Raising Happy Kids and Balancing a Meaningful Career by Occupational Therapist, Jayne Ruff

It’s wonderful to wlecome Occupational Therapist Jayne Ruff to the blog to share her insight and experience on how to raise content kids whilst balancing a fulfilling career.

Jayne’s debut book Imperfect Parenting-Honest Stories from Global Parents is out now. She wrote it alongside Consultant Aarthi Prabhakaran and an array of expert co-authors.

I was honoured to be quoted on the back of this unmissable, candid and informative read. See below!

Now, it’s over to Jayne with her powerful piece on raising happy kids and balancing a meaningful career.

“I don’t want to do this anymore”—I never thought I would say this about a career I had given so much energy and time to, over the years. Until I had kids.

I felt caught between two worlds, caught up in conflicting thoughts and feelings. I wanted to find my place as a parent and a professional but, in my first few months back to work after Maternity leave, my route to get there remained unclear.

Work has always been important to me.

Becoming a psychologist was my first dream ahead of becoming a mum. It was (and still is) a big part of who I am. But when my son was born, my work identity was suddenly muted. My love and attention became fully focused on my child as I also slowly developed confidence as a new parent.

Adapting to motherhood was no easy ride.

The first few weeks and months were chaotic, exhilarating, enlightening, and exhausting.

There were endless nights awake with a newborn, delirious daytimes full of nappy changes, and plentiful doses of self-doubt as I waded through vast and, at times, conflicting parenting advice.

My experience of parental imposter syndrome was not helped by an unfortunate incident eight weeks into my son’s life where I failed to recognise him when presented to me at a postnatal Pilates class; a funny anecdote now but a motherhood-self crushing moment at the time!

When I went back to work, while I fretted the practical challenges and logistics, what hit me hardest was my battle with feelings of self-doubt, guilt, and uncertainty, all mixed into the new motherhood cocktail of extreme tiredness, conflicting advice, and fluctuating hormones (and not helped by the tears at childcare drop-off and pick-up!).

Innocent comments from childcare staff about my son being the youngest baby in his room would hit me hard and I would dwell on the decisions I had made about my career and my parenting.

I put in all the hours I could manage at work and home and still found myself questioning whether I was living up to expectations in either role. Outwardly I was smiling, while under the surface I battled with the voices in my head shouting, ‘You do not have a choice but to go back to work’,  ‘You cannot be the parent you want to be anymore’,  ‘You are a bad mother for going back to work’, ‘You are a bad co-worker for giving less time to the job’.

If I could have turned the psychologist lens inwards, I would have told myself that with change as significant as becoming a parent, and then returning to work, it is normal to experience all these feelings of upheaval. My sense of self—and the identity I connected with pre-children was being challenged and needed to evolve. But at the time I was too emotionally entangled in what felt like an intense tug-of-war between two important life areas to see this.

When it came to my second maternity leave, I decided to stay more in step with what I now call my, ‘values compass’ – a bullet point list of the 5 things that matter most to me across my work and home life.

My values compass helped me navigate my second return to work with greater self-compassion and kindness and continues to provide a guiding light through the ups and downs of working parenthood.

My number one value across work and family life is to have a positive impact. Slowing down to ask, ‘Will this help me have the positive impact I want at work and at home based on what’s most important to me right now’ has helped me to make more conscious choices about how I balance parenting with my career.

Often this comes down to routine decisions and actions. I am my best at home when I am a good listener to my family. To live by this value, I resist the temptation to check work emails on my phone in the hours between childcare pick-up and bedtime.

My partner and I have a short walk with a coffee on days when we are both working from home, which gives us a little quality grown-up time. These moments are small, but the positive impact is significant.

I am my best at work when I don’t over-commit myself so I can give clients my full focus and attention.

There are times when I need to make tough decisions about what to prioritise across work and home life. These choices are never easy and often come with a lot of different emotions: guilt, fear, exhaustion, and doubt. But I do have a choice, and that is one of the most important lessons I have learned about being a working parent. This has helped me to ruminate less over whether the decisions I make are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ because ultimately, I still control what I let in and keep out.

Truthfully, there are still plenty of times when my mind tunes back into that well-known inner voice telling me, ‘I just can’t do anything right at home or at work’.

This sense that I am losing control often comes when I am juggling too much— like working multiple projects while the children have chicken pox.

Sometimes, I just do not get my work and home life balance right.

What I am growing better at is recognising the point when my balance has tipped and I am feeling stressed, then taking some small, values-led steps to help me course-correct like rescheduling a non-urgent work call or having a plan-free weekend.

Recognising that what I protect and prioritise may look quite different from the choices of others has also helped me to manage the constant push and pull of work and home life.

Rather than apologising for what I am not doing, I try to celebrate my achievements.

I have come to accept that there will be times when I feel overwhelmed by work and family life. This is not a case of submission. Rather, acknowledging the challenges has allowed me to make more conscious choices about how I engage with these feelings when they arise.

I might feel guilty about leaving work early to collect my sons from childcare but being present at the end of their day is important to me. I would rather pick up work again in the evening once they have gone to bed if needed. I might feel guilty about a night away from my family for work but as I value being ambitious, on occasions this may be the right choice to make. With my values compass in hand, I am better equipped to stay on track.

They say the key to lifelong happiness is making small tweaks on a regular basis. I have grown at work since becoming a parent by prioritising what really matters to me and letting go of the tasks on my to-do list that don’t. Having a job I enjoy as another dimension in my life has helped me as a parent too.

Just like building physical strength, strengthening the mental muscles needed to continue navigating working parenthood is something I am trying to develop in little ways daily. I am now much more content with the perception of myself as a constant work-in-progress.

Work-life balance is a very personal thing; there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The best piece of advice I can offer for making conscious choices that will lead to happier kids while balancing a career is to cut out the noise and stay tuned into what really matters to you and
your family.


Jayne lives in London with her husband and two children. She is an Occupational Psychologist, co-author of Imperfect Parenting: Honest Stories from Global Parents, and the founder of coaching and development consultancy – Parenting Point (www.parenting-

Jayne talks openly about her own struggles juggling work and home life and how she uses psychology to feel more confident in her parenting and professional choices.

Outside of work, Jayne enjoys nothing more than spending time with her family in the great outdoors.

Imperfect Parenting: Honest Stories from Global Parents is a collection of real-life stories written by mums and dads from around the world. From the early parenting years, life with teenage kids, and the transition to becoming a grandparent, each author talks not just about what they have done (and not done), but how it has felt. It’s this open and honest expression of the emotions underpinning parenthood that makes this book, just like every parenting journey, unique. I’m honoured to be quoted on the back.

You can buy it here.

Raising Happy Kids and Balancing a Meaningful Career by Occupational Therapist, Jayne Ruff

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