Our "March of Inspiring Mums" interview series celebrates women who are doing some amazing things, whether through business, a campaign or just being fabulous! - hope you enjoy the "March of Inspiring Mums" series!
Our latest interviewee is with the incredibly inspiring Lynne Parker. The day we celebrate World Down Syndrome is also the day I am also honoured to share Lynne's fabulous story.
Back in 2010, life changed dramatically for Lynne in just 7 days... she moved house, lost her father, had a funeral, a birth and celebrated Christmas all in one week. Then they heard the news on Christmas Day morning that her baby had Down Syndrome.
Today Lynne shares her heart-warming tips on finding the positive in life, surrounding yourself with a supportive tribe and managing the juggle of running a business around her 3 young children as well as her goals to create an employment hub for those with additional needs.
She lives in Flaunden, Hertfordshire and describes herself as "the creator, founder and force behind Oh Positive"
Tell me a little about yourself and how you got into the job you’re now doing?
So, originally from Windsor, I moved to Hertfordshire after meeting a boy and following my heart 19 years ago. I’m a busy Mama to three little ones who keep me out of trouble every day. I like my music live and loud, my chips hot and my beer cold. I need regular doses of Vitamin Sea and I spend 51 weeks of the year dreaming of Cornwall, with a glorious seven day break when I’m living that dream.
I was lucky enough to go to Uni, and then fell into a dream job with Harley-Davidson as soon as I left. Up until that point, I had the unusual label of Windsor’s most employed person - my friend Jean and I had worked everywhere in that town, and out of it too. I love having a job, my own money and the freedom that brings, and it started at an early age. My father was a builder, who fully expected me to be out on the tools by aged 10, laying bricks and getting paid for it.
The years rolled by and Harley-Davidson was (and still is) the love of my life, job-wise but the travelling and commute took their toll, with me eventually (and broken-heartedly) moving jobs and going to work in the City. It was only when they made me redundant at 34 weeks pregnant with my first child that I realised quite what a mistake that was.
It would be disingenuous to say this was the happiest of times..… I threw myself into Mama life and loved every second, but just as life often does, an opportunity presented itself and I couldn’t say no. I got chatting at a children’s centre to someone working there and boom, a month later I started working with Hartbeeps, a baby and toddler music group which I loved doing for many years. As my children have grown, I’ve also changed and have said a fond goodbye, not without a little tear though! With three children and all the challenges they bring, I needed to be more of my own boss, more flexible with my time and how I spend it, my life doesn’t run to the same beat day to day, let alone each week.
We moved house, lost my father, had a funeral, a birth and celebrated Christmas all in one seven day period in December 2010. That baby was our middle son, Sam. He was born on Christmas Eve, and the news came on Christmas Day morning that he had Down Syndrome. This changed our worlds in so many ways, I find it hard to describe. I wish I could go back in time, hold my hand and tell that girl I was that all would be OK. More than OK. This would be the storm that makes you. We have gained so much, and changed in ways I didn’t realise I would. I’m all the better for it. It's a challenge, but my life is richer than I could ever have imagined, and that's the truth.
Sam took up all my time in the early years, he wasn’t a particularly well baby and it made for some dark times. I'm a lover of a quote, the power of words can't be underestimated and I had taken to making my own prints and popping them up around the house to keep me positive.
My gorgeous friend Anna, of Cienta UK, is inspirational, and so much fun to be around. When she started out with her business, I loved tagging along to markets and fairs, keeping her company and helping with sales. So much so, I ended up indulging my own creative itch and took along some of my prints and work….and the rest they say is history.
My business goal is long term. I know it will evolve and change in what we offer and sell, but I’m fully committed to creating a company that I can pass to Sam, and have him run when he is old enough. The statistics around unemployment, depression and isolation in adults with learning disabilities are terrifying. I am aghast when I talk about it with those working to change it. By creating a venture with my family (my daughter has already invested her cash in stock in order to have her say!), I hope to not only grow something for Sam, but look to employ others with learning disabilities in the future and create a community of contribution, not deficit. Learning disabilities are just challenges, not barriers, and I would be so proud to employ a diverse workforce in the future. It would be the achievement of a lifetime.
Tell me one interesting fact about you?
