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Graduating a Dr, Thank You to My Mum and Dad

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Graduation day which seemed so hard to get to, but never impossible. The first sentence my dad taught me, and I repeat it to my children is 'there is no such word as can't.'  It's a powerful value as there is always a solution, there is never a point where you stop, you just find a different way.  So I graduate a Dr. but it's because of my Mum and Dad that I am here.

To do the thank you justice I need to rewind to my family history to let you know how big of a deal it is.

A Generation of Change

In not so recent history even in 2017, there are generations that had: no access to education, carried wood on donkeys and even if they were educated did not get the opportunity to explore, discover or excel in their passion; that's my parents.  Yes we have entrepreneurial-ship and people can find ways to make their impact; they both did.   However, let's not pretend that there are not Mums and Dad's who have done everything for the children to put a roof over their head and send them to school.  

My Mum was born on a tiny island called St Helena where she collected firewood by donkey.  She came to the UK to be with her Mum (who was illiterate) but actually put her out on the street at 15, and from that age she fended for herself.  She gave me so much love, safety, security and support that she herself never had.   She did all this between working shifts at a health company, Oxfam and then finally setting up her own business with my Dad.  She would go to the butchers in the days of the strikes at the factory, and ask for bones for the dog, and with that she would cook the most amazing healthy soups and casseroles.  I look back and I never wanted for anything I actually needed.  At Xmas I was so happy with the warmth of the family meal, top of the pops playing and my stocking of clementines, nuts and if I was lucky 1 small toy.  We may not have been able to afford much but we had so much love.  She gave me what she never had.

My Dad came to the UK when he was 8 from a tiny island in the Caribbean called Anguilla.  He studied hard until his A'levels and started work at Rover as a foreman.  My Grandad Herman Edwards was an activist (where do I get it from ;)) who opened The Black House, which was a half way house to get young black people (mainly men) socially mobile.  I visited the Colin Jones exhibit when it was in London some years ago to find out more myself, and even found John Lennon's involvement.  My grandad gave us a large family, there are 14 uncles and aunties that I know of and have visited all over the world (he left my gran and was very popular with the ladies).  My Dad was raised by his Mum alone and he has done everything for us.  He was the Dad working at 2, 3, 4, 5 am in the morning to keep a roof over our head when interest rates were at 18% and then to put me through university, and my sister through drama school.  He was the Dad that appealed to get me into the best school in Oxford.  He stood up at the appeal and called out the lack of the diversity at the predominantly white school, and on appeal we got in (I'm an identical twin).  He was the Dad who went without on top of his day/night jobs, to pay for extra tuition in English and Maths.  He knew that as a black female: education, education, education would give me access and social mobility.  He gave me the chance that he did not have.

My friends would say what are you studying now.  Whilst I agree university is not everything, there are many ways to get up the mountain, this is great from a point of privilege.  When you live in a world where you are at a disadvantage due to the colour of your skin, and I will leave that for another post, education is another gate that can help the path that you choose.  When my Dad used to say you will have to work harder than everyone else, you may be smarter than everyone else but you still might not get the job, as a child I didn't really comprehend what he meant.  As an adult who has had 17 years career experience of what he said, and a now a Mum, Dad I understand your words of wisdom.  I cannot even put into words what you have done for me.


All of those lessons that you taught me, have made me into the person I am today.  Even though my mum was chucked out on the street at 15, she still visited her Mum and even took care of her when it mattered.  My Mum truly taught me to treat others as you wish to be treated, even when they have not done the same to you.  To take that higher road and turn the other cheek.

Skill Sets

My Dad gave me that sheer gravitas, and when they both started the business he involved me in everything.  I did their accounts from the age of 9.  I interacted with customers from an early age and helped with strategic decisions.  All of these things set me on the path where I am today.  I made mistakes for sure and that was okay, as long as I learnt from them.  I was allowed to go clubbing from 14 as long as I completed my responsibilities at home and at school.  It makes me laugh now, as I was savvy in making sure that homework and cello practice was done, that I could still serve breakfast to guests and cook the Sunday dinner; after a great night out.  I was not raised in a bubble, I was raised to be a strong independent woman who could take responsibility for decisions good or bad; but take risks and make the decision!  He taught me to take risks, and I did.  I have taken risks my whole life from financial transactions, business ventures and moving abroad living in Switzerland.  I have learnt from each one and some have been hugely successful and others failures.  Success was not the point, it was the confidence to navigate the facts, make and decision and execute.


