Today I will be interviewing Mandy From Pregnant in Cape Town a stay at home mommy, writer and editor. Mandy shares her current journey through motherhood, the inspiration behind her series Supermommies, her gorgeous Charly and tips for other mommy bloggers.
Get comfortable, make a cup of guilt free hot chocolate and enjoy!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself & your family:
I am 33 years old, married to the love of my life, Brett, for 2 years, together for 9 years. We were married on our 7 year anniversary because we decided we wanted to start a family.
Because I was on birth control for so long, I was told it would likely take months and possibly years to fall pregnant. I took my last pill in Los Angeles, the last week we were on honeymoon and we found out we were pregnant about 2 weeks later. The rest, as they say, is history… And it can all be found on my blog 🙂
I live in the southern suburbs of Cape Town with hubby, our gorgeous 17 month old daughter Charlotte Rose (Charly) and our two cats, Trigger and Gizmo. I work from home as a writer and editor. I write journal columns, blog posts, thought leadership articles and case studies for businesses; and I proofread and edit books, marketing material, theses, and general content when I feel I have the capacity. (LinkedIn profile)
I am very close to my parents and sister, and I’m incredibly blessed to be able to hire my mom to look after Charly at home with me 4 days a week. This means I get some time to work and my mom doesn’t have to go out and find an office job.
How old is your little one?
She is just 17 months; 18 months on 10 August
Did you have a difficult /easy pregnancy?
It’s a matter of perspective I believe. I really struggled with my pregnancy, but I was never considered at risk or hospitalised.
I suffered from chronic reflux from the time I was 4 weeks pregnant and only discovered medication to help at 8 months pregnant(http://pregnantincapetown.co.za/pregnancy-paranoia-darkness-3-lights/). I also really struggled with awful nausea and fatigue til around 15 weeks, though I only threw up a handful of times. I retained loads of water and suffered from headaches.
I drank around 4 litres of water a day to try help with everything, to no avail. All it did was make me pee around 100 times a day; that is likely not even an exaggeration, as for a week I used earbuds to count the number of times I got up to pee and was averaging 12-13 times a night by the third trimester.
I had a bleeding scare at 22 weeks and was beyond terrified, but it was thankfully nothing and I was put on bed rest for a few days to be safe. You can read more about it here.
The worst part of pregnancy for me, and the part that makes me afraid to try again, is the extreme joint pain I suffered. I already had joint issues before pregnancy and the relaxin made everything worse. I had severe carpal tunnel, which really sucked considering I was working on a laptop all day every day to try get all my client work done and to keep up on the blog. Outside of the pain, by the last trimester I would wake up every morning with all my fingers dislocated and had to pop them back in before starting my day. It could have been worse, my major joints could have gone and that was the biggest fear I had. But it was awful and I still get a nauseous feeling in my tummy when I think about it.
The weird part is in retrospect I loved the feeling of being pregnant; I loved that I was never alone, I loved my belly and I bonded strongly with Charly, I loved feeling her moving inside of me even when it was really uncomfortable or painful.
When did you start blogging?
I started Pregnant in Cape Town in July 2013 when I was 8 weeks pregnant. I had resigned from my job a few days after I found out I was pregnant, because I was in a very high pressure environment and I was afraid it would harm my baby. I was a writer and I wanted to write about my pregnancy, and mostly to share with other mommies-to-be so that they felt less alone
Has your blog’s focus changed this Charly was born?
When I was pregnant the blog was all about honestly sharing my journey through pregnancy, with no rose-coloured glasses, as I feel that the lack of honesty about pregnancy leaves women feeling like there is something wrong with them when it isn’t what they expect.
Once Charly was born, the content changed, but the mission remained the same – honesty to prevent mommies from feeling as if they were doing something wrong. Things aren’t all shiny and happy and very very few mommies become instantly-thin, perfectly dressed, all knowing mommies and homemakers a few minutes after popping out their precious bundle.
At the beginning of 2015 I got a bee in my bonnet. I was being approached by a lot of amazing services and brands wanting to work with me to share things with my readers, and I didn’t believe my blog’s set up was conducive to it. So I revamped completely. Check it out here.
I was also going through a personal reawakening, wanting to use my writing skills for myself and other mommies more than just for clients. It’s all fine and well that my writing has appeared in top tier media, but it is all in my clients’ names. I wanted something for me.
