Career journey: Lydia Mansi

Meet Lydia Mansi, a digital marketing consultant and mother of two young boys, on a journey to make a career out of her love of writing. Lydia started out working as a magazine editor and now runs her own consultancy business.

Tell us about yourself

I’ve always been single-minded (bar a brief flirtation with wanting to be fashion designer, aged 14) I have always wanted to be a writer. Age eight, growing up by the sea in Devon, I asked my head teacher to borrow the school photocopier and proceeded to create a ‘school magazine’. I drew all my own pictures (and made up most of my own stories) and sold each weekly edition in the playgroup for 20p. And so the obsession was born.

Fast-forward 10 years and I was still hell-bent on a media career. I did an intern stint at Glamour (shadowing the beauty editor and fashion team) although I spent most of my time sorting coat hangers in the fashion cupboard and fact checking the shopping pages, it just cemented for me how magical print media is.

So, with sights now set on not only media but London too, I solely applied to Goldsmiths College to do a Media and Communications degree. Call it teenage arrogance, or simply that I was driven, but my parents and teachers desperately tried to suggest a ‘Plan B’. Thankfully, due to my bloody mindedness and genuine fear of being told ‘I told you so,’ I got in.

The Goldsmith years

Early Noughties was pre-gentrification of Goldsmiths College, there were no minor Royals, no Curzon cinema – just a lot of asymmetrical hair cuts and a fair bit of pretentious art-student fashion. Those black and white chequered halls literally vibrated with creativity. Just being a part of it made me feel like anything I wanted to be was in my grasp. I wrote, studied photography, painted – it was the most expressive and creative I have ever been. It’s weird when I think I studied media at a time when there was no social media, no smartphones or apps. I had to trek to the library if I wanted to check my emails – now my whole livelihood is built on digital media.

So, my single-mindedness took a little kink in the road age 21. I had graduated, wanted to stay in London and needed a job. I was heartbroken and despondent so, for a reason that is still unclear to me now, I applied to be a recruitment consultant at an investment-banking agency in the city. I was hilariously hopeless. I knew nothing about the industry but I had a blast – drinking champagne at the top of the gherkin and flouncing about in power suits and a bold lippie. I remember walking across London Bridge every morning amidst a sea of grey suits in my emerald green coat and thinking ‘I really don’t fit in here’.

Move into publishing

Thankfully, just as I could feel my soul (and creativity) slowly dying a uni friend mentioned she might be able to get me a role in the publishing house she was working at. Bingo. I started off on the ad-sales desk but was soon making myself indispensable to the editorial team – as my mother always reassured me at the time ‘be helpful, polite and eager, it will pay off’. I remember sourcing ice tongs on the King’s Road one winter’s night at 7pm for one editor and thinking ‘it better pay off soon’. One editorial assistant opening later and I was in. My first genuine editorial, paid role. I still feel really fortunate that my editor, Kate Crockett was incredible. Forget The Devil Wears Prada, I have worked with some of the most empowering, supportive, inspiring women in my media career – she took time to make me a better writer, gave me interesting, meaty commissions (not just the shopping pages) and really nurtured my career.

Over five years I gradually worked my way up through the ranks to assistant editor, health and beauty editor and then magazine editor at 26. I launched a new title in a recession and went on to relaunch a failing title in the publishing house’s stable. Although a challenging time, I think it made me more business savvy and rather than being ‘all about the art’, I now really love getting my teeth into the budgets, pagination and the business end of the industry, which has surprised me.

The future is digital

With marriage and motherhood came a move back to Devon, I had no immediate plans to carve out a media career back in the south-west but after 18 months I got the itch and began working for a digital health brand start-up in Bristol as their content director.

Digital was a whole new game for me. I was overseeing marketing and editorial content for both the corporate and consumer sides of the brand and it was a steep learning curve, as was juggling motherhood and a challenging new career. I’m not sure we can ever get the balance right as working mums (or feel like we have!). But I am immensely proud of the fact that I am raising my two boys with the example of a strong, working mother who does something she is passionate about to provide for them.

Starting my own consultancy this year has been my biggest learning curve yet. It finally felt like the right time, after 15 years in the media industry. I felt comfortable that I had something to offer and that what I do is of value. This was a massive milestone for me, to feel confident enough to go it alone and be a one-woman brand. In marketing, especially digital, there are a lot of people using a lot of technical terms to try and hoodwink businesses and brands into thinking they need to pay big bucks to ‘make their mark online’. They don’t. I want to simplify digital marketing and work with independent brands to help them build their customer relationships in a natural, authentic way and stand out in a crowded marketplace, creatively.

