Nine years ago, I gave birth to my first child. Back then, there weren’t many women talking honestly about birth, parenting, miscarriage, post-natal depression, pelvic floor issues or IVF. There
was no Scummy Mummies, The Midult, or Mother Pukka to reassure us that when it came to motherhood it was also OK to struggle, to want more, to be sad, and to feel a little lost.
But social media changed all that. Women spoke their truth, and platforms like Instagram became fertile ground for new conversations. These gave way to debate, new ideas and change, culminating in a surge of new businesses focused on supporting women, in particular new mums.
And The Food Doula is exactly that — a business designed to support new parents. The offering is simple: delivering home cook food during the early stages of parenthood means more time spent with baby, and each other.
The foods are healthy and nourishing; the ingredients handpicked to ensure new mothers have what they need to deal with what lays ahead. There are vegetarian, vegan and meat based ‘bundles’ to
choose from. And you can also buy gift vouchers which seems an ideal present to me — how many fluffy bunnies does a new born really need?
The Food Doula is Kate Longden’s second baby (the first is her excruciatingly gorgeous daughter Olive), and she’s yet another entrepreneur that had a lightbulb moment during her own pregnancy. Kate is friendly, warm, and unassumingly confident. There is something extremely comforting about her, and I am glad she has chosen to use her creativity and talent to support other women.
I wish The Food Doula was around when I had my children. They were difficult (and tiring) times and though my husband did a stellar job helping me, it would have been great if we both had time to breath and take in the momentous change that had taken place in our lives.
To me, any business that supports women at such an intense and vulnerable time has my full attention. So, please come and say hi to…
The Food Doula
Tell us a bit about The Food Doula . How did it come about?
I (The Food Doula) cook and deliver nourishing and comforting frozen food bundles for new parents across the UK. A food hug when you can’t tell your a*…kle from your elbow, let alone cook yourself a nutritious and satisfying meal!
Towards the end of my pregnancy I had batch cooked for the freezer so I knew we could eat some home-cooked food that was varied, for those early days. Of course, that ran out pretty pronto (the hunger was strong!) and I started thinking about parents needing ‘edible support’. It’s so easy to focus on baby rather than your own physical and mental recovery (and maintenance) but for me that is number one. Baby will be happier if mum is well fed, watered and supported.
I’ve always loved cooking and missed having the energy to do it in those early days. As my maternity leave progressed, away from life as a special needs teacher, I couldn’t shake the feeling that 1) through my work I wanted to be connected to pregnant people and parents in some way 2) I wanted a life shake up- nothing like motherhood to make you ponder ‘What and Why?’ and 3) to work more autonomously and with food.
So, in Jan 2018 I left teaching and started a part time nanny job that I could take my daughter to and slowly begun my journey to launching the business- which happened in December 2018!
What do you love most about the business?
Creating, tweaking and developing the recipes for dishes in the bundles. Balancing them with heaps of nutrient dense ingredients but making them adventurous and satisfying too. There is a lot of eating variations of the same meal and scrutinising over them in our house!
The food will always be the most exciting part of it, the spreadsheets aren't quite so yummy!
Also, it may sound silly but one of my favourite tasks currently is actually packing up the bundles and waving them off with the courier on shipping days. It’s still early days and maybe that buzz will go, but there’s something about handling that ‘finished product’, ready for people who deserve a delicious meal that is pretty magical.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned since starting?
Planning (as much as the creative in me isn’t enthused by it) is important, as are the numbers. As is being flexible when running a business alone.
At times when the creative juices are flowing, I try to harness that mood, you can’t switch that on. And when they’re not flowing, I do the admin (in between all the actual cooking!)
Quickly changing hats at the same time as prioritising tasks is hard, but it’s becoming more natural over time.
Best advice you were given?
The best advice was from my partner, towards the end of my teaching career, when I was stressed, wanting to leave and follow another path. I hadn’t yet handed my notice in and couldn’t decide what do, he said- ‘You have so many options and choices, you can do anything, you’re not bound to teaching just because you trained in it’. I felt lighter straight away, handed my notice in and haven’t looked back.
I think that advice carries over to business, and everything really. If something has gone wrong/ isn’t working for you, switch it up, be adjustable, look at options, brush yourself off and re-calibrate.
Another piece of advice was that ‘it’s all about the product’. So first and foremost, the food has to be amazing, everything else will follow.
How do you switch off?
Baths, seeing friends, listening to podcasts, going to gigs, tellybox with a takeaway, writing. Sometimes I get into bed with my dinner…It’s my lazy, indulgent headspace heaven! (Guilty pleasure)
Grow this business baby. Recipe test. Eat. Repeat. Breathe; my birth breathing techniques I learnt help me daily to keep the calm, a revelation!
I will continue to do monthly sessions at Kings College University, teaching groups of students to ‘cook with confidence and carry on developing the business — I’d like to work on a blog section on the website where I can file recipes.
I also have some more filming lined up in April for The Mail Online. At the end of last year I did some cooking videos of Dr. Michael Mosley’s Fast 800 recipes for the new Mail Plus site. It’s an intense experience but fun too and refreshing to have a shake up of routine! I’ve learnt that I need variety and thrive from being challenged creatively in different ways. Looking back I felt quite suffocated in teaching, creatively and physically being in one place. The patchwork quilt approach to work is better for me!
If you fancy a look at the videos the link is here!
Favourite things to do/places to go in South East London?
With the sprog- Crystal Palace park (a given isn’t it?), Streatham common play park, Horniman Museum- I like their farmers market on a Saturday. Trampolining at Oxygen in Croydon- absolute mayhem but wares her out and reminds me of the importance of pelvic floor exercises!
Food wise- Silk Road in Camberwell, Peckham Bazaar, Dosa and Chutney in Tooting, Coq fighter at Boxpark in Croydon for insane chicken burger situation, Taco Queen in Peckham, Milk in Balham for brunch- specifically the ‘Young Betty’ — it comes with burnt butter hollandaise which is sent from food heaven.