Updated: Jun 28

“So, what do you do for a living?” Oh, how I dread that question. No string of words makes me more nervous, other than possibly “would you like to check your balance?”. It is the curse of almost a decade of being a stay-at-home mummy. It’s never enough

of an answer. It is literally what filled my days, every task, every thought, every timetable was built around it and yet when someone asked me what I did for a living I would find myself shifting and stumbling over the words “I em, well I have kids so like, you know um, but a bit of writing and uh yeah so”, very eloquent. I was so jealous of people who had a clear-cut answer. Either mums with the ability to announce proudly “I’m a mum” and leave it at that, or people who said I’m a nurse, I work at this place, I’m a librarian, whatever it was! That confidence in their identity. It has taken me literally years to have that confidence and the irony of it all, as soon as I master a good, clear “I’m a stay-at-home mum and pretty damn good at it!”, I decide to go back to work.

A house move and the luxury of a bit more space sparked the idea I could work for myself, the free time and change in the way everyone was working due to a global pandemic weirdly made it seem more possible than ever. That’s all it takes, a global pandemic apparently and I’m straight back to work! Cherry Tree Cottage is the name of my house, and my business. The business reflects the lifestyle change this house has brought to me. I have this amazing opportunity to grow my own herbs and flowers, to indulge the part of me that wants to stick wellies on and own chickens and fulfil some good life fantasy from my youth.

So, I’ve started. I’ve started small, just an Instagram page and word of mouth. It means I can make to order and concentrate on making beautiful items without a massive supply outlay. I make candles, wax melts, occasionally soaps, and small handmade gifts. All hand poured, naturally scented, made with soy wax and sustainably packaged.

So, I did it. I made the leap, I have an answer and conversation topics other than the age and eating habits of my tiny people. I no longer need to sit through being told “oh a mummy! Sure that’s the hardest job in the world!” While their eyes scan for someone else to talk to. And yet! Here we are again, the crisis of confidence, I got asked what I did for a living and I jumped. Yes! This is it! And what came out? “Well, it’s just this thing I’m doing, it’s kind of like candles and home-made stuff. It’s really not a big deal, I’m sure nothing will come of it but hey it’s fun!”. Endless ramblings peppered with downplaying what I do, and also never actually saying what it is. What exactly is wrong with me! Why do I keep excusing myself? I don’t think I’m alone in this, maybe it’s a Northern Irish trait, playing down success or ambition. I suspect it’s more than that, I know countless women who follow any praise or successful moment with ‘ach it was nothing’ or ‘yeah but I..’

The instinct to tear ourselves down before others do, to make sure we aren’t painted as being too full of ourselves, or bitches or self-involved. It’s hard to fight. It’s unlearning decades of making ourselves smaller, more approachable. Not yet getting used to having positive, unapologetically powerful female role models. But I have an opportunity in print here so, I’ve decided to try again. I run a business making my very own things, I am a mother to two gorgeous children, I put effort into these things and that’s it. That’s enough.

We used to be told as children to watch our words, I’m telling you the same as an adult. If someone compliments you, just say thank you, they aren’t asking for other things you’re not so great at. If you work hard at something, that’s your story, be proud of it. If something doesn’t work out, it’s not a failure, it’s a lesson for the next attempt, it’s ok to be happy for yourself! It’s also ok to wander, to not have a straight answer just yet, if ever. Don’t panic.

So, that’s me, what do you do for a living?

Amy is the founder and owner of Cherry Tree Cottage, you can contact Amy here for more information on her bespoke service or products.

All words and images by Amy McGreevy

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Love Cheryl and Lyndsey


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Shiela The Elephant became a familiar sight on the Whitewell Road in North Belfast as Zookeeper Denise Austin brought her home to protect her during the Belfast Blitz in 1941. She's perhaps Northern Ireland's most infamous elephant. Copyright Belfast Zoo.

This pandemic has been like one very long pregnancy. Not convinced by my analogy? Let me compare my first pregnancy with the first wave of the pandemic.

September 1989

Newly graduated I’m working unpaid with a local community theatre group. I’m feeling slightly unwell. Nausea, tired, sore breasts, periods stopped. I explain these unheard-of random symptoms to my GP.

“Is it possible you’re pregnant?” he asks. I shake my head

“No, absolutely not. Impossible,” is my instant reply

I’ve moved to South Belfast with my partner.

“So, you haven’t had sex? You’re not in a relationship?”

Yes, I had and yes, I was, but the thought had never entered my head. Even with the suddenly embarrassingly obvious text book symptoms. It seemed my brain was in deep denial. He ordered a test. What if I am pregnant? How will it affect our life?

January 2020

Empty Nesters, we moved to South Belfast a year ago. News filters through from China about a new virus. Countries start to shut their borders. Our government does nothing. They seem to be in denial. Perhaps it will never happen here, I think, and if it does will it really affect our life?

1st Trimester 1989

I’m pregnant. I can’t believe this is happening; my partner is excited. I start reading every pregnancy and baby book in the Ormeau library. We need to prepare for this. I start making lists.

