What is a Rookie Mama? Well, I'm a Rookie Mama. Before we had my eldest son 7 years ago I had never changed a diaper (nappy), I'd put on a baby grow once. It took an hour, and it ended up being back to front and inside out. And for me (& my American hubby) we've pretty much been making it up as we go along ever since.Read More
(Mis) adventures in Parenthood, Little League & moving your family 5,500 miles from London to California.
Filtering by Category: Working parent
Well, we're now 10 months into our big Californian adventure. The adrenalin has started to wear off, the reality of flogging our London flat and squashing our worldly possessions into a 20ft container has pretty much sunken in.Read More
I recently went for an interview with a Fashion recruitment office over here in Orange County. After having shown my portfolio, and gone over my CV (or resume as they call it here) I felt the need to explain something that I hadn't mentioned on there. I hadn't mentioned that I had set up my own Childrens brand a year ago, and was in fact still currently working on it... part of me felt I would be shunned from ever working for a Fashion Brand ever again if they knew I had my own business. The Fashion world can be a fickle place!Read More
Yep, Childcare! Why? What did you think I was going to say?! It's a bit like money - it's one of those subjects not often talked about right?!Read More
Yeah, I kinda knew it wouldn't be as simple as unpacking Varsity Jackets, and finding where the nearest Post Office was. Setting Muklet back up over here, has become quite the task. Without wanting to sound like a martyr it's been a little difficult even finding time and opportunity to get the Muklet cogs turning.Read More
I was having a conversation with my husband when I declared "Oh my goodness, we're doing this! We're moving to the States without jobs!!", to which he replied "No we're not. You have a job, you have your own business. You have Muklet". It was probably the nicest thing he's ever said to me (apart from maybe, saying yes to marrying me!!). So, it was decided. I wouldn't look for a job. I would fully focus on the business. I would go 'FULL MUKLET'!Read More
Euphoric, I'm a little hesitant to confess that, but yes, I was a bit euphoric the first day my eldest went to nursery. We were 8 months in to becoming first time parents, and we were still very much in the weeds of sleepless nights.Read More
If I get the opportunity to talk to people more after my declaration of Mom-dapendence I like to tell them more about my 'WHY' and my 'HOW'. My motivation for taking the leap into running my own business runs deeper than just wanting to do something for myself, and spend more time with the boys (both the smalls and big one!).Read More
A few weeks back I headed out to meet up with some local small business owners to share our stories, hints and tips. It's one of the things I really enjoy about running a business, getting out and meeting other like minded people, hearing their stories, telling them yours, and finding ways to help each other out. Meeting in a pub, park, play gym or even my living room with or without the smalls is way way more fun than the stuffy, laborious, angst ridden board meetings I used to have to sit through when I worked in the corporate world.
Towards the end of the meeting the organiser happened to mention her disdain for the word 'Mumpreneur', given that just because you are a woman, with child, why should you be classed any differently from a man who happens to be a parent who runs a small business. In that moment I have to say my heart sank a little bit. Mumpreneur/ Mompreneur was kinda how I thought of myself, that was kinda my 'schtick'. Without being able to use that word I'm not sure I could say all I wanted to say about my business, Mumpreneuring was my business.
After a latte and walk home, I had time to reflect a little. I could understand a little where she was coming from. Wanting men and women to be seen as equals, why should a woman and mother be viewed as anything different or special compared to a man running a small business? I'm yet to ever hear the word 'Dadpreneur'. Now, I would say I do have feminist tendencies, I'm certainly not an all out bra burning, man scorning (well a bit) campaign sign toting feminist, but I do heavily support women's rights, and I do honestly think we've still got a ways to go.
I was reminded recently of the frustration we have returning to work post children. One woman attempting unsuccessfully to request flexible working post mat leave, and another trying to justify and hold onto the flexible working she had negotiated 4 years ago at a job she loved.
I've now managed to find a little peace with the ridiculousness of post child work situations. (Even managed to do this without the aid of meditation, just lots of moaning, and bitching. Am fully moaned and bitched out now, and diverting my energy into doing something about it). Workplaces should offer more flexibility, and hold onto mums working for them. We have all the technology in place to make it happen, yet so many work places lack the trust and vision to allow it to happen.
I feel I am part of the first generation of kids to grow up with the internet and e-mail (I remember getting my first e-mail address when I went to Uni, yep showing my age!). Naively, we thought all this wonderful technology was going to simplify our lives. In fact we created a heck load more work for ourselves, and raised expectations to achieve more in a working day. We often feel compelled to carry on the work at night back at home because we have the devices to do it.
