Spotlight On: Guilty Mother Jo Wimble-Groves

Whats your favourite thing to blog / write about?

I love writing. When I was a kid, I was always writing stories in my bedroom. I loved the process of writing a story, which had a clear beginning, middle and end. As an adult, my writing now has given me a positive output to talk about some interesting topics from parenting to lifestyle and family travel. I love the diversity of topics I cover on the blog, which is brilliant for allowing me to use my creative writing in different ways. My favourite thing to blog about is probably raising resilient and confident children. Additionally, how confidence in women is important too as sometimes it can take a dip after having children. 

Not a lot of people know this, but I am a tech entrepreneur after going into business with my brother as a teenager. We still run the business together today called ‘Active Digital’. Writing about resilience is important to me as it reminds me of our first few years of owning our business and how hard that was. Resilience comes not from failing, but from the experience of learning that you can pick yourself up, try again, and succeed. I feel we need to talk about this more with our children and how losing can all be part of winning. 

Have you always enjoyed public speaking?

 The growth of my blog and my career means I am regularly contacted as a speaker in schools and this is just one of the subjects I cover which is close to my heart.

As a child, I always wanted to command the stage. It was indeed my childhood dream and by the age of fifteen I had passed my LAMDA exams with honours and the junior medallion. When I think about that little piece of silver jewellery it reminds me that you can’t be good at everything (I wasn’t) but I believe that something will ‘spark’ in every person. Sometimes it just takes us years to figure it out. My sparks were Drama and English. Two things that continue to be very important to me. Although I never made it to the big screen, I often take the stage to deliver keynote inspiring talks to hundreds of people. I am earmarked to speak at an event in New York in February 2019. Who would have thought that was possible? 

I am a registered speaker on several agencies including Champion Speakers, Raise the Bar and School Speakers. Sharing my story with others through a story telling approach, (for any age of audience) is one of my favourite things to do. I would do it every day if I could.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is simple. Having a voice and using it as a platform for the power of good. That gives me a lot of personal satisfaction which is not financially motivated. Writing a blog, which started as a hobby and now is a respected brand and loved by 50,000 followers across all my social platforms, often means I sometimes pinch myself to reflect on how far I have come. 

 How do you manage work life balance? Any tips for parents who are struggling?

It will come as no surprise that many of us strive for a better work-life balance and for me, it can often feel like it is tipping all the time! I still don’t have the balance right despite being a topic I talk about so much on the blog. 

For mums returning to work after having a baby, it can feel like a daunting time. Not only can it affect your confidence, as you’ll be feeling like you’ve been out of the loop for a while, you might also be worried about how to make work - work. You are not alone. 

I’ve co-owned a business for over twenty years and we have seen a huge shift in how our employees can work. We are open minded, we are modern. However, being a co-owner of a company means that I find it incredibly difficult to switch off. 

Technology gives us so much freedom to work anywhere, but in turn, sometimes the line between work and play becomes blurred. Although my work is incredibly important to me, I won’t sacrifice my own health or those around me for the sake of work. I am trying harder to put my phone down and listen to my inner self to know when to focus on just being a good parent, not a perfect one. Because when we set ourselves up for perfect parenting, we set ourselves up for a fail. Then as soon as something fails or tips the balance, that is where the guilt creeps in. 

My tips are to just focus on doing the best that you can. Set realistic timescales of when things can be done by. Don’t feel the urge to say ‘yes’ to everything but consider if you can fit it into your already hectic lifestyle. However, on the other hand, if an opportunity comes your way that could be amazing, don’t be afraid to say ‘yes’ and give it a go! 

 When you feel overwhelmed, tap into support mechanisms around you and don’t be afraid to ask for help or kindly accept it when people offer it.  Leaning in doesn’t make you any less efficient or effective, quite the opposite. 

I understand that overcoming the challenges of being a working mum is not something I can do alone. I feel lucky to be working in a supportive environment that embraces my role as a mother and as a senior member of a multi award winning company.  If I need to leave the office at 4pm to watch my children’s carol concert, I will leave with my head held high and I expect my employees to do the same. The work will always get done, just not always in the traditional 9-5pm manner. 

Some of the world’s most successful and inspirational women are also mothers.Sometimes we are so busy we forget to feel proud of being a successful working mother – one busy, fulfilled person rather than two separate entities. I don’t think I am not alone in feeling that.

Forgive yourself for feeling guilt, as you’re not alone. Find an employer that has good role models and leadership styles (both male and female). We can all get swept up in the way things have always been done but find an employer that embraces new ways of working that suit today’s reality. 

And finally, remember to tell your friends they are going a great job. Sometimes reminding mums and dads of that can make a world of difference to someone struggling that day. Be the person who pulls others up.  

Top tip for finding your passion and being confident enough to pursue it?

Dr Peter Benson was the founder of the Search Institute in the US and one of the world’s leading experts on adolescence. Peter spent many years of his life campaigning for one single idea that he felt could transfer school life for young people – the idea that everyone has a ‘spark’. 

I passionately believe, like Peter, that everyone truly has a ‘spark’ and plugging into what that spark is the interesting part of the journey. Peter discovered that children and young teenagers aged between 10 -14 almost always have something inside them, whether it be an interest, enthusiasm, talent or concern, that spark could be the making of them in later life. 

