Networking doesn’t stop when you become a parent. In fact its power becomes even more important. Parental Choice asked Louise Websiter, founder of Beyondtheschoolrun, for her views on networking:
“Sometimes I think we underestimate the power of our networks and yet when becoming a parent there is never a more important time to recognize them. Throughout last month on Beyondtheschoolrun.com, the website I established to inspire, engage and connect parents with their skills in the hours available to them, we have been exploring networks – the potential for them to empower you and also the potential for them to drain you.
What I’ve realised is that once you are a parent I think our networks divide into 3 – friendships, school gates and work.
So starting with FRIENDSHIPS.
As human beings this is our first experience of creating our very own networks beyond our family unit. However big or small this is a huge part of our lives in helping us grow, be happy and live a full life. When you watch your young children select friends in the early years what you see as their selection process is based on a very natural instinct to connect with the right people for them. Not everyone is going to be right but when they are being truly themselves, which all young children are, no filters, no stories, then they naturally gravitate towards those people who will enhance them.
When you become a parent recognizing who you spend the little time and energy you have with is very important and a good guidance to who is empowering to you and vice versa. Once your attention turns to caring for young children, you friendships need to be balanced, nurturing both ways and authentic.
So here are a few thoughts I shared in a one of our Monday morning vlogs on BTSR (www.youtube.com/watch?v=XG9FvKWngnE):
- Check yourself when you are with friends, new or old ones, whether you are being true to yourself. If you are having to alter your values to be with those people, it will take up extra energy.
- After you have been with people, see how your energy levels are, if you feel drained or tired, this is a great warning that this person has drained you. Recognise in your body how this feels so you can stop it in the future.
- You are likely to have at least one friend who really gets the true you. It’s an amazing feeling being just you. Who you can be totally authentic with. Even if you have just one, what you have is a magic formula for future friendships.
- Be present, it doesn’t matter how long or little time you are at the school gates the time you are there, be present.
- Ask parents what they did before children it’s amazing what you will find out. I have gained some invaluable skilled support in the development of BTSR doing just that. I discuss this in an article I wrote for The Guardian: www.beyondtheschoolrun.com/press/the-guardian
- Let’s STOP the divide between working and non-working mothers NOW. We are ALL working and we are all working 24/7. Once we start working together we will really start to achieve great things for all women and girls. Those mothers who are our in the workplace can help those who are who aren’t and vice versa.
Beyondtheschoolrun.com is about creating a new way of working. I am convinced there is another way, that you can combine caring with utilizing and developing your skills. But this means working differently, reshaping the way we work and creating new patterns and paving a new way. So with your work connections it means thinking differently, you don’t have hours to spend in meetings; evenings to spend networking and yet connecting with the right people is very important. Here are a few tips:
- Have calls initially with new contacts, don’t arrange meetings first. This way you can gauge whether this person is important for you to meet.
- If you are working from home and find you are missing a connection with others, create a group. What you are missing you yourself, will often find a great many others are too.
- If you live outside London, as so many of us now do, then getting to a meeting can take most of your ‘school hours’ working day. I decided this year I would make it work for me and invited all those I wanted to meet (who were relevant to Beyondtheschoolrun) to a morning breakfast. I got to meet everyone I needed in one morning, they all made new connections and it worked for everyone.
Create your own networks but most importantly be yourself. When you become a parent it brings you back to your authentic self, there’s no time or extra energy for pretending or adapting. AND this is what the workplace needs; it needs the authentic you, women being women bringing their natural female qualities. And this way you will naturally meet the people who will empower you, you will naturally connect with friends, colleagues and school gates support. Simple as that – its about being YOU (“Everyone else is taken” – Oscar Wilde).
Louise Webster launched Beyondtheschoolrun in March 2012 as a place to help parents utilise their skills & talents in the hours available to them and for businesses to connect with this pool of talent. The journey has taken Louise to Downing Street & The Cabinet Office and she is passionate about the positive impact supporting parents beyond the school run will have on families, society & the economy.