Life as a mama to 3 children is always going to be busy, throw into the mix being founder and CEO of a incredible charity serving families in need across London and you can begin to imagine what a day in Sophia Parker's life looks like. We find out how she juggles running her charity Little Village with Friday family movie night and when (or if..) she manages to switch off and find some me time.
I usually wake up with a small child squished into my arms. If it’s my middle child, we’ll be snoozing peacefully; if it’s my youngest then she’ll have wriggled and writhed until I give in and get up. Nothing else is allowed to happen until I’ve made a cup of tea. Our morning routine is the usual round of making lunches, deploying A-grade negotiating skills to get 3 little people to eat their breakfast, brush their hair, stop fighting each other and please, please just tell me where they hid my shoes.
From 9ish until 5ish
One of the things I love about running Little Village is that no day is ever the same. Little Village is like a food bank but for baby kit - everything from cots to socks, clothes, toys, nappies, basically all the kit you might need for your baby up until the age of 5. Unbelievably in inner London, one of wealthiest cities in world, 43% of kids are growing up in poverty. When we first started 4 years ago, my days were spent in the depths of storage units, sorting out donations and getting stuff ready to be sent out to families. As we’ve grown my role has evolved. Lots of my time is now spent building local partnerships, finding new locations for our work (we’re opening our 4th site this year), and raising the money we need to keep our doors open. I still spend as much time as I can in our centres, chatting to volunteers and families. The sense of solidarity when you walk through the door at Little Village is amazing – nothing beats it.
"There are times in life when we need help, and times when we’re able to help, and Little Village is here to make both possible"
My most memorable work moment was the day we opened our creche at our Wandsworth site. It’s available every Tuesday for people who want to volunteer with their kids. It is run by two inspirational women, both qualified nursery workers who we helped when they were going through tough times. And now, here they are giving back to others. It really underlines my belief that there are times in life when we need help, and times when we’re able to help, and Little Village is here to make both possible.
The work/life balance juggle is real! My husband and I both work a 3-day week, which means he has the kids on Monday and Tuesday. I cram as much work as I humanly can into those days and revel in the joy of not having to be back for bath time (though I usually can’t resist getting home in time for a goodnight kiss). On Wednesday, I work school hours and my youngest child is with me on Thursdays and Fridays. She’s off to school in September so I’m really trying to savour these last few months with her. That said, running a charity is pretty challenging in a 3 day week so I find myself squeezing work in around trips to the playground and swimming lessons. I’m also a massive night owl so once I’ve wrestled them all into bed I’ll pick up work again. I don’t want to always find myself working in the evenings, but I also accept that it is the only way I can keep doing work I’m passionate about and seeing my kids a lot, so I’ve made my peace with it for now.
"My partner and I have realised that with 3 kids, it definitely pays to divide and conquer..."
I’ve got a 7yo, 6yo and 4yo so the hours of 5pm-8pm are the hours when I’m very glad I’m not our neighbours. It is noisy chaos. We still feed the kids at 5pm and then have ‘grown up tea’ later. Mainly because all my children will eat is pasta and cheese, or pizza, and I’m a vegan who genuinely loves vegetables. Other than tea, the rest of the time is spent throwing bathwater at each other, reading stories, and deploying yet more ninja negotiation skills to get them to get into bed by 7.45pm. We have a very mixed track record on this.
I’m very late to it but have started watching The Crown, which I love, though maybe not as much as Sex Education, which I think is just brilliant telly. I drive my partner mad by having at least 3 books on the go at any one time. Current list is Three Women, Where’s My Happy Ending (who doesn’t love Mother Pukka???) and Skint Estate. Guilty pleasures include pringles and almond baileys!
I think my favourite part of the weekend is Friday night. I make popcorn, the kids watch a movie, I pour a drink and switch off my email on my phone. One thing I’ve learnt since setting up Little Village is that only you can enforce your boundaries, and we have a rule at Little Village of no emails to each other over the weekend to try to make that easier. Otherwise as working parents, it’s almost impossible to carve out any time to yourself.
My partner and I have realised that with 3 kids, it definitely pays to divide and conquer so that over the week all of them have had some one-to-one time. Otherwise the weekends pass by with various play dates, kids parties, trips to museums, Tooting Common and ice cream shops. I love cooking and try to do quite a bit of that at weekends (with and without my ‘helpers’). I’m a happy mummy if I’ve been able to take an hour out for a coffee on my own. I’m ecstatic if I’ve had some time for exercise too.
My sanity is kept in check by my best girlfriends, who I communicate with at some point during the week even if it’s just a stupid photo of our kids doing something funny. I don’t see them in person as much as I’d like but I made a New Year’s resolution with a couple of them to have a monthly dinner date. We managed it in January and I have high hopes for the rest of the year!