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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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
Written by

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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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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

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Oli’s Dadpreneur Diary

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Oli & Kim Dunn and thier Daughter Romy for BROOD MAGAZINE © TOM Pitfield Photography 

“Becoming a Dad has inspired me.”

Hi I’m Oli, you might know me as Oli The Choc, I’ve been a chocolatier for 20 years, growing up in the family business Simon Dunn Chocolatier I watched my parents start a business from scratch and that inspired me to do the same.
My Mum and Dad own a chocolate shop so they are the “product” whereas I’m the “service”, entertaining people with chocolate and teaching them how to make things, this gives me incredible satisfaction when I see them get into their creative flow and learn something new, kids or adults. I’ve created my own crazy little world on social media and on Chocolate Street in High Lane, Stockport. I’m passionate about working with chocolate and about being me, having fun and sharing what I do with the world.

In the last couple of years I’ve been on a journey into podcasting, presenting and appearing on TV shows such as Blue Peter and Stephs Packed Lunch.
I’m delighted to be part of the Brood family, as a new Dad, self confessed big kid and running my own business I’m here to share some of those experiences, lessons, thoughts and hopefully adding some value and interestingness (is that even a word?) to you👇🏼 and here to remind you that you can still pursue your dreams and achieve your goals whilst being a parent.

On the 13th June 2021 Romy Star was born into the world thanks to a very special beautiful lady, her Mama, my wife Kim. People told us life will never be the same, and you won’t be able to do the things you used to. Well I’m here to tell you that you can, yes it’s different and there’s a lot of juggling, challenges and sometimes frustration but the most significant fact for me is that my “why” is much stronger than ever before.

In becoming a Dad I feel I now have a greater purpose in being the best version of myself, succeeding in business/ career and most importantly being happy.
Therefore this has cemented who I am as a person, embracing my own madness and desire to play and be a big kid. After all who ever said we have to stop having fun when we become adults and more so parents, so I’m doubling down on that!

My advise to any parent would be, make time for yourself when you can, read, write, walk, run or in my case Onewheel (if you follow me on IG you’ll know what that is) to give you that reset, refocus, clear mind, fresh perspective and your own identity outside of being a parent which will strengthen your parenting skills

Oli Dunn Chocolatier
Oli Dunn Choc
Oli The Choc presenting

Becoming a Dad has inspired me.
It’s important for me to show Romy you can do something you love and pursue random fun experiences in life, just because you want to. You can live the life you want and you can show others that they can too.

As a child I wanted to be a TV or radio presenter but I always felt from feedback that this was “unrealistic” so I joined the family business and became a chocolatier. Which I loved then and love even more now.
This actually led me down a path of presenting which I didn’t realise at the time, hosting children’s parties and corporate events. The main skill aside from working with chocolate was presenting and entertaining.
This has opened doors and created opportunities for me outside of chocolate in that I have a Podcast called Goin’ In Deep, and I host live shopping shows on TikTok working with brands such as I Saw It First, Disney, Warner Bros, Zavvi, Lego etc.

I want to be able to say to Romy that she can be and do whatever she feels inspired to and to know that nothing is “unrealistic”, so my drive is to be able to show her that this is true through how I’ve lived my life. Living proof.

You can create the life you want and if you truly want to do something, you can and you will.
You have to be patient and work hard but trust the process. Give yourself a pat on the back now and again and remind yourself how far you have come. Nothing will get in your way, not even becoming a parent. Everything you do leads to something else, opportunities are everywhere, so keep going.

I’m excited to share that message to Romy and to see where she takes this perspective in her life, the sky is the limit.

I am excited to share more of my perspectives and experiences with you through my Brood articles and I hope you will come with me on my journey and I hope as well you will be able to relate and take something away.

Until next time, but for now I’ll leave you with this thought;
Stop what you’re doing and be Grateful AF for what you have and have achieved so far.
Keep being the best ‘you’ you can be and remember to enjoy the journey, every single thing you do leads to something else. Trust the process.

Yours Chocolatey,

Oli
@Oli_The_Choc

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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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Cath Tyldesley & Tom Pitfield share the news of Cath’s incredible career opportunity overseas that will leave Tom  ‘holding the baby’.

