Posts with category - Mummy/Daddy Plus

Nina – A Mummy Plus interview

Our last Mummy Plus interview was with Anna Hoffman, full-time Paper Conservator and small business owner. Anna talked about how she manages to balance working full-time, looking after her toddler Oscar and running Kurkuma, her small business making ‘pretty useful gifts for babies and their parents. Take a trip back to July to find out more.

author-photoToday’s Mummy Plus is Nina Garcia, who blogs honestly about the joys and challenges of parenthood over at Sleeping Should be Easy (it really should!). As well as being a prolific blogger, Nina is a graphic designer and mum to three boys – a five-year-old and toddler twins. She is now also a published author and her brand new book, Parenting with Purpose, is being released this month. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy and can tell you that I loved it! As with her blog, Nina writes very much from a gentle parenting perspective, putting the needs of your child first and reminding us of the actual definition of discipline and how building stronger connections sits at the heart of this. I also love Nina’s honesty, in that she reminds us that her credentials are her experience with her children, and reassures us that what works for one child may not work for another, and that’s ok. Nina also has her fair share of ‘off’ days, which she isn’t afraid to share! I caught up with Nina ahead of her book’s release.

Life is pretty busy for you already Nina, what made you decide to take on the challenge of writing a book?
Busy it definitely is! I’ve been blogging about parenting for over five years, so the idea of compiling the principles that have guided me into a book had always been on my mind. Readers would say how much the blog posts resonated with them, and I hope the book will help even more parents with its wider reach.


How did you manage to keep on top of everything – work, blogging, writing and editing the book, designing the cover and promotion? As well as being mum!
I set my priorities and focused on tasks and to-dos that I enjoyed or were important. With blogging, much of what wasn’t necessary was put on the back-burner and I worked on only what needed to be done. I also relied on calendars, to-do lists, and created a system to organize myself and what needed to be done.

I started with an outline, then gave myself deadlines, down to the chapter and when I needed to write it by. I self-edited the book once I finished the first draft, then sent that version to an editor. She and I then worked back and forth to fine-tune the book before I sent it off to the book designer.

Promotion has largely been on me. I designed the landing page, then handed it off to a web designer to code and install. Then I recruited friends (like you Rachael!) to help promote the book.

I did my best to prioritize my family over the book—I wouldn’t work on it if the kids were awake, and I made sure my husband and I still talked in the evenings and we weren’t just glued to our computers the whole night.

I definitely had those intense days, especially when I was writing and self-editing the book, when I thought this was getting too much. I only had a few hours in a day to work on blogging and the book, so every minute had to count.

What were the similarities and differences between writing your blog and writing the book? Do you have a preference?
I used a similar process for both blogging and writing a book for the actual writing part: I’d start with an outline, type a first draft and edit like crazy. The big difference is the format and the purpose. Blogging felt like sharing lightbulb moments with your friends, or the latest news you heard. Book writing felt like gathering all your ideas into one place. Both have their perks. Writing a book with one grand launch is exciting, and blogging gives you the community and interaction with your readers.

Are you planning to write any more books?
Yes! Though in different format and for different purposes. For instance, next on my projects list is to write a shorter PDF book for a specific topic on my blog. As far as writing something similar to Parenting with Purpose, yes to that as well! I have a few topics in mind I’d like to write about that I had wanted to include in this book but figured would do better as a separate one.

Who or what inspires and/or motivates you?
Entrepreneurs who set a goal or dream for themselves and do what it takes to reach it.

How do you manage childcare when you’re working?
All three kids are in school now. The eldest is in kindergarten and the twins are in preschool. My husband and I work odd hours so that we can drop off and pick them up by the time school starts and ends.

How do you ‘switch off’ when you’re not working?
The minute I pick up my kids, I’m in ‘off’ mode. I wouldn’t have enough space in my mind to balance both! If I need to capture an idea in my mind, I write them down on my notes or my phone so I can let it go and get back to the moment.

If money was no object, what would you do with your time?
I would blog and write.

If you had to describe your children in just three words, what would you say?

FREE Kindle version- from 18 - 22 Oct ONLY!

FREE Kindle version- from 18 – 22 Oct ONLY!

Inquisitive. Delightful. Strong.

If you’d like a preview of Nina’s book, you can download a free chapter from her website now. The book is being released on Sunday 18 October and the Kindle version will be available for FREE for the first five days (until 22 October)! To stay up to date with all the latest book news and be first for special offers, sign up for the Parenting with Purpose newsletter now. You can also connect with Nina on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – she’s very easy to chat to!

If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.

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Anna – A Mummy Plus interview

Our last Mummy Plus interview was a little different… As I spoke to GrandMummy Plus Sarah Beeson MBE! Sarah and I talked about her recently released baby advice book, Happy Baby, Happy Family: Learning to trust yourself and enjoy your baby, what is was like working so closely with her daughter Amy and why she thinks we are the best generation of parents yet. There is also a chance to win a signed copy of The New Arrival , Sarah’s memoir of her time training to be a nurse in Hackney in the 70s. Read Sarah’s interview to find out more and comment to be in with a chance of winning!

Anna pictureToday’s Mummy Plus is Anna Hoffmann, who describes herself as “conserving, crafting, cooking, mothering, laughing and living in London.” Anna works full-time as a Paper Conservator as well as running her small business, Kurkuma, selling homemade ‘pretty useful gifts for babies and their parents.’ From handy bandana bibs to personalised pushchair mobiles, Anna’s creations make perfect gifts for new parents. As well as all this, Anna is also Mum to 15 month-old ‘Little C’. I caught up with Anna to find out how she fits it all in.


So, you’re a Paper Conservator. That sounds fascinating. What do you do, exactly?
A Paper Conservator cares for books, archives and works of art on paper. That could be actual remedial conservation if something is damaged, for example torn or dirty, but the bigger part of the work is usually to take care that damage doesn’t occur in the first place – by ensuring historic material is stored correctly, in appropriate boxes and at the correct temperature and humidity and by taking care that it is handled well, or exhibited in a way that doesn’t damage it. I specialised in the treatment of archival material and part of my work is to support the digitisation of archives and books.

How did you get into that and what do you like about it?
I first got interested in conservation because it is a combination of craftsmanship and science. Over the years I realised that I also like planning and implementing bigger projects as well as strategic work. My current job offers both; benchwork and more strategic work. It is a job where I can still learn and grow in many ways.

You started Kurkuma when you were on maternity leave. Have you always been crafty?
I’ve been crafting since I was very little – I started with folding origami boats, went on to making friendship bracelets, was introduced to knitting, crochet, embroidery and sewing by my grannies and my mum and to watercolour painting by my dad. I also did a jewellery making course when I was at school and a little bit of bookbinding – which eventually led to my profession as a paper conservator – and tried things like woodworking and pottery… Now I mainly focus on sewing and do little bit of knitting, crochet and cross stich along the way.

What was the first thing you made and sold through Kurkuma?
Just before I had officially started kurkuma, I made a nursing cover for myself which I took to a mum & baby yoga session. One of the mums loved it and when I told her that I had made it, she asked whether she could buy one! So this was the first item I sold… This mum became a lovely friend and she’s still a good customer. She even comes up with ideas for things I could make!

