Helen Skelton on her career, motherhood and changing the narrative

Helen Skelton on her career, motherhood and changing the narrative

© BROOD MAGAZINE. HELEN SKELTON AND TWO OF HER CHILDREN

“…things happen in life and then you get put on a different path

Inspirational Mum of three, Helen Skelton, is one of Britain’s best-loved Television presenters. Helen started her presenting career at Newsround before landing a dream role at Blue Peter, where she completed numerous extreme challenges for charity. Incredibly Helen has kayaked over 2,000 miles along the Amazon River, and cycled 500 miles to the South Pole, both for Sport Relief. Her amazing career has included many highlights including meeting the iconic late Queen Elizabeth II. Not one to shy away from a challenge, this year she is taking on what will probably be her hardest yet, as she joins BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing Class of 2022; whilst juggling life as a single mum, looking after her 3 young children, Ernie, Louis and Elsie.

The stunning Countryfile presenter kindly took time out from her summer holiday in the Lake District to chat to us about her career, motherhood, and changing the narrative as she embraces the new journey she has found herself on, since announcing her sadness at her marriage ending, only a few months after her youngest child Elsie was born.

Helen Skelton Interview with Brood Magazine
© BROOD MAGAZINE. HELEN SKELTON AND TWO OF HER THREE CHILDREN

“…I’m on a journey right now!

What was your career like before kids?

I was working as a journalist; I was originally working in PR, but I hated it and knew that I wanted to be a journalist… so I ended up at Newsround which was great – I loved it! Then I got offered Blue Peter, but I actually said no to Blue Peter at first because I was enjoying Newsround so much. But my boss at Newsround said to me ‘you can’t not do Blue Peter’. So, I took it, and it was the best gig of my life! It was so amazing, one week you would be going to Malta to ballroom dance, the week after you would be flying with the red arrows and the week after going to meet the queen! We would go away for 7 weeks for the summer going from one country to the next… it was just incredible! After doing so many amazing things, that I didn’t think I could top, such as going to the south pole, north pole and the amazon doing the expeditions, I decided it was time to leave. So, I then went back into sport and started working at BT Sport.

How do you find managing your career alongside motherhood?

I had Ernie in 2015, and since then, it’s always been about taking on work that fits around the kids. I still worked after I had Ernie, like the sport presenting – which was good because it was an intense week and then you’d be off again. That’s why I do less Countryfile, as much as I love Countryfile and I’m really good friends with everyone at the show, but the reason I don’t do it as often is because you have to be away Wednesday and Thursday nights, it’s the other end of the country and it just doesn’t fit with me having little kids. But the other farming show [Channel 5’s On the Farm] that I do is live, so you’re on at 8 o clock at night and you’re off at 10. So I go, get my tea made for me, have my face painted, do my work and then I’m back home.

I think because I’m freelance and self-employed, I feel lucky in that it can be intense at work so you’re ticking your career box and doing your thing there, but then the week after, you can potentially be off for three weeks so then you’re being a full-time mummy again. So, I feel lucky that I get my foot in both camps. I’d like to think that I’ve got a bit more empathy for my friends who work full time and for those who don’t work.

What is your experience with Mum Guilt?

Every mum I know at some point or another feels ‘Mum guilt.’ They feel guilty if they work too much, or they feel guilty that they don’t work enough, the whole thing is a juggle. My mum was lucky, we grew up on this farm, so she didn’t work and that’s the dream for some, but life’s different now. And I don’t think anyone should look at other people’s situations and make assumptions, because I’ve done it myself where I’ve thought ‘gosh she work’s a lot! She must hardly ever see her kids?’ But then I stop myself because I think, you know what, we’ve all got to buy food! That whole thing of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is so true. I don’t think you can ever say which is the right way to do it, because everyone’s kids and everyone’s situation is different, you can only do what’s right for you and not compare yourself. But it can be hard not to do that because of social media.

You have to remember social media is a superficial top layer of people’s lives, although it’s hard to remember that at times, is important to remind yourself of that. But no one is made of metal but equally every situation is different.

Mine are terrible sleepers, they both like to sleep in my bed which isn’t good, but then other people will be like ‘well that isn’t good?’ Rather than ‘oh that’s nice because they’ll be 18 soon!’ [she laughs] – but it’s survival! I got my eldest to sleep in his own bed the other night and he was negotiating a deal and said he would for £20! I was like – ‘I can’t give you £20 a night!’ – No wonder I’ve had to go back to work! [she jokes.]

Helen Skelton
Helen Skelton © BROOD MAGAZINE

“…it’s always been about taking on work that fits around the kids.”

What was the biggest adaptations that you have made to your life since your children have come along.

Work and travel, I think. I took Louis with me to the world diving championships in Budapest when he was 6 weeks old, I say to him now, you actully saw Tom Daly win his second world title and it just goes [gestures] straight over his head so I don’t even think the biggest adaptations came in when they were babies. I think the bigger adaptions come in when they start school, as obviously they’ve got be somewhere 9-3 so you’re on their schedule then. I notice a lot of my friends who have toddlers will say ‘shall we meet for brunch on Saturday’ [for example], and I’m like, ‘No, sorry I can’t, I’ve got a 15-minute gap between swimming and play dates and it does not include any kind of brunch situation!’ [laughing] I think when you’ve got little kids they will go where you want, you can pop them in the pushchair and bring them along with you, but bigger kids don’t always want to.

Having more than one kid is big change, because you can only split yourself so many ways. Having Elsie though has actually made the boys nicer! They are so sweet with her. I do say to them, ‘you’re so nice with Elsie can you just be a little bit nicer to each other!’ (Because they do fight as siblings close in age do.) So, I love seeing that kindness in them, it melts my heart.

