Sometimes when reflecting on a year it’s easy to think about the things that haven’t quite gone to plan and all the things we want to set out to achieve in the new year. Yet, I have so much to be thankful for….family, friends, health, our lovely home by the sea, family holidays and lots of fun and laughter along the way! Happy new year mummies and daddies – if you’re out celebrating tonight, have fun! If like me, you are putting your little one to bed and praying they stay asleep so you can have a glass of fizz in peace…. then good luck! Xxx
When Vicki Psarias AKA Honest Mum said that she would ‘love’ to be my first guest blogger for the latest in a series of posts about ‘Mumtrepreneurs’, I was beyond excited. This new series is all about parents that go above and beyond to succeed in life and achieve their career dreams, all whilst running a happy home – a combination I struggle to get my head around. Vicki really is one inspiring mama with a beautiful family and fabulous lifestyle, albeit super busy!
I posed my questions to her about work-family balance, her career aspirations and her favourite way to chill-out when the kids are asleep. Enjoy!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your family…
I’m a full time, multi-award winning blogger, vlogger and filmmaker – and most importantly a mum to two boys, Oliver and Xander who are 6 and 4 respectively. Together with my husband Peter, we live in Yorkshire and I spend a day or two a week in London with work.
Describe how you feel about life in one word (or as few as possible!)
Ooh what an interesting question! I feel challenged right now in the best possible way, truly stimulated by work and life, never bored but vitally, calm and content. I feel exactly where I want to be, which is the way we should all feel, I reckon.
I’m passionate about what I do and excited for the future, but I’m also happy with my all now, so anything else is just a cherry on top. My priority is the health and happiness of my family and always doing what I love and what feels right for me at that moment in time.
Have you always been career driven or has family been your biggest priority ? Or, a bit of both?
Both, I love creating and it’s a need, you know, I can’t NOT write or shoot. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s like breathing to me. I used to paint a lot and exhibited too but found myself soon cheating on oil paints with video cameras. You lose all sense of time when you are in the moment, be it painting, screenwriting or shooting a video for YT…I feel lucky doing just that. Creating is my job and the fact that I can combine my passions in a career makes me want to jump out of bed in the morning, every single day.
My kids and husband are my world and my purpose, they drive me and give me strength. I strongly believe happy parents equals happy children. I’ve worked tremendously hard for the last six years on my site, to the point where I have a lot more free time (yay) and flexibility. Most weeks see me working a three day week, which has always been the dream. I work hard but I like to play hard too and by that I mean (these days) playing on the swings with my kids.
I always wanted kids and feel so lucky I could have children. My kids are my purpose and whilst my career matters to me, I don’t want to miss their milestones, so it’s a juggle. I’ve worked incredibly hard to get to a point where I now have more free time with them whilst doing a job I love.
When and why did you decide to start a family?
I had Oliver pretty young really and was pregnant at 27, which for a female director working in the telly and film industry was young and I suppose relatively young generally as women have kids later these days. I suffer with PCOS so was conscious that I needed to try and conceive as young as possible and my husband was broody 2 years before me anyway, so it made sense. I remember becoming broody almost overnight and couldn’t wait to be a mum. I was lucky that I got pregnant quickly and Oliver really taught me how to be a mother, as all first kids do. It was a shock to the system as parenthood is but he and Xander give me untold happiness. I’d definitely like another baby at some point too, I just need to work on my husband!
Have you changed career since having a family and if so, how?
Yes, blogging was a change in career for me as I was a director and filmmaker pre Honest Mum. I started my site in 2010, never thinking it would become a full time job, yet in a short time it became my career and now, crazily, is one of the biggest blogs in the UK and they tell me, the world!
So, your career goals and ambitions changed since having a family?
Yes absolutely. I didn’t want to be on set for 12-15 hours a day as a director, so blogging was the ideal job for me. I could still film and write and be creative, but in a flexible way that works around my family. I’m totally open and believe the arts and being creative is fluid too, I adore working digitally but that doesn’t mean I won’t ever direct again in the more traditional sense of the word. I see everything as overlapping and merging in exciting ways.
What challenges have you faced in your working life since having a family?