You returned to work – to a brand new job! – earlier this year after a year’s maternity leave. What was it like settling into a new routine?
Much easier than I expected it to be! I had heard from friends how hard they found it to return to work even if it was only part time, how badly they missed their babies and how difficult it was to settle them into nursery… So when we started, I kind of expected the worst. And none of it happened! My husband and I believe that if you don’t try, you don’t know whether you can actually do it. This is why I applied for the new job and why I started full time – and it works. I should add, it would have been much harder if not impossible, if my husband weren’t such a true ‘50/50-partner’ (great book tip: Getting to 50/50: How working parents can have it all), or if my work wouldn’t allow me to start later than 9am on some days, and finish at 4.30pm on other days…  My profession is a big part of who I am, so it felt absolutely right to go back to work, and to start that new job.

What do you feel your biggest challenges are now and how have these changed?
Eating healthy and fresh food – and preparing it myself! – is really important to me and I had to accept that with both of us working full time, it’s just not possible to cook a proper meal from scratch every evening. Especially when everyone gets home really hungry! It was hard for me to let go with this, I tried a meal plan and then I was stressing out about it – and now we just eat nice, healthy food but not all of it is prepared by us from scratch…

I’m pretty organised when it comes to my work but I’ve always been a bit chaotic with my private files and the household… and now that I’m a working mum it is even harder! I am a bit of a hoarder anyway and with a child there comes so much stuff, so to bring some order to  my house, that is an ongoing challenge. We have a cleaning lady now, which takes away pressure but I’m just so tired at the end of the day or the week that I don’t spend enough time on tidying or ‘life admin’. This is the same for Kurkuma, sadly, and I end up spending far less time on it than I thought I would or than I would like to do because I often feel I just don’t have any energy left for it.

Who or what inspires and/or motivates you?
Talking to my husband and friends is inspiring and motivating; my husband gave me a lot of inspiration around managing myself and how to get the right work done – inspired by these conversations, I’m currently reading a lot on that topic: Authors like Peter Bregman (18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction and Get the Right Things Done) or David Allen (Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity) I find motivating (still trying to put it to practice though). As for my crafty side, fellow crafters and crafty friends are a big source of inspiration for me, both in ‘real life’ and  via blogs and websites. But I can get inspiration from pretty much everything that surrounds me – recently I crocheted a cushion cover in the colours of a London tube station for a friend’s birthday!

How do you manage childcare when you’re working?
Little C goes to a nearby nursery five days a week, my husband and I have a rota for drop off and pick up – and little C has a jolly good time there! When I’m working on Kurkuma (which I try to do at least on some weekends), my husband would do things with Little C, for example a bike ride, so I get some time for myself.

How do you ‘switch off’ when you’re not working?
I have just under one hour’s commute, which is a good opportunity to let the day sink in and get into the right set of mind for what’s next: Family! I recently started a work diary, where I write down thoughts, good and bad things from my day at work and what I could do differently the next day. I do this on my commute back home – it takes only a few tube stops to get it done but the impact is great. It allows me to get thoughts out of my head so I don’t have to worry about it anymore. I recently joined the gym at my workplace and I find that a really good way to switch off or get a clear head – I don’t manage to go as often as I’d like to but whenever I do it, I feel great and can go home with a fresh mind (or start with one if I exercise in the morning).

If money was no object, what would you do with your time?
Probably pretty much the same… I would take more leave and go away more often with my family. I might think of getting someone to do my life admin for me ☺ And then I would take time out from my real life job to put all the ideas I have for Kurkuma into practice!

If you had to describe your son in just three words, what would you say?
Happy, independent, greedy…

And finally…

Complete the sentence: ‘I’m a Mummy Plus…’ in no more than 40 words.
…a happy, optimistic woman who enjoys life, a food-lover, maker of things, a little bit of a hoarder (you never know when you might need that empty glass jar and that piece of ribbon!), an enthusiastic conservator, sometimes too perfectionist.

You can browse Anna’s crafty creations at Kurkuma on Folksy and follow her on twitter @anna_kurkuma. If you find something you’d like to buy, Anna is offering free shipping (if you order from Folksy) to all Mothering Mushroom readers within the UK. Just quote “Mushroom” at the checkout and she will reimburse your shipping costs via paypal.

If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.


Sarah Beeson MBE – A (Grand!) Mummy Plus interview

Our last Mummy Plus interview was back in January with Proudly Imperfect Parent Dr.Karen Osburn (from Mom@41), adoptive Mummy to two boys. Karen was very generous as she shared the story of how she became a Mum at 41 and how the reality of motherhood led her to create the Mom at 41 community, ‘Embracing Imperfect Moms Everywhere’. Read Karen’s interview to find out more.

Today’s Mummy Plus is actually a GrandMummy Plus – Sarah Beeson MBE, author of The New Arrival – a heartwarming memoir of her time training to be a nurse in the 70s, and brand new parenting book, Happy Baby, Happy Family: Learning to trust yourself and enjoy your baby, which was launched earlier this summer at a series of events including one I attended for working mums, which was a lovely mix of networking, sharing stories and eating cake! Of course, in addition to writing a baby advice book and two memoir books (part two – She’s Arrived! is coming soon!) spanning her career as one of the youngest health visitors in the country, Sarah is also mum to Amy Beeson, and grandmother to Amy’s Little One, four-year-old Ava.

I caught up with Sarah at her Modern Mothers event and asked her a few questions:

Nursing syllabus and watchIt’s lovely to see you again Sarah. I last saw you at the launch of your memoir, The New Arrival, after which I interviewed your daughter Amy. How has the Happy Baby Happy Family project been different to your memoir?   
Well actually, the baby advice book was the first one Amy and I wrote and sent to agents and Harper Collins responded immediately, offering us the best package. It was Harper Collins that asked for two volumes of memoirs, which we actually wrote after Happy Baby, Happy Family, although The New Arrival was the first published. She’s Arrived follows on from this and covers when I started my health visitor training in Kent.

Writing the memoir was quite different to the baby book! Having my nurses schedule helped to make sure everything was in chronological order – we used to have to write down absolutely everything we learned on this schedule, which was signed by the ward sister. I kept all of mine so this really helped.

Sarah and AmyI asked Amy last year what it was like working so closely with Mum, so… What’s it like working so closely with your daughter?
It’s lovely. We have a really close bond so it’s an enjoyable experience. We talk every day anyway so it’s just that some of those calls would be much longer skype calls to go over the details. Logistically it could be a bit tricky, with us not being in the same place but emotionally we are on the same wavelength, which helps! Amy’s role on the baby book was more of an editing one but with the memoirs, she had much more creative input. She used to come on some of my rounds with me so she has a good understanding of the work and was able to get much more involved with these books.

How would you compare your experience of work and motherhood to Amy’s?
Actually, in terms of parenting, I see many similarities. Amy has a really gentle approach and treats Ava with respect. I think this is so important. All children, even babies, should be respected and treated as people with emotional as well as physical needs. People don’t realise just how much of an effect even harsh words have on children and I’m not an advocate of the naughty step. I think being punitive is cruel. Often, children just need more choices. They have so little control over anything and if they don’t get choices, they can become angry and frustrated. That said, I really do think that this generation of parents is the best yet. We are seeing mums and dads who put their children’s best interests at heart more than ever before.

