How would you like to ‘feel’ in 2020?

This beautiful guest blog post, comes from Lesley Waldron, Wild Country Woman – focusing on how you want to feel in 2020.

 

New year’s resolutions are often about what we want to do or what we want to change.

 

Sometimes they come from a negative place….or because we just feel that we ‘should’.

 

But how about thinking about 2020 in a different way? About how you want to feel?

 

So, think about next year.

 

On December 31st 2020. How would you like to feel? 

 

Take a deep breath. Take a moment to bring yourself forward in time. Close your eyes if that helps.

 

Really and truly. What do you feel?

 

This could be how you feel emotionally.

 

How you feel in your body.

 

How you feel in your family.

 

How you feel in your community.

 

How you feel in your workplace or your business.

 

How you feel in your life at that moment.

 

It could be words and feelings that apply to all of those elements of your life.

 

Not what you are doing. Not what you have accomplished, but what you feel.

 

Got it?

 

Write it down if you can….I love a big piece of recycled paper and colourful felt tips. Don’t take too long, give yourself a little peace and quiet and just write from your gut, don’t let your busy mind take over too much with the realities of life.

 

Now. 

 

What could take you closer to that feeling today?

 

What could take you closer to that feeling next week?

 

What could take you closer to that feeling over the course of this year?

 

In order to feel that way, how are you acting in your everyday life?

 

In order to feel that way, what do you need to add into your life?

 

And what (or who) do you need to take out?

 

This could be behaviours, people, actions, habits, communities, obligations, values.

 

Keep writing. Keep colouring. Keep jotting. Don’t think too hard. Put on some tunes…and let it flow.

 

There is no right or wrong answer.

 

And from all of this.

 

Take one thing. 

 

Look at the words.

 

What jumps out? What makes your tummy flutter in a good way?

 

Can you take action on that. Today.

 

Not next year. Not waiting for the right time.

 

Today

 

If you’d like to explore this further, with a warm and welcoming group of women, come and join the next Wildly Well Woman retreat on 26th January 2020, for some New Year intention-setting as well as some relaxation and nourishment to get the year off to a great start.

 

 

 

How the school run can be good for your business

Voiceover Artist and Freelance Mum founder, Faye Dicker, on how the school run can be good for your business.

The chances are if you’re a ‘freelance parent’, the school run will fall to you. I know it does in my house. And although my husband is good at stepping in, as a ‘freelance mum’, the lion’s share falls to me.

Not that I begrudge it, I hasten to add – I want to make sure my girls are dropped off safe and sound. Once we have managed the almighty task, of actually leaving the house, I enjoy cycling them in.

Yet the reality is, when you’re doing the school run twice a day – it can bite a chunk into your day. If you’re lucky, you’ve got a window of time available from 9.15am – 3pm, to crack on with some work. More likely, it’s smaller.

And that can be hard. Especially when you’re trying to shoehorn work into every available working minute and maximize your productivity. It’s easy to feel resentful of the school bell ringing, meaning ‘pencils down’ for your business.

But doing the school run, can be good for your business – if you make it work for you.

 

Growing your network

We hear the term ‘networking’ all the time, I often think it gets overused and as a consequence forgotten it’s about your ‘network’ of people. It’s not just about ‘networking a room’. It’s unlikely (and probably not very appropriate) you’re going to start handing out your business cards, in the school playground.

But it doesn’t take much to get chatting to the mum you’re standing next to, find out a bit more about them and so on. Without even thinking about it, you’re naturally making connections, finding out a little about them and no doubt, you’ll start asking about you. With very little effort, you’re making connections and growing your network.

 

Wearing your brand

This one is a doddle. In fact, I see it more frequently in the playground all the time and think it looks ace – especially when little ones are proudly wearing a hoody with their parents business name on. I love how it’s very much a ‘family affair’ when it comes to branded hoodies at GemSec!

Children playing outside, wearing branded GemSec hoodies.

Even if your business doesn’t need a ‘uniform’, it’s very easy these days to have hoody or a T-shirt with your brand name on. The Freelance Mum bright pink T-shirts have become synonymous with Freelance Mum. On the days where I pick up the girls straight after Freelance Mum, wearing the bright pink FM top, I often get stopped and asked ‘are you the person who runs Freelance Mum’? Even if they don’t stop and ask, it’s your brand name they’re going to see and puts your business on their radar.

