Time is running out to join in the BritMums Live linky not to mention grabbing your ticket for the social media and blogging event of the year.

Here is my little introduction.

me

• Kate Holmes

• Striking Mum formerly Kate on Thin Ice formerly Giggling at it all and formerly a blog we don’t talk about

• @kateonthinice

• 5 feet and five inches

• Brown hair with a little help from my hairdresser. Short and hopefully sassy too.

• Brown eyes behind purple glasses

•I have attended BritMums LIve as a speaker in 2013 and as a room facilitator for the last two years.

• I am attending both days

• Connecting with online friends old and new

• I have not decided what I am wearing yet. I am thinking dresses but was going to have a huge trying on session and then I twisted my ankle so am waiting to feel better before making my final selections.

•What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2015?

Lots of learning. I hope to make more contacts this year. I also am very much looking forward to spending time at the Montcalm

These are some of my tips for getting the most out of the event.

Wear comfortable clothing and shoes.

Feel the fear if you any and talk to someone you don’t know. They probably feel more like you than you know.

Make sure you eat in between talking and drinking. There is lots of lovely food available.

Pick the sessions that will be of most use to you and your blog carefully.

Ask stupid questions – there are no stupid questions and speakers love to answer and someone else in the room will be wondering the same thing as you are.

Celebrities are human too – don’t shy away from them but also respect that they are people and not just autograph or selfie material.

Do it your way – if that means taking a break or grabbing yourself some quiet time, so be it.

Be prepared for generous goody bags.

Be yourself – that way if someone likes you, you know they really do and you can move on to a great friendship.

I am giving away a free ticket to BritMums Live 2015.

BritMums Live 2015

Be in it to win it!

You can find out all about this exciting event on the BritMums website.

I am guessing you already know about the event but in case you don’t, it is a brilliant coming together of bloggers, social media folks and brands. Think inspirational and celebrity speakers, useful and informative workshops, laughter, learning and lovely food and drink.

In 2012, BritMums Live was the highlight of my year. I was so nervous but I made new friends and one very special one indeed. I laughed and cried. I felt OK and to be honest with all the expectations that society puts on us women that can be a challenge sometimes. Sometimes we deserve some time just for us away from partners, children and other commitments.

In 2013, I returned and worked as a room monitor and on reception. It felt like a school reunion except one where everyone wishes everyone well. I had lost my father the year before and this event helped put me back together again.

In 2014, I was there again laughing, crying and partying with special online and now offline friends.

I decided that I would buy a ticket for BritMums Live 2015 and give it away.

So if you would like to go to BritMums Live and don’t have that golden ticket to this event, email me kateonthinice@gmail.com telling me why you would like it. Do not try to be clever – write from the heart in a way that suits you. Short or long emails welcome. All emails will be treated in confidence.

This is a gift rather than a competition so my decision will be final and based on the email that moves me most.

I will make my decision on 4th June so get your emails to me quickly.

And if you need any more convincing, I bottled a huge blogging event with BritMums in 2011 and regretted it so much. Feel the fear and do it anyway and all that jazz.

Please note this is a gift of a ticket only and you will need to make your own arrangements for childcare, accommodation and travel.

If you read this post, please do share and help me work a little magic for somebody.

Here is a suggested manifesto for mums.

I think mums matter and do not get valued or supported enough.

Recently, I interviewed a diverse range of mums who all had a striking story to tell. With the General Election coming up, I asked how the next Government could help mums. Listening to what they had to say makes me think this would make a good manifesto for mums.

mainfesto for mums

Manifesto for mums

Value mums

It is important to recognise the contribution that mums make to society whether through employment, business, parenting or voluntary and community work.

Employment

Government should work to make family-friendly working practices a reality and to support employers with this too. Creative use of home-working and ICT should be encouraged. It should also be remembered that isolation can be an issue for women working at home so offline support should be available too. Realities like children being ill from time to time should be acknowledged in the employment mix.

Business

Mums should be given support to establish their own businesses.

Childcare

There should be more affordable and accessible childcare.

Health

Investment should be made in perinatal mental health care and in crisis care for women experiencing post-natal depression.

Housing

Lower housing costs would enable families to function better.

Education

Education should be celebrated and encouraged in formal education settings and at home.

Equality

Rights should be given to non-traditional and traditional families.

Striking Mums values

Striking – stand out as the individual you are

Striking – take some well-deserved you time

Striking – you are beautiful inside and out whether you feel that way or not.

What would you see as the essential elements of a manifesto for mums?

