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Keeping it pukka for the working mother

Natasha Stark, associate director, DNA Recruit, talks to Anna Whitehouse aka Mother Pukka, about balancing her creative career with motherhood

Anna Whitehouse, founder of Mother Pukka, with her two children
Anna Whitehouse, founder of Mother Pukka, with her two children

From a "primitive place of frustration", having been pushed out of the industry after struggling to find an employer that allowed school pick-ups, Anna Whitehouse founded her parenting blog, Mother Pukka, in February 2015. She started the blog with the purpose of "tackling the issues of modern parenthood with a positive air" and creating a job that works for her family.

So how does she maintain a work/life balance? Natasha Stark from DNA Recruit caught up with her to find out.

How many kids do you have? How many do you want?

I have two kids (Mae who is 4 and Eve who is 2 months). When I was brimming with oxytocin after Eve's birth I thought about having a third. But think we're alright!

How do you manage the motherhood and work/life balance?

I don't really think balance is the word. Things get done but sometimes my time is more consumed by work and my husband or mum has to take over. That's the balance I suppose - with having a team behind you.

Do you and your husband share the workload?

Yes. It's a free-for-all. If he doesn't wash his pants, he won't have pants to wear. If I don't finish off a brand blog post I won't be able to pay the mortgage. It's split but not in terms of 'my jobs' or 'his jobs' - it's all hands on deck like a really disorganised but fully performing West End production.

Mother Pukka quote

You’ve spoken about pregnancy meaning career suicide. Have you had any experience with this?

I had a lurking suspicion before having kids that it wouldn't be easy - both in terms of employer attitude and the basic structure of work in the UK (it's not set up to help mothers win). But I only really understood the extent of it when I couldn't financially and physically make work actually work for my family. This was a shock because I've never given up on anything in my life.

What made you start your blog, Mother Pukka? What’s your best tip for attracting a new audience?

I started it from a very primitive place of frustration. The name was 'Mother Fucker' originally but my mum hates swearing. I wanted to tackle all the issues of modern parenthood with a positive air. I didn't want to lambast anyone, I just wanted to rally the troops and let people know that the status quo can be challenged if we all get on board.

Tell us about your new book: Parenting the Shit out of Life. Do you have any unique tricks up your sleeve for getting it out there?

It's for people who happen to be parents. In terms of promoting it, it's about engaging your audience first and foremost. Everything I do is for them - for the PND mother suffering mastitis at 3am or the working mother floundering in a world of inflexibility. My focus is them and if they like what I offer then hopefully the book will be included in their Christmas wish list! But it's no more complex.

You’ve featured in Grazia and interviewed on BBC One Breakfast. What’s your proudest achievement?

Creating a job that works for my family. It's not about the money, it's about the choice - I can choose where and when I work.

Tell us about your recent campaign, flex appeal, which focuses on flexible working hours for parents

Having been pushed out of the workforce for needing flexibility, I soon realised swathes of others (54,000 a year) had suffered the same. Again, I didn't want to lambast companies who were not retaining mothers but I wanted to make my audience aware that it's not ok. It's not ok to ease someone out of the workforce for simply procreating.

As of 2014, more people work flexible or part time than perm 9-5. Do you think that more mothers in work has been a factor in this?

Perhaps. I also think the working world is shifting because of digital advances. There's no excuse not to make it work.

What are the most important things to have in place for an employer and parent looking for flexible working?

Trust. Without that it won't work. Do a good job and treat people well. Also a trial period of flexibility works - you can't argue with facts.

Which companies offer the most attractive packages for maternity?

Deloitte is brilliant.

Yummy mummy, pyjama mama, what’s the most annoying thing you’ve been labelled?

Sharenter. I'm not a fan of all these pigeonhole terms. We're just people who happen to be parents.

We’ve read about you making dinner whilst putting on mascara and breast feeding while putting on a puppet show. What’s the strangest experience you’ve had?

Using a maternity sanitary pad as a nappy because we ran out.

If you had to choose, which is your favourite child?

Er, love them both.

What are your tips for managing parenthood on a hangover?

Hand over the child to my mum.

Natasha Stark, associate director at DNA Recruit, shares this passion for flexible working:

"At DNA we wholeheartedly support flexibility and agile working and have seen it work brilliantly at companies when they get it right. We need to come together responsibly and effectively as employer and employee to find a new normal in the workplace. The advertising industry has always been at the forefront of new ideas in the workplace and the majority of those that stick change things for everyone for the better."

To discuss your flexible working and staffing needs contact Natasha Stark, associate director, DNA Recruit: natasha@dnarecruit.com.

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