Guest post: Becoming Nina

Three years ago yesterday, June 19 2013, I found out I was pregnant. It was a day I will never forget.

To mark the anniversary of our ‘pee-on-a-stick’ day, I asked my mum to write a guest post, sharing her thoughts and feelings – how she felt receiving the unexpected news, about becoming a grandmother at just 52 (though she looked about 42) and how she went about not panicking but supporting us so fantastically. Hopefully this will help someone out there who may receive the same unexpected news one day and inspire them to handle it with care and compassion rather than judgement and panic.

But from my perspective, all I can say is thank you, Mama, for everything you’ve done for us over the past three years; for not worrying when I fell pregnant and instead congratulating me and celebrating when it felt like the whole world was falling apart.  

Status: Assistant Headteacher at a Pupil Referral Unit (last chance saloon for teenagers excluded from mainstream school) and single mother of 24 year old daughter.

Time for a change

A year after graduating from university, Amie moved out. She loved living in London and in many ways, I thought my job was done. Obviously I would always be there for her without question but as she began her adult life, I had the opportunity and freedom to do something for me – just me – for the first time in a long time.

I felt like a change. I had lived in the same house for ten years since my divorce; it was too big for just me and I also fancied travelling and working abroad, meaning I needed somewhere I could just lock up and leave or rent out. So I sold my house and bought a 2 bedroom flat; I was so excited as it was the first time I had bought something on my own, just for me with no-one else to consider.

I was moving on July 4.

The bombshell

On June 19, the week after I exchanged contracts, I received a text at work:

 When you get a chance give me a call, no rush.

How was I to know that text was about to change the rest of my life?!

Amie didn’t usually contact me during the day, understanding how hectic my job was, so normally I answered her calls and texts as a matter of urgency. However, for some reason, this day was particularly mad; I knew I was leaving earlier than usual so I thought I would call on my way home.

Around 4.30pm I called her from my car as I left school. She sounded quite normal and asked me where I was. Realising I was driving, she said,

“I’ll call you back later when you’re home.”

“Why?” I asked. She said she had some news. I was at a roundabout and I vividly remember thinking that she must have handed in her notice at work. (Amie hadn’t been 100% happy in her role for a while.)

mother and baby 1990's perm

Amie and I, 1990.

“I’m fine, just tell me now.” (Patience is not one of my virtues.)

And then she told me!

The emotions ran through me like you wouldn’t believe but I was just thinking, ‘sound calm.’ The first thing I said after a beat was, “Congratulations!”

I was a bit deflated to realise that by a freak chain of events I was the last grandparent to find out. I also knew this was huge for Amie and the OH – so far off the timing of their life plan that it was bound to be tough. Let’s face it, I’d been in exactly the same position 25 years earlier so I knew how she was feeling. I see now why history repeats itself – we are both allergic to the pill, meaning we’d had to find alternative, clearly somewhat less trustworthy, methods.

mother and daughter at baby shower 2014

Amie and I at her baby shower in early 2014, about six weeks before she was due.

In all honesty, I was over the moon. I’ve always loved children, but had never been an auntie or a godmother and I had thought that the chances of me being a grandmother were pretty slim – Amie wasn’t exactly the maternal type!

But over the next few days, I realised that all the tentative plans I had been making were all hopeless as I visualised being a helpful mum and doting grandmother. I had even had a conversation with Amie when I put the house on the market saying it would be a great house for grandchildren and she said, “It won’t be for years yet and you can’t live your life for me!”

I knew the flat wouldn’t work with a toddler…

The ghost of divorce past

One strange outcome of all this was seeing Amie’s dad again; I hadn’t seen him for two years, since her university graduation.

Through a strange twist in fate, he was in the country that fateful week and we then saw each other for the next three weekends while we supported Amie in coming to terms with the news (he was brilliant, jetting in from Azerbaijan each weekend).

We have always still got on once the nitty gritty of the divorce was over but Amie preferred to keep us separate as she said there was no use pretending and playing happy families. But in the weeks after the news, we laughed and cried, relived the unexpected news of Amie’s arrival together, which suddenly didn’t seem that long ago and proved that we can still both be there for her when the chips are down.

As time went on, I realised that once you have children together, your lives are intertwined whether you like or not, and the impact of divorce haunts you down the generations. At times it was like reliving the worst times of our separation, getting used to not seeing Amie at weekends and missing festive holidays together – now I would have my time rationed with my new grandchild and miss out on some special occasions.