In fact, I even took it one step further and had the Freelance Mum logo put on my cargo bike, which resulted in gaining a new member! Don’t be shy. It’s your brand, tell the world, be proud.

 

Treat it as an opportunity to learn

Most freelance mums are time poor and juggling an ever-increasing to-do list. It can be hard, when at best we are just working in our business and not working on our business, to carve out time to actually stop and learn. Using the school run can be a great window of opportunity to download some podcasts, or audio books and take that time to stop and listen. I know it’s the approach Lucie Gray of Paper Aeroplane Creative has taken, she decided that if she was going to walk to school and back every day, that was a great opportunity to take the time to actually listen to some podcasts. Make your ‘commute’ work for you!

 

Fitness

Sticking with the theme of maximizing your time, fitness is often something that can easily fall away. Yet we all know the physical AND mental benefits from exercising. You only have to speak to Lesely Waldron at Wild Country Woman, to hear about the benefits of exercising outdoors. I love the way my head always seems to work things out, after I’ve come back from a run.

The school run might not be quite the same as an hour of yoga, but it is getting you (and your kids) outdoors. And if you make a point of putting your trainers on, you can extend your school run, to an actual run, after you’ve dropped them off. You and your business will benefit, from that extra bit of fresh air and fitness.

 

Take a break

Whether you like it or not, the school run forces you to take a break. Although it can be frustrating having to stop, when you’re mid flow, it means you take a step back and take a break from things. Otherwise, time can run away with you and you don’t remember to stop! It’s far better to take a break from your work and come back fresh, than to keep going and grind to a halt.

 

Power Hour

I often look up at the clock and can’t believe how fast the day is going by. There are days, that despite the best intentions, you can feel as though nothing has been done. On those days, when there are more jobs than time, I give myself a ‘power hour’ between 2pm and 3pm, when I leave the house. One final hour to power through some jobs and work without stopping. It’s funny how a deadline, can actually make things happen!

 

Structure

It might not have been the structure you’d have chosen for yourself, but there’s nothing like the school run to enforce a bit of structure. I love the days when I step in, after drop off, make myself a hot drink and sit down to catch up with social media. It’s a window of time that’s for me and my business and gives real pleasure. With structure, it gives us something to work with, without it can be harder to be disciplined and create rules/ways of working.

The school run can be an interruption and it’s easy to think of it as a pain, but part of the joy of being a freelancer is actually being able to pick up your kids from school. The trick is, making the school run work for your business.

 

At Freelance Mum, we know how tricky it can be, juggling children around business – which is why we created child-friendly networking for mums in business. Why not try it for FREE and find out for yourself?

 

Should you increase your rates over the Christmas period?

How should you prepare for the festive period when there is less work? And if a client does approach you, can you raise your rates?

The saying ‘make hay while the sun shines’ couldn’t be better suited for life as a freelancer. When the work is there, life feels abundant, but when it isn’t – it can feel pretty barren.

So, how is it possible to plan for the festive period, when it comes to work – and should you increase your rates?

I write as a voiceover artist and founder of Freelance Mum – the child-friendly networking group, designed to support fellow parents in business, so I know what a difficult time of year it can be, on many levels.

On one hand you feel like attaching a tap to your bank account and watching the money pour out for Christmas. On the other you watch the work dry up during the festive session. Combine the two and it can make for a challenging cash flow!

So should you increase your rates over Christmas and how can you prepare as a freelancer?

Like all things, there is no right or wrong answer, it’s more a case of finding the solution that works best for you. If you’re happy ‘shutting shop’ and taking the Christmas period off, then surely that’s the perk of being your own boss. But if some one approaches you to work during that time, should you increase your rates accordingly?

I recently pitched this question to The Mothership (the Facebook Group for Freelance Mum) and had some interesting answers, but the general vibe was ‘no, people already felt their rates were fair and if they couldn’t balance work & family around that time, then they shouldn’t have taken the job’.

I recently went to book tickets to take my girls to see Santa and was shocked to discover I had to pay more money, if they wanted to see him closer to Christmas. To me, that’s a bigger business, taking full advantage of children and surely the true spirit of Christmas?

However, there’s a caveats, 1) if you want the work 2) is it worth it for your portfolio etc. Then do they want it during your normal work hours or is it to be done in “extra time. ” If it’s extra / to be done in super quick / unreasonable timescales I’d add 20% + on top of the usual – but ONLY if you want to do it.