Cath Tyldesley & Tom Pitfield share the news of Cath’s incredible career opportunity overseas that will leave Tom ‘holding the baby’.

© BROOD MAGAZINE. OUR CO-FOUNDER TOM PITFIELD, HIS WIFE, ACTRESS CATHERINE TYLDESLEY & THEIR SON ALFIE & DAUGHTER IRIS 

“Mum guilt never gets any easier!

Only last week our co-founder Tom Pitfield, and his wife, a successful and widely respected actress, singer, writer and producer – Cath Tyldesley, had a gold-plated spanner thrown in the works when it came to their family life; when Cath was offered a dream role in an exciting TV drama, which meant that she would be filming on location abroad for three months! Within the space of a week, from the amazing opportunity arising, Cath was on a plane and on her way to pursue an incredible career opportunity, with Tom effectively left ‘holding the baby’.

Anyone who knows Cath knows that she is a doting mum and that she absolutely adores her family, so it goes without saying that leaving her family behind to embark on her latest career adventure was not going to be something that she would find easy, but having worked so hard her entire career and proving people wrong through undeniable determination and unwavering talent, the only option was to embrace the opportunity, and make both herself and her family proud. Cath is flying the flag for all the formidable Mamma’s that stand tall and say it’s more than ok to be a mum and still want a career and achieve their dreams; and equally Tom is flying the flag for all the fantastic hands-on dads out there, as anyone who knows Tom, knows that he is more than capable of manning the fort alone for a few months, (albeit that he may need to have lots of rum on hand!) Tom is an amazing father, and he completely supports his wife’s career goals – just as she does his! Between them they make a marvellous team and are showing their children that teamwork really does makes the dream work. We had the pleasure of chatting to Cath and Tom about this very ‘BROOD-esq’ situation, just before Cath had to leave for the airport, and they bravely shared both their excitement and fears that the situation has brought upon them, and they explain how they see it as just another adventure that they will complete and that will further enhance their family’s life in the long term. 

Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris
© BROOD MAGAZINE. OUR CO-FOUNDER TOM PITFIELD & HIS DAUGHTER IRIS 

“- yes, I am a mother, but I am also still Cath, and an actress

Cath, you’ve just landed a dream role – congratulations! It’s so well deserved and such amazing news!!! You’ll be working on location for a number of months though, meaning you will be away from your family, which will inevitably be really hard for you all, but in order to succeed in our careers it can often mean making sacrifices – especially when you have little ones, and you are self-employed; how important is it to you to lead by example in showing your children that they should always follow their dreams, and how much did that impact your decision in accepting the role?

Cath – “It’s hard, I almost feel like two different people, because there is career-Cath who is incredibly ambitious, extremely self-motivated and very driven, and so I’m always determined to fulfil my goals. Failure isn’t an option. And I love my job. My job is my happy place. But then on the flip side being a mum is my happy place too and it’s ok to want to have both of those things! There’s never a true balance, so there is no point trying to get that. I think I have to remember that sometimes I’m with them [the children] and sometimes I’m not, that’s just how it is. But I get to see my children more than most ‘9-5’ people, so although I might work away for a couple of months here and there, in between jobs I have a lot of downtime and that is always spent with my kids and my husband, so in a lot of ways we’re very lucky. But, yes, I’m not denying it’s incredibly difficult and I’m actually just about to leave to go to the airport and I can’t stop crying! I’ve got tears of joy because it’s an amazing role, it’s an amazing job, with amazing talent, but the other part of me is crying because even though I’m going to be reunited with my family in 10 days’ time, my little girl is only 16 weeks old, so it’s a long time to be away from her, to be away from them both. But I hope I instil a good work ethic in my children and show them that it’s important to remember who you are, because yes, I am a mother, but I am also still Cath, and an actress.

Also, my parents held down several jobs to give myself and my sister a good life, and for me to be able to go to drama school, so I grew up with working parents. And my kids come everywhere with me, wherever possible, we’re flying them out in just over a weeks’ time, where I go the kids go, we’re a family so I always strive to make it work!”