‘Well blow that for a lark,’ I thought, ‘I’ll work a four day week and make sure I get to spend time with my precious grandchild, whatever happens!’ (I now look after Little Miss every Wednesday.)

Becoming ‘Nina’

I told Amie I would do whatever I could to help her manage with a surprise baby and I have really tried to keep my promise. To be honest, it’s easy, as my daughter and granddaughter are the best and most precious gifts I could ever hope for.

Since that day I have moved home three times, taken ten months off work and found a less stressful job, travelled all over Europe and the UK, had two boyfriends and spent endless happy hours with my girls. My life is richer and fuller than I ever imagined and I am grateful for that phone call every day.

Status: Happy, single, working grandmother (Nina) and Mama.

You can follow Nina and Little Miss’ adventures on Instagram on @findingourfeet’s profile or by searching #NinaWednesdays.

Advertisements

“I can see my toes!”

The thing about toddlers’ feet is that they grow literally in the blink of an eye.

Shoes last anything from 6 week to 8 weeks (though Little Miss did manage to not grow for a whole 12 weeks during this winter… It’s the little things when you’re a parent, really).

This has pro’s and cons.

Con: it’s expensive!

Pro: I get to live vicariously through Little Miss and go shoe shopping every other month. #winning

So when Kurt Geiger got in touch in May and asked if we’d like to choose a complimentary pair of shoes – each – I pretty much bit the poor guy’s hand off. (Shoe Addict Anonymous anyone?)

I was torn whether to get a new pair of shoes for my dad’s wedding in Rome, or a new pair of sandals for the holiday on the Amalfi Coast thereafter. As I hadn’t bought my dress for the wedding at that point, I decided to go for the sandals.

kurt geiger cork base gold thong sandalsThere was a time when I lived in flip flops. (At one point, I had eight pairs…) but since Little Miss started walking – then running – sadly flip flops aren’t the most practical of shoes. Something strapped to your feet that allows for a sudden dash across the park without losing your shoe is preferable…

So I chose a rather snazzy (but practical) pair of gold thong sandals with a cork sole, with a splash of fluorescent orange.

These bad boys got the ultimate test drive last week in Italy, being worn all day round Rome, in between official wedding duties and then sight seeing all over the Amalfi Coast. Happy to report they are as comfy as when I first put them on and are officially my 2016 summer wardrobe staple (assuming we actually get some dry weather in Britain this year…).

But Little Miss’ shoes… Oh me oh my. She was a fan. toddler opening her new lelli kelly jelly shoes

They arrived a few days before we flew to Italy. I left the box of shoes on the coffee table for her to find after nursery. She knew exactly what the box was when she saw it. New shoes.

She pretty much ripped open the box and it was love at first sight. They were sparkly, had a giant flower, and once we’d strapped them to her feet, she bent over and exclaimed we absolute delight, “I can see my toes!”

She’s never had a pair of jelly shoes before, but safe to say, they were a hit.

It was all she wanted to wear all holiday – “my jelly shoes! My jelly shoes!” – and she even ended up wearing them with her flower girl dress as her flower girl shoes were unfortunately too big and a bit of a tripping liability – Little Miss was over the moon.

toddler digging in the sand in her lelli kelly jelly shoesI was a bit nervous about jelly shoes as I remember them rubbing when I was little, but amazingly, these never did. Little Miss wore them almost solidly for ten days, around Rome, on the beach, in the heat and she never complained once.

So I’d say that’s a pretty good result. I think Little Miss will be quite sad when she doesn’t fit in these anymore…

________________________

Little Miss’ jelly shoes are £20 from Lelli Kelly and available in clear or usia via Kurt Geiger who recently started stocking children’s shoes, including their new Miss Mini KG range.

My gold thongs are £25 by Miss KG via Kurt Geiger.

________________________

THE SHOES FEATURED IN THIS POST WERE PROVIDED TO ME FREE OF CHARGE BY KURT GEIGER FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. HOWEVER, THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS REVIEW ARE INDEPENDENT AND MY OWN.170x30bwi

Italy – Rome and the Amalfi Coast – in pictures

Last week, we spent ten days in Italy – four in Rome for my dad’s wedding and six on the Amalfi Coast for a much needed break.

