Thursday, 25 November 2010

How volunteering rocks my world, plus breastfeeding news!

Breastfeeding a baby to sleep: classed as a bad sleep habit but a lifesaver for some mums

As I have already explained in an older post How I became a Homeworker, I find volunteering very rewarding from a personal and professional point of view. I get a warm feeling when I can donate my time to a good cause and it also benefits my working life.

I started volunteering in 1994 and through that first role as a fundraiser I acquired database and computer skills, plus learnt how to write a charity mail shot. This led to temporary bookings as database researcher, which was my first media job.

Between 1997 and 1999 I was in the committee of Women in Publishing, when I found the 'lost' archive and organised a few events. One was about independent bookshops and featured, among others, the occult bookshop Watkins! I volunteered for WiP hoping to get a job in book publishing but then switched to magazines after I trained as a subeditor. Still, I met many wonderful women, got some confidence and did chat to Fay Weldon, one of my fave feminist writers, at a Wip Christmas party.

So when I took maternity leave in January 2007,  I was itching to do something else and started volunteering for the NCT in the newsletter team. After some training I added another arrow to my volunteering bow by becoming a breastfeeding helper with the BfN. While the first role consolidated my writing/design skills and led me to specialise in parenting as a freelance writer, the latter gave me valuable knowledge about breastfeeding, which, again helped my writing. There is so much conflicting information about breastfeeding and knowing where to look and how things really work help me write good material. Recently I started helping out at my daughter's preschool, which is just lovely.

So after singing the praises of volunteering, here are some breastfeeding news, courtesy of my Google alert...

Is breastfeeding really best? Mum of five Aileen Hickie says mothers should not be bullied into breastfeeding... click here to read more.
I felt sad reading this article. Ireland has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe.

Facebook has 'boobed' by banning a picture of a woman breastfeeding her baby... click here to read more
Hip Hip Hooray... the penny has finally dropped! I know quite a few women who have proudly put pics up that have been censored.

"I need some advice about giving up breastfeeding. Please don’t judge me harshly. I have battled for six weeks trying to do it, but I am so miserable and am getting very down about it. Click here to read more.
Again, I felt really sad reading this as she has looked for help but cannot cope. I looked up stopping breastfeeding and there was very little info online, even on trusted encyclopedic websites like La Leche League International and Kellymom. As breastfeeding charities are supportive of mums’ choices, this question should be addressed fully. Going cold turkey, especially in the early weeks, could lead to engorgement and even mastitis. I also think that more expressing information should be out there as some mums might want to stop breastfeeding but still wish to give breast milk to their baby. The BfN has a great expressing leaflet here.

Breastfeeding moms don't get less sleep, says a headline on Reuters’ website. Click here to read more.
Yes, they actually get more sleep - this study proved it three years ago.

Breastfeeding is now compulsory in Indonesia as a law has been passed that stipulates all babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months. Click here to read more.
Wow! There are fines up to £7,000 and a prison sentence up to one year. Some might think it’s a case of nanny state but according to a recent government survey, "almost 40% of the children under five who were surveyed reported stunted growth due to malnutrition".

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

More homeworking tales courtesy of British Mummy Bloggers

The perfect mumpreneur's meal: Italian/Irish stew in a slow cooker. Recipe and more photos at

The Accidental Businessmum organised a blog carnival last week and yesterday she posted the results for all to see...

If you want to read more homeworking tales, dash to


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Homeworking blog carnival - the results

My breakfast of choice: half dulce de leche (basically spreadable toffee sauce) and half peanut butter. Goes well with my builder's tea (two brown sugars or one and a half white). Send me pics of your work food! Read about my own experience of home working by clicking here.
This is ‘the army’ of homeworkers who sent their stories and links after I spread the word about my homeworking post on British Mummy Bloggers, Mumsnet and media/PR forums Fleetstreet, and UK Press.

All quiet on the home front? 
Not likely if you have a young child trying to get attention by switching off your computer, tugging at your phone cord and banging a drum when you are speaking to a client. Even if you have childcare, your child is bound to be around for a few of your working hours unless you get up really early in the morning and work after they have gone to bed.

Writers, PRs, techies, even an online retailer, life coach and an artist - here are some inspirational stories about homeworking today... If you’d like to tell your story, feel free to leave a comment with a link (optional) below.

