Marvellous Mums | Jo Jewell (Mindful Parenting)
The first in a series of 'Marvellous Mums' features Jo Jewell who runs Mindful Parenting. She is a British expat with years of child counselling experience in the UAE offering individual and family support with workshops and consultaions. Jo talks to us about her life, her work and achieving the balance between the two.
Tell us about yourself (background, qualifications, UAE, kids etc)
I have 3 children of my own, Connor aged 21, Luke aged 19 and Ben who is about to turn 16. We have been in Dubai for just over 9 years and for the first 8 years I worked as a School Counsellor supporting students and parents with the challenges of being a child, raising a child and living as an expat. Before coming to Dubai I worked as a School Counsellor in the UK having decided to specialise in children and adolescents when I did my counselling qualifications. In addition to being a trained, qualified counsellor and mum, I am also a Master NLP Coach, Hypnotherapist and qualified trainer and I combine all of these skills and knowledge into the workshops and services I offer at Mindful Parenting UAE.
Tell us about your company Mindful Parenting?
Mindful Parenting UAE exists to support all parents and families who want to build a strong, life long connection with their children. With my training and experience I know that the best way to achieve this is by building respectful, positive relationships and having a good understanding of our children’s developmental stages and their brain growth, particularly during the toddler and teenage years when a huge amount of re-wiring occurs. For these reasons, I incorporate child development, neuroscience and emotional intelligence into my workshops which I have written specifically for parents in the UAE.
What was the impetus to set up Mindful Parenting?
Having worked with families and parents for over a decade, and most recently in the UAE I really struggled to find support for parents which would empower them to build the relationships that they wanted with their children. There are some excellent clinics and services here for both children and adolescents but I felt that support for parents who want to learn how to support their children themselves and feel supported at the same time, was lacking. When working in schools, a huge amount of my time was spent working with parents and I ran lots of workshops in school for this purpose - I felt it was the right time to offer this support to all parents in the UAE.
What was your motivation to return to work after having children?
I returned to work very quickly after having each of my children - the main reason for this was monetary and when I had my first 2 children in the UK, maternity leave was 6 months full pay, 6 months half pay which meant that I returned to work when they were each 12 weeks old. By the time I had my 3rd son I was working for myself so I was able to be more flexible in my working and this was really beneficial to me and him. Luckily, I had amazing child care with each of my children and this enabled me to go back to work knowing that they were well taken care of, even though it was very difficult to leave them. I have always enjoyed working and feel that my boys have grown up with a positive role model, having a mum who worked but also found a balance in life to be around for the important events in their lives and in more recent years working in a school meant I could be around for the school holidays which was great for us all!
How does being a mother influence you in the workplace?
In my particular job, being a mum is a ‘must’ - I couldn’t work with or support parents having never experienced it myself. I am able to offer workshops to parents with children of all ages - from 0 to 18+ as I have not only the academic experience but also personal experience of being a mum through these ages myself. I am very flexible with colleagues who work for me and with me and when it comes to their children I will always do my best to accommodate them with meeting times and I do offer workshops both at weekends and evenings for working parents, as well as private sessions with take place at your home.
How does work influence your perspective at home?
I am constantly working on being a Mindful Parent myself - whilst this has got easier over the 21 years of being a parent, working with other mums and dads and their children is a constant reminder to me and I am very grateful for what I have learnt and continue to learn from all the parents I work with.
What is your biggest challenge achieving work life balance?
Running your own business makes a work life balance extremely difficult. In addition, many of my clients want to communicate with me or see me during their downtime i.e. evenings and weekends which can play havoc with my personal life! My children are a lot older and only my youngest lives permanently at home still so I ensure that I am around to collect him from school, at least 4 out of 5 days per week and we spend time chatting in the car on the way home and whilst he makes a snack - this is great connection time. I schedule my workshops so that I am able to be free during the majority of the school holidays and whilst I work most Saturdays I never work on a Friday and I only work a maximum of 2 evenings per week. When I plan my schedule for the year I also book in ‘downtime’ and plan time for my self-care as well as spending time with family and friends. My biggest challenge is saying ‘no’ to clients - what I generally say is ‘let’s find another time that works for both of us’!
What advice would you give to mums looking to return to work?
Find good child care that you and your child/children both feel comfortable with - this is essential as it means you can go to work knowing that your children are being taken care of. When I used child care the cost usually amounted to at least 50% of my income and I think this is usual for many working families - honestly it was worth every penny. Accept that there are days when you will feel guilty, there are things you will miss that will make you feel sad sometimes - find ways to keep the connection with your children, this could mean giving them a call when they get home from school if you can’t be there, leaving notes in their school bag or in their bedroom for when they get home, record your voice reading a story so if you can’t be around for story time, it’s still your voice they hear. Put something of yours in with your baby so they still smell your scent when you are at work, record yourself singing lullabies that your carer can play to them - doesn’t matter if you can’t sing, it’s your voice that’s important! Make time for them when you get home and also make time for your self-care as this is very important - you can’t give to your children from an empty cup.