Time for a positive change

Something occurred to me this week after I’d read some lovely emails from readers of Social Butterflies, there is a never-ending discussion online (and offline) about ‘honest parenting’, we can’t get enough of books like Hurrah For Gin and The Unmumsy Mum. But how about some ‘honest career chat’? I’m not talking about flexible working – there are huge strides being made in that area, thanks to amazing ambassadors like Mother Pukka and Digital Mums. I’m talking about the identity crisis so many women feel when they put their careers on hold to have a family. So why does this issue still feel like a taboo subject?

For many women of my generation (born in the 70s/80s) we had established professional identities long before children came along (not forgetting spontaneous mini-breaks, oh how I miss you mini-breaks). But no-one, it seems, feels comfortable talking about the lows of career compromise in motherhood. The most obvious reason is because people don’t want to prejudice future job opportunities or damage their image. But I’m not talking about committing an act of career self-harm. It’s just about acknowledging those lows so you can refocus that energy on creating new highs. If you’ve taken time out, or your foot off the career accelerator, then your confidence needs building up. You’re not going to get that by feeling unable to talk about it. Knowing others feel the same way is both reassuring and empowering. When you feel part of a movement don’t you feel more energised to make a change?

So I would like to open up the conversation. But this isn’t a drowning your sorrows exercise. This is very much about focusing on the positives. It’s about recognising your worth, valuing your experience, honing your skills, retraining in some cases, pursuing a passion and giving each other a leg-up! (I’ve been there, so I should know). I took a three-year career break a few years ago (but I did have two children) so I never feel awkward about explaining that time off to prospective employers. Maybe if I hadn’t done that I might be earning more money, or have a more impressive job, but I don’t like to look back. I am where I am because of the choices I made – no regrets. I think one of the best things you can do if you are on a career plateau is to skill yourself up. Even now, with over 16 years’ experience behind me I still think it’s important to attend courses, workshops and industry events. You should never be complacent about your knowledge in the workplace. I work in digital marketing where innovations and trends move so fast I have to keep pace.

If you’re feeling out of touch with your career identity and looking to try something new, or maybe just want to enhance your existing skills, then take heart from all the amazing women we feature on Social Butterflies. So many of them have taken career breaks, or left behind stellar jobs to try something new that suits family life. You can achieve that too – all it requires is a positive attitude, determination, a healthy dose of confidence and a good support network. You too could feel like the lady in the photo (looks like a Bodyform advert, I know).


The best advice I can give anyone who is feeling out of touch with the work place is to continuing learning: take a course, attend a workshop, go to a talk. Find something that interests you and meet like-minded people. Taking courses purely for professional reasons is great too (I’m currently learning all about analytics…) but be clear about what you want to get out of it, particularly if you’re paying a lot of money for something.

Even if you’re not currently looking for work, try writing your CV out as you would a diary-style story. It’s a great exercise to help order your career thoughts and reexamine what you have to offer in an informal way. Once you’ve got a clearer sense of what that story is, you can translate into a CV format (have a look at Pinterest for CV style inspiration). Set yourself up with a LinkedIn profile and connect with old colleagues – you never know where Barry from accounts is now working and how he could help (by the way, Barry is a fictional character, purely for illustrative purposes).

With age comes wisdom. We should be proud of the experience we have gained, and not compare ourselves to twenty-somethings. Each generation has their own unique skill set  – ours is multitasking experience (in bucket loads!). Taking time out of work has reinvigorated your desire to work, not diminished it. I’m in my late-thirties and we’re not having any more children, so I represent a whole load of women who are not going to go on maternity leave and we’re less likely to flit from job to job. This is an advantage for a future employer. It’s all about changing negative perceptions and seeing the positives.

It’s therefore crucial to surround yourself with positive people. There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, but the doomsayers can quite frankly f**ck off! If you’re trying to lift yourself up you need people with a glass half full attitude. I always think if you project positivity you will attract it (you can have that as a motivational fridge magnet, you’re welcome).

I’m really hoping by getting this topic out in the open it will help other women out there, who felt like I once did. I’d love to hear from anyone who has felt like this and has made positive changes in their career. Please email I’d love to feature your story and inspire other women to do the same.

