Cath Tyldesley discusses BROOD with Sarie Taylor


Actress, Writer, Producer, BROOD Food Columnist, mum of two and Guest Speaker Cath Tyldesley talks about our upcoming event BROOD Live

Brood Magazine’s 1st Live Event will be hosted by legendary Hits Radio presenter and Dad of 2 Mike Toolan, with special guest speakers including Masterchef Winner, Award Winning Owner of Wood Restaurants and Dad of Four, Simon Wood; Dragons Den Entrepreneur, Social Media Mogul and Dad of Two, Aaron Branch; Celebrity Chocolatier, Steph’s Packed Lunch Guest Presenter and Dad of One, Oli Dunn; Founder of Worldwide Wellbeing and Physiotherapist and Mum of two Sarie Taylor: Ex Olympian, Life Coach, Motivational Speaker and Mum of 3 Michelle Griffith Robinson: Entrepreneur, Menagerie Founder and Mum of 2, Karina Javid; Philanthropist and many more to be announced soon…

Includes: Breakfast & Two Course Lunch

  • Gain valuable business knowledge
  • Hear motivational stories from our VIP guest speakers
  • Enhance your social media skills
  • Grow your confidence
  • Learn how to improve your work-life balance
  • Networking with fellow parents in business
  • BROOD Live Workbook
  • Goody Bag
  • Refreshments, Breakfast & Two Course Lunch

Tickets are limited for this fun and innovative event, so book your tickets now. Individual tickets or tables of 8 or 10 are available.

Click here to book your tickets



If you’re looking for an extra special holiday to enjoy with the children, then it really is hard to beat a Disney holiday. We’ve been on two Disney holidays now and both were filled with lots happy tears. Our first trip was on a Disney Cruise back when we only had our oldest two children, so this year we did decided to give Disneyland Paris a go, to see how our little ones tolerated the flights and the rides.



  The decision to invest in the buy-to-let property market is not one to be taken lightly. It's a significant financial commitment that requires careful consideration, and there is often debate about whether current market conditions should dictate this choice....

BROOD Launch Party at Menagerie Restaurant Manchester with a host of GUESTS AND Celebrities

BROOD Launch Party at Menagerie Restaurant Manchester with a host of GUESTS AND Celebrities

Lucy Mecklenburgh, Ryan Thomas, Cath Tyldesley and Sarah Jayne Dunn join the party of working parents to celebrate the launch of BROOD Magazine.

A host of guests from the media and business world came together at Manchester’s landmark party venue Menagerie to celebrate the launch of the innovative BROOD Magazine’s first printed edition sponsored by JMW Solicitors.



When I started to really see that my feelings of guilt came from the thoughts I had about myself, I started to see guilt as a wonderful alarm and indicator for me to actually lower my expectations of myself, relieve the pressure and be much more patient and compassionate with myself! It is simply and indicator that our thoughts have gone off in an unhelpful direction.



CONFIDENCE Confidence is a preference, as Damon Albon (Blur) once stated. If confidence was indeed something we could choose, would we choose it? I’m not sure that everyone would drink the magic potion even if it was that easy, as I think confidence can be associated...





Rebecca Adlington OBE is undoubtedly the greatest female swimmer that Great Britain has ever produced, and one of the greatest GB swimmers of all time, not only because she is a multiple Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European medallist but she also broke the World Record in the 800m freestyle in 2008 at the Olympic Games in Beijing ; a record that was 19 years old, the same age Rebecca was in Beijing. 

Becky’s drive and thirst for success did not diminish when she retired from Swimming, and she is still the same overachiever that she was in the water, having juggled a number of amazing career accolades for a number of years, such as her role as a pundit for BBC Sport, running multi businesses, creating swimwear ranges with Slazenger and work in her role as an ambassador for the Encephalitis Society and as a Patron of Women in Sport charities too; all alongside her biggest and favourite ‘job’ as a mum of two to the adorable 7-year-old Summer and 21 month old Albie. 