Sarah and AvaHow it being Grandma different to being Mum?
Oh it’s just wonderful seeing how your own child is with their children. I always used to see grandparents so besotted with their grandchildren and I just didn’t get it until I had my own. And the experience is just so, so full of joy.

Is there anything from your experiences that you would change if you could?
No. You make your choices and try to live by them. I take a positive attitude (although that’s not always easy every day!). I did face many challenges throughout my career as a result of speaking up but I wouldn’t have done anything differently. Parents deserve a good service! It was important to be professional at all times but something needed to be said. Even now, more needs to be done. I really feel for social workers at the moment – they are so maligned, getting the blame when things go wrong and they haven’t intervened and being called ‘awful’ when they do – they can’t win! I worked very closely with social workers throughout my career and most are good people.

Who or what inspires and/or motivates you?
I have always been driven by a vocation to nurse. From the age of 17, I never considered anything else. It was my calling. As for writing the book, I was so motivated that I left work on the Friday and started writing it the following Monday! I worked from 9am – 1pm every day, stopping only for a coffee at 11am. I had a routine and it worked – that’s how I met the deadlines for all three books!

I wrote Happy Baby Happy Family following all the requests for baby advice I received from Amy’s friends after Ava was born that I’d been to Amy by email. I wanted it to be a handy guide for the first year of baby’s life – a sort of health visitor in a book as of course no health visitor could possibly cover everything! The book became my new vocation, although I still love seeing people 1:1 and sharing my advice and experiences through blogs, at events and via #AskSarah.

If you had to describe Amy and Ava in just three words (that’s three each!), what would you say?

Amy – Enthusiastic, Capable, Caring.

Ava – Energetic, Empathetic, Joyful.

And finally…

What one piece of advice would you give to modern mothers today?
Trust Yourself. You know your baby better than anybody else and have his or her best interests at heart.

If you have any burning questions about parenting and would like a direct line to Sarah, you’ve got one! You can just #AskSarah anything via Facebook, Twitter or directly via the website and she’ll write you an answer packed with plenty of advice/suggestions.

Giveaway… Giveaway… Giveaway…

THE NEW ARRIVAL medium cover image - Copy

I have one signed copy of The New Arrival to give away* to one lucky reader! To be in with a chance of winning, simply comment below. If you’d like to add an #AskSarah question to your comment, please do and I’ll pass it on! The winner will be announced on Friday 11th September (I’ll give you the summer as I know many of you are on hols/taking blogging breaks) and Mushroom will pick a name from a hat (I’m old fashioned like that) – I’ll post a photo here to show the competition is closed. Good luck!

If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.


*There may be a small charge for shipping if the winner is outside of the UK.


Dr. Karen Osburn – A Mummy Plus interview

Our last Mummy Plus interview was back in May with communications expert Amy Beeson, who had at the time just released a book she co-wrote with her mum, baby expert Sarah Beeson MBE, which shared Sarah’s experiences as a trainee nurse in 1970s London. Amy and her mum are now just about to release their first parenting book, ‘Happy Baby, Happy family: Learning to trust yourself and enjoy your baby,’ which will be released on 7 May! Head over to Amy’s interview to find out more about her.

Momat41Today’s interview is with Dr.Karen Osburn from Mom at 41. Karen is the adoptive Mum of two boys, Tyson (aged 4) and Kai (aged 16 months). Motherhood was a long journey for Karen and although she couldn’t be happier about it, there was an expectation that it would be a blissful time of ongoing joy and happiness. Of course it’s not. It’s so much more than this. And yet… The ‘Mommy shaming’ Karen witnessed made her wonder why others mums didn’t talk more honestly and openly about the messier side of motherhood. So she created the Mom at 41 community to address this. It’s an inclusive space for mums to really be themselves. In Karen’s own words, it’s about “Embracing the Imperfect Momma that is you.”

Being a proudly imperfect parent myself, of course I love Karen’s openness about the challenges of motherhood and her engaging podcasts with other imperfect mothers who happily share their daily challenges. So I was honoured when Karen invited me to be a guest on one of these podcasts! Having got to know Karen a little since then, I wanted to find out even more about her so invited her back here, to share her story with you.

Your journey to motherhood wasn’t an easy one, could you tell us a bit about that, and how it felt when you finally became a Mum?
Love to. Becoming a Mum was something I never thought would be difficult. I always loved kids and at the age of 34 when my husband and I decided we were ready, we thought we would get pregnant right away. After two years of failed pregnancy test after failed pregnancy test, ovulation kits, acupuncture, avoiding alcohol and caffeine… We just stopped talking about it. It was too painful.

And for any Mom who has experienced infertility this will resonate: You see babies and pregnant women EVERYWHERE when you’re trying to get pregnant. As much as I was happy to see friends and patients in my Chiropractic office having babies, it was like a little stab in my soul each time it would happen.

We then went through fertility tests, procedures, and were poked and prodded for a few years. The next step would have been IVF but at that point I was emotionally done. That was it. I just couldn’t do it anymore.

In the meantime, we had started the process of getting approved and then on the waiting list to adopt. In the back of my mind, I still thought I could get pregnant. But it never happened. And although it gets better over time, it’s a loss that will probably always be with me.

However, adoption made me a mummy for the first time at 41 (hence the name of my podcast, blog and Community, Mom at 41), and then again at 44. And I am so very thankful for that. The gratitude I feel for our sons’ birthmoms for choosing us to be their parents is something that will always be in my heart, and I don’t forget for a single day. Even those incredibly tough ones as a Mum.

KarenandbabyWhen I finally became a Mum for the first time… My husband and I were outside the hospital room when our first son Tyson was born. Even as I type this, four years after it happened, I still well up with tears. When I heard Tyson cry for the first time, I literally dropped to my knees and sobbed. It was such a release of all the pain, shame and frustration of seven years of struggling to become a Mum mixed with such incredible gratitude in that moment. So how did it feel? Pure joy. The purest I’ve ever felt.

What surprised you most about the reality of motherhood?
That’s an easy one. How hard it was. And how other Moms didn’t talk about it. How hard sleep deprivation is on trying to function (although this got easier for me over time and once our second son joined our family).

But mostly, the mommy meltdowns from exhaustion, frustration and feeling like you’re the worst Mum, and yet no other Mums talked about this. That was the most difficult thing and what was most disturbing. This feeling that you shouldn’t think or say certain things for fear of being judged by other Mums. And this was one of the biggest motivating factors behind creating Mom at 41.  

You’ve been working as a Chiropractor for 13 years and since becoming a Mum, you’ve also created this Mom at 41 community to inspire and support other Mums via weekly podcasts, a blog and a Facebook group. You also recently hosted your first webinar and have started an exciting new project this year. Just how do you manage to fit it all in?
I get asked this question a lot, more in the form of: How do you do it all so well? And my honest answer is: I don’t! Right now, I’m struggling to find some semblance of balance and keep telling myself it’s just for a short period of time that I’m not getting much sleep, not at the gym as often and stopped having time for me to read or journal each day. I work every night when my boys are in bed, and each morning before they wake. It’s crazy right now.

My passion and drive is both a blessing and a curse and I am starting to learn that I simply cannot do all the things that I want to do, and how to focus on what will really have the most impact in my message and with my vision for Mom at 41.

