Claire Sparksman
Jul 22, 2015 · 4 min read

Wow what an amazing, challenging, roller-coaster of a journey this has turned out to be!

The transformation from frustrated, lacking in self-confidence and self-esteem stay-at-home-mum is almost complete, as I am in my final week of this marvellous, exhausting experience. I’ve found ME again!

I’m not quite sure where I disappeared to. I used to be a busy freelance TV commercials producer working for top advertising agencies. It was demanding, it was stressful and all encompassing.

It clearly didn’t fit with family life and so I re-invented myself, initially as a Teaching Assistant with the idea of re-training as a teacher. I loved many aspects of working in a primary school, but the birth of my beautiful twins after an older child, made any thoughts of working in education feel like a bus man’s holiday.

Would I ever be able to combine a fulfilling and creative role with the demands of a busy, young family? Would I ever feel like ME again instead of someone who used to have a career. Used to be interesting. Used to be worth something.

It was a chance almost throw-away line, at the bottom of a newsletter from the wonderful Women Returners, that spelled the answer. ‘Retrain to be a Digital Mum.’ 6 small words that were to have such an huge impact on my life and family for 5 long months. I knew as soon as I read the sales pitch that I had to get involved. But how? I barely used Facebook & clearly didn’t understand the purpose or lure of Twitter, let alone any other social media platform. But I was determined to make it work. It had to work.

The first couple of weeks were quite straightforward. I soon discovered that distance learning is just that. You read written and watch video tutorials, learning about what makes good social media campaigns, what looks good on each of the channels and marvel at how cool everything is, feeling very out of your comfort zone. We had a peer group Google Hangout (like Skype) every week & chatted through our assignments and any concerns or difficulties we had.

At week 3, we were introduced to our client that we would be working with over the next few months. Live. On their channels. And then came the realisation … ‘Oh my God, this is it. I have a client to manage, a business to understand, a strategy to develop and I know nothing about social media or marketing. What have I done?

But somehow over the weeks and months you learn — and live learning is active learning, which is how people learn best. You learn on the job by immersing yourself in social media, and you most certainly learn from any mistakes that you make.

If you don’t understand the tutorials fully you Google the answers or ask other trainees on our G+ community and somehow it all falls into place. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly not easy. The 10–15 hours commitment a week grew to be every available hour, day and night, and it became commonplace for me to be working at 11.30 or midnight and fall asleep at my laptop. Only to be woken at 5.30 am every day by the twins shouting the house down. How I am going to get through the day, juggling screaming kids, school runs, tutorials, scheduling? Surely there must be a way to make this all work, manage my time better, just be quicker. Why am I not quicker?

Yes there have been times when I wondered if it was worth it. When I just couldn’t get my head around a particularly technical part of the course and cried with frustration, when my children were behaving badly because they were not getting enough mummy time and my husband was cross because I was never available to chat or watch TV on the sofa at the end of the day. When I was so tired and stressed and just wanted to crawl into bed and forget about the whole damn thing.

But I stuck at it. With the help & support of my fantastic peer group, Relationship Manager Kath, who keeps everyone going and the generosity and humour of the other Digital Mums in training. From a social media luddite I had learnt to create a campaign strategy including developing user personas of the target audience, identifying and engaging with key influencers, optimise social media platforms, devise a content strategy using created and curated content, use social media tools for scheduling & run weekly analytic comparisons for client reporting and measuring KPIs. Phew! I had become a social media manager.

And then we got a chance to meet — in person, in the real world, in the glorious House of Barnabas — dressed up, feeling just a little bit glamorous, drinking prosecco with fabulous inspiring & clever like-minded women, talking shop & swapping ideas & experiences. And that’s when I caught a glimpse of her. She was still there, she hadn’t gone away. She was back. ME! I’d found ME!

Maybe not quite the same as she used to be. Softer, wiser, certainly, more able to juggle work, life & family commitments. This is supposed to be #WorkThatWorks after all! An older, more tired version maybe but still able to do learn new skills, take on new challenges, think creatively, deal with clients, problem solve, find new and innovative ways of marketing services or products to make them desirable. Still able to do the hustle.

So I look forward to seeing my fellow #DigitalMumstobe on the other side as freelancers and I am happy to say, I have already had my first ‘chat’ with a potential new client. It’s only the first step, but it feels good.

#Excited #Inspired #Confident #ME!

    Claire Sparksman

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