Rebecca was recognised for her incredible achievements by the late HRH Queen Elizabeth II when she was awarded an OBE in 2009 and the British public have had ample opportunity to get to know Becky as person rather than ‘just’ as a swimmer, after she has taken part in a variety of well loved prime time TV shows such as I’m a Celebrity, The Jump and Celebrity Masterchef!

We had the pleasure of sitting down with this inspirational mama at one of her thriving swim centres, and we chatted about all things career and kids and found out how Becky manages to make it all work for her and her family! 

Rebecca Adlington on business and babies
Buy Fletchers on the Farm


You have used your unbelievable successes as a professional swimmer to build three incredible businesses that are helping thousands of children throughout the UK learn to swim. Tell us a bit more about those businesses and at what point in those businesses did you become a mum? 

“We have three learn to swim businesses under one umbrella; we have swim!, Becky Adlington’s SwimStars, and we also have Total Swimming Academy’s. Swim! is the business that is growing the most. Swim! is our own building, where we control that customer journey and we can make sure that they have a purpose built venue that is just for kids. Swimstars are set within gyms, so we are effectively in somebody else’s house, we have to be respectful to its other members, and total swimming is in schools, so we use school pools, so that’s the difference between all three. And they are all at different stages, total swimming is the oldest that’s 12 years old, Becky Adlington swim stars is 10 years old and swim! is 5. 

My daughter Summer is 7, and my youngest is only one. He was a complete surprise, myself and my partner weren’t married at the time, we hadn’t even really planned on having children, so it was a bit of a shock but a beautiful one. Albie was a lockdown baby as well, I think most people said you either got divorced or pregnant in lockdown – and we got pregnant!” [She laughs] “Summer was still off school, and I was really freaking out about whether or not Andy would be able to come in with me because of all the restrictions at the time. I had heard so many stories about people having to give birth on their own and I just couldn’t even imagine how that would feel and so I didn’t end up going to the hospital until I was 8cm because I was so paranoid about it. I was like, ‘I’m not going to the hospital yet, because I don’t want to be by myself’. When we got there, they asked Andy to wait outside, but it was for only like 5 minutes because the head was coming out and so then they got Andy straight back in. I was so relieved because I can’t imagine going through labour without that support!” 

Because of the industry of your business, the whole Covid period must have been incredibly difficult and full of challenges that no one could foresee, how did you cope with that alongside having a new baby? 

“It was so horrible, we had shut every area of our business down because obviously pools weren’t allowed to be open. When I look back to the first lockdown we had all taken bets as to how long it would last and nobody said anything past 8 weeks, and then it was like 6 months later and we were still in lockdown. So it was really, really difficult for us, we nearly lost the business, because swimming pools were one of the last things that were opened up. I remember when they opened up pubs but still wouldn’t open pools and I couldn’t believe that the government wasn’t seeing that choosing people’s mental and physical health and learning a life skill such as swimming as more important than some other things. I understand of course that the hospitality industry was important too, I just couldn’t understand why they didn’t open swimming pools when it was scientifically proven that chlorine killed covid within 30 seconds, so if you had it or even if it was on your skin as soon as you were in the water, within 30 seconds any of those germs would have been killed? When they came out I think they should have made more noise about that as it’s so important for people to understand that and understand that was actually one of the safest sports to do during covid. Physiologically, it was really hard as you were open, then closed, then open, then closed again. It was just horrible and it felt like an absolute mindfield for us and all of the team who work with us (and for our customers!) One minute their children could come back to swimming then they had to stop them again, it was so stop and start for the kids and a lot of people lost interest or developed fears. We nearly didn’t survive that.” 

Amongst the struggles that your business was going through and preparing for a new baby, you also had Summer at home, how did you deal with the demands of that and homeschooling?  

“I didn’t really homeschool, I’m not going to lie. Summer was only in year one at the time, so we did things that she wouldn’t normally get to do with me instead, like exercising, for example as normally I would go to the gym and do that whilst she’s at school, so it was the first time she had really seen what exercise was. She learnt what a press up was and what a squat was etc not that she was doing them! She also helped me with washing and household chores and things that are actually fundamental to getting through life. Now I can say Summer, ‘can you turn the oven on to 200 degrees’ and she now knows what that means, and she can chop veg like a master!” [We all laugh] “So there are good things like that that came out of it as I didn’t know that at her age. So I was very relaxed about that in lockdown, my main challenge in the first lockdown was to teach her how to ride a bike – that was the main goal for me and she did it! So I was more than happy with that! I think everyone was under enough pressure without worrying about homeschooling as well.” 