We live in a society where unfortunately it still seems to be ‘not the done thing’ for a mum to return to work while their babies are young, what would you say to anyone who may cast judgment on you for working away whilst Iris is so young?

Cath – “You can’t cast judgement on any parent! Being a parent is the most wonderful job in the world, but it is also the most challenging mentally – and physically! You need to be in athletic condition to be a parent, especially when you’ve got several children. Looking after your health is everything when you’re a parent for so many reasons. It takes real strength of character to be a good parent and you just need to make things work for you and your family, and every single family is different. I couldn’t do a 9-5 job, knowing that week after week that I would be caught in the rat race and only be getting home just in time to put the kids down for bed. That does not appeal to me. Whereas the way that I live, as mentioned earlier, yes there are intense work periods, but in between that I have weeks and weeks where I’m with the children, where I’m able to do the school runs and we can do lots of nice things together, and I just think that whatever your situation you make it work.”

Tom is obviously an amazing Dad and completely hands-on, so both the children are in very good hands, but the dreaded ‘Mum Guilt’ always seems to creep in – even when there is nothing to feel guilty about! What coping mechanisms do you use to help you deal with ‘Mum Guilt’ when you’re working?

Cath – “Mum guilt never gets any easier! I was awake at half three this morning and I had a little cry, I’ll admit that because I do feel guilty sometimes. But then I used to feel guilty when I had a more regular job, because I was working all day every day and there was no real end in sight. So, I think that no matter what position you are in as parent in terms of work, you’re always going to feel guilty, and the fact of the matter is that I want my children to have the best possible life that I can give them and for me that means being surrounded by love and wonderful, inspirational people, and that’s what my children have tenfold.

Hopefully they’ll be inspired by me and Tom, and I really hope that they both have driven personalities and can follow their dreams. I tell Alfie all the time that if you can see it, you can achieve it. I’m living proof of that. So many people told me I wouldn’t do half the things I’ve done, and I’ve done them! I think goal setting is very important in life and it’s very important to establish that positivity for your children because the world that we live in, more than ever, can be a very dark place, so helping them to have a positive mental attitude is so important.”

 

Tom, how much Rum did you drink when you realised Cath was going to be working on location for so long and that you would be left effectively holding the baby?! (Lol)

Tom – “I’m not going to lie; Rum will play a part in my parenting over the next three months!” He laughs. “To be honest, with this job and how it just all happened so quickly we didn’t really have time to think. As soon as Cath walked out of the door to go the airport, I had that realisation that I’ve got to cook the tea now, whilst holding the baby and looking after a 7-year-old, and that’s not going to change for the next three months. But you know what, we’ve done it before – albeit it was just me and Alfie then, so we’ve got an extra one this time, but we’ll do it! We knew this was going to be our life whether we had one or two kids, or no kids, so we knew the deal when we first got together and we always said we would do everything as a team, so this is just the next adventure, and we’ll complete it and move on. And we’ve got to just stay positive like that, as Cath’s following her dreams and we support her, just like she supports me, so it’s mutual respect.”

 

What are your biggest fears of juggling being the main carer for children and maintaining your own growing career whilst Cath is away?

Tom – “Initially I think my biggest fear is centred around Alfie, because he’s our first and he had 7 years of it being just us three, and when Cath was working away, it was just us two. I’ve explained to him that Mummy’s working away again, but that this time we’ve got Iris so it will be harder, and I might not always be able to give him the attention he deserves.

With regards to the career side of things, it will be a challenge, but it’s always a challenge when you’ve got kids anyway, especially with Catherine’s career being the way it is, so that has always been a juggling act. Having the extra element of having Alfie and Iris on my own will make it a little bit harder, and I’m sure there will be a fine line in making sure I don’t compromise the kids or my career, but I know I can do it and my main goal is just to get the job done and not to drop the ball workwise at all so that from a client point of no one will see the struggles, as that’s really important.”

You are a very hands-on Dad and although a lot more people are these days, for some there still seems to be a ridiculous perception that the majority of parenting responsibility should lie with the mother. Are you proud of the example that you are setting your children, in showing them that parenting isn’t just for Mum and that it’s about teamwork where Dad can play just as much of an important role as Mum?

