Hannah Barton is a mother I do admire, full of resources and ideas for her children – I love her enthusiasm and her ability to ‘get dirty’ with the children and to communicate with them at their level. She is an American friend who has lived in the UK for over 15 years with her husband, Foster, and their two gorgeous children, Malory and Callum. She is one of my go-to mums, giving great advice, and I have finally persuaded her to share some of her great advice with SOTP readers. Hannah is the first mum contributing to our new section called ‘NetMums’, which will allow us to share some online resources that we have discovered between us mums whether for pleasure or for practical survival.
As a mother of two who is typically working full time, but is currently enjoying some time at home with the children between jobs, I rely heavily on websites that help simplify family life, scratch an intellectual itch, and make me feel like a better/more organised/more thoughtful mother, wife and friend. I don’t have as much time as I would like to focus on researching to the nth degree every food or product that comes into our household, so I tend to follow websites and blogs of experts whose opinions I rate and trust. Sometimes it’s necessary to use their sound advice as a shortcut to making informed decisions.
WEBSITES FOR SORTING DAILY LIFE
I will start with one that is the most obvious, as I find it is the biggest game changer for modern motherhood. Ocado (online grocer) stocks all of the products we use, has the widest range of organic and specialty food that I’ve come across in the UK, and has a super easy app so that I can sort the grocery order whilst on the train or in a taxi. I’m a stickler for organic, grass-fed, and earth friendly products, so this is a dream for me. It has all of the “health food” items and fancy ingredients for dinner parties that I can’t always find in the supermarket. It also includes the nutritional content and ingredients for every item, so I know exactly what I’m getting.
This one is also completely obvious, but again, a game changer. For years I resisted joining Amazon Prime, holding fast to my “look what it’s doing to independent shops” speech, but I finally gave in after a mum from school talked me into it, and I’ve never looked back. For starters, Amazon Prime can ship most things in 24 hours. Let’s not kid ourselves – there will always be a Friday morning when I get up and realise both kids have a birthday party at the weekend and I don’t yet have a gift, the gift drawer is empty, my day is swamped, no way I’ll make it to the shops, etc. etc. GATZ! Amazon can sort it. Can’t beat that. I have to ship gifts to America, Switzerland, Dubai and Hong Kong regularly, so it’s a lifesaver.
When working full time, I never have to think about my news source. I typically sit on a trading floor with multiple computer screens in front of me and tv screens along the walls, all barking the news at me all day long. During commutes to and from work, I can read my news source of choice. I used to find it relentless, but now that I am at home, I miss it. Because it used to be all around me, I wasn’t accustomed to making proper time for catching up on current events. I realised that I need the solution to be easy and subtle (one morning of the news on tv covering atrocities sent the children crying into the next room), so reading it on a phone or an iPad suits me best. I like the BBC, the Economist, the Huffington Post, and my local hometown newspaper sites. Push notifications are helpful for quick updates, as is following them on Twitter, but it can be overwhelming how many you receive, so I edit it down to what I want to see.
Not on the High Street
This website has handpicked the best small businesses that provide creative and well-made gifts and homewares. This is my go-to for thoughtful gifts, as most products can be personalised. You can communicate directly with the sellers for special requests and they can typically ship anywhere in the world. I also appreciate a gift when people can’t immediately guess where you’ve bought it. Nothing is worse than the “Oh, you got me those votives from the 4th floor of Peter Jones” look.
WEBSITES FOR PARENTING
Children’s School Website
It is nice feeling like you are up to date with what is happening at school and to feel like a part of the school community, which can be especially difficult for working parents and those that can’t regularly participate in the school run. I am incredibly grateful that our school has a terrific website, through which they post regular, meaningful updates that are actually useful for parents. It’s a terrific resource.
Every parent will have a moment in their lives with some sort of health scare, so I find the NHS website invaluable. In the middle of the night, when your child cries and you have that “dear God, is it teething or meningitis?” moment, you can quickly do a search through sleepy haziness and worry. The NHS website tends to actually be both useful and a trustworthy resource. Even if I didn’t live in the UK, I would still definitely carry on using this site. You can search by symptom and also by condition, which is quite useful for not only deciphering what the child might have, but also ruling out what they don’t have.