Do you disagree with any of the points above?

My Random Musings

Do you pursue your dreams? What would happen if you took that brave leap of faith? Photographer mum Anna shares her story of finding the right balance for her after initially giving up on her dream to be a freelancer.

mum photo

Striking a pose!

What is the striking story you have to share?

Since I started doing photography seriously at the age of 16 I always wanted to be a freelance photographer. I studied photography at university and got a job working as a studio assistant. However, the long, unsociable hours that were incompatible with having any family life and the financial uncertainty made me feel unsure about making freelance photography my career. I started working in photography education, which I did enjoy but was also a “safe” option. I always did some freelance photography alongside it, but was never brave enough to switch to just doing that.

After having my son I became more unhappy with my job and working in education in general, spending my time somewhere where I was stagnating and unhappy just to earn money left a much more bitter taste when it meant time I was away from him. I also want as much as possible to teach him by example and the idea of striving to earn your living from something you are good at and enjoy seems like an important lesson to pass on to him. Following some life coaching sessions I decided to go for it: to quit my job and finally do what I had wanted to since I was 16 – work for myself as a photographer full time, on my terms.

What were the joys that this experience brought your way?

Deciding for myself how to spend my time and where to focus my efforts, as well as having time to pursue my own creative work and keep fit is amazing. With my family photography I often get regularly re-booked by the same client and get to record their children growing up, which is a wonderful privilege.

What challenges did this situation bring your way?

Financial insecurity and ensuring I have proper relaxation time where I shut off from work. Also having no day-to-day colleagues means I am having to build a network of fellow freelancers and self-employed people to meet regularly with, which is actually great. I’m reconnecting with old friends and meeting lots of new people who do interesting and creative things.

How do you ensure you get time to yourself and what do you do with that time?

My son goes to nursery and is looked after by his grandparents. I have much more time for myself now than I did previously, because I have built it into my schedule right from the beginning. As I often do photo shoots at weekends and in the evening I am taking time for myself on weekday daytime without feeling guilty. I spend that time working on my own creative projects and swimming, both of which are very important for my happiness and sense of general well being.

Have you ever rediscovered or reinvented yourself? How?

After having my son it took me quite a while to understand my new identity as a mother – which parts of my old identity were still relevant and what did I need to add to that. In fact, I’m still working on it. My photography style is now closely related to my parenting style, so that is in some ways a reinvention of myself as a photographer.

Describe at least one physical feature you have that you consider to be beautiful

My height. I’m 6’ and I have never been ashamed or uncomfortable about it. It has had a role in shaping my personality and when I actually manage to get clothes that fit me they hang really well.

What makes you stand out?

Physically, my height makes it hard not to notice me. In terms of my photography business, I use the principles of attachment parenting (empathy, respect and understanding) to create a situation where children can feel comfortable and express themselves, so that I can take pictures that are a true representation of their personality at this point in their lives. I also work with a designer to create unique and beautiful photo products.

Is it important to you to support other mums?

Very. Since becoming a mother myself I feel like I have been welcomed into this special society of talented, creative, warm, caring and understanding women. I have much better relationships with other women than I ever had before. When I have struggled other people have supported me selflessly and I aim to do the same whenever possible.

Which mum inspires you?

I have been massively inspired by all the mums I have met who have forged new careers inspired by what they have learnt from being a mother, and then juggled these careers with parenting. The first of these that I met after having my son was Emily from the South London Sling Library.

What would you like the next Government to do to improve the lives of mums?

I’d like the choice of who looks after a child (either parent or childcare professional) to be able to based on what is right for that family rather than what they can afford. There is so much emphasis on getting mums back to work but what if they want to stay at home? And what about dads? The nature of mine and my husband’s work means that we are both able to be around for our son and pursue our careers at the same time. We are very lucky in this and I think we should work towards everyone having this option. In addition to help with childcare costs parents need flexible working options, higher wages and lower housing costs so that they are really able to make choices rather than having to do what is necessary.

A big thank you to Anna for sharing her story and do check out her lovely website.

Will you create a stir and make mums and the tasks they juggle visible to the wider world? I was delighted when artist Steph contacted me to tell me about her range of textiles. As regular readers know, I am keen to raise the visibility of mums and the work they do. Check out Steph’s interview and let’s resolve to always create a stir perhaps sporting this fun apron.

apron

Mums juggle so much!

What is the striking story you have to share?

