Inspiring Lives 03: Mother Pukka talks flexible working in the UK

Meet Anna Whitehouse (AKA Mother Pukka). Fashion editor and copywriter, having written for the likes of Shortlist and Stylist, and L’Oreal. However, we love her most for her ability to inspire thousands of followers and parents with her journey through parenthood, #parentfails, and how she manages her work/life balance. Today, she launches her Flex Appeal campaign…

Tell us a little bit about you and your family.

I’m married to Matt (@papa_pukka) and we have one kid, Mae, who is two. We moved back from Amsterdam – where we were for five years; before that Dubai for two – and are fully ensconced in East London. It’s a bit shabby and has an outside bog but it’s home.

So, what’s Mother Pukka and what inspired you to start it?

Anna from Mother Pukka, with her daughter Mae, in Hackney. Photographed against wall murals painted by Camille Walala. Photography by @emilygrayphoto

It started as a place for some light relief from the parental storm. I don’t really have a big point, other than laughing a bit through the madness. I think if you’re laughing more than you’re crying, you’re winning. What made me start it? So many bat-shit crazy things happening (there was an unfortunate moment when I found Mae with her finger up our beagle, Douglas’ bum). So I pressed a lot of buttons until something stuck and I found ‘others’ who had equally snort-tea-through-nose-laughing moments to share.

We know you recently quit your dream job, tell us a bit more about it and your decision to take that step.

L’Oreal was great, the job was great, the mascara was great but when faced with two teary big brown eyes every morning at the daycare drop off, it had to be done; I had to give-up one dream for another.

What’s been the hardest thing about going it alone?

Really basic things like not having an IT department. I’ve always been close friends with the IT department at every company I’ve worked at – keep your friends close and Terry in IT closer.

Tell us about one of your finest #parentfail moments, balancing work and parenting?

I think it was recently. It wasn’t so much a parentfail as a humanfail. Matt and I accidentally ate a daffodil bulb. Like, we picked it from the garden, thinking it was a spring onion and whacked it in our cheese and pickle sarnies. I was cradling the porcelain chalice for most of the weekend; what a prune. I ate a daffodil.

What three tips would you give to other parents struggling to make the balance work?

To realise that no one has really nailed it. You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do and let go of any guilt or worry that you’re not doing enough. Even thinking about it means you are doing enough.

What’s your opinion on current flexible working in the UK?

I don’t think every company should immediately release their employees from the shackles of 9 to five, but I also don’t think a company owns you – if you give a little to a hardworking person I truly believe you get back a lot back. I also don’t think it’s a parental issue – it’s a person issue. I spoke to a woman who heads up a 30-strong HR department in the city last week and she books out 3 hours every Friday to go to the V&A Museum. She doesn’t have kids but that’s what makes her more productive – she also picks up emails at weekends when she has uninterrupted time. She agreed, if someone takes the piss, get rid of them – you’ll soon work out who’s worth their salt, which can only be a good thing, no?

Anna Whitehouse, aka Mother Pukka photographed with her daughter Mae. Photography by @emilygrayphoto

Can you tell us a bit about the #FlexAppeal campaign?

It’s quite low brow. It’s called ‘Flex Appeal’ and it’s basically trying to highlight the issue of flexible working (in that companies are losing a pool of hugely talented people/parents through an inflexibile system). It’s just myself (in Lycra leggings, gold scrunchie and ‘Parenting the shit out of life’ jumper) and Mae (in a superhero cape) taking on the inflexible working world. No real political agenda, just us pitching up and interviewing companies, lots of spandex and some stellar 80s tunes.

What’s next for Mother Pukka?

Got a mountain of washing to wade through, an outside bog to knock down and a weird buzzing noise coming from somewhere in our house that no one can locate. It is ALL go.

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