Thinking Women

Mumpreneur: Positive or Negative?

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Having written last week about being a Mum and working flexibly around your family, I have been thinking about the term “Mumpreneur”.  I know that the term made it into the OED at the end of last year and that this caused a bit of a debate to arise.  There are many who seem to find the term derogatory, and yet since becoming a Mum and considering my options with regard to working around my family, I have also seen the term used positively by many individuals, communities and companies.

So, what’s the debate all about?

The first post I read, the one that made me think about this at all in fact, was a post by Lynn Harris.  Her perspective is that the term Mompreneur (she is writing for the American audience, hence “Mom”) is often used to patronise and belittle the achievements of women in business. “let’s face it: when we are not among other mothers who are prepared to salute and support us, the word “mom” has a different and diminutive connotation.” I’ll be honest; I hadn’t really considered this.  I am in awe of women who successfully have a family and run a business.  I find the idea of working for myself and doing it around my commitments to my family a really beguiling one.  But then I am one of the “other mothers who are prepared to salute and support”. I hadn’t thought about those who might not.  Those who might use the term to suggest that you were somehow not as serious about your job as a proper entrepreneur, after all you don’t hear of many men being called Dadpreneurs; men are entrepreneurs with a family.

So I searched about a bit and it seems that there are many people who subscribe to the same thoughts as Lynn Harris. Jen Walshaw of Mum in the Madhouse says that the term suggests that “not only do we often run a home, but in between it all we manage to do a little work” Rebecca Jones of Business in Red Shoes says that she has “asked men and women in business what they think and the majority worry that it implies they are a mum first and business comes second”, suggesting that the term may be “hindering their business appeal for those who worry their role as a mum will interfere with their abilities as a business woman.”  If this is the perception, then how come so many women in business do use and associate with the term?

I emailed Erica Douglas of littlemummy.com.  She is one half of Become a Mumpreneur, so I assumed that she must be able to tell me something positive about the term!  I saw Erica and her partner Antonia Chitty speak at the Business and Baby Show 2011 and have taken e-courses both via littlemummy and BAM, they are certainly using the term Mumpreneur to connect with their target market and seem to be encouraging women to embrace the term and use it to move themselves forward as both Mums and business women.

Erica’s response was very interesting.  She said that “a Mumpreneur is someone who has gone into business because they are a mum.” She also highlighted the sense of community that there can be with the term Mumpreneur “I think there are many mums in business who do identify with the term, and for them it gives them a group or ‘tribe’ to feel a part of and gain support from.”  Interestingly, Erica says that she feels that the term Mumpreneur only describes one stage of business and that there comes a time when your business and lifestyle move past this title; where children become less dependent.  This ties in with Rebecca Jones’ point.  Perhaps women who identify with the term are women who do put their family first and their business second?  I personally would see this as a strength in many ways, although I can see Rebecca’s point that as a client I may be less forgiving.

I suppose overall the key thing is that the term Mumpreneur can be useful if you identify with it, if your clientele identify with it in a positive manner and if it says the right things about you and your business.  It is not a useful term if it is applied to you in a pejorative way as a means of suggesting that you are not as good at your job as others who are not ‘distracted’ by family.  For me, one sentence stood out in Erica Douglas’ email and it was this “If I decide I’m going to do something then no terminology in the world will stop me aspiring to that.”

So, women who work for yourselves and have a family, keep aspiring to be the best you possibly can; refer to yourselves in whatever way you wish and do not be limited by language.

R

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What makes children happy?

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I read with interest yesterday an article on the updated findings of a landmark report published three years ago by the Children’s Society – ‘A Good Childhood’ which I blogged on some months back – here.  The previous study warned that young people’s lives are being blighted by Britain’s selfish society.  However, the updated findings say that ‘half a million children in Britain are unhappy at any moment’.  Following interviews with 30,000 under-16s it claims those who have deeply negative feelings about their lives are at higher risk of bullying, depression and eating disorders.  At first glance it makes for depressing reading and is another stark reminder that we still have unacceptable levels of child poverty in this country are more than unacceptable.  But, I then realised that the study was not talking about children on the poverty line but children in general across the board!

As I read on what actually concerned, and frankly annoyed, me about the report was the findings that;

‘Children who worry that they do not have the right clothes to “fit in” with classmates are three times as likely to be unhappy with the way they look, with the problem affecting girls more than boys.’ And ‘Those who received less pocket money than their peers reported lower levels of well-being, but so did those who were given a lot more cash, suggesting that children want to be similar to their friends more than they want to be rich.’