Your next challenge is Strictly Come Dancing! How are you feeling about tackling that alongside your life as a mum?

Part of me thinks it’s bad timing and the other part of me thinks it is good timing. Elsie is only little so she’s not crawling around yet, so she’s little enough to be quite placid and sleep a lot. I think sometimes it’s easy to overthink these things, but when I was asked, it was like ‘You know what, yes! Let’s do it!’ – I’m excited too because I think it looks fun! I love taking on new challenges and putting myself under pressure and having my mind consumed in that way, so that’s another reason I wanted to do it. It’s weird because I have been asked to do things like this before and I’ve always said no because of the kids, but now I’m doing it when I’ve got a nine-month-old as well, but the kids are in school, so in my head I’m thinking that I’m going to train while they’re in school and Elsie is young enough for it to not be on her radar or affect her. But then again, this could well turn out to be the most stupid decision I’ve made in my entire life – but let’s hope it’s not! [she laughs]

I think sometimes, especially in this career you can overthink things and try and plan but sometimes you’ve just got to go with what comes along. Very few people are in the position that they don’t have to work, and this is a job that will be fun and a distraction and all consuming and something positive for me, the kids, my parents, and my friends. That was another reason that I wanted to do it. To do something positive and change the narrative, I guess.

Also, you spend your life telling your kids, ‘Do what makes you happy’, ‘Go after whatever you want’ ‘Dream Big’ so you have to lead by example.

I think no matter what you do and what you plan, things happen in life and then you get put on a different path, so sometimes there is no point putting down a roadmap.

What tips would you give other working parents?

Oh, I’ve got loads of tips – I’m on a journey at the moment. Firstly, lower the standards! I think unfollow people who don’t have a similar life to you. For example, if you’re a working mum, don’t follow a mum who doesn’t work, follow someone who is doing the juggle. Or if you don’t work, follow someone who doesn’t work, because I think you if you compare apples to pears yours will never be as good. I’ve been given lots of tips myself lately, including find companies that will deliver healthy meals – like meals on wheels but for parents. Then that takes the pressure off grabbing something naff for yourself, you can get them pre ordered just a couple of times a week and the whole family has got a healthy home cooked meal. Just make life easier for yourself. Another one is, have a notepad by the bed because every has them things where they wake up in the night where they are like ‘oh s&*t they need a yellow t-shirt for tomorrow’. I also think delegate stuff in your life that you don’t need to do yourself. Like I hate cleaning, so I got a cleaner. I felt really bad about it at first, I felt really middle-class, and I would tidy up before they came, but then the lady said to me ‘why are you doing that, you are paying me to do this?’ Oh, and don’t buy clothes that you need to iron! Again, why are you doing that to yourself. And finally, I have a present cupboard because there is always a party that you have forgotten, or you haven’t got time to go to B&M before you go. And a distraction box is always good too when you’ve got multiple children.

What do you mean by a distraction box?

Well, I would always keep a little box on the side, I’ve done this from Louis being born. I will put a couple of snacks in that he would like, a couple of books, or some little cheap toys in there. So then if you’re feeding or changing the baby and your older one wants you too and you can say ‘Go and get something from your box!’ I think that’s it!

Simon Wood
Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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Dining Table Date Night – Ox Cheek Tagliatelle with Simon Wood

Dining Table Date Night – Ox Cheek Tagliatelle with Simon Wood

SIMON WOOD COOKS Ox Cheek Tagliatelle
| SIMON WOOD OF WOOD MANCHESTER AND WoodKraft Cheltenham. IMAGES © BROOD MAGAZINE

“POUR YOURSELF A GLASS OF SOMETHING YOU ENJOY, POP ON YOUR FAVOURITE MUSIC TO UNWIND TO AND START TO COOK…”

Welcome back to Brood food, Last time around I spoke about food and families which are two topics in which everyone claims some expertise, and rightly so. Families are made up of people who eat food. Both families and food contribute to a person’s physical and social well-being throughout life and are the foundation of many memories, both good and sometime not.

Tonight I’m going to focus on a Date night dinner, a tasty, easy to prepare dinner that you and yours can enjoy at a time that suits you. I’m a firm believer in a bowl of wine and a glass of pasta and this dish is as simple as that. There’s some time and love put in to some delicious meaty Ox Cheeks which slowly sit and fall apart in a splendid tomato sauce. This produces a sensational Ragu fit for any table

Here is how it is done, first things first, pour yourself a glass of something you enjoy, pop on your favourite music to unwind to and start to cook. You will need a frying pan, two large saucepans a chopping board, grater and a sharp knife.

Ox Cheek Tagliatelle

Ingredients:

  • ½ Tube of Tomato Purée 
  • 8 balls of Dried Tagliatelle 
  • 2 Large Ox Cheeks
  • 4 Cloves of Fresh Garlic, Grated
  • 1 Large onion, diced 
  • 1 Teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 table spoon Aleppo Chilli
  • 2 bottles of passata
  • 8 really fresh large tomatoes 
  • A small bunch of basil 
  • Grated parmesan to taste
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

 

Method 

  • Turn a medium size frying pan on to a high heat, coat your ox cheeks oil and season with salt and pepper, Place the Ox Cheeks in the frying pan, and cook until golden brown. Set them aside and let them rest, take care to retain any juices.
  • Next Peel, and then dice your onion, add it in to one of your large sauce pans, on a low heat, and stir frequently
  • Now peel two cloves of garlic and grate finely. Add to the saucepan and stir before adding in the tomato purée and cooking for 5 minutes or so. 
  • Chop your tomatoes, the riper they are the better the sauce, add them to the saucepan and cook before adding in the passata and the cheeks along with any juices
  • Add a little Salt, Pepper, oregano and the Aleppo Chilli and cook for 4/5 hours on a ow heat (You can use a slow cooker if you like)
  • Once the meat is softened use two forks or the back of a large spoon to flake it into the rich red sauce.
  • Now it’s time to cook the pasta, in another large saucepan bring some water to the boil and add the pasta, cook until al dente before removing and adding into the pasta ragu sauce, finish the cooking of the pasta in here to allow the pasta to absorb the flavour of the sauce
  • Serve in a bowl, top with a some fresh basil and some freshly grated Parmesan 

 

We mentioned earlier about the bowl of wine and glass of pasta and today I am going to go for this delight a lovely Red wine Gaja Sito Moresco*

 

As an Italian wine producer, there is possibly no one more iconic than Gaja.

