featured Making it Work

Annie Ridout of The Early Hour shares how she makes it work.

Annie Ridout, The Early Hour, photographed at home in Walthamstow.

Motherhood means an early wake up call, pretty much everyday – sometimes it can feel like no one else in the world is awake at the time, and for all of us that have been up feeding a baby at 5 am, you know the frustration at having nothing really interesting to read at that time of day.

It was this frustration that prompted  writer and mother of two, Annie Ridout to launch The Early Hour, an online culture and lifestyle magazine, with articles and interviews published daily at 5am; for the early risers (that’s mostly parents but also shift workers, teachers, florists, insomniacs, milkmen or just straight up morning-loving early birds).

Like us, Annie found herself up stupidly early with her daughter, Joni, and trawling the internet on her phone in search of something stimulating to read and there wasn’t any one site where she could be guaranteed a good read at 5am. So she set one up.

This week Annie shares just how she balances family life with a demanding publishing schedule, and THOSE early starts.

Tells us about what you do?

I’m founder and editor of online lifestyle magazine The Early Hour. We put out articles at 5am for people – mostly parents, though not all – who are up early. This includes interviews about work/life balance, lots on home and family life, articles on travel, food and wellbeing – and anything else that might resonate with our readers. I also freelance (the Guardian, Red Magazine, BabyCentre, AnyBody).

Where is home and who will we find there?

I live in Walthamstow, north east London, with my husband and our two children: Joni, who’s nearly three, and 10-week-old Bodhi.

What’s the best way you’ve found to balance family and a career?

When Joni was a sleepy newborn, I wrote articles from home – rocking her in the bouncer with my foot while typing. She turned 10 months and I took a job writing for a magazine two days a week. My parents had her one day; my sister looked after her the other day. That job ended, she had her first birthday and I got her into a good napping routine (two/three hours in the morning, same in the afternoon). This time was invaluable when I was preparing to launch The Early Hour. When she was 18 months, I put her in nursery one day a week – then a few months later, upped it to two days. She still does two days now.

My husband and I then started getting up at 5am so that we could do something creative/productive in the mornings before Joni woke up. I’d go running then write/edit – and he’d read or edit his film. But falling pregnant with Bodhi, just under a year ago, stopped all that. Tiredness and morning sickness threw a spanner in the works. And now I have an actual baby with me 24/7 so it’s back to the bouncer-rocking-with-foot and working while he sleeps in the buggy (often hammering out articles/blogs on my phone in coffee shops). When Bodhi is sleeping through, we’ll consider reinstating the 5am starts.

What three items help you juggle everything?

  1. Running shoes. My morning run gives me amazing energy for the day ahead.
  2. Sugar keeps me from dozing off while I push my daughter on the swings/write an article. It has never tasted better than it did in the early weeks post-birth. My sister brought a pear and chocolate tart round when Bodhi was a few days old and I had a slice a day for a week. It was heavenly. (As well as two/three chocolate bars daily, hot chocolate – and the rest).
  3. My iPhone. I write articles on it, respond to emails, check social media.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face?

Tiredness. When I was pregnant with Bodhi, looking after Joni – an active toddler – and working, it felt like I never had a break. It was hard work. But I’ve found new motherhood a lot less tiring than pregnancy, so it all feels manageable again now.

What do you most enjoy about your role at work?

Telling people’s stories, particularly those that might not otherwise have been told.

Is there anything you struggle with and how do you deal with it?

I check my phone far too often (like most people). My daughter has started telling me off. So I try to reduce it to one check in the morning, one while Joni naps, once in the evening. I rarely stick to it, though.

 How do you spend any precious me time you get?

My morning run makes me very happy. That’s the only guaranteed time I have on my own right now, as we’ve fallen into co-sleeping. But for the past few weeks, we’ve been establishing a bedtime routine for Bodhi so now he’s often in his cot from 8.30pm –1/2am and I’ll watch a film or TV drama, read a book or go to bed, too (if it’s been a long day). We’re going on our first date since having Bodhi next week – out for dinner, locally. I can’t wait.

