The Office: Lucy Seabrook
I’m Lucy. A lover of brands, ideas, creativity and making things happen. Married to David — a wholesome military man with the patience of a saint! — we have two little womb fruits, Willow (3 years) and Barnaby (8 months). When I set up Family Rule I was working full-time as a marketing director for the largest premium beauty company, I was also a few months pregnant with Barnaby. Before having Willow my whole life focus was achievement and success, something I gave my fullest energies too and am incredibly proud of.
When I returned to work just before she turned one I was really happy. Firstly, I could eat lunch (albeit at my desk), in peace, with both hands (utterly liberating) and secondly, I was back with my amazing team. An incredible bunch of make-shit-happen doers there has ever been. But then the ‘mum guilt’ kicked in. Hard. I missed being there, being the one who did everything for her, ‘supermumming’ around with my little sprout as much as I felt guilt at no longer being my former career-driven self. Annabel Crabb nailed it when talking about the obligation for working mothers; “the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one didn’t have a job” — it could not have felt more true. I was giving everything to both and leaving myself pretty ragged.
I had made a wooden height chart as a gift to my husband shortly before our first was born. I look at it now and it makes me cringe. It was made using a sharpie pen and some stickers (now peeling off) but I can’t bring myself to ‘upgrade’ it to one of my new hand-painted designs because it was the start of our new beginnings. An incredibly steep adjustment for both myself and my husband, but a marker in the sand for sure.
Family Rule really started when I built the website in the evenings as a little challenge for myself. A little piece of creativity that was 100% me; a release from work as well as motherhood and something I had never done before. I then officially launched in January 2016 thinking that, if anything, it would be a great hobby to have as a sideline. Fast forward just over a year and I’ve had such a wonderful response it’s certainly more than a hobby now. I’m technically still on maternity leave but can be found most nap times/evenings/any-spare-child-free-second-except-to-shower happily getting orders ready for their new homes. I can’t wait to see where I can take it.
At the moment I work from our dining room. I would describe the work space as creative chaos — a mix of Family Rule production and child play destruction! From there I can keep an eye on both children as well as lay out all the week’s orders ready for painting. Luckily, we have a massive dining table. It is by far my favourite part of my work space. I fell in love with it on eBay and hadn’t realised quite how large it was (thank goodness for that patient husband!) At any one time it will be home to four or five pieces of wood, some black paint, flowers, various brushes, lego, chewed toast and, most likely, some form of paperwork/receipt that I haven’t made the effort to file effectively, anywhere, at all, ever (must get help with that!) which invariably will have some form of food splattered on it.
I like to have classic FM playing to drown out the Paw Patrol/ Maya The Bee/Peppa Pig monotony. But every now and again, when Willow is at nursery and Barnaby is sleeping, I will crack out an old playlist and up the tempo a bit which is surprisingly effective at increasing productivity… or that could also be the absence of little ones!
I love that I’m able to paint the height charts outside in the summer. Sunshine is like battery fuel. I also love that all of this works around my family (more or less!) Despite constantly having to switch my lounge/dining area from home office to home space and back again (yup, husband has saint-like patience) there isn’t anywhere else that would work as well at the moment. It does mean that I can get slight cabin fever barely leaving the house when my oldest is at nursery because I try to get as much done as possible. This is where I miss other people the most. My aim, hopefully soon, is to be in a position to recruit local mums to help with make the height charts. The hope is to create a completely flexible working environment for them too and some fun social interaction to boot.
One of the biggest challenges (besides children being around!) is the lighting. I often work late in the evenings if I haven’t been able to have a productive day and, as this is also our ‘living’ space, the lighting is quite low. I have some large bright lamps that I can bring in so that I can still paint with the confidence, making sure I’m not going too wibbly but they are such a faff to get in and out.
I try not to work on days when I have both children at home. As keen as Willow is to help me with the painting she is not quite up to scratch yet so I attempt to plan fun outings and family time depending on which version of Willow I get that day — the ‘threenager’ or the heart melting angel. When it’s just me and Barnaby he is my little side kick and can often be found face first in a box of lego or sitting in the travel high chair I attached to the table, swinging his legs and grabbing anything he can get his chubby little hands on.
Being married to a military man, whose job changes roughly every two years, means we are likely to move a lot. We are currently in Putney but will soon be heading to Colchester for his next posting. At the moment we have no idea what the house will be like which makes me nervous — will my table fit!? Ideally, I would love to have a proper workshop so I could separate my work life from my family life a bit more. Or at least not have to keep clearing up one mess or another in order to fulfil my business or mumming roles. This may not be in the too distant future though as we recently bought our ‘forever home’ in the new forest (where my wonderful wood is supplied) and I have big plans for the garage space to become the new Family Rule HQ.