Established back in 1859 by Giovanni Gaja, the Gaja family had moved from Spain to Italy towards the end of the 17th century.

 

They first started making wines to be sold from their family tavern, by the end of the 19th Century they were supplying their wines to the Italian army.

 

As their name grew, so to did their wines. Angelo Gaja took over the business in 1970 and today Gaja has 101 hectares of vineyards divided into 32 separate plots and produces around 30,000 cases of wine a year. Gaja produces world-class wines that sell for world-class prices.

 

Sito Moresco is a blend of Nebbiolo, barbera, merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. 12 months in oak creating a pale ruby hue with otes of red and black berries, sour cherries a Smokey finish with a hint of green pepper spice.

 

All that said to simply put it. It is delicious and works incredibly with this dish.

 

If you like the idea of having 55 wines by the glass to choose from then why not call in to WOOD Manchester to try them, or you can even pair them with Cheese and enjoy 5 glasses of wine and 5 cheeses in Homage at WOOD Manchester. Drink only is available from 8pm Wednesday to Saturday and pared with Cheese Wednesday to Saturday evenings or lunches Friday and Saturday.

 

As always, thanks for reading and if you have any recipe suggestions or questions please do send them to me at @SimonJWoodUK or simon@woodmanchester.com

 

 

 

Thanks, Simon

 

Simon is Chef Patron or WOOD Manchester on First Street Manchester and WOODKRAFT ‘The Artisan Eatery’ on Regent Street in Cheltenham.

 

Ox Cheek Tagliatelle
Ox Cheek Tagliatelle | SIMON WOOD © FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
WoodKraft Cheltenham
Ox Cheek Tagliatelle | SIMON WOOD © FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
Simon Wood
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DIARY OF A DADPRENEUR BY OLI DUNN

DIARY OF A DADPRENEUR BY OLI DUNN

Oli Dunn
Morson Group - Find your next job

The Diary Of A Dadpreneur…
By Oli The Choc…

Time Flies, but I’m not complaining! We’re just so bloody lucky to be here in the first place!

The year flies by quick, but time flies when you’re having fun, even quicker when you have offspring, businesses, busy social lives, fitness aspirations, hobbies and an insatiable appetite for travel, new experiences and meeting new people.
Therefore I have no qualms about time moving by so fast, time is a blessing and I’m grateful to have it at my disposal in the first place, the opportunity to spend it how I want, abundantly, lovingly and in a nutshell cramming as much as possible into every single day.

So we’re into the months ending with “ber” already, well I’m not even mad at that, I’m flipping and it I’m inspired by it instead.

The start of the academic year, almost feels like a new year do you agree? Except with added pressure and urgency, if we haven’t succeeded in ticking some big ones off the list then now is the time to get it done before the year is up.

Even though New Years resolutions can be cliché, tacky and last about as long as the conversations you have about them, I am a little bit of a sucker for them. I feel a power in the new year and I get sucked into the hype and excitement of the opportunity to redesign my life.

However, every day is a new beginning and every “now” is the beginning of a brand new creative process, the opportunity to have a new thought, that leads to a new thing, that grows, expands, develops and manifests into amazing new experiences and circumstances.

They say a thought thinks, so I choose those little sparks of energy very carefully because I believe they aren’t as insignificant as most people tend to think, they grow and gain momentum, which is why you can manifest what you do want or what you don’t want, whether you like it or not, whether you believe it or not.

I’m hyper aware of this throughout the year but I also thrive under pressure. I only really get things done either because the desire is so strong or the pressure to get it done can’t be challenged.

I call it the power of the 11th hour, I embrace that along with any other quirks in my personality which I’ll uncover in good time. I give myself a break.

So my New Years resolution was to be more curious and I feel that I have been more curious in 2022, asked more questions and discovered new answers.

I’m going to double down on curiosity for this last quarter of the year.

It’s time to ask more questions, of myself and others in order to learn more about both and the world around us, creating even more new and exciting opportunities. Who knows what stories I’ll be telling by New Years Eve and not just those about chasing a toddler around an airport lounge or military style nappy changes, but stories about things I’ve been able to achieve and exciting situations I’ve found myself in.

I feel it’s my job to prove to others what’s possible in life, anything.

My point is it’s not too late for resolutions, it’s never to late to become a better you, improve your life and create new opportunities, even do something completely different if you want to, or have multiple things on the go, even if one of those is raising a small human, there’s no rules, the only barriers are the ones we tend to put up in front of ourselves.

Also don’t be too hard on yourself, embrace who you are and how far you’ve come.
Remind yourself of what you’ve achieved this year so far and the ways in which you have grown, then also remember we still have 4 months left of this year so it’s never too late, it’s always the beginning.

Reflect for clarity and confidence to launch you into this last quarter.

It’s time to step into your power! 💥

Peace, Love, Choc ‘n’ Roll….
Oli ✌🏼

Oli Dunn Chocolatier
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DIARY OF A DADPRENEUR BY OLI DUNN

Oli DunnThe Diary Of A Dadpreneur...By Oli The Choc... Time Flies, but I’m not complaining! We’re just so bloody lucky to be here in the first place! The year flies by quick, but time flies when you’re having fun, even quicker when you have...

