I was introduced to Anna, aka @MotherPukka via the lovely Steph, who runs Don't Buy Her Flowers, the gifting service for new mums or those who need a bit of TLC. Anna is a brilliantly funny vlogger, copy writer, and now campaigner for flexible working since her recent resignation from her full time job in order to focus on her own multitude of skills, due to the lack of flexibility offered in her old role. As a new mum, this is an issue that resonates strongly with me, and one that I have been doing various interviews on myself, with a piece to appear on this site very soon as a result.
I caught up with Anna to find out about life as Mother Pukka, and how she got to where she is now...
Tell us about what you’re doing now and how you got here?
We moved back to the UK from Amsterdam eighteen months ago. Amsterdam is a very flexible place, but London, in contrast just doesn't work for a 34 year-old woman with a 2 year old, a husband and a full-time job.
I tried to make it work. I worked at Stylist magazine for a year and then got poached by L’Oreal as a senior copywriter, and moved roles for the money, but the higher I got, the more I had to give up time with my family. I'd land as a sweaty mangled heap at day care at 6pm and one day, I was taken in, sat on one of those tiny chairs and told that I'd be charged £1 a minute for every 5 minutes I was over time.
When that happened, I had a real eureka moment of 'I love my job, and I want to make it work', but I needed it to work differently. I went to them and talked to them about flexible working, but they said that one rule for me would mean that rule for everyone. I just thought 'f**k' it. The Dutch day care system has this sorted. The day care goes to 7, and my role was 3 days a week. I decided to give it a go myself. I gave in my notice the next day.
I genuinely loved my job and a lot of people couldn't believe I hadn't left in a negative way. But, it was the combination of factors of day care, a tube system that meant that 6pm was never possible, and a company that wouldn't let me go beyond the 9-6 working model to make it work.
I set out to pioneer a new way of working for myself and encourage others to do the same. I still do bits of freelance (including some for L’Oreal), but the bits I do are on my terms. It's a mish-mash of mother pukka stuff, brand stuff and freelance work - like a content jazz hands! I used to like that every day was secure and I knew where I was going - but now I have to trust myself and believe that it will happen.
What's the story behind the start of Mother Pukka?
When I moved back from Amsterdam, I wanted to start something that represented my own perspective. Something that not everyone would like, not to isolate anyone, but just my way of doing things. I've written a lot in the last 6 months about punchy issues - miscarriages, flexible working, a focus on parent friendly things and not just kids. Something that demonstrated a feeling that there is room at the inn for everyone, that you're a parent, but a person first. I love my kid, but I want to have cocktails and mocktails - not tommy tippee cups in the park.
I would find myself during difficult times like miscarriage, engulfed in content, with no one to sort the wheat from the chaff and prevent you from getting lost in those threads and your own emotional devices. The name Mother Fucker kept coming back to me for my own writing, but my mum doesn't like swearing, so I decided on Mother Pukka.
The aim was eventually to do it as a sole job. I thought, if I'm going to do this it has to be with my kid, so I made a decision to include Mae in the videos. I thought that vlogs were the way forward. Something for that 3am moment when you've got mastitis and you're feeling shit, hearing people roll out of the clubs outside your house. Something that doesn't judge you, and raises a smile.
I think you have to see the lightness and the laughter. It's the common denominator across parenthood. It was a risk and I've had criticism for us being on camera, but I don't make her do things she doesn't want to do. The blogs are based on what we do anyway. It's a bit of light relief from the parental storm.
How long did it take you to feel like you’d made progress with the vlogging and your new way of working?
It's tough. While I'm quite light hearted in the content I produce, there's been an equal balance of tears and laughter behind the scenes. I'm not sure I expected it to be about skipping off into the sunset, but good projects are never easy. I would say that it's doing OK. I'm not making enough from Mother Pukka to solely live off it, but I'm earning a good amount from it to do renovations on our house; and it feeds my copy writing freelance work.
You are actually more shackled to your work than ever before though - and you can't just launch into being a blogger or vlogger. You have to invest a year of no one listening to you, pushing content out and connecting to people. A lot of people think that after 2 blog posts it will all happen, but it was only at the beginning of this year that things started to happen for me. You have to invest financially, emotionally and time wise and if you're not going to do all three and carry on and pick yourself up off the floor, you won't get anywhere. I very nearly gave up along the way.
The key to all of this is that as a family, we have regained control. While I'm working way more, and not seeing my daughter as much, I am in control of my time and that's worth its weight in gold. That's the emotional gain from this and that's the bit that gets lost and I want to talk about more.
What do you find difficult about managing multiple jobs?
When you're smaller, you can really connect with people; and when I've written about miscarriage and flexible working, I sometimes haven't being able to respond to people that have contacted me in a way that is worthy. I find that really hard, but you have to spread your time in a way that allows you to make money from it to a certain extent. I want it to have heart and my voice and my direction on it, but it has to make money.
