An unresolved look at working and motherhood

 Please follow @emilycoxhead!

Please follow @emilycoxhead!

"According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of working mothers in England has gone up by more than a million in the past two decades, which means there’s a lot of us who grew up without a roadmap for how to do this" says Hadley Freeman, which explains why a business like We Got This (Sometimes!) exists, and why, when women just stop, they wonder is this the "right" way?!

I figured I may as well be honest...I've drafted three or four posts throughout our first school summer holidays ranting, pondering, deliberating about how to manage work and motherhood. It is an 11 week period of abnormal routine, as my daughter started summer super early and doesn't start full time school until the 20th, it has probably been the longest time I've felt not in control of my time. We've been lucky with friends to swap time, which has helped. Each time I stopped myself publishing a post as I don't want to appear ungrateful for anything, but I am right - the system is broken, how can we move it into a space where it works?! Millions of parents accept the juggle of working and school holidays, a friend takes two weeks off, her husband takes two weeks off, her own mum takes two weeks off to create an affordable summer. That's not do-able for everyone.

I've gone from thoughts of retraining as a teacher to be able to have stressless summer holidays, panicking about how to freelance with no after school care and trying to reassure myself that I could fit it into three days in school hours (I wouldn't be able to), to giving up work (we couldn't afford that), to economising, to appreciating the little guys much more than ever, to actually working for a corporate team from home for a ten day project (that's a whole other post) to decluttering wardrobes and my office to feel 'ready for a new term'. We had a week where our youngest was poorly, so that week we were still paying for nursery which we couldn't use, and I couldn't work to pay for it as I was looking after him. I understand the commercials for nursery but it doesn't feel fair. In the end, surrendered, gave in, and worked minimally for a few weeks. Which was the right decision but feeling very behind. I've also realised it wasn't just having two children that made me pursue a different road, school life is as big a puzzle to juggle. 

My daughter has left pre-school and just started primary school which threw up so many emotions and thoughts - she was fine, her school is great and her teacher is lovely. There is a sketch I saw recently which exactly illustrates what happened in my head with this:

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It has been a busy summer, when you're with your kids you don't REALLY talk, even with friends - maybe that's why my googling has gone wild! 

SO. Here is my reading list so far. My intention is to create a conference type event next year with a gang of like-minded women, for businesses in this area to open the conversation around actively bringing women back into the workspace, for example job sharing senior positions seems to be non existent from what I can see. I've contacted London job sharing agencies to request extending to Norwich but not heard back. There is a team brewing, I've ideas about key speakers and feel it is IMPORTANT. Manchester is all over this in a big way. We have had one Mother Pukka event, which was crucial and brilliant - but as we realised, the 120 women in the audience KNEW. 

The answer categorically is NOT 'just give up working'. For many reasons it is not an option, and also why train, study and build a career for it to slip away *if you don't want it to*.


What I've been reading:

Incredibly honest from the writer of one of my favourite shows, The Affair: The truth about being a working mother - Red Magazine

"And after they’re both dressed and fed and their bottoms are wiped and their teeth are brushed, I get to actually leave my house and go to work. Where I get to make up stories about characters I love. With other people I love. Which is something I have done since I was a child for fun – but now they’re paying me to do it. So, I obviously don’t have an answer to the paradox of working motherhood. And I’m sure I never will.
But I have learned a few things along the way that I didn’t know when I began. Firstly, this is hard. Even for very tough people, it is very hard.
Secondly, reach out to your friends. That’s why you let them puke in your car back at university and you didn’t make them get out and walk home. Because one day, they’ll pay you back by sleeping over at your house when the power goes out and you have two small children and you’re afraid to be alone.
Thirdly, be kind to yourself. Treat yourself like someone you really care about. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re tired, sleep. If you’re sad, cry (that’s what showers are for). And finally, don’t be afraid of your own story."


Why working mums are being sold an impossible dream about work/life balance — and how to set the record straight - The Times (you can sign up for one free article a week)

"Longer term, though, we have to decide what kind of a society we want to live in and what value we really put on family life. If it’s anything close to the glowing words most politicians use to express the high regard they have for “hard-working families”, then we really do have a lot of work to do — in business, in education and in policy.

