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.
Tell us more about Tatty Bumpkin
Tatty Bumpkin is a franchise (see: www.tattybumpkin.com ), 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.
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.