Thea is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Habit Box, which provides gifts that inspires happy habits!
What do you do?
I’m a full-time mum to 3 children, Harvey (13), Jasmine (11) and Zach (8), and up until this summer was trying to keep myself sane with various fledgling businesses on the side! I am a life coach – specialising in happiness, compassion and mindfulness and feel my passion and purpose is around helping women and children deal with their emotions, and encourage self-compassion skills.
I only realised a couple of years ago that I am creative, and so one of my business ideas The Habit Box incorporates my coaching skills with my love of stationary, writing, creating and inspiring happiness habits. It’s on hold at the moment – this transition thing takes up a lot of energy and headspace – but I would love to continue building it next year.
Give us the big “why” you do what you do?
I’ve always known I wanted to have children, so they are my priority – but it has been life changing and incredibly challenging for me. Most of my motivation for self-development, self-awareness and emotional intelligence has been so I can be a better mother to my children.
I have a strong need to help other mothers and children learn to deal with their emotions as I’ve had to. I want to end my life on this earth, knowing that I made a difference to the lives of other families, and perhaps even changed the way we think about and value compassion in Western society.
Give us a daily routine of your normal day.
I wake up at 6am when my husband brings me a cup of tea before he sets off to work. I then read in bed or write my morning pages. At 7 I wake the kids up and we leave for school at 8. These days it’s mainly calm….but it hasn’t always been so.
These days I come back and snuggle down in my safe place at the desk in my bedroom. It is my Grandma’s old desk and I light a candle, put on relaxing music and write. There are always a million and one things to do each day so I try my best to juggle those. Housework, admin, stuff for the kids, correspondence, Lead the Change sessions and study. I’m learning to nourish myself too so that I have enough energy for the challenging part of my day – after school.
Managing demands, homework, tea, spending time with the kids, bedtimes – it’s my most challenging time as I don’t really have a routine, and it’s where 3 loud personalities are mixing in with mine, and I find it difficult to create a harmonious home during these times when I’m at my most tired. My husband is home late most evenings, so I don’t have him around to support me, or to spend time with either. This is something we’re aware of and hoping to change next year.
My bedtime is 10pm, although I’ve had a bad habit of going on my ipad until 10.30 ish. This week I’ve not allowed myself too and I’m trying to get to bed between 9.30 and 10 because I’m such a light sleeper and lack of sleep has such a big impact on how I perform the next day. Basically it’s as simple as lots of sleep = lovely, fun, light-hearted mummy. Less sleep = grumpy, no-fun mummy.
How do you feel about women’s “lot” these days?
I have a lot of resentment about my ‘lot’ these days because I’m the woman, the mum, the wife, having to manage the family and create more meaning and/or career for myself at the same time. This is because I’m beginning to understand that while I’m choosing to sacrifice certain things for my family, I’m also not setting limits and boundaries on things that I need, and then getting angry and resentful when I don’t get what I need! But how can I get what I need if I don’t ask for it? So I’m working on that at the moment.
I’ve always felt, and especially since having children, that it’s very difficult for mums having to choose between work and children, or juggling them both in a world where they are expected to be as perfect as if each was a full time job. The opportunities for women to make an impact working part time are limited too – based on the misguided belief that time in the office is what makes someone valuable. Also, I think many men are realizing too, that the gender divide over childcare is not entirely suiting them either.
I hate admin, find it boring and it drains my energy. If I could have a personal pa who came into my house every morning to sort my emails, school letters, shopping, correspondence, paperwork, etc. I would have soooo much more energy for things that nourish me and are important to me and actually make a difference to others too. It feels like I’m wasting time being bogged down in all the boring day-to-day survival stuff that I’m not getting out and making a contribution to the world – other than bringing up compassionate children.
How does femininity and Soft Power feature in your business/ career? What does it look like?
I’m a happiness coach, so within my coaching ‘softer’ skills which are seen as more feminine play a strong role. But in a business sense I’ve actually been paralysed by not knowing how to ‘be’ in the marketplace. I have rebelled against the more masculine ways of doing business but have not known how else to be. So I’ve either pushed at success using methods I didn’t really believe in, or done nothing because I couldn’t find any way that felt right.
What is the most common emotion you feel as a woman on a day-to day basis?
