I’ve been working on a cocktail, called grounds for divorce-COVID-19 the relationship hangover?

In the last two weeks, four couples I know have advised me they are seriously considering terminating their marriages or relationships. The average age of these couples is 49.

Following the first wave of COVID-19 and as lockdown restrictions ease has the pandemic surfaced issues sooner for couples?

The average age for divorce in the UK is 46.4 for men and 43.9 for women. Similarly, those age 45 to 49 years old have the most divorces. So if we take the four couples in question they are matching the statistics.

Unreasonable behaviour is the most common cause of divorce in England and Wales, accounting for nearly half of all divorces. In 2017, 46.5% of divorces were caused by unreasonable behaviour. The second most common reason that couples divorce is after a 2 year separation with consent. Adultery was the cause of 10.5% of divorces.

Ref: Divorce Statistics UK 2020

For some COVID-19 has seen a return to rebuilding relationships and bringing families closer together, but not for all. It would seem that the pressure of cohabiting in isolation has brought extreme pressure to couples.

In her Warrington world wide Lifestyle brief “Coronavirus ‘very likely’ to cause spike in divorce rates” Hannah Skentlebery says “Deciding to get divorced is never going to be easy. With the current system, couples have to place the blame for the breakdown of the marriage. Coronavirus isn’t officially “grounds for divorce”, so you will instead need to determine the cause of the breakdown of your marriage between you.”

Whether these four couples go ahead with separation or divorce remains to be seen. However, it is more than possible COVID-19 has made many people re-evaluate their position in life, how they want to live their lives and who they want to live those lives with going forward.

We will need to wait some time to understand the full impact of COVID-19 on individuals and their relationships.

Ciara Moore- Founder of Female Leaders At 50 and Beyond

The Comfy Chair- Faith Spear – Female Leaders At 50 – Women Behind the Network Series – June

The Comfy Chair

Living in a small Suffolk village which consisted of literally one street, 15th Century cottage with roses growing up the door, backing onto a wheat field and with a new baby. Sounds idyllic, but I couldn’t drive, and isolation kicked in, it was just before Christmas. Many of the villagers went to a Christmas service at the local parish church and we decided to join them as a new family. The presence of a pram and new-born attracted many and I met a sprightly woman who I later found out to be Lady Gertrude. She took me under her wing, and I sat many times in her kitchen at the huge oak table chatting whilst keeping an eye on my very active baby. Gertrude introduced me to her daughter in law who took me out to a mother and toddler group organised by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT). This lifeline helped me enormously and the loneliness, insecurities and timidity of being a new mum gradually diminished. Without hesitation I joined the NCT, became an active member and vowed that I would make sure if I came across any other isolated mum, I would be there for them.

I learnt to drive, we moved to a nearby town and I became the secretary of the local NCT branch and after two years became the Chairman. 

As Chairman, my list of priorities was to reduce the length of monthly board meetings, they commonly went on into the late evenings, keeping to the agenda,fundraising and supporting parents and children. 

I loved it. 

Life was slightly chaotic by then with another child. 

Each month we produced a newsletter and I renamed my Chairman slot the Comfy Chair. I wanted to be approachable. The title of Chairman brought responsibilities, respect and real sense of bringing people together. I worked hard at my role and took it seriously even appearing on the local tv. 

I was sent details of each NCT member that moved into my area. I then sent a welcome to…. card, with my phone number and assurance that there was a network of people ready to help in anyway they could. I remember receiving details from a woman called Susan, she had just moved into a local village, her husband had taken on a new job and with a baby and expecting her second child she knew no one. I sent a card to welcome her, and she immediately responded. I was determined Susan would not be isolated and face the loneliness I myself had often experienced through living in a village.

We met, drank tea, chatted and ate cake. 

This was the start of a great friendship. 

This year marked 25 years since I met Susan, we have continued to support each other through thick and thin. 

For me, as a leader, it was important to not ignore others, not put my title above the real things in life and to be willing to give of my time and energy. I connected people together, organised coffee mornings, book parties and realised leadership is not just about fulfilling your potential but enabling others to fulfil theirs. 