Until then, if you’re drowning in work and family and think you are alone, at least know you are not. There are lots and lots of us out here. And there are some answers, however imperfect, to be gleaned from the experiences of those who have gone before. You just have to look harder for them than you might realise.

WORKING PARENTS

  • 72% of families in England have both parents in employment (ONS 2017)
  • 30%, the average wage gap between mums and dads by the time their child is 20 years old (IFS 2018)
  • 21% of mothers say they feel guilty most or all of the time — 87% feel guilty at some point (NUK 2016)"

Small business spotlight on: Don’t Buy Her Flowers - Marketing Vision

"Work out what success is for you and write it down. It’ll be different for everyone. As well as financial and growth objectives, if success includes being able to take your kids to school, or having holidays, or a daily run for your sanity, remember that. It’s your success." Steph Douglas


How to have children and a career and stay sane(ish) - Management Today

"And sometimes women who really enjoy their first maternity leave, perhaps thinking that motherhood comes pretty naturally to them, hate their second maternity leave if it follows within a few years. Unlike the first, which enables full attention on one baby, the second makes them feel ripped apart by the different demands of a baby and a toddler. This can trigger a personal crisis along the lines of ‘I thought I was a career person but had a baby and realised I should be an at-home mum but now I find that I’m not good at that either.’


'I couldn't have it all' – choosing between my child and my career - The Guardian

"I peered at the other women on the train. Their makeup and hair was perfect, they were on conference calls and it wasn't even 8am. I felt as if society were telling me I had to try to be the perfect worker Monday to Friday, the perfect mother every weekend, and toned, healthy woman all year round. Oh, and, of course, wife, friend, sibling and daughter."


Spot the working mother: happy, busy, and still treated as the caretaker - The Guardian

"So here’s my wish for the next International Women’s Day: as well as exhibitions about working mothers, there will be ones depicting fathers doing the school run; male bosses will write articles about the long-term benefits of accommodating women so devoted to their jobs they return to them after giving birth; and no one will take it as a given that it’s the mother who goes part-time after having kids. Because I love the photo of me with my boys, I really do. But if we’re talking about working mothers without looking at the role men have to play, we’re seeing only half the picture."


My current position is much better than it was this time last week, when I thought I had no after school options...the school club was full from the start, the childminders are full and I guess the next path would have been looking for a babysitter. It has been resolved - our council have thankfully funded some more spaces in the after school club. If you're happy to blog about how you make work and motherhood work for you (with school children, as day nurseries are SO EASY compared to school!), I would love to publish it.

Flexible working progress

After Anna Whitehouse visited Norwich in April, I received lots of stories from women whose husbands worked for flexible employers, which is brilliant. I met a lawyer friend who has started working for a forward thinking firm in London, who is conscious of the 'missing women' in law. Did you know Theresa May said at some point that it is her vision that every business will offer flexible work without it being a thing?

In the meantime, in the words of Hollie de Cruz: "Whatever you want to do – go back to work, be a full-time mum, volunteer, make stuff, write, sing, wonder – that’s what you should do, and the only way you’ll know is by letting it come to you when the time is right, and by getting in touch with what you feel...Resist the temptation of comparing yourself to the woman next to you. Stop the glorification of busy. Remember you are doing a great job and you are exactly what your child needs."

Win Afternoon Tea at St Giles House Hotel

Are you aching for adult company? It is the summer holidays after all. Well, here is a little treat. St Giles House Hotel are giving We Got This (Sometimes) followers the chance to win Afternoon Tea for Two worth £30! 

Enter on E-mail - email me with the words Quality Time to enter

Enter on Instagram and Facebook too. 

Click here for terms and conditions. One prize only.

Celebrating our donation to Get Me Out The Four Walls

Thank you so much to everyone who comes to a We Got This (Sometimes!) event marked with Get Me Out The Four Walls, you have made it possible to donate a huge £425 since March. I am thrilled, and I know they will be too. 

"Get Me Out The Four Walls was created to ensure that no mother, father or carer feels alone and isolated at home after the birth of their children. By creating informal social meets we aim to give as many people in Norfolk the opportunity to escape their house and meet others which we believe helps prevent the on-set of Maternal Mental Illness such as Post Natal Depression and to help aid stabilisation of mental health and social prescription. We also strive to support as many mothers that become known to us that are struggling with a mental illness by offering 1 to 1 peer support and post natal depression specific social meets delivered by our friendly non-judgemental ambassadors." 