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INSPIRATIONAL MUM ON A MISSION: ANNA KENNEDY OBE

INSPIRATIONAL MUM ON A MISSION: ANNA KENNEDY OBE

© BROOD MAGAZINE. ANNA KENNEDY OBE 

“We re-mortgaged our home and set up a school!

Inspirational Mum of two, Anna Kennedy OBE has been a trailblazer for Autism Awareness since the 1990’s; when her two boys, Patrick and Angelo, and were diagnosed with Autism. When Anna couldn’t find a school that could meet her boy’s needs, Anna and her husband Sean remortgaged their home with the support of local parents and built one! This was just start of an incredible journey that has consequently helped shape and changed the lives of thousands of people diagnosed with Autism, along with the parents and carers of children on the autism spectrum. Through her unwavering determination and an unbelievable amount of passion, Anna has founded a number of innovative facilities, created life changing campaigns and been the force behind a number of petitions for change. Powered by the love of her boys a desire to support and serve the Autism community, Anna is a Mum on a mission, and it is no wonder that her remarkable charity work and achievements led her to be recognized and awarded an OBE by the late Queen Elizabeth II. 

Autism's Got Talent
Anna Kennedy OBE
© BROOD MAGAZINE. ANNA KENNEDY OBE

“…Keep nurturing your children’s interests as you never know where it might lead!

You have achieved so much since you embarked on your journey to raise awareness about Autism, tell us how it all started and some of the things that you have achieved along the way.  

“When my boys were diagnosed with Autism, it was the nineties so there wasn’t a lot of support available out there at the time, so I had to fight for everything. There weren’t any schools out that could meet our boy’s needs so we remortgaged our home to set up a school. Hundreds of children have gone on to benefit from the school, so it was the best thing we ever did! We decided then went on to set up a college too since Autism is a lifelong developmental condition. The Vocational College offers a day service that runs 44 weeks of the year, it was set up this way since during the summer holidays it can be quite stressful for parents whose children are adults since school holiday breaks can be very busy. We also set up a residential home too, for eight adults. The idea was that this would be a stepping stone from living in the residential home into moving into their own home or supported living. Many of the residents have moved on to get a job or move into their own homes. 

 I set up the charity Anna Kennedy Online in 2009 because parents were contacting me about the difficulties, they were encountering with reference to getting a diagnosis, a lot of whom had been waiting for many years. 

The charity now has many volunteers that are as passionate and driven as I am and that want to support as many families of autistic children and adults as possible. The charity also provides a touchstone for Autistic adults, it’s a place that they know they can either email or call the charity office to chat or if they even just want to run some ideas past someone. Since starting the charity, we have developed many events such as the Autism Expo, which gives people the chance to come along and listen to various speakers, along with the chance to see different professionals in the clinics that we hold there. We went on to develop the Charity Autism Hero Awards where hundreds of nominations are sent in by the public from across the UK and Overseas which is a red-carpet event for inspiring individuals and groups who go the extra mile for the autism community. One of my favourite annual events of which I am a founder is the world-renowned Autism’s got Talent!

 

Tell us about Autism’s Got Talent, what made you decide to start that? 

“Autism’s Got Talent came about when I was talking to people who were contacting us about being bullied after I launched our Anti Bullying campaign Give us a Break, they would share with us that they had developed skills and amazing talents. For example, many had taught themselves to play the guitar both acoustic and electric, and other people had taught themselves to do magic, plus many other talents all from watching youtube videos. They would send in many videos to share what they had achieved, and as these videos started coming in, I got really excited. At that time, I was invited to a show by Pineapple Performing Arts School at the Mermaid Theatre and as I was looking around, I thought I want to put on a show here made up purely of talented autistic children and adults. So, I approached Maggie Paterson (the principal and founder of Pineapple Performing Arts School) and we launched ‘Autism’s Got Talent’. It has now been 11 years, and we are sent in auditions from all over the world; Morocco, Italy, Canada, America, plus many more! It’s an amazing show and I always say that you have to be there to truly appreciate what I’m talking about. Every year it gets better, I don’t how but it just does! I think it’s great how it inspires the children and adults in the audience that are Autistic to want to take part or develop a performing arts skill since it inspires them that they too can do this one day.”  

 

What issues do you still see that need addressing in terms of Autism Awareness and Acceptance?

“Since I started the charity things haven’t really changed that much in terms of for example bullying, if anything it’s probably on the increase because of online bullying. This is really sad, so we set up an anti-bullying campaign in 2011, that’s called ‘Give us a break!’ and we originally started that alongside Esther Rantzen and the NSPCC. And we run a new campaign each year.  

I also recently set up a petition that now has over 12,000 signatures because there’s not enough support or a one-stop shop if you like, with information on who will support your sons or daughters when you’re no longer around. There’s always that question in the back of parents’ and carers’ minds ‘Who’s going to look after my children when I’m no longer around’. I would advise people to set up a trust and make sure that you have a will – MENCAP has a fantastic service, and there are some workshops out there. I would say the early set it up the better it is, for your own peace of mind. 

I recently was asked to be involved in a documentary with Katie Price and Harvey. Katie talks about how she didn’t realise how far ahead you have to start the transition process for 18 plus when your child is going from school to college. From doing that documentary with the BBC we received so many messages from people saying they too didn’t realise how far ahead you have to plan, and it highlighted that there needs to be more awareness and information around this process. So, we set up a few workshops to help people navigate those transitions. My husband Sean has had a diagnosis of Asperger’s since 2013, and he is a barrister. Sean conducted a workshop online to help families with all the various legal questions that they had. So, from that one documentary we were able to help so many different parents and I’m also pleased to say that Katie did find the right place for Harvey, that can meet all his complex needs and he’s been there for over a year now and he’s doing really well.”

