The mum on a mindfulness mission

This interview is part of my series Leaning In.  My aim is to shine a spotlight on successful women who are ‘leaning in’ to their careers.  By sharing the stories of other women, I hope to help change the focus from what we can’t do to what we can do and to show other women that it is possible to have it all.

If you would like to share your story, please contact me.

Hayley Mission Mindfulness and familyHayley Saunt is a mum of three (a six year old boy and two year old twin girls) and works as a secondary school teacher.  She is also a qualified mindfulness trainer and is passionate about teaching mindfulness to others. I ‘met’ Hayley late last year when I discovered her blog, Mission: Mindfulness, through which she aims to raise awareness of mindful living and how it can help people to be more resilient, creative and focused. Hayley’s posts are full of helpful advice and tips to encourage us to live in the present and to be more empathetic and self-compassionate.

I asked Hayley to share her thoughts about working motherhood with us in this series.

Tell us a little about yourself, your family and how you spend your spare time, if you have any!
Ha ha – my first thought in answer to this question was that I don’t really have any spare time being a Mum of 3 ! But I suppose that’s not actually true.  I make sure I build in some nourishing activities to my days – running, pilates, short formal mindfulness practices, blogging and meeting up with friends as well as enjoying downtime with the kids.

What is your job? What does your work schedule look like? 
I’ve been a secondary school teacher of History for 15 years and am also now beginning to teach Mindfulness to young people as well as adults too. I have struggled keeping a healthy work-life balance, even pre-kids. Teaching can be all-consuming.

However, over the years I’ve got better at being more disciplined about school work. I ‘officially’ work 3 days a week. One of the ways I have tried to make sure I don’t do too much extra at home is that I am only paid for 2 and a half days and then have a few extra ‘free periods’ in a week to try and fit in my marking and lesson planning so that I’m not bringing too much home. I realise that this is a luxury that not everyone can afford.

I’m in school Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and try and only do school work two or three more evenings a week when the kids have gone to bed. I also know that there is an ‘ebb and flow’ to the school work. It’s a hard slog at the moment but I know that all my exam classes will be on study leave from mid May and so my workload will diminish – meaning less work in the evenings until September.

Have your career goals changed since you had children?
Totally! Before I had kids I was Head of Humanities at a large mixed secondary school on the outskirts of London looking to be an Assistant Headteacher in the next year or two.
Now I am an ‘ordinary’ classroom teacher as I lost all my official responsibility when I decided to go part-time after having my eldest. However, I’m still passionate about making a difference and helping young people. It just may not be through the traditional route of promotion in schools. My heart is in promoting mindfulness now. I really want to teach this more as my own family get older. I still love teaching History but I am increasingly frustrated by the education system in the UK so I am exploring other ways, including teaching Mindfulness, to help ‘make a difference’.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when returning to work after having children?
1 – my son was poorly a lot in his first couple of years and I found it really hard juggling a poorly child and my timetable (and the guilt of leaving the poorly child with someone else or the guilt of leaving students with cover work because I was looking after my poorly child).
2 – Going from someone who had a lot of ‘say’ in our organisation, to feeling like I had very little ‘say’ at all (see above).

Have you faced discrimination in the workplace as a result of being a parent?
I think discrimination is too strong a word to use. However I have definitely struggled at times with how people view the stereotypical working mum and how this perception can affect interactions at work.

Do you agree with Sheryl Sandberg’s idea that women need to ‘sit at the table’ and ‘lean in’? If so, how do you implement her ideas yourself?
I have to admit to not having read the book yet, though it is on my reading list. From what I understand I agree with some of her points, but perhaps not her argument in its entirety. I do agree that women need to ‘sit at the table’ and that it is up to anyone, man or woman, to ‘push on’ if they want to excel in their career. However, sometimes the reality of life makes things a little more complicated. She writes about – I think – partners doing at least 50% of the care-giving. Now, my husband is an amazing father and husband and does A LOT, but let’s be brutally honest, it’s his wages that pay our mortgage, not mine (that may be because I chose teaching as a career though!) and therefore I am always VERY aware of this fact when decisions are being made about child-care etc.