We actually took 1,000 photos in ten days, which even we were a bit surprised by. But we’ve managed to whittle it down to 14 of our favourites (that don’t show Little Miss’ face, obi) to share…

SONY DSC

Little Miss hadn’t been on a plane since last summer and was extremely excited…

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Enjoying some down time between family wedding duties in Villa Borghese Gardens. It was a lot for Little Miss across the three days, with a lot of new faces but she did so well considering she’s not really a fan of crowds and groups of new people.

SONY DSC

Being lactose intolerant, Little Miss doesn’t often get to enjoy treats and desserts… but as they say, when in Rome…! Little Miss was absolutely over the moon when the waiter brought her a very special dairy free dessert, enjoying strawberry and lemon sorbetto for one of the first times. She quite literally was licking the plate like a demon the hopped onto Daddy’s lap hoping for some of his!

SONY DSC

Unfortunately on the day of the wedding, Little Miss was a bit overwhelmed and so either the OH or I were holding her most of the day. As a result, we don’t have many photos – we’re hoping the wedding photographer managed to get some nice shots – as our hands were full most of the day! But I do love this one of her ‘tidying up’ outside the venue, collecting all the rose petals back up.

SONY DSC

And then it was on to the Amalfi Coast. We stayed just south of Sorrento on the tip of the Sorrento peninsula in a two bedroom Airbnb down a very steep road, literally on the water’s edge. I can’t recommend it or our host enough. This view, however, is from the highest point on Capri.

SONY DSC

Me and my girl.

SONY DSC

The absolute hero of the holiday. These dinosaurs came with us everywhere, small enough to fit in any bag or pocket. Little Miss is going through a real ‘small world play’ phase and these little guys kept her occupied every step of the way – on the plane, in restaurants waiting for dinner, even during the 40 minute wait on a boat for the Blue Grotto on Capri. Little Miss named them Baby, Mommy and Daddy, and the OH and I could only play with our designated dino’s. (Not sure why Daddy got the cool flying one…)

SONY DSC

The view from our apartment – one from the OH’s beautiful collection of sunset photos.

SONY DSC

The black beach of Positano. Little Miss hadn’t seen the sea since our very wet and windy trip to Whitstable in November. She had rather mixed feelings about it this time round…

SONY DSC

Little Miss showed a real interest in the camera this holiday, which the OH and I are naturally quite excited by. We set the tripod up to take the below photo, which turned out to be the perfect height for Little Miss. The OH showed her which button to press, and she was thrilled to be taking pictures of her own. I will treasure that first photos she took of the OH and I for a long time to come. (Though, the irony in this shot above being, our DSLR doesn’t actually have a view finder, only a digital screen… but nevermind!)

SONY DSC

On the mini pier in the bay outside our apartment.

image

Thought we’d dress up for our man one night at least.

SONY DSC

Of course, no holiday is complete for us without a Finding Our Feet In… photo. The latest to add to our collection tells a special story this time. This trip to the Amalfi Coast was about us starting to kick start our love of travel again, after a lack of funds and a lack of of confidence after having Little Miss has meant we’ve played it very safe during the last two years. In this vein, when we went to Capri, we decided to take a risk and visit the Blue Grotto, which meant a potentially long wait in a boat, then lying down in a four man row boat and as the entry to the pitch black (apart form the glowing blue water) Grotto is so small. Little Miss thought the whole thing was incredibly exciting and she was absolutely brilliant, proving to us that it’s us who’s held us back over the last two years, not Little Miss. Bring on the next family adventure…

See more Finding Our Feet photography on our Instagram, @findingourfeet

This post is part of the My Capture Moment linky run by Running in Lavender

________________________

Little Miss’ jelly shoes are £20 from Kurt Geiger.

My gold thongs are £25, also from Kurt Geiger.

Both pairs of shoes were provided by Kurt Geiger for us to review on our holiday.

________________________

Father’s Day: it’s true what they say, Daddy wants practical, not sentimental.

For the Other Half’s first Father’s Day two years ago, not quite three months after Little Miss was born, I wanted to make a big fuss. It was my way of saying thank you for everything he’d done.

I came up with this grand idea of a past, present and future gift for him (yes, with a newborn in tow on very little sleep).

Past: 

The OH has this tradition of framing gig posters and tickets (there was a point he had them all on the walls – and he’s been to a lot of gigs over the years. I’ve slowly persuaded him to only showcase his favourites…).