As with everyone, it’s a real juggle – childcare, the guilt, achieving balance etc. We’re all just trying our best and the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is to be kind to myself. I’m now flipping good at switching off too. Life is for living. When you live life, you can create greater art.
How did you find returning to work after having your babies?
Directing commercials when Oliver turned one was tough. I’d started my blog and, although I did some paid work around that time, I returned to direct some fashion ads, but being away from him was soul-destroying as I was back and forth to Manchester. I was lucky that blogging became my career when it did and meant that I could work from home and flexibly. I love the freedom of this way of working. It’s liberating and empowering.
How do you manage childcare when working?
My youngest goes to nursery three days a week and I’m off for two usually. My eldest is at school and he attends an after school club too. My folks help as well and we’ve got a good system here.
What do you consider to be your biggest achievements in life so far?
My kids 100%. A happy marriage to my best friend and a man I love more everyday. My career, the milestones that have come from hard work, passion and dedication. The commitment to keep pushing boundaries and to not stop creating. To trusting my gut. To taking risks. To collaborating with great minds and people who make me think outside of the box. To wonderful friendships.
What is your motivation in life? Tell us what keeps you going on those days when life just seems so chaotic?!
Looking at my kids grounds and motivates me. I do everything for them and we have organised chaos really here. We work to a routine and I’m strict with boundaries and work/life times and spaces. I get tough days of course, days where I doubt myself or feel shattered, but I’m lucky to have incredible, strong people around me: my husband, family, friends, an amazing manager in Neil at Insanity who totally gets me, my vision and who, along with my husband, Peter, always makes me believe in myself.
How do you like to spend days off with the family? Do you have regular date nights with the other half?
I wish we had more regular date nights, but date nights quite often mean eating together before watching Family Guy in bed, having a laugh and cuddling up. I get a massage once a month for me time and mum and I get a mani and pedi done every few weeks for a girly day, which is fun. I adore running too and have a PT session once a week with my friend, Caroline and escape to my treadmill in the garage most days to burn off my energy. I take after my dad and have boundless energy!
What is your favourite way to unwind in your free time (and the kids are in bed!)?
Ooh I love scoffing Green & Blacks chocolate (bit obsessed with milk currently) and Betty’s rose tea whilst watching The Housewives of Cheshire.
You’ve touched on this a little already, but why did you decide to start blogging? And, when did you realise that you were onto something good?
I started in 2010 at a dark time when I was suffering from a traumatic birth. I was surprised to be a finalist at the prestigious BritMums in Brilliance Awards in the Fresh Voice Category after four weeks of setting up. I was contacted by advertisers after just two weeks. This was the start of everything for me. The blog surprises me everyday. I have a team now, incredible management, I’ve gotten to collaborate with gifted people, absolute legends from Alesha Dixon to Jamie Oliver, James Martin and many more. My family have the most amazing experiences, be it travelling around the world on amazing holidays to working on the most nourishing creative projects that have built their confidence up and given them so, so much.
What are your plans for the future?
I like to live in the now, but I hope we continue having great health and feel happy in all that we do. We love to travel so I hope we get to see more of the world as there’s so much to discover and enjoy! Travel is my greatest love – oh and food!
What advice would you give to a new parent considering returning to work or those who have just returned and are trying to figure it all out?
I wish I could go back and give myself a great big hug and give myself a good talk to, to not be so flipping hard on myself, to remind myself I’m doing my best and it’s OK to feel guilt (but it’s futile). To reach out for help, when others offer to say yes, to not feel I have to be superwoman. I’d tell myself that parenting is hard, but we’re all in the same boat. Thank goodness for blogs reminding us of that fact, hey?
Vicki is founder and writer of parenting and lifestyle site Honest Mum (http://www.honestmum.com)
Ever since Madeline was a tiny newborn, she has suffered with sensitive skin. Eczema flare-ups and milk rashes dominated a large part of her first year, perhaps due to a suspected milk protein allergy. Whatever the cause, it is something that we as parents have had to adjust to.
Madeline’s a delicate little thing and requires a little more TLC when it comes to her ‘beauty’ regime! I’m sure she will use this to her advantage in her teens when she requires mum and dad to fund all of her expensive high-end products! But, working out the products she can use, and those to stay clear of, has been quite stressful at times. It’s pretty much just trial and error.