  • Career change and homeworking
  • Working and family life
  • Running an online retail business from home
  • Build your own office

If you can’t have office banter, create a virtual watercooler (and reinvent yourself)!
Rebecca is a work-at-home parent who had a taste of the home front even when she was in full-time employment. She says: “Unfortunately the end of my contract came just as the recession was picking up speed and as I was in a niche job, it became obvious that I wouldn't find another one.” She retrained as a coach and set up The Mummy Grapevine. She confesses: “I sometimes yearn after the kudos of being an academic, but the stress is not missed.” Check out

Emily is a freelance writer who does some social media PR for parenting websites. She works at her dining table so she can keep an eye on her three children: a four year old, a two year old and a 10- month-old baby! She says, “Life is manic but never boring”, and tries hard to do it all! Find out more at

Ellen's immaculate office - check out that patterned cushion!
Ellen works from home most of the time, although she does occasional shifts inhouse. She used to work for tabloids and do some PR, but she now writes for “people who pay me”. She has three boys so she is a master of the juggle jive (any Strictly scout out there?).

Ellen misses ‘human’ contact but finds Twitter and Facebook of some help, although they “can be a dashed good way of avoiding nasty jobs”. Learn her dance routine at

Amelia is an artist who has recently decided to work from home. She took her art teaching experience into the digital word by setting up experimental art e-courses and workshops. She also does the occasional CV work. She took a huge financial risk as she is a single income household but it has been worthwhile in term of personal happiness and wellbeing. She says: “Working from home has also freed up time to start my MA in Fine Art, which I love as working at home can be isolating.”

Her youngest child has a disability, which was also a factor in her decision to work for herself - illness and hospital appointments were affecting her job and juggling it all was stressful. Amelia’s workspace is under the stairs and on her dining table. See her pictorial blog at

Lynn has a home office, as well as a store-room-cum-spare-bedroom. Her maternity retail business is also taking over the garage. 

She can be found at the kitchen table during the day when her four years old is at home and her sister at school. Read about her home/work life balance at

Helen runs Business Plus Baby, which is all about mumpreneurs – visit to find out more. She writes ebooks, offers advice and "blogs away".

She has two children, who were born close to each other. Her “excuse”? Like many of us, she couldn’t face going back to work after maternity leave. She says: “I love reading stories of how mums start out in self-employment after having babies, so if you’d like to tell your story on Business Plus Baby, visit”

Last of not least, we have two Dads. As my partner went self-employed around the time our daughter was born and has been striving to work from home (not always succeeding as corporate culture often requires inhouse presence), I really enjoyed reading their stories. Hope you do, too.

Peter at his power station - great working space!
Peter started to work from home out of necessity - "it was purely a location thing". Family obligations meant giving up an international city career - and life - for a bucolic idyll. 

He says: “Karma intervened when our market town became one of the first to get broadband, so squirting a 10MB file to Asia was no biggie wherever I was.”

He admits that life has been a roller-coaster. “Professionally, you don't get to network without a two-hour drive each way. Personally, I have as a father enjoyed every moment of my sons' 14 years like no other. It has also meant that now I am able to devote invaluable time to a dementia-stricken parent during the twilight of her years, beside her bed with a lappy and MiFi. I am writing a book about the experiences - good, bad, and worth sharing - for others in this situation.”

Peter misses the social aspects and “buzz” of corporate life, but this is the hand dealt and “a not too shabby one”. His commute is about 30 seconds tops – “two minutes if it's down the shed to make a new design up”. Meet Peter at

Phil is a hands-on homeworker with Grand Design aspirations. He actually built his own office in his back garden (see

Phil is a virtual ‘colleague/friend’, we have had chats through various media forums on a variety of subjects. He writes about techie stuff, is an online copywriter and has turned his lifetime’s experience of DIY into income by writing articles and books.

That’s it, folks. Thanks for your submissions... Leave a comment below if you wish. If you want a say on Twitter, find #homeworkerchat and leave your comments with that tag.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

How I became a home worker

When I started maternity leave in January 2007 I planned to take a year off and resume my career as inhouse freelance subeditor. I had been doing it for over a decade, so it seemed like the easy option - I had lots of contacts in the industry and knew there would be work for me provided I could find reliable childcare for my child. Mind you, I envied freelancers who could work from home but knew that in my sector opportunities were rare, plus you needed expensive equipment and software. Despite using MACs at work, I had a modest PC at home and no fancy design software.