The night I went into labour, he was actually at a London Grammar gig (The gig had been rescheduled from earlier in the pregnancy due to band illness. At eight days overdue I insisted he went, hoping Sod’s Law would move things along if he wasn’t around!) Obviously, in the weeks after the gig we had had other things on our mind and he had never got round to arranging getting it framed. Win. I would get it framed for him.

Present: 

We were actually on our first holiday with Little Miss for Father’s Day. And at that point, he wore suits to work. So I got him cufflinks, one with a map featuring Mile End (our home at the time; our first as a couple and as a family) and one featuring where his family’s house is in the South of France (pretty much his favourite place in the world).

Future: 

I had this great idea to get a map on a corkboard so he and Little Miss could chart our adventures together on the map. We had always said that having a baby unexpectedly wouldn’t stop us from living the lives we had always said we would, and part of that was travel. This was sort of a way of committing to that.

Well, of course, it all went horribly wrong.

I couldn’t find the gig poster or the ticket so I decided to give it as an IOU. Two years on, they’re still not framed.

The map arrived days before we left for France and wasn’t at all what I had expected. For one thing, it was huge. Second, the frame was hideous. Third, the map was an antique style map with mostly countries that didn’t exist anymore and almost impossible to read. So I decided to send it back… Which wasn’t cheap. And left me with another IOU.

map cufflinks

The cufflinks were my only win. And in hindsight, would have been enough as a sentimental gesture.

Take Two:

So last year, although we had agreed that after the first Mother’s/Father’s Day it would be a low key affair, I decided I’d redeem myself.

He’d made a few throw away comments earlier in the year about not having a tool box of his own. Whenever his parents visited we would ask them to bring their’s and do odd jobs for us.

So, after a bit of research, I put together a DIY Daddy Starter Kit.

He loved it.

In seven and a half years, I’ve never seen him so happy with a present I’ve got him – except maybe the popcorn machine.

So what have I learned about buying Father’s Day gifts?

  1. Less is more.
  2. While it is the thought that counts, try not to overthink (or over complicate) it.
  3. It’s true: forget sentimentality, men are all about the practical gifts.

This year, thankfully, we agreed that from here on out, Father’s and Mother’s Days are a more low key affair, more about spending time together than the present.

So I’m stopping on my high last year and the OH can make do with a card and a cuddle like everyone else… And maybe a cup of coffee in bed in the morning…

(Awkward, last night the OH asked if he was getting any additions to his tool box this year… Oops!)

NB: Finding Our Feet is not associated with MachineMart.com or Clarke. But I was really impressed with both the quality of the Clarke products and Machine Mart’s wealth of choice and fast service. Delivery for all of the above was only £4.99 (June 2015). 

I’m going to #BML16!

So it’s that time of year again, the ‘blogging event of the season’ is upon us.

Last year was my first BritMums Live and only my second blogging conference ever. Only a year later and this will be my fourth.

To help delegates get to know each other before the big day and know what faces to look out for rather than blog logos, BritMums have encouraged us all to write a bit about ourselves. So here we go…

Who am I?

I am Amie; 27 years old, marketing professional by day, blogger on my commutes to and from work, Mama to one and girlfriend to the Other Half somewhere inbetween (sorry OH!). Chocolate cake (warm, with fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream, please) is the way to my heart and I am social media addict.

Where can you find me?

www.findingourfeet.co.uk (hopefully you know this one seeing as you’re on my blog!?)
FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, Foursquare and LinkedIn

I’m also a regular panelist on the Meet the Parents Podcast with about eight fellow parent bloggers and I am the Under 30s BritMums Round-up Editor as well.


What do I look like?

red tartan skirt_Finding Our Feet

Amie: rather short brunette, loud laugh, weird accent. Often found with red lipstick, red iPhone (pictured) and coffee.

Short. Really short. And I’ll be damned in I’m wearing heels to an all day event, so expect a short brunette with brown eyes, red lips and a loud laugh.

Most likely will be holding a cup of tea (never trust the coffee at these events…) as well.

I refuse to answer the ‘what will you be wearing question’. The event is two weeks away. I have absolutely no idea what will be clean (I’m not a fashion blogger for a reason, people). Last year I wore a hat. I doubt I’ll don a hat this year as it just created something else to think about during the day – do I leave it on in talks? Do I take it off? Did I look like a try-hard plonker? (Not neurotic at all then…)

Lipstick, however, will most definitely be worn. And either Nikes or flip flops depending on the weather.