I had to put this one out to my friends to answer as frankly, I can’t really think that anything particularly stands out as interesting. This exercise has been so interesting in itself. My friends said some overwhelmingly lovely things, and it just goes to show that sometimes, even the most positive amongst us (I try so hard) can overlook what makes you special. Answers ranged from my ability to tell a story (and I’m going to own that, I love a good Jackanory recount of a night out or childhood memory) to my epic skills in running up Coniston Road in Kings Langley (practically vertical and nigh on killed me). They covered some tales of travelling for work with Harley-Davidson, university survival skills and tricks for after a couple of beers.
Ultimately, I’ll give you a beauty….
I used to rollerblade as my commute to work. I worked at Legoland. I looked as stupid as you are currently imagining. Then double it.
Lynne's first ever pop up stall as Oh Positive
Please can you share 3 tips for managing the juggle of motherhood, life and business?
- Be kind to yourself. Plates get smashed, balls get dropped. Speak to yourself in the way you would a friend and just know you can only do what you can do, and that is always enough. Kids rarely notice the errors, they remember the laughter.
- Learn to say yes. I’m terrible at accepting help. Awful. It definitely takes a village and if someone offers a hand, take hold of it and thank them for the help. You will always be able to return the favour and sometimes it makes all the difference.
- Find your circle. And if your circle isn’t cheering for you, or holding you up, find a new circle. Therapy, advice, support, laughter, tears, cheerleading, commiserating. My circle is everything, and its taken a few years to get those relationships right. Becoming a Mother took more of a toll on my mental health than I realised and it is the support of my friends and family that have kept me going some days. We aren’t always lucky enough to have people to call upon, moving to a new village a week before I gave birth wasn’t brilliantly timed, I was stuck at home with a poorly child and far away from friends and family. Fast forward a few years and I now have the strongest relationships I’ve ever enjoyed. The effort put in has started to pay out an I am all the better mentally for it. It hasn’t always been roses, some relationships have withered, but those that took their place have been what I’ve needed all along. I hold them tight and tell them often. I’m sure they roll their eyes and think I’m mad, but I don’t want them to think I don’t value them every day.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give a new mum?
Thank people for their advice but set your sails and stay on your path. Babies bring out everyone’s need to share helpful advice that isn’t always helpful. You are always going to be your babies best advocate, you know them better than anyone else. Trust yourself, and your baby, to know whats right for you both.
And if they cross the threshold, all baby cuddles cost one household chore, be that washing up, bringing shopping in or making dinner.
Colour can make a real difference to our mood - what’s your favourite colour? And how does it make you feel when you wear it?
I’m a monochrome kind of girl but I absolutely cannot pass anything with a rainbow on it without it falling into my basket. It’s just such a positive symbol, storms bring them, they’re the gift for all the trauma.
What’s your favourite activity to do with your children?
It’s a bit corny, but I don’t have a specific activity. I think it's all about the time we spend and with them being so young, it has to be flexible according to their moods and abilities. We are diverse, with my son Sam needing a little extra help so we keep life fairly low key.
I love to get them cooking Sunday roast with me, it has become the anchor to our week really. To see them working together, chatting and laughing at our ups and downs, it is truly time well spent. And no-one is moaning they are cold, hungry, tired or bored. Result!
What do you like to do for some me-time?
Me time, my goodness, so precious and so important. This is a really hard question to answer, as I’ve kind of forgotten what that concept is!
I love a cheeky brunch with my friends when the kids are at school, or a pub lunch. Cinema with the girls and a sneaky beer …. Basically anything that's food and laughter based! If there’s childcare, then an impromptu pub crawl with my husband.
Me time doesn’t have to be a solo activity... it's my choice, my time.
Thank you so much for sharing your incredible story Lynne. Life certainly throws challenges at us but to turn them into opportunities in such a positive way is so inspiring.
Finding a supportive tribe is so important as is me-time and your tips on doing this are something I think we can all relate to.
And for more information on World Down Syndrome Day, click here
If you've enjoyed this interview, make sure you check out our other "March of Inspiring Mums" series here
And if you're in need of some Me- time Inspiration, check out our Me Time Moments Jar, a great way to make full use of those precious minutes.