Oh Mama! - Catherine O'Donnell Photography

Oh Mama!

Oh Mama!


A portrait and interview series celebrating mums in pictures; the beautiful, exhausting, magical, challenging, wonderful, messy, and at times overwhelming journey of mummyhood. (This project is ongoing). Please feel free to get in touch if you are interested in telling your story. #honestyinmotherhood #ohmama

Hey Jude!

Portraits featuring, and interview with Judy Middleton. (pictured above with her son Louis Middleton, age two, shot in London).


Hey Jude!


Judy is a HR Director at Kier and Mum to Louis, age two. Judy also happens to be my little sister, and is one of the most annoyingly organised people I know! Judy lives in Bedfordshire with her husband and their son. At the time of this shoot Judy was working full time over four days a week in London.

Thank you for your honesty and for being the best little big sister!


What are the challenges of being a mum today/ challenges of working;

I genuinely feel so lucky that I have a good career and a gorgeous little boy. But getting the balance right is a challenge and I got it wrong the first year after going back to work; I had a full on job working four days a week in London which basically meant I didn't get to see Louis most of the week.

The days I didn't get to see him, give him his dinner, put him to bed or even give him a hug were really tough, but I also found it difficult to switch off from work when I was with him... I'd often find my mind wandering to work on the days I did put him to bed - and that made me feel guilty - I felt like I wasn't appreciating the precious time I did have with him.

Part of it was being in a full time job (in condensed hours) with a long commute, but a bigger part of it was my mentality and approach to work. I was always very career driven and I wanted to give one hundred percent, and I went back to work (after having a baby) with that same mentality; I'd do whatever it took to get the job done - this of course impacted on my time with Louis and his daddy. I knew I'd got the balance wrong - but it took me quite a while to admit I needed to do something about it.

I needed to make a change job wise, but to really make a difference to my work-life balance, I also needed to change my approach to work.... not doing emails with Louis around, focusing fully on him when we were together, leaving work at a sensible time to collect him from nursery. When I stayed late to meet a deadline, the sad reality was that I had chosen work over Louis - and that was not okay with me.


What time did you leave for work?

I'd always leave at 6.40am, usually before Louis had woken up.


And what time did you get home?

It varied, but often around 9pm, sometimes later - after Louis had gone to bed most days. Sometimes I wished he'd wake up in the night so I could see him, although I'd often regret it when he did (breaks into laughter).


What shifted for you?

Louis was growing into a gorgeous little toddler and I was missing it. Daddy was the favourite and I'd spent too many nights creeping into Louis's room at night just to sneak a peek at him because I'd not seen him that day. It wasn't sustainable - I liked my job, but I loved Louis.


So what happened?

I was thinking a lot about work-life balance and what was important to me in my career when someone I used to work for got in touch about opportunities at another company. The role I'm doing now is a great career move, it's a job share (three days a week), and it's less than 30 minutes from home, accepting the job was a no brainer for me! 


How did it initially feel going back to work after you'd had Louis, after that year off?

I loved my time off with Louis and I'm so glad I had a whole year at home, however, I was really looking forward to going back to work.


How so?

I was looking forward to adult conversation, not just talking about babies. I was ready to use my brain and challenge myself in a different way. And I was looking forward to drinking a cup of tea without having to reheat it ten times! Your whole world changes overnight when you have a baby - in a great way - but everything is new and unfamiliar - I guess going back to work for me felt really familiar, despite the fact that I went back to a different role in a different department.


Did you feel like you'd lost your identity a little bit?

No, I gained a new one... mummy, but I always considered myself to be a HR professional, even when I wasn't at work.


Do you think if you didn't need to work for financial reasons you'd still want to?

Definitely yes.


Why?

Because it's part of who I am. I need something else. I want to constantly develop myself. I like to be mentally challenged and stretched, in a different way to how Louis challenges me!. And if I'm entirely honest, for me, whilst work is exhausting some days, I know I would find it more exhausting being at home every day... I have so much respect for stay at home parents - I don't know how they do it!


Do you feel guilty for thinking that way?

No. No-one should feel guilty for having a career. Likewise, no-one should feel guilty for not having a career. Everyone woman and every family is different and that means different choices where we are lucky enough to have them.


Even when your child is still little?

No, I never felt guilty about wanting or having a career. I did feel guilty at the points it overtook life.