Doing my doctorate in my 30's meant my Mum and Dad were not paying, but their support was there.  Working and living abroad has it's issues particularly in Switzerland where childcare is more than interesting.  They invest 0.2 GDP in childcare so the mother is very much expected to be at home, whilst the kids come home each day for a home cooked lunch and most days finish school at 11:50.  So having a full time job meant studying everyday consistently between 20:00 and 23:00 and on the weekends.  There were peak times when my parents came over and helped  my husband and I with the kids.  As grandparents I couldn't ask for more, and their daughter they still gave me exactly what I needed.

Playing it Forward

So when the graduation ceremony application came and I could only have 3 people in the room, I knew in my heart I had to have 5.  I wrote back to the university to explain why my parents had to be there, but also why my children had to be there.  If I could give my kids just one ounce of what my parents have done for me, and play it forward.  I would be a great Mum.  Mums raise and inspire the next generation, but we are here because of our parents.  So thank you Mum and Dad because of you I graduate a Dr. and am part of a fantastic Alumni here in Switzerland.

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4 Tips for Legoland Germany


1. Staying Over Night.  The Legoland Hotel was something special.  I had images of sleeping on a lego bed, but it was a normal bed; ha ha!  The decor however was so great for the kids, with little pieces of lego art everywhere, and lego to play with in the room.  The only thing is you had to book a breakfast sitting.  We do like to just chill and get up to our own beat, but that was not possible.  We booked the later setting and we had a late check out, but it felt restrictive.



2. Birthday booking.  I booked a birthday package and was not disappointed.  They made a birthday room for my daughter, she had her own bottle of birthday bubbly to share with her brother and friends, as well as a birthday present.  It was super special and made her day.


3. Separate parts shop.  This is where my husband got his big kid on, and came into his own element.  So to say the family a lego fanatics is an understatement.  We like to build cars, canons, catapults and anything that can be concocted in the imagination.  So in the lego shop you can buy multiples of parts, some special parts are restricted to a 100 grams, but if you are there as a family, you can still get what you need.  It's well worth a visit if you are looking for certain parts that you don't necessarily find enough of in lego sets.  The kids are also into We Do and code what they want their creations to do, you can see videos on my instagram.

4. VIP Gold Pass Token.  I know it's costly but it was worth ever penny.  We never waited for a ride and did all rides in one day:Ninjago was so cool.  If you can afford it, I would highly recommend booking a gold pass.  You reserve a ride and when it beeps you walk into the entrance, the max we then waited was maybe 4 minutes.  Time is precious!  My parents were with us for this trip as it was my daughters birthday, and we both said "we never had this in my day", but they loved it.  My 66 year old Dad kept hoping onto all the rides.


The only thing that could be improved was the food, like most theme parks the food is much to be admired.  The food however at the hotel in the evening was very good.

10 TED Talks from Mothers that Inspire

10 TED Talks from Mothers that Inspire

On the 17th October we are launching three of the the first mothers rock interviews that we are publishing in our members magazine and via our you tube live channel accessible via our community.

So as a prelude to our channel and magazine which will raise up and inspire with unplugged interviews with mothers, here are 10 TED Talks from mothers that inspire.

Their first days (at school), do we get better at change?

Happy funny baby girl in glasses reading a book in a library
Happy funny baby girl in glasses reading a book in a library

Guest Blog Sinead Sharkey-Steenson

Sinead will be leading the career webinar and bundle, we thought it was worth introducing the lovely Sinead and sharing her blog with our WhatifIhadaPA members.

First days, do we get better at change?

I’ve done what millions of parents have done across the country at this time of year, and no doubt across the world.  I’ve taken my oldest daughter to her first day at nursery.  With that comes mixed emotions, and many of us can get caught up focusing on our own,  it isn’t easy for some of us to see our wee precious jewels getting bigger and going and doing new things, but that’s nothing to what’s going on for our little people.

The challenge of firsts

Firsts are a challenge no matter your age.  There’s not many of us have the unwavering confidence to walk into any unknown situation and feel completely at ease.  Today was our second day at nursery, and to be honest, that’s when the sh*t hit the fan!   My wee girl was a terror this morning.  Day one was a breeze.  Why?  Mummy was uber-prepared, and so was she.  Day 2?  She turned into the Tasmanian devil’s younger, more scary sister.  I kept my cool (sort of), whilst panicking inside.  How am I going to get this seething ball of anger to eat breakfast, into her uniform, and out of the door in time to make it into nursery?  And then, what kind of nightmare is she going to be when she’s there?  Somehow we made it there, and kids being kids she was in great humour by the time we’d reached our destination.  Reflecting on it now, I can’t help wonder what was going on, and are there any lessons for us all about starting something new, and becoming more adaptable to change?

