Francesca (usually Fran) de Franco is a blogger at The Parent Social, which she set up. A Londoner now residing in Surrey where she lives with her husband and three daughters, Fran blogs about the things that they do, the places they visit, toys and games as all the everyday parenting (and some non-parenting) stuff in between. She also blogs on TalkMum and Habyts, and writes sporadically for a number of other sites.
What inspired you to set up your business?
When my eldest daughter turned one I went back to my PR manager job in the City part time. A year-and-a-half later I had twins. Working even part time with three under three just did not make any sense – the childcare costs would be crippling and the logistics would be a nightmare. I really embraced the stay-at-home mum role initially and revelled in the fact I wasn’t constantly trying to reconcile motherhood and work. However, I soon found that I was feeling a little mentally unstimulated. I craved more interaction with the ‘outside world’ and wanted to do something else alongside being a mum.
I’ve always enjoyed writing and had quickly gained a lot of parenting knowledge, and so it didn’t take long to come up with the idea of blogging. I set up The Parent Social website (www.theparentsocial.com) at the beginning of 2013.
What makes your you/your business special and where are you based?
The blog is something I really care about. It reflects both my family life and my interests as an individual. It’s special to me as it really broadened my horizons after I felt they’d narrowed somewhat as a stay-at-home mum. The blog also helped me regain some confidence, which I thought I’d lost.
Additionally, it opened up quite a lot of different opportunities and was also the catalyst for me returning part time to my previous job (the youngest two had started pre-school by that point). I was able to work from home in Surrey, and the PR role and the blogging sat happily side-by-side.
What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?
When I was younger my mum always encouraged me to have a wide circle of friends (not be cliquey), to not be concerned if someone was cool or uncool and to never be afraid of befriending someone who might be a bit different. It made me quite the social butterfly and actually helped me be assertive; it was a brave person that didn’t pander to the cool kids.
Fast-forward to my working life and it means that I have the ability to work with people from all different backgrounds, with people who have different/opposing views to my own and with people who are senior and junior to myself. It also means that I get the measure of people pretty quickly. I can usually sniff out who’s genuine and who isn’t!
Also, I know it’s a cliché but “be nice to people on the way up…”
What has been your greatest challenge?
Juggling everything and getting the work/life balance right. The other challenge is getting over guilt. I’m a stay-at-home working mum. Sometimes I feel guilty that I’m not devoting enough attention to my children because I’m preoccupied with work stuff. Sometimes I feel guilty because I’d much rather be writing my next blog post instead of cooking the kids’ tea or listening to a story one of them has told me three times already. Then on the flipside, I can feel guilty that I’ve not given enough time to work. We recently had a double bout of chickenpox (the twins got it 16 days apart), which required quite a bit of time off school. Naturally, work had to take a bit of a backseat; naturally I felt immeasurably guilty.
How do you switch off?
With a nice glass of wine and some good TV. My current obsession is BBC drama Line of Duty.
However, I’m one of those awful people that can’t leave their phone alone and is always checking emails. If I wake in the night my first instinct is to look at my phone. I think it’s very detrimental to your wellbeing as it means that whilst you are awake you are never truly switched off.
Where do you go on holiday?
I’m half Italian so we go to Italy to visit my relatives quite a lot. They live in the Liguria region in the north bordering France. However, we’ve also visited many other parts of the country. I’m biased, but I do love it there. In February of this year I took my husband to Lisbon to celebrate his 40th. It was for three nights and our first childfree trip away!
What lesson do you wish you had learnt at school?
Not to sweat the small stuff. Also, I wish I’d appreciated my school days more at the time. I wouldn’t change anything in my life now; my family is everything, but sometimes I think back to those carefree school days when I had no responsibilities. Obviously at the time I longed to be older, wiser and have more responsibility!
What app/website/twitter account (other than your own!) would you recommend?
For a bit of at-my-desk downtime, I love some of the satirical websites. The Poke, The Daily Mash and News Thump are three of my regular haunts. As the Poke’s strapline says: ‘time well wasted.’
I’m also a sucker for word games. I’m currently playing quite a lot of Wordbrain on my phone.
Where do you see yourself/your company in five years’ time?
At a stage where I’ve got the work/life balance just right. I’d want to be achieving some great results for my current employer, growing The Parent Social (and increasing revenue) and being the best mum I can be.