This month we have celebrated International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day. Two days that mark the strength and independence of women. Helen started the business whilst raising her three children. Today, along with a factory full of inspiring and hardworking women she works with her daughter Hester and daughter-in-law Jessica, both of whom are mums juggling the day-to-day life of working whilst raising children. Below we hear from all three of them about what it is to be a working mum
To my surprise, on starting to write this I feel close to tears. I tell myself that this is ridiculous. To be working closely with my daughter, Hester, and daughter-in-law Jessica is beyond my dreams. I think the sense of sadness comes from thinking about my own mother. For her there was very little opportunity to break from the traditional role of housewife and mother but she would have loved to work alongside her daughter and be part of a family business in the way that I have been. Sadly, I was young at a time when society was changing so fast that I felt I had very little in common with my mother and without doubt the watershed of the sixties damaged our relationship.
I do hope that one of the more positive outcomes of that generational battleground is that many of the ideas of my generation gave rise to change, especially in our attitudes toward to working mothers. I have loved being a mother to our three children, and without doubt it has been the most important thing in my life. Throughout my adult life I have had the luxury, and I mean luxury, of being able to work and have a family. Being self-employed has been a huge advantage for me and the nature of my work has changed and grown as the children grew. Of course, it wasn’t perfect, and sometimes a tight deadline would take priority over spending time with the children. I have such admiration for mothers who manage to juggle full time work with a family: I can hardly imagine the degree of stress and exhaustion! Although I’m aware that there has been criticism of the number of women compared to men working part time, I feel the offer of flexible working can transform the lives of women. Having been a working mother myself I am a strong believer in flexible working for our own employees; over the years we have had mothers working with us who have taken time off for the whole of the school holidays and half terms. At one time there was a general exodus at three o’clock for school pick-up time, however, most of those children have now grown up. These days time off is more often required to care for elderly parents! Whatever the reason, I believe that the benefits of flexible working are enormous and we are paid back in loyalty. When push comes to shove there is an extraordinary willingness to work extra hours. There may be some ‘working around’ but the outcome means that mothers are able to lead fuller lives, earn a living, and care for their children.
For as long as I can remember I have always loved to work but after the birth of my first child I realised that the big media company that I worked for could not offer me the flexibility to be the mum that I wanted to be alongside the day job. Luckily for me, I had a mother-in-law who understood me. My need to work running parallel to my overpowering love for the children. My desire to be with them, to take and collect them from nursery, school and clubs, to be there for the scraped knee, the argument with a friend and the elation of a school award. My need to feel the adrenalin of a deadline, to work under pressure, to get out my laptop and battle through a to-do list. Helen let me into her business and I have never looked back. It has not always been easy. The wonderful flexibility of my job has meant that childcare has often been cobbled. Mostly I can work around things, but a two-day photoshoot can mean favours from five or six family members and friends. They do not always stay separate either. I have put on CBeebies for a work emergency or to get something finished. I have pushed a buggy, children hanging off either side, rain dripping down my neck, phone clenched under my chin trying to deal with a work challenge. On the other side of it my son came to PR meetings, strategy meetings, away days and photoshoots for the first 18 months of his life. At three weeks old he lay on a table surrounded by faux fur, cuddled by models and loving family, while I ran a photoshoot. My goodness it was hard, but I did it and I didn’t have to choose. All three children have been a part of the business. They have modelled for our children’s collection, sold products at sample sales and retails shows. They use and wear the products as the biggest advocates of the brand and love coming to the factory. The support of my family along with Helen and Hester has been indispensable and whilst all these people have some insight into my life, I have never used the children, sleepless nights or total inability to keep everything going as an excuse with anyone else, at work or externally. This is my choice and I am so lucky to have been able to make it.
When I became a mother 6 months ago I thought I would have the working mother bit pretty well sussed. But instead, I am quite overwhelmed by it and admire all working mothers that have come before me, especially Mum, Jessica and the all women that make our factory the amazing place that it is. Being raised in a family business is something that not many people will understand, a work ethic is instilled from a very young age, perhaps too young but I think that is what makes it so unique. You experience sacrifices and blessings every day, for example, we couldn’t afford to go on lots of holidays but Mum never missed a school pick up, Mum and Dad would work all night but would be with us all day and I got to see my parents grow creatively and professionally as people, not just bread winners. Most of the women that work in our factory have known me since I was a little girl, they have seen me go off to university, move to London and join the family business and now they know me as mum. Many of these women are the sole earners for their family, some have battled illness and some are single mothers, how do they do it? How did mum raise me and my brothers and have a factory making products she is so passionate about? How does Jessica plan every photoshoot so perfectly, run a website and raise 4 children? I know that there is, and there will continue to be, days when I leave the baby on the play mat to finish and email, work late as she sleeps and jiggle her whilst on the phone but I’m confident that because of the amazing women that surround me it’s the right thing to be doing and we will be ok. I can raise a family and still be good at my job. This month also welcomes a new season. We think our Capsule Collection includes some perfect accessories to complement your Spring wardrobes.