Tom – “Yeah, absolutely. I think if I look around at a lot of my friends, even though they’ve got full time jobs, they are very hands on like myself, so I think it’s definitely changing. But when you are out in the wider public there certainly is still a perception for what dads ‘should be doing’ and what mums ‘should be doing’ – even in this day and age! So yes, I’m extremely proud. Even if I’m just walking through the supermarket to go and change Iris or something, and it’s just me and her, I’m very proud of wearing the changing bag and just being as hands on as I am. And I absolutely do think that will flow through to the kids and I’d like them to be the same, especially Alfie. I think the way both of us parent, going back to Cath working away, is because we want that work ethic to pass down to the kids. We always show them that Mummy and Daddy train hard, they work hard, and they play hard, and I think there is a lot to be said for that. So, if they can go into adult life with that similar mentality, we know they won’t do so bad. So, it definitely plays a part in the way we construct our lives, because we do want them to learn from it. The roles are very similar these days, it’s not just a dad’s job to go out and earn, Mums are just as big and as important in that respect and vice versa from a parenting point of view. And this is obviously one of the things that BROOD Magazine is about, we want to highlight that it’s ok for it to be 50/50 and get rid of that stigma!” 

 

Tom Pitfield, Catherine Tyldesley and Family
Tom Pitfield, Catherine Tyldesley and Family © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY 
Brood Coffee Table Book
Simon Wood
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Oli’s Dadpreneur Diary

Oli & Kim Dunn and thier Daughter Romy for BROOD MAGAZINE © TOM Pitfield Photography  “Becoming a Dad has inspired me.” Hi I’m Oli, you might know me as Oli The Choc, I’ve been a chocolatier for 20 years, growing up in the family business Simon Dunn Chocolatier I...

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How children can enrich your spiritual path

How children can enrich your spiritual path

Brood Coffee Table Book

How children can enrich your spiritual path.

The beginning of my spiritual journey was one spent in solitude, I loved creating my own temple space within my living room, I meditated within the forest at the back of my home, I travelled globally escaping the reality of the ‘normal world’, learning the landscapes of my inner world, and this served me well as a single woman who was desperately trying to find herself.

 

Now, 2.5 years into a committed relationship and co-parenting I find myself reflecting on how children an enrich your spiritual path. I personally have experienced a heightened state of appreciation, wonder and inspiration from watching my partners son navigate the world in his own unique way. Becoming a bonus parent has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life. Teaching a child how to take responsibility for themselves whilst facing the fears of having responsibility of another human has been quite sobering!

 

Having a child in my home has grounded and rooted me into the realities of relationships and connected me into deeper states of joy. My inner child is constantly inspired by Theo’s artistic imagination, he reminds me to tap into the innocence of taking pleasure from the simplest of experiences and to stop taking life so seriously. Because of him I wish to show up as the best version of myself within my relationship, which means learning to forgive myself and each other when we “lose our shit.”

 

I’ve learnt to slow right down and be patient when Theo is sharing his own wisdom on the meaning of things he sees in nature, his perspective on past lives, manifestation and what happens when we die. In him I see a little shaman who is an old soul, connected to the subtle energies of this world. I enjoy being mindful with his curiosity and seeing life through his eyes.

 

Children constantly teach us the marvels of the world around us, to be grateful for the daily mircles, and come back to meaningful playfulness. They remind us to step outside the mindless wheel of worry and to take time to be present, to connect and listen.

 

 

Ways to cultivate your child’s spiritual curiosity

 

Be patient, when your child is asking their cosmic questions go down the rabbit hole with them until they feel complete in your conversation.

 

Teach them to be kind to other and stand up for what they believe in.

 

By introducing spiritual practices and rituals when they are young, such as lighting candles or incantations (prayers) – your child will view them as a natural part of life, and you’ll have a creative influence over them before others supress’ it within them.

 

This can be incorporated into ordinary actions and words. When you get out of bed in the morning, you can fling your arms up in the air and say out loud, “Today is going to be a good day”, At bedtime, you can say good night by sharing something you appreciate about each other and express gratitude for something you received during the day.