So even if you won the lottery you wouldn't want to be a stay at home mum?

No, although maybe I'd reduce my hours even further! Working is the right thing for me.


How long were you working in London?

13 years in total. One year of that was after I had Louis.


Do you believe in equality in terms of bringing up your son with your husband, such as sharing childcare responsibilities etc?

Absolutely! We've chopped an changed who does what at various points... I was off for a year, the next year Mid (Judy's husband) did pretty much everything in the week, this year we've got a more even balance. Daddy does breakie and drop-offs, Mummy does pick-ups and dindins! We might argue about does the dirty nappy every now and then, but we both love spending time with Louis.


Do you feel the role of being a mum/ motherhood has changed?

Yes. And much of this change is great - there is so much more choice for women than a generation or two ago. For me, the most important thing to make my version of modern motherhood work, is a modern daddy!


Do you ever feel an added pressure being the main breadwinner?

No - not really. Family finances are a funny thing... we both contribute, and it works for us.


What is the best thing about being a mum?

Oh my god - so many great things - Louis amazes me every day - the things he says, the things he does, the things he knows. One of the highlights of my day is collecting him from nursery... every time he sees me he shouts 'mummy' and comes running towards me and gives me a huge hug!


Any other wise words you'd like to share?

God - I don't feel wise! I do feel so very lucky though - and I remind myself of this every day. I certainly haven't cracked the work/ life/ mummy balance I'm not sure anyone has, but I'm getting better!

Hey Jude!

Pictured above; Judy with her son Louis, age two.

coming soon; next in the portrait series is a celebration of the colourful challenges of a stay at home mum.

Oh Mama!

Oh Mama!

Finding her Rhythm 


Interview with Mrs Bianca Chappell Ba-Hons-T.L.S, pictured above. Portraits taken at Bianca's home with her two children. In addition to her role as a mum to Queenie, six years, & Remy, three years. Bianca is a recognised Professional & Personal Development Coach for Mums & Mumpreneurs & Founder of The Mumpreneurs|MK Network. A networking development agency supporting mums in business. 

12th June 2016


What does being a mum mean to you?

I believe being a mum, means you are a secret superhero of the world!


What are the challenges of being a mum & running a business/ working today?

The biggest challenge for me is ensuring there is a level balance of my time, for both motherhood and my role in Mumpreneur Land. As a mummy, a small business owner & founder of a high engagement on-line community, I daily battle with being present in both roles 100% of the time.

Some may say its impossible to do this, but I have learnt over the years that, it is possible, just not always all at the same time. Above anything in life, my primary focus is my children, & I am building my little empire, ultimately for them. But in order to do that, I need to spilt myself what feels like 100 ways... And that can at times be a huge challenge to overcome.


You've managed to build a successful business around your little ones, was this a hard thing to do, & why did you choose to start?

I became a business owner & founder of my network by total accident!... Before I was given the blessing that is becoming a mummy. I was quite satisfied with being an employee.

The moment I became pregnant with my first child, as if by magic, I inherited this new found personal driver, to want to contribute to the world more. Suddenly the responsibility of being responsible for this little person, baking away in my baby oven (as my daughter calls it). Filled me with this overwhelming need to do more in the world, & make an impact. Suddenly I found myself totally besotted with all things, pregnancy, birth & beyond.

It was at that time during the middle of my pregnancy, that I started connecting with other mums on-line, & had organically founded an organisation dedicated to supporting the 'Real' journey of motherhood. During my second pregnancy, I was forced to stop & take stock of... life. It was a very turbulent pregnancy yet still a beautiful one.

I realised a lot about myself & my ability to simply carry on, because that is what us mums do. But above anything, I reconnected with all my transferable skills, passions, aspirations, goals & dreams I had for myself. And decided to just go for it! I remember saying to myself, "Right! Bianca. If you can go through pregnancy, birth & beyond successfully, which you have done once already. Then you can go for your dreams too!" I literally spoke to myself (haha)... One of my mantras in life is, if you believe you can. Then you can! And so I did, I bit the bullet just went for it. I built my business from the ground up, alongside developing a networking development agency, supporting Mums and Mumpreneurs.

I am now the proud owner of a Coaching practice, dedicated to supporting Mums & Mumpreneurs, & founder of a networking development agency for Mumpreneurs. I literally feel like I have the best job in the world.


What do you think is the most challenging part of mummyhood?

