Hello a life loved readers, and a very Happy New Year to you! My name is Claire Harwood and I am a thirty nine year old (OMG, only one year to go!) mother of two to Scarlett and Rex, and wife of one to James. I live a busy and happy life on the very beautiful North East Coast of England – a place that I feel will be my forever home.
I’m a work from home Mammy, who launched ‘Harwood and Rose’, my own home-based recruitment business, in May last year. I also have a huge passion for interiors, so at about the same time, I started to document my entrepreneurial skills and passion for house style through my Instagram account @houseofharwoodandrose, and occasionally on my blog too.
So what do I do when I am not recruiting, blogging or taking photos for my Instagram? I am a family woman and a complete home bird, and as sad as it sounds I love nothing more than being with my family, right here in our home. That is one side of me, at least. The other side of me loves to be with my girlfriends. I am a true ‘girls girl’, and there is nothing I love more than getting together with my girls, drinking wine and laughing so hard I can’t breathe, I believe that laughter is the medicine to a very happy and fulfilling life.
I love to write and I write from the heart – my Instagram account and blog is, I guess, the adult version of ‘Dear Diary’. It’s my daily account of life as a Director, mother, wife and interior faffer. My daily accounts of life are always real, honest, funny and from the heart and I love sharing them through Instagram stories. I’m thrilled to be sharing some of what I do and how my life has changed since becoming a self employed Mum here on A Life Loved.
So how did it all start?
Any mother on maternity leave will know how it feels once those first six months are over and you edge ever closer to the date in the diary which states ‘back to work’. I had mixed emotions about it all – some days, I would be full of optimism, excited for the return of routine, and of course excited to be earning a salary and bonus again. Then there would come the days where I would be sat on the sofa with my baby, fighting back the tears, contemplating barricading us all in the house for the rest of our lives.
You see, already being a mother to a then eight year old, I was all too aware of the logistical and emotional turmoil coming my way once I returned to work.
My job at the time was a Recruitment Consultant working in the city centre of Newcastle, I worked in the HR sector and have to admit before I went off on maternity leave, I was genuinely loving my job. I worked for a reputable agency and had a great set of friends there too. At the point I left in May 2016, in my view, I was 100% returning after maternity leave.
But then something happened, in the form of one ‘Rex Joseph Harwood’. He entered our lives and completely stole my heart. Truth be told, I was madly in love with this very hairy bundle of chubbiness, and in turn, the thought of the full time recruitment job in the city was no longer floating my boat.
I loved every second of maternity leave – I genuinely did. Living at the coast was truly wonderful, and Rex and I would spend our days hanging out together at the beach, and drinking coffee at the countless fabulous coffee spots we are so lucky to have peppered about our door step. Rex and I were famous around Tynemouth, and this was all down to his hair – a huge mop he was blessed with at birth. ‘Ahhh, you are the lady with the baby with the hair!’, people would say, ‘bet you had raging heartburn!’….
To be fair, they weren’t wrong 🙂 My heartburn was horrendous! Gosh, I could swig a bottle of Gaviscon right now just thinking about it. So yeah, maternity leave – I was absolutely loving life as it unfolded. However, like all the good things in life, it was coming to an end.
Reality kicks in
As the reality started sinking in, I frequently found myself sitting with my phone typing ‘work from home jobs for mums’ into Google – a desperate attempt to seek a solution to my problem. But nothing ever jumped out. Then, you start thinking of the reality of life once this dream is over. Whilst on maternity leave my only ‘must do’ task was to get my eight year old daughter Scarlett to school each morning by 9am, though the stress of this task some mornings was on another level! ‘Mammy, I have no clean knickers……or socks!’ I would hear regularly, to which my husband would often pipe up at this point ‘I’ve got no clean kegs either Scarlett!’.
It’s no secret in our family that I can’t keep on top of the washing. Actually, the washing is a daily struggle, and no matter how often I smugly feel ‘Claire you’ve got this shit!’ as I stare into my empty basket, within a day, its bursting at the seams again. I mean, HOW?
I would often think, how on earth am I going to get Scarlett to school, Rex to nursery, keep a regular check on the kegs and knickers and hold down a full time job?!? However with no amazing career for a stay at home mam jumping out at me from Google, I accepted my fate that I would be returning to work. And that was that.
Then one morning in February last year, an old friend of mine asked to meet for a coffee. That particular morning coffee was to be the start of something so special, a coffee that would change my own life and that of my family too. I love coffee, always have, always will – but that coffee in particular is the most memorable in my life so far. It gave me an idea that was to change our lives forever.
I left the coffee shop like an over excited teenager and rang my husband who was away with work and basically just blurted it all out. I told him there was a gap in the market for recruitment into recruitment, and this is something I could do from home, on my own, and it would allow me to be a mammy as well. First question were costs. You see, my husband is the logical thinker in our relationship – he has the business brain. I tend to think with my heart. To me, this opportunity would mean I could be there for the kids, so really, nothing else mattered! But my husband likes to see things written down. He’s the type of man who needs to see a pie chart, and if the numbers stack up, then he’s happy.
Thankfully after a full day of facts figure and brain storming, he agreed this was a fantastic idea and told me to go for it.
Is there ever a good time?
This is the point where I thought, HOLY CRAP! ME! Claire Harwood – a Director?! This thought would fill me with so much excitement one second, and then in the next breath, I’d be absolutely bricking it.
I started telling people my plans, and most were delighted for me, offering reassuring words such as, ‘if anyone can do this, you can Claire!’, and, ‘you were made to do something like this, you’ll be such a success!’ – so encouraging. I mean of course you will always get your Negative Nancy’s, however I didn’t let them dampen my spirits. I was focused and on a high. I believed in myself, and my husband believed in me too – so that to me was all that really mattered.
People would so often, and still do say that I’m so brave. Sure, there is a level of bravery to go off and do this, but for me timing was absolutely key. You see, had I been back to work, earning a salary and earning bonus would I have been so open to risk and change?
In answer to the question ‘Is there ever a good time? For me and my family, yes there is. I was on maternity leave earning a fraction of my usual monthly income, so yes I do believe that being in that space at that time helped assist in my brave decision.
I am sure you can imagine the excitement – Claire Harwood interior obsessed home bird, is going to be working from home! But first things first – before I even registered the business at Companies House, I wanted to create my work area. Priorities and all of that!
Whilst my husband questioned my logic in this, I absolutely stand by the fact, that creating that space at home for work, is critical to your daily motivation and success, and of course the shiny new desk from made.com made me smile wide.
So I have my new work area, what next? I’ll be sharing that in Part 2, ‘Setting up your own business and creating a blog!’.