If you’re still not sure who I am, listen out for the weird crossbreed twang of Hertfordshire-meets-Atlanta-drawl…

What I hope to gain from #BML16:

This is where my BML experience differs hugely from last year. Last year, I was all about the learning – quote, “I fully intend to act like a sponge and soak up all the knowledge I possibly can”. And I did that. And I utterly burnt myself out, left the conference exhausted (for all the wrong reasons) and even left wondering why I was blogging at all. (More on this below.)

I knew one person ahead of BML last year. This year, I know quite a few people going, meaning it’s as much about the social aspects this year for me, as well as the learning. FINAL-Im-speaking-green-v3

I’m also hosting a Table Talk for Under 30s during Break Out Session III (14:50pm, do come say hello and save me from talking to myself at an empty table, that would just be embarrassing…). I’m hoping to put faces to the blogs I’ve been featuring in my monthly BritMums Round-ups and get a feel for what the Under 30 community would like the Round-up to showcase. So please do come along, introduce yourself and have a natter. And if you can’t make the table talk, make sure you say hello at some point throughout the day.

My tips for a great conference: 

Take time out. Don’t be afraid to take time a break, miss a session and recharge during the day with a cup of tea and just have a natter with whoever else is taking five.

It’s a lot to take in and last year I went to a different talk every session, determined to ooze out every possible crumb of knowledge and learning from the weekend. I sort of over did it… And also, there isn’t really opportunity to meet people if you’re head down scribbling notes the entire time. Which, truth be told, the social side of this event is as much what it’s about as the learning… Possibly more so…

A note to newbies, the socially awkward, the overwhelmed, the introverts, the tired and the hungover from the Friday Night Fringe – the designated breaks get quite busy in the central hub area, so opt for one of the lounge areas during this time for a slightly less cramped and buzzing atmosphere or head to a table talk during break out III for an opportunity to get chatting to likeminded bloggers if you’re in need of some light relief rather than another full on learning binge. (I’m not bias about the table talks… honest…)

Business Cards vs. not. It can be handy to have some business cards in your back pocket – you never know who you might meet that it would be worth giving one to.

However, I am increasingly of the opinion, I’d rather follow a fellow blogger on [insert social media platform of choice] than do a card swap. I’m far more likely to come across your content again in the future and reconnect than if I take your business card, which considering how much other bumph you get during the day from brands, etc, are likely to end up in the bottom of a bag.

If you choose to follow people on Twitter, start a Twitter list (e.g., ‘#BML16’ – but hopefully you could have thought of that title on your own…) that you add them to so you can easily find the people you met on the day again once you’re home and away from the noise and chaos, when you have time to go through and explore.

Another alternative is a LinkedIn bump. Download the LinkedIn Bumo app before the event. The best, once you find someone worth card swapping with, both open the app, bump your phones together and voila! You exchange business card deets without their tiny card getting lost in the bottom of a goodie bag. It’s also more environmentally friendly. Job done.

Key Note Bloggers. This, without a doubt, is the highlight of the entire event. Showcasing the Creme de la Creme of the blogging community, old and new bloggers as voted for by the blogging community read out their posts in their own voices – just as they should be read. I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay to the end to be a part of this inspiring session.

title image how to move house with kids toddler in box

How to: move house with a toddler

Growing up, I moved house a lot. By sixteen, I’d lived in sixteen different houses in three different countries. So, not to get all braggy or anything, but I’m somewhat of a pro at this moving house business.

Back in January, we upped-sticks and left London for the leafy ‘burbs. I snapped into packing mode with military precision, my years of training from my mum instinctively coming back to me. I almost single-handedly packed our entire apartment in three days. (The Other Half did help in the evenings and Little Miss was incredibly helpful with customising the boxes as we went along.) I’m not going to lie, I was pretty pleased with myself.