An abridged version of this post featured in IPSE – Modern Work Magazine, in Ask The Expert.

 

 

 

 

What’s your theme for 2019?

Rin Hamburgh tells the story of how she discovered theming, why it’s a revolutionary practice for business owners, and how you can apply its principles in your own work and life to make sure the new year is your best yet!

Back in November 2014, a word popped into my head. The word was Hope. It kept coming back to me in all sorts of ways – in things I was reading, in conversations I was having. As we headed towards Christmas, I decided that perhaps the following year would be filled with hopes and dreams come true. It was a nice thought.

Sure enough, in 2015 my partner finally passed his driving test and got a promotion. We sold our flat and had an offer accepted on a house. And, most importantly, I fell pregnant and gave birth to two beautiful baby girls. I also tested out a little idea I’d had about using junior freelance writers to help me increase my capacity at work.

As I sat in the hospital with my newborn twins in November 2015, another word popped into my head: Peace. Crazy! How would 2016 be peaceful with not one but two babies around?? Not to mention a house move. I didn’t know then that I’d also be a single mum before January was out, and that I’d launch my new business in the August of that year.

And yet despite 2016 being an absolute whirlwind – with an awful lot of challenges, I’ll admit – somehow a sense of peace did seem to cover the whole year. I held onto that word like a mantra during those sleepless nights, endless hours of breastfeeding, and difficult conversations with lawyers about maintenance and visitation rights.

Knowing how the previous year really had been filled with hope somehow allowed me to believe that peace could maintain me through this one.

The power of theming

I won’t bore you with all the details of the subsequent years – though I can tell you that 2017 was a year of Opportunity and 2018 has had two words, Growth and Balance – but I will tell you why this isn’t an example of me losing it from lack of sleep or too many G&Ts!

In fact, although I honestly had no idea at the time, theming your year is something of a recent trend.

It’s a technique that Mike Vardy, productivity strategist, speaker and author of The Productivityist Playbook talked about in an interview in Forbes last year. Vardy has three words, which he picks in August because he likes to start his year in September.

He says: “It’s nice to have that consistency throughout the year, that you just have to think about these three words as opposed to some massive resolution, or vision statement, or mission statement…

“It keeps me on track, and it allows me to make a quick gut check and look back at the Mike Vardy – who in August decided on those three words – as opposed to trusting what Mike Vardy in the moment might want to do, because Mike Vardy in the moment sometimes isn’t the smartest guy.”

How to pick and use theme words

While Vardy picks his theme words, mine just seem to arrive one day out of the blue. I’ve started to look out for them now but I try not to direct them because, though I don’t quite understand how, they seem to come from outside of me and be almost predictive in their nature. But you could also be very deliberate about choosing and setting your words.

You might want to take yourself off one day and spend some time quietly reflecting on next year and what you want to change or achieve. Do some journaling or free writing, without too much of a focus in mind other than the upcoming year in general.

Perhaps take some magazines along and tear out images or phrases that jump out at you. If you’re someone who enjoys meditation, yoga or some other form of mental, physical or emotional relaxation then by all means, bring that into your reflection time.

The point is to find something that resonates with you. And there are no rules! It surprised me that I got two words for 2018 but it felt completely right that as I focused on growing my business I should put as much energy into maintaining balance in my life – investing in my children, my relationships, my health and so on. Sure enough, I’ve doubled my team and my turnover but I’ve also started taking weekends off and been on three holidays!

As for how you use your words, again I don’t think there should be any rules. Mine have often been a comfort that I’ve held onto when things have been tough. In 2017 the word Opportunity came with a real sense that I needed to be active in taking hold of those opportunities, which gave me courage to apply for the Entrepreneurial Spark programme and to hire my first employee.

This is what Mike Vardy had to say in his Forbes interviews:

“When I’m choosing the projects that I want to pursue, when I’m deciding what conferences I’m going to attend, when I look at what is going to take my attention away from my intentions that I already have or what things are going to fuel my intentions going forward, I can look at these three words. If it doesn’t hit two of those three words, if my goals or my projects or any new idea, I just cast it aside.”

 What does 2019 have in store for you?

This year, things have happened a little differently for me. In October a picture popped into my head, instead of a word. A picture of a bean seedling just poking it’s head above the soil, all fresh and green and bursting with life. I wondered what it might mean, but pushed it to the back of my mind. After all, I don’t get my theme word until November and I’m something of a traditionalist!