I wanted to be able to offer my mommy community more. I love being able to share my personal experiences and learnings; but I also love to give away gorgeous things. I love being able to support and share local businesses, particularly those owned by other moms. (PiCT giveaways)
My current passion and focus is sharing other mommies stories; it is one of my original goals of the blog that fell away when I was faced with the reality of the time investment it would take while being pregnant and working on my own business. It has a few sides for me – the first is sharing the incredible stories of others; the second is allowing me to offer yet further stories to my mommy readers to once again show that they are not alone no matter what they are facing; and lastly, it allows me to really stretch my interview and writing skills to put together stories that can make a real difference to people. pregnantincapetown.co.za/category/interviews/
Tell us about your little one?
Charly is amazing. She is frighteningly smart, able to follow complex instructions and with a vocab of around 150 words already. She is incredibly active and athletic, with incredible co-ordination and ball handling skills. She is hilarious, she has figured out how to make people laugh and loves to practice it. She has such a huge personality, and knows exactly what she wants and she had the determination to make sure she gets it. This has become a lot easier for her now that she can use her words to boss us all around, with her latest addition being “No! This way” with finger pointing and a firm nudge to get us to go where she needs us to :’D
She loves books and colouring in and Mickey Mouse Club. She loves music, singing and dancing and showing off by doing all the actions to all the songs she knows. She is obsessed with dogs, even though she does love her cats. She can be incredibly charming and is very loving and affectionate.
She loves other children and has a handful of favourite adults; she is adored everywhere she goes and everybody from the Spar staff to the pharmacy staff to the people in our complex call her “their” baby. And she is beautiful; so very very beautiful.
She can also be a little terror and is a little too comfortable using her many charms to get exactly what she wants. She never stops moving and looking for new ways to scare me half to death, climbing tables and chairs, swinging on curtains and spinning in circles with her eyes firmly closed. And she doesn’t sleep.
How to do manage to balance work, home, wife, mom?
I live an incredibly spoilt life and I still struggle. At this point Charly always comes first, so that part is the easiest. My husband is great, he does all the shopping, the cooking and most of the dishes; which frees me up hugely to focus on Charly. He is also a huge fan of my writing and believes in me completely, so he is very supportive of me working on my blog.
Having my mom here to entertain Charly 4 days a week is amazing. She plays with her, teaches her, takes her for walks and generally keeps her busy from around 9-11, when I work on my PiCT writing. Then I stop to go breastfeed Charly and get her down for her nap. I try to work on my phone while she sleeps; she wakes if I try to leave.
I then make lunch for myself, my mom and Charly and then tag my mom back in around 1:30, so I can go back to work til 3:30 when she leaves. At least that is the theory. As I said, Charly comes first, so she generally comes to spend time with me throughout the day; when she wants her mommy, her mommy is ALWAYS there for her. And with writing and research and editing, it can be really difficult to get the focused, uninterrupted time I need to do things.
Brett gets home around 4:45 and starts cooking while we chat and I keep an eye on Charly; and then dinner and after is family time. Charly goes down around 7:30 and I either keep working on my phone in bed (we co-sleep in her room) or go spend some alone time with Brett.
I haven’t got the balance right yet, but it is getting a little easier the older Charly gets.
I also realised that as somebody who works for myself, my time is literally money; so I use money as a tool to save me time. I use a laundromat for all the washing, drying and ironing; I have an amazing cleaning lady once a week to do the heavy cleaning; I occasionally pay my mom a little extra so Brett and I can have a date day; I pay for an Uber taxi to go most places so I can use the time I would have wasted driving to work and I do 90% of my shopping online.
What was the main influence behind your new Supermommies series? Tell us more.
I know some incredible mommies who have been through some horrifying experiences, and they have handled everything with such calm, grace and positivity. I ugly cry for hours some days because Charly is teething and her usual 8 wake ups turn into 12. They inspire me to be better on all levels.
And they are unaware of how amazing they are. I really wanted to take their stories, which they don’t see their own strength in, and write it the way I’ve witnessed it. To get them to see themselves as the Supermommies they are.
And then there’s my core goal for PiCT; sharing truth to make other mommies feel less alone. I am hoping this series can reach as many mommies as possible to achieve that goal.
I also hope that it might in some way ease a bit of the mommy wars and the endless judgement we tend to dish out and receive almost daily. Looking at these mommies and their families from the outside, they seem “perfect” and “lucky” and that too often inspires jealousy and baseless assumptions; I am hoping that a glimpse into the very real and very difficult journeys might cause someone to pause before going there next time.