It’s always seemed to me that there is no real logic behind flare-ups. All I know is that if we had a wedding, birthday, holiday or special occasion, Madeline would have some form of skin irritation. Sod’s law. And, although I know it doesn’t really matter, always when there was a camera out or Maddie was meeting new relatives for the first time.
The night before we were due to get Madeline’s passport photo taken, she came out in such a sore rash around her mouth and I can remember thinking: ‘just what on earth are we doing wrong?’. It wasn’t just about the visible appearance, it really affected her mood and clearly frustrated her. All I wanted was for someone to provide me with a list of tried and tested products.
I know it’s not really that simple. Every child is different and I’m sure that what works for one won’t necessarily work for another. But, over the past year we have been in many discussions with doctors, private skin experts and parents of children with similar skin ailments and (touch wood!) seem to have cracked it. Madeline may always have sensitive skin, but at least we now have an idea of how to keep flare-ups at bay.
Here’s a round-up of brands and products that work well for us. Please do share any others that work well for your little munchkins in the comments below!
- Child’s Farm shampoo and bubble bath – bath time products seemed to be one of the first causes of Madeline’s eczema. Although marketed as suitable from birth, certain brands just didn’t suit her skin. Clearly labelled for eczema-prone skin, I picked up a bottle of Child’s Farm shampoo in Boots, gave it a try and haven’t looked back. It smells beautiful and leaves hair so silky smooth. We have also used the bubble bath (sparingly!) on occasions, which allows for lots of bath time fun without any aftermath soreness!
- Dermol 500 – we were first introduced to this moisturiser by our GP (on prescription – bonus!). It’s a staple in Madeline’s skin care regime, which we also use as soap at bathtime, resulting in baby-soft skin – as it should be!
- Burt’s Bees baby bee dusting powder – this talc doesn’t dry the skin out too much and smells divine after Madeline’s bedtime bath. I just love it!
- Hydromol – this product was first given to us as a sample when we took Madeline for a private allergy test. She had a very sore rash around her mouth, which is usually associated with milk protein allergy in babies. The results from the test came back inconclusive, but none-the-less the rash was very real and sore. Hydromol is an ointment rather than a lotion and acts as a barrier cream. I applied it constantly throughout the day, especially to protect against teething dribble and at mealtimes when certain foods may irritate. This product is a must and available on prescription
- Hydrocortisone – for skin irritations that just won’t budge, this is a mild steroid cream that may help. A private eczema specialist prescribed this product to Madeline for a two week course until her rash around her mouth had completely disappeared. This meant we could gain some control of the irritation. It can be bought over the counter at most chemists, but pharmacists may wish to take a look at symptoms before allowing you to purchase. This cream should be used sparingly and only for a short period of time as it can thin the skin if used too regularly. Please also be sure to keep the cream away from your baby’s eyes.
- Sudocrem care and protect nappy cream – luckily, we have never really suffered with nappy rash, perhaps due to this product. Unlike some of the others available, this is light, clear in colour and not too sticky, so it’s convenient to use for every change, not just at home but also when out and about. One to stock up on and have to hand wherever you and baby go!
- Aveeno moisturising cream – a wheat-based moisturiser recommended by many doctors and specialists. This all over body cream is applied to Madeline in the morning when getting her dressed for the day and in the evening, following her bath. I also find this works well as a hand cream for mummy!!
- Weleda baby calendula body lotion – another moisturiser that works well for us and we have never had any problems with. It’s rare to find a slightly perfumed moisturiser that doesn’t immediately cause a flare-up, but used sparingly this has never caused us any issues and smells gorgeous.
- Sunsense Kids factor 50 – I was so worried about applying sun cream to Madeline’s delicate skin and was recommended this product by a friend who’s daughter is also prone to eczema. It is a little thick and needs a lot of rubbing in, but lasts for up to 4 hours and is water proof. Definitely, one to purchase ahead of your travels. We bought from JoJo Maman Bebe.
I hope this helps some of you new parents out, especially as you’re eyeing up for purchase the vast number of baby products out there. Feel free to share your tips and recommendations too… I like baby to be well stocked up!!
Keep going mummies. We are all just doing the best we can 😘 xxx
What a week it’s been. The most testing since returning to work and one that I’m glad to see the back of. Let’s just say, a poorly baby, lack of sleep and a mountain of work equals one stressed out mummy.