You’ve just become a Desire Map Licensee. Can you tell us a bit about that and how it fits with what you’ve been doing?
Yes, I’m so excited about this! The Desire Map is a book by the divine Danielle LaPorte that is really a heart-centred approach to goal setting, and discovering your Core Desired Feelings. The goal then becomes about how you want to FEEL.

I first heard about Danielle LaPorte on a podcast about a year ago, read The Desire Map earlier this year, and resonated and connected with everything she wrote. I then heard her speak in October, flew to Santa Monica, California for a seminar she taught with two other writers called Open Books and then became a Desire Map Facilitator.

As a Facilitator, I start teaching my first Desire Map Workshops (both In-Person and Virtual) from this month to help women through this process and in creating their Goals with Soul.  I truly believe in this work, and know that Desire Mapping is an absolutely life-changing experience, as it’s impacted my life on so many levels.

What do you feel your biggest challenges are now and how have these changed in recent years?
My biggest challenge is juggling my Chiropractic Practice with podcasting, blogging, creating and caring for my two young boys, while still investing time in my marriage, with friends and caring for me. It’s the challenge we all often have as Mums which is time, or feeling like we don’t have enough of it. However, I’ve been making some big life decisions to move in a healthier direction with all this, in addition to learning to say no to a lot more than I do right now. Learning how to dial down and better focus my passion is a big lesson for me right now.  

Who or what inspires and/or motivates you?
The amazing people (a lot of ‘mompreneurs’!) I’ve met in the online and podcasting world. They are truly some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. My online colleagues are so incredibly giving, helpful and have really helped guide me through the massive learning process from the start of this journey with Mom at 41 and still continue to help me to this day. What a gift it is to be able  to connect online with so many amazing people from around the world, and meeting new people all the time who are wanting to work together to help more people in our collaborative work.

How do you manage childcare when you’re working?
Both of our boys are in full-time daycare. There is no way I could do all I do without it. I used to feel badly about this. But my work aspirations are a big part of who I am, and I need to fulfill that part of me to be the best me, and the best Mum to my two boys.

How do you ‘switch off’ when you’re not working?
Again, not the best with this one, since I try to do so much in my downtime. I’m probably the most ‘switched off’ when I’m spending time with my boys, but still guilty at times for checking my phone when I’m with them.

If money was no object, what would you do with your time?
Probably a lot of what I’m doing now but with more help. VAs in place to help with a lot of the admin stuff, creative copy and website work. And I’d get back to writing more. I miss it. Since I started the podcast, it’s taken center stage and is a medium of expression and creativity I love. But writing is still a big part of me and I would love to have more time to just sit and write for at least an hour a day.

If you had to describe your boys in just three words (that’s three words each!), what would you say?

Tysonfunny, smart and ENERGY
Kaihappy, crazy and fierce

And finally…

Complete the sentence: ‘I’m a Mummy Plus…’ in no more than 40 words.
….an imperfect creative woman who is striving to do her best to serve other Mums. I have such a driving force inside of me to connect with Moms, and my work with Mom at 41 feels most like Me.

You can find Karen online at Mom at 41 and on twitter @DrKarenOsburn. If you’d like to be part of the community, head over to her Facebook page where you can meet other imperfect mums from around the world and share your own stories, challenges and joys!  If you’re interested in the Desire Map workshops, Karen is running her first workshops (both in person and online) this month. Find out more and sign up now!

If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.

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Amy – A Mummy Plus interview

Our last Mummy Plus interview was with Ireland’s Karen Mullen – owner of Fine Fettle cakes. Karen manages to make cakes that are as appealing to the palate as they are to the eye despite having no sugar, wheat or dairy – some of them are even stuffed full of veg and they still taste amazing! That might have something to do with her being a Naturopathic Herbalist. Go, find out more and then come back for this week’s star!

THE NEW ARRIVAL medium cover image - CopyThis week’s Mummy Plus is Amy Beeson, who has just recently released her first book, ‘The New Arrival,’ co-written with her mum, baby expert Sarah Beeson MBE, about Sarah’s experiences as a trainee nurse in 1970s London. Amy and her mum are also working on two further books commissioned by HarperCollins. The first is Sarah’s memoir of her time health visiting in rural Kent in the 1970s ‘She’s Arrived!’ and will be published 19 February 2015. The second, which will be published in 2015, has the working title ‘Your New Arrival: Learning to trust yourself and enjoy your baby.’ When she’s not writing books with her mum, Amy runs Wordsby Communications, offering clients cost effective solutions to their communications problems. As well as all of this, Amy is of course also mum to two-year old Ava.

I first saw Amy talking about her journey from the corporate world to full-time mum to author and business owner at a Story of Mum event at the Photographer’s Gallery last year but was too shy to introduce myself. Several emails later, we finally met again at one of Amy and Sarah’s book launch events in Stoke Newington and had so many questions to ask! I wanted to get to know her more and thought you might too. So, here you go…

So, you’ve just had a book published. What’s that like?
It’s surreal. I’ve dreamed of being published for most of my life. Sometimes, you feel elated and other times a bit unsure of yourself as you don’t know what to expect and aren’t sure what’s “normal” bit like having a baby really.

Tell us a bit about the process, from completing the book to your current promotional tour
The New Arrival was written in about six months, in-between me freelancing on branding, marketing and copywriting jobs and taking care of Ava. Mum and I are rarely in the same location so we use email, Skype, text and are on the phone a lot. There’s a lot of back and forth between us to get the details right. Once the book was completed we had to wait nine months until it was in the shops. The best part is hearing from readers when they tell us they love the book. Sometimes that’s at book events but we get a lot of messages on Facebook and Twitter too. We’ve got a really lovely community of people on social media who are really engaged – they make the experience of being published special.

What’s it like working so closely with your Mum?
It’s the best job ever. We are very close and she’s an inspiring and incredibly warm person. I think we are very lucky that we can do this together – it’s much nicer to have someone to share the success and the worry with you. I also love finding out things about her life before I came along. It’s helped me see her more as a person and not just a mum, and to take her off the pedestal and see she’s not perfect and I don’t have to be either. She’s 17 at the beginning of The New Arrival and I think it’ll be wonderful for Ava to read about her grandmother when she’s a teenager too.

When you’re not promoting your book, you run your own business, Wordsby Communications.

How does running your own business compare to what you were doing before?
It’s much more meaningful when you’re running your own business. You can really see the difference every hour you work has in a tangible way. You can be a good boss to yourself and arrange your working life so you succeed in what you are doing and don’t have all those bureaucratic barriers that often exist in an office.

What are the biggest challenges you face now?
It’s that balancing act all mums face. How do give my all to my business, be a good mum, partner, friend and daughter? But you know the person we always leave out – you! My business and my family depend on my well-being – I need to give myself a break more often and not spend so much time worrying. There will always be challenges but it’s important to enjoy the good times.

Who or what inspires and/or motivates you?
My family motivates me more than anything. I want us to have more time together and to have a nice life. That’s what keeps me going when I’d rather take a nap. But I’m very lucky, I love what I do. Writing is as much as part of me as being a mum, if I don’t write – I don’t feel like me. I relish sitting down to a keyboard or notebook – I never know what I’ll write and that’s exciting.