Has blogging created any work opportunities for you?
Considering my job is writing, the answer is yes. I am writing for a few online publications and my reviews are also work for me. I also have some very big plans in the works for my series’.
Financially, it isn’t even close to the money I make in my client work though; which is ironic considering it is almost exactly the same thing. I literally make 14 times as much to do a client review or product release as I do for a review and giveaway on my blog – which is usually a lot more work. Hopefully one day soon that massive gap will close and I will be able to make more of my living from following my personal passions.
What is your secret to achieving a successful blog and how would you describe success?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I became a little obsessed with the numbers for a while; feeling I could only be “successful” if my audience was in the 10s of thousands. And then I realised something; success is relative to your goal.
My goal for PiCT is to reach out to other mommies so that they feel less alone. I receive messages and mails from all over the world telling me that I have made a difference to their life even if only in that one message – that is HUGE for me. Since I redid my blog just over 2 months ago, my readership has grown from an average of 400 readers a month to around 4000 a month – that is 4000 people reading my words and the stories I’m sharing, 4000 people who feel that tiny bit less alone. It means I am absolutely achieving my goal and therefore it is a success.
And there isn’t any secret in that for me – I am doing what I love; I am being true to myself and my promise to my readers; I respond to every message and email personally and in full the same day I receive it; and I am pouring my soul and my time into making sure everything I do is given all the love and attention it deserves.
As a new blogger, I would love to know how to approach PR companies and how to get invited to events? What is required?
I really don’t know how I made it into those lists; likely a dedicated PR person researched mommy blogs and somehow stumbled across me. I’m sure they consider a number of things, but their main criteria will likely be numbers and reach – that is sadly too often all their clients want to know.
What you can do though is research who does the PR for brands you like; send them an introduction to your blog, give your experience and any numbers you are comfortable sharing. As a PR, your media list is your bible; and if you aren’t on it, you don’t exist. So just ask to be added 🙂
Please share some / one of your favourite mommy moments with Charly.
My favourite moments with Charly are usually when we are snuggled up and she is breastfeeding. She stares up at me and strokes my face and my hair and I could die absolutely happy in those moments of stillness and perfection.
The co-sleeping also has some very precious moments, even though she wakes non stop all night. She holds my hand in her sleep, she searches for me and snuggles into me; the other night she actually sat up, bent over and kissed me and then lay back down – all in her sleep!
Reading with her is also very special to me. I am a total book nerd and I love that my kid is leaning that way too; with a little less of the nerd since she likes to be running around being active a lot more than I do 😀
Do you have any advice to other new mommies and mommy bloggers?
Be open and honest about how you are feeling and you will never be alone. Pretending that everything is roses won’t do you or your baby any good. If you need help – ask for it! (for mommies and mommy bloggers)
Be gentle with yourself physically and emotionally. I promise you nobody expects you to be housecleaning, cooking gourmet meals and in full makeup. Stay put in your bed with your baby – especially in this miserable weather! Let everybody who is dying to help come in and do all the cooking and cleaning for you. (mommies)
Treat the first three months like a fourth trimester – yes, I am aware that tri means three, but still! It takes baby a while to adjust to being in the world and not in the womb. All your baby wants is to be snuggled up with you, fed, loved and changed. Too much of anything can be overstimulating for them and they will cry… a lot. (mommies)
Be true to yourself; understand your goal for your blog and stick to it. Even if you do reviews and sponsored posts, don’t lose your own voice or you will lose your readers. If you say you want people to get in touch; respond to them – all of them, in full and in person. Be as honest as you know how, people can sense sincerity, and the lack thereof. (bloggers)
Understand your strengths and your weaknesses. You are a blogger. You do not have to be a writer to be a blogger, and claiming to be one when your writing says otherwise is shooting yourself in the foot. If your strength is in your knowledge, share that and focus on that. If your strength is in your experience, share that and focus on that. If your strength is in connecting with people or connecting people – share that and focus on that. Very few people can be all things. If you are true to who you are, you can sell that to anyone you want and they cannot argue with you. (bloggers)
Thank you Mandy for sharing your amazing journey and leaving us with lots of valuable advice. You truly are an inspiration to many and I know that your Supermommie series will empower and uplift many other mommies who have gone through similar experiences.
Share Mandy’s journey with your friends and family and visit Pregnant in Cape Town and send some love!