Coach your way to success: Ruth Kudzi

Ruth Kudzi had a successful career in recruitment before moving into education, where she was a senior manager for 10 years. It was during the selection and coaching process for a fast-track head teacher program, that she became interested in retraining as a business coach. Ruth realised her skills and natural aptitude could lead to a successful career. Finding a job which fitted around family life, utilised her expertise, and that she felt passionately about, has proved a winning formula. Ruth now specialises in supporting mums who want to achieve in business. If anyone knows how to do it she does, so we asked Ruth to share her career story and top tips for aspiring businesswomen.

Tell us about yourself

I am Ruth, I started my career in recruitment and executive search before moving into education. I spent 12 years working in education, the last nine as a senior leader and consultant. In 2011 I was selected to be part of a fast track program for aspiring head teachers. Through the program I got a coach and I found the impact transformational. I started to become really interested in coaching and I began to coach on a voluntary basis as well as through work, completing various courses and training.

When I became pregnant with my first daughter I started more coaching training and set up my own blog, I worked on this and a couple of other ventures during my first maternity leave but didn’t put much effort into making them work. When I returned to work full time I found juggling my career and my home life really hard, I knew I wanted to start up on my own. So, I completed more training, got myself a coach and started coaching. It took me about six months to settle on my niche working with mums and it wasn’t until Autumn 2016 that I decided to focus on the business element. By this stage I was an experienced and qualified coach and I realised that my passion lay with helping mums create the work/life balance that I had been able to create.

I love working with mums on their businesses and it is very satisfying seeing other mums build the lives that they want and develop successful businesses.

How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?

It means that I can be a lot more flexible in where I work and how I work. I have clients from all over the world so I can communicate with them easily which I would never have been able to do before.

I have really used social media to build my brand which was invaluable when I had my youngest with me full time, it meant that people could find out about me without meeting me.

I have built up a strong group in Facebook and on Instagram and have met so many brilliant women – women who I am working with, collaborating with and who are working for me in various roles. It has been amazing to hook up with all of these women and help each other.

What are your top tips for mums who want to start their own businesses?

Money matters
I think planning is key and I know it is boring but financials, work out exactly how much money you need and then add 20% to that. So many businesses fail as they haven’t got their head around the financials, if these really aren’t your thing get an accountant or a book keeper to help you.

Support network
Getting support and building a network around you is key. It can be really lonely so finding others doing a similar thing is a great way of having the team aspect without working in an office. If you don’t know how to do something or you lack confidence then get someone to help you. I work with lots of women who have tried to do everything on their own and they find themselves becoming burnt out and demotivated, there are people who can help you so use them.

Devote time to yourself
Spend time on you every day. You are your business and you need to value yourself and nuture yourself for your business to be a success. When you focus on you and being the best version of you it will have a massive impact on your business (and your life).

Ruth is following…

Mother Pukka is bloody brilliant for her flex appeal campaign, she speaks to so many women as we do still want to work but just more flexibly.

Rachel McMichael

Rachel McMichael (aka the techspert) is a lady I have worked with on tech and she is really inspiring, she is the person to go to for tech presented in a really user friendly way (and is a whizz on Facebook ads).

marie forleo

I love Marie Forleo and my coach Emily Williams is awesome. They are both really authentic to themselves and show how you can create mega businesses online.

Ruth’s work

CV reality check

I work from home a couple of days a week, and like all women I end up doing chores in between work. Loading the washing machine, unloading the dishwasher (and reloading), checking the fridge for missing items before the inevitable ‘top-up’ shop to the supermarket later (I feel a sad sense of achievement if I can avoid going at least once a day). My ability to multi-task is second to none, as is my ability to procrastinate. The internet has been calling me today with its cheeky loveliness and I’ve been powerless to resist. However, and quite unbelievably, amid endless cups of tea, a quick power-up in the form of a few ‘Waitrose-mini-hot-cross-buns’, I have actually written my CV. I know, I’ve even impressed myself.

I write this blog alongside my day job, and I’m currently trying to find time to launch my freelance business (digital marketer and editor). During this process I’ve been going through my CV for the first time in a long while, and oh my lord it’s been an uphill struggle. Does anyone else find writing in a self-promotional style buttock-clenchingly awkward? I’m happy to write about other people and tell their story, but when it comes to listing my own experience and achievements I feel out of my comfort zone, much like Nigel Farage at a Eurovision party.

