Against All Odds – Dean Holden and Danielle Nicholls

Against All Odds – Dean Holden and Danielle Nicholls

Against All Odds: Danielle Nicholls and Dean Holden

By Lolo Stubbs, Editor-in-chief

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When TV presenter Danielle Nicholls married her childhood sweetheart and professional footballer Dean Holden, their life was as near to a fairytale as it gets. After a perfect wedding, Danielle became pregnant on their honeymoon, welcoming a beautiful boy Joey, with their second baby boy, Ellis, arriving only 18 months later. Then the loved up couple completed their family with the arrival of their eagerly awaited princess, Cici, just a few years later.

Life was crazy and chaotic,  just like so many families with three children under five, but it was full to the brim with love. After taking a few years away from the spotlight to concentrate on being a mum, Danielle was ready to return to our screens. Following a successful meeting with a TV Producer, everything was lined up for her comeback. Danielle couldn’t wait to reignite her career, and she was all set for the next stage following a family holiday to Lanzarote. That excitement was soon to become a distant memory though, as no-one could have imagined that what should have been a fun filled family holiday, would have turned into every parent’s worst nightmare. Only 24 hours after leaving Manchester Airport, the loving couple tragically lost their beloved baby girl Cici, who was only 18 months old, to Meningococcal Septicemia – a bacterial infection which causes blood poisoning, leading to sepsis.

Danielle Nicholls, Dean Holden and their family

Danielle Nicholls, Dean Holden and four of their children © BROOD Magazine

Danielle and Dean bravely opened up about how they managed to keep going through the unimaginable heartbreak; the emotional scars they were left with; how they stayed together despite the statistics being stacked against them; how they welcomed another two wonderful children, Mitzy and Chase, into their family, and how against all odds they continued to build an incredible life for themselves and their children – continually honouring the memory of their beautiful baby girl, Cici, along the way.

You’ll find it hard to find a more inspirational couple. Their outlook on life and how they strive to achieve their goals for themselves and their children would motivate anyone.

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Danielle Nicholls, Dean Holden and four of their children © BROOD Magazine

You both had successful careers when you first started a family, how did that look and how did you manage that?   

Dean – “Because of our careers things have always been a bit chaotic, and we’ve always had to commute lots. When we got married I was playing for Peterborough, so I was commuting there half the week from our home in Manchester, and Danielle was travelling throughout the week to London, Birmingham etc.”

Danielle – “I was progressing in my career at the time. I had moved away from Children’s TV and I was doing bits on This Morning and Tricia, and I was also presenting Night Fever on Channel 5. I was still working when I was heavily pregnant with our first child Joey. Then New Years Eve – the tree was still up – and I was ready to pop, Dean comes home from training at Peterborough and says we’re moving to Scotland!”

Dean – “Yes, she was 8 months pregnant, it was the night before a match, and my manager knocked on the door and said, the Scottish Premier League are coming for you, you’re free to talk to them.”

Danielle – “I’ve never been as angry in my life! [she laughs] You know what it’s like with your first baby you plan everything to a tee, then the next thing you know I was packing up the whole house with my sister and brother in law, and we were on our way to Scotland!”

Dean – “Then 18 months after Joey was born we had Ellis, and it wasn’t long after he was born that we moved back to Manchester.”

Danielle – “Yes, and I loved my boys, but I remember thinking I’m way too girly to have boys, I need a girl! [she laughs] So a couple of years later, we tried again, and we were so lucky to get our little princess, Cici. I said, ‘we’ve two boys and a girl. We’re done now!’ We were happy with that. Then when the boys were starting school and Cici was nearly 18 months old, I decided that I was ready to go back to work. Dean was playing for Shrewsbury, we had Media City on our doorstep and we were back in Manchester with our family. So it just felt like the right time.

So I had a meeting with a producer at the BBC, and we were in talks for me to do some work on BBC Bitesize, to get me back into things again. Which was great, but I said well I’m going on holiday next week and he said, ‘You go on your holidays, and I’ll see you when you get back.’ Of course that didn’t happen because Cici died on that holiday.”

I can’t even begin to imagine how devastating the loss of Cici was and how traumatic that was for you all as a family. 

Danielle – “It sounds silly, but I’ve always been quite a spiritual person and I used to get my palm read and they would always say I had a split lifeline. And remember one lady saying, ‘You’re going to really change; you’re going to be one person and then you’re going to be another person.’ And it always puzzled me, but now I know exactly what she means. Because, I don’t think either of us will ever be the same as we were before Cici died. We actually talk about the ‘old Danielle and Dean’, as if they’re different people. Don’t we? [Turns to Dean] Because of what they went through…”

Dean – “…Yeah, we feel sorry for them.”

Danielle – “When I look back, you know, we had our two beautiful boys, our little princess – we didn’t have loads of money, because I had been a stay at home mum for a while – but we didn’t need the flash car and all the trimmings, all we needed was what we had right there.”

Dean – “I think one of the weirdest things was that although I’d just been released by Rochdale, it was the happiest we’d ever been.

And when we go on holiday, it’s chaotic. It always was chaos, every time! The taxi would turn up and we’d be racing round the house, and we would always get to the airport late!”

Danielle – “We’re never organised! We’re always last minute.”

Dean – “Yeah, but that was the strange thing, we were early that time. We were sitting having a brew in the living room, waiting for the taxi. Everything was really calm.”

Danielle – “He kept saying it’s all too smooth this.”

Dean – “And obviously, by the next morning in Lanzarote, Cici passed away. Now when anything is calm and organised with us, it makes me panicky and I start to worry, it’s like a trigger.”

Danielle – “Yes, we obviously both had PTSD after what happened. You know. The trauma of the speed of it. The upset. Being in a foreign country, it was just, I can’t put it into words. She just had a cold, or so we thought, you know. I can still remember her playing in the soft play area in Terminal 1. Everyone was laughing and smiling, looking at her, because she was running up and down carrying one of the soft play blocks over her head.

They’ve moved it now, but for the longest time could never ever go over that side of the airport, because that was the day before she died. You just can’t get your head around that.

I would rather live in the a scene of a horror movie everyday of my life, being chased by someone with a chainsaw or a machete, than to ever have to live that day ever again! It felt like we were in a horror movie.

I remember following the ambulance in a taxi – they wouldn’t let us in the ambulance, because they were trying to save her life. We just knew it was bad, didn’t we? [Turns to Dean] I think we left our body, when you’re that frightened you do just leave your body, because I can remember everything so vividly, yet it doesn’t feel like it was me.”

Dean – “I think for a long time after we just survived. Obviously you have to look after yourself to some extent because of our kids. And then the realisation hit us, that we didn’t want the kids to grow up with parents who are always sad. You know, we didn’t want them to think, they were ok until Cici died, but then they became alcoholics or they split up, etc, because the stats are against you and if you look at the internet in terms of that – it’s a bit of a scary place. So, we went the other way  and we made a decision to make a go of our lives.

For a long time we couldn’t have spoken about it like this, but the physiological work we’ve done is the reason we can. We’ve done all sorts of things to get here – for example, I’m a big fan of Wim Hof. To learn about your brain and how it deals with trauma is really helpful and now we are in a position where hopefully people can look at us 12 years on, and it gives people hope. Yes, we’ve got a tragic story, but we are still together. Although we have had our issues and it has been difficult at times, but we’re still here – together. We’re doing well in our careers, our kids are happy and healthy, so hopefully it provides some inspiration for others that may have experienced losing a child too, or another trauma.”

Danielle –  “Yes, that’s definitely what we hope we can do, because there is no point saying it doesn’t affect you. I feel like I was a ghost for ten years of my life, and just to be able to talk about the day was a huge step for me. I couldn’t ever talk about it, it would make me feel ill for a week afterwards.I had to have hypnotherapy and that doesn’t fix it, it just means you don’t emotionally go back there every time.” 

