Life Lessons

For many, everything that comes after 35 is about settling into the life you’ve built, enjoying the free time that being well established at work might afford you, or when your children have grown independent. But for others, a big shift will provide a timely opportunity to steer your life onto a completely different course. These three women share what they learnt from their own life-changing moments.

BECOMING A GRANDMOTHER

Lucia Whitehouse was an administrator at the University of Buckingham, when she became a grandparent for the first time at 61. Her daughter Anna gave birth to daughter Mae in Amsterdam but soon moved back to London, and set up Mother Pukka, the vlog for ‘people who happen to be parents’. Lucia gave up work to offer childcare to Mae, assuming the social media mantel of Grandmother Pukka, and welcomed a second granddaughter – baby Eve – in June.

“We loved having Mae as we were able to really bond with her”

“Before Anna had the girls I worked and my husband and I travelled frequently, enjoyed the theatre, concerts, dining out, cycling and Pilates. When Anna and her husband, Matt moved back to London, it was obvious they needed help with Mae. I gave up work to look after Mae for 3 days a week, collecting her from London and returning her a few days later. We loved having Mae as we were able to really bond with her and take her out to all the fun things we used to do with our daughters. It’s such a special relationship. It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster and our energy levels weren’t quite as they were before. But it was brilliant to be able to give her quality time. Bringing up a child in today’s difficult and stressful circumstances is no mean feat. You just want to support your child and give your grandchild the best chance in life, so you do what you can to help.”

Lucia’s Top 3 Tips:

1. Make it clear to your daughter or son what you can and can’t do before committing to a regular arrangement. You also may have to double up on the essentials like cots and buggies, and travel expenses may be a consideration. It may be useful to suggest another form support in case of your illness, holiday etc.

2. Keep your own life active and enjoy your interests as you are married to your husband – not your children.

3. Try and enjoy your grandchild as much as possible and create that special bond that is extremely important to you, your child but most importantly for the grandchild.

STARTING A NEW BUSINESS

Kate was a beauty editor with a column in The Telegraph Magazine when she set up Legology with her husband, Ben. She was 49.

Starting up later in life has undoubtedly helped the business thrive.

“Starting up later in life has undoubtedly helped the business thrive. As much as I wanted to develop my own brand when I was younger, in hindsight I really wasn’t ready.  It would have been the same product but I wouldn’t have made the same decisions about formula, presentation and the detail that has made Legology a success without over 25 years in the beauty industry. I am also my own customer now and that makes things easier – I know what I want a product to do, how I want it to look and feel. With age, risk-taking becomes harder because there is more to lose. You know what can go wrong and you have responsibilities towards other people. But I know from my personal life experiences that things can be much worse than anything we experience with the business.”

Kate’s Top 3 Tips:

1. Surround yourself with the best – people who you can rely on to do a great job or give you great advice – and look after them back.

2. Accept the unpredictability of the work and the things you can’t control.

3. Do it at your pace and don’t compare: remember that the business is where you are.

MOVING ABROAD

Emma Weir, a PR and Digital Mums freelancer, had lived in Brighton for 10 years with her husband and two children when, at 38 she decided to emigrate to Australia.

Being older has definitely been helpful in the practical sense of setting up home.

“We honestly had no intention of leaving the UK – but when my husband Kieran had the opportunity to take on a job in Sydney, it felt like a good time to try something else. The best bit is the weather, it’s sunny everyday. We’re outside the whole time whether we’re at the harbour, a park or the beach. The challenges are purely people-led, missing family and friends, which I don’t think will ever go away. There are times I wish that I could experience the livelier bits of Sydney as a 21 year old, and it’s possibly harder making friends now at this age. But being older has definitely been helpful in the practical sense of setting up home, sorting out schools, things like that. Meeting mums at the school gates has kept my sanity intact. And it’s been really good for my career. 7 months in, it does feel like home now.”

Emma’s Top 3 Tips:

1. Get the big stuff in place first and the other things will fall into place. If you’ve got kids then where you choose to live is probably going to have to be the place you stay for a while, so work with a relocation agent.

2. Our time difference is a bugger, so it’s really hard to stay in touch over the phone. Don’t beat yourself up over it – we use WhatsApp for keeping in touch at random times with our family and friends.

3. Don’t look at your old friends on social media too much, otherwise you’ll be mourning the little things. Instead, join Facebook groups in your local area. Recommendations for boring things like dentists are so handy but also good for finding people in a similar situation to you.

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