I’m sorry but since when did we not balk at the idea that our responsibility for making our children ‘happy’ lies with providing them with the right ‘clothes’ and enough pocket money?   Is it just me or is something amiss here?   Should it not be more cause for alarm that the emphasis and importance placed on image, labels and material things in general is completely out of control and endemic?  Instead of being encouraged to revise our children’s opinions we’re being pressured to adhere to their demands and (in my opinion) helping to compound the problem.

Don’t get me wrong; I do understand the mortification of not having a ‘puff-ball’ skirt, ‘Wallabies’ or a ‘United Colors of Benetton’ sweatshirt at school because we were a single-parent family who lived on a council estate!  However, despite our low income, my mum always dressed us ‘well’ albeit not the latest labels.  My mum, instead encouraged us to be individual and suggested it was cool to be different – just as well seen as we were the only mixed-race kids in our entire year!  I remember my aunt made us some ‘flares’ just before they heavily came in fashion (I’m talking the second time round in the 90’s – I’m not that old!) and although we were a little nervous at wearing them in the first week, the ‘top girl’ of the school came up to us asked us where we got them from and if our aunt would make her some!  There is a lot you can get away with if you’re confident and this attitude has got me a long way in life ever since.  I just think it’s a much more helpful trait to encourage in your child – confidence, individuality and setting the trend rather than following it.

There is a big difference between not having any shoes at all (real child poverty) and not having the ‘right’ shoes.  And as for pocket money – don’t even get me started. They don’t know they’re born!!

L

Our fancy new banner and logo

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Well we do hope you’ve all noticed our fancy new banner and logo…have you?  We like it a lot! And it’s all thanks to a lovely and very talented lady called Rachael Jane (@rachinald).  She’s a textile designer, photographer, graphic designer, vlogger, blogger, poet and overall creative thinker.  Talk about an inspiring lady!!!

We found out about Rachael when we noticed that MishMashMum (@MishMashMum) was sporting a lovely logo so we asked her who created it.  We were then introduced to Rachael who promptly offered to do us a logo at an extremely reasonable price.  Initially we gave poor Rachael no direction whatsoever but she still came up with three brilliant designs.  It was only after seeing them that we realised more of what we didn’t want and therefore steered us in the right direction and we finally gave Rachael a half decent brief.   Rachael patiently went back to the drawing board and came up with another 3 new designs that were exactly what we were after (even though we didn’t know it to start with).  And that is how we came to have the beautiful design you now see on our Blog, on Twitter and soon to be on our new website which is currently being created much to our excitement 🙂
We decided on the buttefly design as we felt it represented what we want to achieve through More than a Mum.  Afterall butterflies represent change and growing into the true you!
We can’t reccommend @rachinald enough. She is professional, fast, friendly, creative and basically brilliant at what she does.  Do check out her website http://www.rachinald.com

How to talk to Little Girls

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I read a really thought provoking article this morning which really challenged my thinking completely.  It was by author Lisa Bloom in the Huffington Post called How to Talk to Little Girls. Now I see myself as a liberal, forward thinking, bordering on feminist woman who feels strongly about girls celebrating their brains as well as beauty; having a healthy all-round self-image.  However, when I read the article I realised that I too have often been guilty of employing ‘flattering’ tactics of little girls in order to boost their self-esteem.  All little girls want to be a princess and love to be complimented on their pretty dress, hair or smile – something we never really grow out of!  But what Bloom challenges in the article is the idea that teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything.  This really did make me stop in my tracks!

Bloom noted that this week ABC News reported that;

‘Nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. Also in her book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, she reveals that 15 to 18 percent of girls under 12 now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and 25 percent of young American women would rather win America’s Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize. Even bright, successful college women say they’d rather be hot than smart.’

A depressing outlook!

Yes we want our little girls to know they are beautiful physically regardless of the current ‘trend’ for beauty and whether they fit into it or not but, wouldn’t it be even better if they were brought up to believe that this actually doesn’t even matter at all?!  As to whether this is possible in today’s society is another thing altogether but Bloom does believe we can play our small and significant part to, as she says, ‘Change the world, one little girl at a time.’