New Arrival book launch at Baron's CourtHow do you manage childcare when you’re working?
I mainly write when my daughter is asleep. So, the afternoon nap and bedtime are peak working hours for me. I can write wherever we are; often that’s at home but it’s also been in cafes and even at London Zoo. You’ve just got to get on with it wherever you can. If I’ve got a big job on though my mum, my husband Takbir and friends have all been roped in to cover. Not very often but I’ve definitely called in a few favours.

How do you ‘switch off’ when you’re not working?       
I switch off in three places. 1) On the treadmill when Ava is in crèche a couple of mornings a week; 2) at the movies with my husband when Grandma’s in town and we get the night off; and 3) in bed. OK my brain doesn’t switch off but I leave my phone on charge in the kitchen deliberately.             

If money was no object, what would you do with your time?
I would go to Italy and write a novel set in the Renaissance for a start. I would write, take more holidays and have more children. I’d also be more involved in politics and fundraising – that’s taken more of a backseat since I had a baby.

If you had to describe your daughter in just three words, what would you say?
Most fun ever!

And finally…

Complete the sentence: ‘I’m a Mummy Plus…’ in no more than 40 words.
A woman who’s trying to live her dream in the real world.

The New Arrival Book is available to buy from a range of local bookshops. See Sarah’s website for all the links to current deals. If you are in the US, the book will be published on 2 September. To find out more about Amy’s business, start by reading her latest blog, ‘Is Mumpreneur a dirty word?’ which includes five top tips for anyone thinking of running their own business.

If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.

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Karen – A Mummy Plus interview

I haven’t had a ‘Mummy (or Daddy) Plus’ here for a while so thought it was about time I introduced another one…!  Back in November we met Mummy Plus Melissa Hanks, who, aside from being Mum to two children under five and having a part-time ‘day’ job, is also a qualified Sport Massage Therapist, Pregnancy Massage, Reflexology Practitioner, Fitness Instructor and Cake Maker. Wondering how she manages it all? So did I! Pop back to her interview to find out… Be sure to come back now!

This week’s Mummy Plus, who is based in Dublin, Ireland, also makes cakes…  Beautiful, delicious cakes that are also low sugar (or even sugar free), wheat and gluten free and full of natural healthy ingredients. That’s right, cakes that are good for you! And they do taste great, honest – I have sampled a few! They are perfect for any occasion and adaptable to any dietary requirements.  Karen Mullen set up Fine Fettle Cakes in 2012, following the birth of her son, Bobby. Prior to this, Karen worked at St. Vincent’s hospital in infection control, while she was studying for her Naturopathic Herbalist qualification, which she completed just before she got married in 2010. Karen fell pregnant with her first child, four-year old Amy, immediately after the wedding.  After Bobby was born Karen found juggling part-time work, childcare and a fledgling private practice didn’t quite work for her family so she decided to quit the day job, combine her qualification with her natural artistic talent and love of good food, and Fine Fettle Cakes was born!

So, you’re a qualified Naturopathic Herbalist. What exactly does that mean?
The belief behind naturopathy is that your body has the ability to heal itself; our job is to find the tools to do this using natural means.  I use herbs, nutrition and look at lifestyle – it’s a holistic approach. There are so many applications, I could talk about it forever! But a good example would be if you get a headache, then rather than treating the pain I’d look at the reason behind headache and fix that, then the headache will go. A common cause of headaches is simple dehydration so I’d recommend drinking more water instead of taking a tablet, as the latter works on your liver, creating a toxic environment that your body then has to deal with on top of the dehydration.

How did you come up with the idea for Fine Fettle Cakes?
I love baking, design and nutrition.  Since having the kids I’ve been at home and I wanted to do something that I could manage from home that interested me.  I make all kinds of cakes as well as desserts and a range of breads.  The reason for specialising in healthy cakes came about when I started to realise how little choice there is out there for people with food intolerances and for those who just want a tasty cake without all the sugar and fat, so that they can indulge more often without the guilt! They are also great for kids parties as they don’t get that sugar high that makes some kids so hyper.  The parties we’ve catered (with around 20 children) do seem to be calmer for having less sugar!

Easter cake - wheat free fruit cake - low sugar

A low sugar, wheat free Easter cake…

How does running your own business compare to what you were doing before?
It’s completely different but I do find myself thinking of how I dealt with certain areas, such as marketing, in previous jobs.  Working in a pressured sales environment at Dell computers was great training for all the pressured multi tasking I have to do now.

What are the biggest challenges you face now?
I’m very time poor so it’s always a challenge to get everything done!  I also find I want to experiment more with new ingredients but the costs for multiple bakes using really good ingredients such as spelt flour really add up, especially when it’s not to sell and as a family we suddenly have six carrot and seaweed cakes to eat!

The award winning cake! Contains no sugar, dairy or wheat.

One of your cakes won an award last year. Tell us about that.
The carrot and seaweed cake won a prize at my husband’s work in a blind taste test. It was also the only one with no sugar, wheat or dairy in either the cake or the ‘icing,’ which tasted like cream cheese but was made of a lengthy list of healthy ingredients including cashew nuts!  This recipe has also received recognition from Paul Kelly, one of Ireland’s top pastry chefs.

Who or what inspires and/or motivates you?
My family definitely does, especially wanting to make them proud.  A lot of my motivation is also internal; I want to feel I’m doing the best I can with my time – something worthwhile that’s also enjoyable.

How do you manage childcare when you’re working?
It’s difficult but it is getting easier now that my youngest is over two. I’m also blessed, they both get on so well they will happily play in the playroom for a couple of hours with their toys so long as I’m around.  Our kitchen and playroom are open plan which works well. I find if I can keep the TV off most of the time they play much better too. It also helps to have playdates and planning, so that there are definite times of the day when they have 100% of my attention. Getting out with them as much as possible is important too…  It doesn’t always work so well but that’s the plan!

How do you ‘switch off’ when you’re not working?
When my husband comes home at about 6pm I usually stop working and once the children go to bed we either chat or watch TV and go to bed early.  Finding quality time as a couple is difficult. We have started doing ‘date night’ this year to make sure that we have at least one date a month.

If money was no object, what would you do with your time?
I’d definitely still bake!  I love it, especially coming up with new recipes and designs, but I’d do it in a much bigger nicer kitchen!  I’d also have a cleaner, not a nanny though, I just prefer to be on top of looking after the kids myself.  They are small for such a short time I don’t want to miss out.

If you had to describe your children in just three words (that’s three words each!), what would you say?
Amy – vivacious, caring, smart
Bobby – sweet, stubborn, much easier! ( I know that’s 4)
Ellen (my husband’s 18 year-old daughter) – strong, smart, lovely

And finally…

Complete the sentence: ‘I’m a Mummy Plus…’ in no more than 40 words.
Wife, baker and cleaner, stepmother to teenager and very very busy!

Towering inferno – One from the decadent range!

Fine Fettle Cakes is based in Dublin and delivery can be arranged to anywhere across Ireland (a delivery charge will apply). If you mention Mothering Mushroom when calling, Karen will give you a 20% discount on your order. If you like the sound of Fine Fettle Cakes but it’s too far away for you (unfortunately delivery to the UK is not possible at the moment), be sure to go and like the Fine Fettle Cakes Facebook page and pass it on to your friends (especially those based in Ireland!).

