Beverley Turner is something of a Renaissance woman. Not content with ‘simply’ being an author, Telegraph journalist, presenter, mother of three (Croyde, 11, Kiki, 5 and Trixie, 3) and wife to James Cracknell, she has now set up The Blooming Bunch, quite frankly the coolest-sounding antenatal classes we’ve ever read about. It offers courses for first-timers, a refresher course (both in the fabulous surroundings of Maggie & Rose) and private classes – more info here. Whew. We’re exhausted just thinking about how she manages to do it. So, how does she?
What inspired The Blooming Bunch?
A ten year fascination with ways to make birth a better experience for all women (and men). I’ve been writing, lecturing and broadcasting about the issue but was looking to work more closely with women in my area. In conversation with Maggie Bolger and Rose Van Cutsem (of Maggie & Rose) we realised we could work brilliantly together: they had the awesome venue, I had the know-how and access to the best in the business.
And how does it work?
First-time parents do 8 x 90 minute evening sessions and we cover every single thing from wellness to water-birth; stretch-marks to c-sections and natal hypnotherapy to life with a newborn. We have some of the best midwives and obstetricians in the country and the couples have complete access to them at all time via email or phone. In response to demand, we now invite partners to all sessions if they wish to attend. West London seems to have very hands-on dads which is awesome. They make great friendships. We’ve even had to go and drag them out of the pub downstairs to come and start our classes!
NCT have done a great job of supporting couples for many decades. However, you are led by one person who will inevitably bring her own values or experiences to the course. We have a diverse group of superb practitioners and we support every type of birth option. I’m really proud of the fact that we currently have a group that includes women with pre-labour sections, women with private obstetricians who know they want an epidural and women planning for homebirths. We are equipped to advise for all of those choices – and that makes us unique. And of course, our venue has a roof terrace for Summer; a cosy snug for the ‘practical’ sessions and a fab brasserie where we sit around a large table eating nibbles and enjoying chilled drinks. We’re probably unusual in serving booze for the dads!
And how do you lure in second (third, fourth…) time parents, too?
Being part of a kids’ club means that we inevitably have interest from women who are already mums. They are fascinating because they arrive with their notes and want to understand what happened last time and how to make it better. Almost nobody has answered their questions before. These days too few women ever get to properly ‘debrief’ their births and it’s really important – many women carry those memories around for a long time and it can inevitably make them more fearful going in for number two or three. There is SO much you can do to enjoy your births and feel empowered by them – rather than feeling as though it was something that ‘happened to you’ at the hands of others. I really love working with our mums on the Refresher course.
How much does it cost? And where can we sign up?
For first-timers, it’s £400 for the whole 8 sessions including partners. The Refresher is 4 sessions for £250. www.thebloomingbunch.co.uk or call 07900243753 or email email@example.com . We also offer private sessions at a pre-agreed rate.
You have three children, a career and all the usual ‘domestic admin’: how did you manage to set up your own business?
With great difficulty! There are never enough hours in my day – I find that really frustrating. But writing is something I can largely fit in around the kids and the business. I often have to sit down at the computer once everyone is in bed and write until after midnight. But that’s my choice. I have to remember that nobody forced me to have three kids, work for a national newspaper or set up my own ante-natal classes. I don’t moan about it. I’m incredibly lucky. My husband, Olympian James Cracknell, is really helpful as long as I give him clear instructions!
How do you manage childcare?
Croyde is just 11, Kiki is 5 and Trixie is 3. Our nanny Monika is effectively my life-and-business-partner. How could I work without her? She arrives at 8 and I hand her the littlest as I head out to do the school run with the other two. We juggle everything between us through the day when I work from home: laundry, cooking and tidying up the hundreds of shoes which seem to magically reproduce. At the start of every week we plan who will do what (it always changes though and she is wonderfully flexible). She leaves at 6 and then James and I try to spend the next three hours with the kids without looking at emails (we don’t always manage that). And some evenings I run around taking Croyde to scouts, swim club etc and James puts the girls to bed. We’ve had to be strict about saying no to things recently. We’re really quite anti-social now! But as a family you just collapse if you don’t prioritise properly.
How many days do you work – or do you fit work around the children?
I work every week day but rarely take jobs at the weekends. Most days I’m at the computer from 9 to 3.30, then again from 8.30 to 11pm. Some days I’m out at meetings which I always try to factor into school hours and I’m always on my Blackberry. The Blooming Bunch sessions are in the evenings so on those days, I try to do school pick-up and tea as I’m not there for stories and bed. But on those nights it does feel rather lovely bolting out of the door to go and talk to grown-ups with a glass of wine rather than reading Peppa-pigging-pig again. It’s a guilty sort of pleasure…
Do you have a set routine to your days?
Yes, in regards to working around school hours. But no, in terms of responsibilities – some days it may be dealing with Blooming Bunch press or the website; some days I’m writing for The Telegraph; some days I’m registering women onto the course and doing all the dull stuff like accounts!
