Our mompreneur this week is Jacqueline Smith, a positive psychology coach and mom of two based in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Q. Congrats on launching Coaching Positive Transitions! What inspired you to create this business?
A. I moved to the UK from the USA after university and for many years worked in roles that gave me little personal satisfaction. I changed careers to work in mental health for the National Health Service and was so much happier. Working directly with people who need your help is incredibly satisfying for me. When we moved to Uruguay for my husband’s job, I knew that I wanted to find a career that would allow me to keep working with people, so I decided to retrain as a positive psychology coach. It hasn’t always been easy juggling raising two small children (aged 5 and 3), retraining, starting a business, and finding clients, but it’s been so satisfying to watch my business grow. I now work with clients and companies in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, and Asia.
Q. Where do you live and do you recommend your city as a family travel destination?
A. I live in Montevideo, which is the incredibly friendly and laid-back capital of Uruguay. Sandwiched between the giants of Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay is often overlooked by tourists, which is a shame as it has so much to offer. However, the real gems of Uruguay are not in Montevideo (though it’s an easy place to spend a few days), but in the countryside. You can visit an estancia (cattle farm), go horseback riding or travel up the coast to discover some of the best beaches in South America. Day trips to scenic Colonia are a simple ferry ride from Buenos Aires, but give yourself a bit longer and take some time to truly unwind.
Q. What’s your insider tip for families coming to your hometown? What are your favorite family-friendly hidden gems?
A. Uruguayans are incredibly accommodating to families, and the culture, in general, is very family-friendly. Dinner is usually quite late, and it is common to find that many restaurants won’t even open until 8 pm, which can be difficult if you have young children. A good family-friendly day trip is to visit La Macarena farm, which is a short taxi ride from town. You can spend the morning on a guided river tour, have a traditional Uruguayan asado (barbeque) for lunch, and then go fruit picking with the children for the afternoon. If you don’t mind venturing a bit further, there are many wonderful estancias to choose from, such as Estancia Turística Don Joaquín where you can go horseback riding and enjoy the wonders of the Uruguayan countryside with traditional food.
The current Covid-19 crisis means that trips to other countries aren’t possible right now, but as things have reopened here we’ve been taking the opportunity to explore different parts of Uruguay.
Q. Is family travel a part of your life?
A. Even before children, my husband and I loved traveling, and this hasn’t changed since we’ve become parents. Moving to Uruguay has given us a great base from which to explore South America, and we’ve been trying to pack in as many trips as we can while we are here.
Q. What is the most memorable trip you took with your kids?
A. Probably our trip to Ecuador last summer. It’s not a huge country, but there was just so much variety to see in one place. We stayed in a cloud forest, went horseback riding on plains, hiked around volcanic lagoons, bathed in hot springs, and drove the spine of the Andes from Quito to Cuenca while enjoying breath-taking views. I was a bit nervous about moving around so much (in two weeks we never stayed anywhere longer than two nights, and we drove 1500km in total), but the children absolutely loved it. And we never even made it down into the Amazon, or to the beaches, or across to the Galapagos! Just an amazing country and for a family trip, I cannot recommend it enough.
Q. What’s your best advice for traveling parents?
A. Just to enjoy the moment for what it is, which is easier said than done! We all have moments on holiday when being a parent means your plans go out the window. But the key is to just roll with it and adapt your plans on the go, don’t let it put you off trying something new! We didn’t travel much the first year after my daughter was born and I really regret it, as once I bit the bullet and started getting out there again, I realized how much I missed it and how much the children gain from it.
Q. What is your favorite family travel product or service?
A. When we travel, we really like to get out and see the country. Our children love walking, but they still get tired, so investing in a couple of good light-frame hiking backpacks has allowed us to get away from flat surfaces and enjoy the great outdoors. For Christmas 2018 we went to the Argentine lake district, and it was just fantastic to be able to go for long walks through the woods with the children on our backs.
Q. What item do you always pack in your carry-on?
A. Now, a full change of clothes for everyone! We took advantage of a trip back to the UK at Christmas to visit friends in Geneva. Unfortunately, on the plane back to London, our son was very sick, vomiting everywhere, and we had nothing with us. Not a mistake I will ever make again! He had to finish the flight just wrapped in my husband’s hoodie. Other than that, we always have a tablet. I know views on screen time differ, but the Amazon Fire tablet is cheap, you can download lots of age-appropriate games, and it is just worth its weight in gold on a long flight.
Q. How do you tackle the work/life balance (e.g., daycare, babysitting, schools, etc.)?
A. It’s a challenge, for sure. The children go to nursery in the morning, and we are lucky that they have reopened here, but as I work with clients in lots of different time zones I can’t schedule all of my appointments then.I try to make sure that I break up my day so I can spend time doing activities with the children between clients. My 5-year-old is very good at knowing that if the office door is shut, mummy is with a client and she can’t come in. My 3-year-old, however, will still knock on the door if he wants something, so I need to rely on my husband to keep him occupied when I have clients outside of nursery hours.
It is really nice being in control of my own day, being able to spend time with the children or arrange webinars for when I know the children will be in bed. There are challenges, of course, but it works so much better for me than having a 9-5 job did.
Q. What are the advantages of being a Mompreneur while raising children vs. working for an outside entity? Disadvantages?
A. I am very lucky in that as a coach, I do most of my work online with clients in a range of countries. This means that I have the luxury of structuring my day as I need, which gives me a lot of freedom to plan my work around the children, who both attend a nursery a few minutes’ walk from my house. The disadvantage is that I often work much longer now than I did when I had a regular job, continuing when the children are in bed and during the weekends. When it is your own business you only get out what you put in, and I need to do a lot of activity to find clients.
Q. What’s your shameless plug?
A. That everyone can benefit from having a coach! When it comes to physical challenges, having a personal fitness coach has become a lot more common – not just for elite athletes, but also just for regular people that want to be in better shape. The same is true for other challenges in your life. I love working with people from all different backgrounds who want to make a change but are stuck on how to do it, or who are facing a challenge they are struggling with alone. Many people still think coaching is just for business executives or high-powered CEOs, but it really is for everyone. If you are interested in seeing whether it’s for you, I offer a free introductory session, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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