Hello, I am Tamsin. I have three children, aged 8, 6 and 4, four businesses and a husband who works from home on something completely different!
My businesses are all related (and are all part-owned by other people), with Firespiral Slings being my main and ‘full-time’ job. Next up areMorecambe Bay Slings CIC and Sling School (the sling library and training school which I am co-director of) and then there is The Honeycomb Loom (a joint project with Baie Slings where we manufacture and retail ‘cloth for carrying’).
My children are aged 8, 6 and 4. The two older children go to a local primary school. My youngest hasn’t started school yet – he is a summer born child with dwarfism and we made the decision to delay his start at school by a year, so he will go to school in September 2018 when hopefully he will be a little taller and much more emotionally mature.
Before children and after studying Architecture at university I had many different jobs. I decided that I didn’t want to be an architect, but I had no idea what I wanted to do so I flitted around from one thing to the next, not sure where life was taking me. When I became pregnant with Natasha I was working for a bank, I was on a path for management, working on projects and secondments well above my pay grade and was very much career-minded. Pregnancy changed my situation massively – I was pulled from the secondments and was not successful in a promotion that I had been told was going to be mine – the interview was to have been a formality. At the time it was a big disappointment, but I told myself that it was probably best for me not to be ‘pushing myself’ during my pregnancy, but now looking back it was obvious sexual discrimination.
Before I was pregnant I knew that I was going to breastfeed, co-sleep and sling my future baby (I had seen a tv program about it and it resonated strongly with me), and that’s what I did. I took an extended maternity leave with Natasha, returning to work when she was 15 months old and I was pregnant with my second child. Thomas was born just before Natasha was 2, and shortly after that a sling library opened in my local town and I had suddenly found my people! I fell down the woven wrap rabbit hole very quickly, and a conversation with one of my new-found friends turned into a business plan and Firespiral Slings was born!
I worked hard during my maternity leave, returning to work part-time when Thomas was 12 months old and continuing to work on Firespiral during evenings and days off ‘real work’. At this time my husband was working away in London for 3 nights each week, so working in the evenings was a way to stave off the loneliness. We didn’t know what Firespiral was to become at this point, it was something fun and something we were both passionate about. About 6 months after I returned to the bank after my maternity leave with Thomas I fell pregnant with Arthur, and he was born in the week that our first woven wraps were shipped out to customers.
I was on maternity leave again from the bank, but I had no maternity leave, as I had a blossoming business to tend to. My memories of the early days of Arthur’s life all involve him being attached to a boob and semi-balanced on my laptop whilst I worked. I had relocated to a new are in the weeks after he was born too, so had lost my support group. Life was a roller coaster at this point, three young children, a new area, my husband working away, and so very much work to do with a new business that was very successful from the off. I don’t think I stopped for breath.
At this time I discovered my new local sling library, and it was looking for someone to take over due to the owner going back to work after maternity leave. I did so with pleasure and am so pleased that I did, as it has provided me with some wonderful friends and the chance to step away from my computer for half a day each week to do something that without doubt fills my emotional cup. When my maternity leave with Arthur was coming to an end Firespiral was doing well enough for me to tell them that I wasn’t coming back. It was a decision that was both terrifying and exhilarating. What if I was making a mistake?
It has been nearly four years since I handed my notice in, and although it has been a tough four years, the work that I do now is so much more meaningful to me, and I have learnt so very much. I can’t imagine working for anyone else again. Working for someone else is easier in so many ways though, getting a lunch hour where you don’t have to load the washing machine but can sit and read a magazine sounds blissful. The call of my workroom and a long to-do list is there all the time, calling to me first thing on a Saturday morning, or on a Sunday afternoon when the children are watching a movie.
When I found my mental health was suffering I imposed some personal rules – no working from my phone in the evening when I have worked all day being the main one! Finding balance was hard at first, but I really think I have it now. In the last year before Arthur starts school I have put aside a few hours on a Friday for us to do something together each week, and I am so proud of myself for this. I find it too tempting to put him in front of the TV whilst I work. I then work and feel guilty that I am not giving him the attention he deserves, and at the same time, I am not fully focussing on my work. He is going to nursery for 3.5 days per week this year too – again something I felt guilty about initially, but now I know that it frees me to spend quality time with him on a Friday.
Working from home means that I am here every day when my two older children come home from school. I usually work after they come home too, but at least I am around. They tend to be more than happy to play together, or watch TV and play games on their Kindles. I take my eldest to piano lessons, and we cook a meal together. They often ask me why I have to work all the time, and I tell them that if I worked in a ‘proper’ job that they would be in after school care and I would be at work still…
I think the best thing about working like this is the flexibility. I can run a sling meet every week, and take my child swimming or to soft play with friends, and pick my other children up from school whilst fitting in my work around that. I think the worst thing about it is the overwhelming responsibility and commitment that owning a business forces upon you. It is so difficult to take time off mentally as well as physically. I often think of it like my fourth child, it needs as much care and attention as the real ones do, and I am so very proud of what it has become.
My advice for anyone looking to work in this way is to find something that you are passionate about doing, and that you can do well, as you need to be very committed to success to get a business off the ground. Make sure you have a support network, as often your network will give you your first sales and join local networking groups too for business support in your area.
For information and support on pregnancy and maternity discrimination, visit Pregnant Then Screwed.