Having said that….. I am ‘leaning in’ (I think anyway!) in the sense that since 2016 I am a member of the school’s extended senior leadership team and so aren’t really just a History teacher (I ‘sit at the table’ every week as it were). I’ve also self-funded my mindfulness teacher training and although this is because it is something I’m passionate about, it is also something that makes me stand out from my peers. Thus, I have recently run workshops on Mindfulness for other schools in south-east London at an SMSC conference and am presenting at a Headteacher’s conference on Mindfulness this week too.

Do you believe we can ‘have it all’?
In a word – ‘no’ – sorry if I’m not on message. There are always decisions to be made and a process of prioritisation to be engaged in. However, I don’t just think this is a woman thing.

How do you achieve balance between parenting and your career?
I’m not sure I have – but I do find that Mindfulness has really helped me stay in the moment when I’m with the kids and not be worrying about school like I used to. I’m also VERY disciplined about not checking my work emails when I’m at home and only doing marking when the kids are in bed.

What do you enjoy the most about being a working parent?
I LOVE the variety that my life has. I love that I value my time with my children all the more after a few days at work. I love that they have some other wonderful adults in their lives whom they learn lots from too.

What aspect of being a working parent do you find the most difficult?
When my children are poorly 🙁

What is one piece of advice you would give to mothers wanting to lean in?
I think I am HEAPS more assertive now then I was pre-kids and I think we could all harness this assertiveness in our working lives as well as as parents. I am quick to speak up for my own children and am finally learning to do this for myself too. Parenting has taught me that there isn’t time to pussy-foot around a topic – you’ve just got to go for it!

What book or blog would you recommend to working parents?
Apart from this one 😉 … As far a books go I do like Amy Cuddy’s ‘Presence’ and also Ruby Wax’s ‘Sane New World’.

You can read more from Hayley at Mission Mindfulness and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


  1. Hayley @ Mission: Mindfulness | 21st Mar 17

    Thanks so much for featuring me Lucy. Xx

  2. Becki Parsons | 28th Mar 17

    As a Stay at Home Mum it’s really interesting to read about how working mums manage things. I’d like to be able to go back to work, but there’s a lot of barriers in terms of childcare and the fact that we’ve moved a long way from where we lived when I last worked. #dreamteam

    • Lucy | Leaning In | 28th Mar 17

      Childcare can be a really tough one to conquer. It is hard to work out what’s best, especially when the needs of the family keep changing. I hope you manage to make it work for you and I’m glad you found Hayley’s interview interesting.

  3. kristin mccarthy | 3rd Apr 17

    Nice to meet you Hailey! I am a twin mom too! Thanks for linking up to #globalblogging

  4. Helena | 6th Apr 17

    Thank you for enabling us to lean in to a glimpse of your life Hailey. #globalblogging

  5. Siobhan | 22nd May 17

    Great post – I thought I was juggling a lot of balls, but wow she is one busy lady! I think the point about being more assertive is so important ‘GlobalBlogging

  6. Katy @ Experienced Bad Mom | 22nd May 17

    I appreciate her honesty that she believes we can’t have it all. Seriously. I agree and I think it’s refreshing to hear that.


    • Lucy | Leaning In | 23rd May 17

      There are some really well written articles about this very thing. I’ll see if I can track some down and link them for you. It is really interesting to hear different perspectives! Thanks Katy

  7. Lexie @ | 22nd May 17

    I enjoy reading this series and seeing how different women are with their work relationships! I think my favorite question is the one about having it all. I don’t know why, but I love the answers that women give to that one.

    • Lucy | Leaning In | 23rd May 17

      The ‘having it all’ question always leads to a really interesting discussion. I also enjoy hearing different people’s perspectives. Hayley and I have different answers to this question – I think we can ‘have it all’, but we need to define our own ‘all’ and not get caught up in what other people say we ‘should’ want. It’s really interesting, isn’t it! Thanks for your comment Lexie.

  8. Ghastly Girl | 23rd May 17

    I absolutely love the idea of teaching mindfulness to little ones. It is such an important thing to have in one’s life. History has to be such a fun topic to teach as well! It’s one of my favorites as a homeschool mom! #globalblogging

    • Lucy | Leaning In | 23rd May 17

      I love that Hayley is teaching this tool to young people too. It is so important, especially in a world that seems to promote being busy over all else. p.s. I love that you homeschool, I’m considering home schooling our daughter, I just need to get my hubby on board!!