The pain you were suffering at that time must have been excruciating, did having the boys to look after help you to keep going?

Danielle – “Yes. If we didn’t have the boys, we wouldn’t be here now. After Cici died, just a few days after, we sat on the edge of a cliff, and we just looked at each other. We both knew what we were thinking, without saying a word to each other. If it wasn’t for knowing that our boys were back at the villa, [both Danielle and Dean become emotional]  I swear that neither of us would be here today. The pain was physical. It’s unimaginable. Unbearable.”

Dean, do you remember that first football match after Cici died?

Dean – “I didn’t have a club at the time, I was 33 years old, I didn’t have an agent and so I spent my summer ringing round clubs. Dean Smith at Walsall was my saviour. He was like our angel, because most managers would have said, you’re 33, you’ve had loads of injuries etc, and Dean said, ‘I’m really worried about your family situation’ – it was only a few weeks after Cici had died – and he said he couldn’t make a decision on it straight away. So I started doing meditation twice a day, going to see a psychologist, etc and he gave me an opportunity as a player/coach and I wouldn’t be in the game without him. And from then on I was just programmed to make him proud. And pre-season is ridiculously hard, any footballer will tell you that, so I had to focus. We hadn’t made anywhere near enough money for me to retire, it’s not like people may think. We had no savings, we lived day to day, so I had no choice, and I wasn’t prepared to lose my career, or my marriage, or for our family to suffer anymore, on top of losing my daughter. There was just something inside me, and I had to keep thinking this isn’t going to break us.

That’s obviously how I got into coaching, and now I’m a manager. I have always loved football, for as long as I can remember. Every memory as a kid involves football and I never thought I would love anything as much as I love playing football, but the manager eclipses that, I absolutely love it. When your team wins a match it’s a great feeling. I also think when you go into management and you’ve had experiences personally that you would never ever choose in a million years, it helps you to empathise in a way that the coaching courses can’t teach you.”

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Danielle, at what point did you know that you needed to start working on your career again and how important do you think it has been for you?

Danielle – “It was covid. Dean had got a great manager’s job at Bristol, and I’m not going to lie I was a bit jealous, because he was off living the dream and because of covid there were a lot of restrictions and so most of the time I was at home with the children. And I had started doing online gaming, as a way of switching off, but also as a way of spending time and having fun with my teenage boys. Then my brother said we should start streaming and suppose that gave me a little taster, although it wasn’t what I wanted to do and then when the lockdowns hit I genuinely had a bit of a midlife crisis. I had gotten to the point where I didn’t know who I was anymore. It sounds so cliche, but I was suddenly like ‘I’m Dean’s wife, I’m the kids’ mum, but who am i?’ and I can remember my mum saying it when I was younger, but it’s so true. It turns out I was also going through perimenopause and it really is a difficult period in a woman’s life. On top of that I lost access to the support groups that had kept me going and I couldn’t go to the gym, or see friends and my mental health really started to suffer. And I got to the stage where I looked at Dean and my kids – and I’ve only ever loved my kids – but I just felt like I wanted to walk away from it all. Thankfully, because I had done so much work over the years, I found myself observing myself and thinking – what is going on here? I love being a mum, I love being a wife. I love my husband, I love my kids, what is wrong with me? But then it was almost like a phoenix from the flames moment, because sometimes when everything falls to shit, you should grab that moment, because that is your moment to reinvent yourself and that’s what I did! So I sorted out my hormones. I realised I had lost myself and I needed to do something about it.”

Dean – “Danielle getting her career back saved our marriage.”

What challenges did you face, in terms of getting back into the world of TV?

Danielle – “I met with an agent and she said ‘You’re on the wrong side of 40 love, you’ve got no chance, you won’t work in TV again!’

And I asked her how old she was. She said 52, and I said to her so the last 10 years have been non existent to you? And she replied by saying, ‘yes well I’ve never stopped working though, you can’t do what you’ve done and then just come back!’ Like it was a luxury, or choice! And I said, ‘I don’t expect to just waltz back in. And I also intended to come back to this years ago!’ But, with TV presenting you’ve got to give a part of you and I couldn’t sit there, putting a front on, knowing that inside I was still a big mess. So, I had to take that time to figure stuff out. Dean was my hero, [Danielle holds back the tears] because he never stopped working, he never took that time to heal – he didn’t get the chance because he had to support us and those kids, and I don’t know how he did it.”

Dean – “I was going to an event, near the shard in London, and Danielle came with me and she bumped into an old colleague from CITV, who was now working at Talk TV as a producer and he asked her if she wanted to come on the show the next day as a guest. And we were actually due to go on holiday the next day, but the opportunity was just what she needed so I went on holiday with kids on my own.”

Danielle – “People are reluctant to take a chance on you when you’ve not done anything for a while, but you can’t do anything until someone gives you a chance and Chuck, was my angel.”

Dean – “And now she’s got her own Saturday night show!” 

You both have an amazing drive to keep going towards your goals and dreams despite the challenges you may face? How do you maintain that level of motivation?

Dean – “The thing is nothing is handed to you on a plate. We grew up in Swinton in Manchester and we worked hard to get to somewhere in our careers and we want to instil that message into our kids. But you do get knocks, setbacks  along the way, like when I was playing for Bolton, Everton put a bid in for me, but on that same day I broke my leg. I lost a 1cm and a half off my leg bone. I was 19 and was never the same player again. I’ve broken my leg three times – and never had a free kick for any of them by the way [he laughs] and so I lost about 5 or 6 years of my career in the end. But, I made the most of my career, I played till I was 35, despite it not being the career I dreamt I would have had in football. The key to all of it, which I truly believe in my heart is when we found true gratitude and that takes a long time, but when you can wake up in the morning and go to sleep every night and just be grateful to the universe for what you’ve got, it’s a magical thing because it takes away all the feeling sorry for yourself. Cici was a blessing and for a long time I would have done anything to erase my memories because it was just so painful, I would have lost all the love and everything just to lose the pain, but now I can look at it differently.”

Danielle – “It’s so hard to wake up with a positive attitude when you’ve spent 10 years waking up to remember that your child has died. Every Chrsitmas, every birthday, someone is missing, and you learn to live with the sadness and the pain, but it never goes away. You never wake up being ok with the fact she’s gone, but wake up knowing it’s ok to carry on, that’s what you learn.”

Dean – “I got sacked three days ago, and that’s hard to deal with, but no pain will ever compare to what we’ve been through, so It’s just wasted oxygen feeling angry about stuff. Obviously when it happened, the first night I was upset and angry, and we talked it through. But,then I was like, right, how can I move forward, who can I surround myself with to get back in the business. I know that phone will ring and i’ll be back in the game.”

Danielle – “I think people need to talk more about what they’re going through. We’ve got our trauma yes, but I think most people are walking around harbouring some kind of trauma and we need to feel able to be more open about it. That’s why I love doing Talk TV, because they allow the discussions and the debates. People don’t need the portrayal of this perfect picture anymore. They need realness. People need to be able to talk about how hard it is trying to balance their careers alongside bringing up the kids, and to balance living with trauma and going through the knocks of life on top of that, and I feel lucky to be in the position that I can vocalise that.” 

Both of your careers have meant that you have had to split your time between London and Manchester recently. With all 4 children in school in Manchester how have you managed to juggle it all?

“It’s absolutely chaotic at times. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t completely shattered sometimes. But, it’s been a juggle. I’ve been so exhausted, but so content, so it’s completely worth it. Thankfully we’ve got good family and friends, who we know we can count on for support. Luckily we’re at a nice stage where the oldest is able to look after our youngest – only for short periods of time but he’s perfectly capable. The older ones are so good with the younger ones. And when the kids have to pitch in I say to them, we’re a family, we’re a team, we work together and if we all help each other we’ll all benefit in the long run. We are both doing what we love doing and that’s so important.”