Mmm, a difficult one. Probably overwhelm that I have too much to do? Is that an emotion? It’s probably a low level fear actually. God, that’s depressing, but probably true. A low level fear that I’ve forgotten to do something, that something will go wrong (i.e. the kids argue and someone including me might get upset), that I’m not making my mark in life, that I’m not living with integrity. Obviously there are lots of moments of joy, and peace and flow, and gratitude too, mixed in with the fear!
Do you think you people around you understand who your authentically are?
I think some of my closer friends or people I interact most with on Facebook definitely see more of my authentic side. And when I write blogs and release those – they are definitely open and honest about me. But generally, if I was posting for business, they would be less authentic I think (this is in the past as I’m not working at the moment). I am already learning to be moremyself with the Lead the Change programme – or I should rephrase that: I am learning so much more about myself from the Lead the Change programme that my armour that I use to protect my authentic self is softening and falling off so that my authentic self comes out more easily. When I start my business up again I would like to bring more of me to my business and my marketing.
How important do you think vulnerability is in life and career?
Vulnerability is essential in life and career – I’ve always intuitively known this because I’m a very open person and use this naturally as a way to connect with people, but in the big male world of business, I’ve not been willing or comfortable to show my vulnerability.
What do you do for SoftPlay? How do you look after yourself?
I like going to stretch classes at the health club I’m a member of, plus swimming. Although I don’t really like swimming for long, I just like the peacefulness of it. This year I’ve had my first manicure and gel polish and I’m enjoying those. I went ice-skating once and am toying with the idea of having lessons after Christmas. I want to go and see the sea for my soft-play as that feels really indulgent – because there is no tangible result for the time spent – but I just love being by the sea or water, it makes me feel so calm and peaceful. I love reading. I’d actually like to spend a whole day reading while the kids were at school. That would again feel really self-indulgent to me. So therefore it would be good to do!
What’s one “breakthrough” you have had in your life, that shifted the way you saw things – how did it impact those around you?
5 and a half years ago, I realised that I was a perfectionist. Or rather I realized I saw the world from the eyes of a perfectionist. I wasn’t a high achiever but I my expectations and lack of self-compassion defined me as a perfectionist. For the first time I saw this as damaging rather than being a badge of honour and the journey I’ve been on since then has been amazing.
As part of that journey, nearly 5 years ago I signed up for an 8 week mindfulness course to see what ‘all this meditation stuff that people kept mentioning’ was all about. I was quite skeptical about it’s relevance to me and how it would help me. ‘I’ve got too many things to do to be sitting on the floor doing nothing!’ But from the first session it changed the way I saw myself and my emotions and I have continued to learn and grow and be happier ever since. It has been – for me – quite literally life changing.
Who do you look up to as a woman?
Women who are different and defy labels and boxes. Women who sing to their own tune.
i.e. Annie Lennox, Kate Adie, Sandy Toksvig, Mo Mowlem, Caroline Lucus, Michelle Obama, Claudia Winkleman.
And women who are sharing their stories and learning: Brene Brown, Pema Chodron, and Oprah Winfrey.
What do you tell yourself when times are tough?
I’ve not been great at this historically as I am too easily affected by my emotions. But I would say that what is helpful for me is to say:
I’m feeling like this at the moment… and that’s OK.
It will pass. Do what you need to do until the emotion has passed.
If things are really tough, I try and remind myself that I or we will get through this, and be stronger for it. I’m also beginning to believe that good things come out of our tough times and that it’s all meant to be. (I don’t believe in destiny etc in a rational sense, but it helps to think this way when things are tough.)
Who have you listened to lately that motivated you to take action on something, anything? And why?
I listen to Enya (I know, who would have thought!) when I’m writing my morning pages or pottering around before bed because it makes me feel safe and strong for some reason (I think I listened to it non-stop when I was in a good place in my early 20s.)
Who’s voice do you think we need to hear in the One of Many Community?
I think Jane Lewis and her work on forgiveness would be great to hear about.
Or Karen Roswell and the work she’s doing for International Women’s Day.
Both in LTC. I’ll have a think about anyone outside the group.
You can get in touch with Thea here:
Twitter handle: @theajolly1
Facebook page: The Habit Box