Incredible work, thank you. 

 

Carmen Stevens, an awe inspiring woman

 Carmen Stevens, the first black winemaker in South Africa 

Carmen Stevens, the first black winemaker in South Africa 

When I met Eamon from Naked Wines to discuss plans for the Norwich: Meet Mother Pukka event (he is a huge fan of Annas), I didn’t know I was going to hear all about the most incredible woman. 

Carmen Stevens, a South African single mother of two, has fought prejudice to become an extraordinarily successful wine maker. 

As a girl, she would read Mills & Boon novels, some of which were set in vineyards which made her dream of being a wine maker. No-one in her in her community as a girl on the Cape Flats knew that you could study winemaking, but an uncle of a friend worked in the lab at Stellenbosch Farmers Winery and he showed her around.

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She had to fight to get into college in the first place, and then when she got in, almost quit as the environment was so unsupportive (of 100 students, she was one of only five women, and only one other male student was black) but she didn’t. 

She became the the FIRST black winemaker in South Africa in fact. It is an utterly incredible achievement. She has gone on to achieve international recognition for her wine, one day taking a call from Naked Wines. The Naked Wines 'Angels' helped her set up in business and now she is one of their star winemakers. She was voted Winemaker of the Year in 2016 and now works with a local charity to provide healthy meals every day to 3,060 school children in the area near where she grew up. 

I'm so proud to have such a successful, entrepreneurial and ethical company in Norwich. Of course the wine is delicious, and it’s good to know the sips are doing good too. 

I'm number 4210 in the queue to be an Angel but it didn't stop me using a code to get a case of wine. All We Got This (Sometimes!) followers can receive a £60 voucher against a case of wine when they use this code: www.nakedwines.com/wgts

Read more about Carmen here and here, and this is her page on the Naked Wines website. 

This post is written in association with Naked Wines

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GUEST POST: A beginner’s guide to Instagram by Vicki Cockerill

  My name is Vicki and just over three years ago my eldest son was born with an undiagnosed heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot. He went on to have a successful surgery at 6 months old, and I turned to blogging and social media to process the traumatic experience we had been through.    I organically built up the successful blog  confessionsofanicumum@blogspot.com  in hope to share, raise awareness and help others going through the same thing. I have gone to blog for The Huffington Post, The Mighty, Mummy and Little Me, Rude Wines and Blasting News UK.    I became a specialist in social media outreach and have had guidance from some of the leading experts in the field. I have completed courses, studied trends, patterns and metrics and I know what works.

My name is Vicki and just over three years ago my eldest son was born with an undiagnosed heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot. He went on to have a successful surgery at 6 months old, and I turned to blogging and social media to process the traumatic experience we had been through.

I organically built up the successful blog confessionsofanicumum@blogspot.com in hope to share, raise awareness and help others going through the same thing. I have gone to blog for The Huffington Post, The Mighty, Mummy and Little Me, Rude Wines and Blasting News UK.

I became a specialist in social media outreach and have had guidance from some of the leading experts in the field. I have completed courses, studied trends, patterns and metrics and I know what works.

Whether you use it for business or pleasure there is no denying the influence Instagram has in our everyday lives. Over 500 million of us are posting over 95 million times each day on the platform. We are snapping pics of us in bed, uploading our breakfasts and our parenting fails.

But, unsure where to start? How to use it for your blog or small business? Worried that you cannot keep up with the ‘power players’ of the gram’?

Instagram is one of the most influential elements of social media marketing today. In the blink of an eye you can easily set up a profile, promote and sell your products, generate new leads and open yourselves to a wider audience you would have not been able to before to become a more established personality or brand.

Don’t know your # from your boomerang? Wondering why you see so many people taking photos of their breakfasts, and who the hell is Mother Pukka?

Then this beginners guide to Instagram is just for you.

1.     Setting Up.

Setting up a profile on Instagram is straightforward but there is one thing to bear in mind while you are doing this.

What are your goals from setting this account up? Is it for business or pleasure? To connect with others, or to sell your products? Is this to grow your presence on social media or upload baby spam each day?

Once you have in mind WHY you are setting an account up (to stalk Andy from C Beebies) then you have a clear and focused goal in mind you can tailor how and what you are doing on it.

