Natalie Lee from award-winning blog Style Me Sunday is the kind of woman you instantly want to be friends with...
The former midwife and lactation consultant started blogging after falling pregnant with her second daughter, and has built a huge online following thanks to her carefully-considered content, aptly dubbed “fashion with feeling”. Not only does she model a mix of high-street and designer buys with ease, but she also tackles issues including body confidence, having even started her own Warrior Woman Project, which celebrates all-things self-love in an open and honest environment. Mixing work with motherhood isn’t easy for anyone, but Natalie’s story is particularly inspiring as her eldest daughter is also battling a rare genetic condition, Brittle Cornea Syndrome, which requires constant medical care and has left her with rapidly deteriorating eyesight. Natalie and her husband Matt are currently working through a long bucket list to help her daughter achieve once-in-a-lifetime experiences while she has little sight left. “We are very keen for her to not feel ostracised by society and have enrolled her into a few extra-curricular activities, which has really helped her confidence. We try to let her realise that she could do anything she wants to do and we tell her all time how proud we are of her.” Read on to hear more from the multitasking mama on how she tackled a career change in the midst of motherhood, her advice to other mothers of children with rare genetic disorders and how a bright lipstick and pair of Converse can instantly transform any style of “mum-outfit”. Words: Marisa Remond | Imagery: Style Me Sunday | Go to www.stylemesunday.com
Can you tell us about your childhood?
I grew up in Wembley and I lived in a little cul-de-sac not far from the main high road. I played outside a lot as I had a lot of friends on my street and in the area. Although most of them were boys, who sometimes tried to lead me astray. However, I was quite a good girl. I loved playing out on the streets with my friends, something that doesn’t happen with kids much nowadays.
What has motherhood taught you?
Motherhood has taught me that there is no bigger responsibility in the world than raising children.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by motherhood and what makes you feel better?
Yes, I really do feel overwhelmed sometimes. The responsibility weighs heavy on me and I want to do the best job I possibly can.
Talk us through your career path from a midwife and lactation consultant to a fashion blogger…
Midwifery was my second degree. I initially did a BSC Psychology, which I didn’t complete. After becoming disillusioned with psychology and not being able to see where it would lead to, I took a break and went travelling to think about where I wanted to go. When I came back my love of travel made me want a job that was could enable me to travel, so I thought about nursing and midwifery. In the end, midwifery came out trumps. I got enormous pleasure out of helping women give birth and to feed their babies. Sometimes their expectations were quite low, and they would be over the moon when they had great care, which is a shame but it often meant they loved me. Ha.
What do you recall most about the days you spent working as a midwife?
The long shifts and not being able to stop often to have a drink or a bite to eat. I also remember the lovely cards I received, which I still have. They were obviously some traumatic times that were difficult to compute, especially as a young woman in my twenties pre-kids.
How do you juggle work with raising your girls?
I do not waste a minute when it comes to doing work. I will work on the train or anytime I get a spare few minutes. I try not to work at the weekends and reserve those times for the family. But the workload does get overwhelming sometimes. Although I now have a bit of help, which is making life much more manageable.
You met your husband when you were 16 – what made you fall in love with him?
I actually remember the time I spotted him for the first time walking up the stairs. He had a distinctive walk and I clearly remember thinking ‘that’s the guy I’m going to marry (whether he likes it or not)’. Ha. It only took me about 15 years to convince him!
Can you tell us about your daughter’s rare genetic condition Brittle Cornea Syndrome and how this changed your life?
We got a definitive diagnosis last year (2016), it was a very difficult year for us. Her sight had been gradually decreasing anyway, but it took a major turn for the worst last year, she’s had multiple operations, mostly unsuccessful. Currently, she has no sight in one eye and very limited (about 20%) in the other eye.
“ I’m a big advocate of self-love. Time is too short to spend it hating yourself. If inner confidence isn't something that comes easily to you, work on it, there is so much you can do. If you are regularly self-deprecating, notice what you’re saying, and try to stop those words coming out of your mouth ”
What’s your advice to other mothers who have children with rare genetic conditions?
