friend’s house and was so impressed with the products that she decided to become a consultant herself.

“I’d thought about different ways of supplementing my income and maybe trying out running my own business, and after investigating yoga for children franchises I decided that the cost of these was completely out of my league and the risk was too great. A friend mentioned that Neal’s Yard did something and it wasn’t expensive so I had a look. There was a special offer on for that month and signing up was half price … only £50, so a bit of a no-brainer! I knew that the company upheld what I believed in and were ethically sound. So I had nothing to lose! And I hadn’t even been to a party! It has been a great way of adding to my income … you get out what you put in. And I have a house full of products for myself and family! I consider myself to be the local ‘tester’ so when people ask me about certain products I can speak with confidence! The training is great; loads of opportunities for face to face and phone training, as well as two conferences per year and endless incentives. It can be hard work but I know that I can boost my income at certain times of year if I need to save for something.”

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Direct Sales could give you the skills and experience you need to improve your employment potential too.

Naomi trained as a Beauty Therapist at college.  She became pregnant when she was 18 so did not have the chance to gain much work experience.  After having her son, she started doing Direct Sales for The Body Shop At Home.  Through this experience she gained lots of new skills and confidence, and when a job opportunity came up with Benefit – one of her favourite cosmetics brands, she leapt at the chance.

“I love my job.  I’d never have had the confidence or experience needed to do it if I hadn’t worked for The Body Shop At Home first.”

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Have you considered Direct Sales? Have you been to any parties like those described above? If you’d like to discuss some of the options for getting started, give us a call on 0800 043 2440.

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Filed under childcare, food, hair and beauty, Inspirational Women, lone parent, retail, self employment, work-life balance

Super Mums Club Launch Event

On Monday, we will be offering free face painting, and giving out free copies of our magazine at this event, see you there!

SUPER MUMS CLUB OPENING EVENT MON 2nd DEC 10-12PM at the COURTENAY CENTRE, NEWTON ABBOT

SUPER MUMS CLUB is a place especially for busy MUMS to get pampered, take a workshop or class, get information from local services and advice on things such as parenting & work options. Mums can try & buy local products, or just relax with a cuppa while your under 5’s play with Pandamonium, our cheeky panda mascot in the play areas! We have some childcare time available for you so you can have a little time to yourself to indulge in a mini treatment, enjoy an activity or watch some demonstrations! Come and join us at the new mums playground! Our Mission is to help mums with small children access all the things that mums may need & enjoy. To give mums a little bit of ME time and to motivate, inspire or just relax them, while at the same time helping promote local small businesses, especially those owned by mums too.
We will be opening Super Mums Club in Newton Abbot, Torbay & Exeter in January. For information about what’s on offer at our OPENING EVENT  see our Facebook page. It’s all for you! So come along for a taster of what we will have for you in the new year!
If you have a business that would benefit our Super Mums please get in touch.
£5 per family. Includes a drink & 2 hours Mums & baby/toddlers play. Access to mini treatments/workshops & activities. Discounted shopping & services. Half an hour crèche space for first child. Or 1 hour with a paid workshop/activity. Additional crèche spaces available at £1 extra per child.

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Magazine News!

This year, we have been awarded funding from Awards for All to create three magazines for Mums, all about improving your confidence and motivation, inspiring you to make choices that will improve your work-life balance.  We are very excited to have got the first copy printed – it looks great!  It’s packed with inspirational stories from Mums who have started their own business or dealt with the worry of returning to work or training, as well as loads of information that will help you to progress.  We’ll be posting some of those stories on this blog, so don’t forget to keep checking back!

If you’d like a FREE copy of the magazine, please give us a call on 0800 043 2440.  If you have a story you’d like to share, please email cmathers@opsw.co.uk or get in touch through our Facebook group.

If you’ve got your hands on a magazine already, please let us know what you thought!  Comment below, or on Facebook – we’d love your feedback!

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Filed under creative, employment, Inspirational Women, retraining, self employment, work-life balance, writing

Fancy doing some volunteering?

Voluntary work is a great way to learn new skills, make friends, and build your confidence, as well as adding to your CV and giving you a recent reference.  If you’re considering a career change, it can be a perfect way to try out a new role and show potential employers how dedicated you are to the new career.