I soon realised I was missing work so jumped at the chance of using my skills for the NCT, which is the leading parenting charity in the UK. I had become a member before doing their antenatal classes and heard that they were looking for a volunteer to help the newsletter editor at the East London branch. I ended up coediting various newsletters, churning out articles and designing my half with zero budget (we had only money for printing costs). I was lucky to secure a free copy of QuarkXpress by buying a PC magazine so I could use the professional software I was accustomed to. I did enjoy both the writing and the design side. One year later, I was not ready to go back to work. I was enjoying a busy life as charity volunteer, doing some editing work from home (not much though) and training as a breastfeeding helper with the Breastfeeding Network. I started to volunteer for this second charity by assisting my tutor who ran a breastfeeding drop-in in East London. In summer 2008, just before the credit crunch hit the country, I moved to Rugby, where I became involved with the NCT, became newsletter designer and editor of the local newsletter and got involved with the Rugby Breastfeeding Cafe as a volunteer.

Not being in London meant a longer commute if I wanted to resume my career as subeditor. The recession also meant less freelance work so although I had set up my writing and editing business (and created a website to plug it), I was mostly giving Italian lessons and even taught an evening class at a local institute. Then I heard of a new parenting website that needed product testers and I sent my CV. I started writing product reviews, while running two blogs (this one about parenting and one about eco-friendly thrifting) and volunteering for my charities.

In November 2009 we moved to Cambridge, where I joined the local NCT branch and became involved with the newsletter and started volunteering at breastfeeding drop-ins. Soon after our move I got an email from an advertising agency who wanted me to write breastfeeding and baby care copy. It turned out to be a big project so I left tutoring behind and became a fully-fledged online copywriter, contributing to parenting websites whenever I could. I have recently started indexing academic journals, which is regular work and makes me feel that my degree in Political Sciences is of some use.

So far I have produced several NCT newsletters for various branches and learnt a lot about design, commissioning, advertising and the printing process. As a subeditor for major national magazines I was part of a big team, so I was only involved in editing, rewriting, writing the odd feature, fact-checking and perhaps a bit of design but didn’t have to concern myself with production processes, distribution, overall costs and advertising revenue. I kept in touch with the media industry through moderating a group called subsuk (from 2006 till practically yesterday) but have given this up as I am now a copywriter more than a journalist. I’m not the only one, most people I know from journo forums have moved into PR, advertising, corporate writing and more lucrative fields. Aside writing and indexing I volunteer for my two charities and have started to get involved in my daughter’s preschool activities.

So this is the story so far. The picture at the top is my office, basically an antique kitchen table (there is nice wooden top under the plastic cloth) full of useful junk. Below it’s my filing unit, which is a pine dresser my father made bespoke for the kitchen of my previous house. Inside there are backup DVDs and office supplies, on the shelves you can see my reference library and various odds and ends belonging to my child, including her red book and craft materials. More stationery is parked on top of the blue chest of drawers, one of my ‘revamp junk furniture’ projects.

There is a spare room upstairs which has been kitted out as an office but it’s not practical as I need to keep an eye on my daughter when she is at home. She goes to preschool three hours every afternoon and unless my partner is at home, she is around while I toil away. If I need total silence I work after she has gone to bed or wake up really early in the morning.

Now over to you! If you work from home, feel free to link up relevant blog posts and leave comments. I confess I do miss social interaction but not the commuting to different workplaces every week (unless I got a long-term gig) nor the office politics, from which an inhouse freelancer is not totally immune.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Breastfeeding information in the UK

This year I didn't blog about Breast Cancer Month. If you want specific information, I will have to redirect you to older posts (the information is still valid):
This post is all about trusted and knowledgeable websites about breastfeeding. I have been volunteering as a Breastfeeding Helper (kind like peer supporter but longer training) for over two and a half years and these are the sites I might recommend (order is random):
Here are some more I have chanced upon...
Hope it helps. Some of these sites are international, but the info is still evidence based. For information on extended breastfeeding, which means breastfeeding toddlers, I recommend La Leche League International.