Stay-at-home mum Lucy Greenlees was feeling run ragged by her three young children (one year old son and new born twins) and was desperate for some me-time that would challenger her in a different way from the day-to-day challenges of caring for three young children,
Lucy was terrified of public speaking – so thought that would be a good place to start! So she joined her local Toastmasters International.
Lucy not only overcame her fear of public speaking but also found she was building her confidence and learning new skills ready for her return to work. And what’s more – it was sociable and fun.
Here’s Lucy’s story in her own words:
During the time my twins were newborns and my son was one, my husband didn't get home until past their bed time. This meant that I was on my own and evenings could get a little, well, crazy. I was a multi-tasking whizz, bathing all three, juggling their bottles and putting them to sleep while negotiating TV watching time with my son. Once all were asleep, I collapsed, exhausted, onto the sofa. This was usually the point my husband walked through the door!
It was a challenging time and I don't regret making the decision to leave my career in marketing working for one of the big four accountancy firms. At some point though, I would like to return to work and this is where I have found Toastmasters International to be invaluable. I joined at the beginning of 2015 when my children were one and two and life had become less frenetic. I have benefited far beyond anything I anticipated.
Here’s how … and why every stay-at-home mum should consider joining:
1. A whole lot of fun.
Speaking in public is scary for the majority of people and it’s why Toastmasters is so popular. It can be particularly daunting for mums who haven't worked in the big wide world for a while. Yet 'there's no fear when you're having fun' (Will Thomas). The warm-up, in which all members speak for 15 seconds, helps loosen up and relax you right from the get go. I'm usually laughing within the first 10 minutes of the start of the meeting, and I will always, always go home with a smile on my face.
2. A buzz of achievement.
There's an innate sense of satisfaction in doing something to improve ourselves. Taking time out one evening each fortnight to focus on my self-development is liberating - I feel a buzz of achievement at having pushed myself.
3. Comfortably pushed out of my comfort zone.
If someone had told me a year ago that I would have delivered three speeches to an audience of 30 people and actually quite enjoyed the experience, I would have been speechless! How do I feel when asked to give an impromptu speech on a topic I know nothing about with roughly five seconds to prepare? Butterflies in my stomach? Yes, but a year down the line it's only the butterflies and not the whole zoo!
4. Inspired about the future.
The prospect of easing back into a career after time out is daunting. There's always the fear that the world has moved on while you've been up to your ears in nappies and somehow you'll never quite get back in there. Toastmasters has steered me towards being fearless about the future, keeping my cool when nervous, speaking up with confidence, approaching interviews knowing I can handle whatever questions are thrown at me, and if I am asked to give a presentation, well, easy as pie!
5. Give and receive respectful feedback.
"Don’t be so nervous. You are coming across better than you think." is one of the best pieces of advice I was given and I bear it in mind whenever those butterflies start up again. Toastmasters is, above all else, a positive environment with more experienced members mindful of how gutsy we newbies are to have walked through the door in the first place. Everyone is generous, supportive and respectful with their advice. As part of the competent leadership award, we evaluate other members. Learning how to do this in a way that inspires and motivates is a great skill to have – whatever career you choose to return to.
My advice to a stay-at-home mum thinking about joining Toastmasters? Just try it. Yes, from where you’re standing now it may seem terrifying or just plain unappealing at the end of a hectic day of childcare. But once you get a taste of it, there’s a more than good chance you’ll find it exhilarating, rewarding and fun. Go straight to yes!