February 2020

The Coronavirus is here. I can’t believe this is happening; my partner is excited. We start watching every news bulletin, reading every report. We need to prepare for this. I start making lists.

2nd Trimester 1989/1990

Time to start shopping, spread the costs. Other parents advise us that the most essential item is a washing machine. Babies are messy. Moses basket? Changing table? Pram? They can sleep in a drawer; you can change nappies on the floor and carry them in a sling. But they will wear several changes of clothes a day. And nappies, apparently babies go through a lot of nappies.

March 2020

Talk of a Lockdown. Time to do a big Tesco shop and stock up on pasta and tins of tomatoes. There are no loo rolls in any shop. Apparently, people in pandemics go through a lot of loo rolls.

3rd Trimester 1990

“Morning” sickness has gone. This pregnancy lark is actually quite fun. The gift of time. I’ll start an exercise class. I get sciatica and can’t move. I’ll learn a language. Why? It’s not as if we will ever be able to afford to travel with a baby. I’ll read ‘War and Peace’. My pregnancy brain kicks in so I can’t concentrate on anything, except Neighbours, EastEnders and Dallas. I can’t even have a drink at the pub. I start eating strange combinations of food. Toast burnt black with garlic pickle and peanut butter. I drink Ribena, which I hate, by the gallon.

None of my clothes fit, even the maternity clothes. Elasticated waists are my friend.

I can’t sleep, and when I do I have the weirdest dreams. How can I feel so tired when all I’ve been doing is sitting on the couch? My emotions are all over the place. Crying at sentimental adverts or at nothing. The phone calls start from friends and family I haven’t heard from in years. “Yes, I’m fine. Not doing much. Good days and bad days.”

April 2020 to March 2021

This lockdown is actually quite fun at first. The gift of time. I’ll start an online exercise class. There isn’t room to stand in front of the telly in our living room, let alone do jumping jacks. I could learn a language. What’s the point? It’s not as if we are ever likely to travel again. Maybe I’ll finally read ‘War and Peace,’ but find I can’t concentrate on anything. However, we do watch all 110 episodes of the original ‘Charlie’s Angels’. We can’t even go out to the pub for a drink. To avoid going to the shops we start eating strange food combinations of unloved tins from the back of the cupboard and mystery meat from the bottom of the freezer.

Then one day my jeans won’t do up. A combination of lack of exercise and my partner’s new baking hobby has piled on the pounds. Nightwear becomes daywear. Elasticated waists are my friend.

I can’t sleep, and when I do I have the weirdest dreams. How can I feel so tired when all I’ve been doing is sitting on the couch? My emotions are all over the place. Crying at a child’s picture of a rainbow or at nothing. The phone calls start from friends and family I haven’t heard from in years. “Yes, I’m fine. Not doing much. Good days and bad days.”

And I wait and wait and wait. Counting the days, weeks, months. I am fed up, fat, bored, aching, sleep deprived and I just want this to be over!

Words by Louise Lynch

Images by unknown. Copyright Belfast Zoo.

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I find it very hard to put into words the experience of lock down. Living through this collective trauma in real time is a life defining experience. It felt and still feels like, we are going through the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance but in a random, unpredictable order. I find as events and time progresses, any given day’s any given hour can be dominated with one or the other or even multiple stages of grief at the same time. Angry denial, total depression, hopeless bargaining, back to anger, numbing into denial, a deep sense of acceptance and it’s only 2pm…. I can’t really put a date on it but I believe sometime around the second lock down, towards the end of the summer 2020, I begin to feel a shift. I started seeing more of what was gained instead of what was lost.

In this weird, non-real but yet very real life I found myself to be able to let go. Let go of “what it should be”, of “what it should look like” and “what should be done”. Work, family relationships, marriage, parenting…all of it. This affected our family life in a very positive way and this atmosphere allowed me to dig even deeper and start something, I probably would have never done otherwise: create art. Lock down and isolation created a safety bubble in which a lot of my fears as a creative person/artist dissolved. It honestly didn’t matter if I will be ridiculed or laughed at because on the large scale of things, an image I created seemed tiny and irrelevant anyway, so I might as well create whatever I feel like. It didn’t fear anymore what other people thought of my work, because I didn’t see anyone in real life and people who mattered the most were supportive. It also didn’t matter anymore that at age 40 I felt like I was too late to the artist party, because time has lost its relevance. And finally, I didn’t have to worry anymore on how ‘creating art’ would affect my photography business because I had no business, bookings or clients at that point due to the circumstances All I had was a new found sense of purpose paired with insomnia and an IG account. It started with self-portraits which were sometimes funny and surreal, sometimes an invitation for conversation with like-minded souls. It connected me with other artists and creators who were inspiring, supportive and encouraging. As I progressed with photoshop skills the output of my images became more complex and it allowed me to think up more and more layered ideas. Finally, I set out a task to create a concept which would somehow combine all of my favourite things: photography, Dublin, history, architecture and nature. This is how the Wild Dublin collection was born on, which then turned into an Etsy art shop and a new business. 2020 has taught me that it’s worth pursuing a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear and for that I’m grateful.

Words and image by Dora Hurley

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