UPDATE MAY 2024:

Since this interview Dean was appointed as assistant manager for Saudi Pro League club Al-Ettifaq, alongside the teams Manager Steven Gerrard. Danielle shared a little insight as to how chaotic it’s been for the family since, in BROOD Edition 3’s BROOD Moments.

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Mum of two, TV-star, entrepreneur, wellness expert and property developer, Lucy Mecklenburgh, knows all too well the juggle of running a business alongside bringing up two young children, Roman 3 and Lilah, 18 months. Each week she is spinning a variety of different plates from boardroom meetings developing her renowned fitness app RWL – (which has been hailed as ‘the world’s most comprehensive online fitness and nutrition app’) to bringing together her loyal community by hosting retreats abroad. Alongside RWL, Lucy also works with many different brands such as developing her own clothing lines, creating content for social media plus she is also building an impressive portfolio as a property developer. As both Lucy and her fiancé (well-loved actor Ryan Thomas) are both self-employed, no two weeks are ever the same, and with that, comes the added pressure that so many of us face day-to-day. We sat down with Lucy to chat about how she manages everything from the strains of running a business, to mum guilt and how having children inspired her to change the focus of her whole app. Lucy is incredibly down to earth, and very humble and it’s an absolute pleasure to have Lucy as our Edition 2 cover star.

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Tell me what your weekly work-juggle looks like?

“There’s always lots to do for my wellness app – which is 10 years old now, and I’ve also got the wellness treats that I work on, they’re new. Creating content for social media is a huge part of my job now. Whether that be for my app, or for brands that I work with. Doing photoshoots and attending events are as well. That’s kind of my juggle on a weekly basis workwise. Sounds quite a lot when you say it out loud! [She laughs]”

At what point in your career did you become a mum and how did you find that transition?

“Do you know what, I was at a really nice point in my career actually. I was late twenties – which was actually a lot younger than I thought I was going to be. I’d had my app for a long time, it was going really well, and I had got to the point where I was really happy with it and loved everyone I was working with. I had done a few TV shows and then me and Ryan met whilst we were doing the Bear Grylls show – which was probably one of biggest challenges to date, apart from having children! [We laugh] And I was very happy, moving behind the scenes into the business world a little bit more, then I fell pregnant. Having my kids changed my business in a huge way! We had a very small part of the app dedicated to pre and post-natal and now that is a massive part of RWL. I can remember looking at it as soon as I had a baby and just realising immediately that the existing structured-part of the app for post-natal, needed to go. I was like, ‘There shouldn’t be any pressure to work out three times a week and do this and follow this etc. I want there to be loads of information on there that offers information on sleep, mental health, breast feeding. I want there to be support and a community within the app so that people can talk to each other and share in their journeys.’ We have Midwifes, Doctors on there, and that came from me googling things at 2am and getting overwhelmed with information. I wanted a platform that I could trust – so I created it! And now it’s a huge part of the business that I’m really passionate about, and I’m really proud of that.”

What has been your career highlight to date?

“Oh gosh, that is so hard! I think actually getting my fitness app to 10 years was a huge moment for me, because it’s not easy – running a business is not easy and there has been so many highs and lows over the last 10 years within the business, so reaching that point was a huge milestone. I think especially as people would think, ‘Oh it’s just another celebrity fitness fad’ – particularly in the early days and actually I’ve seen a lot of brands come and go but we’ve stuck it out and we’ve got years’ experience now. We didn’t always make the right decisions over the years, but you learn from that and I’m really proud of it. It’s not been easy, it never is but if you stick at something and you work hard then you can make a success of it. Also, to branch out into to doing the retreats abroad and bringing that community together was really important too.”

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What has been the biggest challenge that you have had to overcome since having a business?

“I think accepting that every decision that you make isn’t going to be the right one and being ok with that. Like at first when I made decisions that didn’t work out, I would find it really hard to accept that, but as I’ve moved forward I can reflect and go – ‘It didn’t work out for this reason and I learnt a lesson.’ And actually all the things that go wrong when you start a business are actually the best things to happen to you, because you’re better doing it then, rather than five years down the line because you learn so much. So yes, learning to accept the mistakes that you make and then turning them around into a positive, realising that everything that happened has happened for a reason.”

What have you found the hardest thing about being a parent?

“I really struggled with the early days. Maybe more so as Roman was my first and a lockdown baby. I think its because you’re going from what is a selfish life – we don’t realise it but we all do whatever it is that we want and you only have to think about yourself and then all of a sudden you’re have this amazing thing given to you and your totally responsible for and suddenly everything revolves around them. You suddenly think – ‘What was I doing with all my time before I had children!’ [We laugh in agreement] I just found it really tough. Also, Roman was quite poorly and so I would also say the worry of being a mum was something that I hadn’t prepared for, and I think that it probably the hardest thing about becoming a parent. You have that worry because you love them more than anything you’ve ever loved in your life before.” [Roman was diagnosed with an unsafe swallow.] I think that the fact people don’t talk enough about how hard it is – especially that first 6 months – is really tough. Even at 6 months I remember thinking with Roman, ‘God, this is still really hard and I’m not feeling completely fulfilled.’ And then you start thinking, ‘why am I not feeling fulfilled ‘just as a mum’. And actually, being a mum is the hardest job in the world and we crave adult conversations and work environments and I think that’s really normal and natural. I think you need good friends around you, like I remember ringing my friend one day and saying, ‘I’m really bored! I’m watching Peppa Pig on repeat, I’m washing and ironing.’ It just felt like Groundhog Day every day and actually I needed to make a decision to change that, to reach out for help; share more between me and Ryan; to arrange some childcare so that I had some time for me – whether that was in a work capacity or meeting friends for coffee, you need that. I don’t think that day in day out ‘just being a mum’ wouldn’t work for me.”

Mum guilt is something that most people encounter in one way or another, what has your experience of Mum guilt and how have you dealt with it?

“Hugely! I remember going to work, quite early on – because I had my own business you see so I didn’t get a maternity leave as such and also I really missed it, and I really wanted to get back in and see what was going on because I have to run a business, and I can remember going in for a day and feeling like an awful person because I wasn’t pining for my child. I felt guilty for not worrying and missing my child. I can remember thinking this is ridiculous. We’re so hard on ourselves, if my friend would have said that to me, I would have said, ‘Well that’s good, you’ve been to work, your brain has been focused on other things and then you’ll go back to your child thinking I can’t wait to see them!’ But I felt so guilty. I think just being busy – I’ll have a week where I’m really busy with work and I always feel like I need to let them stay up an extra hour before bed, because I feel guilty because I’ve not seen them as much as I would have wanted to. Unfortunately, I think – especially for us women – because I’m sure Dad guilt exists but you don’t really hear of that as much, but the phrase Mum guilt is used so much and I feel like whatever we do whether we’re a working mum, whether we stay at home, or whether we do a bit of both, whatever we do there’s always going to be that guilt and that pressure put on us. You can’t wait.”

Do you think that pressure comes from ourselves, or societal pressures, or a bit of both?  

“I think it’s society and us. I think society can be too quick to deem things either right or wrong when actually we all just need to support each other more. Even like childcare, everyone has an opinion on childcare, when actually a lot of the time the mums and the dads have to go back to work, they don’t have a choice they have to, so they need childcare. But even if its not down to needing to go back to work, its that they want to that’s ok. Having childcare in place is absolutely ok and actually my son absolutely loves nursery, and he does way-more in a day than I could ever think up for him!”

Becoming a parent changes your life so dramatically that its can be easy to feel like you have lost of identity, did you experience that feeling at any point?

