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Good InfoLife lessons: Anna Whitehouse on what life so far has taught her...

Life lessons: Anna Whitehouse on what life so far has taught her – Positive News

Anna Whitehouse, AKA Mother Pukka, is a journalist, radio presenter and bestselling author turned campaigner. Her Flex Appeal movement helped usher in UK government legislation giving workers more flexibility. It comes into force this week, meaning that – from 6 April – employees will be able to request flexible working from their first day in a new job.

Whitehouse divorced Matt Farquharson late last year, and has now published a book with him, Divide and Conquer, about navigating modern-day parenthood. She lives in London with their daughters, aged 11 and seven. 

My morning ritual is …  

Chaos. I have two children so it’s shoes on, coats on, lunches packed, and there’s always a ball that’s dropped. Our routine involves our hamster Ziggy sitting at the breakfast table with all of us and having a cornflake. It’s a very simple thing that calms everybody down and we all start off the day on a really good foot.  

When things get tough I …  

Do top-to-toe breathing, a technique where you try and imagine breathing down beyond your lungs. You do it 10 times. It somehow centres and calms me down.  

What keeps me awake at night …  

I’m a good sleeper. It’s just that I tend to leave my downtime too late so I end up watching Married at First Sight until midnight. I need that time to decompress, but it doesn’t help my sleeping patterns.  

My sources of joy are …  

When my kids and I are walking towards some kind of London adventure, me in the middle, their little hands slotted into mine.  

What’s the secret to a happy family?  

There’s no such thing as a happy family, you’re just a family navigating the ups and downs. As parents we put so much pressure on ourselves to be the ‘happy family’ that we forget that maybe somewhere among the everyday, there is contentment. Contented families are those that see the beauty in the banality, the joy in fleeting moments.  

The big thing I’ve changed my mind about in life …  

I used to be so set on marriage, going down this path that we just follow like lemmings. I’m not saying that marriage isn’t great and doesn’t work for people, but there is another narrative. Since divorcing, my ex and I have the best relationship. It’s stronger than ever and we’re better parents than before. We haven’t broken up, we’ve just rebuilt.  

I feel optimistic about …  

My children. Looking at them, the way they see the world. Also, that we are in a world that is celebrating difference. There’s inclusion happening now that was never there before. I feel that every day and I feel hopeful for my kids in that.  

Contented families are those that see the beauty in the banality, the joy in fleeting moments

What makes me angry …  

The short-sightedness of a [UK] government that doesn’t see the economic benefits of retaining women in the workforce. Unaffordable childcare makes me furious; just knowing that I’ve lived in the Netherlands, where it all worked, and I’m now here in the UK, and they’re saying it’s not possible. Every day I look at my little girls and think: ‘Am I setting you up for a fall? Am I telling you to work hard at your GCSEs and A-levels and maybe go to university, when actually the working world is just going to kick you out as soon as you have a kid?’  

The habit that has served me best in life …  

My ability to see the good in people. I will automatically think the best before the worst until proven otherwise. It’s not easy in the world that we live in right now, but I protect and fiercely fight for that optimism because without it I can’t move forward. It’s the reason I believe I can change things for my little girls.  

The habit I’ve successfully kicked …  

The other side of that optimism and excitability can be having no boundaries, always saying ‘yes’ and people- pleasing. These days, I’ve been kindly and firmly putting up boundaries to protect that optimism, and to not burn out.  

The book I wish everyone would read …  

Love Marriage by Monica Ali is a beautiful book about the weight of pressure to conform, especially within Indian communities, to a system that doesn’t necessarily serve us. All I ever want for my daughters is to question the routes they are potentially walking down.  

I have this theory that …  

The reason maternity discrimination legislation isn’t going through at the rate it should is because the majority of those legislating have wraparound nanny-based childcare. It’s quite hard to see the issue when you’re not living the reality. 

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