It started with a list. As a mother, there is always a list. Notes scribbled on bits of paper, whiteboards or chalkboards in the kitchen, activities listed on family calendars. It got me thinking about the connection between work, status and visibility. Those who are less visible tend to enjoy less status, don’t they? What would happen if I made my largely invisible list of daily family tasks more visible, public even, in simple black and white? I did an experiment. I compiled my list, which included things like ‘shave legs, make love, buy birthday presents’ and had the whole list printed on a range of textiles. I call them my ‘Create A Stir’ range because they often do. The response to these has been amazing– they seem to connect women’s experiences across the globe in a way that’s fun but, crucially perhaps, they also provide a relevant talking point.

What challenges did this situation bring your way?

My first challenge was fear! Talking about motherhood is emotive stuff and even as I write this, I am aware there will be a mixed responses. So the only way forward was to make my list grounded in factual autobiographical experience. This meant including a few of life’s less glamorous tasks such as ‘treat nits’ and ‘clean the bathroom’ as well as the all-important relationship stuff such as ‘listen to each other’ and ‘console and encourage’. I think this has made it honest, slightly daring, but witty at the same time. I began with 100 T-towels which were first exhibited in a gallery near Old Street, East London. It was quite nerve-wracking as I had no idea what the reaction would be, but they sold out almost straight away. My second challenge was practical. I trained as a fine artist making one-off pieces, not as a product designer, so I needed to learn about working with UK manufacturing partners to organise fabric printing, embroidered labels etc and intellectual property issues. However, it has been well worth the effort.

What were the joys that this experience brought your way?

I was overjoyed when people began to buy them! I love the fact that other women recognise their own lives in the list and laugh, somewhat wryly! The range has expanded into cotton aprons, oven gloves and a canvas bag. It’s satisfying to have produced a range of well-made UK products that women buy for themselves and their friends or families all over the world. I’m glad I listened to and acted on my inner impulse because the response shows that many women feel the same way.

Have you ever rediscovered or reinvented yourself? How?

Yes. At different life stages I have been a full-time student, secretary and stay-at-home mum volunteering in the community. Twenty years ago I decided to try a weekly art class while living as an expat wife with small children in Jakarta, Indonesia. I used to enjoy art as a child but never pursued it for school timetabling reasons and this opportunity to rediscover it began a key change in my life. I so enjoyed the classes that on our return to England, I enrolled to do Art A-Level and eventually took a Fine Art degree at Wimbledon School of Art – twelve years of part-time study which fitted very well around raising my family. Ten years further on, I am enjoying my career as an artist and I hope to continue into my old age!

How do you ensure you get time to yourself and what do you do with that time?

Now that my older two children are grown and the third is at secondary school, I have plenty of time to enjoy my art practice. I often work from home but also have a separate studio about a mile away where all the painting takes place. I love having my studio where I can work all day and leave things messy! I also appreciate having a private space to test new ideas before showing anyone else. For inspiration I visit London’s fantastic array of museums and galleries. If I visit with a friend, it’s fun to discuss the pieces and get different perspectives on what we’re looking at. If I go alone, I concentrate on the pieces that particularly interest me and always come away feeling refreshed and eager to get on with my own paintings and designs.

Describe at least one physical feature you have that you consider to be beautiful

That’s an awkward question! I think smiling makes everyone beautiful!

What makes you stand out?

People say my colour sense. I have my childhood in Brazil to thank for that, growing up with mangoes, sunshine and blue skies!

Is it important to you to support other mums?

Yes. Motherhood is a challenging so it’s great when mums help each other. I was very involved with other mums when my children were small, helping at playgroups, scouts and inviting mums over. I now have a wonderful toddler grandson and love to help out. Looking after little ones requires lots of energy, patience and ingenuity to get from one end of the day to the other and very hard to do alone. So getting out, sharing with others and having time off is really important.

Which mum inspires you?

Lots of different people do, but in particular those who will tell you every now and then that you’re doing a great job – that can keep you going for a few weeks or more! If you don’t always feel appreciated by others, remember to give yourself a pat on the back!

What would you like the next Government to do to improve the lives of mums?

Alarm bells start ringing when successive governments keep talking about getting women ‘back to work’. That’s fine if mothers want to return to a job outside the home, but it sends a clear message that this is society’s current norm and expectation. Sadly this must put many young mothers under undue pressure and signals a lack of government recognition for the essential mother role in the lives of small children. These are the mothers who often also invest time and energy volunteering in playgroups and schools and who help foster supportive and friendly communities. It’s very valuable work, just not so straightforward to put on your CV.

Huge thanks to Steph for sharing her striking story. Do check out her website.