I will spare you the details, as I’m sure those of you following me on Twitter will have seen my endless mummy rants throughout the week. I do apologise. At times I just needed to vent and believe me, I held back. But, these babies really do get it tough don’t they?
It all started last Sunday while we were enjoying a family day at Bournemouth air show with the in-laws. Madeline had gone to bed the previous evening not wanting any of her tea, which was a little strange but not abnormal and had woken up early that morning in tears, instead of her usual cheeriness (I think we have a morning person on our hands!).
I knew something was up; her temp was a little on the high side, nothing major, but all she wanted was cuddles. This is always the way when you’re trying to get out and do something nice, right? I assumed she was perhaps in pain from the molar I could feel making it’s way to the surface…. Ouch!
Either that or Madeline had previously suffered from a cow’s milk protein allergy and, after a recent negative allergy test, we were going through the gradual process of weaning her back onto dairy… a long and stressful story I will save for another day. I wondered if this change to her diet was causing her discomfort and we needed to take her back a step on the weaning ladder. If only these babies could tell us, or at least give us a little hint, as to what’s up.
As the day progressed it became quickly clear that Madeline just wasn’t being Madeline. Usually so independent, she wanted mummy cuddles all day – that part was nice actually, I’m not going to lie. But, she wouldn’t eat anything other than a nibble of a little Organix ginger bread man and was so lethargic. So, we took her home, had a terrible night and the next morning I made the necessary arrangements with work to stay home and look after my little girl. She needed her mummy.
I can’t tell you the worry I felt at leaving my team in the lurch at such a busy time in the office. At the back of my mind I had a stack load of to-dos that needed completing. I knew the team would be understanding and help out by picking up anything urgent, but I couldn’t help feeling like a bit of a let down. Yet, if I had gone into work and taken Madeline to her auntie’s for the day as part of the usual Monday morning routine, I would have felt like the world’s worst mummy and probably sat at my desk in tears (as I did later on in the week!!). I couldn’t help but question what my colleagues were thinking though. Madeline was definitely not right, but was teething really a strong enough reason not to go in?!
I know I said that I would save you all the details, but that would make a pretty boring blog post! I will, however, save a bit of time by not going into each individual doctors appointment we attended and late night out-of-hours trips we made over the next couple of days. Madeline was first prescribed Penicillin for a terrible bout of tonsillitis before later in the week being diagnosed with a nasty viral infection complete with an all over body rash. Seriously, could anything more be thrown at my baby in one week?!
My goodness, how glad I was that I stayed at home for her on Monday as the guilt of ‘abandoning’ my poorly baby girl would surely have haunted me for quite some time. I swear now that I will never again question leaving my little girl’s side while she is sick. She is my priority first and foremost and always will be.
That said, the reason I work is for my daughter. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been ambitious and enjoyed working. I’m the type of person that gives 100% to what they do. If I’m going to do something, then why do it half- heartedly? Having a family was also very important to me, but perhaps came a little sooner than expected and I certainly wasn’t in the position or earning as much as as I would have liked before starting a family. So, now it is all about working hard to grow in my career, but mainly to ensure that Madeline and my future babies never go without. I suppose this is why I also find it difficult to ‘just take time off’.
For this reason, after a night of no sleep, I ventured into work on Thursday, feeling full of emotion but confident that Madeline was on the mend and her nana was looking after her at our house, so she could have another day at home to recover. I arrived at the office, sat at my desk, switched on my laptop and before I knew it, had tears streaming down my face. Bloody hell! What is wrong with me?! Thank goodness I work in an office of mainly women who understand hormones and sent me home to work for the rest of the day. I had to be with my baby until I knew she was fully back to herself. There seems to be a theme to these posts that I’m a bit of a crier – let’s just go with it! But, please tell me this has happened to someone else?!
After our first full night’s sleep all week, on Friday I successfully managed a day in the office with only a little mummy guilt. I kept my head down, cracked on with that to-do-list and got back on top of things before rushing home to my much better daughter. Madeline had enjoyed a lovely day with her nana, eaten all of her meals and been her usual cheeky self. Now, we are having a nice and relaxed bank holiday weekend – life is good.