Now that my generation has had children, we've realised we can't keep up with the expectations of work. Or, maybe we don't want to. So we quit, get made redundant, or maybe we stick it out. Maybe we overindulge on coffee to ensure semi-professional attention span at work. Maybe we leg it to and from work most days, perhaps arriving with 5 minutes to spare before we incur late fees and a call to child welfare (who would that be?!). Ok, I'm making sweeping generalisations, but you get the gist of where I'm coming from right?!
I've found my peace by saying to myself, "Right corporate world, if you don't think we're worth hanging on to, we're gonna start a revolution, and do it our way". If I may steal a quote from my blog-guru Anna Whitehouse (aka Mother Pukka), she pretty much always speaks my mind, just in a much better, more eloquent and quick witted way:
Forget ‘Instamums’, forget the ‘cool mum’ blather, we’re all laughing as much as we’re crying and wondering how long that Thomas the Tank Engine plaster has been stuck in our barnet. We’re in this together – be that Lennie & Co’s FRIYAY t-shirts or Don’t Buy Her Flowers’ packages for knackered new mums and every new parent-run business or blog in between.
We’re just a rabble of mothers who don’t want it all, but want something.
My something is to be with my daughter and pull in cold, hard cash whenever, wherever I can (without it being illegal) – be that in the playground or at my Ketchup-smattered kitchen table.
Career, you’ve been fruitful but it’s time to stumble (not jump – too knackered) off the precipice into something else; something that will involve fighting for flexible working in global brands; fighting for reducing extortionate daycare rates and trying to build a platform that champions parent-run businesses one Instagram post at a time.
quote from Anna Whitehouse's blog post 'I quit' on Mother Pukka
So, Mumpreneur, Mom Boss, Parent run Business, what ever you want to call it, I'm proud to be one. I embrace the title however cliche and overused. Because it's takes a unique skill and energy to keep those plates spinning; school run, after school fun, park trips, sore nips, IG blags, packing gym bags, keeping up with online orders, and ensuring the smalls are not board as.... okay you get the idea! I'm stumbling off to get the muklets to bed and go sew another t-shirt.
So firstly, apologies that it's been a while since my last post. My excuse is that I've been working! Real, paid, grown-up working! You see whilst I get my Muklet on, and get this business going, I still need to pay for the proverbial bread and butter. (My husband occasionally apologises for not being a banker and keeping me in the style he thinks I could become accustomed to. (The truth is I always preferred the scruffy arty types around the Lower East Side to the suited and booted ones around Wall Street).
If you've been following my blog you'll know that since being made redundant last December, I've been struggling to find another design job that I'm passionate about and that would get me home in time to see the boys before bedtime. Well after six months of looking, guess what? Two came along at once!
I love designing clothes and accessories. It's all I've ever wanted to do. I knew from around the age of seven that I wanted to be a fashion designer and that's when I got my first hand-cranked sewing machine. By my 14th birthday my parents had realised this wasn't going to be a passing phase and gave me my wonderful Pfaff Hobbymatic. This machine carried me through making dolls clothes and toys, to costumes and cushions for GCSE textiles, a final collection for my degree in Fashion Design and most recently, my first batches of Varsity Tees and Cushions for Muklet. It's only in the last couple of months that this trusty friend has been retired to my mum's house and replaced by a brand spanking new Janome (maker sewers will appreciate this machine porn talk!). Once again the machine was thanks to Mum, this time investing in her entrepreneurial daughter.
I'm not ready to abandon the fashion world entirely yet. I've made a conscious decision to focus on freelance work to give myself flexibility and maximise the time I spend with the boys. And I've been very fortunate to land a couple of projects I'm really excited about and to be working with people whose company I genuinely enjoy.
I've had some particularly interesting conversations with my coworkers. As women of roughly the same age who have all worked for both big and small brands, we seem to be in a similar place in our lives. In my 20s I thought I knew it all and had the world figured out. With no commitments or major responsibilities, I could invest all my energy in work and my social life. In my 30s I'd figured out who I was, who I wanted to be, who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with and where I was headed next. Now getting close (very close) to 40, I know what balance I am striving for in my life. I don't feel I need to prove anything to anyone anymore. In my career as a fashion designer I've worked the long hours, made the sacrifices, put my stamp on the brands I've designed for. I've also seen behind 'the green curtain'. It's awesome to love what you do creatively, but fashion can also be a beast of an industry if I'm honest.