Writing down your professional story is an exhausting process, but once you’ve written it you can spend an infinite amount of time refining it, or as I like to call it, disappearing down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest (goddamn you Pinterest). There are so many styles and designs these days for CV writing that I find it all a bit overwhelming. So I’ve decided to stick to my guns and opted for simplicity. A clean design coupled with riveting lists of experience and achievements *should* speak for themselves.

Part of the reason I’ve done this, is so I have a clear vision of what I can offer, what I know and how much that is worth to a business (and I don’t just mean financially, don’t underestimate sparkling wit and personality). If you’re thinking of returning to work, looking for a new job or perhaps starting a business, writing a CV can be a cathartic process – think AA meets NCT (but with jobs) – the first step is admitting you’ve got a problem, and remember, it’ll be worth the pain! It’s a good idea to get other people to check for errors obviously, but most importantly, writing about yourself in the third person (always a bit weird, but necessary in this context) helps you think objectively about what it is you have to offer. Which, I can guarantee will always be more than you think – age for once is a distinct advantage!

Desk reality: clearly need to buy A LOT more wine by the way

I’ve used two photos to illustrate visually what I mean about having a ‘CV reality check’. The main image is obviously not mine but an idealised, Instagram composition (credit to desk of dreams creator: Emma Highfield). The second one is the reality of my home working situation (it’s my kitchen table surrounded by crap). My point is that you need to think of a CV as you would the picture perfect desk – it’s a contrived version of reality. We recognise the same concept in the real picture, i.e. there is a table and a computer, the similarities end there sadly. So don’t stress about how to present yourself on paper – just write it down and tidy it up later.

We all have bundles of experience to offer future employers, particularly once you’re over the hump of, ahem…35 (ish). We should learn to celebrate our achievements for what they are, not compare ourselves to Instagram perfection (that gorgeous desk can bloody well piss off with all its neatness). Being a mum unofficially qualifies you as a PRINCE2 practitioner, referee, chauffeur, wine taster extraordinaire, UN diplomat (I could go on). Basically you’re awesome, even if at first glance your CV needs sprucing up.

Why do men never get called dadpreneurs?

Dadprenuer, dadboss – we’ve all heard of these terms, right?

Wrong – that’s because they’re not well-used labels attached to men who are successful in business and happen to be be fathers. My point? Well, I came across an article this morning by a writer called Alice Judge-Talbot, aptly titled ‘We’re not sodding mumpreneurs’. It hit me so hard I felt compelled to write this before I head out for lunch with my mates (not working on Fridays is the best now the kids are at both at school).

It spoke to me on two levels: Alice articulated exactly what I’ve been feeling since having kids AND reminded me of an embarrassing truth. What’s that I hear you ask? Well, I started Social Butterflies for two reasons (part therapy – ask any blogger and that’s usually on their list) and also because I felt marginalised as a ‘mum’ who wanted to redefine herself in the world of work again. But I’ve been too afraid to be outspoken about how uncomfortable I feel with the whole ‘brand-mum’ phenomenon. I’m savvy (and cynical) enough to realise it’s a marketing tool but when I go to work I’m not being a mum at that moment – I’m me!

social butterflies magazine

I’m not trying to fight a cause with my magazine/blog (call it what you will), but to give a voice to all the women like me who happen to have grown babies in their tummies AND ALSO enjoy working and crave a different identity to that of mummy. I love being a mum – I stayed at home while they were little and loved doing it. But it gets a bit boring after a while (if you’re honest with yourself) and that’s why I want to work, not just so I can justify a retail splurge in Cos and Whistles, but mainly because I’m a better mum, wife and friend when I am fulfilled.

Do labels matter? Well they shouldn’t, as the old playground chant goes: “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”. It’s all about personal choice and what you feel comfortable with. Personally I have several identities: mum, wife, friend, daughter, sister, colleague. But importantly the identity of being a mum for me is entirely wrapped up in my kids – it’s got nothing to do with me at work.

So, I guess my message is this: women should push against this reductive label which limits us. We are women first and foremost and we should be judged in the workplace by our abilities not by our wombs and boobs. Rant over, but not without thanking the far more articulate Alice who inspired me to write this morning (no mean feat before I’d had my second cup of tea!).

By Amy White

Let’s talk about flex…with Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a 37-year-old artist and designer living in Bristol with her husband Tim and their children Jet (7) and Della (4).

Helen Ward artist designer
Helen Ward

An accomplished artist and designer, Helen divides her time between working as a freelance product designer for Wild & Wolf in Bath, exhibiting her Paper Entomology work and developing new artistic commissions. When she’s not working Helen enjoys making things (let’s be honest, she’s pretty good at this), swimming and going on holiday.