If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.

Disclosure: I have not received any compensation for recommending Fine Fettle Cakes and will not receive any commission should you make a booking. Read my full PR and disclosure policy for more info.


Parmjit – A Daddy Plus interview

Earlier this year, I revived my Mummy Plus series of interviews. I interviewed Owner/Manager of Tatty Bumpkin South East Oxfordshire Louise Steele, followed by award winning textiles designer Genevieve Bennet. I do have more Mummy Plus interviews coming up but I thought it was about time I redressed the balance and did at least one Daddy Plus interview. So, this month I interviewed friend and Daddy Plus Parmjit Singh, a professional filmmaker and photographer who set up his company peanut photography following the birth of his daughter two-year old Peanut*, in 2011 (see what he did there, Awwww….) so that he could spend more time at home with her. Parmjit has over 10 years professional experience but has been taking photos for much longer than that, having first picked up a camera when he was just five years old, when he was caught playing with his uncle’s cameras. Parmjit and his wife share equal care of peanut, with Parmjit staying at home with her while his wife works part-time. Parmjit also enjoys cooking (he’s pretty good at that too) and watching movies.

I can personally vouch for peanut photography, as Parmjit has been Mushroom’s (un!)official photographer since we met in 2011 (through the children, as you do). Need proof? Well, here’s a photo he took of Mushroom (taken at c.18 months):

Mushroom by Peanut PhotographyThis is the only photo of Mushroom that exists online!

You set up peanut photography after your daughter’s birth. Tell us a bit about what you were doing before.
I ran a not-for-profit film production company called Black Chilli Productions. I worked with a wide range of individuals and groups in the community including young people, disadvantaged groups and the older generation. We made films and I also taught filmmaking out of a production office in Stratford (East London). I ran, and still run, an independent film company, agitateFilms, for more commercial projects and to develop my own films.

What was it like starting out on your own with a newborn at home?Unfortunately by the end of 2010 the recession really started to effect Black Chilli and funding was becoming scarce and harder to secure. It was a scary time. I decided to give up the production office and put Black Chilli on hold so I moved my work into a spare room in the house. When my daughter was about three months one of our lovely aunts came around. I was proudly showing shots of Peanut on our TV. She kindly complemented my photography, which gave me the idea to set up Peanut Photography. It was very tough at first – adjusting to working from home, juggling work, Peanut, my partner and personal stuff. It still tough but it’s worth it.

You do weddings and events, fashion and portrait photography. What’s your favourite?
I don’t really have a favourite. They all have positives and occasional negatives. For me, the best thing about being a photographer is meeting and working with people – whether they are brides/grooms, children, actors, models and others in the creative industry. I’ve met some great people and made new friends as a result, including you Rachael!

What is it that you enjoy most about photography?
It’s all about photographing people for me. I always have a good time even if I’m stressed and tired. I enjoy the interaction with lots of different people. Photographing children – babies, toddlers and older children, is a lot of fun as it gives me a great excuse to behave like a big kid!

Who or what inspires your work?
Initially it was my uncle Steve, who was a keen photographer. Later on, seeing my father struggle and work hard inspired me to be the best I could be. In terms of the industries I work in, I don’t really have any specific photographers or filmmakers that have inspired me. There are just too many of them to mention as I admire so many. Ever since I was a kid I was always surrounded by art whether it was film, photography or music. I just always wanted to be an artist.

How do you and your wife manage the childcare between you?
I sometimes forget how fortunate I am. My wife is very supportive. She works hard. We both work hard to manage childcare and work. As a freelancer, my work fluctuates so there are periods I’m working at home, processing photographs or doing marketing stuff. It’s flexible so I make time to spend with Peanut and take care of her. It just made sense that I do it. Also, I wanted to do it. I didn’t just want to be a father who came home from work everyday and saw his kids for an hour, then ate and collapsed on the sofa and the cycle begins again the next day. We both wanted to be Peanut’s main carers for at least the first two years so we worked around that to make it happen.

What’s your biggest challenge at work and how is this different to what you were doing before?
The biggest challenge is getting paid work. Today, a lot of people call themselves photographers but doing it as a profession is very different to doing it as a hobby.  Often, people assume that it’s something you’ll just do for free but it is hard work just like any other job. The kit is also expensive and it takes years of dedication to learn the craft, however, it’s also great fun and I love it.  Making films was more difficult in some ways, as it involved getting larger teams together and a lot of organising logistics ((actors, crew, location, props etc.).  The great thing about photography is that most of the time I can do it on my own although it does sometimes require small teams, particularly when it’s a fashion assignment. It is possible to make films on your own as well but it’s so much more involved as you have to take on all the roles.  At the moment, I’m taking a break from film production. I’m writing a micro budget feature and focusing on the photography side of things!

If money was no object, what would you do with your time?
I would spend more time with my daughter, cook more, travel, help my mum, dad and sisters more. Generally take care of myself and my family. I would carry on doing photography and film-making but wouldn’t have the pressure of having to make money.

If you had to describe Peanut in just three words, what would you say?
Confident, beautiful and intelligent.

Complete the sentence: ‘I’m a Daddy Plus because…’ in no more than 40 words.
I’m a Daddy Plus because I love my daughter. I love being with her. She’s great company, full of energy, funny, entertaining and teaches me about the fundamental things in life.

peanut photography has a range of special offers and packages for portraits, weddings and events. If you would like to work with Parmjit, email him to book a free no obligation consultation. Or, If you’re on twitter, follow him and send a DM. If you mention Mothering Mushroom when booking you will receive 10% off  the usual fee. Parmjit is excellent with children!

If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.

*Peanut is not her real name. I just seem to gravitate towards people whose kids’ nicknames involve food!

Disclosure: I have not received any compensation for recommending Peanut photography and will not receive any commission should you make a booking. Read my full PR and disclosure policy for more info.

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Genevieve – A Mummy Plus interview

Last month, I kicked of the 2013 series of Mummy Plus interviews by interviewing Owner/Manager of Tatty Bumpkin South East Oxfordshire, Louise Steele. To find out more about this series, and to ‘meet’ Louise and learn why she’s a Mummy Plus, head back to 20 March in the archives and have a read. Oh, and then come back here to meet this month’s Mummy Plus!

For April’s Mummy Plus interview, I caught up with Genevieve Bennet. Genevieve is a textile designer who works mostly with leather, creating stunning bespoke tiles and panels to add a touch of luxury to your home. It’s not just me who rates Genevieve work highly. She was nominated for the Elle Decoration British Design Awards 2012 and has even been commissioned to create a panel for the living area of a royal residence last year. In addition to running this business, Genevieve is also Mum to three-year-old Torben.

You started your business in 2008, before you had Torben. What was that like?
A terrible time to start a business in retrospect given the economic conditions! I had no idea. However, this meant that things were slower starting up than they would have been, so I continued freelancing as well for some time. Now that things are more established I’ve realised that this was a good thing, as I invested time and money in new products and design and now that people seem to be getting the budgets back, everything is ready. The other plus is that it has given me time to really iron out issues and get everything in place, which is so important.