I’m not going to beat myself up about the week just gone, it’s been a tough one, but it’s also only my third month back since maternity leave. I’m confident it will all get easier… Well, maybe. One thing I know is that Madeline must always come first from this day onwards. If ever there are days when only mummy will do, I will be there for her. That is a promise.
Keep going mummies. We are all just doing the best we can! X
A friend of mine sent me a message last week saying that she had enjoyed a lovely holiday away and thank goodness for grandparents! After a lovely long weekend away in Spain with my family, I completely understand where she was coming from – I feel refreshed, relaxed and ready for what life has to throw at us (and that’s even after a late night flight home with only a few hours sleep!!)
Before returning to work last June, I thought it would be nice to have a holiday just the three of us, mummy, daddy and Madeline. The perfect end to an incredible 11 months off work. We stayed at a beautiful villa in Burgau, Portugal. It was just off the sea front, with our own private pool just a few feet away from our patio area. It was absolute bliss. Yet, it was so different to any of our pre-baby holidays.
Our usual routine would have been a lazy morning, leisurely getting ready, having a chilled-out breakfast in the sunshine before packing a small bag of essentials for a long day at the beach, sunbathing and reading our books. We would have a paddle in the sea, eat our picnic and maybe play a game of bat and ball, before returning ‘home’ to get ready for a night out. Not that I would change life as we currently know it, but I wish I’d fully appreciated how bloody brilliant that really was!
We did, however, have a fabulous holiday and it was lovely spending time together as a family – Fraser off work and the three of us just hanging out together for two whole weeks. Madeline loved the attention of having both mummy and daddy around and we quickly learned what a little diva she really could be in the sunshine!
Obviously, things have changed and as parents we have to adapt. This holiday was all about walks down the harbour, visiting Zoo Marine (a sealife tourist attraction that was absolutely fantastic and you have to stop by if ever in the area) and stopping off for child-friendly lunches. We would grab an hour by the pool while Madeline napped and that was enough (well, maybe just ten minutes more would have done the job!). Our evenings were spent in the comfort of the villa, enjoying a lovely evening in with delicious food and drink. We did venture out into the quaint little village one night in the fist week and decided it was just easier not to again – a story for another time.
We had a lovely time and it really was the perfect end to maternity leave. If you get the chance, I would recommend a family holiday to anyone soon to be returning to work. However, we quickly realised the benefits of travelling with the wider family.
So, when my dad phoned me up recently and asked whether we would like to join my parents, brother and sister for a few days in Espana, we jumped at the chance! Last week, we stayed at a beautiful apartment at Monte Halcones, Benehavis (close to San Pedro, Marbella and Puerto Banus) with stunning views to ponder upon each day. Madeline certainly loved the morning sunrise…
Each morning her grandparents, auntie and uncle would fight over who got to look after her while mummy and daddy had a little lie in (only until 8am, but when you’re usually used to a 6am start, this was just the best). Her nana would ask to feed Madeline her milk, change her nappy, get her ready (like she had to ask!). Grandad would offer to prepare her breakfast, lunch and dinner. Auntie and uncle would play with her in the pool and help entertain her whilst out. They just couldn’t do enough for my little pickle and mummy got plenty of time to sit by the pool and relax or spend some quality time with daddy for a change!
I just loved watching Madeline bond with her family. Her face so happy as they played with her, tickled her, sang songs to her, took selfies with her. She would wave frantically and reach out to each of them for cuddles as soon as they walked into the room. It just proved to me how many people it really takes to raise a child. We don’t have to go it alone…
Fraser and I are truly blessed with wonderful families on both sides, who are always there for us and ready to offer us a helping hand whenever we need it. I know this isn’t true for everyone, so for that I am grateful. Yet, I often feel bad for ‘palming Madeline off’ to others, so that mummy can have a little break. But, who can do a good job at anything when they are exhausted?! It’s not a #fail to ask for help.
When Madeline was very little I found it difficult to let her leave my side and often kept her all to myself. But, I now feel it’s important for babies to spend time with their wider family too and really get to know them. I have the most treasured memories of days spent with my grandparents when little and want the same for Madeline. It also seems that family (and friends) will jump at the chance to help look after your little one. So, let them.
Win win! 😎☀️