I first met Helen when our children were toddlers at a local playgroup, which not only saved us the job of entertaining our little ones but also provided an important public service to weary local mums. We gossiped and moaned (think I did a fair bit of moaning) and drank luke-warm tea and hid biscuits from our prying children. Since then our children have started school (mime’s high-five) so we are at very similar points in our lives now: both striving to find creative, fulfilling jobs which pay the bills and fit around the children.

Helen Ward artist designer paper entomology
Artwork from Helen’s Paper Entomology series

Like so many women it’s not been an easy journey for Helen, both literally and figuratively. Although being self-employed worked when the children were babies’ things got much harder when three years ago Helen was offered her dream job. The job was based in Cheltenham and for 18 months Helen endured a four hour commute every day. That would be exhausting without children, but with the youngest only one-year-old it was too much and the inevitable feelings of guilt led to a decision to quit and work for herself again. The office culture of being chained to a desk nine to five seems as strong as ever unfortunately (please read my article about flexible working and how things are starting to change).

Helen still commutes to Bath a couple of days a week but as any freelancer will tell you, you have to be prepared to go where the work is. So an average week consists of working two full days a week and then during school hours only for the remaining three days. A self-confessed owl Helen often works into the evenings too. But like all of us juggling a family and a career sometimes you have to spin a few plates to get things done (hopefully not whilst serving dinner).

The path to ‘flexible working’ is not a well-trodden one. I often feel most of us are winging it to a certain extent. But what I do admire in Helen is that she is embracing the essence of flexible working without compromising too much of herself. So when the children are at school Helen makes time to go for a swim and when she’s working from home she can collect them from the school and take them “home for cuddles”. But like all families, childcare arrangements can often feel like a military operation and sometimes (but not always…) the women end up doing the lion’s share. “For several years it was me who was always the one who sorted out nursery drop offs and pick ups and this had a massive impact on my working life. It was really easy to fall into a pattern of me doing all the grunt work with this as I was the one who had been off on maternity leave twice.” Helen’s husband Tim was able to work out flexi-time arrangements with his employer which enabled the balance of power to be resumed. It’s so much better this way and not only does Helen feel less put upon but Tim is also more involved with the kids. I have a similar arrangement with my husband and from time to time you need to alter things, but appreciating each other’s professional lives is crucial to finding that balance. Helen’s top tip to achieving this is “team work” and I couldn’t agree more. “There’s no point in trying to be all things to all people at all times as it’s just not going to happen. This is the path to disappointment and exhaustion! Sharing responsibility for childcare made all the difference to us and if someone offers to help you out, say ‘Yes please!’.”

Helen Ward artist designer brass wall hanging
Brass wall hanging by Helen

But when push comes to shove (no baby puns intended) Helen is feeling really positive about her future career and although she may occasionally look back on how she could have done things differently, prioritising her children is never going to be a decision she’ll regret. “I often wonder where I would be in my career now if I had left it a bit later in life to have kids – I was 30. I know that if I had waited, I probably could have progressed a bit further with my design work and maybe seen a bit more success before getting into the baby zone…that said, now both my girls have started school, I can feel life picking up momentum again and I am feeling really positive about what is to come!”.

If money were no object would she change paths? Apparently not (which is a sure sign she’s in the right field). “I would absolutely still make things. I would find myself some ridiculous massive studio space with loads of light and craft materials and sit around in there listening to audio books.” Marvellous stuff Helen and you never know it might happen one day…

Helen on social media…

Helen Ward artist designer House of Wards logo

“The only social media I use these days is Instagram. I post my work up on there and I do get commissions from that quite often. Any of this income is then entirely counteracted by me looking at other people’s work on Instagram and spending all that money buying their stuff!”.

I feel your pain Helen and so does my credit card.

Helen’s daily digital routine…

“I was a Facebook user for years, but gave that up 12 months ago as I found the whole thing was just starting to get me down and wasn’t that useful any more. I can honestly say that I haven’t missed it once! I have a pointless habit of looking on the BBC News website which I need to STOP as it achieves nothing. I use Pinterest every day for work and have about a million secret boards for all my ongoing projects. Other than that, I just look on Instagram. I need to get a check on myself sometimes as I do go through phases of looking at it too much. I spent months and months obsessively looking at people who posted up pictures of interiors last year. Eventually I had to do a mass cull of loads of the people I followed to stop myself. I felt better once I had, but I do have a sneaky look back at them every now and then – I can’t help it!!”.

