The Tale of Amanda Blakley - The Grace Tales

The Tale of Amanda Blakley

Photography: Mirza Noormohamed Makeup: Stephanie Gee from Gee Beauty Hair: Beni Sicilia from Blowdry Lounge Words: Georgie Abay

“Motherhood has taught me to be present. As an entrepreneur and constant multi-tasker this life lesson is serving me well in my daily life, not just motherhood, and I thank Atticus for that,” reflects Amanda Blakley, the chic Toronto based mother of Atticus, 2, and now baby Archer, who arrived a few weeks after we shot this story. “I am also learning how quickly each stage goes by. The newborn to baby stage was like a blink. Even this pregnancy has felt so fast. Being a mother has definitely taught me incredible patience - a skill I never knew I possessed. And finally, my son has taught me the importance of routine. Before becoming a mother this notion would have given me anxiety - the idea that I would be beholden to a schedule, but actually, it has made me so much more organized and I feel happy and proud that I have been able to provide Atticus with a nurturing environment that builds his trust and confidence in the world around him.”

An ambitious entrepreneur, Blakley co-founded The Society back in 2008, a Toronto-based members-only club for the creative set with best friend Ashleigh Dempster who we featured on The Grace Tales here. Their goal was to make culture a relevant and approachable luxury. The stylish mother is also behind the blog The Adventures of Atticus, where she chronicles her travels with her son along with other cool kid related stuff. The site started as a travel log when Blakley and her husband spent four months travelling in Central and South America after the birth of Atticus. “Atticus was conceived while we were in Australia and when we found out we were expecting, we hatched a plan to spend four months travelling with our new babe. It was an unbelievable experience to have as new parents. We had the opportunity to expose Atticus to new cultures, cuisines and customs in the early months of his little life and it was so much fun to be tourists together. It was humbling, empowering and exhilarating! It also gave us loads of time to co-parent and figure out our philosophies around raising a family and most importantly, to get to know our son,” she recalls. “With our blog, the hope was to collect a digital diary of our journey featuring our new baby visiting these far off lands so we could reference it like a family album for years to come. We like to think of it as a digital scrapbook of things, places and people we love. We also hope to share our love of travel and cultivate a spirit of adventure in those who visit,” says Blakley, who now also writes for publications such as the Huffington Post and the National Post.

If anyone can offer advice on starting a business with a baby, it’s Blakley. “It takes time, dedication, boundless amounts of energy and capital. I’m not sure I would necessarily recommend launching a start-up as a new mom - it's sort of like having two babies,” she says. “That said, if you do decide to take the leap, my advice would be to find a partner, many hands make light work. Set boundaries for yourself and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t meet a personal deadline or goal. As women and mothers, we CAN have it all, but at what cost? Just be realistic in your expectations and definitely ensure you have a strong support network around you.”

She’s also conscious of the many benefits of running your own show while juggling a young family. “There are definitely great benefits to running your own business as a mom. You can choose to do the school run, schedule a midday play date, take a trip with your littles and be around when they wake up from their naps. These are all the things I love about working for myself. It’s finding a balance on the other side that can be the tricky part,” she says.

Almost three years into motherhood, Blakley places a lot of importance on listening to your gut instinct. “I found it took a couple of weeks with a newborn to tap into this instinct - or maybe just to trust this little voice, but once I did, I became more confident in the decisions I made.” Her other advice to new mothers: “Never be too proud to ask for or accept help; When it comes to controversial decisions (vaccinations, childcare, breast feeding, schooling etc...) do your research and inform yourself and then don't look back or have regrets around whatever you decide is best for you, your child and your family unit. As mothers there is so much weight and responsibility on our shoulders, both real and imagined, the last thing we need is to beat ourselves up over the decisions we make; Carve out time to look after yourself. Motherhood (especially the newborn phase) is exhausting. Sometimes you just need some precious time for yourself to take a nap, get your hair done or go out for dinner and some adult conversation with your husband or a friend. Enlist a babysitter, friend or family member to step in for an afternoon or evening as often as possible."

As a general rule, Blakley doesn’t make early morning meetings or appointments so she can have breakfast with her son. “When he was really young, this was the only meal of the day I could be certain he would eat, so it felt momentous. Most days Atticus will head off around 10am to do a program or to have a play date, so I get myself ready for the day and either work from home or head to the Soho House. Since he is still doing a nice big afternoon nap that buys me more time to work/exercise/meet up with friends and then we'll either go to the park together after he wakes up or he'll head off with our amazing nanny to play with some of his friends in the neighbourhood. I always try to be around to hang out with him when he eats his dinner, and on the weekends or holidays we make a special effort to eat together as a family.”

Do you think children are happier with structure?
Sticking to a routine was definitely one of the hardest lifestyle changes for me to adapt to. It’s funny, we all have these pre-conceived notions about parenthood before we actually get there. Before becoming a mother, I always used to think there could be nothing more monotonous than structure and routine. I thought I would throw convention out the window and just make our child fit into our pre-baby life. But when you take the leap into motherhood, and you start to really know your child and observe and read about their rhythms, the truth is that you begin to understand how important this predictability is to them. We’ve also always been big on the bedtime routine. I credit that for our ability to get him down in any foreign room (usually!).