There are lots of fantastic opportunities to get involved with volunteering.  The Do-it website is a great place to start.  If you’re already involved with a local organisation that you’d like to support, then you could ask them directly about volunteering opportunities.  Pre-schools, playgroups, schools, and Children’s Centres often need all kinds of volunteers, from receptionists, to gardeners, as well as roles that are more involved, such as playwork or breastfeeding peer support.  Most charitable organisations will be looking for people to help out with fundraising – from selling raffle tickets, to events organisation.

Here are some organisations that we have identified that offer voluntary positions that we think will be of interest to Mums in particular:

Home Start is a national charity, supporting families that are finding it difficult to cope.

Balloons is an Exeter based charity, supporting children who are dealing with bereavement

Real Nappy Advisors help new Mums get to grips with reusable nappies.  In many areas this involves providing a trial kit for a month and supporting the parents in using the nappies and deciding on the best options for them.  This goes well alongside a real nappy retail business, as the family is then offered a discount voucher if they buy from you (refunded to you by the local council).  Read blog posts from local nappy brand, Eccobots, and retailer, The Natural Nursery.

Breastfeeding Peer Supporters help new Mums deal with the many issues they can face with breastfeeding.  They can volunteer within Children’s Centre groups, and in hospital maternity wards in some areas.  Training is usually undertaken through the local Children’s Centre, and locally has been done through Healthy Babies UK.

Have you done any voluntary work?  What sort of voluntary work would you consider doing?

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Filed under charity, childcare, employment, Inspirational Women, retraining, work-life balance

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Advice.  When you become pregnant, you suddenly find that everyone wants to share their advice with you.  It could be your close friends and family, but more often than not it’s complete strangers giving you unwanted advice, usually whilst fondling your bump or baby without asking!  Most of this advice is well-meaning, from people who have been there and know how hard it is – they just want to try and make it easier for you, and feel involved with your little bundle of joy.  It’s down to you to decide which bits to take on board and which to ignore.

We asked Mums on Facebook to share the best piece of advice that they’ve been given.  Here are some of their responses:

Esther: Try and avoid directly comparing babies too much, particularly in terms of milestones.

Anne: Trust your instincts and spend time getting to know your baby, and don’t worry so much about what the books say! 

Victoria: Take all the help that is offered, and don’t think people will think you are a failure if you ask for help.  They won’t.  They’ll just think you are sensible for recognising when you need a hand, like we all do.

Arabella: Buy a baby sling!

Louise: When things get rough, say to yourself…….it’s just a phase.

Charlotte: Get a good group of mum friends around you who are supportive and good fun.  They’re the ones who will get you through the bad times and enjoy the good times with you!

Charlotte: At work when I was pregnant I had an elderly man tell me he was going to give me the only two bits of advice I would ever need.  The first was – don’t encourage them to talk as once they do they never stop.  And the second was – don’t worry they eventually grow up and move out.  I’m not sure either would be in the attachment parenting handbook but it made me laugh at the time, and still does!

Justine: Books are just other people’s opinions written down. It made me realise that they are not the law to follow, but only what others THINK and I could take and leave advice as I so chose!

Sarah: If it’s not a problem for you, it’s not a problem.

Louise: Slow things down and enjoy it.  I finished work and was expecting a good couple of weeks of putting my feet up, reading, and preparing for the birth.  My little one had other ideas and turned up 12 hours later.  As a result I stayed in work mode for weeks, rushing around trying to be superwoman.  I eventually got the confidence to just chill out and enjoy the here and now and to stop willing him to be at the next stage.  It was my mother-in-law who said enjoy every moment as they don’t stay as babies for long.  And having watched Child of our Time over the past couple of nights, I realise just how quickly they can grow up, especially when I look at my little boy who resembles a toddler now much more than a baby.

What’s the best piece of advice YOU have been given?  Did you realise it at the time?

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Filed under children, Inspirational Women, planning, sleep, work-life balance

When to take a break

I like keeping busy, and definitely find that the more I do, the more I want to do.  As regular readers will know, I have two young (and very energetic) boys, a part time job, my own business, and have been planning my wedding over the last few months.  Last year I trained as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter and was really enjoying volunteering at local Sure Start groups, but things were so hectic over the last few months that I decided to take a break from Peer Supporting to give myself some more time.  (Though I have met so many breastfeeding Mums through the Flexi-Mum project I’ve probably ended up doing just as much peer supporting!)

