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As an Educational Psychologist, Veronica has spent her career working with children and parents. But it wasn’t until she became a mum herself that a moment of total vulnerability and overwhelm sparked an idea for a new movement to help women find connection and support. We asked her to share more of her story…
What do you do?
I am an Educational Psychologist – which includes a wide variety of roles (one of the things I love about it!) A lot of my time is spent working with parents and teachers to explore the needs of a child/young person and consider ways of supporting them so that they can thrive, rather than just survive, their school years. I also deliver training and research with the University of Bath.
I went self-employed after having our son and realizing that working for a local authority was just not going to be flexible enough for our family. Now I work 3 days a week.
More recently, for my Lead The Change project, I have founded the i know… parent collective.
Tell us more about that project.
i know… is about building upon the collective support between parents. It’s about those ‘moments’ we all experience as parents; where we can feel overwhelmed, lost, unsure what to do, and alone. In those moments it can feel like the world is watching, and potentially judging us.
The idea behind i know… is that in those moments, we might look around and see other parents wearing a badge that says ‘i know…’ – a visual symbol that they know what it’s like, they get it, they’re not judging us and they’re willing to help if they can.
The aim is that those moments of vulnerability, instead of becoming feelings of fear and shame, might become moments of connection, empathy and compassion.
Give us the big “why” you do what you do?
Part of my motivation for starting ‘i know…’ stems from my personal experience of becoming a mother and the struggles I experienced.
I very much felt that as a trained child psychologist I should know what I was doing all the time (!) and the perfectionist in me also screamed that I should be doing it perfectly all the time.
I judged myself so harshly for every perceived misstep of motherhood that I made and felt so incredibly vulnerable when I struggled in public. I felt like everyone would not only think I was a terrible mother, but also rubbish at my job as well.
When I returned to work I started really hearing what parents were saying, in a way I never had before and I suddenly realized – I’m not alone in this experience, and actually if we share that vulnerability, then ironically, the vulnerability reduces and a collective strength can take its place.
By reducing parent stress levels in those ‘moments’, parents become more able to support their child and themselves through the stress and distress and/or ask for the help they need.
What’s your daily routine?
Part of our family life is that no two days are the same! Both my work and my husband’s are so variable that what I’ve ended up doing is having different routine ‘templates’ for the top and tails of different types of day: When my husband is at home, when he’s not, when I’m working from home, and when I’m not.
Things I try to build into every morning are:
- A bowl of porridge (only way I survive until lunch!)
- Physio and Mutu exercises (whilst my son is having breakfast)
- Inspiring piece of music either in the shower or in the car
- I also try to finish work half an hour before I pick up our son from nursery and have 2 songs that I dance to which I call my ‘End of Day Debrief’ – one track to release emotion and one to recap the things I have enjoyed or feel went well. This was an exercise I designed with my LTC coach as I realized I was really good at shelving difficult feelings and never coming back to them (so they just grew). And I was hardly ever able to take real joy in my accomplishments, so having a few minutes just to recap the positives of a day and dance them into my body has really helped.
Things I try to put in at the end of each day:
- Playing my Tibetan singing bowl
- recapping the day with gratitude
- reading a good book for a few minutes before sleep
What demands do you balance every day in conjunction with your work?
I’m mother to a very lively and curious 4-year old and wife to a very lively, vibrant and driven man. My husband also runs his own business consultancy firm. A lot of his work is in London or abroad and he can be away for up to 3 weeks at a time. The need for this can arise with a day or week’s notice. This can make it tricky to plan in advance!
To balance the demands that this can place on me I’ve opted to have more childcare than I actually need for work alone and I schedule my self-care, ‘lifemin’, I know… work, exercise etc all within childcare hours so that even when my husband is away, it is still possible for me to meet my needs and therefore manage whilst he is away.
How do you feel about women’s “lot” these days?
When I became a mother, I’d never felt love quite like it, I remember thinking that if we could bottle that feeling and drip feed it to dictators we would have the answer to world peace! I felt privileged to be a woman and able to experience it.
