My Early Hour: Clio Wood, &Breathe Postnatal

Clio Wood with daughter Delphi

“I really struggled with my identity in early motherhood and needed a retreat where I could focus on me – take ownership of my body again (in a healthy way) and not be eating three packs of hobnobs every day.” So she set up AndBreathe Postnatal. Meet Clio Wood…

Clio Wood is the founder of AndBreathe, a family wellbeing company. She runs postnatal retreats and events in France and the UK for frazzled new parents in need of a little self-care. Clio lives in Hertfordshire with her husband Bryn and their three year-old daughter Delphi.

What’s your home like?

Pretty design-y and quirky in theory (I used to be an interior designer and upcycler) – in reality a bit of a mess. Somehow I never find the time to clear up after my whirlwind three-year-old, or myself and the cleaners only come once a fortnight. This usually means we have a mad tidy-up in advance of any company, which is… not that regularly.

What time are you up in the morning?
Around 7.30am usually, although if we’re lucky, our daughter (Delphi) will sleep until 8ish. If she decides she wants to get up early it can be 6.30, but really we’re on to a pretty good thing with her.

How do you feel?
Hate mornings. Hate them. Imagine the shock of the transition to motherhood!

Clio Wood with daughter Delphi

What do you do first thing?
Get up and ready and then convince Delphi to get out of bed, she’s usually in a filthy mood in the mornings too (I wonder where she gets that from!).

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Could be worse.

Tea or coffee?
Tea first thing OR latte mid morning, can’t have more or I tend to find it tricky to sleep, which seems grossly unfair.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
I work either from home or a coffee shop after I’ve dropped Delphi at nursery. She’s a bit clingy at the beginning but loves her days there and it gives me a chance to work uninterruptedly on &Breathe. I often have a day of meetings in London, which breaks up the week a little bit too.

I try to fit at least two to three meetings in and a workout so I feel like I’ve made the most of my train ticket. As I run my own business and we’re scouting for funding at the moment, I do a lot myself. Anything from retreat logistics to social media, interviewing new team-members to dealing with house maintenance at our French manor house venue (which we own). There’s never a dull moment!

Tell us more about your work/childcare set-up?
Delphi goes to a traditional wrap-around nursery at the moment but from September she’ll do two days per week at a forest school nursery too. It will be lovely for her to be out in the woods more often, given that we moved out of the big smoke almost two years ago! My mum has her on Fridays which is awesome for them both – they are slightly obsessed with each other.

Clio Wood with daughter Delphi

What’s your workspace like?
I work in the third bedroom/study at home, or sometimes on the sofa, depending on my mood. Sometimes I find that the cosiness of the living room really helps and I think it’s best not to push through when I’m really not feeling productive. There’s usually a reason (time of the month, exhaustion from working too hard during a busy period) for my not achieving anything and I find it best to go with the flow on these occasions and not beat myself up about it.

Tell us about AndBreathe: when did you launch, and how/why did it come about?
I created &Breathe when my daughter, Delphi, was a few months old. I was desperate for a safe space to re-set and come up for air. I really struggled with my identity and ignorance in the first few months of motherhood and I needed a retreat where I could focus on me for a little while, take ownership of my body again (in a healthy way) and not be eating three packs of hobnobs every day. A retreat where you could take your baby and your partner didn’t exist, so I created &Breathe to do exactly that.

Bryn, my husband, was keen to spend more time with Delphi having gone back to work after two weeks, and I wanted a chance to be by myself for short periods, so it seemed like the perfect solution. Luckily our guests have all agreed and we’ve also had some brilliant press.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
At the moment, it’s keeping myself on track when I’m holding so many different strands together. I’m starting to build a board and think seriously about our direction at the moment, but I don’t just mean all the facets of the business which I currently oversee. I mean all the little things that we as women also carry around in our heads… did I put stock cubes in the Ocado delivery, was I supposed to send Delphi in with wellies today, must make sure to buy a birthday present for so-and-so, did I reply to our friends about our holiday next year, what shall I make for dinner tonight or will Bryn be home in time to cook, will the toddler actually eat what I put in front of her today??? All these questions that make up the landscape of everyday life which men just seem to compartmentalise a bit better than us.

Self-care is at the heart of what we do: you absolutely cannot be a good parent unless you are feeling good in yourself

What makes it all worthwhile?
Seeing my idea be validated by so many others and seeing the positive impact that we have on all our retreat guests. One mum wrote to me to say that we had changed their lives, and that was a very teary moment for me.

Why is post-natal care so important?
I can’t even count the ways. Self-care is at the heart of what we do: you absolutely cannot be a good parent unless you are feeling good in yourself. So much of the focus of the early parent days is on the baby (which is obviously important too) but as a parent you are slightly forgotten.

In my six-week GP check up, the doctor’s actual words were a cursory: ‘and are you depressed?’ before scooting me out the door. My ab separation, pelvic floor, stitches were not checked and I’m not sure he would even have known how, had I known to ask him to check.

We need to do so much more to make sure new mums and dads are aware of how they can be happier and what help they should be getting – and not be afraid to ask for it.

Do you practice what your preach – how was/is postnatal care for you?
When I feel rubbish, I take it out on those closest to me, and now that includes my daughter as well as my husband. That’s a scary thought, as she forms her young mind. So yes, I do try to practice what I preach and that includes reaching out for expert help when I need to as well (both physical and mental) and a good massage and time off by myself always helps.

Clio Wood with daughter Delphi

Describe your ideal weekend…
Any one longer than two days.

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others?
Yes, admin and accounting, and I definitely need help growing a proper team too, so watch this space. I’m bright, but my strengths are definitely on the creative/ideas/partnerships side, and I’ve learned it’s important to play to my strengths.

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
A bit of both. I get distracted easily, so to be honest having alone time means I get more done. Being in a cafe is a good compromise as I feel part of the buzz but no one talks to me.

What’s the secret to career success?
If you’re pushing too hard at the door, it’s probably the wrong door. When something seems to hard to be pull together it’s likely to be the wrong option for you. Learning to let go of a concept is equally important as pushing to see something through to the end – and the tricky thing is knowing the difference, I guess.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing motherhood/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
Yep, I often feel I’m just about holding it together when I drop one of the spinning plates.I’m getting better at taking things less seriously, but as a perfectionist it’s hard. I think despite knowing intellectually how hard it is to juggle motherhood, working and life, I didn’t REALLY understand it until it happened to me.

I also didn’t realise how hard it would be to keep a loving (sometimes even civil!) relationship with my husband would be. That’s something that needs to be talked about far more too – it really knocked us for six, though I’d say we’re on an even keel now.

I have to say that friends are often bottom of the list, which is a shame. We try to incorporate them into holidays to make up for it.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
On holiday, anywhere, with my husband and our daughter just scrambled in with us demanding to be read a book (after 8.30am).
On Instagram: @andbreathepostnatal