 

Try to limit the amount of time they watch tv, scroll on their phones and play video games, encourage your child to play outside in nature as much as possible. Teach them to respect nature by picking up their rubbish and thanking the tree’s.

 

Play guided meditations and relaxation music to help them sleep at night.

 

Above all make it fun, sing, dance, get dirty in the mud, make up stories, read stories together, paint pictures and let your imaginations run wild!

 

Let your child lead, you might discover something you never thought of before.

Talk to other parents. Reach out to your fellow Brood members and find other families who share your passion and values.

 

Ashleigh Guthrie

Ashleigh Guthrie is a spiritual mentor and wellness practitioner. She lives with her partner in Prestwich, Manchester and is a bonus parent to Theo, age 11. She especially enjoys working with women who are interested in mapping their menstrual cycles for the benefit of their business growth, cultivating conscious relationships and women’s circles.

Connect with her on Instagram and send her a DM o book a free discovery call. @ashleighguthrie01

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What others think of us is actually none of our business…

What others think of us is actually none of our business…

What others think of us is actually none of our business…

This is something that I continually remind myself and my clients of. We can spend so much of our time and energy on worrying about other peoples opinions, as well as the general opinions and expectations of society in general. We could say its not always a bad thing if we consider other people, however, if we are making decisions about our lives based on what others think instead of primarily considering our own needs and desires, then this can have a huge knock on effect in many areas of our lives.

 

I recently shared a picture of my husband and our eight week old baby on social media. He had the baby in a carrier and was sweeping the floor at the same time. He is actually taking the majority of the paternity leave as I run my own business, and so it was not an option for me to be off for any decent amount of time as the business doesn’t run without me, and so he is now off taking on the majority of care for our baby for the next seven months. As you can imagine this will potentially divide opinion, as it isn’t the norm in our society for men to take extended paternity and for women to go back after two weeks, but it has worked out wonderfully for us. We get to spend so much more time together as a whole family, my husband has had the opportunity to bond with our daughter on another level, and the flexibility has worked our really well for all of us. We know that we are very fortunate to have this option, and it hasn’t come without some challenges (certainly for me!) but overall we definitely wouldn’t change it.

 

The reason I am sharing this with you is because when we were deciding whether to take this option, it did come to mind how both of us may be perceived for making this choice, and some people were shocked and didn’t necessarily think this is how it ‘should’ be! Opinions such as me not fulfilling my duties as a mum by going back to work too soon,my husband ruining his career opportunities by taking time off and so on. If we had worried about being judged by others we could have been in a very different situation right now, both trying to juggle work and a new born as well as a teenager and what for? To reach approval from others? To fit in with societies expectations? It was a consideration, and I know that so many people stop themselves from doing what feels best for them due to fear of disapproval and judgement. Who decides what is best for us anyway? All of societies norms and people’s opinions are simply a build up of conditioned beliefs that they carry over a period of time, that are not often challenged, and also regularly do not actually suit us or our lifestyle but have simply become so habitual.

 

I wanted to write this as a reminder to anyone who feels they want more from life. That feels that they are holding off doing certain things due to fear of being judged, that you will be judged and thats OK! What if it doesn’t matter what other people think? What if it’s actually none of your business was they think? Take it from a 43 year old mum of a new born, with a stay at home husband, that your happiness will definitely not come from pleasing others, it will come from you putting yourself first ,and that involves sometimes making decisions that challenge the general norm. Go for it! You never know it may even turn out better than you ever imagined.

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SIMON WOOD’S FAMILY BBQ: VIMTO SWEET & SOUR HANGER STEAK KEBABS

SIMON WOOD’S FAMILY BBQ: VIMTO SWEET & SOUR HANGER STEAK KEBABS

VIMTO SWEET & SOUR HANGER STEAK KEBABS
BY SIMON WOOD OF WOOD MANCHESTER AND WoodKraft Cheltenham. IMAGES © BROOD MAGAZINE

It is important, so very important that we eat, cook and relax as a family. Despite life trying its best to get in the way. Once a week we should all make the time.

 

This is my first column for Brood so I thought I’d lay out my food and family ethos as well as showing you some amazing hands on child friendly Summer BBQ recipes and a little something for the grown-ups to enjoy.