Be encouraged, we all have leadership qualities, we can all inspire, and we can all stand firm in what we believe in without backing down. 

Faith Spear FRSA

The Criminal Justice Blog: www.faithspear.wordpress.com

Twitter: @fmspear

Email: faith.m.spear@gmail.com

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/faith-spear-frsa-818a53149

Pandemic Anxiety or Imposter Chatter?The potential impact of the Imposter Phenomenon during the current crisis- Kate Atkin- FemaleLeadersAt50-Women Behind The Network

In the current situation of a global pandemic we are all finding ourselves dealing with internal and external challenges.  Whether it is how to home-school, or keeping the kids occupied, worrying about older relatives, sorting out online or in-person shopping and that’s not to mention the worries, stress and anxiety that Covid19 may trigger from a health perspective… and then there’s the logistics and psychological impact of working from home.  Or if you are with one of the essential services and a key worker then you must be experiencing vastly different challenges from the rest of us, but challenges none the less.  If you are a key worker reading this, then I give you mywholehearted thanks for all that you are doing.

This blog will address the issue of the imposter phenomenon (IP), or imposter syndrome as it is often, though erroneously, referred to.  First of all a little about what IP is and where it might come from.  Then I’ll look at where it might show up, especially in the current circumstances and I’ll close with some suggestions that you can follow if you experience imposter feelings or if you manage others with those feelings.

The Imposter Phenomenon is an internal feeling of not being good enough, that you will be exposed as a fraud, even though the external evidence suggests you are really successful at what you do (Clance and Imes, 1978). Research indicates that these feelings increase can increase stress and trigger procrastination and maladaptive perfectionism – among other impacts.

The imposter chatter varies from person to personand from day to day or even minute to minute. It is not a constant feeling, nor is it at the same level all of the time. It can be experienced on a continuum from light to intense, and it is the moderate to intense feelings which create more issues and anxiety.

Causes of the phenomenon vary too. For some the cause can be hyper-critical parenting where you are never quite good enough and there is always room to improve, while for others it ishyper-supporting parenting where “you can do anything, darling” has been misinterpreted as “you must do everything, darling”. It can be perceiving yourself as different from others around you, whether that is in upbringing, or ethnicity, or sexual orientation – to give just a few examples. Societal expectations and messages weight heavily on others and for some it can be a misinterpretation of a childhood message such as “don’t get too big for your boots”, or “pride comes before a fall”. (I have unruly curly hair and my mum would often recite the rhyme “there was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid”. As a child, I subconsciously interpreted that as “I must be good, because I don’t want to be horrid”, so feared making mistakes).

If you experience the imposter chatter, take a moment to reflect on what your own causes and triggers might be. Are they true? Are they still valid? What has changed? How have you changed?

You might like to take some time to reflect and re-write your own story.

Success comes with its own triggers.  For someone experiencing the imposter chatter, being promoted or performing well in a task or in a role can create an initial euphoria, closely followed by a sinking feeling or “oh dear, now I’ve got to live up to that”.  Indeed, Clance & Imes noticed that the more successful people were, the more prone to experiencing the phenomenon they were.

Given the current circumstances of the global pandemic, there are other triggers that may be causing imposter chatter in people. For those working from home, it can be the fact that you no longer have the chance to run your ideas past your boss or co-worker in a casual “what do you think of this…” manner. The isolation of home-workingdoesn’t provide a chance for someone to walk by your desk and break you out of a reverie, or tocheck whether you are ok when they see a frown upon your face. Or you might be juggling with home-schooling, and feeling that nothing you do is good enough, feeling guilty about not spending more time with your children, yet equally guilty about not being able to focus on your work.

If you are a key worker, especially within the NHS, you might be enlisted to perform a role that you used to do and are qualified to do, but haven’t done for some time.  You might find yourself promoted from student into a front line role.  You might worry about knowing what to do at the right time when treating a patient with Covid19. You might experience IP feelings in some, all, or none of these situations – and I’m sure there are many more instances where the imposter chatter can rear its head that I haven’t mentioned.

