Posts tagged - Mummy/Daddy Plus

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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