Eowyn Crisfield is 44 years old and is the owner of Crisfield Educational Consulting. She specialises in bilingualism, bilingualism in education and teacher-training. Based in The Hague, The Netherlands, she has three children: Maddie (12), Max (8), Kate (8)
How long have you been in business?
I started off very slowly, doing seminars a couple of times a year, in 2004. I didn’t start really considering what I did as “business worthy” until 2009. Last year saw a couple of significant breakthroughs for me in terms of work, and now I have as much as I would want to deal with, and looking at more.
Short explanation of how and why you came to start your own business:
When we moved for my husband’s job I was on maternity leave and it sounded like an adventure. When my daughter was one, I looked around and realized that my “maternity leave” was over and I didn’t have a job to go back to… At the same time, I could see in my environment that there were parents with a need for information that I had (bilingual development) so I approached a local support organization and offered to do seminars for them. After that, it grew via word of mouth. As an educator, I had no business skills whatsoever, and was not comfortable with any of the traditional ways of promoting a business so I did not do any marketing or publicity at all. When I had my twins in 2007 I stopped working until they were almost two, at which time I took a traditional job, running the language department for a group of business schools. Working there for almost four years made me realise that I wanted to get back into training/research o bilingualism, so I started being more proactive about following up opportunities. Thankfully, having no business-running skills hasn’t been a problem for me in getting work – I believe that being good at what I do and being patient has paid off.
What are one or two of your favourite products or services?
I do a lot of training in schools, and this is my favourite part of the job. Working with teachers is great fun, and gives me a chance to impact what is happening in schools and help them better support their learners.
What was one of the most unexpected things about starting a business?
That I did it at all! Being classically trained as a teacher, I never expected to work for myself. I only did it by default, because I couldn’t find anyone else to work for that would let me do what I wanted to do.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 1 year? 5 years?
Good question. I’d like to think that I will have finished the two books that I am working on…
What advice can you give others just starting out in business?
Follow your heart. Do what you love and believe in, and be good at it, and trust that the work will find you. You don’t need to be marketing guru, you just need to always be bettering yourself.
Is your partner/family/friends supportive of your business?
Yes, although it often causes him scheduling conflicts at work, when I need to travel and he needs to travel too.
What is your favourite thing about being in business?
I’ve met some amazing people and had the privilege of working with some great teachers and schools.
Brief description of “Life Before Children”
I was a teacher, and taught English (ESL/EFL) in Canada and in France. I liked my work, but always thought that I was made to be a parent, so I didn’t intend to work after having kids (at least until they were in school). We moved to NL when my oldest daughter was 4 months old, and I was on maternity leave from a part-time teaching job and my Master’s.
How does this compare to “Life After Children”
After having kids, I realized how much I like working… I love my kids too, but I really missed teaching and having a place to be an adult and use my brain full. I have worked at a variety of jobs and varying schedules since having kids, as well as finishing my MA, and have discovered that I am more productive when I am busy.
(Approximately )how many hours a week do you work?
This is hard to quantify when you teach. I can count my hours in class or doing training, and actual hours prepping or grading, but much of what I do is course development and I am almost always thinking about one project or another. In actual hours worked (outside the thinking) I work about 25 hours during term time.
Are there any particular laws/initiatives in your country/location that support working parents?
Not that I know of. NL has terrible parent leave policies and child care is extremely expensive.
What are the main challenges in your country/location in terms of achieving balance?
When I started my business there was little work for me locally and so I’ve ended up with a career that is based on work in other countries, so I travel quite a lot. This is challenging with three kids and a husband who also travels a lot for work.
Your top tip/s for Family Work Balance:
Don’t be afraid to put yourself first sometimes. It’s hard to do when your spouse is the main breadwinner and your kids are complaining, but you need to do it if you want to build something significant for yourself. Find someone you trust completely to help with your kids. I can’t expect my husband to pick up the extra work when I am travelling – his job just doesn’t allow that. Having a nanny who knows how to keep the house running (laundry, buying bread, making dinner etc.) and who loves my kids means that I can do what I need to do without worrying (too much) about what is going on at home.
Any professional qualifications/training you’d like to mention?
I have a BEd. In Language Education and a Master’s in Applied Linguistics/
Do you find these qualifications/training still relevant now you’ve become a parent?
I find my children relevant to my work! Raising three children with three languages has added practical knowledge to my theoretical knowledge, which helps me when working with other families.
What was one of the most unexpected things about becoming a parent?
That I actually didn’t enjoy staying home fulltime with my kids, and that I really missed working.
What is one of the greatest wishes for your children? And yourself?
I want my kids to see both their parents doing work they are happy and proud of, and work which has equal importance to the family. For myself, I’d like to be able to continue growing in what I do without compromising all my time with my kids – I try to pick them up from school 1-2 days a week when I am not travelling.
One of the moments you are most proud of in the last few months?
For my consultancy I travelled to four new countries in the first half of the year. Being able to work in such diverse environments is both exciting and challenging on a personal and professional level.
One of the biggest challenges in the last few months?
In the first half of the year I juggled 5 major work trips and two family trips with at least as many trips for my husband. There was a stretch of about 2 months when we were not both home together for longer than 5 days. In addition, I do two days at the university in Amsterdam, doing traditional teaching. That was a tough semester!
What kind of work does your partner do?
He is an engineer, working for a satellite company.
What do you love about being a working parent?
I love being able to talk to my kids about what I do, and the adventures I have. We live in a world (expat) where not many mothers work, and I want my kids to see that both genders can have successful careers and still be good parents.
What do you think is a myth about being a working parent?
That you can have it all. I am very aware that the time I give to my work is time my kids wish they had with me. They accept that I work, but they don’t love it, and it’s hard for them when I go away.
Do your children go to school/daycare/alternative child-minding? How often?
We have a nanny who is with them on average three afternoons a week. I much prefer this to daycare, as the kids still get downtime at home, and can do outside activities. It’s also more flexible as there are times when I travel and need more help. We are lucky that we have had the same nanny for five years, and she is one of the family and the kids love her.
Describe your office
I have an office space in our house, which doubles as my older daughter’s desk/music/dance space and triples as our guest room. Mainly, when I am home I work from the corner of the sofa…
Describe your “typical” day or week
I am usually at the two days a week, which involves a 3-hour round trip commute. I work from home for most of my prep work, and often have meetings at least one other day. I try to limit one or two of my work days to school hours, so I can pick my kids up and spend the afternoon with them. I travel about once every 4-6 weeks, sometimes short trips to the UK, and sometimes up to a week or more.