And sure enough, on the first Monday in November as I was driving the girls to nursery and contemplating that very inspiring picture of a bean seedling, it arrived. Breakthrough! That would be my word for 2019.

Already I can see how it is going to play out – we’ve just won our biggest ever project, which will be kicking off in the new year, I’ve invested in a coaching programme to help me navigate the changes in my life and career, and we’re applying to go back into the Natwest Accelerator Programme.

I know that having a positive word doesn’t guarantee that everything will go the way I want it to. But given how important mindset is to success, I’m glad that I have such an exciting word to hold on to.

What about you? Have you got a word for next year? If not, it’s time to do some digging!

How to Balance Business and Babies

How to balance business and babies

This fab blog was written by writer, sponsor and fellow ‘Freelance Mum’ Rin Hamburgh (who writes from the heart and is a big fan of being freelance). Thank you for your brilliant blog Rin.

No one can prepare you for the realities of being a parent, can they? No matter how much research you’ve done, no matter how many friends you’ve watched go through the sleepless nights and the teething terrors, it just doesn’t hit home properly until you get there for yourself. And when you’re trying to run a business at the same time, it’s even more intense.

I was a freelance journalist and copywriter when the twins were born and didn’t really take much in the way of maternity leave. In fact, I remember taking a call from a client while I was in hospital, and writing a feature for the Guardian while balancing my laptop on a Pampers box and expressing for the girls’ next feed!

That’s the great thing about us freelance mums – we’re pretty hard core. But there’s no doubt that balancing business and babies (of any age) is a real challenge. So are there any tips and tricks that can make the process easier? Definitely. Here’s what I’ve learned in my freelance mum journey.

Set realistic expectations

Both with your clients and with yourself. It’s no good promising the earth and then stressing yourself out or doing a poor job because you’ve overestimated how much you can actually achieve. It could be that you need to take on fewer clients or give longer lead time for when the work will be delivered. Remember to build in time for disasters and emergencies – trips to A&E or unexpected vomiting bugs will happen and will definitely disrupt your schedule.

Call in the troops

If you’re going to successfully balance motherhood and maintaining your business – even at a lower intensity than before the kids came along – you’ll need help. There are plenty of different paid childcare option from au pairs to nannies, nurseries and childminders. I got a nanny in for just four hours a week to start with, when the girls were 3-months-old. I felt comfortable knowing they were just in the other room if they needed me, but I could still crack on with work.

And then of course there’s family and friends. Why not try doing a swap with another mum in business, with you looking after all the kids one day and her taking over on another day? Or look at a combined childcare and co-working space like Caboodle. You may find that a combination of all of these works best for you. My two are almost three now and we do two full days at nursery and one full day with a nanny, which suits us all really well.

Delegate what you can

No one can do everything, it’s just not possible. And when you have little people to look after then it’s even more of a challenge. Think about the things you find most difficult, stressful or time consuming. Work out how much your time is worth and then see if it might be cheaper to get someone else to do one or two tasks.

This could be getting a cleaner so you can crack on with your admin instead of scrubbing floors, or outsourcing your admin to a VA so you can get more client hours in. Do the maths before you automatically dismiss the idea as too expensive. Just because you do something yourself, doesn’t mean it’s free. Time is money!

Find support and solidarity

Ok, so this is possibly a bit biased but honestly, the support you can find at something like Freelance Mum will be invaluable as you try and balance parenthood and business. Just knowing that you’re not alone will lift a huge weight from your shoulders and you’ll find a fresh sense of motivation and passion as you listen to other mums sharing the ups and downs of their journey. You’ll also get plenty of tips, referrals and even actual work from the other members, which will all help to boost your wellbeing as well as your business.

Do what works for you

When the twins were tiny, my mum was always berating me for not napping when they did. But for me, the process of getting a bit of work done was actually more of a draw for me. It gave me a sense of control over my life that was otherwise sorely lacking and was, I honestly believe, one of the things that kept me sane during those first few difficult months. It also boosted my self esteem no end.

That said, if napping is what will make you feel good – or cleaning, or binge-watching Netflix – then do it! Especially in the early stages, keeping sane should be your primary goal, for yourself, your children and your business (in that order).

Do you have any tips you’d add? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch on social – we’re on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And why not come along to one of our Bristol meetings?

With huge thanks to Super Funky Penguin for the photo.

