As the mother of three children, Natasha Ascott is a firm believer in the idea that ‘there is no such thing as bad weather just the wrong kit,’ so much so, that she founded her fab company Muddy Puddles on it. “We are driven by the mission to get kids learning outdoors all year round,” explains Natasha. To do this, they make high performance waterproofs, wellies and ski gear for 0-12 year olds, which is as stylish as it is practical (yes, really – do check it out – today is the last day of the sale, although from Thursday a big ski offer with 60% off ski jackets starts). Juggling a 4-day working week with the needs of a young family, we were keen to find out how she manages her work/life balance. From ‘relating’ to each other rather than just ‘existing alongside’ each other and the fab question she always asks her children at the end of the day, Natasha tells us exactly how she does it….
Why did you decide to set up Muddy Puddles?
I have always dreamed of being an entrepreneur having seen my father build a business throughout my childhood. With him came the opportunity to take on Muddy Puddles and build it into the definitive outdoor brand for children. I love having the opportunity to drive forward and shape a business that represents everything I believe in.
How were the early days of setting up your own business?
The early days of running Muddy Puddles were full of all the usual thrills and fears. There is an incredible exhilaration and energy linked to running this brand you are passionate about and can take in any direction but equally there is so much to learn and so much to do that it can feel really daunting and overwhelming.
How many days a week do you work?
I work four days in the office but also try and squeeze other bits of time in when my children are in bed so get up and work from 5-6.30am most mornings and sneak in an hour or two on a Sunday if my husband is with the children, not to mention evenings if we don’t have plans…It is an obsession.
Talk us through an average day in your week
The average working day starts at 5am when I get the first hour and half of peace to really get a headstart with work. Normally 6.30-7 I go for a run then get my children up and do the mad dash of breakfast for everyone and school run etc. Then I will be in the office with my team working on all the different aspects of the business from product design and development to marketing plans and everything in between. At 6.30 in the evening I race back to my children for bathtime, stories and bed then a little bit more work followed by my bath and supper with my lovely husband before I collapse into bed.
How do you manage childcare?
Childcare is a shared affair between me, my husband and the fabulous Tracy who helps look after our children. My husband is an entrepreneur as well which means he also has flexibility to juggle the children and work and being there for everyone.
How do you ensure your children get the attention they need?
I think that it’s a constant worry with three children and a business that you are not giving them the attention they need – and I would not be certain that I am. I do try to make sure that on the four days that I work that I am there at the start and the end of their day and fully engaged. A friend taught me a lovely ritual which we do at the end of each day where the children tell me one thing that made them ‘mad’, ‘sad’, and ‘glad’ which they love doing and really gives us a chance every day to hear what they have been up to. Then the three days I am not working I try to leave my phone/ work behind, especially on the weekends so that we are all properly hanging out. My children really live the Muddy Puddles ethos and we are constantly outdoors doing and learning which I think is a good way of making sure we are all relating to each other and not just existing alongside each other.
Do you have a set routine for your weekends or are you more ‘go with the flow’?
It is so uncool but I have a routine for almost everything which comprises of lazy breakfast and bath on the weekends, then outside for most the morning on a walk or exploring somewhere, home for lunch then tennis or football or some sort of sport back outside with the children for the afternoon. We try to be in on weekend evenings and my husband cooks a yummy supper and we chat and watch a movie.
How do you make it work during the school holidays?
Holidays are often really busy times for Muddy Puddles as we launch for winter and back to school in August and are in peak season through December, so I have to do more of the juggling than taking more time off. My parents have been amazing at helping with that.
Do you think you’ve achieved a good work/life balance? If so, how do you think you’ve managed it?
I don’t know a single mother who feels they have a perfect work/ life balance but I do know that I adore being a mother and I love my work and I am always striving for some sort of balance.
What’s the best thing about being a working mum?
The best thing is that I love my job and find it incredibly fulfilling.
What’s the hardest thing about being a working mum?
When work means that you are missing crucial moments like the important things your children say only in the instant they come out of school or their small triumphs in your working week. Inevitably you are missing out on a lot of these.
How do you find time for your relationship with your husband and friends?
I am incredibly greedy and have all my best time with my husband and friends cooking and eating together in the evenings which I adore.
Do you manage to have much ‘me time’ for yourself?
Not really but I don’t really miss it either
What would you change, if you could, about your current set-up?
I would probably just try and add about 5 hours more to each day so that I could sometimes go to bed feeling on top of things.
If you could give any advice to someone looking to juggle work and family, what would it be?
Make sure that if you are going to be a working mother that the work ‘bit’ is really fulfilling as otherwise I think it feels like too much of a sacrifice. Also try no to be too hard on yourself when you can’t do it all because no one can.