Tell us a bit more about what you do.
I run a business which designs, makes and sells custom made decorative leather wall coverings for the luxury market. I create hand sculpted, engraved and embossed leather tiles and panels which are used as artwork, wallcoverings, within bespoke cabinet furniture, headboards etc. I also design textiles for homeware brands, such as rugs, bed linen and table linen.

What has been your favourite creation so far?
I just created a sculpted leather wall covering for 60 square metre dining room in an private residence in New York. It was made in a beautiful dark grey leather and is a really lovely floral design. It suited the space very well and the client loved it so I was happy.

Who or what inspires you?
Pattern and colour. Amazing craftsmanship. Simple striking pattern. 1930’s decorative arts. Elizabethan armour. Spitalfields silk designs. The list is sort of long, but these immediately spring to mind.

How did you manage ‘maternity leave’ when you run your own business? Did you take any time off?
I did take off ten months, somehow. It coincided with the worst bit of the recession so things were a little quieter. I did find I had a lot of thinking time when my son was very small so I found it weirdly productive creatively. I came up with one of my main products in that time, but really just in my head and some sketches. Then, when I went back to work I made it happen quickly as I had worked out all the details in the middle of the night while awake!

Genevieve and Torben

How do you manage childcare when you’re working?
I have an incredible childminder who has looked after Torben since he was ten months old. I started with her only three days a week, now it is four. I had only planned to keep him with her for six months (then possibly move him to a nursery) but he is so happy and she is so brilliant that I kept it going. She is actually now like family, like another parent to him.

How do you ‘switch off’ when you’re not working?
I am working hard on this. I do yoga and meditate. I make sure I stop at 9pm every night so I have one hour to myself before bed. 10pm is bedtime as I get woken up so early. I do go to the spa every month as I find this is instant relaxation. Or I leave London to visit my parents in Derbyshire.

What’s your biggest challenge at work now… Has it changed over time?
The biggest single problem is having to have an income from the start. I could not just work on my business and invest money waiting for a couple of years to make a profit. I have always had to freelance and split my time, so you are constantly in danger of losing momentum. Now I am finally making the leap and just doing my business, which is very exciting.

If money was no object, what would you do with your time?
Employ someone to do all admin so I could spend all my working time being creative, then I would spend more time with Torben and eventually travel more with him to show him the world.

If you had to describe Torben in just three words, what would you say?
Physical. Funny. Fast.

And finally…

Complete the sentence: ‘I’m a Mummy Plus…’ in no more than 40 words.
‘…a creative energetic person who loves design and art and probably works too much but lucky to make a living from it. Kept sane and happy by incredible friends and family (including the most beautiful son I could ever imagine)’

If you enjoyed this interview, and have more questions you would like to ask Genevieve, please leave a comment below or email me, and I will pass them on.

If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.

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Louise – A Mummy Plus interview

Back in the summer of 2012, when the UK was caught up in the excitement of the London 2012 Olympics, I launched a series of Mummy Plus interviews. To find out more about why I started these interviews, pop back to August 2012 and read my first interview, which was with Helen. Helen was a Mummy Plus Games Maker for London 2012 and in her interview, she shared her experience of being a volunteer and how she juggled the hours with the inevitable childcare challenges. I did put a call out for more Mummy (and Daddy!) Plus interviewees at the time but if I’m honest, I didn’t put that much time and effort into it.

This year, I’ve decided to revive the Mummy Plus interviews again. This time round I plan to interview someone every couple of months. You don’t need to be a Mummy or Daddy blogger to take part, you just need to be responsible for at least 60% of your child’s care, and tell us what you do/who you are when you’re not being Mummy or Daddy.

To kickstart the series, I caught up with Owner/Manager of Tatty Bumpkin South East Oxfordshire, Louise Steele. Tatty Bumpkin is a franchise and Louise purchased South East Oxfordshire as a territory in May 2012. The business provides yoga-inspired sessions for children – where adventures centre around the awesomely named Wobble Farm and Giggle Tree – Baby Yoga and Baby Massage. Louise has practiced yoga herself for the last 10 years. She also enjoys music, walking and cycling. In addition to this, Louise is also Mum to a beautiful four-year-old girl. Before Louise started her own business with Tatty Bumpkin, she lived and worked in London. She was a booking agent at Coda Music Agency, and before that Sony Music UK, where she represented a roster of artists including Calvin Harris, Adam Ant, Cold Specks and The Wave Pictures, booking their touring and their festival appearances across the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia.

What was your greatest challenge at work, then?
When I became a mum in 2008 coping with the hours demanded in the music industry became very difficult. The live music industry is not very mum-friendly and although my company did make an effort to support me I was one of a small handful of women who were mothers and agents. The industry definitely lacks female role models (especially those with children) for young women to look up to and aspire to be like. I wanted to be the best agent I could be and also the best mum and that was very difficult to balance. I also think I cared too much – you need a really thick skin to survive in that world! My bands were great but I took on a lot of responsibility for them and found it difficult to switch off when outside the office. It was very much a 24/7 job all year round.

What made you decide to set up your own business? 
I had been thinking I might have to change my career to fit in with family life as it was becoming increasingly difficult to juggle the two. I needed flexibility with working hours, independence from an office environment (and London) and a challenge, so starting my own business gave me these choices.

Louise being Mummy!

Tell us more about Tatty Bumpkin
Tatty Bumpkin is a franchise (see: ), which operates throughout the UK. I discovered it in March last year and attended one of their free ‘Discovery Days’. I was happy to find out S.E Oxfordshire was available, completed my training in May and started the business that June. It was all a bit of a whirlwind and happened so quickly but I fell in love with the company and it’s ethos and it just felt exactly the right thing for me to do next. It enabled me to move from London back to the countryside (which meant better school options for my daughter) and also choose my working hours to fit in with childcare. It captured my eye because of the name and the graphics/logo and as I read more I found it was heavily grounded in child development and after studying psychology at university had an interest in returning to work in this area. I now offer Tatty Bumpkin and Baby Bumpkin sessions privately, in nurseries, Children’s Centres, primary schools, parties, fetes, etc. throughout S.E Oxfordshire and employ a teacher to help me cover this. I am actually looking to recruit another teacher shortly too. The sessions follow the adventures of Tatty Bumpkin or Baby Bumpkin on Wobble Farm and incorporate simple yoga postures into the story in a fun, imaginative way encouraging movement and enhancing development in the children. It is fantastic for increasing self-confidence in children and sessions can be adapted for special needs and even taught one-to-one.

You moved from London to Oxford in 2012 Why Oxford? 
I have family in the area as I was brought up and went to school about 20 miles from here. I wanted to return to the countryside for my daughter’s sake (schools and green spaces!) and also to be closer to family for both of us. Plus the franchise was available so a new, more child-friendly, career was a possibility here. We also needed to be close to London for family reasons.

How do you find Oxford after the fast-paced life of London? Do you ever miss the city?
Actually that’s one of the reasons I moved – to slow down! If you’d had asked me if I missed London three months ago I’d have said no… but now, yes, a little. Although I can be in West London in less than an hour so I visit a lot and actually appreciate it more for that reason I think. Oxford is beautiful with lots of culture but I still have a lot of friends in London and visit often.

How do you manage childcare when you’re working?
My daughter goes to nursery four days a week and is about to start school in September. I am lucky now in that 90% of my work is when she is at nursery/during school hours.

