Girl power

Anna Whitehouse, aka Mother Pukka, photographed with daughter Mae "The Urchin" in Shoreditch.

Bedtime tonight ran thus: refusal to go in the house (“I want to go on red bike”), refusal to eat broccoli – even though broccoli has been her legume of choice for the past two years – and an insistence on wearing ‘Olaf’ pyjamas that have been festering at the bottom of the laundry basket. Despite arch negotiations and gargantuan tantrums along the way, I ended the night tucking her up in bed, whispering ‘you are brilliant, I love you and you can do anything you put your mind to’.

I’ve uttered these words for as long as I can remember having a kid (it’s all a bit hazy, but let’s say two years). I couldn’t say where it came from but I believe it’s partly from my own Mum – a woman who never had brakes on her bike and who encouraged me to fly before I could even walk.

It was 1989 and I was signed up to the skipping race at Leighton Buzzard’s Linslade Lower School. It was one of those summers that seems to only happen when you were eight – parched grass, cobalt skies and a relentless flow of Mr Whippy. I was nervous, I didn’t think I had it in me to beat Gillian Cartwheel (her actual name). My Mum packed me an extra special sandwich, cut into the shape of a Care Bear and packed me off to Sports Day with the words, ‘focus on the finish line and forget the competition’.

I lost. I flopped over after about 5 seconds, landing in a dusty heap on the floor as Gillian skipped to glory. I might not have won – in fact, if we call a spade a spade, I wasn’t even within a whisper of that coveted rosette – but I believed I could win. My mum had instilled in me from an early age that it’s not what everyone else is doing that matters but how you get there that counts. In 1990 I cleaned up – winner of skipping, second in the sack race and the beanbag and coit race was a no brainer.

Without The Year Of Shame (Gillian didn’t let me forget it until she wanted an invite to my Alton Towers-all-expenses-paid birthday party), I might not have had my early 90s comeback. Much like All Saint’s recent return to cargo-panted glory.

So I think the big thing I’m whispering to Mae after a long day is not about glory, it’s about strength. Having the strength to carry on regardless; regardless of what others think and regardless of how much shame/ pain/ frustration was involved in falling down along the way. I think that’s why P&G’s recent “Thank You Mum” campaign truly resonated with me.

Fronted by gold medal winning heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill and her own mother, Alison Powell, this is a campaign about maternal strength – it’s about a mother helping her daughter achieve those dreams. Whether you’re looking to hit the Olympics with gusto or simply win at Monopoly, this is about celebrating that resourceful, resilient maternal power that allows our kids to achieve everything they want to in life. Even if that is just wearing Olaf pyjamas from the bottom of the laundry basket.

Check out the Strong video here

About the ‘Strong’ video

“Strong” explores the simple human truth that the daily courage mums show echoes at critical times throughout their children’s lives. The video follows the Olympic Games journeys of four mums and their children, showing the moments, both large and small, when a mother’s strength makes all the difference, and building to the moment each child summons their own courage on the world’s biggest stage – the Olympic Games.



Anna Whitehouse

Founder of Mother Pukka, Anna Whitehouse likes super hero cape-making classes and dislikes the naming of celebrity couples (TomKat, Brange etc.) She tries (and often fails) to parent the shit out of life.



Turns out I’m not an afternoon person either.


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