And how do you make it work during school holidays?
James and I try to block out our holiday weeks and stick to them (we don’t always). My parents have just bought a new house in Henley-on-Thames which has an outdoor pool so we’re incredibly lucky to be able to decamp there for some of the time. I can take my laptop and mum is always happy to babysit while I work. She is amazing and I couldn’t have survived having three kids without her. My children like her more than they like me! We’re also lucky to have a house in North Devon that I’ll keep aside for some of the summer (we rent it out throughout the year) so we try to spend some time there. With wifi I can pretty much work anywhere and I’ve scheduled Blooming Bunch gatherings to accommodate everyone’s holidays – including my own!
With three children, how do you give each child the attention s/he needs?
That is such a tricky thing to do. My middle one inevitably gets neglected but that’s partly because she’s quiet and more studious so she will happily sit colouring in while the other two shout “Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!” and fight for my attention. My son is undoubtedly the most demanding but mothers tell me they feel similar – boys need a huge amount of support, love, guidance and companionship. We’re now in the run up to 11+ exams so my eldest needs more help with homework – I bloody hate it. I never did homework at primary School except a few times tables! But it’s a necessary evil I guess….
Is it true subsequent children just slot right in?
In my experience, number one is often the biggest shock. It’s impossible to grasp how you will feel looking after a baby until you are actually stood in the kitchen pouring orange juice on your corn flakes with a crying baby and an over-flowing laundry basket. If you have number two soon after it can be exhausting at first, but easier in the long run as they will soon play together. Most parents are much more relaxed with number two and all those great intentions you had with number one go out of the window! But the third baby is a huge change – it is the fact of being ‘outnumbered.’ Some days, Monika and I will look across at each other with absolute exasperation and wonder how the hell just one little person threw our tightly-run ship into such disarray! Mums of four often say that the last one just slots in. I can imagine that to be true – but I am SO not going to find out!
What’s the best thing about being a working mum?
Enjoying my kids when I’m with them. And enjoying my work when I’m not. I like making my own money – that’s been important to me. (I worked as a model with Elite Premier agency from age 16 all the way through University and until I started working as a TV presenter in 1999). I also feel comforted by the fact that when my kids leave home I’ll still have a sense of my own identity – even if I’ve pickled my liver in gin by then…
And the hardest part?
Feeling guilty when I’m not with my kids. And then feeling guilty when I’m not working. I just remind myself that ‘having it all’ is bull and concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other throughout the day until collapsing into bed. I’m constantly questioning my decisions – would I feel happier if I made other choices…? But on the days that it works, it works beautifully.
How do you find time for your relationship with your husband?
Oh God….I had to read that twice as I barely understood the question! James is often at home during the day too so we pass in the kitchen and swap a few facts about what we’re doing or what needs to be done. We’ve had a tough four years as he sustained a serious brain injury whilst filming for the Discovery Channel cycling across America. It’s been a long hard road to recovery so our relationship has changed. But we’re finding our feet again. James has been left with no sense of taste or smell so going out for a romantic dinner a deux has lost its appeal. He is very good at suggesting date nights though so we try and go to the cinema at Westfield from time to time. And we’re lucky to have grandparents who let us grab the odd weekend night away. We wrote a book about the experience of being in a family with a brain-injured partner called ‘Touching Distance’ which was very cathartic.
And how about you – do you manage to carve out any time just for yourself? (And what do you do with it?)
If the weather is good I’ll do the school run with kids on scooters and run home. Sometimes I’ll take Kiki to swimming lessons at Richmond pool and grab a few lengths myself. Occasionally I’ll grab a twenty-minute powernap post-lunch if I am really struggling to keep my eyes open at my desk. And if I’m going out somewhere glam I’ll book in for a blow-dry at Jo Blu Salon in Chiswick, take my laptop and work from there.
What would you change, if you could, about your current set-up?
I’d have a full-time chef, PA, chauffeur, stylist and a hairdresser. More staff please!!
If you could wave a magic wand and choose, what would be your perfect work/life balance?
There are odd days when I hit all my deadlines, reply to all urgent emails, get a meal in the slo-cooker, get to assemblies and still help with homework. Those days feel like the perfect balance. But I guess being able to have another whole day off midweek – say, Wednesday – to do some exercise, go to girly lunches and play-dates guilt-free would be really really lovely.
What advice would you give to other working mothers about the perennial career/family/life juggle?
If you aren’t happy – change something. Life is too short. Don’t be afraid of making some serious changes: move house, move job, move the kids’ schools! A lot more is within our control than we realize. YOUR happiness is just as important as that of your spouse and kids. If you’re not contented, you will be passing all that negativity on to your family. We mums are the trees from which the family grows – if we crack and fall, we take everyone down with us. Don’t feel guilty about having as much domestic help as you can afford. Schedule the cleaner for Friday so that you start your weekend with a lovely home. And remember that the tough, young years won’t last forever. Before we know it we’ll be on a retirement cruise wishing the kids were with us…
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