Laura Riley & Jane Grove, Founders of Little Clogs Holidays

#MoreThanAMutha is all about celebrating the things that women are, as well as being amazing mothers.  In a world where many women feel like they lose their identity when they become a mum, it is important to celebrate and shout that we might be mums, but we are not only that and we are still a force to be reckoned with.

What makes you more than a mother? 

We run Little Clogs Holidays, a new baby and toddler holiday provider focusing solely on Holland and Belgium. We have half Belgian and half Dutch children respectively and have spent a lot of time there on holiday. Not many people think to go there or know about the amazing beaches, woodlands and toddler friendly days out. Not to mention they’re some of the most child-friendly countries in Europe! Laura worked for Eurocamp for over 15 years travelling around Europe negotiating campsite contracts and having had her children in fairly quick succession (Amelie is 3 and a half and Jonas is 2) decided she couldn’t do that job anymore. There was no way she wanted to be away from her young children for half of the summer. Jane has 3 children and lives in Amsterdam and works part time in education. She lives and breathes the Dutch culture and enjoys living in a country where children are said to be the happiest in the world! Best friends for over 20 years we always wanted to find a business idea, something we could do together and when we realised that there was a gap in the market for baby and toddler holidays to Holland and Belgium we decided to do something about it and set up Little Clogs!

Are people surprised when they realise you are more than a mum? Does that bother you?

So far people have been really enthusiastic and supportive when they find out what we do beyond being a mother. Taking the plunge into a business we are both passionate about really ignites our motivation to push forward. We both love being mums and are used to living busy lives and think we are actually motivated by having lots of plates to spin! We’ve always been ambitious in our careers but neither of us have ever been what you’d call ruthless career women chasing to get to the top. We’ve always wanted and needed a challenge but also a creative outlet. We actually love it when people realise we are more than mothers and love talking about our new venture and what we’ve created. We’re both quite similar personality-wise in that we overthink everything and want everything to be perfect and give ourselves a hard time when it isn’t!

What challenges do you face when you’re juggling motherhood and being more than a mum?

Clearly it’s not easy to fit everything in and still have quality time for ourselves and with our partners. It’s harder for Jane as she juggles a day job as well as dedicating time to Little Clogs and so has to work evenings and weekends which has meant a lot of very late nights while we were setting it up and building the website. Laura’s children are in nursery 2 days a week, so these are dedicated “work days” although obviously it slips into family time too especially if we get customer enquiries in the evenings. Being quite impatient ourselves we don’t like to keep people waiting! Living in different countries we do find that we
spend most of our time on our phones messaging each other in the evenings, excited by our ideas, our visions and our plans. Running your own business, it is definitely not easy splitting work and family life.

The beauty of Little Clogs is that it is a job that fits around motherhood. Not only are we able to advise and recommend lots of baby and toddler friendly places to go but having a business we’ve created ourselves and on our own terms will mean we can be present in the everyday things that happen in our children’s lives. We recognise that it’s not always possible to have this balance so this is our aim, to create this for ourselves: to work when our children are at school and to be wholly present when they are at home.

How long did it take you to remember you were more than a mother after you had your child(ren)?

It didn’t take too long. Laura had her children “late” at 38 and then 39 and until then was always very focused on her career so actually really enjoyed taking a full year off both times and re-evaluating her life and what she wanted to do. It wasn’t until Jonas started nursery last May that Laura was able to have some proper “head space” (apart from the hour off here and there during the day when you can’t really think of anything outside being a mother) to think about what she wanted to do. She did have a burning desire to set up her own business and just needed an idea! This idea came a month or so later when researching toddler holiday options, being uninspired by the usual Mediterranean destinations. It was after a seaside holiday to the Belgian coast in the August that the idea for Little Clogs was born. It’s easy to get lost in motherhood and forget all your employable qualities and to take that risk that your business will be a successful one. Once our children were born the drive to provide and protect is ever present but also it’s important to remember you’re more than just a mother.

Sometimes it just takes a bit of time to have the brain space to be able to tap into it!

Who, or what, helps you to make time for yourself? What do you do to escape the stresses of motherhood?

We both have very supportive partners who understand our passion for our business and who are very involved fathers. Laura loves running and it’s something she forced herself to find time for again after having children. Running is great as a way of disconnecting and also to have another thing to focus on. Quite a lot of Little Clogs ideas are born during Laura’s weekly 10k runs! Despite having 3 children and lots of different things to balance, Jane is very good at  compartmentalising her life, for example family only on Saturday and then work on Sunday. Clearly the 2 do overlap but sometimes in a nice way too like a recent blogging trip to Efteling where Jane was able to take her family for a weekend. Jane is a swimmer and can find the thinking time she needs while swimming lengths in the pool. Living by the beach in Holland means she can easily escape to calmer surroundings if things all get a bit much! And just being outdoors as a family and watching the children play is always a stress buster. We also get a lot of comfort, energy and motivation from our friendship. On the rare occasion we can enjoy time together in the same country we always end up fitting about a year’s worth of conversations into a few hours!

What advice would you offer a mum who might not be feeling like they are more than someones mum right now?

Firstly everything feels doable when you’ve had a decent night’s sleep! In the early days just enjoy and focus on the now and whilst it’s good to be able to ask people for advice and pick up tips along the way it’s also really not good to get involved in competitive conversations about what your children should be doing by now. And avoid cliquey mums!  If you have a burning desire to do something new then that will always be there once you come up for air and giving that part of your brain a bit of a rest to rejuvenate is certainly not a bad thing. Once you have some head space your idea will come to you and then your fire will help drive that along. We think it is important to be good role models for our children and for them to see us push ourselves to strive for our goals. We want our children to know that being happy in what you do is just as important as being good at it and this is why we have chosen to take a new path which incorporates all of these things.

Any advice for someone who is going through the same things as you are right now in their quest to be #MoreThanAMutha?

Never worry that you’re not good enough or that someone else might be able to do it better. The fact you’re thinking about embarking on something is exciting!! We didn’t know anything about digital marketing or building websites before we started Little Clogs. It actually feels good to be learning new skills too. Don’t forget about the skills and experience you already have too which you might take for granted. Go to networking events for women business owners. You get so much good advice and good contacts. Laura went to several winging it workshops (wingingitclub.com) in Hale and was inspired by panels of women telling their stories of setting up their own business. Everyone starts with an idea, no-one has it all sorted despite how that might appear from the outside. Do your research, find out if there is anything like it out there already, think about your market and just go for it. From 2 mothers who spend far too much time\ overthinking things at times it may seem counter-intuitive to say but you do just have to take a leap.

Start small but keep your dreams big. If you want it badly enough you can make it happen.

Who would you like to see featured next in the #MoreThanAMutha series?

We are truly inspired by our friend Helen Watts who runs a successful language school in the French Alps (Alpine French School) which she set up alongside looking after her 2 young children. Setting up a new business is one thing but doing it in another country with all the bureaucracy which comes along with it is another.

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