“Oh 100% you do lose your identity. I can remember thinking one day, ‘When was the last time I put make up on, I’ve not got out of my joggers or pyjamas for weeks – and that was probably even worse than it would have been because of covid – but me and Ryan tried to make an effort so that I would feel like myself, so we would do date night every other Friday for example. We have this thing now that we call a mini reset, where we look at what is working and not working in our week, what can we do to make this situation better? For example, childcare – what’s working and what’s not working, and what can we do differently. It gives us an opportunity to say, well next week I need to make time for this – be that going for a walk on our own, or to get a coffee etc. We try and plan our weeks as much as possible because our lives are so crazy and we don’t have a 9-5 job, the mini resets really work for us, and it helps us to improve our lives. Everyday is a real juggle and when you are putting your children first, it can be hard to make sure you get what you need out of your week as well, there never seems to be enough hours in the day to fit everything in!”

We usually ask what tips you would give to other parents, do you think that is your number tip?

“Yes, I would say the mini resets, but just communication too – with your partner and people around you. That could be your mum or your mother-in-law, and you could say to them ‘this is what would be helpful for me this week. I think communication is so important and when you have kids you have to have that, you really do.”

How easy have you found asking for help? We all put ourselves under so much pressure, sometimes reaching out for help can feel like admitting defeat – that we can’t do it all. How did you find that?

“I think society puts so much pressure on us and you look on Instagram and you see everyone’s houses that supposedly look perfect and clean, I can tell you now, that there will be a pile of clothes behind the camera, and that it’s been placed at a perfectly placed angle to hide it! [We laugh] I’m guilty of doing it as well, because we try and live up to this expectation that we should be making sure that everything is picture perfect. I love that there is a change in social media though now because its real life is being normalised. There are people doing funny reals that are showing the reality of everyday scenarios that we can all relate to, and you find yourself going, ‘Oh my god, I’m so glad she thinks that as well, or she has to deal with that as well.’ I love that people are normalising the mundane and stressful parts of parenthood too. I think sometimes you wait until you’re at rock bottom before you ask for help, and it doesn’t need to be that way. I remember calling my mum once and admitting that I was really struggling and that I needed help, and of course she was straight around! I think it is really hard to ask for help though, especially when you’re a new mum.”

Do you think the same applies in business too, that it can be hard to admit that you need help as we feel the need to portray success?

“Yes, I think so. I’m 10 years into my business, it’s not been plain sailing, I’ve made lots of mistakes and that’s ok. Anyone who’s in business knows that it’s really, hard work and there’s going to be loads of things that come along to challenge you. But you shouldn’t feel embarrassed by that because you can grow from that and make better decisions going forward because you’ve learnt a lesson. It’s a bit like life in general, you have to grow certain things to grow, and it’s those things that make your stronger in business and as a person. And I couldn’t do it at the beginning but now I could for help if I needed it. Learning to delegate is a skill, to trust someone else to take care of things in your business can be really hard, but you learn that you aren’t always the best person to deal with everything and actually someone else can do a much better job, so you learn to trust them and let them get on with it.”

Did you feel more pressure to ‘snap back’ after having a baby and being in the public eye, as well as having a fitness app, and how did you deal with that?

“I think everyone presumed that I would be really small, really quickly but actually as soon as I had Roman, I didn’t care – I did not care! And I thought I really would, and I had put on 4 stone whilst I was pregnant and he was a big baby, but he wasn’t 4 stone, that would have been a hard if he was! [She laughs] But I thought I would really care but I didn’t. I had such little sleep, and I just was really kind to myself. I decided to just wait and then start to move once I felt ready, and I thought I would have had that 6 week check and be straight back to training, when actually I didn’t start training again until Roman was 6 months old. And I would always say to say anyone, please don’t put yourself under any pressure you’ve just done a huge thing. I mean obviously I would say please look after yourself in terms of eating good to make sure your well in all aspects, but if you’re not ready to train and you’re exhausted then it doesn’t matter. I’m a lot kinder to my body since having children. A healthy body is a lot more important than achieving this so-called view of perfection in any way possible! My biggest concern used to be my appearance, now it’s about making sure I’m as healthy as possibly so that I can be around for as long as possible for the kids. And being a healthy role for the children is massively important, and that goes past trying to encourage them to eat healthy food, it’s about how you talk about food and how you talk about your body in front of them. I would never talk about my body in negative way in front of my children. I don’t ever want Lilah to her me say, ‘I’m not going to eat that because I’m on a diet’ and so many people do without fully realising they are even doing it or understand the damage that can do to a child in the future. I think the best way to promote good health is by encouraging them to be active in a way that they enjoy.” 

And to end our interview on positive, what do you love most about being a parent?

“I think just all those proud moments. Like today when someone has said to me, ‘You should be so proud of Roman, he’s got amazing manners, he’s such a funny character’ and I started welling up. I think that being proud of them and watching them grow – there’s no feeling like it. As much as there is all the worry and all the other stuff, it’s all completely worth it! [She pauses] But I don’t want anymore! [We all laugh]”

Lucy Mecklenburg
IMAGES COPYRIGHT OF BROOD MAGAZINE LIMITED ©
Simon Wood
Written by Lolo Stubbs
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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Inspiring and honest Interview with Karina Jadhav & Ben Wilkinson: “I’m still finding it really hard to juggle!”

Inspiring and honest Interview with Karina Jadhav & Ben Wilkinson: “I’m still finding it really hard to juggle!”

Karina Jadhav & Ben Wilkinson

Inspiring & Honest Interview: “I’m still finding it really hard to juggle” 

By Lolo Stubbs, Editor-in-chief

__________________________________

Inspirational entrepreneur and Mum of two, Karina Jadhav, has continually made waves in the business and hospitality world over the last decade; after first stepping into the hospitality industry in 2010, as a bartender and as a waitress. Then, after years of successfully building businesses, from a food truck to award winning restaurants, Karina has firmly cemented a name for herself within the notoriously challenging sector.  In 2015, Karina embarked on her biggest career achievement to date when she launched Menagerie Restaurant and bar, making her the north west’s youngest independent female business owner.

Menagerie immediately stood out with its innovative concept, dazzling interiors, amazing menu and immersive entertainment, quickly making it Manchester’s hottest restaurant, and attracting international celebrities including Justin Timberlake, Perrie Edwards and many more.  When Karina met her husband Ben Wilkinson – the Manager of Manchester City Under 18’s squad – Karina’s passion for her career and business was all consuming, before the couple went on to have their two children – who it’s clear to see have completely stolen their hearts!

Ben led his Manchester City Under 18’s squad to a historic Premier League National title win in his first season as head coach; carving out a name for himself in the world of football. Ben, a former professional footballer, was submerged into the world of football, from an early age, as his father is the legendary football manager, Howard Wilkinson, and Ben was just five years old when he watched his father lift the league title at Leeds United, so Ben knows all too well the impact of watching your parents achieve their goals, and how much that can inspire and influence our children.

So, we sat down with this impressive and extremely humble couple – after a fun, slightly chaotic, and very entertaining photoshoot with their adorable boys, Henry 4, and Beau 21 months, to find out just how they manage to juggle the pressures of having such successful and demanding careers,  alongside bringing up their beautiful brood! Ben had to dash off straight after the shoot to take Henry to school, and joined us again to chat as we were putting the world to rights with Karina, with Beau pottering around the studio with us. 

Ben Wilkinson and Karina Jadhav

Ben Wilkinson, Karina Jadhav and their children  © Tom Pitfield Photography for BROOD Magazine

BROOD LIVE

At what point in your career did you become a parent and how did you find that transition?

Karina – “I became a mum way into my career – when my career was my entire life! And I had kind of got to the point where it was like, ‘Right it’s now or never. If I don’t make the decision to do this, it’s never going to happen for me’. And I never really knew how it was actually going to work out, because my career was so consuming. But I think that the universe always has a plan, because we went into lockdown when Henry, my first child, was only 6 months old. So everything stopped and that meant that I got time with him that I wasn’t going to have. Which was obviously not great for the world, or for the business, but for us as a family it meant that we had a lot of quality time together that was really, really special. I say that so reluctantly because for so many people it wasn’t great. But because the hospitality industry is just not an industry that is set up for women to have children, I was really grateful to get that time.”