How did you manage to bounce back from the brink of losing your business to now seeing such incredible growth?   

“I think one of the main factors was that parents were desperate to get their children to swimming lessons and back in the pool – so we were really lucky that the demand for our service was there. Also in terms of our swim! centres, so many other pools never reopened as they didn’t survive covid and a lot of councils had shut down their pools, I think it’s something like 160 swimming pools shut down in the UK following all the lockdowns so that’s a huge amount of pools up and down the country that people can no longer go to, so for us to be able to open up new pools in areas where there aren’t any, people are keen to come in and use them because parents just want their children to learn to swim, and it’s been a real pleasure to be able to provide these facilities where communities had lost out on access to pools for their children all together. It’s been a huge relief and a really nice feeling to get back to business properly again. It was a huge challenge to get the funding together after going through such a difficult couple of years, and finding the buildings isn’t easy and going through all of the logistics of setting up a swimming pool isn’t an easy process. But they’re not 25m swimming pools, they are teaching tanks for children so it’s easier than if we were building full leisure centres. We’ve also recently partnered with JD Gyms so to have them as our funding partner and such an established and well respected brand like JD involved, has been an absolute pleasure for us as a business to have that support. When we think that we started out as a little learn to swim programme started by three olympians (Becky’s business partners Adrian Turner and Steve Parry) who love the sport and now we are working with such an industry leader such as JD it’s amazing to think how far we have come!”

Becky Adlington OBE

What do you think is harder – being a parent or running a business?

“I think both definitely come with different challenges! For us as well because we have quite a big age gap between the kids, as there are six years between Summer and Albie, so it was kind of like starting again. When I arrived I realised that I had totally forgotten the newborn stage! Which is mad, but I think your brain does something to remove it otherwise you would never do it again!” [We all laugh!] “I had six months maternity with Albie, which felt quite short really for me and it was hard going back to work, and it was really difficult because when I had Summer I had a lot more time with her and when I did go back to work I only went back part time. So it was hard returning to work after I had Albie and working full time, I suppose I felt guilty because of how I did it with Summer first time around. But then I thought to myself that I think most people do things differently second time around anyway and circumstances change and you have to do what is right for you at that time. I obviously co-parent Summer with her Dad and so we had to find a way to co-parent that suits us all. Whereas now with Albie I’m married and we all live in the same house together so it’s different this time around, as the first time I had a baby it was mainly just me and Summer. But now it’s a totally different dynamic anyway. For instance, when it was just myself and Summer I would put her to bed and then I would just be sat on my own, whereas now when the kids are in bed me and my husband can have that time to have an adult conversation and watch some adult television – I don’t mean it like that! [We all erupt into laughter!] I mean something like Game of Thrones! [We continue laughing] “In all seriousness though, having that adult time is so valuable.”

What do you think you have learnt most from becoming a mother a second time around? 

“I think because I’ve had my second child but also I think because I’m older now I realise that yes, I’m a mother and obviously that’s really important to me but I’m also a wife and I’m also Becky! I have realised that I also have to go with what ‘Becky’ wants to do at times too, because you do have to put yourself first at times as well as your children, your husband, your sisters, your parents and your business partners. I think when you are juggling so many different roles when you are a parent, especially a parent who is working or running a business, that is the hardest thing to manage, all those different aspects and pleasing everyone else but also learning to please yourself too.” 

A lot of working mums suffer from the dreaded ‘Mum Guilt’ and sometimes judgement from others, what has been your experience of this?