Food and families 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 maybe not.

Dictionary definitions of food include terms such as wholesome, supporting growth, or providing energy. People recognize that food is necessary for the physical survival of their families. Although sometimes the purpose of food intake is only to satisfy hunger, the role of food in families goes much further than meeting physical needs.

We can all recall many memories, special occasions, sad times and celebrations and in every one of them, Food, will at some point be what joins us together. The flavours, smells and sounds of a meal all evoke a sixth sense in us that immediately transport us to that event or period in time.

It is important, so very important that we eat, cook and relax as a family. Despite life trying its best to get in the way. Once a week we should all make the time.

VIMTO SWEET & SOUR HANGER STEAK KEBABS

Today I’m going to focus on the Summer, the smell of a barbeque and dinner in the garden. And a recipe you can get the kids involved making.

 

When I’m cooking in the restaurant or developing a new dish I have one brief. “Classic flavours served with playful authenticity” and this recipe does just that. It reminds me of my first Chinese, even though I’m using local Manchester products, Hangar Steak from my Butcher, Gav at Albion Farm. Vimto, there aren’t many Children (or Adults) that don’t enjoy the soft drink first sold in Lancashire. It was first manufactured as a health tonic in cordial form, then decades later as a carbonated drink. It contains the juice of grapes, raspberries and blackcurrants and that itself generates many childhood recollections.

 

I use it as the sweetness in my Beef and Green Pepper Glaze, reminiscent of sweet and sour or beef in black bean sauce from family take-away treat nights.

 

Using measures of two parts Vimto, one water and half red wine vinegar it’s a great yet simple marinade. In a saucepan add a little oil gently soften some sliced shallots before adding in your liquid marinade and reducing until sticky

 

  • 2 Shallots (Sliced)
  • 20ml Sunflower Oil
  • 300ml Vimto
  • 150ml Water
  • 75ml Red Wine Vinegar

 

  • Place a pan on a medium heat and add the oil, followed by the shallots. Soften the shallot gently and then add in the marinade. Reduce by just over half. Later in the recipe you’ll use a bunch of rosemary to glaze the almost cooked kebabs to give them a sticky sweet and sour glaze.

 

In this recipe I’m using Hangar steak for my kebabs, you can use any steak for this recipe, it will work with Chicken or even Tofu. However I think beef is best and for that you need to get on good terms with your local butcher. I use Butcher Gav (@butcher_gav) from Albion Farm Shop Butchers in Saddleworth. He is an avid Grill master as well as being one of the best butchers in the business, the produce is amazing and it fits this recipe a treat, plus I’m supporting a local business which in the current climate is absolutely vital.

 

Simon Wood
BBQ IMAGES © FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

For this recipe I’m going to cook for the family, that’s me and the kids (and Grandchild) so in total around 8 People. Here is what you’ll need.

 

  • 5 kilos of Beef
  • 8 Large Green Peppers
  • 8 Large Spring Onions (The giant ones)
  • 6 big sprigs of rosemary (to brush)
  • Maldon Sea Salt
  • 8 Metal 14” Kebab Skewers
  • 200ml Sunflower oil
  • 5 Sprigs of rosemary tied with string

 

Method

 

  • First Dice your beef into equal sized pieces, around 1.5 inches square is best
  • De-seed and chop your peppers into the same size
  • Then, Half your onions
  • Next starting with the onion, then pepper, followed the beef layer up your kebab skewers with a piece of pepper between every chunk of steak.
  • Drizzle in oil and then Season with a good amount of Maldon Salt before grilling at 200ºc turning until thoroughly cooked, around 15 minutes
  • For the last 5 minutes use the sticky glaze and rosemary brush to coat the meat in the delicious marinade. Don’t do this to soon or the sugar will burn before the meat is cooked.

 

Once cooked, charred and sticky make sure you leave the kebabs to rest thoroughly at least 10-12 minutes, this is so important and, gives everyone time to take in the smell and anticipation of dinner to be served. I would serve this with a simple green salad and a warm and toasty barbequed flatbread.

 

Now, while you’re waiting for the meat to rest the grown-ups can enjoy this particularly Summery drink using one of my favourite flavours, Lemon.