Anna Kennedy OBE
ANNA KENNEDY OBE © BROOD MAGAZINE

“…Don’t forget who you are.”

Your sons are older now, how do you think your work has positively impacted their lives? 

“Well Patrick is 32 now and I’m pleased to say he’s got a full-time job at Pinewood Studios. His passion for dinosaurs, which began when he was seven years old has led him to give a speech at Pinewood Studios in front of the production team of Jurassic World and all the staff there. He’s known as ‘Paleo Pat’ he’s been working there for 4 years now, and they know all about his passion for dinosaurs. I’m really proud of him. He’s obviously nervous since he’s never spoken in front of a lot of people before, but it just shows you where your passions can lead you, as that passion he had as a little boy has led him to do this. I always say keep nurturing your children’s interests as you never know where it might lead. Patrick has also just moved into his own flat, and he’s slowly getting used to it, he still gets overwhelmed every now and again however he is making great progress and his flat is spotless! Bills are a big thing for him to learn about, at one point he thought he just paid the bill once and that was it, and I said ‘No, it’s every month Patrick – if only!’ [she laughs] Angelo still lives at home; he will always need one-to-one support. Angelo is 29 now and he’s quite profoundly affected by his autism, and he’s got quite a significant sensory processing condition. He goes to the college that we set up which he enjoys so that’s been really good for him.”

You work so incredibly hard and obviously even though your boys are adults now, your role as a mum is still very hands-on, particularly with Angelo, do you get any time for yourself?

“Well, two years ago I actually brought a wellbeing ambassador into the charity, as it was covid and obviously a lot of people were struggling with their wellbeing, so I thought it was something important that we needed to talk about. For me, I use dance to help my well-being. I haven’t been for a couple of years now, but I used to go to Zumba every Thursday, it was 7-8pm and that was my release. So, I do need to start that again, but I still do try and just have a dance or exercise each morning and that sets me up for the day. Sometimes when I’m in the office on my own, I put a bit of music on, and I just start having a little dance! [she laughs] I was invited and chosen for the Peoples Strictly which was for Comic Relief and that was an amazing experience! I was chosen out of 11,000 people so it was just incredible. We got four tens’, so it was just a fantastic experience one I will never forget. I’m still friends with Robin Windsor and he comes and supports Autism’s Got Talent every year.”  

What advice would you give other parents who are juggling their work and life as a parent?

“You definitely do need to have some me time, even though it’s not always easy. I’ve actually started a campaign called ‘Take Five’ and it’s literally about taking five minutes for yourself. Whatever it may be just take five minutes to be you. Not a mum. Not in your work. Just to be you. Don’t forget who you are!”

You can get your tickets to Autism’s Got Talent on the charity website and find out more about the incredible work that Anna does at www.AnnaKennedyOnline.com

Please sign Anna’s petition at http://www.change.org/Annapetition

Simon Wood
Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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How important is skin prep to improve makeup application?

How important is skin prep to improve makeup application?

Sally is the go to MUA for many stars, from red carpet events, magazine shoots, weddings and family occasions, and it’s easy to see why, with over 10 years experience in the industry her impressive portfolio speaks for itself. 

How important is skin prep to improve makeup application?

If you want to avoid those skin moments where your foundation or concealer has faded or melted away to the point that looking in the mirror has become frustrating on an evening out or your just tired of keep touching up throughout the day then it’s worth thinking again about your skin prep and taking that additional effort with your skin routine.
Knowing your skin type is super important to your skin care routine so make sure you use the correct products to get the best results.
I find using an exfoliant once a week helps with removing dead skin and the appearance of pores and also brightening my skin thus helps your moisturisers to penetrate deeper, creating smoother hydrated skin. This one change alone in your skin care routine will help your makeup game.
There are many types of exfoliators on the market for example I love a more physical gritty scrub however this can be quite abrasive so you may want to opt for a chemical based formulas which break down dead skin cells and help them fall away. Sensitive skin types should be a little more careful when using chemical exfoliators.
Cleanse and tone and moisturise daily am and pm especially before your makeup routine. Toning will close pores and trap moisture for a smoother complexion.
Hydrating your skin will help foundation glide on effortlessly, buffs evenly and not sit on top of the skin looking flakey, giving your overall look staying power and a flawless effect.

My top picks for the best exfoliators:

Sensitive skin: https://www.paulaschoice.com/

Dry skin: https://www.murad.co.uk/product/aha-bha-exfoliating-cleanser/  

All skin types: https://zoskinhealth.com/products/exfoliating-polish?variant=31618259779699

Oily skin: https://www.katesomerville.co.uk/exfolikate-intensive-exfoliating-treatment/10095-ExfoliKate.html

Best overall on a budget: https://en.drsturm.com/facial-scrub/?setCurrencyId=1&sku=50-100-04&redirect=disabled&gclid=Cj0KCQjw94WZBhDtARIsAKxWG-8_cSppDTRJmcUHBZ4lyxRt6YdBSTRM18il7y3vxyUC3H5WlMjr634aAncAEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

Best splurge-worthy: https://www.lamaisonvalmont.com/us/en/face-exfoliant.html?gclid=Cj0KCQjw94WZBhDtARIsAKxWG–zYPN6gPVYCweAFQIXWcSgV_zp-esyey4ahLL45kjc1yuFuLRHza0aAvn3EALw_wcB

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How important is skin prep to improve makeup application?

Sally is the go to MUA for many stars, from red carpet events, magazine shoots, weddings and family occasions, and it’s easy to see why, with over 10 years experience in the industry her impressive portfolio speaks for itself. How important is skin prep to improve...