But moving house with a toddler. That was new. Being an only child, there was never a ‘how to move house with tiny people’ chapter to my training. (To anyone who comments on this blog post saying, “but Amie, you’re a tiny person…” you’ve been warned, I suffer from tiny person rage.) That part, I was sort of making up as I went along…

1. Organise! Organise! Organise!

  • Buy a notebook and write everything in it. If you keep everything in one place, you can’t go wrong. Write your master To Do list on the back page so you never lose it within the rest of the book; have a list of everywhere you need to change your address, a list of what you need for the new property, movers’ and cleaners’ quote… everything. Just don’t lose the notebook.
  • Pack a suitcase with a change of clothes and essential toiletries for everyone, along with any precious toys for little ones. This way, you’re not frantically opening every box in the house at 12:30am looking for your contact lens solution or Snuggles the Bear. (I’d also recommend packing the kettle, toaster, tea bags and things like the bottle steriliser in a clearly marked box for the first morning too.)

image 24-2

  • What about dinner? If you have older kids, just get a Domino’s. But if you’ve got a bottle fed baby or allergies to consider, take out isn’t so easy after all. For little ones, have some of their favourite foods in tupperwares ready to go for lunch and dinner on the first day or so. (Transport in a cool bag so if the fridge isn’t on when you arrive at the new house, you’ve got a few hours’ grace.) If that means they have hummus and pitta bread three times in two days, then so be it.
  • And finally, hopefully an obvious one, but label your boxes and label them well. ‘Kitchen bits & bobs’ is no help to anyone.

2. Get the kids involved

  • With younger children, take them on the journey with you. Explain what’s going on, that they’ll still get to see their friends (if relevant) and that the whole family is going to the new house, that no-one will get left behind. Use a picture book with a story about moving house or photos of the new house to help them make sense of this new concept.
  • Again, with younger kids, explain what you’re doing as you pack up the house. While you probably just want to crack on and get the packing done, taking it a bit slower with the little one will pay dividends in the long run.

image 24-1

  • If you’ve got older kids, let them be a part of the house hunting, joining in the decisions – which will be their room and where they want their furniture to go. Little things like this will help the move feel like an adventure rather than something to be upset by.

3. Get rid of the kids

  • Exactly what it says on the tin. At the end of the day, kids make moving house ten times more stressful. If you move on a weekday and can get the bulk done while they’re at school or nursery that’s ideal. With younger ones especially, if you have the opportunity for them to stay at the Grandparents’ or a friend’s for a night, you’ll be able to get things done a lot more efficiently. With under 5s, you probably want to sort their room so it feels homely when they arrive, perhaps leave a few things for them to sort themselves. But if they’re 5+, leave their toys and books for them to decide where they go when they’re home from school, give them some ownership of their new space.

And finally – good luck

Conversations with Little Miss, No. 5

Setting the scene – I’m offering up BBQ pulled pork, slow cooked by Daddy’s fair hand here. Granted, Little Miss has been really quite ill all day, I’ve held her for a good, solid three hours unable to fall asleep properly before she randomly collapsed on the sofa in front of Shaun the Sheep at 5pm

At this point, she’s sat on my lap; all she’d eaten all day was half an English muffin, a banana and some strawberries and we’ve finally persuaded her to take some Calpol, after point blank refusing all day… 

Mama: Come on LM, you need to eat something.

LM: Not want it. 

Mama: What would you like? 

LM: Not want it. 

Mama: I know, no pork, but what would you like? 

LM: Not want it. 

Mama: I know Baby Girl, but is there anything you do want? Rice? 

LM: Not want it. 

Mama: More strawberries? 

LM: Not want it. 

Mama: Toast?

LM: Not want it. 

Mama: Beans? 

LM: Not want it. 

Mama: Biscuits? 

LM: …..

Mama: Biscuits? 

LM: *solemly nods* 

Mama: Ok, biscuits. 

Go to cupboard to discover we have no dairy free biscuits left… Shit… After a short discussion we decide to risk it with plain digestives so she at least has something in her tummy. The OH gives LM two digestives. 

One minute later, nearly both biscuits are demolished. 

The OH: Do you want something else LM? You’re sort of shovelling those biscuits in..! 

LM nods, still shovelling digestive into her mouth like a tiny, half starved chipmunk.

Mama: Hummus and pitta bread? 

LM: Yeh! 

LM hops down, suddenly full of beans, and sits behind her little step ready with a plastic plate. I place the pitta on the plate. 

Mama: There we go. Hummus?

LM: Yeh! 

I spoon some hummus onto the plate. 

LM: NO MUMMY! NO MUMMY! NO HUMMUS!

Sobbing ensues. 

LM: Go away Mummy!

Ten minutes later, she was sat on her Daddy’s knee, eating hummus from a spoon. Give me strength.