Finding time for me. Protected 'Me Time' where I can simply be Bianca. Although very rare, for me it is precious. It allows me to recharge, it allows me to guilt free bask in the things I enjoy & at times need. This may be something as simple as taking a bath without interruptions!, or a lunch with friends.

Often as mums we fall pray to putting that time for ourselves on hold, as its more justifiable to invest that time in, or on our children, however. Over the years I have learnt, watering our emotional gardens as mums, is just as important as doing so for our children. So sometimes its a a necessity rather than a wish, to be selfish (for once) & take much needed 'me time'. So although at times, this is a challenge, It is one that I am always ready to fight for.


Best thing about being a mum?

The best thing about being a mum, is that I am mummy to Queenie & Remy. They are such an amazing set of little people. Two funny & loving children who are my lifes masterpieces, my greatest assets in this world. Who despite the highs & lows of this journey called motherhood. Fill me with so much joy, so the best thing about being a mum. Is that I'm mummy, to them.


We photographed your morning dance with your children, is this something you do everyday?

Yes we do our morning dance most days, it just sets us all up straight for the day ahead. It started again by totally accident one day. When my daughter was about to have the mother of all tantrums when she was two years old, & a song came on the radio & she stopped, mid tantrum & started dancing. With tantrum aborted...(laughs) I found music was something that she loved to just vent her baby frustrations & het up energy to.Ta-Dah! The morning dance was born, and we have been doing it ever since.


Do you ever feel like you have split identities?

Oh yes, definitely! when I'm in Mumpreneur Mode & working on my business or in the agency. I'm back to being adult Bianca, professional, confident, ready to lead the team & get the job done! Even my wardrobe changes! To be totally honest, I love that mode. It gives me a chance to still be 'Me' whilst still being mummy. It goes back to what I was saying about having it all, just not all at once.

The minute its time for the school run, & I leave the office, the transformation into Mummy Mode commences (haha).... The flip flops or Uggs go on, & I'm back to being fun mum! The children know mummy is building a business, and our daughter tells everyone "Mummy is working on a business for me, to have when I'm older". And I love that, I love that she is aware of what I do & wants to be apart of that. But am always concious that, building a business can interfere with ones life 24/7, it becomes like another child requiring & demanding ones time. So I try (don't always succeed haha) to keep Bianca the Business Woman, separate from Bianca the Mummy in the eyes of my children.


Do you feel like you have a healthy balance between work, life, home?

It could be healthier (laughing), but for now it works well. The day I have built the business and agency to a point where I can step away from it, for weeks on end, to travel the world and it all still stays afloat, thanks to staff who I trust to continue making the dream work. I will know the balance is at its healthiest point. I'm not there yet Lol.. So until then, everyday is a battle to be present 100% in both my worlds as Mummy and Mumpreneur, as well as being a wife & maintaining a happy home for all. That is why I believe as Mums we are Superheroes! because we literally have inherent powers, to wear many many hats, juggle many many balls and keep them all up in the air.


Do you ever feel a pressure to be the perfect mum?

No never! I don't believe there is such a thing, so I don't even try to be something I don't believe exists. My ideology of motherhood is that we are all our own perfect, and for me and my journey of motherhood to date, that belief system has worked. We are all perfect in our own role as mummy, and I have built my business around spreading this message as much as I can, in my coaching sessions with my clients. We have to as Mums, just be confident in our own ability to, raise, protect and nurture our children. This role of motherhood is not one size fits all, we have to make it our our own, and enjoy the journey. This belief has made me a very easy going mummy, who accepts that its a journey of trial and error, that may even be different for each child, and that's ok.

I read once a quote that said 'Behind every great child is a mum, who is pretty sure she is screwing up'. I love it, because I think that pretty much sums up the 'Real' journey of motherhood.


Best part of your week?

It's always that ten minutes or so before bedtime, where the children have their hot chocolate and have a snuggle on the couch with me, without fail. Its part of their routine that is never compromised, even if we are out and the bedtime routine goes off track. We always, have even if its two minutes of snuggle time together. They love it, and so do I. Infact, when its a stressful day in Mumpreneur Land, or I'm feeling overwhelmed by life. That moment with the children is what I cling onto. Its our time to just exhale form the day, wrapped up in each other surrounded by love and total calm. That's just my idea of heaven.


Any other pearls of wisdom you might like to add?

