I was fortunate enough to interview maggie dent! I am sure you will enjoy reading Maggie's responses
- i especially love her focus on 'spark'...
Many mums I speak with feel guilty about pursuing an activity, like study, that takes them away from their kids. What can you tell us about resilience in children that might ease the burden these women feel?
I really dislike the guilt monster. Guilt can suck the joy out of everything! Recently I was chatting to a fellow author about this, Rachel Macy Stafford (Hands Free Mama) and she told a story about being away from her daughter at an event – the event went really well for her but then she felt this crushing guilt afterwards about leaving her daughter overnight. When she got home her daughter told her yes she’d missed her but she’d found great comfort in holding Rachel’s PJs. Her daughter felt connected to her even though she wasn’t there. As parents we can do all sorts of things to ease separation and to build connection … put kisses in your child’s hand; leave notes; wink at them when you see them; tell them you’ll be sending them a rainbow when they’re dropping off to sleep; record a story on an iPod or a million other things. Micro-moments of connection help children feel loved. Also, one of the basic building blocks of resilience is safe, consistent, loving care in the circle of family. Now that doesn’t have to be biological family. It just needs to be someone who really digs your kids. For mums who are studying or working or doing a creative activity, I say make sure you’re leaving your child with consistent, loving carers (and don’t beat yourself up if they watch the occasional movie while you finish that assignment) – and make the most of your time away from them by throwing yourself into it. Finally 'over parenting' and doing too much for your kids is now being shown to weaken children's resilience – and if they see their mum studying or working it shows them that there are times in life we need to put our head down and work for what we want!
Can you share any experiences you have had with study and do you have any words of encouragement for mums who are struggling to balance it all?
I was a teacher for many years while my boys were young and it wasn’t until they were a bit older that I started branching out into studying counselling and eventually writing books. I often had many long nights and weekend hours when I needed to be marking as I was an English teacher and for my boys that was normal. For me, balance has always been about embracing imperfection and living by the 80/20 rule. That often meant having a messy house, leaving the dishes in the sink, and sometimes having toasted sandwiches or make your own pizzas using pitta bread for dinner. It also meant being realistic about what I could achieve. I also had a wonderful woman who lived nearby who came and helped out sometimes. It’s a valuable lesson for any parent — ask for help when you need it! These days because of my intense travel schedule (and the fact that all my lads don't’ live in the same city), I carve out time in my diary to spend with each of them and we still go on holidays together sometimes.
What can you tell mums who are studying about the role modelling they are offering their kids?
Having goals and dreams are important and telling our kids we want to be the best expression of ourselves and sometimes it takes time and lots of effort is a fabulous thing at any age! When I do seminars about adolescents, I always talk about how adolescence is a great window of opportunity for young people to find their ‘spark’. If, as a parent, you are studying something you feel passionate about, then what a wonderful thing for the children in your care to see. Also, given we live in a world of such instant gratification, it’s important for our kids to see that in order to get a qualification you do actually have to put some time and effort in. It’s not like on reality TV!
And finally, as a successful educator and businesswoman what tips can you offer mums about following their dreams?
My first tip is to embrace failure rather than see it as a sign of failure. I failed many times and gradually had to work out what I did best and yes it was also what I loved best! I truly believe that when we are doing what we’re meant to be doing – and I’m talking about that ‘spark’ again here – it all flows (at least most of the time — it’s 80/20 remember so 20% of the time we might expect the wheels to fall off!). That’s been my experience anyway and I always find I have the energy for things when they are ‘right’ for me. When I find something is like pushing the proverbial up a hill then I review it and often decide to drop it. I think it’s very important to pay attention to your intuition in your work/study, just as much as it is to pay attention to strategy and planning. As a business person, I make sure everyone in my team knows that family always comes first. Lastly I like to remind women life is a long journey and I am a late bloomer – I didn't write my first book until I was 48 and so life can become incredibly productive when your children get well into their schooling years! I inspired a 50 year old woman at a seminar and she ended up going back to school – did Year 12 with her daughter and finally became a nurse at 55 – a long held secret yearning. So go for it!