I believe Dr Benson’s theory that everyone will find something they are passionate about. Sometimes it can just take many years to sometimes find it. The important element is that once you have decided what your spark could be, focus on how you can use it, apply it and ask people to support you. Your spark will always be the heart of who you are. 

Once you find your ‘spark’ which will become your passion, have the confidence to follow that spark. This is how more women and girls will thrive. Many women are finding their spark and setting up their own business around their families. In fact, the number of women that went into business rose by 45 per cent over the last decade, compared to just 27 per cent among men. The rate of entrepreneurialism in the UK has risen far faster among women than men in the past decade. 

Once we find our own confidence, we must remember to pass it on. We need to ensure our next generation of female leaders don’t feel like they don’t belong in management or leadership positions. That they have the confidence to shoot their hand in the air and say, I want this.  

You have a huge following on social media, what do you think resonates most with your audience?

 Thank you. The blog has grown so much in three years and I’ve just hit 50,000 followers across my social media platforms, so I am feeling truly grateful right now. When I wrote my first blog I remember that only three people read it. Being the resilient person I am, I wrote another one and five people read it. Despite those numbers being so small, I always felt passionate that it would kick start at some point. I just needed to be patient. 

When I started writing about feeling like a guilty mother and striving for a better work life balance, I knew I had struck a chord. With mum guilt, I felt as if no one was having this conversation and I wanted to use my voice as a platform to open a positive conversation. The idea was to help us all to let the guilt wash over us a little more. 

In 2018, everyone seems to be talking about mum guilt. From Davina McCall to Mila Kunis, many mothers are having their say. In an interview last year, Mila Kunis said she wanted fellow mamas to try to not be so hard on themselves, even when mum guilt gets in the way.She said, “I felt like I was failing as a mother because I wasn’t there for her every minute of the day,” she said. “It took me a little while to realize that I was a better mum going back to work because when I was with her, I was present 100 percent. If you are with your kid and you are present, and you are there and you’re engaged, and you care, then you’re a great mum.” 

Ultimately, we all know that the perfect mother doesn’t exist. If mothers are giving it their all, no one should expect anything more and that is what resonates with me.

We know you run a tech company with your brother. What’s it like working with family? 

There are plenty of benefits of working with family members and you know what they say, blood is thicker than water. We have a close relationship and bond but as individuals we are very different. As a teenager, I always thought I needed to be more like my brother, but I got older and found my own sense of self, I recognised that I just needed to be more like…me. 

One of the biggest challenges in family business is establishing healthy boundaries between work and home life. Recognising which hat you’re wearing and not blending conversations about work when we are in our respective homes. I am pleased to say we have got a lot better at that. 

Over the years, we have learned to carve out our own areas of responsibility and create the circumstances where each of us can thrive as individuals. He respects my creative career in writing and speaking and he enjoys his own outlets and hobbies outside of our tech company. Respecting each others’ ambitions outside of the tech company gives us the right mindset to grow together but also as individuals.

You've worked with some really big brands! Do you have any tips for small businesses when dealing with bigger companies?

I have, thank you! I consider myself very fortunate to have been selected to work with many well-known brands including Boden, Martinhal Resorts, Land Rover, Sainsburys and Royal Caribbean to name a few. As a blogger, working with brands you love is a great way to earn an income, grow your audience and share things you love.

 At a good starting point, I write down a list of ten companies I aspire to work with and instead of just asking them to work with me, I was concise in planning how I approached them and giving them a good reason to want to work with me. This takes time and effort which is the most important part. 

 Secondly, you must consider that the larger the brand the more precise the agreement will be and what their expectations are for the campaign itself. In most cases, they will set out an agreement that ensures expectations are understood on both sides and leaves little room for error. Once the campaign is over, it is important to remember to follow it up and check how successful the campaign has been. It can often be the crucial piece of whether they might like to work with you again in the future in the same way you would approach any two-way customer relationship.

Create a media kit which shares everything a potential sponsor or marketer would need to know about your blog. It’s essentially a résumé, but for your website. A media kit should list a variety of things, such as your blog’s topics, statistics, collaboration options, and more. It is essential for making a good impression and landing more (and higher paying) collaborations.

Set goals, create a great media kit and send it out to your prospect brands!

What’s the most exciting project you've worked on?

We have had some fantastic travel opportunities this year. I wanted to write about family travel as we made quite a few mistakes when we travelled to destinations when our children were very small. 

I hope that now we are a few years forward, we can share what works and what doesn’t so other families don’t have a disappointing holiday. Working with Martinhal Family Hotels and Resorts was a great experience for us and we spent a week near Lisbon in Portugal. The resort has thought of everything for luxury family travel. From baby baths to warming milk and bringing it to your room, if you have a baby, this is an awesome place! Lisbon is such a beautiful, magical city, I would highly recommend it to anyone. 

What’s in store for the future?

I am storming into 2019 with an open mind and an open heart. I have a few projects lined up which are exciting including the prospect of a book coming out which is centred around raising a modern girl. I am currently working with an agent to bring it to life. The prospect of the book is a life ambition of mine and if it comes to fruition, then I owe a lot of gratitude to the Guilty Mother blog for helping me find my voice. 

Everyone deserves to have their voice heard and I’ve finally found mine.

InterviewsHope Marshall