 KEEP UP TO DATE WITH BROOD:

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I never expected to be a dad: The path to adoption with Adrian Adair

I never expected to be a dad: The path to adoption with Adrian Adair

“…Honestly, I never thought I’d be a dad”

For many, the path to parenthood is not made from perfectly shaped, life stepping stones. Keen to explore the diverse routes to, and experiences of, becoming a parent I reached out to one of our Morson executive managers who has recently navigated the adoption process to become a father with his partner.

For safeguarding purposes, we have kept the identity of the family anonymous, so there’s no BROOD photography provided by the talented Tom Pitfield, but I’m confident you’ll be as moved by this honest, inspiring and, at times, emotional story as I was.

During our conversation, we explore the challenges of raising a child with a traumatic past, the complications of using traditional parenting techniques with an adoptive child and why adoption should be considered more widely as a path to parenthood.

Morson Group
Adoption Process
Morson Group - Find your next job

Let’s start with your new reality, parenthood. How long have you been a dad?

We have had our boy for just under a year now, he moved in with us in November of last year. Honestly, I never thought I’d be a dad, but my partner and I have been together for 17 years and we felt it was time to start a family, so we decided to explore adoption.

We’ve had many a conversation over the past 9 months about how your little boy has changed your life and I’m interested to understand more about your experience of adopting and the adoption process itself…

It’s been an interesting time, not least because of the personal circumstances and realities you become aware of. All children who are in the adoption process will have experienced trauma in one way or another. The very reason they’re in the care system is because they have encountered some kind of harm and that could be anything from physical, sexual or emotional abuse and severe neglect. So, a big part of the process is having to prepare yourself to cope with, understand and manage that child’s experiences and life story.

Because we’ve adopted a slightly older child, who wasn’t put into the system until they were five and a half, he’s had years of not having his needs met. As you can imagine, caring for a child who has gone for five and a half years experiencing that when you cry, no one’s cuddled you, or when you’ve been hungry, no one’s fed you, their parent has gone out and left you alone at home on your own… there’s a lot of things to unpick. Often adopting an older child can come with more challenges than if you adopt a newborn baby. For example, in adoption, you can do something called early permanence. In early permanence, the birth mum is still in pregnancy and social services are aware that it’s a challenging environment with the birth family, so as soon as that child is born the baby is taken into care. These babies are safeguarded and cared for by the system from birth.

However, whatever the path to adoption, one thing you can rely on is that each child who enters care has experienced some type of trauma whether that’s in the womb or in the outside world. So you just need to prepare yourself for this.

So, as a couple, how do you prepare yourself for this reality and becoming adoptive parents to a child with a traumatic past, did you take any leave from work?

We did loads of research, training and workshops so we were fully aware of the challenges and prioritised creating an environment where our child would feel safe and supported. To help with this I took three months of adoption leave. The adoption policy for Morson would have allowed me to take 12 months or more if I wanted to, but I was conscious we needed to introduce work/life balance into our environment as part of the process – because that’s the reality of our lives. Three months full pay was amazing because when you bring your child home, that period of attachment with your child is massively important. Being able to take three months off and not having to worry about my salary was huge for me. My partner took off six months and he could have extended it to 12 months as well. That period where we both stayed at home together to nurture, understand and get to know our child and adapt to our new lives was essential.

Of course, the beauty of having a slightly older child is they do go to school which gave us some downtime, so that’s an advantage! Self-care and a strong support network is of paramount importance when you adopt a child, so allowing yourself time to have a relaxing bath, read a magazine or go for a coffee with a friend is a must.

As the parent of a toddler, I’m looking forward to school! Also, please give me hope, do they sleep when they’re older, please tell me they do?!

Do you know what? It’s funny because when he first came to us he would go to bed, then he would get up a short time later and become dysregulated. During this time he’d be throwing cushions and screaming at us, and it would take him probably an hour to settle.

And now?

You can put him to bed at 7:30 pm, say ‘Goodnight, I love you’ and he’ll not get out of bed until the morning (which happened to be 5:55 am today). We spoke to an educational psychologist who explained to us that if you do not feel safe the primary thing that is affected is your sleep. So, the fact that he sleeps through the night is speaking volumes about how he feels at home with us, so that’s a huge win.

That’s amazing and so positive to hear.

When you first came back to work I remember us chatting and you had loads of interesting tips like this for adopters and anyone caring for a child. Would you mind sharing some more?

Do you know what, a lot of the training when you go through the adoption process doesn’t just deal with children who’ve experienced trauma. Much of it can cover how to handle any child who is demonstrating challenging behaviours.

For me, the one key takeaway here was the power of playfulness. No matter how agitated they are, playfulness will nearly always get a child out of the mindset of being angry or upset. If you can get a child to smile or laugh, they cannot feel anger or upset at the same time. So one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that being playful and silly will help your child to become regulated again. Because of this, we find ourselves doing the most ridiculous things! If he suddenly becomes distracted, frustrated or unsettled we’ll do a stupid voice or a silly dance, or we’ll put on a silly song. As soon as he starts laughing you know he’s coming around, so playfulness is massive.

One of the other tips is distraction techniques. If you can distract your child it can help to diffuse potentially challenging behaviours. Tactics like making anonymous phone calls, for example, picking up the phone and making out that you’re speaking to someone immediately gets him to ask questions like, ‘Who’s that on the phone dad’… his curiosity takes over his agitation.

So, yes, playfulness and distraction are the two big things we’ve learned. My partner and I certainly have a playful nature, so I won’t lie, we actually really enjoy it.