Of course, the hours are long and classed as unsociable hours in hospitality. How have you found balancing family life and work life since the pandemic ended and things have returned back to normal?

Karina -“I’m still finding it really hard to juggle. How to keep the restaurant where it needs to be, and to put myself into it the way in which I need to be. It’s supposed to be a party venue. It’s very vibrant. It’s open until late into the night and at the same time I’ve had two children that have had a lot of health issues, and don’t sleep well, and so I’ve been sleep deprived for years and they are up between 5 and 6am every morning – actually if they sleep until 6am that is a lie in and we have the biggest celebration ever! [She laughs] So I’m still trying to figure everything out and it’s a constant daily juggle…it’s just chaos basically, [she laughs] constant chaos! And I don’t know if I’m doing a great job at either thing really. [She lets out a slight sigh] I just try and take each day as it comes really.”

You most definitely are doing a great job, but I think we all feel like that at times. You are running an amazing business, and you have two adorable little boys! How different was it for when you had Beau, your second child as obviously we weren’t in lockdown then. Did you manage to take any time to have some form of maternity?

“Well, I had made this huge plan, I made a calendar in advance. I planned everything in the lead up to my c-section – as I had to have a c-section with Beau, and I had such a bad birth with Henry that I was actually terrified in the lead up; I redid my will – I know that sounds crazy, but I was so scared! So I did as much planning as I could and everything was in place, and I had actually booked a night nanny – which is like crazy now when I think about it, because I don’t know what I was thinking, but I had this idea because my friend had a night nanny and it had worked for her because she had twins, and I just thought well, ‘I’ve got Henry who doesn’t sleep, I’ve got the business and I’m going have a newborn too!’ But anyway, when Beau was 3 weeks old he developed sepsis, so we ended up in hospital with him for a week and he was so, so lucky because he was given the right treatment straight away. He had a course of really strong antibiotics, but then as he was coming out of hospital he started with something called bronchiolitis – well that’s what they said it was and it wasn’t. He was constantly vomiting every time he had a bottle of milk. Long story short, everything I had planned went to pot, so I had a maternity leave of sorts, but it wasn’t what I had planned and hoped my maternity leave would look like. And since then I’ve been trying to claw back all the mess that had happened within the business whilst I was away from it, because I was completely absent and that had just never happened before. It was just one of those times in your life where you have to choose what is your top priority, and obviously your baby is always going to take priority. I didn’t really care about anything else and I just thought I’ll figure that out later. But cleaning up the mess after everything had calmed down with Beau’s health and getting back into the business was really hard, because it was a shambles. I feel like I’m still kind of tidying that up now and he’s nineteen months old.”

Ben Wilkinson & Karina Jadhav Menarie and MCFC

Karina Jadhav & Ben Wilkinson images © Tom Pitfield Photography for BROOD Magazine

Sarah Jayne Dunn Brood

“I’ve always been a massive perfectionist and since having children, I’ve had to try and let go of that. “

Luxury Outdoor Furniture

That must have been so tough, nothing is worse than seeing your child poorly, and on top of that your business had been your baby for so long it must have been very hard.

Karina – “Yes, in the past I would have been sending emails at 2am in the morning, because I really felt that by being a female in that industry, that I had to keep trying new tactics to keep people on their toes, so that they would take me more seriously – at least that’s what I thought I was doing at the time. And so I was so used to that 24/7 way of life, that then having children, I found it very difficult and obviously I couldn’t maintain that. It was just all consuming! I’ve always been a massive perfectionist and since having children, I’ve had to try and let go of that. I actually said to Ben this morning that I’ve realised I’ve become a much calmer person, because I’ve realised that there’s so much you can’t control. That applies with the kids and in the business. I keep saying to myself I can only do my best, and that can be really hard for somebody who likes everything just so.” 

What do you think is one of the hardest things about being a working parent, specifically being a parent who runs their own business?

Karina – “I think the hardest part of being a working parent, especially running a business, is finding the time to do your work. I find myself sometimes really resenting my work as I want to be able to spend more time with my kids, but then when I’m with the kids 24/7 I really miss work! It kind of feels like one big contradiction and I almost always find myself feeling like I should be doing something different to what I am actually doing at that time. When I go to bed at night I find myself feeling bad about all the things I haven’t done or that I feel I’ve not done well enough on. It’s very overwhelming at times – I’m really not selling this am I? [We laugh]

And as I’ve gotten older I’ve learnt a lot about how my brain works. I’m a really, really creative person and I’m also very analytical, but I have to be in the right frame of mind for one or the other, and that’s really hard because when you’ve got kids you’re given an allotted amount of time where you might have to work, but you might get interrupted and I can’t get into that head space, just because it’s like ‘Right I better do that now!’ If I’m not in that head space, I just can’t switch that on. So, I always have to do the work when I’m inspired to do so and then I become possessed. I keep saying it’s hard, but it’s not necessarily that it’s hard, it’s more that it’s not organised, and I guess that’s life when running your own business alongside having two small children! It’s just a constant juggle and trying to figure things out as you go along!” 

[Ben joins us again after taking Henry to school]

The Padel Club
Sarah Jayne Dunn, The Padel Club Wilmslow

Ben, just to catch up with you, at what point in your career did you become a dad and how did you find that transition?

Ben – “I became a dad during my second year at Manchester City. I’ve loved the transition, although it certainly has made life more challenging in terms of managing schedules and trying to keep all of the various plates spinning – I think that’s probably been the biggest challenge, but in terms of the other side of it, I’ve absolutely loved it. I’m just trying to be present, as becoming a dad is something I’ve absolutely loved and it’s taken centre stage in my life really.”

Karina obviously, we’ve discussed the challenges that come with running a business, but what would you say has been your career highlight to date?

Karina – “ I think the fact the business still going strong after 7 years, is my biggest career highlight, because before I opened this business hospitality was on a complete high, it was at its peak, and people thought it was easy and people were opening places left right and centre, that are no longer open and we’re really weathered the storm. I mean we’re in a recession and having an independent business when there are big London brands coming to Manchester and opening all the time, that can bring its challenges. But I’m really proud of how we keep evolving, we keep up the moment and the creativity that we need to keep people coming back. I’m also really proud of how the team stays with us, that we have a high staff retention rate too. The fact that I have an amazing team of people that I like, and trust is a massive achievement for me, as well as managing to stay open and ticking over – and even though it’s not maybe a glossy, glamourous career highlight, I feel like that’s huge!

Sarah Jayn Dunn, Lux Sol & Padel Club

“I think you need to be kind to yourself and others, and not be so quick to judge other people’s situations.”

Ben, being a football coach is renowned for being high pressure, how do you manage to switch off from that  and go into dad mode when you’re at home?

Ben – “I’m lucky actually with the job I’m in at the moment for a job in Football, we tend to get most Sundays off and something in the week which allows me to spend quality time with the boys and i feel like in those moments i can be really present. ,           

Karina – “Ben’s job is perfect for our family. And we think it’s really important for him to just enjoy this job and focus on that rather than look to try and move into first team management at this time, because if he took a job abroad or somewhere else in the UK as a first team manager then we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. I know I would really struggle.”

Ben – “Yeah, I think I’m really aware of what does come next. I am studying for my Pro Licence at the moment and there’s a module on current problems In the workplace and probably 50-60% of the people who are on the courses are managing a first team, and they all talk about work life balance and how they really struggle with it. I have witnessed it myself,      especially as you’re not always blessed to have a job that’s close to home, then you have to move your family, and it often involves travelling, so we’ve spoken about it loads.  I’m really blessed to be at City it’s an amazing place to work and learn, and in terms of growing my knowledge and skill set there’s no better place to be.  I think people can be too quick to jump to the next thing, and always thinking right what’s next, but I’m really enjoying what I’m doing and I feel content with where I am.”