Freelance and flexbile working – making it work around family life

Freelance & flexible work, fitting in around family

Guest blog by Holly Tucker, the woman behind notonthehighstreet and UK Ambassador to Creative Small Businesses

I’m hugely passionate about flexible and freelance working. I started notonthehighstreet.com when Harry was just three months old, so my workload had to exist around my life and family. Luckily for me, I was able to follow my dream of creating my own business whilst being a new mum – and I’m not saying it was easy! But it was hugely rewarding.

For many new mums, working in this way is not an option. There are hundreds of thousands of incredibly skilled, talented women (and men!) out there, who will go above and beyond for work and projects that can fit around their families. It seems incredulous to me that businesses aren’t waking up to this yet.

To try and help turn the tables, I recently became an ambassador for Digital Mums, as part of their #WorkThatWorks and #CleanUpTheFWord campaigns. ‘Flexible working’ seems to sometimes feel as if you are giving less than perhaps a permanent member of staff, or maybe it’s just the negative stigmas attached to it. #WorkThatWorks is strong and positive, and just by saying those words, you’re reminded of something we all forget from time to time; work should ‘work’ within your life. I just love the whole concept and hope it helps to really change the landscape for mums.

I read an interesting study by People Per Hour recently, which said that 40% of the US workforce will be freelance by 2020, which is just incredible. We’re seeing the biggest change in the working world in over 100 years, when we shifted from an agricultural to an industrial economy. So many people are tired of the traditional 9-5, and want to take life into their own hands. Technology has advanced so much that it allows us to do this, ‘the office’ is wherever you are! Many of the jobs we do today didn’t even exist 10 years ago, because we’re evolving with these changes

Freelance Mum Blog showcase

Freelance mums, dads and kids Netwalking in Bristol

Included in these new jobs are the thousands of makers, creators and small business owners that I’ve championed, mentored and worked with over the last 15 years. I created Holly & Co to be a destination for this remarkable group, to find colourful advice, inspiration and support. Because I know that this path can sometimes be a bit difficult and lonely, it’s my mission to unite these amazing individuals, because I believe that we’re stronger together.

I feel so ecstatic about the prospect of a more freelance world, and all of the talent, colour and uniqueness it will bring. I can’t wait to see more people take a deep breath, be brave, and live their own ‘Good Life’! Bring on 2020!

Summer reflections – 10 things I have learnt as a Freelance Mum

 

In many ways, summer holidays are no different to any other day, as a freelance mum.

Holidays are no different to any other day, as a freelance mum. It’s all a juggling act, just in different guises. Yet with summer, comes greater expectation and lets face it, we all want to enjoy time off. As a freelancer and a mum, that’s never easy.

Which is why I thought I’d take the time, take stock and share some of my reflections on and things I have learnt this summer as life as a freelance mum.

 

1 – Having time away, a complete change of scene and a large dollop of daydreams really is good for the soul.

It’s also good for making things happen. I’ve always known this, but it was reinforced this holiday when we were in Devon. To quote Freelance Mum member and hypnotherapist, Abi Rogers ‘a change of scenery is essential!’. Believe it or not, our brains are actually more productive when we’re not concentrating on the task in hand – hence those ‘eureka’ moments at random times’. Brilliant excuse for more holidays’!

 

2 – How to do a ‘dinosaur plait’Dinosaur-plait-freelance-mum

On one particularly wet afternoon on holiday in Devon, I decided to master different type of plait. Not much of a life skill, but I like being creative and I’m rubbish at following tutorials. So I was pretty impressed I managed to watch one enough times to actually manage something that vaguely resembled a plait. It’s nicknamed a dinosaur plait, as it looks a bit like the spine of a dinosaur, it’s official name is a ‘4 strand, 3D plait’, which sounds far more impressive. The most impressive part being, I can now just about do one, while Suki is watching Peppa Pig. Jemima, however, is having none of it – though I may have tried out the odd one, without her realizing.

 

3 –  Canva

I’m not saying I’ve mastered it, or even that Canva and I will ever be best friends, but we’re now on speaking terms. We have fallen out several times previously, but with a bit of training from Karen Norman from Sensible Marketing, Canva and I are now friends. Together we can be creative and make nice pictures. Sometimes we still get cross with each other, but we’re getting on a whole lot better than before.