#ParentsAtWork: Hannah Martin – the original Talented Lady

Name: Hannah Martin
Family life: Wife and mother of two
Work life: Freelance copy writer and co-founder of the Talented Ladies Club

To thousands of women, Hannah Martin is better known as @TalentedLadies.

But before she co-founded the “the UK’s number one online resource for ambitious mums,” Hannah Martin was just another lady struggling for her talents to be recognised after becoming a mum…

From talented lady to talented mum…

Always a creative soul, Hannah moved to Hong Kong after falling out of love with a Fine Art degree. It was there she discovered ‘Ad land’ – the magical, manic, fun, high speed and back then – and in many cases, today as well – the largely masculine industry of advertising.

Enthusiastic, determined and passionate, she persuaded advertising agency giants Ogilvy & Mather to give her a copywriting position, regardless of her lack of experience.

Ad agency culture is that you work until the job is done. It’s an industry where more often than not it’s believed that ‘he who works longest, works best’.

And Hannah thrived. She loved her job and was also extremely good at it, winning promotions and industry awards alike.

But after five years, it was time to come home and Hannah and her partner, Ben* returned to the UK in 2001.

One year later, Hannah found out she was unexpectedly pregnant.

Her line managers – both male, both dads themselves – were extremely supportive. They said they could look at options to work from home or even part time when she returned from Maternity Leave.

Hannah’s commitment to her role never wavered; she stayed late in the office, she missed midwife appointments and even worked right up until 48 hours before giving birth.

Ben was still an apprentice, making Hannah the family’s breadwinner. She was only able to take four months of Mat Leave, at which point her Grandma took over childcare of her newborn son and Hannah, still breastfeeding, returned to work.

“On my first day back, my boss said, ‘perception is everything’ and I didn’t really realise what he meant by that at the time. But he was right.”

The opportunity to work from home or go part time never materialised, but Hannah thought she was making it work. In advertising creative departments you work in teams and Hannah and her partner were given the agency’s most prestigious account. And at the end of the year, they received a glowing joint annual review.

But, like so many parents before her, Hannah could no longer stay until the wee hours of the morning – and didn’t want to. She had a two hour commute in and out of London and had to leave the office at 5:30pm to be able to get home in time for the evening feed and to see her son.

After Christmas, Hannah noticed that her work load had lightened.

An intern was picking up more and more of Hannah’s projects. Only, being far less experienced, his work wasn’t always up to scratch, so a colleague started asking Hannah to rework the intern’s copy on the sly, without any credit or recognition.

In early 2004 Hannah was called to attend a meeting with the Senior Leadership.

“As we stepped out of the lift, Adrian said, ‘prepare yourself, this isn’t going to be nice.’ And that was it, that was all the warning I got.”

Management, in no uncertain terms, told Hannah her work ‘was shit’. They claimed she had been warned about her performance numerous times. They claimed she couldn’t handle the job.

Her prestigious industry award, the adhoc bonus she’d been awarded on Mat Leave, the faultless appraisal she’d received just months before, were all brushed quietly and swiftly under the rug.

When Hannah pushed back, they called her crazy.

“I was completely emotionally unprepared for the meeting. I had no idea how to react to the news. I was told I had 24 hours to resign, accepting less than a month’s pay as redundancy, or they would start disciplinary proceedings.”

Hannah sought legal advice. Solicitors confirmed she had an extremely strong case, but it would take about a year to come to tribunal, cost thousands of pounds up front and the meeting was without prejudice, meaning the conversation could’t be used  in court as evidence. Whats more, if she missed a single day of work during that time, the agency would have lawful grounds to fire her anyway.

Hannah knew she had a family to support and couldn’t take that risk. It was a case of ‘who blinks first’. Hannah decided to blink.

The fee the agency provided to pay for legal aid didn’t even scratch the surface. Clearly feeling guilty and knowing the company was mistreating Hannah, Adrian actually personally paid her fees in full. He said he hoped they could go for dinner ‘when this was all over’… They never did.

A fresh start

Within 48 hours of leaving the agency, Hannah was freelancing, earning a higher rate of pay in an fantastic environment at a more prestigious agency.

Over the next few years, Hannah enjoyed a successful copywriting career. With future employers, being a mum was never a hinderance or a concern. All that mattered was Hannah’s skill and the work she produced.

During this time, she also became a single mum, leaving the house before her son woke up and returning after he’d gone to bed. It wasn’t a choice, it was a necessity to keep a roof over their heads.

