Positive Thinking for New Mums

Interview with Mama On A Mission

As every new mum knows, it’s important to stay positive. But that isn’t always easy to do. With so many new experiences to deal with and a little one to look after, it’s only natural for doubts to creep in. What’s important to remember is that this is true for all new parents, and just because you have doubts, it doesn’t mean there aren’t techniques you can use to help you feel more positive.

And so, to help new mums, this International Women’s Day we spoke to Charlotte Jonsie, founder of Mama On a Mission. A positive psychology coach, a business owner and mum to a 17 month old, Charlotte understands the challenges new mums face, but she’s full of brilliant advice to help you stay positive, ignore those guilty thoughts and plan for your future.

Watch the interview or scroll down to read the transcript.

So, Charlotte, can we please start with you introducing yourself and how you came to set up Mama On A Mission?

Of course. I am, like you say, a Positive Psychology Coach and a business mentor for ambitious, go-getting, and motivated mamas. I set up Mama on a Mission, which is my community, my membership, and my podcast - to help mums to not feel so alone in their struggles. I started it at 3 months post-partum - I never intended to be a mummy blogger or whatever you want to call it - I kind of fell into it because I was struggling with postnatal depression, myself. As someone who’s always looked on the positive side of life and have all the tools and techniques to get themselves out of situations like that, to found myself in a place that was very dark, with a newborn that I hadn’t bonded with, which was really difficult. And I know that a lot of mums were struggling as well. So, I just started to share the real, raw, honest side of motherhood, not the Instagram picture-perfect that we always see, and that’s when I amassed loads of mums to come and join me on this journey.

Since becoming a mum, I just felt that everything was tailored towards the baby – which of course is important and we need that knowledge, especially as new mums – but in all the mummy courses and memberships, there wasn’t really anything for mummy’s mental health or to improve her mindset or to help her get body confidence.

I was searching the internet and Instagram for someone who looked like me in my post-partum body and I couldn’t find that. So, I set up Mama on a Mission because I believe we should have more freedom, flexibility, and financial independence. I’m very passionate about having a place that is a non-judgemental space for mums who still have goals, and who want to reach them without the guilt.

Wow, what a journey! I think to change jobs after maternity leave is one thing but setting up your own business seems like a much scarier thing. I’m sure we have lots of other mums on maternity leave reading right now, thinking about their return to work and what that may or may not look like. What would you say to those mums questioning their next step?

That’s such a good question and one that comes up a lot – especially as a coach I hear this one all the time. And a lot of mums either have goals or ambitions but they don’t know where to start. Or they’re having this tug of war with themselves, where they want to go back to work but, financially, it doesn’t make sense. So, in the end, they’re just going back to work for their sanity rather than it being a choice they want to make.

For me, what I’m trying to promote is if you want flexibility or freedom, or whatever it is you want after kids, you can have it but you have to believe in yourself. It starts with self-confidence, which is what we lose. Our whole world is tipped upside down when we become mums, so our mission and purpose changes and sometimes we lose our identity. We have an identity crisis – so it’s important to ask yourself ‘OK, what is it I want to do?’

Firstly, I would say to any mum who thinks ‘Actually, I don’t want to go back to the place I was at’ - maybe you want to shift careers or maybe it is that you have a business idea but you’re not sure how to get going with it - the first thing to do is acknowledge why you want to make a change. I always say, ‘you have to go back to your why’. If you don’t have a big enough ‘why’, then when things get tough and challenging, you end up losing sight of yourself and losing your way. So, coming back to that ‘why’, a lot of the reasons we as mamas do things is to provide and build a future for our children, or be a better role model - which comes up a lot - or to be the best mum and show them that they can do and be whatever or whoever they want. A lot of the time we, as mums, end up putting a lot of excuses in front of us, either because of our mindset, because we don’t believe we’re good enough to do something or we don’t know how to do it, or we make children our excuse. So, I invite people to reframe that and think ‘how can my children be my motivation?’

The reason I set up my own business is to have that flexibility for me and my little boy. I didn’t want to be chained to a desk 9-5. I want to be able to have days where I think ‘OK, Mondays, Wednesdays and weekends are his days, so I work 3 days a week. And that’s how I want my life to look. So, think to yourself ‘what’s my motivation?’ - the ‘why’ behind it.