Karina – “It’s so nice for the kids as well, they do loads of stuff for families. I do look at his job and I envy it at times, because mine is so chaotic and Ben’s job is so orderly. [She laughs]”

What impact has becoming parents had on your relationship? There’s so much to navigate through, it can be really challenging to remember to give time to being a couple. How have you found that side of becoming a parent? 

Ben – “I think it’s just different. We’re lucky that we’re on the same page. With everything that you have to manage daily, we are always on the page as to what we should prioritise, so that really helps in a relationship.”

Karina- “I always say to Ben, I’m so glad that the universe sent you to me, because it was like he was just plonked right in front of me and honestly having children     , I don’t think I would have coped if we weren’t the team that we are. Especially as we’ve had so many health issues with Henry, it’s pushed us even closer together. I think prior to having kids we did whatever we wanted to do, and then you have a kid and it’s the biggest life change and it will either make you as a couple or it will break you. And with us it’s brought closer.”

Ben – “I think the fact that we’re both content in how our lives have changed and that we’re happy just sitting down in front of the tele and having a couple of hours together in the evening, really helps too. And it also helps that we’re both understanding if one of us has to open the laptop etc as well”.

Do you have stand out BROOD moments that you can share?

Karina – “Oh there are so many things that happen each week. But I was delivering a team meeting the other week and I was letting them know certain things that I wasn’t happy with. Listing things that needed to be better and all the while, Henry was shouting ‘Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!’ Totally undermining my assertive delivery!” [She laughs]  

Ben – “We were trying out one of them walking baby carrier chairs, the ones that you put on your shoulders, and we were taking a picture and Henry just started throwing up everywhere! So in the photo you just see me smiling with Henry in the carrier on my shoulders and then the sick coming out in stages and me ending up covered in sick!” {We all laugh]  

What do you think the benefits are of your children seeing you have a career that you’re passionate about?

Ben – “Henry is really proud of where we both work. And even though he’s only 4, he is really aware of what we do. If we’re in the car and anywhere near Spinningfields, he’ll say, ‘Are we going to Mummy’s restaurant?’ And he’s always telling people about Mummy’s restaurant. And he absolutely loves coming to city.     . Henry has just started to get into Football. In the last few weeks, he has wanted to play every day, loves putting his City kit on and has also started collecting stickers which he is really passionate about and does not let anyone near!! He also thinks anyone who has anything to do with football is my friend. [He laughs]

Karina – “Who is it that he thinks you are on the football cards?”

Ben – “He thinks I’m Kevin De Bruyne on the football cards. [We laugh] And I’ll take that all day!

What advice would you give other parents who are following their career dreams whilst juggling parenthood?

Ben – “The biggest thing that I follow and what I say to people at work is enjoy the time being a parent – especially the early years, because you don’t get it back. We had someone who went off a few weeks ago and when the baby was around 3 weeks old, they were fretting about coming back to work. I just said, ‘      You’ll never get this time back and it’s amazing, don’t feel like you have to rush back into work.’ So I think just try and enjoy every moment that you can with the kids and then just work really hard at managing your schedule so that you can still maintain your career.”

Karina – “I think it depends on what stage of your career you’re at as well though, as we were further into our careers when we had kids. And even though I was further into my career I still have found it hard to deal with the change in pace, because in my industry a lot of people are men and they will be opening this, doing that and for the last 4 years I’ve felt like I’m a step behind, people will say ‘What’s your next step?’ ‘What are you doing next?’ and I’d be like, ‘I’ve just had a baby.’ But it’s almost like you have to whisper it because of how that is met within the industry, because it’s a male dominated industry and it’s not set up for women to have children. I really regret with Hen not saying, ‘I’m taking this time’, because I didn’t give myself any maternity leave. I thought I would just keep working, and I feel like I missed things because I was so stressed about work at times. One thing I’ve come to realise now that I’m 7 years into this restaurant, is that it doesn’t even matter, because you can spend your time really worrying about something in your business, but then a few weeks later it won’t’ even matter anymore, but when it’s your own business you get so caught up in it, because you feel like it’s make or break, but a lot of the time it’s not and the things you do remember are the things to do with your kids. So you do need to be kind to yourself.”

Ben – “Yeah, and sometimes you don’t have a choice, because you might not be in the position to have that time, because financially you have to look after your family. It is so expensive to have children, even putting them in a nursery to enable you to go work is a massive undertaking alone – not to mention all the other stuff that comes with it. So I do think it’s really tough. We’ve found it hard to find the right dynamic and we’ve been lucky enough to have help and support from people too. To juggle all the plates, you spin as a working parent, and feel like you’re getting enough time on everything is a massive challenge.”

Karina – “I think you need to be kind to yourself and others, and not be so quick to judge other people’s situations.”

JMW Solicitors

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__________________________________

Successful entrepreneur Aaron Willis is best known for his appearance on The Apprentice, Series 16, but many won’t realise how inspiring his story is and how the many challenges that he has faced throughout the years has given him the drive and determination to succeed in business and to give back to charity – one of which he is now CEO of – STRIDE UK – which he juggles alongside his successful businesses. Aaron lives with his wife, fellow entrepreneur, Vicki, where they co-parent Vicki’s two boys and Aaron’s two daughters, creating a blended family and navigating the challenges that can arise within the family. Vicki set up her own early years business – Kidsology – 12 years ago, successfully building herself an outstanding reputation as the go-to professional to teach classes such as sensory classes, baby massage, baby yoga, signing, sound therapy, SEN classes and much more.

Aaron Willis the Apprentice Star

 Aaron & Vicki Willis © BROOD Magazine

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After sliding into Aarons DMs the couple got together 8 years ago, Vicki had heard all about Aaron through her friendship with his sister. Blended family – Reece, 17, Aaron Daughter, 17, Harrison, 14  and Grace 12.

What inspired you to set up your own businesses?

Vicki – “I set up my Kidsology business, so that I could build a business and a career that I could work around school hours, so that I was still able to drop off and pick up the boys, this was really important especially when I became a single parent. And it’s been going for 12 years now and I’ve got quite a big community of parents around the north west area.”

Aaron – “I was in the military for 12 years and then coming into civilian life, and juggling family was something I found very difficult. I was used to having Monday – Friday on base and then coming home and looking after the kids from Friday to Sunday and then going back to base again. And it was during Covid that I decided to set my own business up, and I chose to set up a security firm as it matched my skill set, and it’s just gone from strength to strength really. And I juggle that business alongside being the CEO of Stride, a charity that helps to improve the lives of deprived children throughout greater Manchester, so it’s full on but I enjoy it.”

What has been your biggest challenge since starting a business?

Vicki – “Covid was a really challenging period for the business as obviously for a while all classes were stopped completely, but then when they were reintroduced again they were really difficult to delive r because of all of the social distancing restrictions that were in place. And also so many people re evaluated their lives during covid and they wanted careers that were more flexible and offered them a better work life balance, so all of sudden in the months after lockdown there were lots of different baby classes popping up everywhere, so there was a lot of competition that wasn’t there before.” 

Your journey as a couple?

Vicki – “Our journey has been so crazy as when we met Aaron was in the military and he was based down south, and sometimes it would be two weeks in between seeing each other and then we would  only be able to spend one night together before he then had to go back. And at that time I didn’t want my boys to be around when Aaron and Aaron didn’t want his girls involved at that point either because obviously it was such early days, so we kept it under wraps and only saw each other when we didn’t have the children. Sometimes he would drive 7-8 hours to come and see me for just for one night.”

Aaron – “It was really difficult, because my weekends had always been dedicated to my girls, and then I had to find time to spend with Vicki, without it taking time away from them, so it was really hard. Then when we knew it was definitely serious, around 4 to 5 months into seeing each other, thats when we slowly started to introduce the kids to each other. ”

Vicki – “Yeah, and thankfully the boys just loved Aaron and I’m really lucky because he’s such a great role model for my boys. Then I got to meet Aaron’s girls and then we all went on holiday and that was a bit crazy and it’s never been any different since! It’s always crazy when we’re all together! [They laugh] They’re all around the same age really so it can be interesting”

Aaron – “Yes, they all come with the same issues – hormones! So it can definitely be interesting!” [They laugh]

Do they all get on?

