Archive for the 'Learning' Category

Mummy Blogging – why would you want to share your personal life online?

This was a comment made by a friend recently.  I blogged recently about setting up a single parent network at work and how my sharing information about myself in the email I’ve sent around to try and get members has provided an amazing response.  That’s why you share your personal life online.  Or certainly why I do it.  It’s partly because I want to try and help others.  If I put some of my learning out there then who knows, it might “do someone a turn” as my mum would say. 

Also it’s about building networks, making friends, meeting people in a similar situation.  You can’t do either without giving some information away to build your credibility, to show you are “in” the situation and not someone commenting off the top of your head.

There are risks though.  Anyone blogging about their personal life needs to be aware of the full potential impact of their actions.  I have shared facts, but very limited ones, about my divorce and what led to it, what I did in the aftermath to move on and learn to cope.  That’s perhaps more than I’ve needed to share but it’s an amount that I am comfortable with.  Giving some thought to what your comfort levels are is important.  It can be easy to get caught up in the emotion of a moment and write a post that you’ll later regret.  To that end I generally blog about a week in advance so I have the chance to revisit posts before they go live.  Just in case.

I am also quite ready to keep this blog under wraps from my daughter.  I have no aspirations nor the talent to become an uber blogger and so I don’t think this is unachievable.  Moderated comments also mean I can delete my name if any of my friends who occasionally visit the blog forget about my desire for anonymity and include it in a comment.

It’s also about talking to your nearest and dearest about what they are comfortable with.  My daughter is too young at a wee 19 months to have a ‘right of reply’ to anything I say.  My ex husband too has no knowledge of this and cannot respond to any comments I make either.  So I do limit what I say about them directly to the most minimum of facts I feel 1000% comfortable and confident making due to the fact they are, well, facts!  But also limited to what the minimum is I feel I need in order to tell my story and share my learnings authentically.

Despite my efforts to try and be as thoughtful as I could before doing all of this though, one person I didn’t check in with was my recent ex boyfriend.  I didn’t stop to consider whether he reads blogs, understands them or the varied and colourful motives of their authors.  I didn’t ask if he was comfortable with appearing on the blog in any form.  Inevitably this caused a few stressful conversations which I hold my hands up were totally my fault.  It’s easy to forget that not everyone inhabits the weird, wired and wonderful online world as much as some of us do.

We both sat down and had an honest, frank but direct conversation about what our worries and fears are.  I was defensive at first.  I’m enjoying this so much I didn’t want anything to threaten it.  But he explained he was a private person and didn’t want his metaphoricals pulled down in public as he learnt how to be in a relationship with a single parent.  We quickly agreed some ground rules.  He didn’t want to feature here.  I respect that totally and that won’t change now we’re apart. 

Acknowledgement to  Salvatore Vuono for use of the photo.

The joy of sharing and learning together. Amen to fuzzy groups.

Part of my job is to review interesting knowledge management white papers and thought leadership and ‘socialise it’ (ha – 10 bs bingo points please), sorry, ‘share’ it with my team.  It’s a task I love.  I find it invigorating to reach out there and see what people are saying.  I get excited when some thinking prompts new insights or makes me question an existing approach with a client.

So I’d like to take a moment to enjoy the fuzzy, warm, joyous feeling I’ve just experienced.  Two colleagues have just thanked me for sharing two interesting papers with them.  They said they find it motivating and inspiring and critical to helping us take our thinking forward.  I’m all made up.  And we’re hatching plans for a fuzzy group lunch to knock some of the thinking and ideas around (I prefer fuzzy groups to focus groups.  There’s less pressure!)

I can bounce up and down on my tail like Tigger in an excited way about a new thought or idea but I soon run out of steam if I don’t have someone to take the discussion forward with.  Then I become a bit Eeyore about it when the new thought or idea runs out of steam.  There’s a real joy in sharing and learning together and I love the way someone else’s reaction can shed new light on something you thought you had understood or had your own take on.

Single parenting / Communities of practice: viral marketing

networkingI’ m not at liberty to talk about my work with my clients at my employer due to IP issues.  However something I’ve decided to do in my spare time at work during lunch is set about establishing an internal network for single parents and those in extended families.  It’s a white collar environment so I expect the audience will be limited.  Although there’s 1.9 million single parents in the UK, and 24% of children live in a single parent family, only 56.3% of lone parents have a paid job (source: Gingerbread).

I’m going down the ”official” route to get sponsorship for this group internally as we already have a high profile parenting network whose marketing machine and distribution list will be invaluable.  But my sense, after helping to establish many communities in many different organisations, is that in this particular instance using a viral approach is more likely to garner members.

Why?  Communities are founded on trust.  Communities that are there to support you in your personal life require exceptional levels of trust and friendship between members as its very hard to share stories, empathise, relate, find common ground, without revealing a degree of information about your personal situation.  I confess this is also a delicious opportunity to step out of the ‘advisory’ role and actually be the one doing a bit of hosting, rather than coaching hosts on how it all works.

So I set about the ‘pencils and paper’ approach.  Step one was to brainstorm who is in my personal network and email them.  I explained the purpose of the group, suggested it would just a monthly coffee in the canteen to chew the cud on all things single and extending parenting related.  I also took a risky step of including a brief paragraph about myself at the bottom of the email to give a bit of context as to who I am for those who might receive the email as a forward from someone else and who as such won’t know me.

This felt like quite a thing to do.  Exposing my personal life to not only those in my personal network who are weak ties at the edges but also that this email would wing its way around to goodness knows who.  I took a deep breath though and did it because it felt like the right thing to do.  So I explained that I’m divorced, a mother to one, grappling with work life balance, dealing with the nursery run, the ex, the ex’s new partner, and all the challenges that my situation brings and that I thought it would be nice to be able to network and learn from others in a similar situation.