This time I've felt that being a mother has definitely counted against me in my search for a job. I've been very clear in interviews that I would mostly need to leave work on time as I have a family. I don't see any point in not being up front about this. When I see things like 'looking for someone who lives and breathes the brand' in a job description, I read 'you must basically work your life around this job and be ready to cancel your plans at a moment's notice if we decide to change the collection for a zillionth time and need you to get the updated designs out asap' (and breath!). So if there are candidates who are 10 years younger, don't have kids, and are asking £10k less then me, then for the most part I'm headed for the 'no pile'.
That said, I am now working with some awesome people. One company not only has women with a similar mindset to me, but the whole culture of the place is open, supportive, non judgemental and what can be most rare when you're working somewhere 'trendy', it's not cliquey!
The clients I'm working with are smaller brands but with big plans. I've discovered this is where my passion lies. I relish identifying opportunities in the market, getting in the head of the customer and hopefully delivering a compelling wardrobe that she will want to buy. I joined most of the big brands I've worked for at a time of change or growth. I was part of the initial team at Lauren, Ralph Lauren that relaunched the brand after it was brought back in house in 2002. I joined Jack Wills at a time when they were still relatively unknown and based out of a large tin shed in West London. And I got my teeth stuck into Barbour after an old colleague went in to head up the women's and children's ranges and got me onboard to help focus the brand and grow their markets in the UK and Overseas.
Through working with these smaller brands I'm continuing to learn and develop. I'm starting to understand more about how you grow a company and why you would choose to seek outside investment or remain a privately held company and reinvest capital to grow your business slowly. I look at Barbour, still a privately held company. They've been around 120 years so they seem to be doing alright!
It seems I'm not alone in this 'slashy' style of working – in my case Design Consultant/Founder of a Kids' Brand (and of course rather fried parent). In the last two months I've crossed paths with five designers and developers all freelancing at the same time as running their own clothing label. In fact many moons ago on my student placement at M&S I was fortunate to work in the room next to Orla Kiely who was working as a freelance Childrenswear Designer whilst building her business with her husband.
I recently enjoyed reading this article about 'Slashy working' on The Pool.
Keeping one foot in the fashion pot keeps me connected with the industry and helps me develop as a designer, a creative, a maker and hopefully a successful business woman!
Now it's sod's law that if you have something important scheduled and you have children they will get ill on or before said event. Take the run up to the muklet launch for example. Every last second of nanny time and nap time had been mapped out. And then along comes Captain Fever paying a visit to the eldest muklet! These things also normally coincide with when you've escaped for a rare night of socialising and Prosecco!
So, 3am Sunday morning and still slightly pickled, I am awoken by my eldest screaming and hallucinating with a 40 degree fever. Two days later things have progressed to the point where I find him screaming in pain and pointing to the right side of his groin. A panicked call to 111 decides it's best to cart him off to A&E as it might be appendicitis.
Unless you've got kids it's probably hard to imagine just how difficult it can be to put two children in a car in a hurry. It reminds me of that puzzle where you have to get the fox, the chicken and the bag of corn across the river without one of them eating the other! Except it's trying to get buggy, nappies and general child survival kit into the car whilst a) ensuring children don't peg it down the road (littlest muklet made a dash for it and had to be apprehended by a passerby) and b) getting a child rigid and writhing in pain into a car seat with just a bit of help from a passing runner and by opening the car door with your foot.
Of course 15 minutes after checking in, the patient – who had previously been screaming the house down in pain – was now happily running around the waiting room, making Mommy look like an overdramatic psychotic momma bear! Daddy, who'd practically run from central London, was none too impressed!
This isn't the first – and probably won't be the last – time we’ll incur illnesses at inopportune times. My first big presentation at Barbour in front of about 100 delegates from around the world coincided with my eldest getting chicken pox. The same child got a splinter in his finger when I had a major work deadline. And no, we couldn't get it out and the doctor wouldn't take it out either – you have to go to A&E for a splinter! To be fair it took one week of prep, two nurses, bubbles, the iPad and me and my husband to get the buggering thing out, so yes it was necessary to bring in the professionals!
On the latest jaunt to hospital we were however the latest patients to be filmed for Channel 4's '24 Hours in A&E'. So if you see a frazzled momma betting her husband £5 she can get her obstinate son to pee in a pot in the show this autumn - that's me!