Vicki – “Yes, they do in the main.”

Aaron – “Yes, they do but because of their ages we have to be mindful that sometimes they want their own space, but when you’re on holiday and they all want space at different times that can can be challenging They are all going through their own things, like you do in your teenage years so it can be tough at times, but they do get on really, really well.”

Luxury Outdoor Furniture
JMW Solicitors

What do you find is the most challenging part of parenting?

Vicki – “I think the thing about parenting is that you can overcome an obstacle and think, I’ve got it, I’m back on track and everything is going to get better now because we’ve dealt with that, but then something else just comes along!

Aaron – “Yeah, I think it’s just the consistent challenges you face along the way and how you overcome them. As they get older the challenges change, because they want their independence more and more and it can be hard to navigate.”

Vicki – “It’s like Reece, wants to be a barber, so he’s working at a barbers,  he’s at college and he spends half his week with us and half his week with his Dad, so he has to be organised and aware of his time table and it can be tough at times watching him juggling everything and sometimes struggling with that.”

As you’re both entrepreneurial, and have followed your career passions, do you think the kids have been inspired by that and do they  look to you for career advice and support?

Aaron – “Yes, we’re a very close family and Reece for example will speak to me a lot at the moment about his career, but equally we’ve all been at that age and know matter how close you are to people, it’s that age where you think you know best rather than choose to listen to someone who has the experience. And I can see my military side coming out in me, because I think just let them drown until they learn!” [We laugh]  “When I was learning to swim my grandad was from Jamaica and he would just push you in and you’d deal with it!”

Vicki – “Whereas I’m a lot more like, ‘Well, how can we approach this? And I’ll still give you advice even though you’ve not listened to me for the past three weeks, I can’t not give you advice and I’m still going to be there to pick up the pieces, because I can’t not.

Aaron – “It works that though, I think the different techniques we have when it comes to parenting really complement each other. And as much as you want to protect them, it is good to make mistakes so that you can learn from them.”

Vicki – “It’s nice to see how much all the children think about their careers and what they want their futures to look like already, and that probably has come from seeing myself and Aaron enjoy our work so much. It’s nice to see your kids have so many aspirations. And they do change their minds a lot, but I think that’s completely natural at that age,”

Being self employed and having your own because can cause uncertainty financially at times, especially when you’re both self employed, we all know what it can be like waiting for invoices to be paid! How have you found that and how do you deal with it?

Vicki – “Funnily enough I’ve actually just taken my foot off the pedal a bit at the minute, so that I can support Aaron in his business a bit more – because he’s very, very busy!”

Aaron – “Yeah, and I don’t stop and I can’t ever just have one thing on the go. I’m always looking for the next step, the next goal. and I will always think in terms of paydays, ‘That’s not really my money yet’ So I constantly doing stuff, it can be 8 or 9pm before I stop working and I’m up early in the morning so it’s hard. And that’s me after toning it down a lot!”

Vicki – “Yes, I was the same, I was answering messages at all hours, and a couple of years ago and I’d feel so stressed about getting back people. So, for my own mental health I’ve been a lot stricter with myself and I try to not much past 7pm, unless its absolutely urgent and I try not be on my phone as much at weekends too, otherwise I’d find myself saying to Aaron or the kids, just a minute this Mum’s just asked me a question, Just a minute…Just a minute’ and it;s not healthy. but the thing is when you’re self-employed there is always that feeling that if you don’t answer that message straight away then there is always that feeling that they are going to go somewhere else. There are times I can’t wait and that can be really hard.”

Aaron – “It is hard, but you do have to switch off and ‘close up your shop’ for the night, because if you had a sandwich shop, or a restaurant etc you would close, and I will always say to Vicki, your shop’s closed, but then I’m still working in the evening, so it is hard.”

What do you do to help you switch off and get some balance?

Aaron – “Well that’s the thing, I might work early morning and in the evening a lot but I will get that time back. If I work until 9pm at night, the next day or the day after I will take that time back for myself. And I am quite good like that. If I’ve got time and I’m at home at lunchtime I will jump on the playstation, because that is how I relax. I have to do something for me and have something that takes my mind off the business. People will say in order to run a business and be successful you need to work all hours, but I disagree with that massively. I mean at the start there are a lot of sacrifices and you might have to do that but once you’re established you have to think of yourself a bit more and if you’re not healthy or happy then ultimately what are you doing it for?

Vicki – “That was very much the case for me, I felt like the business was completely overwhelming me and my life.”

Aaron – “Yeah, you have to have balance. My trigger is if I go to the gym and someone says ‘Hiya strangers’ and it makes me realise that I haven’t been for a while and that I’m not looking after myself. And sometimes you just have to learn to become a bit more selfish and learning what can wait.Knowing your worth can really help you do that”

Vicki – “Every Sunday we all go out for a walk as a family too and we’ll eat Sunday Dinner together because the kids are getting older and you don’t have as much time as them, whenever they are with us we always make a point of doing that. We’ve also started picking a TV series to watch together, so that even if it’s only for a couple of hours a week, we get that time to sit down in the lounge as a family. Or we’ll come into Manchetser and have a shopping trip. Family time is really important to us.”

What tips and tricks would you give to other parents in business?

Aaron – “I think creating a routine is one of the biggest and best things that you can do for yourself when you’re self employed. For example when you’re employed, you get up, you do the school run, you go to work, you finish and you’re in home mode. And obviously that routine is dictated by your employee, but having a form of routine is a good thing and so you need to set some kind of routine for yourself that works for you. I think even if you work from home, you should get up, get a shower and get ready as if you’re going to work. And I think it’s when you don’t have that routine in place, thats when it backwards and you loose that balance.”

What have you found to be the hardest thing about children getting older?

Vicki – “I’ve really struggled with the children growing up and I think I’m only just coming out of this zone that I’ve been in, where I think I was holding onto things, like traditions we’ve always done and it’s really quite sad and hard when your kids don’t want to do things that you’ve always done. Like every summer we’d get in the car and go to Formby with the dogs and nobody wanted to come and I was heartbroken.”

Aaron – “Whereas I just think we just need to find new traditions and new things to do instead.”

Vicki – “But the flip side of it is that we get to do lots of nice things together as a couple now, that a few years ago we couldn’t have done.”

Aaron – “We go away quite a lot now. During the time in the week where we’ve got no kids with us, we’ll book a few days away, and everyone spends money on different things, some people like to go out every weekend, but we like to go away instead. And obviously this is only possible because we’re a blended family and the kids are with their other parents, so we might as well embrace that time.”

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Sarah Jayne Dunn & Jon Smith: On Creating more time with your family outdoors

Sarah Jayne Dunn & Jon Smith: On Creating more time with your family outdoors

Sarah Jayne Dunn & Jon Smith:

On Creating more time with your family outdoors

By Lolo Stubbs, Editor-in-chief

__________________________________

It can be hard to find balance in life when we are so busy with all the other things that we have to juggle. One thing that has stood out since starting BROOD, is just how many of us are constantly looking for more ways to try switch off and spend quality time as a family. It’s also clear that we all want to incorporate ways to exercise into our weekly routine and encourage our kids to be active and outdoors too, but it can be hard to fit it in when there is only so many hours in the day!

So, with a new sport activity sweeping exciting across the UK – Padel – we just had to find out what all the hype was all about, and to see if it was an activity that would fit into family life.

When we arrived at The Padel Club, in Wilmslow, each court was filled with people obviously having a great time and we were surprised to see that the whole of The Padel Club was completely outdoors – seating areas and all! However, we quickly noticed that it didn’t affect the capacity for pre- and post-match socialising, or people coming along to watch, if anything – thanks to the various pergolas and stylish outdoor furniture – it enhanced it!