How and why we react to change

A lot of our reactions to new things come from a primal part of our brains.  We are wired to fear new things, because they might be dangerous.  That makes sense, especially when you consider our origins, where something new could literally be a case of life or death.  Hopefully starting nursery, or a new job or new challenge, isn’t going to be quite so risky!  Our brains don’t necessarily see it that way.  When we feel under threat we create stress hormones, which are there to help us react more quickly so we are ready to jump into fight, flight, or freeze (survival modes) at the drop of a hat.  This really helps us understand why in times of stress, we have a tendency to overreact and lash out.  When you factor in a 3 year old that is a long way from getting to grips with her emotions, you can picture the scene I dealt with this morning I’m sure!

What can we do?

So what can we do?  I’m going to preface this with the caveat that I’m no parenting expert, believe me, so the advice I’m offering is really aimed at us grown –up people:

  1. Establish a new routine and stick to it – our brains love routine. At the core, our brains love to conserve energy, this leaves resources for higher-functioning, such as decision-making, learning, thinking.  Routine allows our brain to operate on ‘stand-by’, so that our energy reserves are being maintained for the big stuff.  Routines that help your brain and also your stress-levels include; a good night-time routine that supports a great sleep, a standard morning routine that gets you out of the house easily and quickly, learning your new route to work in advance so it’s something you don’t need to think about.
  2. Prepare, prepare, prepare!  Like the routine, take all the unnecessary brain processing and stress away by having everything ready to go in advance (there’s a reason successful people tend to dress the same all the time, no extra thinking required).  Whether that’s your clothes ready on the chair, lunch packed, bag ready, keys in the right place, hair washed the night before.  Whatever will make it easiest for you to get there as stress-free as possible.  One of the reasons day 1 was so easy and day 2 not so, was lack of preparation which resulted in mad-panic!
  3. Practise really does make perfect – but it can be tempting when we’re not good at something straight away (probably the reason I can’t stand bowling) to avoid it. It stands to reason as most of us have been conditioned not to fail, and don’t enjoy looking foolish in front of others.  When we do something for the first time, our brain is creating new pathways.  Imagine walking through a forest for the first time.  It’s hard work having to clear a path for yourself.  You may trip or get scratched, and you’re likely using much more of your body to break your way through the vegetation than if you were on one of those travelators at the airport.  This is exactly how it is for your brain, it is creating new neural pathways, and uses lots more of the brain than is strictly necessary.  As you repeat the behaviour, the pathways become clearer, your brain trims off the ones that are unnecessary and the signals fire faster.  You get more and more efficient.  You can help your brain by familiarising yourself with what you can on the run-up to the event – and this can be physically or by visualising, your brain will respond in the same way.  You can also be patient with yourself and recognise that nobody finds it easy first time, we don’t see how hard others found it, just the polished end product.  If you know every time you try you get better, you’ll be more inclined to try.
  4. Self-care – whenever there is stress likely, self-care is even more important. As my hangry 3 year old seethed at me this morning, it hit me how important the basics are.  Not enough sleep, liquid, and food are a road to ruin!  A bit of deep breathing in moments of stress will be a great help too.
  5. Give your brain some comfort – by taking away the novelty factor. When we start a new job, or take on a big new challenge, sometimes the amount of newness can be overwhelming.  You can help your brain manage this by likening what you’re doing to familiar things, and reminding yourself of motivational factors.  For instance you might hark back to previous new jobs and how successful you’ve been, or think about the parts that you already know of the job thereby minimising the parts that are new.  You can think about why you’re doing it and play up those factors – so if a challenge and variety are important factors for making the change, then those will be the things to focus on.
  6. Cut yourself some slack, and ask the people around you to do the same. It’s quite common for children to come home from school and be an absolute nightmare for their parents.  It’s because they’ve exhausted themselves holding it together all day, and when they get home they feel safe enough to let it all go.  We’re not much different when we’re grown up are we?  There’s 2 key things at play here.  Firstly, your pre-frontal cortex is the part of your brain that is responsible for your executive (higher-thinking) functions, like learning.  That is one energy hungry bit of the brain.  A day of learning will deplete all your resources, so you come home exhausted…too tired to think, quite literally.  You’re also going from an environment where your guard is up, to one where you know you can do anything and you will still be loved.  It might be hard to take, but when your loved-ones come in from a tough day and lose it, in a weird way it’s a compliment.  They feel safe enough to let it go (as long as it’s within reason of course).  Just give them, or yourself the time and space to decompress.

