Sometimes in life you get the chance to talk to people that you admire, and this time I was that lucky person. I’m that woman that had a baby and found that her previously loved career just wasn’t what it used to be post labour, and I am now on the cusp of starting something new. Women like Steph, through the wonder that is social media, offer hope and inspiration to people a few years behind them on the path towards happiness.
I’ve followed Steph for a while and, if I’m honest, didn’t expect a reply when I sent out my request to interview her for my Universal Parenthood series, so when I got a response fairly quickly I was pleasantly surprised, especially when you consider that she runs her own business, has two children and was heavily pregnant at the time. In fact, although she had turned her Out of Office message on for her emails by the time I sent her the questions, Steph had them answered and sent back to me within a week, telling me that she did them while her children were at a dance class!
Researching Steph was interesting, as it always is regardless of who I’m interviewing. Her blog is honest about the struggles of the newborn days and she is incredibly matter of fact about her husband Doug’s experience with cancer during her first pregnancy. That frankness is something that comes through in all of her posts and absolutely must have helped her set up her successful business – Don’t Buy Her Flowers, an ever expanding gift service for the important people in your life.
As if raising two (now three!) children and running her own business wasn’t enough, Steph also takes part in campaigns such as Stand Up To Cancer, The Warrior Woman Project and the Flexible Working movement. All in all, she’s a pretty amazing woman.
Read on to see what else we talked about.
1) Is your husband really called Doug Douglas?
Ha! This is genuinely the question I get asked most!
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?
OK – I run Don’t Buy Her Flowers selling thoughtful gift packages for anyone in need of some TLC. I’m married to Doug and we have two kids – Buster (6 – 7 on 25th Nov depending when you publish this!) and Mabel who is 5, and I’m 40 weeks pregnant with baby number three… I have 5 siblings and my parents also fostered so I grew up in a loud house where there was always something going on and always imagined myself with a big family, although we’re definitely stopping at three. Having babies is harder work than I thought it was going to be! Currently I’m knackered and heavy and frantically sorting cupboards and eating everything in sight.
2) If you could give one piece of advice for an expectant mother, what would it be?
Be kind to yourself and everything else will fall in to place. It’s important for all women at any time as I think it’s something women are particularly rubbish at, but I think especially when we’re pregnant we’re often busy ‘getting on with it’ and feeling like we have to cope admirably and actually, often we feel rubbish and have anxiety and it’s a huge period of change whichever baby you’re on, so we should take more care of ourselves.
3) All of us parent differently and have different values. What is your most important parenting value?
Kindness. At parents evening it’s always the thing I want to know – are my kids kind? Do they play with everyone? I want them to be good people! So I suppose as parents it’s important that we’re kind ourselves, and consistent and loving.
4) what motto do you try and live by?
I think it probably changes depending on what’s going on at the time and what I need to hear! Be kind to yourself is always relevant. Doug has a good one which is ‘Focus on what you can control’. We spend lots of energy worrying about what other people are doing, what we should be doing, are we doing enough… and actually, if you take away the things that are out of your control it narrows what you can actually worry about a lot. Easier said than done but always good to have a reminder. We’ve just started selling a new book in our Book Package called ‘The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving A F**k’ and it is brilliant in relation to this.
5) What are your hopes for your children?
Apart from kindness! That they have confidence in themselves and empathy with others that aren’t like them. Knowing not everyone has the same values or upbringing as you is so important.
6) You run a successful business called Don’t Buy Her Flowers, which you started in 2014. Could you tell us about it and why you decided to start out on your own?
The idea came when I had Buster, my first baby, and received eight bunches of flowers and it struck me that it’s a bonkers gift – to give someone another thing to care for when they’re doing more caring than they’ve ever done in their lives. I didn’t start it until Buster was three and Mabel was two, but the idea was very much that new mums need looking after. As soon as we launched, customers were asking if they could send packages for get well and birthdays and all sorts of other occasions, so we’ve expanded to ‘thoughtful gifts’. The core idea is the same – that the focus is on the recipient and encouraging them to take a bit of time for themselves, and letting them know they are loved. Getting started was a combination of having the idea and seeing that there wasn’t someone offering this service, and also returning to work after each baby and just thinking ‘how is this going to work when the kids are at school’. I knew I wanted flexibility, although looking back I was pretty naïve and had no idea that, while I can be there for the kids and don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to do so, I’ve never worked harder in my life! Maternity leave, for example, doesn’t exist when you do your own thing. I put my out of office on at 39 weeks and I would have finished a good couple of weeks before if I’d been in my old job. But I love what I do and now we have a team and I’m not responsible for everything, it’s all so much more enjoyable!
7) You have three children and a successful business and yet you get involved with many different campaigns, such as the stand up to cancer campaign, the warrior woman project and the flexible working campaign…what compels you to do this?
They’re things that are important to me and having the business has been an amazing way to connect with people, so opportunities have come up. Doug was diagnosed with cancer when I was pregnant with Buster and it had a huge impact on our life. I met Stand Up To Cancer through Molly at Selfish Mother and working with them was a no brainer. Flexible working just makes sense – I grew up with a total belief I was equal to my brothers and boy mates around me, and then I had kids and realised that it was all a bit of a mess and the reality is that for most women, their career will take a back seat and a nine to five is challenging. The whole system needs shaking up, for men and women, and I believe it’s happening but it will take time and a lot of noise, which people like Anna at Mother Pukka, Digital Mums and Pregnant then Screwed are doing brilliantly at. And getting naked with a load of women, all with completely different shapes and hang ups and attitudes, was bloody awesome.
8) You are one of six children and employ one of your siblings in your business. How important is the concept of ‘family’ to you and have you implicated any of your childhood family traditions or practices in your own children’s lives?
Family is really important to me and my favourite thing is weekends with no plans, just the four of us (soon to be five!) pleasing ourselves, bit of Uno, lots of eating, a walk and a film. Those are always the best weekends when everyone is most relaxed. I think you take versions of your childhood traditions, but you’re fusing two different sets together so you end up with something of your own. Croissants on Christmas Day is essential for me though – it was THE height of sophistication in the 80s and I’m never letting that one go.
9) Your husband was diagnosed with cancer just before the birth of your first child. Has that effected how you both live your lives and raise your children?
I’m not sure if we’d have made the leap to start the business if we hadn’t been through that. Nothing clarifies that life is too short quite like a cancer diagnosis at 30. It doesn’t affect us every day like it used to, but it does work to put everything in to perspective when you need it.
10) Parenting is tough and beautiful all at the same time. Can you tell us about a tough time and a shining moment that you’ve had as a parent?
When Mabel was born, I really struggled. The demands of a 21 month old and a newborn were full on and there was a lot of resentment and rowing between Doug and I, which I now know was us adjusting and living on little sleep, fueled by hormones. We called it ‘The Survival Phase’ and we just about made it! In contrast and a few years on, we just had their parents evening and they are both doing so well – learning so much and well-liked and happy and becoming proper personalities. One of the teachers said ‘you should be really proud – you did that’ and I almost hugged her and wept. I know the teenage years are going to be dreadful, but this bit compared to two very small ones is so so much easier and I’m just really proud of them.
I hope you enjoyed reading the interview with Steph as much as I did. This is the beauty of Instagram and social media when used in a positive way – we are able to share our stories, both the good and the bad, and become inspirations for others watching us, thus paving the way for yet more inspirational women to come through.
Find Steph here –
Instagram – steph_dontbuyherflowers
Business Instagram – dontbuyherflowers
Business Website – Don’t Buy Her Flowers
Steph’s Blog – Sisterhood And All That