Don’t worry we all love a bit of stalking (in a completely harmless, non-creepy way of course)

“On the whole, I tend not to follow too many Mums that I don’t know. I am always mindful on Instagram that you only get a very contrived view of people’s lives and that the reality of it all really might be quite different. It’s all too easy to berate yourself because some other mum with five children and two dogs has still managed to look amazing, keep an immaculate house and has only fed her children on home cooked organic fruit and vegetables. In reality I like to think they have probably just been crying in a messy corner all day and they’re posting the pictures up as therapy while pretending to themselves that everything is marvelous (surely!). I’m not bitter – I’m practical!”

Thanks for saying what we all feel. Aspirational images, which are often carefully constructed, are the bread and butter of the Instagram and while there is nothing wrong with a bit of virtual day-dreaming I agree we shouldn’t believe the hype.

Helen’s following…

Victoria Topping artist


Victoria Topping: “Vic is a friend of mine and a creative FORCE!”


Claire Doodle Instagram


Clair Meldrum: “Clair is a painter from Aus who I think does a good job of keeping it real Mum styles!”


@letsmakeartukLet's make art bristol

Karen Davies: “Let’s make Art provide high quality art workshops and events for children and sometimes adults too. Her feed is full of cool ideas for crafts for kids and some little gems from her family life too.”

Helen’s work…

Helen is currently working as a freelance senior product designer for Wild & Wolf in Bath. She designs homeware, giftware and toys for major UK retailers and the global market. Helen is currently exhibiting her Paper Entomology artwork at the following galleries: Porthminster Gallery, St. Ives; Sarah Wiseman Gallery, Oxford; Byard Art, Cambridge; Foss Fine Art, Battersea. She also accepts commissions –some of these projects can be seen on her Instagram account @house.of.wards.

Interview by Amy White

Let’s talk about flex…with Polly March

Polly March is a 36-year-old journalist, originally from London but now living in north Bristol with her husband and two children, Florence (4) and Leo (2).

polly march bbc news journalist stella and dot stylist

When I asked Polly to tell her story I don’t think I quite appreciated how much she does: broadcast journalist for the BBC news website; volunteer for the Baby Bank Network overseeing its social media, freelance PR consultant and recently she’s joined the ranks of Stella & Dot as an independent stylist. So it’s safe to say that Polly is someone who truly embodies the values we’re aiming to champion on Social Butterflies – a working mum who is embracing the digital world.

But with all this going on in her life you can appreciate childcare is a finely tuned operation and so she’s quick to thank her “amazing in-laws who look after the kids out of pure love”. Juggling family life with work is an ongoing battle in most households and one we all strive to win. That’s why it’s refreshing to hear from real women about the harsh realities of trying to do it all: “It is quite tiring with all the pick-ups and drop-offs and does means the kids get a bit fed up at times but I think being totally there for them half the week is a real treat and makes up for it. The hard bit is when I have to go out and do jewellery shows in the evenings or on weekends or step away from them to do some admin as that feels like it impacts on family time but then it is extra cash for us all”.

If ever there was a recurring theme in this series of interviews it is that all mums have experienced a ‘crisis of confidence’. In fact, the reason it’s taken me so long to start writing again and launch this website is testament to that negative thinking. What’s so inspiring and comforting to know is that everyone else feels like that too! Polly’s experience is no exception, but that’s changed since she starting working for Stella & Dot: “it has massively helped with all aspects of my career and really reinvigorated me. It’s all about communicating but because I am meeting like-minded people and making them feel good about themselves, it makes me feel positive and has changed my professional outlook”.

polly march stella and dot stylist

What I love about Polly’s story is how fierce she has become in her professional attitude. Despite wondering if she would ever get her mojo back after having children she now has a renewed sense of vigour in her work ethic: “I am in a highly competitive industry on a short term contract and I’m only there [BBC] three days I week, I don’t have time to rest on my laurels and have to make my presence felt. At work now I am always ‘on it’, suggesting ideas or ways to take stories forward or to engage with our digital audiences. Before, where I might have been shy in coming forward, I know now that there’s no time for that and I can’t afford not to be noticed”. But this energy didn’t come overnight and Polly believes, as I’m sure we all do, that “as women, we should all be supporting each other in the workplace as when we have that conviction we can achieve anything”. Working in a deadline driven job has its drawbacks – being unable to avoid communications being one of them. I can relate to that and I’m conscious my children are watching me while I scroll through my phone or work on my laptop. But like Polly I think in order to find a fulfilling job that fits in around family life “it’s worth a bit of trial and error to get there”.

