My Early Hour: Kate Berry, Lunch Lady Magazine

“This past weekend, I bought myself a 1981, bright orange VW Kombi. I drove it around the mountains, took the dogs for a walk in the snowy forest, and drank cider in tiny pubs along the way.” Kate Berry, of Lunch Lady Magazine, discusses her recent decision to prioritise life over work…

Kate Berry is 40 and lives with her two girls: Maya, 12, Pepper, seven, her partner Rohan, and his two girls: Helena, 10 and Tia, seven.

What’s your home like?
It’s a cosy mud brick house on a hill.

What time are you up in the morning?
My alarm goes off at 5.20am. I hit the snooze button until 6:15am, if I’ve had an amazing sleep, or right up until 7:00am, if I’m feeling particularly unmotivated or extra cosy.

What wakes you up?
Our bedroom has windows in the ceiling, so the sun wakes me up, which I think is the best way to start the day. Unless it’s a Sunday.

How do you feel?
Currently getting up is a real chore. I am a light lover and the dark mornings do nothing for my mood. As soon as we hit the longer days, the spring in my step returns.

I’ve been making an effort lately to strictly not work on weekends. Last weekend was the first and it changed my life.

What do you do first thing?
I fumble around in the dark looking for something on the floor to wear. This is where most of my clothes live.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Chatty, coffee, music.

What’s for breakfast?
For me it’s coffee. For the kids, this morning they ate strawberry, cinnamon and oat muffins. I made them before I went to bed, which seemed like such a chore at the time, but when I was in bed trying to wake up this morning, knowing I had a whole batch of muffins sitting on the bench was worth the drag the night before.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
We are on deadline for Issue Five of Lunch Lady and I have a tonne of writing to do.

What’s your workspace like?
I have a cosy little office in my home that overlooks an out of order volcano (sounds awesome, and it is!).

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Where are the kids when you’re working?
All the girls are at school. I pop my girls on the bus nice and early, which lets me get to work quick smart. The clock starts ticking as soon as that bus drives off.

Tell us about Lunch Lady: when did you launch, and how/why did it come about?
Lunch Lady Magazine started its life as blog in August 2011, after my big kid was bullied for the lunches I sent her to school with. The lunches weren’t anything crazy, just simple home baked bread and treats. I asked her if she’d like me to make lunches more like the other kids, she wouldn’t have it. She thought they were missing out, and continued taking her much loved lunches to school with her.

I was proud of her, but I wanted to support her in some way, as I knew nothing was going to change for her at school. We decided to start the blog together, so we could share our story and the food we love making together.

Late one night I pressed publish on our first post and went to bed. Early the next day my inbox was full of supportive and loving emails and our post had been shared all over Facebook. I couldn’t wipe the smile from Maya’s face, she was so touched by the kind words from total strangers from across the world. I may have cried a little, it really was beautiful. That morning Maya headed to school with a new energy, a huge smile and an orange and almond muffin.

For the first time in my life I am truly happy with where I am. It’s taken a long time, but I finally got there. I wouldn’t want to wake up anywhere else.

Two years after starting the blog I was finding it hard to juggle everything in my life. Being a single mum made working, looking after kids and a blog extra difficult to juggle. I was also working three to four jobs at a time to make ends meet. It was tiring, both mentally and physically and I hardly had any time to spend with my two girls. I was desperate to find a way to make my life simpler and easier.

At 3am I woke, jetlagged, and with an idea to turn Lunch Lady into a magazine.

A week later I received an email from Lou and Lara, of We Print Nice Things, asking if I was interested in making a print version of my Lunch Lady blog. It was an email dreams are made of.

Three years later we are launching issue four of Lunch Lady Magazine.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
I find the most difficult thing is walking away and taking time off. There’s ALWAYS something to do, but you can’t kill yourself doing them. I’ve been making an effort lately to strictly not work on weekends. Last weekend was the first and it changed my life.

Dealing with guilt is the biggest thing I find with the juggle. Knowing while I am giving time to one thing, something else is missing out.

What makes it all worthwhile?
For me it’s about being able to schedule my work life around my girls. I want to be able to go to school events, help out when I can and be able to walk home from the bus stop. Because, really, that’s life. I can then pop them to bed and spend extra time catching up on those few hours I spent being present with my girls.

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others; do you enjoy, for instance, the creative side but not the accounts?
I am very lucky to work with two amazing women, Louise Bannister and Lara Burke of We Print Nice Things. Between the three of us we pull the magazine together each quarter. It would be hard to put in a nutshell what each of us does, as the list would be mammoth! But Louise looks more after the business side of Lunch Lady and helps with the longer form editorial and Lara is the creative director and manages the online store. That makes it sound all nicely tied up with a bow, but it isn’t. There’s so much that goes into getting the magazine out, and juggling is a super talent we all have.

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I used to love working in a shared space when was younger, but now I have kids, my work time is my quiet time and I enjoy being alone, a lot.

What’s the secret to career success?
I believe life rewards hard workers and risk takers.

…And to Instagram success?
Being honest and sharing real experiences on Instagram has seemed to have worked for me. Oh and always finding the prettiest light.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing motherhood/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
Yes, of course. This is a big thing I’ve been tackling in the last couple of weeks. My stress manifests itself physically and if I don’t get it under control, life is miserable, for all concerned.

Dealing with guilt is the biggest thing I find with the juggle. Knowing while I am giving time to one thing, something else is missing out.

I used to prioritise work over all, thinking, if I just work really hard now, it will pay off later and I’ll have more time. But life is happening now, and my kids are only 12 and seven once. I had this light bulb moment and reassessed how to prioritise. And now that I have more down time, the time I spend at the computer working is way more productive and happier.

Describe an ideal weekend?
This past weekend, I bought myself a 1981, bright orange VW Kombi. I drove it around the mountains, took the dogs for a walk in the snowy forest, and drank cider in tiny pubs along the way. That was pretty ideal.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
In my bed. For the first time in my life I am truly happy with where I am. It’s taken a long time, but I finally got there. I wouldn’t want to wake up anywhere else.

Lunch Lady Magazine

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