Do you get 'the fear' and what do you do to spur yourself on?
Fear is at the bottom of the list as I'm so, so tired! I've made so many decisions in the last 6 months that have filled me with fear that I'm over it now and putting that energy into making something of this. I spent so much time having the fear about leaving full-time employment to do something on my own, but f**k you fear!
I feel frustration, and I feel lonely and lost sometimes, as I don't have colleagues. You're on your own and you're peddling away like a little duck under water. Frustration, Loneliness, and Lost - those 3 words fit more. The way I fix those things is by getting a grip. If my daughter came to me with doubts, I think 'what would I say to her'. I'd tell her that she can do it - she could be a doctor, horse rider, make pom-poms, she can do anything. You have to live in the same way that you would bring up your own child.
What or who do you find intimidating?
I find this group of women building something spectacular for their families intimidating. I feel like I'm part of that, but that transparency needs to be there on how hard it is to do it. Before I got to know them it was intimidating, I would think 'how can I be part of that'? There's so much excitement at the moment about what people are doing and there is a new parent run brand every 5 minute and it's inspiring, but it's also intimidating in terms of how people make it work.
I did a talk for Mothers Meeting the other day as part of a panel. What was so good was that it was minimal chat from us and it was all about the people there. We partnered with 10 women and chatted to them about how to get out there and just do it. Mothers Meeting is all about taking away that intimidation factor - if you go to a meeting you just realise that everyone is in it for themselves, but they're also there for each other. Whether you're a Mumboss or Mum don't give a toss - they cut through the crap and there's room at the inn for all.
What makes you feel good or powerful?
When something goes well that you've put a lot of heart into, like the content I did recently with Stylist Magazine on miscarriages. It used my journalist side, but putting it on a forum like Mother Pukka meant that it cuts through the crap. You hear from people that it's genuinely made a difference because it's honest and transparent and not too much emotional waffle.
How do you define success now?
Success is being able to carve back those minutes I lost with my daughter. I'm hoping to carve back hours when I have more control. It's meeting people who make you push yourself further, who have your back, and want to lift you up instead of pull you down. That's the difference between doing your own thing and working for someone. When you're in a workforce there's always someone nipping at your heels versus pulling you up.
Where would you like Mother Pukka and your overall business to get to?
I would like to just vlog - goofing around in my kitchen, with the smell of congealed ketchup in the air and wearing weird disco pants, wondering how it's all got to this, but being happy that it has.
How do you start your day?
I set my alarm for 6.30 every day to clear emails before Mae wakes. For all my haphazard nature, I'm very regimented about emails as everyone deserves an answer and I get stressed if I haven't managed to do that.
Then it's anywhere and everywhere. This Friday I have a meeting with a big news publisher about a collaborative project, then I'm off to Selfridges to talk about an event we might work on, over to Camden market to pick out favourite bits for a friend who does content and wanted a mothers perspective, then off to V&A museum of childhood to talk about what we can do with them.
None of it is paid, but Mae is with me all day, which is hard, but good at the same time. I let people know and I've never had a situation where it hasn't been fine. In many ways she leads the meeting!
We have an agent called Flipside who negotiate bigger deals, for example with Avon, Citroen, the Glamour series. That's how I make money.
How do you organise yourself? Any essential apps on your iPhone you can’t live without?
Colour splash - it's good if you want a more colourful approach to a fairly average photo. It makes everything black and white, except one thing has a pop of colour.
I'm very much into lists but not digitally. I have my old mangled moleskin with tea stains all over it. It's important not to feel that you have to get through that list, just to know that it is there - that helps to rationalise things.
I also make lunches in the morning for Mae and I and we eat like little hobos in parks.
How do you come up with new ideas?
Through RSI induced scrolling of Instagram - that's where I heard about colour splash. If someone emails me I try really hard to meet them as they have a perception and perspective on their product that's interesting. I don't make money from parent run brands as we're a platform to build those brands up.
What idea do you wish you’d come up with?
I love what Molly Gunn has done with Selfish Mother. She, and Jenny from Mothers Meetings, pioneered this spirit of motherhood that has created a totally new space.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a golden retriever dog walker! We owned them throughout our lives and I've always felt they were my spirit animal. I did an event the other day and that was my networking tip - to be the golden retriever. Waggy tail, slobbery at times but you're always going to get that ball. I'm yet to get that!
What would you tell your kids about working out what they want to do in life?
Every night before Mae goes to bed, I tell her that she can be anything. We run through all the things that are in her head and we articulate each and every avenue. I felt rail roaded into law or a career that society would be proud of me for, so alongside the doctor chat there is 'make pom poms' chat.
Single best piece of advice you’ve been given along your journey?
It was from my dad - 'never look up to people and never look down on people'; and it's helped me with so much stuff. It incorporates being confident in what you're doing, believe in it, charge what you're worth, but also don't belittle others with less followers - don't think they're irrelevant or might help you grow together.