Borra GarsonAge: 45
Marital Status: Married
Residence: London, UK
Children: Carmen, age 8; Devon, age 4
Profession: For 16 years now I have run a talent management agency in London which specialises in celebrity chefs. I suppose I am best known for launching Jamie Oliver's career, and I represented him for the first 6 years of his media career. My nickname is Borra, short for Deborah and my married name is McKenna, so when I set up shop I decided to be formal and call it Deborah McKenna Ltd. My husband and I have grown the company from 11 clients to around 60 clients, and although most are chefs and food journalists, there are also other lifestyle presenters on our books whose areas of expertise include wine, interior design, fashion, nutrition, fitness and even a hostage negotiator! As a sideline, we started a website last year called CookWithChefs.com as I found very little on the web to help a keen cook find a decent, trustworthy recipe. It's an online video cookbook, and we're slowly building up content, which is all sponsored. I am also an avid fan of iPhone apps, and last year we built Sunshine Food with my client Levi Roots, a very famous Jamaican chef whose range of Reggae Reggae Sauces are to be introduced to Canada later this year. Lastly, though I haven’t done a new one in ages, I write a blog for working mothers who enjoy cooking, so my various rants and recipes can be found at TheHappyWorkingMother.blogspot.com. Apart from work, I am a keen cook and we entertain a lot. I think nothing of feeding 30 people, as I used to run a catering business in Canada before I moved to England 21 years ago.
I also play a lot of backgammon!
Q: Why did you decide to become a mom later in life? What factors precipitated this decision (or dictated it)? Tell us what your road to parenthood was like.
A: To be honest I didn't think that starting at 37 was "late in life", though having my son at 40 definitely felt late! My career up to then kept me very occupied without much thought to starting a family, and especially as I travelled the world with Jamie Oliver in the early years as we established his brand. I think for me life just happens and I make it up as I go along. That being said, I don't think it was a mistake or a bad choice to have kids later, and my husband and I packed a lot of non-kid fun in before we became parents! I was lucky getting pregnant very quickly with my daughter, but struggled for over a year with my son's conception and in fact I had to delay my efforts for an additional year as someone at the office who was key to everything got pregnant ahead of me.Q: What do you most love about your work? What is most challenging about it? How long have you been doing it? Where do you see yourself heading?
A: The best part of my work is creating a new star and watching a career really take off. It's usually a lifelong dream to get a book published and I never tire of helping someone achieve that dream. The challenging bit is all the hundreds of small details you need to stay on top of, the keeping up with networking, the selling, the long hours. I have been working in an agency since 1992 and got my first clients in 1994 or so. Where I am heading now is not where I originally set off to be, as we are moving rapidly into digital areas and I am doing things there that I never envisaged even 5 years ago. But this change is what keeps the job interesting and probably keeps me at it as I get bored quite easily. The ever changing landscape of the media world is really a phenomenon of our age.Q: What have you experienced through motherhood that has helped in your work or personal life?
A: Becoming a mother unveils the generous person in you. You let go of what you thought was important, and you discover an incredible ability to give and give. It made me a better person and much more relaxed about material things, mess and sleep. I think people who obsess about the amount of sleep they get every night are missing out on living their lives. I'll happily party with my friends at night, then get up the next day with the kids and make pancakes 5 hours later with a thumping hangover. Not every day of course, but I won't cut back on my fun at either end of a day just so I can sleep. I always say "I'll sleep when I am dead." So, kids have helped me to gorge on life and not sweat the small stuff.Q: What is a typical day for you like? Do you do any work from home? If so, how do you find that? Have you worked more or less since you became a later mom?
A: I wake up at 6:45am and get myself ready before waking up the kids (husband is hopeless in the morning - sad I know). Then I make breakfast, rush rush rush, out the door to school and then keep walking onto work. That's a good day. On a bad day I wake up at 7:45am, shout at everyone, arrive very late at school, race back home to shower etc. and drive to work. I usually work until 7pm and get home just as the kids are ready for bed. I'll read one or both a story though I prefer to chat about their day. Weekends we mostly hang out. I make it a policy to have no scheduled activities on weekends as the weeks are quite full. I worked from home a long time ago, but it wouldn't be possible now full time. I do sneak in some late night emailing from time to time, once everyone is asleep though.Q: How do you think being a later in life mom has affected your experiences as a parent (share both good & not so good)? Has anything about being a mom surprised you? What do you most want to teach your child? What influence, if any, has your own mother had in your life and in your parenting?
