I was introduced to Clemmie by Anna, aka @mother_pukka, but I first saw her speak at a Mothers Meeting session on using social media to drive your business. A creative at an advertising agency, Clemmie has forged a unique presence in the curated world of Instagram as Peckham Mamma, and writing her blog Mother of all Lists, an authentic and honest account of motherhood. Her transparent approach has gained her a large following, but it is only now that she's managing to work out where the worlds of blogging and creative work collide, and what her next steps are, so we caught up at an interesting point in her journey.
Tell us about what you’re doing now and your journey to date?
I am a creative in an advertising agency, Grey London, and I've been doing that for about 10 years. I went to university and did cultural studies, drama and media, and then a postgrad in advertising. Up until the point I had kids, it was pretty much my dream job. I got to come up with ideas and strategy, create TV ads (this was before digital), travel and meet interesting people.
With my first son I had 9 months off and went back to work, but I knew I was going to get pregnant again quite quickly, which I did, within a year. When they're a year old there is this beautiful time where they aren't toddlers yet, but they are feeding and sleeping, and you think, "this is it, I've got it!” I got pregnant - and I look back now and I don't know what we were thinking, but we did it anyway.
On that maternity leave I wasn't freaking out so much about the baby bit and I could enjoy it, so therefore quite quickly the creative side of my brain got working. I started going to Mothers Meetings, and there was this zeitgeist moment where all of us - Steph (@steph_dontbuyherflowers), Zoe (@dresslikeamum), and Anna (@mother_pukka) were all going through the same things, and a couple of them started blogging. I'm a writer, so they were saying 'why don't you blog'? I thought there were too many people out there, and I couldn't be a new voice doing it.
But lo and behold I put a few Instagram pictures up there. I think that my journey has been quite different. I don't compose my shots, and it's a very honest approach. For me the interesting thing was that it was such a different process to what I was used to at work. We could have an idea at work and it might take six months or a year before it could get out of the door. I loved the speed of social media - you post it, it's gone and you get an immediate reaction.
When I went back to work, I realised that everything I'd been doing on that second maternity leave; the women I'd been meeting and the content I'd been putting out there; completely applied to my day job. What I'd enjoyed about blogging was being able to empower women, in particular, empowering mothers to be ok with the reality of parenting. I started using that same honesty in the workplace. After my first maternity, I didn't talk about being a mum, but now it's brought up in almost every single meeting. I'm a mum and therefore I know about who we target. People might be great in the workplace, but can be so far removed from who we're trying to reach. I'd love to know who they think a mum is at work, because it doesn't add up to the mums I know on Instagram, or even to me. There is an amazing, fashionable, empowered group of mums to reach, if you can get brands to understand them.
In the creative department there are only 3% women and even less who are mums, so I've started organising lunches and dinners for mums who are creatives. They're beginning to reflect the same model as Mothers Meetings; bringing women together that go on to naturally support each other. We've met a couple of times. Everyone arrives at breaking point and leaves feeling uplifted.
That's the part that I really love, and I guess I'm trying to make my working job be as much of the stuff that I care about and less of the stuff that I don't.
When I saw you talk on the Mother Meeting social media panel, you said that your blog wasn't a business, but it feels like you've started doing more brand partnerships. Where has it evolved to and how has that happened?
It's been really organic, I don't know how it happened really. I've been blogging for myself, but I've also been interested in how social media works, so it's kind of been an experiment as well.
I have consciously networked through it, mainly because I've found someone I'm interested in and then because the blog has a guest list feature, so people have come to me as well.
I've been approached by more and more brands. That side comes easily to me, in terms of being sent a brief for a blog post and understanding how to respond. Because I have an authentic approach, I've never tried to pretend that when I've been sent something I like it, even if I don't.
It's really interesting though, I've surrounded myself by girls who are huge on Instagram now, but because I haven't given up work to do the blog, although it has gone well, it hasn't in comparison to theirs. If I gave up work and put everything I know from work into the blog, I could be much bigger. But it's the same thing with my career; I've ended up in this divided space.
It's been a hard year of trying to work out what I want to do. When work goes badly I think I'll give it up and focus on blogging, and when work goes well, I think 'why am I blogging, work should be my thing'.
Where do you want your work to get to?
I have a big life goal to start a family friendly retreat, focused at people like me. People work in industries that are exhausting, and then they have families and they want the weekend to be an escape. Somewhere 2-2 1/2 hours from London, where you can just pack up and go. It's not a focus on being holistic, but just a nice place you can go to.
