When I fell pregnant as a BA student in my first year (with our first son), I was instantly deemed as a failed student by a lot of people — destined to walk the Green Mile of the benefit cul-de-sac with no qualifications. After completing my first year of university and just 5 weeks after Josh was born, I was back in education doing an evening course and an 88-mile round trip travelling to Brighton University just to get another qualification under my belt in the year I was taking out from my degree course. It’s hard if you want to be a successful Mum – not only for the criticism you’re likely to come against. But your maternal instincts will be shot to pieces because there’s simply not enough hours in a day for you to be all the things you want to be!
Year two of my degree course started and it was significantly harder than the previous year due to juggling a baby on a student loan, while Beard was going through a tough training course. Really tough. But we got through it.
Year 3 of my degree started, and with Beard now qualified as a heating engineer, money wasn’t quite so tight, which meant we could afford childcare to enable me to study a bit more. I hadn’t quite realised how hard a Bachelor’s of Arts would be. Studying and having a baby was backbreaking work! So, of course, to mix things up, an impromptu under the sheets gym sesh ended up with me being pregnant with baby number two, due date three months after I’m due to complete my degree. IF I complete my degree, I had worked so hard for.
Of course, history came back to haunt me when I overheard people from my class stating that I’d never make anything of myself.
That’s the day I decided everyone could stick their finger up their arse and swivel on my sewing machine needle because I was going to prove them all wrong.
And I did; I was the only person in my year to get a first-class honors degree. Not only did I get a 1st, but I also got the highest grade in the year. Despite having a toddler to look after, being seven months pregnant, and renovating a house at the weekends.
Never let anyone put you down. You are the master of your destiny.
Then came the time when I realised I was unhirable. Not only was I a graduate, but I was also a student who had graduated like many many other students. However, here I was, the pregnant student with the highest grade they can award a student, but I had a toddler and was about to give birth in a matter of weeks. No amount of qualifications could win an employer over, so I decided to go it alone. Screw the system. Screw the battle for equality. Screw the entire dynamics of the workplace. I’ll do it all myself, and I did. I set up my own organic children’s clothing & accessories brand.
Juggling three kids isn’t easy. Taking Austyn into London for business meetings may seem unprofessional to some, but in the nursery industry pretty much anything goes. As long as you can feed the baby and do a PowerPoint presentation while calling the school to let them know that Finn has left his packed lunch at home with one hand, and with the other order your Tesco online shop, make a to-do list for the weekend while being on the Hive Heating App to dry the washing you’ve got hanging up at home, you’ll be fine. There’s no sitting down, there’s no stopping, that’s for sure; this is multi-tasking at its finest.
Even the train journey home is a nightmare. Attempting to negotiate the rush hour so you don’t piss off any snooty childless secretaries or corporate Jack-the-Lad wannabe Lord Sugar’s in the making.
It’s weird how in the nursery sector, nobody bats an eye at a child in tow. Yet step out of that world, and you’re faced with horrified stares as if I should have decided whether I wanted to be a mother or a businesswoman. Why do I need to choose? I can be everything and anything I want to be.
It’s weird how everyone always moves to a different carriage as soon as they get on the train and see us. Nine times out of ten, yes, he does try to shove his entire arm down my throat or rip my earrings out so he can ingest them, but despite me not sitting there reading the Guardian or Financial Times, does that make me any less of a business owner than you?