So if you are experiencing the imposter chatter – and please note I say experiencing, not suffering from (“suffer from” is somewhat disempowering, “experiencing” gives you the option of choosing a different experience) – there is something you can do, both to support yourself and others.

Before I get to what to do, one thing not to do, counterintuitively, is to tell people experiencing imposter feelings that they are amazing. They may be doing amazing work, and you may see them as amazing people, but pause a moment… if you tell them they are amazing, while that might be true it could exacerbate their imposter feelings as now they feel like they have to be amazing all of the time to live up to expectations. So be more explicit, give praise by saying WHY you think they are amazing and cite specific examples. And look out for the dismissal of “oh, I’m just doing my job” or “It’s nothing really” or “anyone would have done it…”. Encourage the person you are praising to accept the praise by gently reinforcing that they did that piece of work, dealt with that patient, calmed that customer down… Be explicit about their actions, the impact they had on the situation, and the impact their actions had on you and the team.

Research indicates that an effective way of combatting your own imposter chatter is to gather positive feedback and to talk about your internal feelings with others (Lane, 2015).  Both of these you can continue to do, even if you are remote working, or in isolation.  Gathering positive feedback is about noticing; noticing when someone says something positive or you receive a positive email, tweet or text, and then noticing your reaction to it.  While you can collect any number of positive emails or texts, how many you have, or what they say, won’t matter a jot if you a) don’t review them and b) believe the praise when you do review them. So start to collect the positive feedback and notice your reaction.  Are you saying “thank you” out loud because you know that’s polite, but in your head you are making loads of excuses not to accept the praise?  Instead of internally saying “yes, but”, try saying to yourself “yes, and…” or  “yes, and I learnt this while doing that work”  or “yes, and I used this skill”, etc.

Knowing and using your strengths can also be of great benefit when combatting the imposter chatter. Taking an online strengths profile, such as this one, can assist you. So can simply asking friends, family and colleagues to tell you your strengths. Or may be able to spot them yourself by looking for the commonalities in the positive feedback you receive.

Key tips for Leaders and Managers

At this time, more than any other, remember theimportance of regular communication. Everyone is busy, everyone is adjusting, and each person will be coping in their own way.  Keep in contact with your staff, by phone, online catchups, one-to-one meetings, a short text message as well as through the more formal (virtual) gatherings. Be a listening ear, even if you have heard it before.  

Don’t try to solve the issues, unless specifically asked to do so.  It might be easier or quicker, but it can easily undermine someone’s self-confidence.

Reassure your staff that their work is of the standard you expect.  If someone is worried how they will be able to replicate something they’ve done or live up to expectations, gently remind them of their skills and training, ask them how they’ve coped if they’ve been in a similar situation, help them identify what they have done in the past that will be useful in the current situation.

And please do not give in to the temptation to make minor, unimportant, amendments to work that staff have submitted, as that can undermine their confidence very quickly.

It can be very helpful to provide an opportunity for staff to network (online at this time, obviously!) so they can share their feelings in small groups – try to simulate the “water cooler” and “coffee machine” conversations that are not happening at the moment.

Finally, remember we are all experiencing a situation we haven’t been in before.  Give yourself a break if that imposter chatter has reared its head, and then tell it to pop back down again as it’s not useful at this time.  Stepping up, using your skills and focussing on what you can control will help you be the best version of you that you can be right now.  And that is all that is needed.  

Be you. Be safe. Keep well.

Kate

Author & inspirational speaker, Kate Atkin, is currently studying for a PhD focussing on the Imposter Phenomenon in the workplace (and battling her own imposter chatter in the process!) For more information see: www.kateatkin.com

CLANCE, P. R. & IMES, S. A. 1978. The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 15, 241 – 247.

LANE, J. A. 2015. The imposter phenomenon among emerging adults transitioning into professional life: Developing a grounded theory. Adultspan Journal, 14,114-128.

