DISCOVERING THE BRAVE NEW ME
When Lou got to 50 the world became her oyster.
Standing at the school gates, your career a faded sepia memory, you stare forlornly at the square of concrete which will burst to life any moment, as children catapult in liquid form, streaming from every classroom towards waiting parents. But in those few moments before the world becomes colourful and noisy, you are held in formaldehyde, feeling invisible, undervalued and useless.
Until the children-years, your life was vibrant, and full. You were somebody in the work force, you had meaning and purpose that came from your standing among colleagues. Your input was financially rewarded and your time counted as part of the bigger picture. But with kids hanging from your jean-seams any part-time options barely scrape a minimum wage and don’t cater for kids’ sudden sickness or getting a call from school saying your child’s head has clashed with concrete during playtime.
So you do what you can when you can but the work doesn’t use your intelligence or carefully honed skills built over a decade of degrees, masters and career building. No, you feel like you are on the scrap heap and you stand on the side-lines as your work-mates climb higher up the ladder and their bank balances bulge with the reward of promotion and recognition.
“In the eyes of the world you have slipped from view and are seen as ‘just a mum’”
You love your kids, you love being a mum, your kids love you and fill your days with laughter and mess and chaos and cuddles. But in the eyes of the world you have slipped from view and seen as ‘just a mum’. Which of course also means being nurse, confidante, cook, driver, tear-wiper, bum wiper, blood wiper, homework helper, teacher/parent negotiator, cheerleader and any number of other roles rolled up into the three letter word MUM. Mum’s the word, keeping your talents and skills under dust sheets until your kids don’t need you any more, and you’re left a husk of your former self and no one in the world of work recognises the years of hard work at the coal face of kid rearing.
And then you have a bright idea and from your kitchen table, in those precious hours between drop-off and pick up, you slowly start to bring the wisps of a concept out into the open. You build, from the ground up, a small business.
When that person was me, I started to make my own documentaries and take photographs, to train as a coach and write short film scripts and learn to work with actors. It was all a bit haphazard and I didn’t have any central purpose other than a vague sense of wanting to ‘make a difference’.
But I wasn’t earning any money and I was still alone in the day. I reckoned if I was feeling alone and lonely, then there were probably other self-employed women feeling like me. So I started a women in business group. It was free and each month I invited a speaker to come and talk about their business; how they’d started, the difficulties they’d faced and what they found had helped get them through. It was a kernel of something and for two years I ran it until my own business grew and I didn’t have time to keep it up.
Ten years on my children left home and standing on the edge of the empty nest I had another epiphany. This was my time now. I was fifty and the world was my oyster. My background is art and I started drawing again and out popped a character, Brave New Girl. Out flowed all the creativity that had been used for child-rearing and I threw myself into it, having two books published, painting and having exhibitions, making films.
“I want to help other women feel part of a tribe.”
I also co-founded a business called Brave New You. It was primarily a clothing brand using the image and message of Brave New Girl, which is all about feeling that anything is possible. But as we began to grow we also started to realise that women who were buying our gear were drawn to us because of the meaning and message behind the brand. Many of them were in that age range where their kids are still at school and they feel like they are somehow missing the boat – as I had.
I thought of the need for women to connect, be together and boost each other up and cheer each other on. And so we have created Brave New You TRIBE and we’re teaming up with the company ZONE who are creating co-working spaces where women can work and meet and come to events and be part of something bigger at a fraction of the price of normal co-working spaces or exclusive clubs.
All of my various creative endeavours have come together under one umbrella now and I love what I do and who I work with, and so now I want to help other women feel part of a tribe where they too feel visible, useful, not alone or lonely, and able to connect with others in a meaningful and purposeful way.