Photographer & The Mothership
I’m Anna, 39, from Manchester. I have two sons, Joe (12) and Huey (3) – crazy teen/toddler combo! – and since separating from my ex earlier this year I am currently a proud single mum I have the boys with me the majority of the time, but I do have a couple of days every other weekend when I am child-free and tend to spend this time swinging wildly between feeling horribly guilty that my kids aren’t with me and actually really enjoying myself doing things I can’t usually do
Pre-kids I used to be a secondary school teacher, but around 10 years ago when Joe was 2 years old I set up my own photography business and have been a full-time self-employed photographer ever since. For the first 5 years I photographed only weddings, but over the last 5 years I’ve really grown the family photography arm of the business and this year stopped taking wedding bookings to focus exclusively on photographing families, as I found that kids and family are where my passion truly lies. I specialise in creative documentary family photography that celebrates real life, individuality and character, photos that tell the real stories and personality of each family and the people in it, finding the beauty in their everyday lives.
This last year I had the very good fortune of getting to know the lovely Helen and us realising that we shared lots of passions and dreams relating to supporting other women through the ups and downs, trials and joys of working motherhood… and it was from this that The Mothership was born – it’s been a total pleasure and so exciting to be working on this now alongside my photography.
1.One word to describe working motherhood?
Exhausting (sorry I’ve not sugar-coated that at all, just being honest)
2. One thing you enjoy most about being a working mother?
3. One thing you’ve found toughest about being a working mother?
The guilt. For me it comes with feeling that whenever you focus on one thing, work or family, it’s at the expense of the other, that you’re never doing either properly.
4. One thing you wish you’d known when you first became a mother?
That most of the hard stuff is just a phase, that it will pass. It won’t be that way forever. Apart from the guilt. That never goes and that’s ok, it’s just the way it is if you’re a good, caring mum.
5. One thing that surprised you when you became a mother?
The sudden new-found surge of respect for my own parents and all the things they have said or done over the years that I never previously understood but that suddenly made perfect, heart-breaking sense.
6. One thing you’d like to start doing?
Relaxing more, enjoying doing less.
7. One thing you’d like to stop doing?
Fannying around on my mobile phone so much.
8. One way in which your aspirations and goals have changed since becoming a mother?
Needing my work to fit around my family life. When I was a teacher I lived and breathed teaching. It took up all my time, daytime, evenings and weekends. That was fine pre-kids when it was the most important thing in my life, but as soon as I had kids it stopped being the most important thing and the hours felt unsustainable. Since then it’s been really important to make sure that my career fits in around my children and to ensure that I have enough time with them wherever possible. It doesn’t always work out that way – sometimes I’m so busy that I feel like I’m spending barely any time with my kids, but being self-employed I do have a really decent degree of control over my working hours and what work I take on when, so that if I feel that the balance has tipped I can make sure I block out time to focus on my kids to compensate.
9. One thing you do when you need more energy?
I should say sleep as obviously this is the best thing for energy, but I’m really rubbish at getting early nights – I always feel like I’m missing out on the evening and rarely manage it. Making nice smoothies in the mornings with the Nutribullet always makes me feel perkier – it’s probably psychosomatic but it makes me feel more virtuous and nourished from the inside.
10. One top tip for managing your time or productivity?
This is something I’ve only really started getting better at this year. Goal setting and quarterly/monthly/weekly planning is definitely the way forward and I’ve noticed such a difference since starting to do it – much less reactive fire-fighting and a lot more focus and accomplishment.
11. One item you couldn’t do without?
Spotify. Listening to nice music is essential for my happiness whether I’m working at home at the computer or relaxing having some time off.
12. One activity you most love doing with your kids?
Cooking. I love food and both kids absolutely love cooking – so it’s great sharing that with them. It’s also quite hard finding activities or games that both a 12 year old and a 3 year old can enjoy at the same time, but cooking is great for this. It feels really good and heart-warming afterwards sitting down together and enjoying eating the food we’ve made, I find it a great bonding experience as well as just generally a fun activity.
13. One great shop for kids’ clothes?
I absolutely love Tobias & The Bear
14. One talent you’re proud of?
I’m a good pool player. At university we had a pool table in our cellar so I played for hours every single day for two years. After that, pre-kids, I also used to play on our local pub’s pool team. I’m very rusty now as I have no pool table at home and since having kids I don’t spend very much time in pubs or pool halls But I can still hold my own. It’s especially satisfying as a woman because men always seem to think that you’ll be crap, and you get patronised quite a lot when you head over to a pool table to play. It’s always very satisfying beating them or proving them wrong
15. One great family midweek meal you rely on?
Salmon fillets, mash, veg and homemade parsley sauce.
16. One great kids toy everyone loves playing with?
17. One book you’d recommend, either for leisure or for business?
For both business and life in general, The One Thing – our Book Club choice this month
18. One thing you have to say about work/life balance?
It’s a myth. You’ll have better luck finding a unicorn. It’s just not possible to ever get a perfect balance between work and home life – you’ll drive yourself nuts with frustration and guilt trying to achieve it. At some points work will take a front seat, at other times family will – depending on what their needs and your circumstances are at the time. Sometimes one will need your attention more than at other times. I think the key is to regularly evaluate (via regular weekly/monthly planning) what the specific needs are of your work and life at that moment in time and then planning your activities around this for the coming days/weeks. Sometimes one will figure more prominently than the other but it will be swings and roundabouts and the main thing is that you’re consciously choosing how to best spend your time for everyone to get the results and happiness that they need at that specific point in time.
19. One thing you’d love to achieve work-wise in the future?
I’d love The Mothership to be a success, with lots of women finding that it really helps and supports them, that it’s the ‘village’ they can draw on and rely on to help ease the load and help them tackle their hopes and dreams.
20. One thing you’d love to achieve in your family life in the future?
I really want to set aside a regular chunk of time, a regular ‘slot’ that is for me and my eldest Joe to hang out and do things together. Now that he is older and always out playing with his friends I feel like we’re ships in the night a lot of the time. I really notice the distance between us when we’ve not hung out together for a while, and really notice the closeness immediately coming back as soon as we have a bit of one on one time. This is all a bit ad hoc at the moment so I want to make sure it gets scheduled in so we don’t miss it. Now that he’s a couple of months off being a teenager I think it’s more important than ever that this closeness is nurtured so he feels close to me and that he can come to me with any problems or worries.
21. One thing you’d like to see change for working mothers?
More flexible childcare and working options
22. One crucial piece of advice for other working mums?
Ditch the guilt. We’re all just doing our best, trying to be good mums and trying to do our jobs well. Sometimes we manage it, sometimes we don’t. In an ideal world we’d be sailing through it all winning at everything, but the fact is, it’s not an ideal world and we’re only human. Many of us need to work to survive and support our families. Many of us want and need to work for our own sanity, happiness and identity. You’re not just a mum, you’re not just a worker, you’re a woman with your own needs, your own dreams and you deserve to be happy. It’s good for your kids to see you making yourself happy and following your dreams and ambitions. It’s ok if sometimes work does your head in, and it’s ok if sometimes your kids do your head in. It’s impossible to be amazing at everything all the time. You won’t always do everything right and sometimes you’ll feel like you’re making a right pig’s ear of it all, but we all feel like that. We’re just doing our best and the guilt means that you care.
23. One thing you’d love to ask other working mums?
What great midweek meals they rely on. We get stuck in terrible ruts of the same 3-4 meals on rotation. Please send yours in and we can share them in the Recipe Book!