Name: Jess Tudor-Williams
Role: Partner, Kaleidoscope Health & Care (a social enterprise bringing people together to improve health & care)
Childcare arrangements: Nursery 1.5 days a week, grandparents 1.5 days a week, me 2 days a week, both of us at weekends
Children: Clara – 18 months old (June 2017)
Twitter handle: @JessLTW
Have you used skills learnt as parent in your career?
I think more the other way for me – I use skills learned in my career when being a parent (having had my first baby at 36 I have much more experience in working than I do in parenting!).
2. Has your leadership style changed after having children?
I am probably a bit more gentle in terms of leadership style, and I have a better focus on what’s “important”. I only work 3 days a week, which was unimaginable before I took maternity leave and that means I only have a limited time in the week to work effectively, so I am better at investing my energy in the things that really matter, rather than the minutiae.
3. Why do you know you are a good enough parent?
Because my daughter is always very happy to see me! Because I feel like we have the best of all worlds – she has an incredible relationship with her grandparents, spends time socialising with other kids at nursery and gets 2 days a week where it’s just me and her hanging out. At the weekends my husband and I make a conscious decision to try and do at least one “family” thing together as well. She’s a happy, healthy little girl and we are united in our aims as her parents (namely to raise a happy, healthy little girl!)
4. When do you love combining leadership roles with caring for children?
Without question going back to work was the single best thing for my mental health post having a baby. I love that 3 days a week I get to think, push myself, step out of my comfort zone and maintain the sense of “me” before having had my daughter. At the same time I have an incredible employer in the form of Kaleidoscope – we believe that people shouldn’t have to separate “work” and “family” – practically this means huge amounts of flexibility in terms of office time (I’m in the office 1 day a week, and WFH 2 days a week), support if your child is ill, no judgement for working flexibly to allow for sports days, nativity plays, nursery pick ups etc. Because I am so content with my work, and able to balance the demands of work with childcare etc it means that the days I do have with my daughter I genuinely look forward to, and approach as a treat rather than a chore.
5. Tell us about a memorable Leader with Baby moment.
I don’t have a specific one personally. I know many women who are in senior leadership roles who also manage to have families and who just by being brilliant in their roles and by not apologising for being mothers are an inspiration. My dad tells a great story of chairing a meeting at local authority board when the (then) female PCT chair joined the meeting with her baby, sat down & breast fed at the boardroom table – sadly not many women in leadership roles would have the guts to do this and I’m not sure many organisations would cope if they did!
6. What is the biggest barrier you have overcome?
The first was getting back to work – my employer (NHS) had been supportive of a 3 day week up until a fortnight before I was due to return to work, when they decided they couldn’t accommodate a part time role & wanted me back full time. This was quite a blow, and felt quite personal as there were plenty of precedents I knew of within the organisation where they had supported mothers to return part time. It was quite hard to get past that from a confidence perspective. The second, less tangible barrier was my own sense of having to compromise – for a while it felt like I wasn’t doing anything well enough – work or parenting. That balance came with more time learning how to work part time & manage the different calls on my time
7. What do you admire in parents?
Parents who have the balance right – who have retained perspective on the important things and don’t sweat the small stuff. I took a full year of mat leave with my daughter and my mind is blown by those who don’t do that and return to work when their babies are still small on the basis that mine didn’t sleep for months & I cannot imagine living with that level of sleep deprivation and still being able to get up & go to work & do the stellar job I saw those women do.
8. Do you experience feelings of guilt?
Initially yes. I had been the sole provider of all of my child’s needs and then I just handed her over to a bunch of strangers in a nursery to do what they could for 1.5 days a week. Now I very rarely feel guilt about the childcare arrangements, and by extension of that, being at work. I do feel bad about not being able to switch off from work when I’m with her (surreptitious email checking etc) because that’s my own weakness – my employer certainly doesn’t expect it.
9. What advice would you give to your younger self?
I was really stressed just before I went on mat leave because I felt like I’d wandered down a bit of a blind alley in terms of my career and I was concerned that by having a baby I was going to compound this problem even further. Someone said to me “if you’re lucky your working life will only be 40 years or so. It might well be longer. In the scheme of things, what is one or two years out of a forty year period?” This was great perspective, and I think I would say to my younger self not to worry too much about scrambling up any ladders – there’s plenty of time to do it all 🙂
10. What are you still hoping for?
I really feel like I landed on my feet in terms of my new employer but they are, without a doubt, a rarity in terms of their attitude and approach to work-life balance. I hope that in time more organisations will begin to genuinely empower people to own their work & family relationships, rather than just employ rhetoric that says they do.