Sarah Jayne Dunn playing Padel

 Sarah Jayne Dunn © Tom Pitfield Photography for BROOD Magazine

BROOD LIVE

We chatted to various people at The Padel Club, who explain and that Padel was more than just a fun and challenging sport, it was bringing people together and building an important community. So far Padel, seemed to be ticking a lot of boxes; we all know how important networking is throughout your career or when running a business, and this way you can look after your wellbeing and fitness at the same time! It also felt like a safe and inviting space and when we heard that they also were holding classes to teach children, and that more and more parents were heading down to take to the courts with their kids, it ticked that final and very important box – family time!

We spoke to our friends, Sarah Jayne Dunn and Jon Smith (who were BROOD’s very first cover stars when we launched as an online magazine in April 2022) and they too, had been drawn to The Padel Club for all of the above reasons and they had also transformed their outside space over the summer, incorporating outdoor living range and pergola in to their garden. (LuxSol are the same brand that has created such a clever outdoor space at The Padel Club) So we sat down on the uber comfy corner sofa, snuggled under blankets, and sheltered from the rain under the pergola and chat all about being outdoors and incorporating new activities into family life.

What initially drew you to the padel club?

Jon – “I know a lot of people who play that really enjoy it, and so I was curious because everyone keeps banging on about it! [He laughs] I wanted to see what it’s all about!”

Sarah Jayne – “Yeah, I’ve seen it a lot on social media, because there is a lot of people that we know that come here. Like Nick Bianchi, who is fellow school parent and neighbour, and all the Thomas brothers are always here, and I know them, and so I kept seeing it, and it made me curious too.”

Jon – “I’d never seen it played or played it, so I was just like ‘what is it?’ basically”.

Sarah Jayne – “It’s just become such a big thing it’s huge!”

Do you think that Stan would enjoy playing Padel?

Jon – “Oh yeah, give him something to hit something else with and yeah, and I’m sure he’d love it!” [We laugh]

Sarah Jayne – “He’s played tennis at Summer Club at school, and he liked that, so I think he definitely would.”

Jon – “He likes crazy golf too.”

Sarah Jayne – “That’s another thing that appeals to us, as I think it could ne a nice little thing that we could do as a family. Especially as a father and son activity – just because Jon is sportier than I am – but you could come down and it would be a nice little activity to do at the weekend. I think kids can come and do lessons from 3 years too, and they recently had a little Halloween event on, so I think it’s definitely something that Stan would like”.

“HAVING THE PERGOLA HAS REALLY INCREASED THE AMOUNT OF TIME WE SPEND OUTSIDE TOGETHER AS A FAMILY”

Sarah Jayne Dunn and her husband Jon Smith.jpg

Sarah Jayne Dunn & Jon Smith images © Tom Pitfield Photography for BROOD Magazine

Sarah Jayne Dunn Brood
Luxury Outdoor Furniture

Stunning Aluminium Pergola by LUXSOL Images © 

The Padel Club
Sarah Jayne Dunn, The Padel Club Wilmslow

Kids just love spending quality time with their parents don’t they, be that playing a board game, doing an activity, whatever it maybe, that’s what they crave, and this is something that a parent can enjoy too, isn’t it?

Sarah Jayne – “Absolutely! I remember I used to go and play tennis with my Dad – I was dreadful! But it’s a core memory for me. I was quite young and that was his thing and we used to go to the local tennis court, and knock the ball around, and I loved spending that time with him, so it made us both happy.”

Jon – “Yes, and I think getting out of the house and being outdoors is really important too. Away from technology.”

Sarah Jayne – “It feels like a safe space here as well, you’re coming in, and you can sit with the kids, or if the kids are playing you can sit and have a coffee and watch the kids. And what I found with Padel is that it feels very community based. What the guys we’re saying before was that everyone ends up knowing everyone, so again if you were coming In with your family, then you suddenly become friends, and to have that added social aspect is really nice too. And you can enjoy it regardless of the weather which is great.”

Talking of which, you have a LuxSol pergola and some of their outdoor living range at home don’t you? And you recently added a garden room at home, how has the additional space at home improved your family’s lifestyle and wellbeing?

Sarah Jayne – “For me in particularly, the garden room has made a massive difference as I’m using it as a studio space. So it’s meant that I moved all of my work that I was doing inside the house and that can be creating content, for myself or partnerships, or even just sitting and doing some admin business work; I’ve now moved it into the garden room and  I have that separate to the house, which has been great to create that work/life balance. It’s always organised now and it’s just so much better having a space that is dedicated to work.”

Jon – “There’s no toys anywhere!” [They laugh]

“HAVING A GLASS OF WINE OUTSIDE IN THE GARDEN IS AS CLOSE AS YOU CAN GET TO FEELING LIKE YOU’RE SOMEWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD”.

Sarah Jayn Dunn, Lux Sol & Padel Club

Sarah Jayne Dunn & Jon Smith with Kris Ball, CEO of The Padel Club & Nick Williams, CEO of Olympian Garden Buildings

Sarah Jayne – “Yes, there’s no Lego pieces to stand on! It’s lovely – I don’t actually do any work; I just go in to sit in there” [She laughs]

Jon – “Yeah, I’m a bit jealous!” [We laugh]

Jon – “And having the pergola has really increased the amount of time we spend outside together as a family, because even if it starts raining you stay outside – which is kind of a big thing in this country! It doesn’t mean pack up and go inside, sit I the kitchen and dining room again, it means if it’s not too cold you can just carry on regardless of the weather.”

Sarah Jayne – “Yeah, you just get that indoor outdoor space and where we have ours, it’s just outside the dining room, so it means if we’re hosting and we have people over you can have the dining room doors open and then you’ve got your indoor seating area, your outdoor seating area, but it becomes one space”.

Jon – “We love our garden, but you can’t sit out there much living in the UK, so it kind of gives you a little bit more time in a space that you actually enjoy being in.”

Sarah Jayne – “And actually, when we’re sat under the pergola it’s a really nice view of the garden room and I find myself sitting there just admiring our garden space! [She laughs] Don’t you?” [She turns to Jon laughing].”

Do you have a specific memory at home where the experience was enhanced by having your outdoor living space?

Sarah Jayne – “Yeah, we were talking about this, we had a barbeque at the end of summer – when we suddenly ended up with that really nice weather – we had all just got our jumpers out and then out of nowhere it was warm again!

So, we had a barbeque, and then later, after we put Stan to bed, we went and sat back outside, which we never would have done normally. We put the little lights on that we have around the pergola, we had a glass of wine and we just sat there relaxing and chatting to each other. It was a lovely mild evening, and we wouldn’t have done that had we have not had this lovely comfy and tranquil area outside. Normally we would have just crashed onto the sofa and put the tele on”.

Jon – “Yes, it was really nice. It kind of emulates that holiday vibe. Having a glass of wine outside in the garden is as close as you can get to feeling like you’re somewhere else in the world”.

Do you think it’s important then that people are making their gardens more accessible and enjoyable to be in, in all weathers, and places like The Padel Club doing the same at their venue, given the value of being outdoors?

Sarah Jayne“Yes, definitely, I mean look at us today, we’re all sat outside and it’s absolutely lashing it down!” [She laughs]

Jon – “It’s like what we just said, having the pergola at home means we don’t have to go inside mid barbeque if it starts raining, and here it means we don’t have to pack up and go home – you can wait for the shower to pass; you can have a break.”

Sarha Jayne – “It’s nice seeing the pergola here today actually, as we’re getting the side screens added to ours at home, and it’s nice to experience it in this weather, because you do feel even more sheltered and more of that inside outside feeling. It’s lovely!”

Interview by @lolostubbs.author

Images by @tompitfieldphotography

JMW Solicitors

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