Bloom suggests we consciously engage in a different dialogue when we talk to little girls such as asking them; What is she reading? What does she like and dislike, and why? For older girls she advises, asking about current events issues: pollution, wars, school budgets slashed. What bothers her out there in the world? How would she fix it if she had a magic wand? Tell her about your ideas and accomplishments and your favorite books. Basically to model for her what a thinking woman says and does.

I found this really inspiring as well as challenging.  I don’t have a daughter but if I did I’d love it if my friend’s I admire and look up to conversed with her in this way.  As a mum of a son it obviously got me thinking about how we talk to boys and what negative stereotypes we subliminally enforce – but that’s another blog post for another day!!

L

Pelvic Floor Exercises (or… You must have pissed yourself laughing…)

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I am going to share a little more about me than I ought to in this post.  (I’ve had a few glasses of wine!) This evening I have realised that the phrase, “you must have pissed yourself laughing” can only have come from a woman…

Yes, I am talking about the lack of pelvic floor muscles I have post baby.  Yes, I do mean that post child an irritating cough or a mis-timed sneeze can have rather worse consequences than it used to, and yes, I am insinuating that “piss yourself laughing” could be rather more literal than it used to be!

To anyone reading this who may be pregnant, or considering becoming so for the first time, please follow the antenatal teacher’s advice and do those rather odd exercises to tense your pelvic floor muscles, it might just make the difference between being able to go to a comedy gig post- child and not!

I recently met up with 3 mates who I used to live with at university. We were once young and carefree, enjoying our late teens and early twenties in pubs, bars and clubs… Now, our discussion as 30 (plus) year olds is rather changed. 3 out of 4 of us have kids and the 3 who do were fervently persuading the 1 without to do pelvic floor exercises right now to save embarrassment later.

When I tweeted about my hate of coughing-fits with post child pelvic floor muscles I received support (I won’t embarrass anyone by saying who this came from!).  In fact, one person suggested that it was a conspiracy – who bothered to do the pelvic floor exercises and therefore who can tell you if they work or not?!

So the question I pose is this – what one thing would you tell a friend who had just become pregnant and why? I would definitely say “for goodness sake do those pelvic-floor exercises, no matter how ridiculous you feel.”  What’s your best piece of advice?

First steps to rediscovering your identity

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Rediscover your dreams

One of our aims and commitments as More than a Mum is to not only help you to be a brilliant mum but to help you rediscover your identity as a woman too.  We want our posts to be practical as well as informative, constructive as well as inspiring.

I’m conscious we could easily neglect the identity issue as it is incredibly easy for us to become absorbed, and dare I say, all consumed in being parents.  Sometimes without even realising it.  But who are you without your child?  Do you sometimes wonder what to talk about or even what to do with your hands when you don’t have your child with you? People lose their identity for all sorts of reasons; a dominating partner, a demanding career, a busy parent.  However, it’s worth remembering we are only in danger of losing who we are if our identity is wrapped up ‘only’ in what we do.

As parents we long for our children’s successes to surpass our own, for them to have the opportunities we never had and we do everything in our power to help them along the way.  However, as we’ve said time and time again in our posts ‘a happy and fulfilled parent equals a happy and fulfilled child’.  The best thing we can do for our children is to lead by example.  To live what we want to teach them – not just talk about it.  Not only do we owe it to our children though, but we owe it to ourselves to reignite our passion for our dreams, to dig them up from the depths where we, or life’s pressures, have buried them and to start to construct a plan towards achieving them.

Maybe it’s been so long that you’ve forgotten your dream.  Maybe you think you don’t have one anymore.  I’m confident with the right kind of digging you can uncover it and be on your way to rediscovering your identity as a woman in the process.

The following steps are just for you.  You don’t have to share them with anyone yet but I do encourage you to write them down to make it more real.

Step 1: What did you want to be as a little girl/boy? (Try to remember the self-belief and abandonment you had as a child – that the world was your oyster and you could do or be anything you wanted to be.)

Step 2: What would you do if you were guaranteed you wouldn’t fail?

Step 3: What do you wish you could be doing this time next year? (Your short-term goal)

Step 4: What do you wish you could be doing in 5 years time? (Your mid term goal)

Step 5: Where would you like to be and what would you want to be doing in ten years time? (Your long-term goal)

Step 6: What is something you would quite like to do that you know you can do you just haven’t got round to doing it or made time to do it?

Step 7: What would you love to do but it seems like too much hard work/effort/time?

Step 8: What’s your crazy dream you secretly would love to do but struggle to believe it’s even possible?

Step 9: Look back over all your answers so far.