“Mum guilt is the worst! I always have Mum guilt! It’s weird because my husband doesn’t get it, he’s always saying ‘what are you talking about? You’ve got nothing to feel guilty about!’ Because his point of view he’s with the kids – as my husband doesn’t work he looks after the kids, which has been a hard dynamic anyway as most of the time other men will say to him ‘Oh, you don’t work? You look after the kids?’ I can’t understand why there are still so many men who don’t understand why other dads want to stay at home and lead with the childcare. Like why? It’s like when people say to me, ‘Oh is your husband at home, is he babysitting the children then?’ and it baffles me because I think ‘no, he’s not babysitting them, he’s their Dad!’ They are his children as well? It’s so weird that people still think that way, because why shouldn’t I work full time when I LOVE my job, and when we had Albie and we looked at all the factors for both me and Andy in terms of salary, job satisfaction, happiness etc, Andy said I really want to be at home with the kids, so if my husband is telling me that and I love my job why would we not make that decision? And it works really well for us, and then at weekends Andy takes the time to do his own thing like play football etc and I’ll be with the kids most of the time, and during the week when I come home I cook the tea and sort the kids out. I still organise everything for our family, and every Sunday night I create a planner for our family so we all know what we are doing and I can go to work knowing everything is under control!” [She laughs] “So it’s 100% a team effort! The thing I refuse to negotiate on, the thing that helps me keep that balance of work and parenting, is to make sure I’m always there for bedtime. I want see my kids every day and obviously there are those odd occasions where I’m not if I’m in London or something, but I always make sure I can spend time with them before they go to bed.”

What tips would you give other working parents who are juggling work and bringing up children?

“I think being organised is definitely something that I need to be in order to stay sane – I’m a bit like Monica in friends!” [We laugh] “For instance with the planner that I do on a Sunday, I use different coloured pens, and we stick that on the fridge! We have an online diary too and that is also colour coordinated, and I make sure everything goes in that diary. So I am very organised. I think there is so much going on each week that it’s one of those things that really helps us and the kids to have that reference. I think that really helped me with that transition of being back at work, so it eases my anxiety too and gives me that peace of mind that the kids aren’t going to miss anything. It also saves me time as I’m not checking in with Andy every two minutes like I was when I first came back to work! Which obviously caused a bit of friction too with Andy, because I wasn’t used to letting go so I think having that system in place has worked really well for us.” 

You can learn more about Rebecca and her swim! business visit:

Rebecca Adlington SWIM!
Simon Wood
Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris


Rob Stubbs


Brood Shop



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Oli Dunn for BROOD MAGAZINE © TOM Pitfield Photography 

“You can do whatever you want to!”

The Power Of Manifestation…. ✏️

This is a topic I get VERY excited when talking about, I LOVE talking about manifestation, especially when I’m feeling aligned and in full attraction mode. If this all sounds a bit strange to you, stick with it, it should make sense by the end.

So many things have happened “for” me in my life that I now have a section in the notes on my phone lovingly called “coincidences” with a hint of friendly sarcasm or irony that is.
I believe there’s no such thing as a coincidence, by the way maybe there is but I believe there’s another type which we might sometimes mistake as a coincidence when in actual fact we talked such a circumstance, thing or event into our reality, willed it into our existence, made it happen, tuned into its frequency and sucked it right in, like a tractor beam (if your a Dumb and Dumber fan you’ll know the sound!).😜

Before I go any further I just want to be clear about something, what I write about in my Brood magazine column is purely my perspective, the way I see it, my take and I appreciate that these things are all subjective. I would never claim that my version is the correct or exact way, it’s just my way, based on my learnings and experiences and it’s a pleasure to share my thoughts with you. I hope it provides an interesting read and perhaps even conjures up some new and exciting thoughts and ideas for you which may be interesting for you too, if it does I would love to hear from you!

Oliver Dunn
Oliver Dunn for BROOD MAGAZINE © TOM Pitfield Photography 

On we go…

It might seem unusual to have a note section in my phone called “Coincidences” which cheekily means Manifestations. The reason I have this is mainly to remind myself that through my life I’m proving this theory to be not just working but worthy of sharing with others as part of my narrative. As I’ve said before, what actually matters to me in life more than anything else, (the bigger picture) is that I want to show others that anything is possible in life, one little or big, or plain crazy manifestation at a time.

