I first came across Mama Squad on Instagram. It’s a community set up by the lovely Donna. It’s all about celebrating mamas and supporting each other. Donna organised The Mama Squad Assemble so ladies could hang out, enjoy some me-treat time, learn about stuff and go home with a bit of inspiration. Even better as Mama Squad Assemble featured a talk by Grace Timothy of Mum Face. Grace has worked in the beauty journalism business for over 10 years including a role as Contributing Beauty Editor at Glamour. Yep, she really does know her stuff when it comes to looking good and more importantly feeling good.
Taking an afternoon off as mummy can feel like a big thing. When you have time to yourself, you feel like doing something worthwhile. Want to hear more about what we got up to? Here’s seven things I loved about the Mama Squad Assemble…
1. Donna’s intro welcome chat..At the end of the afternoon, I said to Donna’s Mum (known as ‘Donna’s Mum’ on her name badge) that she must be really proud of her daughter. She obviously was and told me how nervous Donna had been feeling. Donna shared that she was really nervous about hosting the main talk with us all, but she was brilliant. That’s why I always think nerves are actually a good thing when you have to do a talk, give a presentation or chat to new people. Nerves mean that we just care about doing a good job or don’t want to make a plonker out of ourselves. Donna’s intro was totally inspiring. She must have thought I was grinning lots but I was just really happy to be part of the Mama Squad Assemble.
2. Support, support, support…Donna set up this online community so mamas, whether they were just tired, felt a bit isolated or liked supporting others, could connect in an easy way. After all, most mamas (and some grandmothers!) are online these days and are socialising this way when we have a free moment in our busy days. As Donna wisely explained, “It’s all about support and times are definitely changing. If we want to take on the world we need the support of each other”. We all agreed that during motherhood there are tremendous highs but experiences can also be tiring and lonely.
A really cool thing about the Mama Squad Assemble was that net proceeds of ticket sales were going straight to Pandas Foundation. I mentioned this amazing charity in one of my baby blues posts. Pandas was one of the first websites I checked when I knew something was up and I was suffering from the baby blues.
3. The non-judgmental side of motherhood…Donna also talked about how she discovered that motherhood is also a time when women become their most judgmental. People loved giving her advice starting with “you should” rather than just sharing their experiences and letting her take it from there. It’s hard not imposing people with your own advice and preferences. As soon as you hear someone is pregnant, it’s easy to dive in and bombard them with do’s and don’ts. Then you start telling them what they need to think about or buy.
I loved what Donna said about everyone having strong opinions about parenting and feeling that we know the best way to raise our kids. Mama Squad has a kind of anti-competitive and anti-bitchiness policy. Mama Squad is about sharing experiences without judging each other. It doesn’t matter that someone doesn’t take on your advice. It’s also OK to follow your own decisions and choices in parenting. Donna also talked about the positive side of giving opinions where they can be informative and open up a debate. Also, opinions don’t have to be decisive.
2. Questions and giggles with Grace Timothy about her beauty tips…It was cool hearing Grace’s Mum Face tips on feeling good about yourself through some make up tricks. It’s not just about spending money as there are some amazing cheaper make up brands out there. Her blog and videos are all about making beauty tools work for you when you’re pregnant or busy being ‘mum’. We asked Grace lots of questions. She was knowledgeable and made us laugh lots. I asked Grace for advice on how to manage the outside pressure on kids to be beautiful. Although I prefer to tell Big Munch how ‘smart’ she looks, she just wants to be called beautiful! Grace explained how her parents had always told her she was beautiful so she believed it. We all agreed that it’s about a balance where you can praise your children for a variety of strengths as well as letting them know they always look great so they feel confident about themselves. A round-up Grace’s beauty tips will be appearing in another post soon – there were too many cool ones to mention here! In the meantime, check out her Mum Face YouTube channel.
2. Celebrating something my family and I have achieved…If we wanted to, we were asked to Conquer Mamahood! Sounds like we were on a mission right? We took part in making videos about why we rock as a family. We talked about something we or our families had to overcome recently. Trust me it took a while for a few of us to think of something. We then had to warm up to idea of praising ourselves (and on film!) Crazy as there are so many things we all achieve as a family that are easily forgotten. This mission was sponsored by Supercharged Club crew. I love that one of their tag lines is Educate.Motivate.Nourish. They provide an online programme to support your nutrition, wellbeing and general self-confidence through life coaching and a cool mix of other things.
Coming back to my Conquer Mamahood task…I’ve only just started getting our IVF story out there on Lucky Things blog. My video clip was about how my little family, one and a half-year old daughter and husband, supported me through our second IVF treatment to try to get her a baby sister or brother. In the two weeks after having the embryo popped into my tummy, I wasn’t supposed to lift my daughter much. Big Munch was so understanding and happily respected that she needed to be gentle with mummy’s tummy in that window (of ‘fertilisation’). It was a huge thing that I suddenly couldn’t pick her up and give her lots of bouncy cuddles.