Whilst we may think of ourselves as resisters of change, we are in fact changing every day.  Our brain was once thought to be fixed in the number of connections it has, but we now realise that the brain is creating, growing, and trimming connections every day, so that we can learn and develop every day.  How boring would life be if we didn’t change?  We’d all be tantrumming in the middle of supermarket aisles, as if the weekly shop isn’t difficult enough?!

A Mother's Journey to 'Living Authentically'

A Mother's Journey to 'Living Authentically'


You know that feeling after you bring a child into the world, that your life will never be the same. At the same time everything prior to that point almost becomes meaningless. You actually start to reassess the world.  

In one sense when my first child was born I became brave. In another I had to redefine who I was. I was not the same 30 something me.


What am I doing? Does what I do mean anything? Am I even making a difference in this world? Is it worth it?


Suddenly there is something bigger than you, that little person that you are responsible for; you want them to be the best they can be, to live in a world full of potential that is safe and sustainable.   I had these big thoughts of how I could impact my daughter’s future world, and at the same time I was learning to be a mother. In addition to this new role, I continued to be: wife, lover, friend, and work colleague. The new role had an impact on all the others. If I did not take a step back I would lose me!


That’s when I transformed, having a child changed me, I knew it was an opportunity to take that energy, that power that you have as a mother and know as you want your children to know ‘I can do anything’.


I started to define just what that was to each one of my roles. As a mother being home for dinner and doing plays (not macbeth but magic rabbits, princesses, car races and dragons), and reading each night. To challenging my brain in my doctorate, which helped me to develop technology that automates chores saving mothers time, and research that understands what in people’s childhood makes them successful, and happy! The both aligned to giving me, and other mothers more time with our children, with our future and to have more memories than do administration and chores.


I transformed into the best version of me I could be at each of the roles, but realised we cannot do everything. So the key was to align the roles to what I truly loved, what I was passionate about. To stop doing things that detracted from that, and to start and continue the things that aligned to what I loved in this world most.


It sounds easy, but it was a journey to break down the mind set for example of ‘guilt’ and to accept help. I started to say ‘yes’ to outsourcing chores and ‘no’ to things that served no purpose or were meaningless.


This transformation was broken down over 4 steps, a framework which allowed me to redefine my life, and make sure I was Living Life Authentically. I am now true to who ‘I’ am as a mother, wife, lover, friend and work colleague. I learnt that you can have that authenticity as a mother, where you give to each part of you.


You have to be brave enough to take the step back. To admit I am not that same person as I was before kids, and take the opportunity to redefine you.


I want to share this framework with other mothers so that can live a life that is authentic to them. To talk them through the framework and provide printable tools, that supports them. There is very little for mothers. This now changes Sign Up for your Living Authentically Webinar and Kit.


I am building a community, tools and technology that is there for Mums.

The 5 Minute Quick Super Green Lemon Soup

The 5 Minute Quick Super Green Lemon Soup

Ingredients for the super green lemon soup simply assemble them all.  I use organic.
Ingredients for the super green lemon soup simply assemble them all. I use organic.

For the days when you are working and going from meeting to meeting, call to call but your body needs that nutrition and energy this is my quick and easy hit.  There are somedays where I need to say I just need to pee, as a mother working it's tough, so this is recipe and my nutribullet are my saviour.  This is great for busy mums.

Chuck the rest of the ingredients into the nutribullet except from the lemon and Nigella seeds.  You need only the juice of the lemon.
Chuck the rest of the ingredients into the nutribullet except from the lemon and Nigella seeds. You need only the juice of the lemon.
Then you have lunch in Max 5 minutes full of lovely alkaline vegetables and citrus fruit, and energy you could change the type of nuts you use from cashews to almonds.
Then you have lunch in Max 5 minutes full of lovely alkaline vegetables and citrus fruit, and energy you could change the type of nuts you use from cashews to almonds.

Downloadable Recipe or Follow the Instructions Below

5 Minute Super Green Lemon Soup


Super Green Lemon Soup

2 bunches of spinach

1 kale leaf

1 spring onion

1 bunch parsley

1 lemon juice

Handful of almonds

1 cup coconut water

Nigella seeds (to sprinkle)

Maldon salt

Equipment: Nutribullet, Lemon Squeezer (optional) you can use a fork if you don’t have one.


  1. Add all ingredients into the nutribullet
  2. Blend

Total time: 5 minutes

The 5 Work Life Balance Myths

The 5 Work Life Balance Myths


If Work Life Balance - 'balance' is defined as "an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady" then frankly there is no such thing.  It is a myth.  A Mother Working Balance is "dividing yourself between multiple things, with unequal distribution" because the focus is #1 Mother and #2 Life.  That's our real life every day. [video width="854" height="480" mp4=""][/video]

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