Emma is a New Zealander who has been living here in Guernsey for almost a decade. When she found herself at odds with some of the traditional views around early parenting, she decided to draw on her professional experience in social work and psychology to set up her own business, helping others to navigate their parenting journey. She shares her personal journey as a parent, juggling work with family life and an insight into her self care tips, based on the Maori model of Health, Te Whare Tapa Wha.
Over to you Emma.
I’d been working locally for many years as a senior social worker in children’s social care when my husband and I had some very welcome news - we were pregnant! Doing what most parents have to, I started the discussions with my employer about parental leave / return-to-work arrangements. I enjoyed working and had worked hard for my career so I wanted to find a good fit for us as a family. Unfortunately, my service and I had differing opinions on what that would look like, so I made the decision to resign and effectively take a career break - something I acknowledge isn’t a choice all parents have available to them.
And then came our son! Our world was tipped upside down, as it naturally does when you become parents. I feel really fortunate that, so far, parenting has been a role I’ve relished; something which my career trajectory has probably led me to. Although don’t get me wrong, being a stay-at-home parent for 18 months has also been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done!
In the early months of parenthood, I found that my views would at times differ from those around me, both professionals and those close to me personally. But as an exhausted new parent I was often simply too tired to get into a discussion about it, and I’ve heard first hand that other new parents often feel the same. I caught myself second guessing our decisions at times and I started to get a niggling thought out of this. I could easily see how parents could be left to feel like they’re doing something wrong when the things being questioned were often very normal parts of development and attuned infant care.
When I could take a step back from my emotions or checked in with friends and old colleagues, I knew there was nothing wrong with our views or choices. We were simply making decisions that were right for our family. And that’s OK. From my experience, I know that 'good enough' parenting looks and feels different for everyone, but it’s exactly that - good enough.
I found it interesting talking to other parents about the unsolicited comments that seem to go hand-in-hand with parenting. If only it was as simple as: 'if someone hasn’t asked for your advice, don’t give it!' Emotionally and spiritually being in this position was taking a toll. Being a parent is hard enough. And I knew when I started to feel anxious and wanted to avoid any interaction with some individuals who I thought were judging my parenting skills that I needed to make a change so it didn’t start having any serious impact on my son. Maintaining my self care at that time was so important too.
As a couple, my husband and I also took some time to step back and consider the dynamic at play. What was our stuff to address and what was theirs? What was in our control? What was important to us as parents? My support network helped me to recognise we were probably lacking in healthy boundaries and so, with considered thought, we introduced these. This initially felt very uncomfortable. It seems it had taken for me to have a child and knowing there was no way I was going to sacrifice his needs for other people's difficulties in regulating their emotions to realise I had often been putting my needs second to this. As I’ve sat with this more, I’ve realised I’ve often been praised for people pleasing. And now I can see how being compliant to other people’s wishes is desirable to others and it seems to get easily confused with kindness.
While this was all going on, I was also hearing from friends and other parents day-to-day about their own unique experiences. I also had the chance to do some more formalised focus groups with local parents, thanks to the help from Laurel who runs Pushy Mums. It was interesting to hear from a wider network of people about what was important to them. And that niggling thought I had early on came back. To me, there just felt like a gap in support for parents and caregivers. All of this, combined with my background and some updated training I was doing, set a light bulb off in my head. Maybe I could fill that gap? I had the relevant skills and experience. And I also wanted to find a way to work that fit in with our family and allowed me to prioritise my parenting role. And thus, CuedIn was born!
Self care supports my health across many fronts and was something I started prioritising more in my late 20s. I like to think of it in a holistic sense which is represented nicely through a Maori model of health, Te Whare Tapa Wha, which has four pillars we all need to function well: physical, mental/emotional, spiritual and family/social.
Exercise for me is a huge part of that. I know that if I stop exercising regularly, I don’t feel good. And conversely if I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it’s often one of the first things that goes. I enjoy most sports, strength training, offshore rowing, yoga, cliff walking/running and cycling. Sea swimming is amazing- there’s nothing quite like the rush of endorphins afterwards and you’re never far from a beach anywhere in Guernsey. In general, I am at my happiest when I can be around water and nature.
I also love sensory deprivation tanks/pools and was very excited when one arrived in Guernsey. It helps me to switch off from external noise and really be present in my body. I also regularly have reiki, bowen and emmett treatments which all help with my holistic wellbeing.
I love spending time with friends as well as having downtime to focus on myself. Both aspects I think are important, especially with having jobs that generally involve a lot of other people’s “stuff”- compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma are no joke!
I’m also a big advocate for using therapy as and when I need it. Whilst stigma seems to be reducing, I wish it was a standard thing that everyone just did. I have found it helpful for my never ending growth and development to unpack my experiences, not only from my childhood but also in the present moments.
I know what it’s like to feel pushed and pulled in different directions, plus the mental load that comes with it all! From trying to juggle too many balls at once, I’ve realised it’s important for me to have some sacred pockets of time to focus solely on the business. I’m really fortunate that my husband has his own business as well and can be really flexible with his hours. When I have meetings, training or just generally need to get something done, he’s great with tag teaming parenting duties. I’ve also built up a wonderful network of friends here who have become my family over the years and have been a godsend for us.
Of course, I still do things for the business with my son around. I've brought him along to networking meetings and I often do tasks whilst he’s asleep. I’ve found you can get pretty creative about how you use your time once you become a parent!
It’s mind blowing to me that I’ve been here for almost 10 years and I’ve grown up so much from the naïve 24-year-old who first stepped foot on the rock. I’ve loved and I’ve lost in spectacular fashion (if you know, you know) but later down the line gained my wonderful wee family. I’ve also been able to focus on my career and had access to some world-leading training. Some of the most important events in my life have taken place here and I will always treasure that.
The lifestyle has to be pretty up there in terms of what has kept me around. I’m very active by nature so being able to have so many different options easily accessible has been wonderful. I’ve thrown myself into sports and community life as much as I can whilst also retaining my identity and culture as a kiwi.