 

4 –   It’s not a case of scaling up, or even scaling back, but taking time to look at the bigger picture

One of the things I enjoy about August, is because there’s no Freelance Mum events in August, I have time to look at the bigger picture – not just the day-to-day running. A chance to look at the year ahead and not feel like I’m fire fighting, it’s a really good place to be and a great way to get a sense of the year ahead.

 

5 –     Running a summer offer is good for keeping marketing and social media fresh Freelance-Mum-Summer-Tote-Bag-Montage-Summer-Photo-Comp

On good advice from Linda Davies Carr, The Maser fixer and Rin Hamburgh, I decided to run a summer offer – book a podcast before September 30th for £150. Simple and streamlined. Not to mention the Freelance Mum Tote Bag Photo Competition, great suggestion from Nicky, of Nicola Jane Photography. Think ‘Hello’ magazine style, with photos of the Freelance Mum Tote Bag, in various locations, work/home/holiday. A fun way of generating content and makes people smile.

 

6 – Children really do, just love spending time with you Jemima-freelance-mum-home-studio

You don’t have to be doing anything special, they just like being together. I was reminded that this week, while Suki had a nap and I suggested to Jemima, we pop into the studio and do some work. I had a few emails to send out and she happily popped on the headphones and ‘recorded some voiceover’. I love how completely at home she is in the studio, she chatted away quite naturally, sharing all her stories and thoughts, while I typed away. It was like listening to her soul. Her memories and thought, the things that she shared were just gorgeous and it was all about us being together. Not only that, Suki’s favourite part of our camping holiday was ‘her whole family sleeping in the same room together’. Sometimes they’re so gorgeous I could eat them all up.

 

7  – Keep in contact with people who like what you do

Don’t give up. They might want to be part of it, but the time isn’t right. They might just be really busy! It was proven this summer, when Redmaids’ High began sponsoring Freelance Mum. They joined us for Brave, Bold & Bonkers in March, then went quiet. To be fair, they were busy merging with another school and it turns out that merging schools and building a new one, is demanding stuff! I could have gone quiet, but I gave them space, kept in touch and we got the green light this summer. Happy days for all of us.

 

8 – It’s a good time to update roller banners, signage for events and tinker with images for social media

Without the events every month, it’s a good time to update images, hit September with a fresh line up and reflect that in posts. See, I told you Canva and I are getting on (I may live to regret writing that).

 

9 – Both my girls can ‘swim’ without armbands

When I say swim, I mean ‘not drown’ – but they are both quite adamant that neither of them want to wear armbands, which means taking a trip to the local swimming pool is even less relaxing. And it wasn’t exactly relaxing in the first place!

 

10 – I love the summer, but I like routine too. And while I have no intention of wishing away, I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things come September. No doubt I’ll soon be wishing I had that lovely day dreamy headspace again, which is why I’m already planning half term 🙂

So then, what’s your reflections on summer? What have you learnt, in life as a freelance mum, this August? If you’re chomping at the bit already – come and join us at Freelance Mum in September, we’d love to see you.

 

Expert Nutrition From Bump & Beyond

Expert nutrition advice from the moment you decide to try for a baby.

As a parent of two young children, meal times can be something of a struggle. In fact – eating & eating out is a completely different occasion to compared to that of 4 years ago! Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way, though it would make a nice change to get all the way through one meal without any one announcing ‘ yuck, I don’t like that’. Still, at least they’re eating something and we’ve come out the other side of a fussy eating phase, where the only food that was consumed seemed to be yellow.

Bump & Beyond illustration ladies and fruitBut it’s very easy to be all consumed (no puns intended) with just how much food our little ones eat, let alone think about ourselves. Yet take a step a back to a life before children, one of the most important things we can do on our journey to parenthood is prepare for the event. Looking after our diet can make a huge impact on conception, one of the most important things we can do is make sure our body is in the best physical condition – which is where Rosie Letts comes in.

As a nutritional therapist, Rosie has always had a keen interest in diet and the role food plays on our health. It was only after having her own children, that she realized there was so much lacking in the main stream when it came to family advice. So armed with first hand experience and expert training, she launched Bump & Beyond Nutrition – assisting parents on their reproductive journey, from the moment they decide to conceive a child, to when they start for school. It’s an impressive field.

After all, as Rosie explains, science of genetics has improved so dramatically we now know that what our Grandmother ate before and during their pregnancy, affects the way our DNA is expressed. Whilst our genes are malleable to an extent as adults, whilst you’re in the womb and a young child – you can do the most good at this time.