But one of the other main emotions I experienced as a new mother was frankly, rage. Because all my life I had been told by society that as a woman I was equal…and I felt like I’d been completely duped!
As I sat there breastfeeding our little boy on the sofa I felt anything but equal.
It felt like my freedom had been stripped away, whilst my husband’s remained intact and untouched by the experience of becoming a father (probably a bit of an overstatement in hindsight, but I was hormonal at the time!).
The dwindling of my maternity pay and then its complete disappearance left me financially dependent on a man for the first time in my life and it made me hugely resentful that because we had chosen to have a child, I was suddenly financially penalized. I still believe this sends a really strong message of just how much society devalues the role of caregivers, mainly performed by women. Becoming a mother was the first time in my life that I had so explicitly felt discriminated against as a woman and I hate that that feeling is tied to one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
However, one of my most profound shifts through my Lead The Change journey followed on from the BeLove retreat. I sat down with my husband and shared how uncomfortable, guilty and at times, resentful I felt that I worked and earned less than he did as a man.
The conversation that followed transformed our relationship. He had tears in his eyes as he said to me, “But you get to make a difference to people’s lives! I don’t get to do that! So let me do what I do, so that you can do what you do, because that means I’m making a difference too.”
And I suddenly realized, in my feminist stance I’d created a financial competition between us that was tearing us apart. But if we both did what we were good at then there was a beauty in the contribution we could make together and the life that we could lead.
I still feel that women are financially discriminated against for being biologically designed to have children…which seems a bit crazy when you step back from it, as the survival of the human species kind of depends on that function! But, I’ve realized there are other alternatives to men and women competing to do the same as one another. So, in a nutshell, I think things have improved, but we still have so much further to go!
How do you juggle your relationship and business now?
At my first One Woman Conference in 2017 my husband and I were going through an incredibly difficult time – it felt like we were leading separate lives and were no longer really connected or hearing one another.
After the OWC I came back and told him (using my Queen PowerType!) that I wasn’t happy and couldn’t see how we were going to survive as a couple without both making some significant changes. Lead The Change was one of those things, my husband receiving some coaching was another, but also, we agreed to make time for each other.
As my husband had just entered self-employment too we had the luxury of flexibility, and so we set aside one morning a week whilst our son was at nursery to do things together as a couple.
There are some weeks where this just isn’t possible, but we have it as a general rule and it has made such a difference to our relationship. Prioritising our relationship like this has helped us rekindle our connection and helps keep things in perspective, because if we’re not ‘right’ as a couple, then it has an impact on everything else, and work isn’t worth that.
Do you think you people around you (on social media, and face to face) understand who you authentically are?
The i know… project has totally pushed me out of my comfort zone in terms of displaying my vulnerabilities ‘out loud’ via social media.
It is only because of the i know… vision and this sharing being an attempt to support other parents with their journey and challenges that I have been able to develop the courage to do that and at times it has felt excruciating. The most amazing thing is, the posts where I have felt most vulnerable have had the most positive responses and that has been such an amazing gift of a lesson!
The Lead The Change community has also helped me really understand I can be who I am and still be appreciated, warts and all. So yes, I think people are beginning to see the authentic me.
But more importantly from my perspective, I am becoming comfortable with the idea that when people see me, they may or may not like me, but that doesn’t mean I need to change who I am to ‘fit’.
Who do you look up to as a woman?
Brené Brown – she is just so fricking awesome!!
What are you doing to help elevate the women of developing nations?
For every i know… badge sold, 20p is being collected for Deki – a charity set up by Vashti Seth, another Lead The Change participant, to support entrepreneurs in Africa grow their businesses.
I had always felt so helpless about the situation in developing countries and unable to support in a meaningful way. Then one fateful retreat I ended up giving Vashti a lift home and she totally changed my perspective – and gave me hope that I could make a difference further afield too.
Ready to lead your change?
If you’re inspired by Veronica’s story and would like to find out more about our Lead The Change program, click here to leave your name and details. One of our friendly team will be in touch to arrange a time to chat.
Parapet head popper | Catalyst for compassion | Coffee addict
To find out more about Veronica and her work, reach her online here: