Shivani Uberoi has launched a free service for working parents that includes workshops, newsletters, and an online community of fellow mums and dads.
When Shivani Uberoi (pictured above) returned to work after maternity leave, she was met with the world of tasks and challenges that working parents need to manage everyday – a world that is invisible to most of us before we have children ourselves.
There were the practical issues, such as flexible working and emergency childcare options. And then there were the emotional issues, such as managing her children’s feelings and anxieties, alongside her own thoughts about whatever had happened at work that day.
Uberoi has now launched the Parent Academy, a free service for working parents that brings career advice and parenting advice together in one hub. While many resources for working parents focus primarily on one of these sides of the coin, Uberoi believes strongly that they should be viewed together.
“The idea really came from [my realisation that] being a parent is not one-dimensional, “ says Uberoi, whose children are now aged two and six. “There are so many elements of it, and all of it can impact our own mental health [and] also our child’s mental health.”
Parent Academy members will get access to monthly workshops on topics including careers, equal parenting, wellbeing and nutrition. Each workshop will be led by a specialist in that field. Members will also get a regular newsletter with case studies and tips, as well as becoming part of an online community of fellow parents.
Uberoi, a career coach, has used her own experiences and those of her clients to structure this new project. She started her coaching business a year ago and has worked with many parents. She previously spent 12 years at Sky, first in finance and then in diversity and inclusion roles, which culminated in her leading the company’s gender equality programme.
Many working mothers have launched projects to tackle issues that they have faced, drawing on their own experiences to support others. These projects range from mentoring schemes for women who are returning to work, to advisory services for those facing workplace discrimination, to specialised support networks for single mothers.
“The big thing that really impacted me, when I went back to work, was that mental load of never switching off,” says Uberoi. “I was working, then I was parenting, then I was working, then I was parenting.”
Uberoi therefore hopes the Parent Academy will show people how to build small moments of rest into their day. She encourages parents to have a calming ritual or activity that draws a line under the working day, before they rush to pick up their children – this could even be just a few minutes of breathing exercises. She also says that employers should move away from long-hours cultures that benefit no one.
Uberoi also drew on her own experiences when she decided to launch a service aimed at parents with children up to the age of eight. She feels strongly about not offering support just for the initial “return to work” phase – she says that children starting school, for example, is a hugely overlooked issue.
In Uberoi’s own case, her eldest child took a long time to settle into school and cried for several weeks at school drop-off. The whole family also had to adjust to a new timetable of 3.30pm finishes and school holidays. “It was really, really difficult…I don’t think there’s a lot of focus on this period,” she says.
Ultimately, Uberoi hopes that the Parent Academy’s holistic approach will nudge mothers and fathers to look after their wellbeing, in order to thrive at work and at home. In her coaching sessions, she often sees how self-care gets docked from a parent’s packed to-do list, even though this is ultimately counter-productive.
“You need to look after the foundation, which is yourself, to be able to thrive at work, [or] you will just get burnt out,” she says.
The Parent Academy is conducting research on mothers’ and fathers’ postpartum experiences. The results will help both the Parent Academy and other services to design effective support for new parents. You can complete the anonymous survey here.