The F Word – Vivienne Porritt- Women Behind The Network Series- FemaleLeadersAt50

Photographs of my mother aged 50+ scared me when I turned the pages of the photo album. Tightly permed grey/white hair, frumpy shoes, boring outfits gave me a horrible vision of what I might look like when I edged towards 50. 

Maybe that was why I was a secondary school headteacher at 42, worked for the Department for Education and as a senior leader for University College London Institute of Education before I was 50. I had a successful career and believed it would continue in exciting ways. I hung onto shoulder length hair because I believed it made me look younger, even though all the advice for my face shape was to shorten it. I wanted to stay as youthful as possible and avoid those photos. Did you see similar photos of your mother? I think lots of us did as there are websites and YouTube channels dedicated to helping us avoid frumpy. 

At 55 I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer and what I looked like should have been the least of my worries. Yet my first question was whether I would lose my hair. As treatment progressed, and hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, and a breast disappeared, I began to let go of my frumpy fears.  I realised I had invested too much in my desire to look younger.  My TEDx talk about this experience asks us to focus on what makes each person unique, rather than what they look like, the colour of their skin, length of their hair or their background. 

Ironically, giving up my fear of being frumpy gave me a new belief in what I could achieve. As my new hair began to grow, I made plans to work for myself after bottling two previous opportunities. I also wanted to pay it forward and support others to be their unique best. My radical side emerged again,and I watched with anger the way women’s voices were silenced and their ambitions trashed on social media. 

Connecting with other women on Twitter helped me so much when I was ill as, whilst I couldn’t read a book, I could manage 144 characters. I did what I previously thought onlyfrumpy women did and ranted on Twitter. I ranted about the inequity I saw for female educational leaders who weren’tallowed a view. Several of us ranted about why 75% of the education workforce are women yet more men are senior leaders. And when I saw the gender pay gap in education was nearly 20% my anger and that of my wonderful female colleagues gave birth to the joyous community that is #WomenEd.

We have grown from a hashtag to a global community of 29 networks empowering women leaders in 20 countries. We have written two books, have 31,200 twitter followers and are enabling women in education to be 10%braver. We are also influencing policy and practice for all women who can and will lead education in an ethical, strategic, and collaborative way.

I am nearly accustomed to my new face in the mirror every morning but, with apologies to Jenny Joseph, I don’t need a red hat to cover my short hair. I am proud to wear purple, however, as #WomenEd adopted suffragette purple as our colour. We had our 5th birthday on May 19th and are excited to move forward on our joyous, exhilarating journey. Most importantly, I am proud to use the F word again and I have never felt better.

Twitter:  @ViviennePorritt

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What Do Ex Chief Nurses Do All Day – Life After Being A Female Leader at 50|Annemarie Ingle |Women Behind The Network Series|March

Having now completed one year in the US ‘first year of firsts’behind me, I have been looking back on the transition from life as Chief Nurse at Addenbrookes Hospital (CUH) to life in the States. When Ciara suggested I write a blog post I wondered what I could possibly say that would be of interest to my busy peers still leading. I am regularly asked ‘what have you been doing with yourself all day long?’, and ‘do youmiss your old life?’. I thought I could use these questions as a guide, and hopefully offer a little encouragement if any of you are contemplating any big changes in your life.

So, what have I been doing with myself?

I finished at CUH in September 2019 and between then and the move to Florida on 10th November I packed in a few small tasks!! My husband John, had gone ahead of me by 6 months,and my regular 60-70 hour weeks combined with finalising a PhD thesis which had been following me around Addenbrookes for the previous 5 years, had left little time for any preparation. Consequently, I pretty much had 6 weeks to pack up a house, travel around the country sorting family things out and saying a few farewells … oh and the small challenge of submitting my post Viva amendments ahead of a graduation date of October 15th.