Some years later, when Hannah was pregnant with her second child, she knew she didn’t want to go through that again. She wanted a more flexible way of working and began looking at going freelance from home full time.

From one lady to 60,000…

It was during her second stint of Mat Leave that Hannah realised how many talented women were sidelined by motherhood.

She knew a successful architect and a top lawyer looking for admin roles because it was all they were led to believe they could do in between school runs. She heard countless women talk about how they’d ‘lost their edge’ or that the ‘world had moved on’ while they were on the Statutory Mat Leave, let alone if they had taken an extended period of leave to care for their families.

Hannah too was struck by a lack of confidence. She didnt feel like an entrepreneur, but she had uncovered a pool of accomplished, talented and hugely frustrated women. She kept talking about Talented Ladies Club, but it was 18 months before she finally joined forces with her friend, graphic designer and illustrator Kary Fisher, and kickstarted the project. After seeing a Career Coach, within four months she had a business plan and a website. Talented Ladies Club was born.

Three years later, they’re going from strength to strength, inspiring and supporting a growing community of women nationwide and beyond to rediscover their confidence and development a career that works for them.

“My job is to inspire women. I believe in positive honesty – there is hope, there is optimism, but you need to be realistic about what you can change and how you react to what happens to you. Mums can’t compete like-for-like with people without children. Do don’t. Be creative in your approach.”

The future is flexible

They say time heals all wounds, and scars fade, but that doesn’t change the fact Hannah was shaken by her experience and angry – and to be honest, when speaking to her last week, it was clear she is still angry, which personally I have a lot of sympathy with.

But Hannah is now channeling that emotion into supporting other women in similar situations, helping them flex their careers to suit their needs.

Hannah now has an incredibly successful freelance copywriting career, working almost entirely from home. She also manages Talented Ladies Club full time, writing the blog and managing the website alongside Kary.

When I asked Hannah what her top three tips were for parent at work, she said:

  1. Figure out what your non-negotiables are and stick to them.
  2. Figure out what you are willing to compromise on. (Because if you want your career to be flexible, you need to be a bit flexible too.)
  3. Don’t be idealistic – this is when the world lets you down. It’s about finding the opportunities within the reality.

“Becoming a mum doesn’t mean you have to give up on your career. You just need to be more creative and clever about how you pursue your ambitions.”

Last year, Hannah and Kary put their own experience of starting a business to good use, and developed KickStart – and online course and community supporting women starting their own business or going freelance. For just £25 per month, members have access to over 100 workbooks, twelve mini courses, 1-2-1 coaching sessions and more.

TLC Kickstart image

Further reading: 

You can read more about Talented Ladies Club and what it has to offer or Hannah’s story on the following links.

Time for a change – how I (like up to 54,000 UK mums) was forced out of a job – Hannah’s story in her own words.

Going freelance was the best decision I ever made – how Hannah decided to quit her secure job and go freelance, making her career work for her rather than the other way around.

17 new skills you can put on your CV after becoming a mum – be inspired and get a taste of the Talented Ladies Club blog and what they have to offer.

Why join Kickstart – exactly what it says on the tin.

________________________

If, like Hannah, you have experienced discrimination at work as a result of being a parent or parent-to-be, the following organisations may be of help:

MaternityAction.org

Working Mums Advisory

You may also find the following campaigns of interest:

Pregnant and Screwed

Human Rights and Equality Comission’s #worksforme

________________________

ANY NAME OR BUSINESS MARKED WITH A * HAS BEEN CHANGED FOR PRIVACY REASONS.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE YOUR PARENTS AT WORK STORY, PLEASE CONTACT FINDING OUR FEET’S OWNER AND EDITOR AMIE CAITLIN VIA THE FINDING OUR FEET FACEBOOK PAGETWITTER OR EMAIL.
ALL INTERVIEWS ARE ANONYMOUS FOR BOTH YOU AND EMPLOYERS OR COMPANIES MENTIONED DURING THE INTERVIEW (UNLESS YOU REQUEST OTHERWISE). THE AIM OF THE GAME IS NOT TO NAME AND SHAME BUT TO RAISE AWARENESS OF THE ISSUES AND TRY TO CHANGE PERCEPTION OF PARENTS AS SECOND-CLASS WORKING CITIZENS, BOTH IN THE MINDS OF EMPLOYERS AND IN THE MINDS OF PARENTS THEMSELVES.