(Bear in mind if it is for business then it is likely to be open to a wide audience, so you might not want to post personal photos of the family on it. If it is personal, then you can lock down the privacy settings if you want to use the platform to upload some personal pics.)

2.     What’s your niche?

This follows on from above and is mainly aimed at those using their profiles for business rather than pleasure.

If you have your own bespoke handmade baby soap company then your niche is likely to be baby toiletries/ eco/ parent related.

If you have a travel blog then your likely going to be talking about travel, holidays, locations.

For an audience to view you as a credible authority on your subject/ sector then the content that you produce for your Instagram feed should be relevant.

To have a beauty blogger suddenly, begin to review garden furniture would make you question why is that there?

Keep it simple, keep it relevant.

When you post about your specialist subject you will find that the passion will come through via your content and people will begin to view you as the go to, for that specific subject.

3.     Post frequently.

It can be tricky, but it is important to keep your feed fresh and updated with new photos and content. When you came across a profile for a clothing company that hadn’t posted in over a month with no explanation you would begin to doubt their credibility and reliability.

Sit down for an hour or so each week and plan the content that you can post.

There are some great scheduling tools such as Buffer which means you do not need to find time each day to post which can become tiresome and you will still have new posts going up.

Don’t post just for the sake of it, if you truly have nothing relevant to post then don’t. It sounds contradictory to the above advice but there is nothing worse that uploading some random post just, so you have ticked off posting for that day it could become confusing for the audience.

Keep your relevant subjects in mind and you will find you won’t have too much trouble finding ideas.

Social media now gives us an insight into the lives and brands of the companies we buy from, use your business profile to show your audience and customers WHO you are and HOW/WHY/ WHAT you do what you do! (that’s a whole weeks’ worth of content ideas for free!) You can also use your stories as another way to get your content seen.

4.     Don’t get hung up on the numbers.

It can be hard when you are first starting out on Instagram to view the number of likes and comments you receive on each post as validation. That when you hit a certain number of followers ‘you’ve made it’. You compare yourselves to those with 100k+ and think you cannot compete that you are not good enough. There is a common misconception that the number of followers you have dictates your success.

It does not.

The number of likes, comments and followers is not an indication of your self-worth or how good/ bad your business it.

You need to instead focus on the quality of your audience.

If you are a business, you need to look after and nurture the relationships with your audience and they are likely going to be the ones who go on to purchase something from you.

Do not fall for the vanity metrics, paying for followers, or comments or using autobots (which is now a thing of the past!) do not follow for the sake of following and then suddenly unfollow someone.

Take your time, find your target audience and slowly build it up. Interact with then, like their posts, comment if they have taken the time to engage with you, engage back I think people do forget why it is called social media, after all.

5.     Enjoy it.

To begin with don’t think too much about it other than a promotional tool for your brand/ blog/business and a way to connect to others.

Over time you will begin to see what is working and what isn’t, and you can tailor and tweak your content as you go.

You can begin to experiment with the dreaded # (think of them as search tools and ways for people to find you! Come up with a couple that you use on every post and then experiment with the rest!).

Have fun posting and engaging with others and see it as a community networking platform.

There can be a lot of nastiness on Instagram especially aimed as those who do have a lot of followers, do paid ads etc (we will save that for another post!) but just begin to use it as a way or promoting who you are, what you do and why you are doing it!

Now, you have some of the basics mastered you will be uploading your brunch pics in no time!

#instacoffeeclub

“I am here to use my creative thinking, outreach connections, blog writing and passion for social media to teach you how you run your own accounts effectively.”  Vicki Cockerill, Social Media Outreach Specialist"

 

 

 

The Handmaid's Tale

I can't do an email (sign up) without mentioned the TV show that is so brutal, riveting, excited-about-each-Sunday-watchable and close to the knuckle. The flashbacks to what could easily be considered "now", and how easily this normal becomes a new normal is utterly terrifying. 