It can sometimes feel hopeless, but never stop fighting and pushing for getting all the support that is out there. Also, read up on things you can do to help your child psychologically and emotionally, this is a big thing for us.
What’s your approach to self-love and what will you teach your daughters about self-love/body confidence?
I’m a big advocate of self-love. Time is too short to spend it hating yourself. If inner confidence isn’t something that comes easily to you, work on it, there is so much you can do. If you are regularly self-deprecating, notice what you’re saying, and try to stop those words coming out of your mouth.
Can you tell us about your Warrior Woman Project and what inspired this?
My Warrior Woman Project has been a huge success, I get messages all the time about women who say they have felt a shift, and that they have worn a pair of shorts, for example, for the first time in ages. This makes me so happy.
What are your new mum fashion essentials?
To be honest I think working with what you already and borrowing clothes off your mum friends is the best thing to do. But there were a couple of items I did add. Isabella Oliver wrap tops/dresses are great for pregnancy and beyond. I also got a few bits from TopShop’s maternity range when I felt I needed something a bit trendier. Make sure you get your boobs properly measured and go for thick straps, they will be so much more comfortable. Marks and Spencer and places like John Lewis offer a good bra fitting service. If you can afford it, head to Bravissimo for great bras.
Did motherhood change your approach to fashion?
Yes, motherhood has made me much braver in my choices. I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin so I worry less about what other people think.
How long does it take you to get our the door in the morning?
I’m usually very focussed on the kids and getting them out of the house, so I spend five minutes on myself to do the school run and the dog walk then later in the day especially if I have meetings, I will get dressed properly and put some make up on – that takes about 15 minutes.
What three items does every mum need in her wardrobe?
I love a pair of Converse trainers, because they go with most things, even dresses look good. I also think every mum should have a maxi or midi dress in their wardrobe, something that is easy to throw on but looks instantly better than jeans and a top. Lastly I’m a big fan of high waisted exercise leggings like the ones I’m wearing at the moment from TLC Sport. You don’t have to keep worrying about pulling them up when you’re doing those dreaded burpees.
Talk us through a typical morning in your home…
Most of the time I have to wake the kids up now as they are four and nearly eight. Lay their clothes out for the day and go downstairs and make their breakfast. I ask them about 10 times each to brush their teeth after breakfast. After the school run, I walk the dog. Then when I get home I either shower and get ready and go into town for meetings or press days, or jump on my laptop and get some work done. The hours go by quickly before I have to pick the girls up again, and we get into the whole after-school clubs thing. Then it’s all cooking, eating and homework until it’s time for bath, read, and bed. I usually do more work on the sofa with my laptop while my husband watches telly next to me.
How do you unwind at night?
I love to watch trashy TV like Love Island.
How much time do you spend on social media?
I do spend a lot of time on it as it’s my job, but I can leave it alone if I’m away with my husband or the family for example.
What is your approach to parenting - are you strict/relaxed?
I thought I’d be a strict parent before I had kids, but I feel like I’m a bit of a pushover. Arghhhhh.
What is your approach to health and wellbeing – do you eat well/exercise?
I do feel so much better when I exercise and eat well. I have personal training at 630am every Monday and that helps get me in the right mindset for the week ahead. I love fruit and vegetables, but I also eat a lot of meat too. My diet could always be improved, but I like sweet popcorn and carrot cake too much.
Natalie’s little list of loves:
Kisses I’m a big fan of PDA although my girls aren’t! Lonely Lingerie – an underwear company I’ve recently found through Instagram, I love their branding. Instagram – big fan. Bright lipsticks. I love jewellery in all shapes and forms – brands I’m loving right now Jessica de Lotz, Renne Jewellery, House of Solus, and Rachel Jackson. Loving mutha.hood’s Strong Girls Club tees. Sushi And anything glittery, sparkly and sequinny, as I search the web for festive gear.