Natasha Jonas Training
ADRIAN ADAIR FOR MORSON. IMAGES © BROOD MAGAZINE

So you say those tips are universal but do you think there are differences in parenting an adoptive child vs. a child who has had a more traditional upbringing?

I would say yes. You cannot parent a child who’s experienced trauma the same way you would a child who has not had a traumatic start to life.

Discipline is one key difference. If you’ve got a baby or child who cries a lot, traditional parenting methods may suggest leaving them to self-soothe or tactics such as sending them to their room to calm down. You can’t do that with a child who has experienced trauma because if your child used to cry, and no one ever came, their behaviour regresses. So you have to go and comfort them. Because of their experiences, many of these children have not met their developmental milestones because they haven’t had their needs met. Therefore their chronological age is different to their emotional age. For example, you may have a child who is eight, but emotionally still could be only 18 months old because they never had their emotional needs met.

It’s little things like when they get out of the bath, wrapping them in a towel and rocking them, which they didn’t experience as a baby. Another thing is around meal times, for example, my boy will occasionally ask for help eating because he didn’t have that support in his earlier years so is looking for that need to be met now. As an adoptive parent, you’ve got to consider their emotional age, not their chronological age. Remembering this is key.

I’ll be honest, I’ve found this part really difficult. I’m fighting 38 years of being parented and in a particular way. The fuses in my childhood home were very short and you cannot behave that way with an adoptive child, you must have patience. So it’s been a real eye-opener for me on how to try and control my initial reactions, be more tolerant and think about things more carefully.

So is it fair to say that the adoption experience has taught you a lot about yourself? Has becoming a parent changed you in any way?

Yes, I would say this experience has definitely taught me more about myself. I’ve always been quite an empathetic person and this has helped me transition into the adoptive parent role. This whole process has highlighted how important empathy and understanding people’s situations are. I think I’ve always been that way, to be honest, but even more so now.

Although I was only saying at work yesterday it’s funny how I have so much patience and tolerance with my team, yet you flip it onto parenthood and my tolerances and patience get a bit shorter. But I think this is because, when you become a parent your child becomes the most important thing in your life. Things that I would get upset and frustrated about beforehand in work, I’m just like, it’s not that important anymore. I don’t sweat the small stuff because my child and his well-being are my priority.

I agree. I think patience is the key word. People say to me all the time that I’ve calmed down since I’ve become a dad. I think when you’re at home, in a social environment or the workplace being more patient with people whether that’s colleagues, children, family or friends ensures you get the best out of those around you.

Speaking of friends, when we used to meet up we’d talk about which restaurant we’d been to or what holiday we’d just booked. Now it’s all mealtime strategies, sleep cycles and ‘guess what food has been smeared on my clothes this morning?’ Is it fair to say life has changed?

Yeah! Now it’s all about soft play and where the best children’s theme parks are. Holidays are not the same. Now you book a hotel based on the kids club reviews and availability of free slushies.

It’s not a holiday anymore. It’s a trip!

Yeah, it’s very, very different, but different in a good way.

I never expected to be a dad. Ever. Because I thought parenthood would be something that I would never do, you don’t work towards it. I think in heterosexual couples (or certainly it used to be) you would get together, get married and have a baby; you’d have these relationship milestones set out. But often in a gay relationship, couples get together, get a house and live the rest of your life frivolously. But as soon as my partner and I started the process we knew we were meant to be dads and I would never change it.

I always said when I first met Leanne that I’m not getting married again, I don’t want children and I don’t like pets…

And look at you now.

Yep, 15 years on, we’re married, we’ve got a dog and Alana proceeded pretty swiftly afterwards. You make a good point though. Society used to force everyone into these ‘norms’ but nowadays people are ripping up the rule book. I think we were probably the last generation who felt that pressure.

Though I couldn’t see my life any other way now. To see the world through a child’s eyes is probably the best thing I’ve ever experienced because they just love everything, don’t they? The first time they step on sand or go on a plane, it’s all new and exciting…

Oh absolutely! The number of times we’ve sat there and our little boy has just looked up and gone ‘This is the best day ever!‘.

It’s particularly powerful for him because he was taken into care at five and went through several different foster placements, so he’s never been able to feel safe, settled or have things of his own. He’s never been spoiled, and now he’s having all these experiences, he’s like WOW! Though we’ve had to reign it in a little bit!

What’s it like seeing the difference in him and knowing you’re giving him the best life experiences possible? Are you an adoption advocate?

A massive yes on both parts. I think more people need to see adoption as an option. People don’t look at or talk about fostering and adoption enough. I mean, consider the positive impact you can have; not only are you bringing joy to your life, but you’re also giving a child who would not have the best life a chance to have an amazing life. So people should think more about it because they’re crying out for adopters.

Look, it’s challenging, I won’t sugar coat that, in some early conversations with you I probably burst into tears a couple of times, but the rewards on both sides are huge.

That’s such a powerful message and you’ve completely opened my eyes, like many others I’m guilty of being relatively naive to the adoption conversation. Do you have any tips for people that are thinking about going on that journey?

I think my one tip would be that you cannot be overprepared. Read the books. Do as much training as you possibly can, because there is nothing that can prepare you for some of the challenges that are involved, but it is very, very, very rewarding. Some training courses we went on and some of the stories we heard were so sad and unbelievable so yeah, just be prepared. That’s the most important thing.

We’ve worked together now for 11(!) years and it’s been lovely to see you go on this journey, I know I’ve never seen you happier. You’ve got such a nurturing personality, and a brilliant relationship with your partner, I know you’re creating a great home for your boy.

Yeah, times have certainly changed since we were dancing on tables doing Karaoke and singing Barbie Girl! But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Through my relationship with this particular colleague and others, I’ve seen first-hand how adoption has enriched the lives of both adults and children. For me, it’s so important that organisations support and enable people to explore all routes to parenthood, and as business leaders, we must help to facilitate and champion this.