 Click to read spoilers of Series 2, Episode 2 

Click to read spoilers of Series 2, Episode 2 

"The story of Hannah’s daughters sick day and the line of questioning it sparked contained a raft of assumptions about motherhood: A good mother should cease to exist in her own right. A career and personal fulfilment must always be sacrificed for the saintly honour of raising a child. Working mothers will always be judged and will always be found wanting… The Handmaid’s Tale is skilled at showing how strands of thought prevalent in the real world prepared the ground for Gilead’s extremes." (from Den of Geek - my go-to along with The Guardian for giving me more, more, more about the good TV stuff.)

I see these strands of thought in my own life, and try and bat them away, and mentally struggle with being a 'good mum' which I know I am, and a creative, hard working professional (which I'm trying to be in a specific time frame, most evenings and early mornings). It's important to me to be a person, not only one thing or another thing. This time last year when Series One launched, I remember walking to the shop with my children on mat leave, thinking 'I'm participating in the traditional, Gilead way of life' and not really knowing what I could do about it, as mothering is mothering! Hurts my head. 

Please watch it! Series One is on Amazon - start from the start - and I'm very envious if you're new to it. 

 

NORWICH: WIN A MY ONE HEART T-SHIRT

 Laura is the founder of My One Heart

Laura is the founder of My One Heart

I'm proud to support @my.one.heart ❣️ - I love my leopard heart tee, so much I wore it to interview Simon Hooper! 

 Simon Hooper visited us in Norwich

Simon Hooper visited us in Norwich

Laura is the founder, she's a Norfolk mum raising money for an important charity...her story...”In December 2012, I was Christmas shopping with my parents in Norwich when my 56 year old dad suddenly collapsed. He was having a cardiac arrest and within an hour he was gone.
I learned afterwards that there had been no publicly accessible defibrillator nearby and the one which was used on my dad came from the local police station, which took precious time to reach him.  I also learned a shocking fact : if someone has a cardiac arrest and receives CPR their survival rate is 9%. If they receive treatment from a defibrillator and shockable rhythm their chance increases to 60%. Had there been an easily accessible 24-hour defibrillator in Norwich city centre my dad may still be here.
I’ve started My One Heart because, through the sadness of losing my dad, I want everyone to be aware of the importance of having easily accessible defibrillators in public places.  From every sale of my products, £5.00 will go towards putting 24-hour defibrillators in public places around the UK. Money raised will go to Heart 2 heart Norfolk.”

Please support her 👍🏼✨This is the My.One.Heart instagram, and the online shop is here

Enter on E-mail - simply email me with the word Heart to enter :-) Click here for terms and conditions - good luck!

 

 

GUEST POST: 5 essential steps to help your child sleep through the night by Kathryn Stimpson, Holistic Sleep Consultant

 Sleep tips for Mums

Sleep is the most talked about topic for parents. Kathryn Stimpson is a qualified Family Sleep Consultant, previous insomnia suffer and mum to Oliver the former sleep thief.

 “Drained, exhausted and unhappy; not the most ideal words to describe my very first experience of motherhood. Even when Oliver reached 9 months, he was still up at least 4 times a night and I was lucky if he napped for 29 minutes a day. Here are my 5 essential steps to helping your child sleep through the night”

You may have seen the BBC article, “13 Weird Ways parents get their children to sleep”. I wasn’t at all surprised that pre sleep consultancy days I had tried three of these. I remember when Oliver was trying his hardest to not take his only 20 minute nap, we left him (safely) in a pile of clean laundry, as the smell would send him to sleep for those precious 20 minutes. Reading the article really reminded me of how desperate I was to find a solution, yet pure exhaustion really did cloud my judgement.

It really is amazing how quality sleep gives you the chance to see the world from a totally different perspective. When Oliver was awake for most of the night consistently, I felt sad, desperate, exhausted, low and lonely. Now he sleeps through most nights (apart from when he is ill) I feel calm, reassured, energised, happy and have such crystal clear clarity, well most of the time.

This is probably why I can look back and smile at the memories of me rocking him for 3 hours and him still being awake, driving for 90 minutes in the hope he would sleep (he usually didn’t) or build an Oliver shaped clean laundry pile to put around him. Although I can safely say at the time it was not funny, I was broken!

Having been through this life transformation, I am sharing with you my 5 essential steps to support you to help your baby, toddler or child to sleep through the night.

Daylight

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You may have heard it a thousand times before but exposing your child to natural daylight is without a doubt one of the most important steps to ensure they have a good night’s sleep. The reason for this is our sleep and awake times are triggered by light and darkness.