You can do whatever you want to. 💭

Fun little task, finish this sentence, “if I could do or be whoever I wanted to be, it would be this (blank) and my life would look like this (blank).

Back to my point;

I know what you’re thinking, come on then give us an example of a manifestation. 🤷🏼‍♀️

Well okay here’s a couple from most recent memory.

Manifestations for me are anything from life long ambitions to the most random small ‘wants’.

I will give you an example of each.

I think the random small ones are more fun, playful and manifest quicker because there’s absolutely no resistance to them and for me it’s the universe confirming to me that I’m aligned and everything is working out, not happening to me but for me.

About a year ago I said to Kim, “I really wish McDonalds did clothing, it would just be so cool”, I don’t know how this came to mind but I was fixated on it and getting excited about it, imagining it and how it would look, but no matter how hard I Googled I couldn’t find it, because it didn’t exist. FFWD a year and it was my birthday (13th August if you want to add to your calendar 😜) a great friend of ours gave me a birthday present, it was a bright blue McDonalds shirt, designed with their signature red packet French Fries all over it.
The point of this is that our friend was able to get this shirt after doing some work with McDonalds and this exclusive merch wasn’t available for sale to the public, coincidence?

This leads me on to a very different but equally exciting manifestation in my life which has come around in the last 18 months.

Some manifestations do require action or more specifically inspired action (I’ll save that for another time) but I believe the importance of the action is as key to showing the world you are worthy of what you want to attract (and are ready to receive) as the actual work itself.

If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up when I was 10 years old I would have probably told you I wanted to be a radio or TV presenter, a more confident version of myself who could entertain and have fun, be myself and meet interesting people out in the big wide world. There was a notion or a feeling that this wasn’t “realistic” that I should probably focus on a trade, a career, something more achievable or within reach, I got into the family business, I have no regrets doing that, I loved it and still do now. Curiously though I firmly believe I planted a seed deep within myself that I was on a journey to become a presenter. FFWD to 38 year old me (this one took a little longer to manifest) and I’m hosting live shows for Disney on TikTok with Zavvi at THG Studios, a place which I’ve regularly driven past and thought to myself “I would love to look around in there, or better still do some presenting in there one day.”
There’s a longer story as to how I got this opportunity but I’ll share that with you another time, perhaps through a video on my YT channel.
I’ve been on a journey in the last 18 months into presenting live shopping shows, that journey has been complex, satisfying and interesting to me in how its played out. More importantly doing these shows really fulfils my childhood ambition to be a presenter.
It’s powerful for me that I’m able to present live shows outside of my chocolate world (which I love and will always be a part of me).
I’m excited to grow as both Oli The Choc and as Oli The Presenter too with more live shows in the pipeline, I’m feeling very grateful for these opportunities.

A little gratitude in the last paragraph there, never goes a miss and goes a long way.
I believe gratitude to be a powerful element of manifesting what you want in life.

If I could give you some advise on manifestation, here it is, set your intentions when you are aligned, when your heart is beating faster, you are buzzing, excited, feeling like the best version of yourself.
Have fun with it, be unrealistic, your manifestations don’t have to make sense to you or others but follow whatever the inspiration is from within and don’t be afraid to dream big or dream silly. Often for me it’s the funny, silly things that manifest, because there’s no resistance to it, almost no expectation either.

I’m very intentional about my thoughts, words and actions. This year I’ve become more aligned and more in tune with who I am and who I want to be, more worthy and ready to receive the life I want. I’m very responsible for my own energy and for the energy I attract, for what I listen to and am influenced by. Becoming a Dad has been the making of me in respect of knowing myself and loving myself more.

Some advise to myself on this which you can take from if you wish, when you are feeling aligned make your intentions clear to yourself, write them down, visualise and get excited about what you are going to manifest. Be excited about the future because you can create the life you want, your own reality, your version of life. For me time writing in solitude early morning, when on a train or a plane, by the ocean or simply talking to myself in the car are all powerful spaces for me to practice the above.