What followed was wonderful.  There were many responses from those who aren’t in my situation who simply said well done, that it was an inspired step and hope it goes well.  One person said she couldn’t join as she wasn’t in my situation but would happily always meet for a coffee and a chat.  We’re not close professionally or personally although we’ve worked together.  What a kind gesture. 

I even had one rather long response from a dad whose wife had gone off for a spa the previous weekend and he’d finally realised what a good and demanding job she does looking after their three kids, who along with he had now got themselves banned from at least one establishment.

The most heart warming response was from one colleague who I wasn’t aware was divorced or has a child.  They said they wished this network had been around when their marriage fell apart a few years ago and how grateful they were to now have the opportunity to talk to others who know what it’s like.  It was that response alone that told me that even if this doesn’t go anywhere in the bigger sense, here is the opportunity for a new friendship that wasn’t in the frame before.

I’m now moving into viral phase two which emailing networks that already exist within the organisation to ask them to ask their members if they are interested.  Choosing which to target is tough.  Many are related to core business activities and so I’ve decided to start with emailing the PA network as they are the running gear of the organisation and know all things about all people (in a good way!) as well as the social networks that exist as opposed to the professional networks.

This reminds me again too that wearing your insides on the outside, i.e. allowing some of your personal life to blur with the work place, pays dividends.  Authenticity is critical with communities of practice, particularly if you are a host.  No one wants to feel like the community is being ‘done’ to them when they participate and if you can’t relate, talk authentically, honestly from experience then your input (and what you get out of it too) is going to be very limited.

Watch this space.  Fingers crossed!  I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who has set up a similar group in the work place.

101 things in 1001 days

Life is hard enough as a single parent without setting myself challenges that I don’t need to prove to myself that I am some kind raving lunatic superwoman!  However Home Baked (ooh the scones, this woman is a genius and she can help with one of my tasks!)  has brought my attention to the Day Zero project where you challenge yourself to complete 101 preset tasks in 1001 days. 

Eek!  It caught my eye because I’m always going on about how there’s so much to do but so little time but then on the other hand I’m sometimes bored in the evenings when munchkin has gone to bed and I’m on my tod.  I thought it would be an interesting way to get to the bottom of what’s actually going on with my time. 

I thought it would be easy to come up with a list of 101 things I want to do.  Not so!  My most pressing aspirations, at first glance, are the things that my lifestyle and budget don’t currently permit (such as the safari in Africa or downshifting / changing careers) or that munchkin is not old enough to enjoy yet (such as dressing up like little Indiana Jones characters and visiting Egypt.  

In actual fact I struggled to come up with 101 things I want to do imminently.  However those who know me will tell you that a good challenge with me is like a red rag to a bull so I sat and I thought and thought some more.  I realised that it was forcing me to think about my short term goals, the lovely things I can do now and in the near future as munchkin gets older and – after a conversation with boyfriend about it – identifying some things that are my passion but things that he might want to join me for.

So here’s my list and I’m forcing myself to post progress updates as we go as incentive!  This still feels like I scary proposition.  1001 days is 2.75 years but lordy that’s not long in the grand scheme of things!  I mean that’s one thing off the list every 9.9 days – aaargh!

Social networking for introverts

On why being an introvert is great and how to think about networking in the context of being a shy person.  It’s stick men informal presentation is gorgeous.  Wonderful.  Go enjoy!

Single parenting and divorce: kids' coaching

The Dulwich Divorcee has blogged about Naomi Richards who apparently is the UK’s first kids coach.  Apparently she is used to help when kid are coping with their parents’ separation or divorce. 

I won’t have the need for such a service right now.  My daughter is only 18 months old.  By the time she is old enough to know what’s going on the divorce will be well and truly over, I will (well I have already) fully adjusted to single parent life.  Who knows, maybe I might even be contemplating settling down again with someone else. 

However who is to say whether it still might throw up some issues in the future?  Perhaps munchkin will struggle with the concept of having an extended family, for example.  I’m glad I found out that such services exist but there is something about this that leaves me a little uncomfortable.  I’ve had five intensive sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy following  a serious domestic assault (my relationship prior, not the man I’m divorcing – and before you say it, no I haven’t had the best of luck have I!) so I’m not anti therapy. 

Perhaps its coming to terms with the thought that my daughter may experience emotional pain in the future that is sufficiently big and difficult to deal with that she’d want some therapy herself.  No one wants their children to experience pain in any way.  At the moment she is a beautiful blank canvas, wonderous at the world and on a voyage of discovery and learning.  Dear god let the tapestries of life that are woven onto that canvas be happy ones.

Inspirational quotes #2: the Dalai Lama

“The first step in seeking happiness is learning.  We first have to learn how negative emotions and behaviours are harmful to us and how positive emotions are helpful.  And we must realise how these negative emotions are not only very bad and harmful to one personally but harmful to society and the future of the whole world as well.  That kind of realisation enhances our determination to face and overcome them.  And then, there is the realisation of the beneficial aspects of the positive emotions and behaviours.  Once we realise that, we become determined to cherish, develop, and increase those positive emotions no matter how difficult that is.  There is a kind of spontaneous willingness from within.  So through this process of learning, of analyzing which thoughts and emotions are beneficial and which are harmful, we gradually develop a firm determination to change, feeling, “Now the secret to my own happiness, my own good future, is within my own hands.  I must not miss that opportunity!””

HH Dalai Lama taken from ‘The Art of Happiness – A handbook for living‘, p26, by HH Dalai Lama and Howard C Cutler.


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