That's the action plan at the moment. We've got equity in our house, and we're looking at areas outside Bristol this weekend. I'll probably get a job in Bristol and roll it out slowly, buying a house with an annexe. It was a light bulb moment for me, that what I had been doing through my Instagram was building a profile and a network of people that I can bring in, whether it's pop up dinners, or shoots, or weekends for mums.
That's the life plan - it's scary though! I thought I'd be at the top of my industry and part of me does want to do that, but I'm really split as to why I want to do it. Is it to prove something to someone else, or is it the thing that I love? Ultimately I'm driven by being surrounded by interesting people and being creative, which I have got from work, but I don't know that I can do it long term.
Bertie (my oldest) starts school next September, which drives decisions around where you want to live, and what you want to do. I've got 2 boys, but we don't have a big enough garden. We've got a nice house and clothes on our back and you end up thinking 'what are we striving for?' I know I'm being underpaid at work, so you start to think about changing the balance.
How long did it take you to feel like you’d made progress with the blog?
When a brand (Not on the High Street) first emailed me and asked me what my rate card was. They worked with a lot of the 'Instamums'. It was fascinating because they briefed in a really open way and it worked really well. It made me realise that I was doing something that somebody sees value in.
Around that time I wrote a piece about suffering from anxiety and I got loads of women emailing me saying 'I've gone to the doctors, you've changed my life'. You realise that this is important. I'm naturally an over sharer, but it's amazing when people are thanking you for being really honest.
You're exposing a lot of your life, and it's a big commitment, trying to juggle work as well as blogging and you can question 'why am I doing this?'. You just need one of those moments to realise that it's really great.
That's at the centre of everything - empowering women. Motherhood is hard and you have to try and stay sane through it. People are really tough on themselves and they don't see the humour in it. You have to laugh your way through.
What do you find difficult about managing multiple jobs?
Time management is the biggest thing, and remembering that all of this is to better focus on my boys, so the thing I don't want to compromise is them.
It's really surprising that advertising isn't more flexible and open-minded when it comes to working in a different way, as it has the business model where it could be?
I know - I don't want to have to justify why I'm not going to work at weekends for example - but then you don't get put on pitches, or on international business, and bit by bit it damages your career, and you just have to sit with that. Part of me wants to stay in it to prove the point, and to bang the drum for women, but then part of me thinks, this is really hard.
Bertie starting school has really drawn a line in the sand. He'll be finishing at 3.30pm and in my job; I'm never going to be able to leave then to pick him up.
What makes you feel good / powerful?
Hitting on a truth, both in blogging and in my day job. So often I put something random on the blog, asking if this has happened to anyone else, and it always has. That's the same at work, being able to get to a human truth. Meeting interesting people is also great, particularly inspirational women.
What drives you, your legacy, or enjoying the moment?
Naturally it's the legacy, but I want to bring it closer to enjoying the moment, as that is the crux of everything. I saw a life coach who asked me where I wanted to be in 5 years and we talked about getting to that point. You have to activate it now; otherwise life slips away from you. Legacy is what other people think about you, but it should really be about what makes you happy. It's a hard journey to go on.
How do you define success now?
The point that I want to get to now is a life with a lack of stress. In advertising and all of those media jobs it can be hard to differentiate between what feels like excitement and stress. The agency culture is 'now now now'. I want a life that doesn't feel like that.
How do you start your day?
I'm in early, which is the plus of being a mum versus the rest of the employees. Some people still start at 10, and I start around 8, which means I manage to get stuff done before the rest of them. I'm super efficient and work fast, and get my head down as much as possible. It's important to have conversations with people and I do a lot of networking, even within my own company. I get out of the door at 5, and I keep an eye on my email in the evening. If it helps me I'll reply, but because of that early block, I can reply then.
What would you tell your kids about working out what they want to do in life?
To do what makes them happy, and what they love and then you never have to work a day in your life. Hopefully for our kids generation there won't be the same expectations from parents in terms of going to university and having a high-flying job being the only route.
What's the single best piece of advice you’ve been given along your journey?
To trust the process. Sometimes I've been desperate to plot out a direction, but you have to trust where things are going and let them roll out. Follow your nose, see what comes your way and hope that one day it all comes together, the stars will align and you'll be happy!