How do you ‘switch off’ when you’re not working?
Spending time with my daughter, practicing yoga and watching films. I also like reading, walking, cooking…. and there is lots more time for all this since changing my career and moving from London!

What’s your biggest challenge at work now…?
I always knew running a business was going to be hard work but I think the biggest challenge is constantly being motivated when working from home, alone. It’s very different to being in an office with colleagues around you for advice/encouragement. I am very lucky as head office are very supportive and I have a wonderful neighbouring franchisee in Oxford who is always only a phone call away (as are any of the others nationally – it’s been a very supportive experience).

If money was no object, what would you do with your time? 
I’d travel the world (in school holidays with my daughter of course!). So many places I’d still love to go…. Nepal, Tibet, India, Africa… And then in between holidays whilst my daughter was at school I’d like to do more work with a fantastic charity called Kids Company. Camila Batmanghelidjh and her team are doing an incredible thing, changing children’s lives in London and beyond so I’d donate my time to them and perhaps help them expand outside London.

If you had to describe your daughter in just three words, what would you say?
Vivacious. Kind. Thoughtful.

And finally…

Complete the sentence: ‘I’m a Mummy Plus…’ in no more than 40 words (including these ones).
‘I’m a Mummy Plus… Owner and Manager of Tatty Bumpkin S.E Oxfordshire, lover of yoga (Vinyasa Flow), gig/festival-goer and avid bookworm.  I used to live in the world of music but now it’s a passion rather than a job.

If you enjoyed this interview, and have more questions you would like to ask Louise, please leave a comment below or email me, and I will pass them on.

If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.

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Helen – A Mummy Plus… interview

As some of you know, I write another blog besides this one. Honest Speaks has been going since 2009 and it’s where I keep some of my more creative writing exercises. The ‘strapline’ (if you will) is ‘Writing. People. Poetry.’ This pretty much sums up what interests me.  Some time ago, I did a series of interviews over at Honest Speaks, called Ordinary People (Read my  interview with extra-ordinary poet and playwright Inua Ellams). I have been thinking about resurrecting these interviews – I still might – and these thoughts led me back here.

I started this blog both as a record of Mushroom’s milestones and to share my experience of parenting. I have already made many friends through this blog and something I’ve noticed many of us don’t talk much about what we do besides being a parent. So, as I am nosy curious about people, I have decided to start a series of Mummy Plus interviews. I think all of us are Mummy plus something. For example, apart from my other family relationships (sister, wife, friend etc.) I am also a Creative Writer, Internal Communications Professional (these first two are obviously not mutually exclusive!) and NLP Master Practitioner/Life Coach. The purpose of these interviews is to speak to a wide range of parents, and find out who we are when we’re not being ‘Mummy.’

For my first interview, I spoke to my friend and neighbour, Helen. As well as being Mum to 18 month old Kieran, Helen also teaches English to foreign students and is currently working on a biography of Robert Boyle, an early British scientist usually remembered for
Boyle’s law (it’s ok, I had to look it up too!) but who deserves credit for so much more… So as you can imagine, Helen is rather busy. Despite this, she managed to find an extra 50+ hours to work as one of the 70,000 Games Makers who volunteered to work for free during the London Olympics.

How did you end up working as a Games Maker for London 2012?
I applied ages ago when I was in the middle of my pregnancy with Kieran. I was of course able to work out how old he would be by the time of the Games (even though I didn’t even know that he was a he at that stage!). However, I had no idea what I’d be doing work wise or in terms of childcare, having decided to leave the TV researcher job that I had back then because it just wasn’t compatible with family life. Despite the uncertainty, I knew that I really wanted to be involved with the London Olympics if I possibly could. After all it was going to be on my doorstep and opportunities like that really are once in a lifetime, it’s a cliché but it’s also true. Luckily I had a few willing babysitters up my sleeve who pushed me to go for it so I decided that I could figure out the details later… After a long but strangely enjoyable interview when Kieran was very small (one of the first times I left him on his own with Daddy), I found out that I was going to be a Games Maker in the Press Operations Team.

Did you have to do a lot of training?
The training consisted of three sessions. The first was with thousands of other Games Makers at Wembley Arena and was more like going to a concert than a training session.  I think the idea was to get us motivated and excited about our role in the Games and it certainly worked, everyone was buzzing by the end. After that I had two more sessions; one to train us in the specific role we’d been allocated – in my case this was looking after press photographers during the events – and one to introduce us to the particular venue that we’d be working in. Here I felt I’d been really lucky as I was going to work in the Photo Team at the main stadium. The training day at the stadium was rather daunting to be honest, it was just so huge and I had fears about having to direct photographers and others around a place that was so new to me – my sense of direction has always been a weakness!

What kind of things did you do during the Games?
Assisting the photographers as much as possible and also making sure they behaved themselves, not letting them stand in certain no go areas and that kind of thing. In the stadium we had Photo Team vests so that it was obvious what we were there for but walking across the Olympic park in just the Games Maker uniform meant that we were stopped by members of the public with all sorts of questions, some of which I’m afraid I had no clue about… Luckily there were always loads more Games Makers on hand to help with lots of info for the spectators so it all worked out.

What was your favourite part about being a Games Maker?
Simply that it allowed me to be involved with the Olympics in a practical way, that’s something I’ll never forget. There were lots of memorable moments in terms of the athletics that I was lucky enough to see for free as well. The best of these was definitely watching Mo Farah getting his second gold – the atmosphere was electric and I was right by the finish line – amazing!

…and your least favourite..?
We were told that we weren’t allowed to clap or show support for Team GB, we were there to do a job and be professional – fair enough – but it was extremely hard at times…

How did you manage childcare during the week?
He basically got passed around between Grandparents and Daddy, which was probably good for him – he tends to spend too much time with me as it is. He certainly didn’t seem to mind and by the end I think he understood that the funny purple and red t-shirt meant Mummy was off to work and he cheerfully waved me off each time.

You were at the closing ceremony. What was that like?
Fantastic. What can I say? I had a great spot at the front, close to the action. We did have to work, telling the photographers to sit down and keep the aisles clear etc., it wasn’t too tough though, really.

Now that it’s all over, how do you feel?
I felt extremely emotional when Seb Coe gave his speech at the closing ceremony and the flame went out. I couldn’t believe it was all over so soon but I was so pleased to have played my tiny part in such a monumental event. I think the UK should feel proud of what happened here. It’s easy to be cynical but I just think the hard work of so many should be recognised – London 2012 was surely a success by anyone’s standards.

Do you know whether any of the volunteers will be continuing to work during the Paralympic Games?
Yep. A number of the Games Makers in my team are back for more this weekend and I have to admit I’m really jealous of them. I decided against it because it’s not really just about me – I have to rely on lots of other people to make it work – but I’ll definitely be watching as much as I can and this time no one will stop me clapping!

If you enjoyed this interview and have any further questions for Helen, let me know by leaving a comment below and I’ll pass them on.

If you would like to take part in a Mummy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter, and complete the following sentence: ‘I’m a Mummy plus…’ If you’re a bit shy, but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.

I am also interested in doing some Daddy Plus interviews, but please note the person being interviewed must be responsible for at least half of the childcare responsibilities in order to take part. I am particularly interested in interviewing stay at home Dads.

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