Supporting Working Parents in the Workplace


This week’s guest is Nicki Seignot who is known as The Parent Mentor.  She is passionate about helping working parents return to work and thrive when they do.  She specialises in supporting businesses and organisations develop internal mentoring programmes and good practice approaches for new parents and returning talent.

She is a real pioneer and champion in this area having introduced maternity mentoring to Asda Walmart in 2011, where over 200 returners have been mentored to date.  Since then in her work as The Parent Mentor she has gone on to advise, mentor, coach, facilitate, write and speak on this subject across the UK and Europe.  So we really do have an expert amongst us on this episode.

Nicki is the co-author of the first business book on parental mentoring ‘Mentoring New Parents at Work’ and is also a Member of the House of Commons All Party Parliamentary Group for Women and Work.

In this episode:

  • How Nicki’s own experience of returning to work after becoming a mother led her to introduce a working parent mentoring programme within her organisation [3:33]
  • After 29 years in the retail sector she left and now works with organisations encouraging them to invest in returning talent [5:55]
  • That somehow where career meets parenthood many organisations stop investing in their talent [6:32]
  • Nicki shares the research that proves that gender diversity is good for business [7:00]
  • The reality of becoming a parent is often different to what we imagine and having someone to share that with is powerful [9:10]
  • How the disconnect from work can have  powerful impact on us.  Nicki shares the things she learnt about herself when on maternity leave and how it fuelled her more than she had thought possible [12:24]
  • How guilt is present in many contexts as a working parent and how it’s important to make peace with it and be the best you can be [14:44]
  • How working reduced hours and relying on help from her support network was important for Nicki in her own work journey [15:30]
  • How having a ‘village’ is important for us to thrive as working mothers [16:45]
  • How hearing the message ‘buy in as much helps as you can afford’ was important for Nicki. That reaching out for help when you need it and helping others when you can enables us as working mums to thrive [17:35]
  • Nicki shares that whilst there are unique challenges for working parents there are common patterns and themes [18:14]
  • The insightful quote that struck Nicki when she was studying for her Masters in Coaching and Mentoring [18:45]
  • How it’s important not to burst the bubble of an expectant parents but be waiting ready to support them through the peaks and troughs [20:26]
  • As parenthood can be so isolating the power of the collective voice benefits both parents and the organisations they work for [21:05]
  • Nicki shares why she cares so passionately that having someone alongside you from a mentoring perspective is so powerful [21:20]
  • The dilemma of finding the right childcare and leaving your child for the first time is hugely challenging [22:36]
  • That the first days back at work are sensitive and highly emotionally charged [23:10]
  • The pressure we put ourselves under when we first return back to work after maternity leave [23:55]
  • That the changing nature of parenthood adds ever changing complexity [24:55]
  • The things that make a difference in supporting working mums and that different stages require different support [28:08]
  • That having a supportive line manager is at the heart of this issue [29:30]
  • The importance of a performance review before going on maternity leave [30:20]
  • Practical advice to help navigate maternity leave and your return [31:40]
  • The important question when pregnant at work that allows us to prioritise the new aspects of us [32:50]
  • The one word that can destroy a working mum’s credibility and self esteem [34:10]
  • How managing others’ expectations is critical and having firm boundaries can help us thrive [34:45]
  • How having a mentor who’s also a working parent can be powerful to give you the permissions you won’t give yourself and that they can be a critical friend to support you [36:20]
  • Advice on finding a mentor and insightful guidance on when to find one [36:40]
  • How being a working parent mentor differs from general mentoring [37:40]
  • How to ensure a mentoring relationship works [38:45]
  • Why having a same level mentor (or next level up if you’re on track for a promotion] is important [39:15]
  • Tips to help get the most out of a mentoring relationship [40:20]
  • Advice if your organisation doesn’t currently have a mentoring scheme [41:30]
  • How to find a good mentor [41:50]
  • Why finding a mentor before going on maternity leave is really useful [42:20]
  • How Nicki came to write her book and her hopes on how it will help working parents and organisations [43:45]
  • That return to work mentoring doesn’t have to be difficult. How you can start small to use skills and experience that already exist in your organisation [45:00]
  • That giving mentors tools is really helpful to ensure they can support their mentees.  How Nicki has mentoring prompt cards to help support mentors [45:50]
  • There is no opportunity better than now to help people and that it’s never to late to get support [46:45]

Links in this episode:

The Parent Mentor website:

The Parent Mentor’s Twitter account: @theparentmentor

The Parent Mentor’s Instagram page:  the_parent_mentor 

Nicki’s book Mentoring New Parents at Work

The Parent Mentor’s Cards for Mentoring Conversations

Centenary Walks – 60 kilometres for 60 years  2018 marks the Centenary year of the first votes for women in the UK.  In recognition of Millicent Fawcett’s 60 year campaign, Nicki is going to be walking 60k – one kilometer for each year – with every step a celebration of an entire life devoted to a cause.  To achieve the target, Nicki is going to do a series of 10k walks with six inspirational women and record something of the conversations as podcasts so they can share the experience after the event. Please will you sponsor Nicki’s 60 kilometre challenge?  The money raised will help support the Fawcett Society to continue its work to keep women’s rights on the political agenda, and affect real change.  Please follow this link to donate – no matter how small, everything counts.



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