Now walk tall, remind yourself of your strengths, step into your power and go manifest yourself the life you want! 💥

One Truth 818 Anti Ageing Skincare
Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris
Photography by Tom Pitfield
Rob Stubbs
Digital Editor: Rob Stubbs


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

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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

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

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Culinary genius Simon Wood’s Inspiring Journey and his goal for a Michelin star

Culinary genius Simon Wood’s Inspiring Journey and his goal for a Michelin star

“I want to have a Michelin star restaurant and I’ll do it! It might take me ten years, but I will do it!”

Culinary genius, Simon Wood, rose to fame as the winner of MasterChef in 2015. In 2016 his debut cookbook – At Home with Simon Wood was published and in 2018 he realised his dreams when he opened his first restaurant – Wood Restaurant in Manchester. He then opened his second restaurant in the December of 2018 – WoodKraft in Cheltenham. But the road to success was not without hard work, sacrifice, and enduring lots of challenges. Simon became a father at a young age and at the time he was working at McDonalds. By the time he was 22, he and his partner had three young children, life was far from easy and career success was seemingly a world away. So when we had the pleasure of sitting down with Simon at his sophisticated Manchester restaurant, we were bowled over by the father of four’s inspiring and incredible journey, and we are sure it will inspire all of you too!

Simon Wood
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As soon as we sat down, Simon was so welcoming and jumped straight into a conversation about how dramatically his life had changed since he first became a father…

Simon – “By the time I was 22 I had three children under 5 years old, so I know what it’s like earning £140 a week and making it stretch. ‘Can I get a beer on a Friday night, or do we need nappies?’ Of course, you always have to choose the nappies. That’s the way it was. Then I ended up being a data scientist and made a successful career out of that. Then MasterChef happened and here we are – I’ve got no money again!” He laughs “I’m a grandad now as well, my middle lad has had his first child, so my granddaughter is one and a half. I’m still not sure I’m ready to be called a grandad yet either!” he laughs.

So, has cooking always been a passion of yours?

“Yes, I’ve always done it. I’ve just always loved cooking. I used to find ways to make ends meet, whilst raising three children. I would regularly cook for friends and family, and host dinner parties. And I would do buffets, weddings, christenings – any private events really, just to earn a bit of extra money on the side at weekends.”

And you mentioned earlier that you first became a data scientist. How did that come about?

“I’d spent a lot of time learning about data, initial basic programming, so I became a data scientist and no one ever wakes up and says ‘I think I’m going to become a data scientist.’ People don’t do that. But looking back, it was great learning curve, and it still helps me now – with percentages, GP calculations, wage calculations, negotiations etc – so there’s lots of aspects from it that I still use today. Back then I also managed quite a big team so again, that helped me gain experience as I obviously manage a large team now too. I also met some great contacts doing that, for example, through one of my contacts as a data scientist I ended up cooking for Billy Ocean and Pink Floyd – which was mental.”

We imagine this industry doesn’t lend itself to family life does it, how did you find that adjustment as a father?     

“I was all set to be chef from an early age and I didn’t do it, because life took me in a different direction and it was family life that changed that – of course in a nice way, I have no regrets. I wouldn’t be where I am now without doing it the way I did. I’d probably be sick of it, pulling my hair out, trying to earn a living somewhere else with two or three failed restaurants behind me. That’s the reality of it, that’s what can happen if you’re not focused. But as it stands, I’ve got a good platform, a good springboard, and a good support network around me (within the Manchester industry in particular.)

People that have supported me and have told people about us, now other people want to come down here, its great! As well as the good food, it’s about being hospitable, it’s called hospitality for a reason, it’s about earning a living but enjoying what you do as well.”

Simon Wood

Covid notoriously hit this the hospitality industry really hard, how much did this affect you, both as a business and as a family?

“Going back to the family thing, every one of my family has worked in this restaurant. Because being honest, I’ve needed them to. Everyone seemed to quit after covid. Despite the staff being kept on furlough for 18 months or so, everyone came back but did six services then left! We lost around eight staff in total. This was hard. They were people we’d been loyal to. Really loyal, even when we’d struggled to find money for their wages, I couldn’t see them struggle, so had to take it out of our my own pocket before the government paid it back in 6 weeks.