At Morson, our adoption policy has been crafted to ensure that adoptive parents are supported equally to those on traditional maternity or paternity leave. Primary parents receive the same entitlement as those on maternity and secondary parents mirror paternity policy. But, it’s not just adoption, we’re looking at various family structures to ensure our colleagues are supported by policies which are fair, inclusive, and reflective of their personal circumstances. For example, we’re currently working directly with one of our colleagues who is going through IVF to help write and shape our IVF policy to ensure it offers the right level of support.

As a business with a large, global reach we’re passionate about influencing positive change across our network based on learned experience. As such our HR teams are working with a number of clients to help them craft inclusive policies for their current and future workforce, through our HR Outsourcing service.

If you are a business wishing to explore how best to champion inclusion and support your employees or an individual looking for an opportunity in an organisation that cares for the personal and professional you, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me directly adrian.adair@morson.com

Morson Group - Find your next job
Morson Group
Interviewed by
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

Kate Devine – Nutritionist, PT & Mum of 3 Boys

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KATE DEVINE’S: NO BAKE RASPBERRY & CHOCOLATE ENERGY BARS

KATE DEVINE’S: NO BAKE RASPBERRY & CHOCOLATE ENERGY BARS

KATE DEVINE’S: NO BAKE RASPBERRY & CHOCOLATE ENERGY BARS

It’s back to school time!! Hallelujah!! Of course I love my kids unconditionally but WOW, I’ll definitely be that parent skipping and smiling out of the school gates at drop off on their first day back! 

I’m sure many of you have been juggling work, summer holidays, life in general and now uniform shopping, queuing in school shoe shops and spending too many hours searching for just the right pens, pencils and protractors for your cherubs new, squeaky clean pencil case! I do have to laugh though, I mean, it’s as if my kids were last at school a year ago and absolutely nothing will fit them and I must absolutely buy them everything new or else…..what?! They’ll just wear the uniform they wore 8 weeks ago which pretty much still fits them! The sheer panic when trawling the shops is funny really.

Anyway, onto food talk….more specifically, packed lunches. Trying to find healthy foods that our kids will eat when left to their own devices in the dinner hall is near impossible. They’ll always pick the tastiest options or just not eat what we put in their lunchboxes and go hungry. Neither is ideal. So, I find building their lunchboxes with them the most effective way to get them to eat well. Okay, so let’s be realistic here as well….you’ve been working late or done a million after school clubs and just about manage to feed your kid(s) dinner and get them in bed at a decent hour, then you realise you’ve got to do their lunchboxes! You’re not going to wake them and get them to join you in the slightly tedious process of creating a nutritious yet tasty lunch for the following day. BUT, you can perhaps spend some time over the weekend/evenings chatting and swapping ideas of what they might like to have for the coming weeks lunches. And if you are organised one night, before bed, ask them if they want to help you make their lunch for the next day and that you want to make sure they’re going to enjoy and want everything you put in there. Also, don’t forget they can take leftover dinners such as pasta or rice dishes, which they can eat cold or pittas, wraps or bagels. It doesn’t have to just be soggy sandwiches, crisps and chocolate bars!

One of the main things I would recommend to incorporate into their lunches is variety. Try to add different texture foods – sweet, salty, crunchy and soft, like pretzels, raisins, grapes, tortilla chips, chocolate rice crackers and nuts (be aware of allergies of course, or anyone in their class or who they sit with that may have nut allergies!). I also find putting their food into individual containers, not only keeps it fresher for longer but you can get really cute little jars and pots for their snacks that they will love as it’s something to show their friends and makes their food more interesting. I get mine from Amazon, they’ve got a huge variety that your kids can get involved in choosing with you.

I also find that when I pick mine up from school, they are STARVING – and must eat right now or else they’re going to collapse from the hunger! So dramatic. So I’ve been experimenting with healthy energy bars to take at pick up so they can survive the journey home and not collapse along the way! The most popular ones are the Raspberry and Chocolate ones, they are no cook and quick to make with minimal fuss. You can also cut into smaller portions and use in their lunchboxes to help avoid that afternoon sugar dip and keep them alert and brainy! Here’s the recipe for you to try…

No Bake Raspberry & Chocolate Energy Bars

You will need:

  • Rectangular baking tin – like a bread tin (9inch x 5inch approx)
  • Parchment paper
  • Food processor
  • Spatula

Ingredients:

Base – 

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup cashew nuts
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 2 tbsp Maca powder
  • 2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 cup dates
  • 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 1-3 tbsp almond milk

Top – 

  • 2 cups frozen raspberries
  • 2 tbsp acai powder
  • 1-2 tbsp rice malt syrup/maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup cashew nuts
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Optional – 1 cup dark/milk chocolate for the top – melt in a saucepan and use a folk to drizzle over the top before freezing

Method:

  • Line the baking tray with parchment paper
  • Place all base ingredients – accept almond milk – in the food processor and blend until fine and crumbly – if mixture is too dry and doesn’t bind when pushed down, add a small amount of almond milk until sticky
  • Using the spatula push the base down firmly and place in the freezer while you prepare the top layer
  • Place all topping ingredients into the food processor and blend until smooth – the mixture will still be fairly thick due to the frozen berries
  • Remove the base from the freezer and place the mixture on top of the base and push down with the spatula until firm
  • Add the chocolate drizzle at this point if using
  • Place in the freezer for half an hour and once set, cut into bars or squares if using for lunch box snacks
  • For storage – keep in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month and remove a piece at a time prior to eating to allow it to thaw.

    NO BAKE RASPBERRY & CHOCOLATE ENERGY BARS
    written BY KATE DEVINE

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