I am someone who wants to grab every opportunity I can, and I find it very difficult to say no, so making the choice to take a break was difficult for me, but it was so worth it.  I’d much rather do what I do well, than spread myself too thin and not manage anything as well as I’d like to.  Now that the wedding is over, and I’ve enjoyed a few quieter weeks, I’m looking forward to getting back into some more peer supporting, and spending some more time on my own business.

It can be difficult to make the decision to take a break, and sometimes it’s not possible.  But I think it’s really important to assess everything you are doing and cut back on things when and if you need to.  I’m lucky to have a very hands-on husband and we are surrounded by family members who can help us out with childcare when we need it – not everyone has so much help (hats off to anyone who manages to be a Mum living away from their own Mum!) and we do really appreciate it.  If you don’t have family close by, then try making arrangements with friends for childcare – even if it’s just so you can take a bath or get your hair cut, or catch up on housework.  It’s often easier to look after an extra child as they entertain each other.  Try setting up something like my “Team Tea” idea on a regular basis too.

It’s important to assess your life balance every now and then to see if you need to cut back on anything, or if you need to make more time to do something (it could be time with the kids, housework, reading, relaxing, seeing your friends that don’t have kids, having a date night with your partner) and then really make an effort to rearrange things so that you can fit everything in as best you can.  For me, one of the big things is seeing friends.  During maternity leave it was lovely catching up with friends most days, but now that we’re all back at work it can be ages between seeing friends and I have to remind myself that that is just the way it is when we all work!

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Filed under childcare, employment, food, Inspirational Women, planning, self employment, sleep, work-life balance

Baby-led weaning

We love baby-led weaning!!  Baby led weaning means allowing your baby to lead the way – they tell you when they are ready to start solids (around six months, when they can sit unassisted and start grabbing food of your plate), and they eat the same food as you, as it is – so there’s no pureeing.  The Baby-led weaning book is my favourite parenting book and I highly recommend it to every parent.

Firstly, some of the benefits:

  • It’s so much fun!  Yes, in the early months there is a lot of mess, but be prepared with bibs, wipe clean floors, and plenty of flannels and baby wipes and it’s no problem
  • In the long run, it’s a lot less mess – I promise!  Because your baby has a head start on learning how to eat, they get the hang of eating neatly a lot sooner
  • It gives you extra time: spoon feeding a baby involves both of you and is over very quickly, but you can put your baby in their highchair with a selection of food and leave them to it (supervised) whilst you get on with eating your own dinner and doing the washing up
  • You can go out for dinner and they can eat at the same time as you, meaning you don’t have to entertain them or take your own food for them
  • It takes a lot less organisation as you just give them what you’re making anyway
  • It helps you eat more healthily as you want to introduce them to more foods
  • It’s makes for more adventurous eaters – it’s great showing off your kids eating things like olives and prawns and mustard!
  • It’s less cooking and washing up for you – as everyone eats the same food at the same time.

And a few tips:

  • At first your baby won’t understand that food fills them up, so if they’re hungry give them a milk feed first.  Food should be considered an activity in its own right, rather than a mealtime, for the first couple of weeks at least so offer it when they are wide awake and happy – it might not be at traditional mealtimes for a while
  • Offer a selection of foods and allow them to play with it and eat what they want.  Even if they seem to not like something, keep offering it a few times to give them opportunities to try it again.  Don’t worry if it all ends up on the floor!
  • Don’t worry if they don’t seem to eat much, they are still getting everything they need from milk – remember “food is for fun until they are one”
  • Start with things that are easy to hold: brocoli, roasted veg in chip shapes, soldiers of toast (spread with anything: hummus, cream cheese, avocado, banana, melted cheese)
  • If you are worried about giving your baby solid foods straight away, then try to team up with a friend who has done baby-led weaning (ideally one who is a couple of weeks ahead of you) so that they can give you more confidence.  Sharing mealtimes is also a great way to give you a break from cleaning up once in a while!!
  • Enjoy it and take lots of photos!  Here are three of my favourites of Oscar.

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Filed under food, work-life balance