Anna Whitehouse shares her life lessons.

Apr 1, 2024 | News

Anna Whitehouse (AKA Mother Pukka) is a journalist and radio presenter who has also become a campaigner. Her Flex Appeal campaign helped bring about UK government legislation that gives workers more flexibility. This week, the legislation will come into effect. Employees can request flexible working on their first day of a new job.

Whitehouse divorced Matt Farquharson in late 2012, and published a book about modern parenting with him called Divide and Conquer. She lives in London, with her daughters, aged seven and eleven.

My morning ritual is …

Chaos. I have two kids, so there are always shoes on, coats and lunches packed. And a ball is dropped. Ziggy, our hamster, sits at the table with us all and eats a cornflake. It’s very simple and calms everyone down. We all start the day off on a good note.

When times get tough, I…

Do top-toe breathing. This is a technique that involves trying to imagine yourself breathing beyond your lungs. You do it 10 times. It calms and centers me.

What makes me sleepless at night?

I’m a good sleeper. It’s just I tend to leave downtime too late, so I end watching Married at First Sight till midnight. I need to decompress but it’s not good for my sleep patterns.

My joy sources are…

When I am walking with my kids towards a London adventure, their hands are firmly pressed into mine.

What is the secret of a happy family life?

There is no such thing as the ‘happy family’, you are just a family that navigates through ups and downs. As parents, we put so much pressure to be a ‘happy’ family that we forget there may be contentment somewhere in the everyday. Families that are contented are those who see the beauty and joy in everyday moments.

I’ve made a big change in my life.

I was so fixated on marriage that we followed this path like lemmings. I’m not saying marriage isn’t great or doesn’t work for people. But there’s another narrative. My ex and I are the happiest since divorcing. It’s stronger and we are better parents now than ever before. We haven’t broken apart, we’ve simply rebuilt.

I feel optimistic about …

My children. I love the way they look at the world. We live in a world where we celebrate difference. Now, inclusion is happening in a way that it never has before. I feel it every day, and I’m hopeful for my children.

A family that is contented is one that finds the beauty and joy in everyday life.

What makes me angry …

The shortsightedness of the [UK] government, which doesn’t understand the economic benefits that come from retaining women in the workplace. Unaffordable childcare is making me angry. I lived in the Netherlands where it worked and now I’m here in the UK and they say it’s impossible. Every day, I think to myself: “Am I setting you girls up for a fall?” Is it fair to tell you to study hard for your GCSEs, A-levels, and perhaps go to university when the real world will just throw you out once you have a child?

The habit I have followed most in my life is…

My ability to see good in people. I will always think the best until proven otherwise. It’s not easy to live in the world we live in today, but I fight to protect and maintain my optimism because I can’t progress without it. It’s why I believe I can make a difference for my daughters.

The habit that I’ve successfully gotten rid of…

The opposite of optimism and excitement can be a lack of boundaries, saying ‘yes” all the time and pleasing everyone. To protect my optimism and not burn out, I have been firmly and kindly putting boundaries in place.

The book that I wish everyone would have read…

Love Marriage, by Monica Ali, is a beautiful novel about the pressures to conform to a system, especially in Indian communities, that does not necessarily serve us. All I want for my daughters to do is question the paths they may be walking down.

The majority of those who are legislating have a wraparound childcare system based on nannies. It’s hard to understand the issue if you don’t live it.

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