When I left my job at a national newspaper to launch an online magazine “for women who happen to be mums”, I did so for various reasons – some of them selfish. The idea of creating a business that enabled me to work while raising my kids, without constantly feeling I was simultaneously letting down my colleagues and my family (as always the first to leave the office but never home in time to read a bedtime story) was pretty appealing.
Not to mention the feeling that having become a mother, I was suddenly infinitely more productive but also fiercely protective of my time, and acutely aware that often it was being wasted, on the commute, on news stories that would sometimes never run, on the inevitable office politics…
Motherland was created as a space for women whose worlds had inevitably shifted by virtue of becoming a parent, but who wouldn’t be wholly defined by that
More accurately, that is why I left my job. The reason I created Motherland was because it was something that, as a new mother, I craved: a space in the media that represented people like me and my friends. Women who had had children but hadn’t surrendered their identity or their minds (at least not long-term); women whose worlds had inevitably shifted by virtue of becoming a parent, but who wouldn’t be wholly defined by that.
So the idea was conceived, in April 2014. A digital platform providing a mix of well-researched, smartly-presented information around but not exclusive to parenthood, led by thoughtful long-form content; a space that presented the stories of real people without being sanctimonious; a space for debate but not judgement. The idea was to create content that appealed not just to people with kids, but to anyone with an interest in the world, in interesting stories and facts and ideas.
Without avoiding controversial subjects, my husband and co-founder Barney Beech and I wanted to raise subjects that hadn’t been discussed before; to inspire new ways of thinking and, ultimately, to challenge traditional ways of speaking to people who have children. A few months later, having gathered a small army of brilliant writer and photographer friends, and a small cash investment, in September 2014, Motherland was born.
Here’s the thing: if I’d known then what I know now, I’m not entirely sure I would have bothered. Coming from a print background, my idea of monetising a magazine was “create something good, get some advertising: Bob’s your uncle”. Anyone with more than 37 seconds’ experience in digital will tell you, it doesn’t work like that.
Balancing meaningful content against the temptation to follow a potentially lucrative click-bait formula – not to mention running the bloody thing, with the multiple pulls of writing, commissioning, editing, accounting, social media, networking, and the rest of it – is a complex business. In fact, finding out how it does work, and creating a brand that not only filled the void we were hoping to fill, but one that was pragmatic and resilient enough to follow other interesting possibilities and pursue other facets to the business, has been part of the fun. Part of what has made the process all the more satisfying.
But anyone who runs their own business will tell you: it’s hard, and regularly unrewarding. Undoubtedly there are countless perks to being your own boss (and working is tough, regardless; though arguably less tough than looking after kids, full-time) but it’s not the answer to a successful work-life balance, at least not in the short-term.
Just as I declared that, having not taken more than a day’s maternity leave since the youngest was born, and beginning to feel not only like a failure as a mother but a failure as a human, I was going to fold the business, a little light started to glisten at the end of the tunnel
So much so that when I found out I was pregnant with my third baby, who was born almost 12 months ago to the day as we celebrated Motherland’s first anniversary, moved house for the third time in as many years, and launched our online store, I cried. “I can’t do it!” became something of a mantra over the following months; just as I declared that, having not taken more than a day’s maternity leave since the youngest was born, and beginning to feel not only like a failure as a mother but a failure as a human, I was going to fold the business, a little light started to glisten at the end of the tunnel.
Fast-forward to today, and it feels almost surreal as we open the doors to our shiny new office in Covent Garden, now home to an amazing team who form our new expanded Motherland family, as we open the next chapter on the (often tumultuous) Motherland journey. While I’ll stay on as Editor-in-Chief, overseeing the editorial direction along with co-founder and Creative Director Barney Beech, Charlotte Rivers will be taking over as Editor, assisted by Helen Longstreth who joins as Editorial Assistant, ready to lead an exciting new swathe of activity launching over the next few months. Heading up our new marketing and collaborations department is Hayley Harrison.
Over the past two years, the most astonishing aspect of the business has been the fiercely loyal, truly wonderful supporters. Not to mention the contributors who have helped us create stories featured across international press from the front page of the Guardian and Stylist magazine to BBC Woman’s Hour, Sunday Times, Time Out and Marie Claire.
Our greatest ambition is to continue to work with and feature great women (and men!) who represent parenthood in its infinite incarnations. So, if you could spare just a couple of moments to let us know what you like about Motherland, and what you’d like to see more of; what’s working for you and what’s not, we’d be so grateful to hear it. Most of all, we want to continue to tell the stories that aren’t always heard. So, if you have a story share, do get in touch.
From paediatrician Dr Sasha Howard’s piece on why breast isn’t always best, to Emma Haines’ account of raising a disabled child – via podcasts, photo-stories on travelling the world as a family, inspiring How I Make it Work series (which is now 24 months old!), we are committed to representing a spectrum of outlooks as diverse and interesting as you are. Our email as always is firstname.lastname@example.org We’d love to hear from you.
Finally, a huge, boundless thank you to all who have been part of the journey so far. It’s been emotional.