Monday, 19 February 2018
Latest Issue


May 2012

Balancing Act

This month we chat to mum of six Claire Mulholland from Lisburn who runs her own petting farm business Blackberry Farm’s Little Mobile Farm and is soon expecting a seventh addition to her family.

Q) Tell us about your family?

Brendan and I met at the '96 Olympics in Atlanta. We married in '97 and started our family more or less straight away. Brendan's the sprinter and I'm more endurance, resulting in a fast start and a large family that keeps on growing, which consists of Beth 13, Orla 10, Daniel 8, Luke 7, Niamh 5, Benjamin 3 and then there's the ever growing bump, due to arrive in August. So it's a busy household!

Q) What job do you do and what time commitment is involved?

I have recently launched my new business, Blackberry Farm's Little Mobile Farm. Over the last 8 years as a family we have thrown ourselves into trying lots of different farming experiences from rearing chicks, turkeys, ducks, geese and keeping goats, pheasants and rare breed pigs. Seeing how our own children have enjoyed and benefited from their experiences, inspired me to set up our Little Mobile Farm. It has taken me about a year to set things up and have everything in place for the visits. Now I am in full swing, visiting schools, nurseries, play groups, special events, retirement homes, churches and parties. I take our friendly, furry animals from Blackberry Farm to offer a traditional farm experience alongside interactive storytelling. I have tried to mould the business around family life and my children are very hands on with the animals and involved in caring for them at home. My weeks vary quite a lot. Mornings are the most popular for visits which fits in with school hours. After a visit I take the animals home, tend to them and the other animals and then it's straight into school runs, homework, activities and tea. After this I'm straight back out to put the animals to bed first then the kids. I must say the animals are easier to settle! But the time commitment is similar to that of having children, you just can't have a day off when you feel like it and you have to make sure there's enough food to go round.

Q) How has your experience of pregnancy changed with each addition to your family?

I love being pregnant! And I suppose I've been blessed that I've always had good pregnancies with no complications, the births however, well we won't go into that! We are all looking forward to our new addition and can't wait to meet him or her. It's only when other people point out that it’s number seven, and I see the horror on their faces that I realise how mad it must seem. I suppose we are caught up with wondering about this new little personality about to join our family. I'm in my second trimester, so I'm having bursts of energy which are very helpful. It’s during this stage that I'm usually getting the paint brushes out to redecorate the house but instead I'm mucking out the animals!

Q) As you run your own business do you feel pressure to return to work sooner or do you think being your own boss is an advantage to a working mum?
I definitely feel the pressure to work right up to when the baby arrives and afterwards I will probably be busy doing admin work and securing bookings for the following season.

I think it can be an advantage being your own boss as you do have the option to bring in extra help and delegate more, either in the business or at home.

Q) What are your current and future child care plans?

So far I have been able to fit the mobile farm visits around school hours. Our youngest is in playgroup a few mornings a week, so that has helped and between Brendan and myself we have managed to juggle school drop offs and pick ups between us. After the baby arrives we will have to look into our different options, we have nothing in place as yet. I am dropping hints that an Au pair would be a good idea! I can live in hope.

Q) Do you feel that you have got the work /life balance right, or do you sometimes feel that it's all a bit much?

I'm laughing as I read this question. I always feel like it’s all a bit much!!! No seriously, I actually enjoy the buzz of having a busy home and life. The housework is the first to suffer when I'm busy with work. I'm always striving to get a better balance in life and if the people around me are happy then I'm happy.

Q) Do you ever encounter negative attitudes to working mums?

I have found most people to be very positive and interested in my work and business. I've actually had a lot more negative attitudes towards the fact that we are having another child. On a few occasions people have been quite rude. I just invite them up for tea and they tend to run in the opposite direction which is the desired effect.

Q) Do you think you miss out on anything because you are work?
I feel I'm in a new chapter of my life and I'm really enjoying being out there meeting new people and being apart of a great experience for all the children I visit. So at this stage no I don't feel like I'm missing out.
I think for each mother and family the work/life balance is different, what works for one may be different for another, but if someone has worked out the formula please let me know.

Q) What effect does working have on your partner?
Brendan works full time, some of which he is self employed. This means he can be a bit flexible at times but then the flip side to this is that if he doesn't work he doesn't get paid. He has been able to do more of the morning school runs so I can be where I need to be for setting up, which has been invaluable. The mornings, as you can imagine are hard work. Getting out on time is important as I absolutely hate being late for anything so full cooperation is needed by all. I have everything organised the night before so it's just the essentials to be done in the morning.

Q) Will there be a time in the future when you might decide to stay at home rather than work?
Even though I have been a stay-at-home mum for many years and loved it, I've always been busy with other projects or events going on. I'm really enthusiastic about Blackberry Farm’s little mobile farm and I'm passionate about moving it forwards. I have too many ideas buzzing around in my head to go back to staying at home full time it would be like having ants in my pants!

Q) Do you have any advice for other new mums who might be thinking of setting up their own business?

Becoming a new mum is life changing but for the better, even though it may not feel like it at 3am. Enjoy each stage, seeing your baby develop is like seeing bits of treasure being revealed. My advice on starting a new business would be to use the talents that you've been given, build on what you love and enjoy and this will then come through in your business.

Don't be put off by negative feedback, use it to improve and enhance your business. I think research is a must as you gain so much information that you can use to tailor your ideas and go for it!

Find out more about Blackberry Farm’s Little Mobile Farm at

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