Pregnancy & Maternity Support: Navigating a Thriving Career Alongside Motherhood

Mountain HR

When planning to start a family, there are so many wonderful things to look forward to, however it can also be overwhelming thinking about how you might balance pregnancy and parenting with work. Pregnancy and maternity rights can be complex and hard to understand, meaning that many new parents lose out on benefits or do not feel able to raise concerns. As an HR professional & career coach, Lisa Thompson believes that all parents should feel confident in making the most of their pay and leave entitlements. At Mountain HR, she helps parents get everything in place quickly and easily at work, freeing up time for the more exciting parts of becoming a parent. Here she talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about launching her business, the challenges she has overcome, and her hopes and dreams for the future.

The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?

Ever since I had my son, I had been thinking about setting up my own HR & Coaching consultancy; I wanted the flexibility to be a present mum for him and to do work that I was passionate about and have a real impact. For years, ideas about how I could work with expectant and new parents had been buzzing in my head so when the opportunity came up last year, I knew now was the time to set up on my own.

Creating inclusive workplaces has always been a passion for me and all the services I offer have the shared goal of building diverse and safe working environments where people can truly be themselves. Working with pregnant women and new parents is where I am the most passionate; so, with 17 years of HR experience and my own journey as a mum as the foundation, I set about creating my pregnancy, new parents and return to work coaching programmes.

The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?

There is so much to do when setting up! It was pretty scary to finally take the leap and put myself out there but it’s honestly the best thing I have ever done. I worked with an amazing business mentor who took me through all the initial steps and sought advice from friends and family who were business owners. I was incredibly lucky to have that support network from the get-go. I was blown away by how you go from literally nothing to having so much to do overnight!

Building a business from the ground up has been an amazing learning experience and I have found out so much about what I am capable of. Putting my ideas out into the world felt daunting but the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

When I tell people about my coaching, so many parents say, “I wish you’d been around when I was pregnant!” or mention a friend who could use my support. It’s clear that there is a lot more that can be done for working parents and so I am constantly thinking about new ways to contribute to this progress.

The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?

Setting up on your own really offers the opportunity to dig into your values and figure out exactly what it is you want to do with your offering. HR and coaching are both wide-ranging professions and there are so many different ways you can work with people. It’s easy to get lost in all the possibilities. For me, it was a case of being honest with myself about what I enjoyed and what I no longer wanted to do.

As part of my research for a client, I interviewed a variety of women about their experiences during pregnancy, maternity leave and returning to work. Whilst there were some positive experiences, there were often things that could have gone smoother and, in some cases, there were clear experiences of discrimination. That is when it clicked for me that this was my passion and what I should be offering.

Empowering and informing parents in the workplace is so key. The mechanisms to support new parents in the workplace really aren’t there yet and so it’s important for all new parents (however they come to be parents) to have a helping hand. Maternity and parental leave policies and guidance can be like deciphering board game instructions so I wanted to be a partner for people to make things easier and remove that confusion for new parents, so they can just focus on the more enjoyable side of pregnancy and parenthood!

Many parents who return to work after leave experience guilt, a lack of confidence or a feeling of disconnect from the person they were before their little one arrived. My ambition is to remove these barriers, help them to ditch the guilt, increase that confidence and connection, so that they return to the workplace feeling strong and ready.

I don’t promise women that they can “have it all”. I don’t think that is healthy or realistic. I help them to prioritise their aspirations and work towards their own personal definition of success. Success is different for everyone, and we should be working towards what is truly right for us – not what we think we ‘should’ be doing.

Every family is different and beautiful; however parenting comes with so much judgement these days. Having a supportive third party to talk to, outside of your inner circle, can help you to feel strong enough to listen to your intuition and go with your gut.

Whilst my coaching is workplace focused, the skills, information and sense of empowerment will ultimately spread into all areas of an individual’s life. Part of my breakthrough was realising that I could add value for parents by adding in non-work-related topics around feeling informed about birthing options, how to make the most of your leave with your child, and finding the right childcare option for you. Being a parent affects all areas of a person’s life and so the coaching simply wouldn’t be successful if it was solely about work.

Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?

This is probably a struggle for most mums, but it is something that I have to work hard on; I have endometriosis and so burnout can come fast for me. I have to make a conscious effort to keep well. As well as juggling my business, family and a busy social life, I am also studying for an MSc Psychology degree and so I really do need to stay balanced, otherwise I will end up in an exhausted heap!

My husband and I have always been a brilliant team, picking extra things up when the other is feeling tired or low, and this is key to keeping that balance at home. Support is so important, especially when you are a new parent. Many people don’t reach out for help, for fear of judgement, but parenting is not something that you can do on your own and asking for help is so important. My mum and dad also provide a great deal of weekly help and I know how lucky I am to have them around.

As well as all the usual things – getting enough sleep, eating well and minimising screen time, the main way I find balance is making sure that we have lots of fun! Laughter and being silly was always a big part of my family life growing up and when life gets intense or stressful, having fun is what re-energises me. It doesn’t have to be big days out or expensive experiences – just spending time with friends, playing hide and seek in the woods with my son, laughing at a comedy or playing board games as a family. “Kitchen” discos with my son always get us giggling and who doesn’t feel better after a sing and a dance!

I am not a natural “planner” at all, but I have had to learn to do it, otherwise I just get swept along and the days pass in a blur. Every week I chat with my husband about the week ahead and make sure we have time for everything we need to do, plus some time for exercise and rest. My work calendar is also often planned out as well, with time blocked out for meetings and important tasks. Ticking it all off at the end of a busy day is a guilty pleasure and I can enjoy my downtime knowing that I have achieved (almost) everything I wanted to. Of course, things like illness and everyday life often mean things go out the window, but this planning helps with resilience and flexibility when unexpected life “stuff” happens. It’s dull but it works!

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