Plus, they’d all accrued holidays while they were all off, so when we re-opened, six services in and our head chef just quit, our sommelier, followed by our assistant manager. The Chef de partie was being offered head chef roles elsewhere, even though the restaurant offering them wasn’t ready, the industry was on its knees, and it was brutal. That was probably the most challenging time. I had my sons on the pots, I had my daughter and her mum polishing cutlery and glasses in the back. I was taking peas home to pod on my day off because I didn’t have enough time to do it there, all kinds of stuff had gone on, but that was a challenging time and I’m lucky I have a great family. They’ve all been really supportive of me. They’ve been through the whole journey, of course, since MasterChef especially, it’s been beneficial for me, there’s no escaping that but it has been for them too, because it’s given us [all] a fantastic quality of life, maybe not fantastic, but it’s certainly a better, more diverse, and interesting one! The people that you see, the people that you meet and that you cook for. Even doing things like this. That’s what makes hospitality worthwhile, it’s a network of enjoyment, I guess. It’s hard, you know. We might do 80 hours in four days, and then I wake up on a Sunday morning to go get Charlotte, my daughter, because it’s her day with me and I can’t get up – literally; so I have to sit for a minute and finally start to wander round like a 90-year-old, then finally by 4 o’clock when you’ve had a glass of wine, you can move around again a bit quicker.”

How do think it has impacted and inspired your children overall?

“Growing up, the lads have had other jobs over the years, that weren’t in the restaurant sector, but when they’ve come in to help out here, done a day on the pots, then suddenly whatever job they’d been doing before, doesn’t seem so bad. They’d do 7 and half hours with an hour’s lunch break at their work place, whereas here, when you’re 7 and a half hours in, it means it’s only half past three, and we haven’t even started service yet! When you’re in at 8am and you don’t leave until 1am – that’s working hard! So, it’s been good for them to see how hard it is, its definitely been grounding for them. They’ve learnt a lot from that, but so have I. You know I came from an office background originally, I used to go in the office early around 6.30am to miss the traffic and get an early start, but I’d always leave early and be home by 6pm. So, it’s not that long of a day looking back – for an office day, it’s probably quite long for an office job now I guess, but in this [restaurant] world it’s not at all.”

You’ve obviously always had a strong work ethic, do you think that has come from you having such a lot of responsibility from being a father at such a young age, or has that come from somewhere else?

“I got that from my parents, you know, I was always told, if you want money, you go out and get a paper round. Whereas I probably made the mistake of saying to mine not to – I felt like it was a bit risky them being out that late, for not a lot of money – I wasn’t sure it was worth it. So I didn’t push them in that direction. Well, at least with my first lad I didn’t, whereas my second lad he wanted to, so he did it regardless. And my third lad works the same hours as me in a Michelin star restaurant – as he’s a chef now too. So, it’s funny how your dynamic changes throughout. But in the end, they have all worked really hard, following their own passions and they really enjoy it. And that’s the key isn’t it, it’s making sure you’re doing something that you enjoy. We all know that if you’re enjoying it, it’s not really work. It might be stressful, it might be difficult, but it’s still enjoyable. If even on your worst day you can think – it’s alright – well, once you’ve thrown a few things that is. He laughs.

The margins are tight, there’s all kinds of things that you have to do but if you love what you do it’s worth it. We’ve even slept in the restaurant to save hotel bills; we’ve done home deliveries to save on fuel – you name it, we’ve done it. It’s definitely not as glamorous as it might seem on the outside sometimes.”

I think that’s something that we feel very passionate about with BROOD, is getting across the reality of what goes on behind the scenes in order to get to that success or achieve your dreams, whilst juggling your kids, as it’s very rare that it happens overnight or without sacrifice.

“Oh yeah, for around 6 years, I worked in a warehouse in the morning at half past six until quarter past three and I would pick the kids up from school, then my missus would go out and work in the same warehouse and do the half past three while 10 o’clock shift – and that’s how we did it back then, because we had to. It was hard. And some weeks you would throw in a bit of overtime on a Saturday to make ends meet, the lads would have football on a Sunday and then your week would start again! Then I started to dabble in IT in the late 90’s, taught myself basic programming and different other bits, and just progressed from there and ended up being quite successful in a more corporate industry, because I needed to do something more than what I had been doing. I couldn’t even afford a computer to practise on, but I was determined to change course no matter what. Once I got into that industry, and I had the tools to progress, I did it quite quickly. In a year I was managing the team, in two years I was managing the department and then I moved into the university side of things – looking at statistics there.”