Simply if you believe you can in life, then you can! That is a mantra I live by in both my role as Mummy and Mumpreneur. This journey call motherhood, is a road of emotion, happiness, tribulation, joy, fulfilment, pain, risk and laughter. Yet we do it unselfishly, without public appreciation, and with no financial rewards. Why? Because us mums are priceless, we are amazing, and have been grated the biggest blessing of all. The honour of pregnancy, birth and beyond. So enjoy your journey, be confident in your ability, trust your instincts, and know that you are the biggest and best superhero there is, and ever will be.

Oh Mama!

Oh Mama!

A Balancing Act

(interview with Olivia Davies pictured above, Olivia is mum to Reggie, 5 months and Ivy, three years, Olivia also works part time running Wellness for Cancer in the UK. )

15th April 2016.


What would you say are the challenges of being a mum & working?

The biggest challenge for me is feeling like you aren't quite doing either well! When I'm working I feel guilty for not spending enough time with them (my children) and I sometimes feel dreadful if I don't go back to clients quickly enough when I'm spending time with my babies. It's finding the balance. I often find my mind wandering thinking of work when I should be focusing on my children but I also feel very lucky that I get all the time I do with them.


How did it feel going back to work?

For me personally I've found leaving them one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. It sounds overly dramatic when I say it out loud but it was a real surprise to me as I have always been so committed to my career and I didn't expect to find it that tough.

With my daughter who is now three I went back to work full time but not until she was a year old. I always new it was short term as my role was being made redundant which somehow made it a little easier, then I started working part time so that I could spend more time with Ivy and we got into a little routine.

Once my son came along I was in a role that I couldn't really stop even when he was first born as I'm self employed and ended up keeping it going at the same time as managing a newborn. My clients must have thought I was nuts when an email reply was sent in the middle of the night when I was up feeding Reggie but it was how I kept up!

This time around it has been a huge juggling act managing work, a newborn baby and a toddler but when I feel overwhelmed or even a little resentful that my time is being taken away from my children I remind myself why I'm doing it. I will hopefully get to spend school holidays with them, pick them up from school more often than not and be a good role model for them, showing that it is possible to have the best of both worlds.


What are the best bits?

The unconditional love from them. When my daughter tells me she loves me, that I'm her best friend and that she wants a big squeezy cuddle from me! When my boy giggles out loud when I blow a raspberry on his belly and he shakes with excitement when I walk into the room!

Watching them grow and change, seeing new things they've learnt to do. Watching the love they have for one another and their Daddy.

I feel so lucky to have them and when I'm stressed out by toddler tantrums or getting up to feed or settle my baby half the night I remind myself how fortunate I am. For all the challenges I wouldn't swap it for the world.


Any other pearls of wisdom you'd like to share?

Don't worry about what other Mums think of you as they are probably doing the same as you are no matter how perfect they seem to be! 


Oh Mama! #Identity #challenges #judgement #Oh Mama #Ohmama #Mums #Mummyhood #ohmama #portraits #strength #womanhood #women


Pictured above; Olivia Davies, mum to Reggie, 5 months and Ivy, three years, Olivia also works part time running Wellness for Cancer in the UK. 


Oh Mama! 

You are doing yourselves proud...


6th March 2016

By Catherine O'Donnell

As a mum of two little highly energetic monkeys of the male variety (a two year old and a four year old) I know only too well the challenges that us mamas can face on a daily basis, which in turn has inspired me to create an on going series of portraits of mums & their children – but in a slightly different way to my usual work; I want to explore the challenges that mums in todays world face, the pressures of society, the guilt of working, (and equally, sometimes the guilt of not working), the daily challenges, the pressure to snap back to our pre-baby bodies, our relationships with our children and the love that binds us, along with exploring how our sense of identity can sometimes become a little lost along the way too.


Picture perfect

I'm working on a series of portraits to reflect and celebrate what mummyhood really looks and feels like. Thank you to those mums who I've had the pleasure of photographing so far, it's been a privilege to have a glimpse into your world and your story. 

As a portrait photographer I know a lot of my images of children are geared around capturing those joyful, beautiful, moments and the wonder of childhood – because they are truly precious times, but trust me as a mum I know that not everything is like a picture postcard all of the time. Being a mama is hard work. Through this project so far I’ve been lucky enough to photograph some wonderful & inspiring mums, who have given me a beautiful insight into their lives.