 

A Limoncello Spritz

 

25ml Luxardo Limoncello

25ml Forty-Five Dry Vermouth

Fill with ice and then Top with Sparkling Wine of Choice.

 

My choice is Exton Park RB45 this is the drink of choice for my restaurants Chefs Table arrival and shows an abundance of tropical and citrus fruit, with subtle notes of vanilla and orange blossom, it works amazingly well with this cocktail

 Once Poured simply Garnish with a Lemon twist or some Verbena before relaxing and enjoying making invaluable food related memories with the people that matter the most.

 

I do hope you have enjoyed my first Column for Brood, 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.

WoodKraft Cheltenham
Simon Wood
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Let’s TALK HOLIDAY AND EXERCISE

I’m lucky enough to be writing this months article while still on my holiday in Spain. I get asked a lot by clients and friends about how to stay healthy but still enjoy yourself while away; and to avoid the guilty feeling of less exercise and eating and drinking too much because, lets be realistic here, we are all going to do that to some degree while on our well deserved holiday.

Firstly, and most importantly, your holiday is supposed to be a period of time that you get to break away from ‘every day’ life and recharge. Try to completely switch off from any feelings of what you should be doing and focus on what you actually want to do for a change – that could involve exercising or it could be sipping strawberry daiquiri’s by the pool. It’s only for a week or two and I can assure you, you’re not going to return home looking anything but hopefully a little bronzed and rested.

 

Personally, I give myself at least a week off my usual exercise (this is classed as a de-load week in the fitness world) and can be anything from walking or a light jog/cycle a few times a week. Honestly, I try not to focus on exercise too much while away and think of it as more of a walk to the beach listening to a podcast or swimming a few lengths/playing in the pool with my kids. These are all things we don’t get to do while at home and it all counts as exercise! Any movement is good and sometimes it can be pretty fun!

 

When it comes to food, I understand how my body works e.g. how it reacts to certain foods/drinks, how they make me feel and how I metabolise things, so I try to make my food choices based around this. I am gluten intolerant and have low blood sugar levels, so I have to pick wisely or else days of my holiday could be lost to illness. I have limited choices, whether I like it or not and that’s something I have learned to work with and now has very little impact on my life.

 

I offer these 6 points of advice to my clients when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle while on holiday or when socialising:

 

  1. Live your life – try to not make the enjoyable experience of eating out about ‘going off plan’ or ‘overindulging’. Your plan will still be there for you to continue when you’re ready. Restricting yourself will take the joy out of the experience of living your life. Spending time with friends and family has been scientifically proven to be good for your mental health; this is something that should be seen as an important area of your life and should be just as significant as the foods we consume.
  2. Plan ahead – Find out where you’re eating/drinking and research the food and drink menu before you get there. This will avoid you being overwhelmed with choices and help prevent making impulsive, unhealthy decisions under pressure.
  3. Push the boundaries – Opt for foods that are healthy but maybe something that you’ve not tried before or don’t often get the chance to have at home. Learn to enjoy the different tastes and textures of foods and drinks and appreciate the opportunity that you’ve created to be where you are now.
  4. Learn to make better choices – like you would when planning your meals and going to the supermarket, you will begin to learn what works for you and the healthier options you enjoy the most.
  5. Don’t feel obliged to have all 3 courses – Of course, if you want to and feel you have a good relationship with food, then absolutely go of it. Know you deserve to eat delicious food and that food is a privilege and should be enjoyed guilt free.
  6. Count nutrients not calories – counting calories is not something I promote in my clinic. I find it creates unhealthy boundaries and turns food into numbers that people base their choices on. Instead, maybe research the nutritional qualities of the foods you enjoy and discover what amazing benefits they can have on your health. Feel fulfilled with the choice you’ve made based upon how it best serves you, instead of the guilt of consuming too many calories.

 I’ve been experimenting with BBQ foods recently and trying to move away from the traditional sausages and burgers. I need more variety in my life and they’re just not cutting it anymore! Also our random British weather means that just as you’re all ready to get the BBQ lit, the heaven’s open and your all legging it inside! So I’ve roped my kids into helping me find a few more interesting recipes that they can get invol