WEBSITES FOR INTEREST
Get the Gloss
Now is when I get to start indulging on things I actually find fun. Get the Gloss runs the full gamut of news on beauty, nutrition, exercise, work-life balance and what’s new topics, all of which I find helpful because it feels they are specifically targeted to my demographic. It has a terrific list of contributors, many of whom I follow individually, as they give advice I rate and are top specialists in their fields (beauty editors, nutritionists, trainers, psychologists). As I said before, I don’t have time to research everything as much as I would like, so this website perfectly whittles down all of the information for me to give me advice that I both enjoy and trust. I go to it when I’m looking for everything from what new skincare product to buy, to latest diet and exercise advice, to tips on banishing anxiety and managing stressful city life. It’s a great all-rounder. They send daily emails and I click on at least a few of the articles every day.
Originally focusing only on New York, it has since jumped over the pond to give Londoners the latest on fashion, beauty, wellness and entertainment news. It typically presents its articles in a list, for example: top restaurants for brunch, top high street knock-offs of runway fashion, top cocktail bars with a view, top restaurants for al-fresco dining, etc. I use it for new ideas of where to eat, drink and shop. As we have a lot of tourists who come to stay, it’s fun to stay on top of all of the new things happening in London. It helps me feel young and in-touch, two things I struggle with now that I’m not out on the town every night anymore.
Think what you will of GP, this mother faces of the same challenges and concerns as any other mother would (albeit, on a different budget), but she happens to be surrounded by world’s top specialists in many areas that are important to me. For me, the most helpful articles from the site tend to be nutrition, exercise or children focused. For example: nutritious breakfast recipes for the whole family, deciphering the world of supplements, exercises you can do in your hotel room, pesticides in the foods that kids regularly eat, and great calming apps for children. She has the best people in the world looking after her family and personal health, so why not mooch off the intel?
WEBSITES FOR EXERCISE
The Body Coach
Joe Wicks is a genius. I found him on Get the Gloss and he has done some work with the nutrition ladies at Honestly Healthy. He has been featured recently in nearly every top UK publication and his first cookbook comes out next year. His 15-20 minute training sessions on YouTube helped me reach my goals faster than any other exercise regime I’ve ever done. It’s super quick and can be done at home with minimal equipment, so I can fit it into my day easily. Follow him Instagram to watch the transformations of his clients and to see his recipes. Let your new addiction begin! PS – he’s nice on the eyes too.
WEBSITES FOR SHOPPING
My kids don’t wear uniforms at their school, which has its pros and cons. I tend to save their nice clothes for the weekends, as their weekday clothes get destroyed rather quickly. No sense in big investments here. H&M is brilliant, as it’s cheap, cute, relatively well made and convenient. We buy lots of our basics here. Crew Cuts (J Crew’s line for children) is terrific. It’s sweet, but not overly preppy, and the graphics are tasteful. I also love Ralph Lauren for its cotton jumpers. They are practically indestructible. You can pretty much boil them and they will retain their shape and colour, always looking smart.
For me: I tend to do most of my online fashion shopping on J Crew and Tory Burch, then Donna Ida for denim.
As an American, I’ve been shopping at J Crew since my teens. It has come such a long way since then. Their website is brilliant and the emails are full of terrific styling ideas. I am almost a bit sad that they have gone global. It was a glorious little secret while it lasted.
I love Tory Burch for a number of reasons: the brand makes lovely pieces for both work and weekends, people in London don’t recognise it yet, it gets me out of the LK Bennett/Reiss uniform rut that women in the workplace are stuck in here, and because everything they make fits me well without needing alterations, which is rare for me. I don’t have to rush to a shop to try it on first.
Several of my favourite stateside websites for buying denim have recently closed, so I’ve had to find something reliable in the UK. This shop carries nearly all of the top brands, but in a way that isn’t terribly overwhelming. The Denim Clinic buying guide on the website is really helpful when trying to find the most flattering fit for your shape, but it’s really the Compare List facility on the website that makes denim buying so much easier. Just tick your favourites and then see all of their measurements, fit and review stats one page to help you make a decision. It saves trying on 33 pairs to finally find the perfect one.