The hormone that wakes us up is called cortisol and the one that tells us to go to sleep is melatonin. In a regular circadian (daily) rhythm, at night our melatonin is high and cortisol is low at and in the morning our cortisol is high and our melatonin is low. It is daylight that triggers a surge of cortisol and darkness that tells our bodies to release melatonin.

However if you and your child are not sleeping through the night, then it is likely that this daily rhythm is all out of sync, so by exposing both of you to 20 minutes of daylight (preferably in the morning) then this will help to regulate sleep and awake cycles.

Room Temperature

It pains me that my husband was actually right about the ideal temperature of Oliver’s room, when he was born I had this motherly instinct that was telling me to keep him as warm as possible.

However, now that I am a certified Sleep Consultant I can tell you that this is not the safest or the most ideal thing to do to ensure a good night sleep. The safest and ideal temperature for sleep is 16-18 degrees. If you are thinking that this sounds rather chilly. It is actually better to turn off heating in bedrooms, keep the room temperature low and dress your child (and yourself) appropriately.

There are many conversations between parents as to how many layers to put on your child, the best way to know this is to feel their chest. If it is cold, then they do not have enough layers on and if they are clammy, they have too many.

Adequate Naps

It really is true that day and night time sleep are very much interlinked. Have you ever not slept and then been rushing around busy all day and found it difficult to fall and stay asleep? This is the same for children, it is because your cortisol (awake hormone) is high in order to keep you awake, yet it needs to be low in order to stay and fall asleep.

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Children who are sensitive sleepers need to have adequate and well timed naps in order for them to sleep through the night. Most children who are three and under require a day time nap, allowing them to get the recommended sleep for their age. To find out why sleep is important for a child's development here.

As children increase in age, their sleep requirements decrease, so for example an 8 month old would need significantly more sleep during the day compared to a 18 month old. As a nap guide (although all children are different, but this gives you an idea if your child is anywhere near their recommended day time sleep):

  • Children aged 4-7 months: 3-4 hours
  • Children aged 7-10 months: 3-3.5 hours
  • Children aged 10-12 months: 2.5-3.5 hours
  • Children aged 12-16 months: 2-3 hours
  • Children aged 16/18 months+ : Starts off at 2-2.5 hours and gradually decreases until the child is 2.5/3 years old

Anxiety Management

Equally as children get older their cognitive, emotional and social awareness is developing at such fast rates. For this reason, they start to experience separation anxiety which can be seen as early as 6 months.

Separation anxiety is a normal part of childhood, yet it is extremely frightening for young children especially during the night, which is probably why it is the biggest cause of sleep challenges. It isn’t a phase that can be avoided or prevented as it is a sign of a healthy child, but there are steps you can take to help your child through the peaks of it, each step varies depending on the age of the child.

One common separation anxiety strategy for all children is to make sure they have quality 1 to 1 time with you daily. It doesn’t matter if it is 15 minutes, as long as they have some time to play and be close to you where you can put aside your own daily worries of running a house or work.

For example, for a baby or young toddler playing games like peekaboo and talking to your child to tell them you are leaving the room and then coming back are very helpful. For older children of 3 and above, be sure to have fun time playing hide and seek as well as treasure hunts, this gives your child the opportunity to learn they are safe and secure without you.

Sleep Success Environment

 Kathryn Stimpson 😴Holistic Sleep Consultant

Kathryn Stimpson 😴Holistic Sleep Consultant

Lastly, but not least! It is important that your child’s bedroom or nursery is the most successful environment for sleep. The room should be neutral and non stimulating, for example plain walls, with minimal images/photos and where possible leave play to the communal areas.

The bedroom should be used for sleep only, with no blue light devices (e.g. mobile phone, TVs or tablets) and I would remove any projectors which just seem fascinating to little eyes. Giving your child a comforter to sleep with is also a good idea, as they will learn to take comfort from it during periods of being unsettled.

There are my five essential steps to helping your child to sleep through the night.

Of course, if you feel you have tried absolutely everything to help your little one to enjoy better sleep and you are totally fed up and exhausted, book your discovery session with me now to start getting your family’s sleep right back on track. 

To find out more, this is Kathryn's website: https://www.kathrynstimpson.com and her instagram is @honestly_mum :-)