Also, thinking to yourself, ‘OK, what are my values?’ To feel fulfilled as humans, we need to live by our values and a lot of us don’t know them. It’s important to take 5 minutes out of your day – which a lot of us don’t do – and figure out what your values are, what makes you tick. Because, if you’re not living true to those, then you’re always going to feel out of alignment and you’re not going to feel like you are living with purpose. Psychologically, humans need mission and purpose to feel fulfilled and that’s why I ask ‘What is your reason for doing it? What’s your mission and purpose?’  

When you say that, I think ‘of course, that’s what we should do’ but what about when you’re in the thick of having had a newborn, maybe a few months pass, and you start to think about going back to your job. Maybe someone’s covering that role while you’re on maternity leave and that self-doubt starts to creep in, so you think ‘what if that’s person’s doing a better job than I was?’ Or ‘what if I can’t go back and be as good as I was before?’ That self-doubt and self-sabotage creeps in, how would you maybe deal with those kinds of thoughts that might stop you from getting to that point.

Firstly, just to say: everybody experiences self-doubt and anything to do with ‘Imposter Syndrome’. We all look at other people and believe they’ve got it together. Or we think ‘I can’t do the same as them’ as if they have some amazing gift that we don’t have. That’s so normal – it’s called the ‘Comparison Trap’ because we always think that they have something that we don’t. Sometimes, it’s just about acknowledging that you are incredible as a person, and you need to acknowledge your strengths.

Again, this is something that people don’t know or don’t think about or don’t take time out to understand. There’s a psychology test called the VIA Character Strengths and I’d recommend everybody do it. It’s so easy, it’s a psychometric test that you do online so that you can see what your top strengths are but you can also see what your weaknesses are. So, if you’re somebody that’s going back to work and you can see all these negative thought patterns are coming up – the self-sabotage, the comparing, the self-criticism - I’d say go and do that test because you need to know what your strengths are, so you can lean into them. By having self-awareness of what your good at, it allows you to lean into them even more.

There’s something called ‘Flow State’. You know when you’re doing an activity or task and time just passes by, you’re not even thinking about what you’re doing, you’re just really enjoying it. It might be writing or reading or running – any kind of activity like that where, when you’re doing it, it brings you so much energy and joy. That’s Flow State. When you’re doing activities that you don’t enjoy, they strip you of energy, they drain you. It’s even if you’re in social situations and you leave feeling completely drained afterwards, that’s because it’s an activity that doesn’t pull on your strengths. It’s something that drains you. It’s important to understand what that is. Getting to know yourself a bit better is really going to help you with your self-confidence.

So, when it comes to going back to work after maternity leave:

  1. Stop comparing yourself
  2. Understand your strengths

               3: Ask yourself who were you before and who are you now

This is an invitation I would love every mum to consider. It’s not about holding onto who you were before, it’s about merging the two. As a new mum, you’ve got a whole world of new, incredible experience so you can ask yourself ‘what did I love about myself?’, ‘what were the things that I really enjoyed?’ and ‘who am I now?’. And then you can start to get really excited about who you want to become.

Don’t discredit yourself just because you’ve had time off, that does not mean you’re not good at your job. And please remember confidence is created in action. So, the more you do something the more confidence you will build. And that can be messy action as well. So, just give yourself a bit of a pep talk when you’re about to go back to work, and don’t compare yourself to other people.

I wish I could have heard that before I came back from maternity leave. I hope other people found that reassuring too.

When you get to that point where you’ve evaluated your reasons, you know what you want to do now, you understand your values and where you want to go - whether that’s personal or a career goal that you’re heading towards - what happens when that old familiar friend called ‘mum guilt’ shows up? I’m sure we all experience that at some point, and maybe that’s the thing that really holds someone back. What would you suggest?

OK, so if you look at ‘mum guilt’ and dissect it - and I do this a lot with my audience and my clients – I’ve found that it rarely comes from our own internal thoughts. It comes from external pressures, usually. It comes from a few things: societal pressure and expectations, generational pressures – our parents and their belief systems and traditional ideas of what a mother should (remember they’re old ideals), guilt also comes from other’s people opinions and from a fear of judgements. They’re all external factors.

We know they’re not internal because of if I ever ask my clients, ‘do you believe that?’ they usually say, ‘not really’. So, where does it come from then? ‘It probably comes from my mum or my nan or the woman down the road, something went into my subconscious and made me believe I was a bad mum for doing a certain thing. That’s why it’s important to be clear on your values and what your own beliefs are around mum guilt.