How do you handle the sleep deprivation that often comes with a newborn?
I am such a baby myself when it comes to sleep deprivation. I definitely need my 7-8 hors in order to function. Sadly, I don’t have much sage advice on this front. I feel like I was just in survival mode for the first year. After that milestone everything seemed to get easier. On a full nights sleep anything is possible.

How has your style changed since becoming a mother?
Since my career description evolved simultaneously with becoming a parent, it gave me the perfect excuse to become more relaxed in the way I dress. Also the zeitgeist seemed to be echoing this in the world of fashion with runway collections and contemporary lines becoming more casual too. There is a perfect little boutique in my neighbourhood called The Narwhal. They have tapped into this insight and seem to have all the perfect pieces you crave to look casually chic but never over-dressed.

Do you enjoy being pregnant?
I love being pregnant. I've been lucky that both pregnancies have been relatively easy (a couple annoying symptoms of course!) But I feel like the hormones and endorphins have helped to make me more relaxed. I've been indulging in some blissful three-hour afternoon naps with Atticus throughout this pregnancy. That has been one of my favourite pastimes lately.

How do you juggle work with motherhood?
We are very fortunate to have an amazing caregiver who came to live with us when Atticus was about eight months. This gave me the opportunity to ease back into work (at a slower pace mind you) and maintain a pre-baby social life, while taking away the stress of having to go it all alone. Because my work schedule varies between projects there are slower times and busier times. I love to plan a few play dates and programs each week that are just for Atticus and I. We've been doing a music class once a week at a friend's house since he was about seven months old and have tried everything from sportball, gym class, nursery rhyme and story telling to tennis camp.

How did your career change after you became a mother?
My best friend and business partner, Ashleigh and I both had our first babies at the exact same time - unplanned obviously. At the end of the day it was the best thing that could have happened as it forced us to be really strategic about the future of what we had created with The Society and to be honest with ourselves about the time we were willing to commit. In the end we kept working on one annual project and as a result, were able to keep some balance with our new babies as well as dream up new businesses.

How do you achieve balance?
Of course it's Murphy's law that we have achieved a great balance the past year or so, but with the addition of baby number two, the status quo is about to be challenged. I think the trick is to avoid martyrdom. Our generation is different from that of our parents. My mother was a stay-at-home mom of three kids. Her devotion, creativity and resourcefulness will always amaze me. I honestly don't think I have it in me to do what she did. I feel so grateful to be able to spend precious days with my children, but to still keep my foot in the professional world. Creating, writing and being connected to other entrepreneurs rejuvenates me and makes me feel energized. I love the fact that today's mothers have the opportunity to be multi-faceted. Mother, wife, cook, business owner, artist etc.... Of course I personally couldn't do it without an involved husband, parents, in-laws or our amazing caregiver, Mishellyn.

What is your favourite time of the day?
I love being around in the afternoon while Atticus is napping. It’s usually my most productive time of day and our home always feels so peaceful with the washing machine and dishwasher quietly chugging away. When I see his messy little blonde head emerge around the corner after he wakes up, my heart melts. He is such a mama’s boy and loves to cuddle when he wakes up - so that's what we do.

Are you quite health conscious?
I'm really big on no processed or packaged anything (even if it makes health claims) and stick to the basics. Fresh fruit, vegetables, raw dairy and some grains, beans and nuts as long as they've been soaked. Unfortunately it means I'm driving across the city multiple times a week to source various products and I've been hitting so many different farmers markets this summer just to keep up our stock of amazing seasonal produce. But we also use some excellent delivery services (mostly via local farmers) for our red, white meat and some fruit and veggies.

What is the best part of motherhood?
I love getting to know this amazing little person that is both completely familiar to you and a total enigma. I have loved each stage and really thought it couldn't get any better than my newborn and then my 15 month old (when he finally started to walk!) but then he turned 2 and was talking and I thought, no this is the best. Now we're on the doorstep of three and I'm enamored with his sweet little personality, wit and charm. I’m excited to see what's to come.

Amanda’s little list of loves:
Slow mornings with Atticus - enjoying breakfast together followed by books and cuddles.
Date night workouts with my husband at Catalyst Health - we get our asses kicked and then go out for a healthy dinner and catch up on our days.
Eyebrow and eyelash tinting at Gee Beauty is my latest little luxury.
It makes such a difference as someone who doesn't wear much make up day to day.
Reading T Magazine and the Saturday NY Times.
Dinner parties with friends - either at home or out to try a new restaurant.
Saturday morning cappuccino and croissant runs to Ezra's Pound followed by park playdates.
Weekend getaways as a family.
Early weekend dinner at Terroni, our local Italian joint.
The Summerhill outpost has one of the best patios in the city and despite the geriatric dining hour, it's always buzzing and full of other parents/kids.
Homemade meals with my husband after we put Atticus to bed. He’s an amazing cook!
Travelling to new places and experiencing them through Atticus’ eyes.
Family dance parties.



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