  9. Mama Grace | 23rd May 17

    Excellent interview. I think self care is so important. #globalblogging

  10. Jessica - A Modern Mom's Life | 23rd May 17

    This is a great series. I love hearing other working moms and parents weigh in on how they feel about raising a family and working outside the home. Thanks for sharing!

    • Lucy | Leaning In | 23rd May 17

      Thanks Jess. I really like hearing how other families work it all out too xx

  11. Kim | 23rd May 17

    Thank you for the different perspective. The ‘no’ to having it all really resonated with me. The pursuit of having it all is exhausting and not achievable. I feel like I missed a good chunk of my kids life last year trying to please work…now I have the priorities more in check and it is working out better.

    • Lucy | Leaning In | 23rd May 17

      I’m pleased to hear things are staring to work out for you Kim. I do think we can have all the things that make us happy – but the key is doing the things that we want to do, not the things society expects of us.

  12. Jeannette | 23rd May 17

    Great post. I love this series. You expose me to such interesting ladies. #globalblogging

    • Lucy | Leaning In | 23rd May 17

      Thank you so much for your feedback Jeannette, I’m glad you’re enjoying the series.

  13. Su Chanprasong | 23rd May 17

    Very interesting interview. She sure is one busy mum! She is braver than me for going back to an actual job. I salute her for it. #GlobalBlogging

  14. Tubbs | 23rd May 17

    Pleased to meet you! I love meeting other bloggers and finding out more about them

  15. Tracey | 23rd May 17

    Great post – I love that Hayley acknowledges the other adults in her kids life that they can learn from, it reminds me of the saying about a village raising a child. #globalblogging

  16. Petite Words | 23rd May 17

    Great series, it’s so important to talk to other mums and share their story! #globalblogging

  17. Caitlin Patoka | 24th May 17

    I always feel for women who say they had to put advancing their career on the backburner because of having children. I completely understand and can relate to that, but I wish we lived in a society where it didn’t have to be that way.

    • Lucy | Leaning In | 24th May 17

      Me too, Caitlin. I feel really strongly about this. We shouldn’t have to choose. Society and employers need to be more supportive and we, as women, need to have more confidence in our abilities. I think we’re making progress, but it is slow. Let’s hope things have changed by time it is our children’s turn!

  18. Musings of a tired mummy...zzz... | 24th May 17

    Great to hear how other mums cope with the return to work and the experience of juggling family and a job #globalblogging

  19. MomOfTwoLittleGirls | 24th May 17

    I tend to look at it as we as women can’t DO it all, rather than HAVE it all. That said, neither can men. It’s not a competition though, it should be about our personal aims and priorities

    • Lucy | Leaning In | 24th May 17

      Yes, Yes, Yes! Exactly this! I compeltely agree – we can’t DO everything, nor should we try!

  20. Charlene | High Heels And Fairy Tales | 24th May 17

    I love the bit she mentioned about being in the moment when we’re with our kIds. I think many of us struggle with this sometimes, even stay at home moms – we’re always so busy thinking about the housework, or what we’re going to cook, or trying to find time to write blog posts, sometimes we’re not completely “there” with our kids. #GlobalBlogging

    • Lucy | Leaning In | 24th May 17

      Yep, I’m guilty of this too! I often listen to podcasts while playing with my daughter. I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing tho. It’s all about balance (as is everything, it seems!)

  21. Katie -- My Momma Can | 25th May 17

    As a fellow working mom, I struggle with some of the same things as you, but I also really strive to make time with my children count. It’s always encouraging to read content from other working moms. #globalblogging

  22. kristin mccarthy | 25th May 17

    There are definitely times I miss the pace of work, the people, the learning. The grass always seems greener.

    Thanks for linking up to #globalblogging

  23. Lisa Pomerantz | 27th May 17

    It’s funny since I posted, Turns out, I’m insanely Jealous (of my SAHM partner), I am seeing so many ‘grass is greener’ posts. I guess no one really can have it all — or perhaps having it all is a state of mindfulness too. I am working very hard on mindfulness now. Putting the crap aside, letting go, moving forward and enjoying where I am. Somedays I am better at it than others. Thanks for this great post! #globalblogging


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