My husband also played a huge part as he administered 156 of my IVF injections for each of our two IVF cycles. As a family we’ve managed to overcome a lot together over the past twelve months too (it’s funny how tough times can make you stronger as a person). Mary from Supercharged Club filmed my clip. As I talked through what we had conquered I could see Mary’s eyes become glossy and watery. After we finished the clip, she shared her own inspiring story of IVF with me. It was great sharing this moment of honesty with her. She’s just fab.
3. Talking about your strengths… At Mama Squad we had to remind ourselves about own #mamapower. This task was sponsored by Olivia Horne’s Mama’s Happy Place and the company Breathe Postnatal. It was a chance to think about what our super skills as mamas? You could think of something that your baby or child doesn’t get to thank you for. I liked Lizette’s from @UhOhMum. As Donna explained, we rarely receive feedback on the great things we do as our little people aren’t really going to tell us (or realise that we love hearing these things that make us fuzzy inside).
4. The power of Instacommunities…The Mama Squad Assemble was also about meeting other mamas. I wandered down to Mama Squad Assemble on my own knowing it would still be a nice place to hang out for the afternoon although I didn’t really know anyone. It was cool knowing Priya from Pabarilife would be there as we’d been chatting via Instagram comments. Seriously, Priya was rocking the most amazing eyeliner as well as just being lovely. I turned up early (yes early, can you believe it?!!) so I had the chance to chat to Emma and Mary from Supercharged Crew about their work before the crowd appeared.
Instacommunities are a great way to learn about a good cause. We heard about Vicki Moore’s cool work to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital. Check out The Honest Confessions of a NICU MUM Big Kids Campaign here @vicki_nici_mum You can take a pic of yourself being a big kid and quickly donate via a text to NMUM55 with an £amount or visit the Just Giving page http://www.justgiving.com/confessionsofanicumum. Let’s face it guys, sadly we never know what’s around the corner and when one of our little ones could need the incredible support from a hospital like Great Ormond Street. See the end of the post for another way Mama Squad Assemble attendees can donate something to Vicki’s Big Kids campaign.
5. It’s actually OK chatting to people you don’t know…Years ago you would have never trusted chatting to people about your life over the internet. Stranger danger! (as Pippa from Panda & Pig and me were talking about). You also may not have considered turning up to an event full of those internet bods. Nowadays, whether it’s MumsNet discussion groups, Twitter parties or Instagram communities you have access to groups of people who are genuinely nice. If you’ve seen my recent post on working on your networking skills you’ll know that although I can happily chat to people it still takes a bit of confidence to chat to peeps who don’t know you. As well as chatting to Mama Squad followers, I loved taking photos at the Mama Squad Assemble. My below photos are my shout-outs to you ALL (hope you like them).
6. Friendships are priceless…One of the first people I met at the Mama Squad Assemble was Donna’s Mum. How cool she came along to support her daughter and see how much Insta-love Donna has brought together in one room! I know there is something magical about mother-daughter friendships (although they’re not always perfect and we can have differing opinions).
Most of us didn’t realise but Donna and Grace were college mates. It became obvious as they started the talk as you could see this cheeky bond. As you may know, there are so many things I love about friendships. So it was an event about celebrating old friendships, Insta-ones and new ones.
I didn’t realise I would get to meet so many other #InstaMums. They really showed an interest in you. Maybe because they already knew you a bit through your Instagram photos. It was nice people kind of recognised you or the photos you’ve taken on Instagram. People actually pay attention and appreciate what you do!
I soon realised a lot of the ladies were meeting each other in person for the first time so that was pretty cool. I loved that it didn’t feel cliquey (Donna – you should be really proud of bringing together a nice crew like that). So a big part of The Mama Squad Assemble was definitely about kicking off new friendships. As well as being mamas, there were lots of other things we had in common (Mary and I had quite a few). I know I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with the Mama Squad crew. Thanks for being a cool crew to hang out with. Respect.
Hope you liked my round-up especially if you’ve never come across Mama Squad before (or you’re one of the Mama Squad crew who couldn’t be there this time). You know me, I’m not afraid of coming across as cheesy and never shy about telling you when I really rate something that’s had a positive influence on me. What else can I say, but I left the Mama Squad Assemble at Clapham’s Northcote Pub feeling pretty inspired.
P.S. Never to ignore a few me-treats. We all left Mama Squad Assemble with one of the coolest party bags. Shout-outs to colouring kits Go outside the lines, wholesome food crew Superfoodio, Hartridges drinks, Partridge & bell pencils and Donna for my new (big enough for everything) Mama Squad tote bag.Contact me if I’ve featured you in the pics in this post, you like the photo and you’d like your own copy of it. To support Vicki_Nici_Mum, it would be lovely if you make a small donation to the Big Kids Campaign in return for a JPEG copy of your photo 🙂
All photos in this post are my own. If you’d like to use any of them please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can borrow the pics on this post with permission and a little credit to me, thanks lovelies!