The foundations for a successful return to work

Judy Bartkowiak uses Neuro-Linguistic Programming to help parents and women returning to work. She talks to Workingmums about her work.

Judy Bartkowiak has dealt with almost every issue a parent might face. As a mother of four, she knows the day to day realities, but she has also run a Montessori nursery from her own home and now helps parents and particularly working mums to feel more confident about their lives.
Judy’s professional background is in market research, which she worked in for 20 years while her children were growing up, including running her own market research company.
After having her first daughter, who is now 22, she carried on working, although she was based at home and had a nanny. A year later she had her second child. When the children were two and three, the family moved out of London and she commuted back and forth. She took on a Montessori nanny who suggested they run a Montessori school from the house as it was fairly big. Judy agreed and the nanny did the day to day work while Judy continued with her market research work as well as teaching French, sport and piano.
When Judy had her third child, she handed over the school to a teacher who found accommodation elsewhere. “I did not realise at the time that I would have another child,” she laughed.

Thomas the Tank Engine

She started specialising in market research for children’s products such as Fireman Sam, Thomas the Tank Engine, Baby Bjorn, Little Tikes and Bratz. For Little Tikes, for instance, she worked on the design of play equipment.
Around four years ago, when her youngest son started big school she decided, however, that she wanted to write. “I thought if I don’t do it now I will never do it,” she said.
She had become very interested in Neuro-Linguistic Programming when she met Sue Knight, a key NLP figure, at a church event. She was invited to an introductory talk on NLP and says she “was hooked”.
She describes it as a “different way of viewing your world” which is based on observations of how “effective people communicate”. The programme combines different types of therapy, including Family Therapy, Gestalt Therapy and Milton Erickson’s work on language patterns.
Judy has done many levels of NLP training, rising to the level of master practitioner. Last year she became a children’s practitioner and runs her own NLP therapy business.
She had written children’s fiction and indeed a series of books she has written called the Queen of Africa books are being published. Their aim is to inspire black girls “to follow in the footsteps of their forebears”.
She says most of the NLP books that were published focused on NLP for business. She thought NLP could be more effective in the home, helping people learn to be effective parents.
She started writing a series of books on parenting and being a working mum, taking an NLP approach. Later this month, Hodder will publish her book “Teach Yourself: Be a happier parent with NLP”.

Worksheets

Judy says she realised some of the chapters could be expanded to include a series of exercises and worksheets focusing on specific issues such as helping mums back into the workplace. The Hodder book was originally due to be published in October, but it has been delayed so some of her worksheet books, including Engaging NLP: Back to Work have been published before. She says there will be five such books, covering topics ranging from being a new mum to dealing with teenagers.
“The thing about parenting is that you go into it without any experience. It’s like taking a car and driving it into unknown territory without a map,” she says. “You don’t know how to work anything. The terrain is constantly changing. NLP gives you signposts so you can navigate your way through it so you are in control and can recognise things.”
For instance, she says, a lot of children’s behavioural problems are due to children seeking parental attention. Parents, particularly mothers, however, usually blame themselves, she says. If they are working, they might blame this or see it as a punishment for them because they are bad mothers. “If you apply NLP thinking you realise that is not the case and that you can control the behaviour,” she says. “If you keep on dealing with an issue in the same way, though, you will get the same behaviour so unless you change what you do things will not improve.”
She adds that for the return to work book, one of the big issues facing women is a lack of confidence. “They do not think they have any skills. They have to believe that they do have them. They need to discover where their skills are,” she says.

She believes the most important ones for mums are flexibility, self belief, outcome thinking, the ability to prioritise and positivity. The book contains a series of worksheets which allows people to question where their strengths are, how skills such as parenting skills can be adapted to the world of work, what mum returners really want from life and how they might achieve that, including how they can create a good rapport with interviewers. “It’s about finding patterns, understanding what you really want to do in your life and what is important to you,” she says.

For more information on the NLP Back to Work book, click here.





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