Yes, we feel guilt when we are working but what are you working for? Whether you’re working for your sanity or your finances or even because you need a bit of you-time, there is nothing wrong in that. So, who tells you it’s wrong? It doesn’t come from your internal dialogue. And if it does – then it’s what I like to call the ‘inner bitch’. This is your negative inner dialogue and it is there to protect you. I call her the ‘inner bitch’ but you can call her any name. When you give her a personality it softens the blow. It makes her almost an alter ego, so when she shows up and the guilt creeps in, you can think, ’oh, she’s here again to sabotage me and ruin the day.’ Once you get into a habit of challenging her, you start to do it naturally. I’ve done this for years, and this is reprogramming your subconscious mind. When we do this, we can challenge the belief systems that keep popping up and rearing their ugly head, like mum guilt. So, when she appears, you can say, ‘ok, what do you need from me, inner bitch?’ And ask yourself ‘Do I need to hear this right now?’ No, I don’t. ‘Is this true?’ No, it’s not. ‘Do I believe this or is it coming from someone else?’ No, I don’t believe this. ‘What do I need, what is going to benefit me and my family?’ and before you know it, you can say ‘no, you’re not really needed here, inner bitch’ then let her exit. You literally have that dialogue with yourself. You’ll think you look mad but it’s the best way to reprogram your brain. Once you do more of that, you can get rid of the mum guilt. I still do that when the mum guilt pops up, which isn’t often because I know what my beliefs are around parenting.

And again, one of the most powerful things you can do with your mindset and those negative voices, is reframing them. So, if you think you’re being a shit parent because you’re going to work, then how can you reframe of that? What I like to do is find a neutral ground, instead of going from negative to positive, because that’s not realistic. So, if the negative statement is ‘I’m a shit parent, I shouldn’t be working all these hours’, then the positive statement is ‘No, you’re a great mum, you should be working’. But that’s the polar opposite and hard to get yourself in that mindset. So, get to a neutral place of thinking. It’s called ‘Neutrality Thinking’, so when you get to that negative place, you can easily reframe it to something that’s more realistic. Again, the more you do it, the more you can soften the tone and reduce the mum guilt.

I love that advice! And it’s really interesting when you talk about other people’s judgements. We had a chat earlier and you said how important it is to surround yourself with likeminded people, or people who think in a way that you aspire to think, so you can embrace that positive energy.

Absolutely! Always. The thing about us – and this is science – we are all energetic human beings, so we all have energy. You know when you go into a room and it has a negative energy, you can usually feel it. Well, everything in this whole world has energy. When you think of it like that and you find people who raise your vibrations and make you feel energised, those are the people you want to surround yourself with. So, when you’re with other people, or another mum who drains you of energy, it’s usually because your values don’t match up, you have conflicting values. So, you need to ask yourself, ‘is this person going to hinder me or help me grow?’.

It’s so important to surround yourself with likeminded women. It’s why I love the community I’ve built because, if I’m honest, when the pandemic did lift and I was able to go to baby classes and mummy groups, I found I just couldn’t click with anyone. I couldn’t find my tribe. I found my tribe online and through my community, and that’s equally OK. You shouldn’t try to fit yourself into a mummy group that forces you to change how you act or else you become a chameleon and you start to morph into something based on who you’re surrounded by. If you’re not feeling empowered or energised by your surroundings, then you’re in the wrong group.

Great advice, and that leads nicely onto the idea of nurturing your ‘professional self’ and a more ‘authentic self’. I noticed on your website you have your professional bio and your real bio underneath - I love that!

I think most of us are scared of being our true selves. Just using that example of being in a baby group, you often feel you need to put on a persona. Then there are times when you need a professional persona, like a job interview. I guess it’s about building a personal brand and being authentic and true to yourself. So, what are your tricks on nailing that?

Do you know what, people don’t want perfect anymore. People want relatability. I don’t know about you, when I think about my online behaviour, I look for people that I can connect with or that are going to inspire or motivate me, or who make me think ‘yeah, if she’s having a bad day, I can also survive a bad day.’ It’s like purchasing behaviour. Think about how you buy things – you go for things that make you happy and speak to you. That’s true of the type of people you talk to as well.