So, at that point you had obviously carved out a new career for yourself that you were doing really well in, what made you decide to do MasterChef?  

“Well, I’d gone to work one morning, and my boss had really got up my nose! So, I clicked off my emails, got myself a coffee and started to look on Facebook and a little advert popped up at the side and it said, ‘Are you the next champion?’ [of MasterChef] so I just clicked it and that was that. I got on and won it! I had always been that guy at home questioning ‘Why are they cooking that!’. Everyone had always said to me, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ But in reality, I applied in temper. Everything I wrote in that application was very honest, but it probably had a little edge to it!” [We all laugh.]

“After getting through the application process, you do three telephone interviews, then you go to a hotel, take a dish with you – I was shaking, frightened to death at that point. And after that, once you’ve got through all that, you get into the kitchen and that’s it – the rest is history.”

At what point did you think, I could win this?

“I was never over confident to start with, I have to be honest, but there are points that I do remember where, at the end of each show you would walk around and look at what everyone else had done and you get to taste the food, I started to think, ‘Mine’s better than that, it’s better than that, it’s better than that one’ and it was at that point that I’d think, ‘I’m alright here’ and then I’d get through to the next round. Looking back, there was a couple of pivotal moments, like we’d had a shocking round as a team, I didn’t think it was managed properly and I lost my temper. So then I ended up running the team for the episode with the red arrows, and I was like a top gun geek and I was on the runway with red arrows and they’re flying around and I’m running the kitchen and I was just like, ‘this is me, I’m done now, I’m happy’ and I think it was there where a little switch clicked and it made me a little bit into what I am today, tenacious, direct, driven and passionate. I knew 100% from that point that was what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.”

You have achieved so much already, what other goals do you have and what do you want for the future of your business?

“Well, we’re pushing towards a Michelin star, so my aim is to get a Michelin star, I want to have a Michelin star restaurant and I’ll do it! It might take me ten years, but I will do it! One way or other, because that’s my goal. I’m going keep trying and we’ve got a great team here. It’s really enjoyable despite it’s ups and downs, the kids are a little older now, my youngest Charlotte is taking her exams soon.”

Do you ever switch off? And if so, do you find it easy to switch off?  

“You’ve got to try and find a way to run a business by keeping your stress levels down so that your home life isn’t affected. Like on my Sunday, that’s my day with my family, so if I’m having an off day  I’m stressed, you know, that’s not how I want that day to be but it’s ruthless at times so it can be hard to switch off.

Especially when you’re tired, your body’s broken and you’ve not broke even that week, they’re the weeks you’ve got to try harder than ever to find that balance. But most Sundays, I manage it, and we’ll either watch the football or eat out so I’m not cooking, and when the boys have gone home me, and Charlotte will watch a box set or something together. We’re closed Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, which highlights how hard the other days are. Although we’re meant to be off on a Tuesday and a lot of us (the chefs) still come in, because we all know what needs to be done. You can’t really switch food off though, because it’s not up here (points to his head) it’s in here (points to his heart).”

And finally, what tips would you give to anyone else starting out into the world of business or looking to achieve their career goals? How does someone find the type of drive and determination that you’ve got?

“I think circumstance can dictate the amount drive that you have, like my dad died when I was 11. I had a paper round then, then I went working at the working mans club, then onto McDonalds at 15. So, I’ve always worked. I think family or personal circumstances change your work ethic. I think I would advise any young people wanted to find that work ethic to come into hospitality because it’s fun, it’s fast, it’s frantic, it’s ferocious – it’s always entertaining and it’s always hard. I think it’s something people can learn from very quickly. Hospitality is just a great steppingstone no matter what you want to do. If you can cook or pour a pint, you’ll never be out of work any where in the world – simple as that!”

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