When she’s not enjoying outdoor pursuits and time with her family, Polly aspires to use her media skills to work with charities and “do more humanitarian work, help out at my daughter’s school and write that elusive book I’ve always been threatening to write!”. Well, I for one look forward to reading it!

Polly on social media…

“I largely use social media for my Stella & Dot business and it works fantastically well. It means I can connect with customers in a really personal way, offer them previews and discounts and a much friendlier, informal service. Also when I’m tweeting for the Baby Bank Network, I can do it anywhere and anyhow. Social media also massively helps with my main job at the BBC because it enables me to engage with users and find content really easily.

Polly’s daily digital routine…

“I am a total social media junkie so I will always check Facebook, Instagram and my BBC news app over breakfast. Twitter I generally only use at work but I will log on a few times a day on behalf of the Baby Bank Network just to check if I need to respond/engage.”

Polly is following…

“I really love the blogs that dispel the myths about motherhood”

unmumsy mum blog bookSarah Turner: The Unmumsy Mum writer of successful blog and subsequent Sunday Times no. 1 bestseller author.

Instagram: theunmumsymum

Twitter: @theunmumsymum




hurrah for gin book blogKatie Kirby: blogger and published author of Hurrah for Gin.

Instagram: hurrah4gin

Twitter: @hurrahforgin




Totes Inappropestotes inappropes alison stankard: “The ramblings of a 43-year-old mother of three unfortunate children who likes to booze, run and shop for bargains. Lots of swearing and copious amounts of gin.”

Twitter: @StankardAlison


“I also follow lots of Stella & Dot gurus because they offer awesome advice about how to grow the business. I like people who keep it real but also have humour. There is far too much self-congratulatory stuff out there so I like people who are a bit humbler and self-deprecating who offer a more realistic view of life rather than smug mums of Instagram!”

Polly’s work…

BBC News

Stella & Dot

Baby Bank Network

Interview with Amy White

Let’s talk about flex…with Sophie Adams

Sophie is a 37-year-old social media manager (training with Digital Mums) who lives in south west London with her husband Dan, daughters Milla (5) and Ruby (3) and Dot the six month old schnoodle pup.

Sophie Adams Digital Mums work that works

A burgeoning career as a social media manager beckons for Sophie whose CV has almost come full circle. She started working in advertising after university and no doubt some of those core skills will prove useful in the future. A decade spent as a teacher defined her professional identity, however the familiar story of crippling childcare costs and a vocation which demands a huge amount of time meant she has chosen a different career, one which allows more flexibility around family life. Like so many of us Sophie refers to feeling guilty: “As a working mum you feel like you are always letting someone down; rushing to leave work to get to nursery, rushing the kids out of the house to get to work etc. It’s a vicious circle. That’s why I’m hoping the Digital Mums course will give me the flexibility to pick the kids up from school, but still get the fulfilment of working.”

Although ‘flexible working’ is still in its infancy in the Adams household at least Sophie’s in control of the hours she does, even if it does “involve working all evening and crawling in to bed at about 1am!”. Setting a positive role model for her children is an important aspect of life and one I can relate to. It’s about finding the balance between being around whilst the children are little and fulfilling the desire to have a professional identity.

Sophie’s top tips for finding a work/life balance is to “find a job/career/hobby that you’re passionate about, and can make a bit of money from it without compromising your family life, surely that’s the dream!”. Digital Mums have certainly captured the imagination of thousands of women like Sophie, and although I’m not a ‘Digital Mum’ in the official sense, I’d like to think I’m championing its values and ethos.

Despite the compromises motherhood naturally brings, like precious time to yourself (goodbye spa weekends, retail therapy, lie-ins, I could go on…) one thing is clear we wouldn’t change it for a thing. Although daydreaming for a moment, if Sophie didn’t need to work she might be “a very leisurely artist – painting as and when the mood took me and selling my paintings for big bucks (I can dream…)”.

Taking a leap of faith and deciding to be your own boss is a really challenging prospect and particularly hard for a lot of mums who suffer with that dreaded self-doubt we all feel. Hearing stories, like Sophie’s, gives me huge motivation and confidence to have more self-belief. “The idea of being my own boss is really exciting on paper, but the reality of having to go out there and get the work, do the hustle is a bit terrifying! But I have to challenge myself.” I’m really looking forward to following Sophie’s journey and hearing about her success.