The week the house packers came I realised I had no idea of what I really needed to take to the US, what I should be leaving  behind or what to buy (particularly with the drastic change in climate I was about to be faced with) and my 12 years as an executive director had evidently not skilled me enough to manage the army of professional packers that appeared on the doorstep. In the blink of an eye my entire house had been packed into boxes whilst I frantically tried to work out what was going into each box and whether it really needed to travel across the Atlantic with me!

With all our possessions in boxes and shipped off to sea, I undertook a final marathon tour of the country to say goodbye to family and friends, sort out my two amazing children and our octogenarian parents. On the final leg to Liverpool my car began a screaming, cranking sound on the M6; miraculously I managed to limp on to Liverpool where I was rescued by my brother, and the need to sell my faithful and well-loved car was replaced by another goodbye and an expensive rental car back home and to the airport.

Eventually the 10th of November arrived and move day was upon me, the house empty apart from a few basics for visits home. My son and I stayed in a hotel near Gatwick and he saw me off in an emotional goodbye and that was it, hello Florida! I arrived in the heat and warmth of November and to life in a modern condo in the middle of a gated community. I dropped my two very large cases at the apartment andfamiliarised myself with my new surroundings. I then slept for what felt like three days!

What happens to your mind, body and spirit when you go from the fast lane with all cylinders constantly firing to a standstill is quite a story and one too long for this occasion! Suffice to say ‘stuff happens’ physically, emotionally and psychologically!! Definitely a blog on its own.

Having established fairly early on that condo life with its close-knit neighbours was not going to work for us, I began the search for a house. Despite previous intentions to rent we went ahead and bought a house, more commonly named ‘home’, with a small garden commonly named ‘yard’, and lovely pool, in a nice bit of Tampa called Davis Islands. This in itself was an education; forget estate agents and lawyers, here is the land of the Realtor, beautiful smiles, door to door service and what feels like the personal mission of the said realtor to find you a home. Absolutely no changing your mind!

And so, several months of searching on my own began as John, was utterly consumed in his new job. I learned quickly about Florida laws, lanai, lot sizes, flooding, hurricane and bug insurance … oh and did I mention sink holes?approaching each scenario like a good old Board meeting, i.e. reading all I could the night before, aiming to look calm and in control and paddling like mad underneath!

In March we took the keys to the house and the next phase of what do I do all day began. Having been determined to find a house which would require minimal work, (we’d had enough of this with our old house in the UK), it was somewhat of asurprise as the next few weeks unfolded that many of the jobs we anticipated wouldn’t be too extensive turned into a new kitchen, a complete new set of hurricane proof windows, a new pool pump, a full paint and decorate, removal of a 60 foot oak that began to churn up the drive, and a new drive to finish it off. Alas, my project and budget management skills did come into some use, juggling a few builders here and there, prioritising and setting measurable outcomes and watching a budget run a little off piste!

Whilst I had anticipated some cultural challenges being in anew country I had not prepared for the language barrier I soon understood I had with Spanish being the common language of the majority of labourers. So, school girl Spanish revision and google translation became my evening homework.

In amongst the sea of activity I should also mention the sea of travel, over the year I made four return flights to and from Gatwick mostly to be with my children and check on the house; and when I was not in the UK, we had 16 sets of visitors. Yet another of my career skills put to test with endless bed changes, cleaning bathrooms and catering, thankgoodness I did my nurse training in the 80’s!!

A challenge I haven’t yet overcome is driving on the wrong side of the road especially when there are sometimes six lanes of traffic and traffic lights suspended from the sky! I have therefore become a slave to UBER with the exception of the unbelievably normal and common activity of riding around our little Island on a golf buggy.

I have joined the Davis Island Garden Club, average age ‘old’and average company outstanding, delightful elderly ladies who share Florida ‘yard’ stories, have steered me away from kitchen gardens in the flood zones and unpredictable winds,and opened my eyes to the most beautiful flowers, birds and trees of this part of the world. Sadly, along with the beauty are the beasts, and the bugs out here are truly hideous. I have managed to control my desires to scream and have also sadlymoved away from the gentle homeopathic approach to bugs and bites to anything legally purchasable that won’t kill a man but destroys anything that flies or crawls. I am now a pretty good source for information on palmetto bugs commonly known as flying cockroaches, termites, love bugs, silent mosquitos, ants that bite and nasty little bugs that you can’t see aptly named ‘no-seeums’!