My story

I love my children to pieces - I am mum to two gorgeous, lively, funny, sweet little boys - and I love my job, I'm passionate about it, but sometimes juggling work around my boys can be super hard, oh I'll just reply to that email quickly while you watch Peppa Pig for two minutes – umm no you won't, unless you want the curtains to ripped down while you're not looking (true story), I've learnt my lesson. It can be hard to be a working mum, although I'm not complaining, staying at home full time is equally hard (often harder), and so is working full time, so there really is no perfect scenario – or if there is I certainly don't know any mum who has found that elusive balance.


My Oh My

Since becoming a mum, which is a blessing, and truly life enriching in so many ways, and my heart is filled in a way I didn't know possible before (but I'm sure you know that already), I've also come to realise that being a mum is a never-ending juggling act; a continual learning curve, filled with constant challenges and a severe lack of sleep (oh how I miss sleep).


Feeling our way...

I’ve been honoured to meet some hugely inspiring stay at home mums and working mums alike. There are no rule books (well there might be books out there claiming to know it all but I'm yet to find that elusive handbook that's for sure!) we have to figure it out on our own, and I'm sure the majority of mums out there are doing the best job they can, yet somehow as mums we can often feel guilty whichever path we choose, (& sometimes there is no choice), whether we're working mums, stay at home mums or like me, somewhere in between, there's this constant feeling of guilt, of feeling like a bad mum...of feeling torn, and judged.


Torn

If we're at work there's often a pull - not just from our children but from society too - that tells us we should be at home with our children, especially when they're little, that we're missing out; “These precious years go by all too quickly,” that's what I would often hear when I started out working more as a photographer around my boys – in fact there were often times when I wasn't making much money and I had been up for hours editing that I'd think what on earth am I doing and why? But I was at the start of a journey, and I knew deep down that needed something outside of being a mum. Since having my boys - who I love with my whole heart - I found myself almost robbed of my identity (and at times my sanity) a little bit - somewhere in between nappy changes, and feeding, and play time, and clearing up baby sick, and walking the dog - I'd lost a little piece of me! My daily challenges now included finding a window to squeeze in a shower, or go to the toilet, or possibly eat something, or mustering the strength to negotiate the shops with two tiny people in tow (something that would send me into mild panic mode). 


Don't say it out loud...

I know we're not really supposed to say it out loud, we are supposed to simply cherish these times – and I honestly do, in fact that's part of the reason I found myself becoming a photographer in the first place, I wanted to capture all those special firsts, those tiny little hands & feet, first little smiles, & waddles, & walks & birthdays, which are so precious – I love my boys to absolute pieces. ‘To the moon and back and beyond!’ But hey are exhausting...and I want to be the best mum I can be for them. I don't want to feel resentful for not being the one at work, I want to help contribute to our family even if it's on a smaller scale – and why should I feel guilty for that? Yet I did, especially at the start, & still do sometimes... but what I've learned as a mum, and someone very wise said it to me once when I was really struggling is that; 'everyone does what's right for their family', and I think that is so true.


A different world

The thing about being a mum today is that it's not quite the same as being a mum thirty years ago when it was considered the norm to stay at home with your children (often at least until school age); these days it can be quite isolating, there seems to be a pressure from all angles; just a mum – at home – with kids – what does she do all day? I can tell you, being a mum at home with two small children is way harder than being at work (in my opinion, & I've done both) – my work is part time and on the days it's just us three, we have enjoyable days, and I love spending quality time with my boys – but some days in all honesty it is like trying to organise a mission to the moon just to get us out the house! And then just when I think we're ready to leave, I'll turn around and discover one of my boys has stripped naked and the other one has pooped his pants – agggghhh. Oh Mama!


And breathe...

Like many women I sometimes feel like I'm a mum first,  & everything else second... but the thing is I'm learning that you need to look after yourself in order to be the best version of you for someone else. Being a mum is filled with challenges and joys, sacrifices and rewards, and I think we all need to learn to give ourselves a break from time to time – after all – whether we're working mums or not – the role of a mama is 24-7, and we may not be perfect but I think we're doing a pretty good job most of the time!


Happy Mother's Day - I hope all you mamas out there are spoilt rotten!


Oh Mama! #Identity #challenges #judgement #Oh Mama #Ohmama #Mums #Mummyhood #ohmama #portraits #strength #womanhood #women


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