A: The great thing about being an older mum is that I mostly feel I have done it all, so now I can relax and let the kids’ needs and desires lead the way. I am quite happy to go to the local park and mess around with them as I simply don't have the pressures on my time that I used to have. I have solid friendships, a strong marriage and I find it easy to say no to the latest book or restaurant launch party. I prefer to go home!
The not so good stuff is just energy levels. I see younger mums with that bit more bounce in their step than I might have, and I think physically their bodies have coped better with pregnancy and birth than an older body does. Not just from a looks point of view but also an inner health aspect - we're designed to snap back, but only if the babies are born in our snappy years!
My biggest surprise as a mum was what I call the "Mama Tiger Syndrome". You may never experience it, and I don't wish it for anyone, really, but once my daughter was under threat - I think someone was manhandling her and strangely I don't remember the circumstances. But what I do remember was the overwhelming rush of rage and power that erupted inside me and immediately I knew I could kill anyone who threatened my children. I can't tell you how powerful it is - pure animal stuff. It literally took my breath away.
I have a few things I want to teach my children: I want them to be confident about themselves and comfortable in their own skin, with the sense that they belong in this world but they must respect other people as much as they respect themselves. I want to teach them good old fashioned manners, and to have the social skills to talk to anyone (from Queens to criminals) and make that person feel comfortable and welcome in their company. To me that is the very definition of good manners - making people feel relaxed and not judged in your presence.
Lastly, I want to teach them both how to cook really really well.
My mum is a terrible cook! But she tried her best. She worked full time when I was young and I felt very proud of her. That is what makes me able to work as hard as I do now, as I know the kids will come to terms with it and perhaps also be proud of me one day. My mum also did a great routine each night and asked me for my happy thought of the day and my sad thought of the day, always after lights out. It made talking about anything quite easy...Q: Where do you turn for support as a mom? How important is to connect with mom peers? Do you consider yourself a role model for other later moms or aspiring later moms? How so? How do you think an organization like Motherhood Later…Than Sooner can be helpful to later moms?
A: My greatest support in life is from my husband and my friends. I have made some good friends with local mums since my kids have been at school as we're in the same boat, and it's amazing how the like-minded ones have gravitated to me and me to them. I used to be no good at asking for help, but now we help each other all the time. They are very important to me, and I try to help them as much as I can too. Generally I never say no, if I am asked for help.
Am I a role model? Unsure. I am not getting this whole parenting thing any more right than anyone else, I promise! Even just yesterday I ordered yet another parenting book off Amazon about how to cope with challenging children or something like that.
Motherhood Later must be a boon though to women who think they have left parenting too late. To find all the inspiring stories here written by very sane and successful women is an inspiration to anyone, no matter what their age. People must realise there are no rights or wrongs when it comes to these sorts of decisions. We are all doing our best with what life throws at us.Q: What words of wisdom would you most like to share with others contemplating becoming a mom later in life?
A: JUST DO IT. I don't care if you're single, if you're poor or if you're too busy at work. Being a mom is a voyage of self discovery that is enriching, interesting, funny, and it's by far most important thing you will ever do.Q: When you became a mom, did your own mother or mother figure share any particular sentiments or advice that really resonated? Or do you recall anything from your own upbringing that really stuck with you and you’d like to pass on to your child or other moms?
A: When I had my daughter my mom's best advice was not to give advice. She never pried, judged or insisted on anything. She sat back and enjoyed watching me (and my brother 9 months earlier) with our brand new babies and let us figure it out all on our own. It has given me the conviction to always feel I know what is best for my kids.
My mum wasn't on my case all the time as I grew up - probably because she worked full time then was a single mother when she left my dad. I had to do my own homework and learn how to be responsible for myself. All the "helicopter parenting" I see nowadays really worries me, as so many kids are not learning how to think for themselves or be brave enough to make their own mistakes. What kind of a future will that bring to them, or to their children? So I think a light touch, a gentle guiding hand and a genuine wish for my children to enjoy their childhood - to play and play and eat too many candies every now and again is the way to go. I hope my daughter agrees with this one day, and brings up her children with both hers and their enjoyment at the forefront of the experience.
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