In contrast to my gentle garden club ladies I have also joined a ladies networking group for career ladies. This has also been fabulous and informative and less about nature and more about strong women, making success from a whole range of businesses, from the beauty industry, (no surprises how big this is here) to candle making, sex counselling with hypnotism, children’s authors, travel agents and of course realtors!

Now being well into my second year of Floridian life, with my pattern of spending time with John here and time in the UK with my kids more settled, I thought I should take on some more formal work and I applied for a voluntary job on a Board of Directors for a charity which provides a home for abused girls aged 13-21. The home is in another beautiful place called St Pete, about 40 minutes from where we live. I began my new role gently, trying very hard to listen and observe and work out process (pronounced like goddess) from the systems in place. However soon after I arrived the long-standing Exec Director of the home decided to retire after 42 years and the Board needed a little help getting into the world of recruitment in this sector. So, I’ve been firing several cylinders again, sorting adverts and interviews, role profiles and contracts, all of which have different names and functions… and as for the Safeguarding world I have had to learn a whole new language. I thought the CQC and NHSI had been a regulatory challenge; I now found myself knee deep in local state and federal agencies, all with an army of regulations assessments and conditions of licence. 

The good news is that much of what I had stored away over my 38 years in the NHS has been of use and transferable skills are something our roles and responsibilities give us, albeit a little tricky at times! I have never had time to do voluntary work before apart from my stint on the PTA and setting up an after-school club (largely for my own children) so it has been a strange and exciting experience.

It has humbled me so much meeting other Board members some still with huge jobs balancing this work, and others like me, happy to give their time and everyone keen to learn from each other and respect the very different attributes we all bring.

I struggle hugely at times with the language and words for things – we may very well speak the same language as our American friends but our cultural use of the English language is often very different.

The girls in this home have made an enormous impression on me; what they have experienced in life has shocked me to the core. All my years as Executive Safeguarding lead at Papworth and CUH has not prepared me for the lives some girls are dealt. I am thankful for my own life, for my children’s and their friends and for the fact that people care enough to try to help. I am therefore throwing myself into non-executive management getting way to hands on and I’m sure annoying the staff, despite frequently recalling the times I’ve been on the receiving end of eager non-executives trying to do the executive’s job for them! But in my defence, you can take the girl out of the Chief Nurse post……

The other great interest in my life has been observing the US health system first hand that John has come to work in. Having struggled with many black winters, bed shortages, elective surgical cancellations and social care deficiencies in the UK, I have taken great interest in acute versus elective care, and how this expensive but incredibly efficient health system works. I’ve busted a few myths witnessing the poorest of people get good care and meeting some amazing nurses who like those I have had the privilege of working with over many years in the UK are hands on kind and forward thinking for the profession. The best of our two systems combined would be a health service beyond our dreams.

Coming now to my second most frequently asked question, 

Do I miss my old life?

It is a hard question to answer, I miss the nearness of my children however our time together now is fantastic quality time. I miss my friends but we are having wonderful times when they visit. I worry about both mine and john’s 83 year-old parents but they’ve both been here, my father for 6 weeks,and they are both planning this year’s return trip. 

I miss the wonderful people I worked with  and the responsibility and challenges my working life held but I can see how these skills will move into a new place here.

I absolutely do not miss doing my PhD but having it is a great thing here, and I am currently writing up some articles in the time that I now have.

But I do miss England, Cadbury’s chocolate and our home in the countryside free of bugs! I look forward to coming home eventually – which we will do. And meanwhile I will continue to embrace this exciting and fulfilling chapter of life in my 50’s.

If you are interested in Annemarie’s work at Brookwood follow this link: http://www.brookwoodflorida.org

If you would like to contact Annmarie her email is amr0188@yahoo.co.uk