Which is all well & good saying it, but when I cast my mind back to my pregnancies – a time I was desperately trying to stay healthy, if I so much as contemplated eating anything green & leafy I wanted to vomit. It turns out, it’s often the way the body is trying to tell us something – Rosie has had consultations with pregnant women who are addicted to licking walls, typically an extreme calcium deficiency. As for chocolate cravings – that’s often a lack of iron and zink.

What I love about Rosie, is that she’s been there & done it – she understands the reality of being a parent & just how exhausting the journey can be. Take breastfeeding, for example, until you’ve been there it’s impossible to understand just how draining it can be – and it’s nothing to do with the umpteen night feeds! More having a little person plugged into you, can sap you of your very energy. It’s well known that a breastfeeding mum needs an extra 500 calories, but sadly that’s not all in cake! There’s so much iron & zinc in breast milk, it’s important to pay attention to getting extra good quality grains, meats, greens and vegetables.

And from breastfeeding, there’s weaning – with it’s own set of worries, just how much do these little people need to eat & how often? It reassured me to learn that children don’t eat in the same way as adults, its more a case of healthy grazing. The most important things we can do is lead by good example – eat good food, in good formats and together as a family.

In the time I spent talking to Rosie, it changed my mindset when it came to family meals. I’m quite sure plates aren’t about to be licked clean, but I feel on my way to healthy eating success!

Rosie Letts is available for 1-2-1 consultations on pregnancy, conception & also runs private weaning classes.

Tots Up Reward Bus

Like many parents, sleep is a big topic of conversation in our household – namely the lack of it. It would seem we have not one, but two children, who are both programmed to wake at 5.30am every morning. It’s not funny. No matter how many times we explain ‘you have to stay in bed until your clock goes yellow’, up they leap announcing it’s broken and they want to get up.

That is, until we tried the Tots Up Reward Bus. Knowing I’m the mum of two pre schoolers, a good friend put me onto the bus (so to speak) and it’s spot on. A simple reward chart, that celebrates good behavior in a fab & fun way. A tried and tested concept, with a design that is something special.

As the name suggest, the Tots Up Reward Bus, is a 3D magnetic bus – complete with it’s own bus stop of passengers. Every time the child does something that deserves a reward, they’re allowed to put a passenger on the bus – until all 10 passengers are on the bus. I don’t know who was more excited to put the first passenger on the bus – me or Jemima!

It’s the brainchild of Sally Marks – a graphic designer and lecturer in graphic design. The concept was born 15 years ago when she was working for a spell with children on the autistic spectrum. Any good behavior was celebrated, while trying to ignore negative behavior. Not surprisingly reward charts played a large part in things & she quickly designed a basic paper bus, which allowed them to chart their success.

The bus didn’t make an emergence again until several years later, when she was potty training her own son. She went back into her files and dug out the paper bus, stuck it to the fridge with the passengers, who in turn were stuck on to the bus with blu tack, every time a reward was needed. It was a friend who noticed it & asked if she could have one to use in her house, which sparked the idea – if other people liked the bus, was she onto something?

So last year, Sally began a start-up course for businesses & the Tots Up Reward Bus was born. She’s worked closely with an educational psychologist who agreed the reason the bus is so successful, is because it’s so simple – it’s very easy for the child to understand what they are working for & what they have to do to get it. Speaking as a mum, it looks just striking too & is very engaging for children. Our bus gets several comments as visitors see it sitting on the kitchen worktop. For me, the proof is in the pudding. Not only is it a hit at home, but when Jemima & Suki had a sleepover at Nana & Bap Baps, the bus went with them. I received a very excited phone call from Jemima the next day, to tell me she’d got a passenger on the bus. The day there were all 10, was even more exciting!

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Mini First Aid – made easy for all the family

For many mums, when weaning begins, it opens up a whole new world of problems. From ‘will they ever eat from a spoon’ to ‘what if they choke’? It’s one of those more serious aspects that doesn’t dawn on you, until you’re watching your baby get to grips with eating. And it’s typically the point that lots of mums get in contact with Zoe Hunt from Mini First Aid.

Mini First Aid was born in 2014, when mum Kate Ball, wanted to bring a range of classes to parents & grandparents, which were accessible to the whole family & specifically geared up for treating infants and young children. Of course, there are some elements that are universally the same – like how to treat a wound, but the nuts & bolts are aimed at dealing with tots.

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