If you’re planning a family holiday where would it be?

We’re going to the south of France this summer for two weeks with my sister, brother-in-law and their little boy, Max. We’re staying in neighbouring caravans. We’ll then head to Somerset to see my in-laws for a week, and possibly to Cornwall with a group of friends.

 How do you switch off?

Running. (Again).

What exercise do you do?

I like exercising alone. As you now know, I run every morning – I’ve only just got going again since having Bodhi 10 weeks ago so I’m doing about 1.5 miles to ease myself back in. I then come home and do 15 minutes of Pilates, while my daughter climbs on me and does her own downward dog in the sitting room.

What are your wardrobe fail-safes?

Right now, I’m still in my H&M maternity jeans – one pair is dark denim with buckets, the other charcoal grey skinny – and I’ll team them with a tight vest top, then a loose one on top. This way, I can lift the looser layer, pull out my boob and feed hungry Bodhi. I also wear my Clary & Peg pinstripe jumpsuit a lot. But usually, I’m a big vintage fan and rock out stuff I bought 10 years ago, when Camden Market was still cool and had buckets full of dresses for £2 and kitsch knitted jumpers for a fiver. However, my real fail-safe outfit is a trusty black long-sleeved bodycon mini-dress, thick black tights, my Tracey Neuls neon geeks and a black blazer (great for maternity wear, too).

And accessories you couldn’t be without?

I wear very little jewellery. I have four small gold hoops in one ear, one in the other and a gold pinky ring (a 30th birthday present from my sister). My wedding and engagement rings are safely hidden away, as my fingers were swollen during pregnancy and I haven’t bothered to put them back on. I never wear necklaces or bracelets; I don’t own a handbag or belt. I used to have two holes in my nose and I’m considering re-piercing them and putting in gold hoops. I love wearing a vintage headscarf with a big bow.

Favourite scent?

Rose. My mum buys me a rose eau de toilette every year for my birthday. Once it’s run out, I’ll trial another perfume for a while, usually Issey Miyake, but always return to the rose.

You’re hosting a dinner party – what’s on the menu?

In the winter, I love making Delia Smith’s boeuf bourguignon and serving it with baked potatoes, sour crème and a green salad, or green beans. For pudding: a pear, ginger and lime crumble using rye flour, served with soya yoghurt or Coyo. In the summer, a roast chicken with roasted veg on a Sunday (my husband always cooks the roasts), or a selection of Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty or Jerusalem – something with pomegranate. I realise you’ve said ‘dinner party’ – we don’t have so many of them at the moment. With young kids, it’s all about the long, boozy, late afternoon lunches.

If you’re going out where is your favourite spot?

At the moment, we’re staying local. Most weekends, we have coffee at Hucks, a few drinks at Mirth in the afternoon and an early dinner either at one of our local pubs, or at Eat 17 – a brilliant family restaurant that serves THE most delicious vegetarian curry, amongst other things (burgers, salads, duck). If venturing further afield, I love a dim sum lunch at Yauatcha.

Is there a woman you really admire?

My sister, Lauren Davies – a designer/maker – is the most inspiring person I know. She’s extremely creative and often gives me brilliant ideas for my work. Though I’m the writer, she can conjure a mean pun. And I find her funnier than anyone else I know (we’re often both in hysterics over text conversations that NO ONE else would find funny). I admire her because she’s strong, bold, creative, unique and just so damn funny. She’s extremely good company.

What’s the next big thing in your life?

Having just given birth, I have no major life plans at the moment. I find myself perusing Rightmove fairly often, dreaming about moving to the countryside and leading a more wholesome life, but I actually love the community where I live and Joni has lots of lovely friends (as do I). So it won’t be happening any time soon. For now, I’ll just keep squirreling away – writing, editing, mothering – and enjoying a fairly simple, fairly creative life.

For more early morning inspiration, at any time of the day, check out Annie’s site www.theearlyhour.com

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