–       What small step could you do tomorrow towards any of these things?

–       What medium step could you commit to do in the next two weeks towards any of these things?

–       What big step could you take by Christmas towards any of these things?

Step 10: The important thing is to just get on and do it. Stop talking yourself out of it or looking at the obstacles or difficulties in the way – Just get started.

Wake up tomorrow and take that first tiny step.

L

Nature V Nurture & National Adoption Week

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This week is National Adoption week.  To mark it, on the radio station where I work I interviewed 3 ladies for the women’s programme.  They were; a retired clinical geneticist, a former family lawyer who now works for a well-known family charity – Care for the family – and a post-adoption team social worker.  All are also mothers.  We were tackling the age-old debate of Nature Verses Nurture in the light of adoption.  When we have children, or adopt, we hope and believe environmental forces i.e. parenting, above all else excels a greater force on our children than nature.  That their personality will be shaped by love and discipline.  But is it really?

I love a good debate and this is one I’ve revisited time and again particularly since I became a parent and especially since I became a ‘single’ parent.  The radio discussion was fascinating:  The geneticist, understandably, argued that there is a limit to what good parenting can do as genes do affect behaviour characteristics.  However, she added we are never programmed fully by our genes.  Ironically, the social worker had done a thesis on nature V nurture years ago and concluded that nurture was the prevailing factor.  However, after years of social work she admitted her view has changed somewhat and now believes a lot is down to nature.  The ex-family lawyer and charity worker felt, like the other two ladies, that in the early years there is a key opportunity – in particular the first year and continuing until age 5 – when good parenting and a lot of love can have a profound effect.

My problem with this debate is there are very strong arguments on both sides.  There is no doubt certain traits and characteristics are passed down through our genealogy and we only need do a case study of our own familes to see it.  But, I also believe our environment and circumstances (in this case love and good parenting) can go a long way in shaping the people our children will become.  Our genes do affect who we are but the bit I’m interested in is, are we a slave to them or can bad genes be overcome with good parenting for example?  How much of children’s behaviour is due to parenting and how much is due to their innate character?

Lionel Shriver addresses this beautifully, if not darkly, in the brilliant ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ book.   (By the way don’t read it if you’re pregnant with your first child).  The book doesn’t really provide clear answers but wonderfully explores whether a child can be ‘evil’.  Furthermore, if this is possible, is it an innate evil that cannot be overcome or a result of experience and circumstance?  It’s just been made into a film starring Tilda Swinton if you can’t be botehred to read the book!

Studies suggest that many temperamental and behavioural tendencies are ultimately 30 to 50 per cent genetic and five major personality traits are identified which show the strongest influence called the Big 5: Extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness and openness to experience.  Others with a significant genetic legacy include altruism, shyness, accident-proneness and even self-esteem.

I guess we could all frantically go through this list and analyse our children trying to see if they have that same ‘look’ in their eye that mad uncle George had and end up paranoid and fearful.  However, it was in fact the geneticist who pointed out in the interview that although good parenting goes a very long way indeed it is helpful to acknowledge that genes play a part because despite our best efforts sometimes our children do go off the rails and parents are the first to feel guilty and ask the question ‘Where did I go wrong?’

As it is National Adoption Week, I have to also mention that I was astounded to learn that despite numerous research concluding that early years are the key time to provide, love, consistency and lay firm foundations for children, there are 3600 children in care under the age of 1 and only 60 babies were adopted last year!  I find this disturbing and quite frankly disgusting.  Apparently on average children have to wait 2 years and 7 months for a new home by which time a considerable amount of damage will already have been done.  It angers me that red tape is getting in the way of these babies having the love and stability they deserve especially when there are adoptive parents put there waiting to provide it.

To end on a more positive note, the family charity worker gave some great tips for making sure your child not only knows they are loved but feels it too.  She said we can tell when our child’s ‘love tank’ is empty when they start acting up (at this point I did think Bearcub must be running on empty a lot of the time lately!) but she then went on to quote a fantastic book, which I’ve read called The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman Chapman explains that it is imperative that we learn our child’s (or partner’s or friend’s) ‘love language’ and communicate to them using it to ensure the message gets across.  The Five Love Languages are – Time, Touch, Words, Gifts and Actions.  It’s about learning how an individual wants/needs to be loved.  I for one found this quite a helpful tip for making sure that BearCub’s Love-tank is regularly and fully topped up!

L