Sophie on social media…

“Hopefully its opening up a whole new career for me. Since having kids and spending those lonely hours in the middle of the night on Twitter and Instagram, I’ve been watching the platforms evolve and the power they now wield is incredible! Its just in its infancy, though, and the future is exciting!”

Sophie’s daily digital routine…

“Email, Instagram, Facebook, the Guardian, the Daily Mail gossip (sorry!), Instagram, Twitter, Instagram, Instagram, Snapchat etc”.

Sophie’s following…

“Via Instagram I’ve found HUNDREDS of mums/bloggers/vloggers – its now such a powerful tool & some of them definitely influence where I shop & what I buy etc. I find them much more interesting than celebs!”

cissy wears mumpreneur

@cissywears: “runs an amazing business whilst having four children”.




don't buy her flowers steph@steph_dontbuyherflowers: “runs a really successful business since having her children”.




too much mothering information blog

@toomuchmotheringinformation: “an ex-teacher like me who became, through circumstance, a stay at home mum; I realised we were starting the Digital Mums course at the same time and she’s running a lovely campaign focussing on SE London @indikidsldn“.



Sophie’s work…

Sophie is using her love of dogs as part of her training for Digital Mums and has setup an online community SWLondonDogs: a place to find information for dog lovers in South West London.

sophie adams digital mums sw london dogs


Twitter: @SWLondonDogs

Instagram: swlondondogs


digital mums work that worksDigital Mums
Twitter: @digitalmumshq / Instagram: digitalmums
LinkedIn:  Snapchat:


Interview with Amy White

What flexible working means to me

Probably one of the biggest challenges facing parents is how to balance work and home life. Finding work which enables parents to work flexibly sometimes feel like mining for the rarest precious stone.

As someone who took time out of a career to stay at home with kids I can attest that finding a job that is part-time or has flexible hours and that doesn’t involve a significant shift in either seniority or pay is pretty much non-existent. Now I realise that things are changing and that some companies are finally tapping into the huge pool of talent that exists, amongst mums particularly. Some companies are making strides in this area, check out the winners from 2016 Working Mums Awards. However, considering we are living in a digital age things are still severely lacking. Any aspect of working practice that requires its own awards ceremony (whilst admirable) highlights how it should be embedded in business culture, not a nice little extra. This whole area is set to get more traction as the Equality and Human Rights Commission are on a mission to encourage better workplaces for mothers with its campaign #workingforward. In fact flexible working features in The Huffington Post top 10 parenting trends for 2017.

Pioneering in this field are Digital Mums. It has created courses designed for mums to build and enhance digital skills which they can use to work flexibly. They have started a campaign entitled #workthatworks and their aim is get businesses and individuals to recognise the powerful contribution mums can make to the economy by providing work opportunities that work around family life. They are championing something which is very close to all our hearts. I speak from personal experience as l I’ve chosen my current job based on it’s flexible hours rather than its career prospects. But I’m using my time wisely and I’m arming myself with knowledge which I believe will prepare me for work in the digital economy. One lady blazing a trail in this area is the awesome Mother Pukka – in fact she writes far more knowledgeably and eloquently on this subject than I ever could.

If more employers saw the benefits of allowing staff to work flexibly then perhaps more mums would return to work. On Radio 4’s Today programme they discussed the gender pay gap and whether or not women ‘choose’ less demanding jobs in order to find work that fits around family life. I would argue that women don’t ‘choose’ to take jobs which pay less but they are sidelined professionally once they have children. Jo Swinson (Director of Equal Power Consulting) supports the view that women don’t have a great deal of choice once they have children.

But the benefits are not merely financial. The psychological impact can be really positive. Mothers can often feel like disenfranchised people in society and work can provide an important identity. On a personal level the confidence boost I have had since returning to work has been immense. I feel more content, more energised and cherish time with the kids. Mental wealth is just as important as financial wealth. I’m currently interested in the work of Dr. Jessamy, a clinical psychologist, who is embracing digital media to spread the word about mental wealth.

On the theme of this article I’m curating a series of interviews with women like me who are struggling to achieve that elusive work/life balance. I’m coming to the conclusion that in order to achieve it I’m going to have to become more independent, more confident and embrace the entrepreneurial spirit I so admire in other mums. I would be really keen to hear from anyone who like me has experienced similar issues around working flexibly. So, if you have a story to tell please get in touch:

By Amy White