So many people are scared to show up as themselves online and I often ask them ‘what are you scared of?’ because you need to get to the root cause of what it is that’s holding you back. The most common things are fear of judgement or a lack of self-confidence. So, then I ask, ‘what judgement do you fear? What do you think people will think about you?’ Because, let’s be honest, they probably will judge you – everybody does it, it’s human instinct. So, it’s about getting over that and thinking ‘OK, there’s going to be somebody that doesn’t like what I say or do.’ Fine. You’re not here for those people. Instead, focus on who you want to attract, your tribe. Rather than focusing on followers, focus on community and focus on speaking to those people who are in a similar position to you and relate to them. Speak to them because that’s where it’s at now.

I’ve been on social media for over a decade, and I’ve seen it transition from the Insta-perfect world to this more authentic, natural world. I’ve worked for some major brands on social media, and I was always advocating for real, raw, honest advertising – like putting the first ever male in a beauty campaign. I was really pushing the boundaries of what beauty is - it’s not all about aesthetics, it’s about who you are as a person. I’ve always been really into that, but if you’re struggling to show up on social media, then you need to start with ‘why’ and working backwards from that.

Also, you need to ask yourself who is it you want to show up as. I talk about your ‘higher self’ which is the person you want to become, and it’s always the negative self-talk that stops people from reaching that. So, who is it you want to showcase, who do you want to be? Because there’s always going to be an audience for you, there’s always going to be somebody who wants to connect with you. After that, it’s about building your self-confidence. That’s super important.

So, that links to my next question, because we talk about ‘Mamas on a Mission’ but we’re not just talking about people who want to be independent and career-focussed. It’s also about achieving those personal goals too, making sure you’ve got some me-time and can do something just for yourself.

Yeah, absolutely.

So, what would you say to that person that might be discovering what that me-time looks like? It might not be channelling all that energy into a job or something high-powered. Instead taking time out of their day to do something they enjoy.

This is something I’ve been talking a lot about recently, which is building micro-moments of joy into your daily routine by building healthy habits and rituals. It’s so important for mums because we have a lot of stress, because we’re dealing with humans and looking after them and juggling a million different plates, so finding me-time is more difficult.

There’s something called ‘habit stacking’ which I’m a big fan of and it’s about building these rituals and routines into your daily world that are going to increase your happiness and wellbeing overall, it’s scientifically proven. When I talk about rituals and habits, I mean positive affirmations, thinking about the things you’re grateful for and writing them down, journaling, shamanic shaking, dancing, movement. All these things contribute to your wellbeing. If you don’t do them, you’re literally living on… well, caffeine probably and adrenaline. That’s when you have a lot more up and down days. What we want are small micro moments of joy and a chance to be grateful for what you have. These moments create a compounding effect which makes you feel better overall. It’s not about having these big major goals; it’s looking at what went well that day and celebrating the small wins. Sometimes as a new mum, even just having a shower is a major win. So, it’s celebrating that. And when you feel you can’t do anything because you have a baby tied to you 24/7, it’s celebrating the time you get to put them down. And I know that sounds very silly and simple, but we don’t do it. So, this is my invitation for you to try this.

I have a PDF that I created (I’m happy to share it with people if they DM me), and it’s a Daily Mama Success Guide. It’s about integrating all these habits and rituals into your daily world, so it doesn’t become another to-do list, or another add-on to your world. So, you can start to do your affirmations in a morning when you’re making a cup of tea or feeding your baby their bottle, you can do gratitude exercises through the day, you can do your journal in the evening, you can do shamanic shaking with your kids if they’re a bit older. There are so many ways to do it and build it in to your routine, habit stack the behaviour on top of each other, so it doesn’t end up feeling like just another thing to do.

Amazing! I think you’ll get a lot of requests for that PDF! So finally, then, for anybody who’s interested in learning more about positive psychology or mentoring, whether it be for personal or business reasons, what would they find if they find if they come to you, Charlotte?

Well, if you come to me, you’re going to find real, raw, honest motherhood. That’s for sure. But it’s all about using tangible tools and techniques that can help shift your mindset and mood. Tools that will help you improve your temperament and manage your day in a better way and overall experience more happiness. You’ll also find body confidence on my page.

In terms of business mentoring, I’ve set up my own business and have been doing it for over a year and a half, and I’m loving it. So, if you’re looking to make that big jump, I’m here to support you, and help you make sure you hit those financial figures and where you want to be.

That’s been amazing, thank you so much for all those words of wisdom!

To find out more about Charlotte and her brilliant work, follow her on Instagram.