Q&A with Anya Hayes

Next up on my blog series is one of the loveliest people on “the gram”. Anya Hayes – better know as @Mothers.wellness.toolkit. I’ve got to know her through these squares over the last year and I love her open and honest posts and positive outlook. She’s also so supportive and encouraging of others.

Anya is a font of experience and knowledge – if you want to know about pre- and postnatal physical and mental wellbeing, she’s your lady. I didn’t know quite how many things Anya had done until I received her Q&A. A freelance writer and editor with a background in book publishing. She wrote her first book, My Pilates Guru, while pregnant with her first baby and it went from there.

Her most recent book Supermum Myth has been a huge success and a welcoming warm voice, offering reassurance and practical advice to mums. Her next stop on the the perinatal wellness path is the creation of mind-body workshops for mums and pregnancy (such a brilliant idea!).

Every time I see Anya’s post, I think it’s time I got into pilates! Thank you for being part of my Q&A Anya!

What is your motto for life?
There’s a quote from the American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne which I love: Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. This quote it really had an impact on me when I first came across it and I often think about it when I see my son at the butterfly house desperately wanting butterflies to land on him….when we chase things too earnestly we can chase them away, but knowing that when the timing is right it’ll happen is quite powerful.

What is your current destination?
I have been a Pilates teacher and a freelance writer and editor for the past 10 years. My background is in book publishing, I used to be a Managing Editor. I feel honestly like I’ve been walking through a field of tall grass for the past 6 years work-wise since becoming a mum: I’m self-employed and often childcare hasn’t been easily available due to cashflow, etc. I’ve always worked around my babies: teaching in the evening, working on my computer when they’re asleep, which has meant being exhausted most of the time and not having much headspace away from them!
I wrote my first book, My Pilates Guru, while pregnant with my first baby, and then another, A Little Course in Pilates, when he was very small. Then the writing work seemed to ‘dry up’ and I was doing more editorial work which gradually began to focus mainly around pregnancy and wellness. I have updated White Ladder’s My Pregnancy annual since 2013. And given that it was part of my life and experience I began naturally focusing mostly on the pregnancy and postnatal side of things with my Pilates teaching. At times I’ve questioned what on earth my career direction is: you don’t tend to have an objective overview of what you’re doing while you’re in it.
I was then asked to write Pregnancy: the Naked Truth, and it now feels like my various strands of working life: teaching Pilates, focusing on pre- and postnatal physical and mental wellbeing, writing, editing, are converging and making more sense: my 4th book, The Supermum Myth, is out now. It’s a toolkit of therapies I wrote with a clinical psychologist, to help ease the various mental health issues that we struggle with as mums: guilt. anxiety, depression. It aims to overturn the feeling that we have to be perfect and the potential for feeling like a failure that there seems to be at every turn as a mum. It’s a bit like wearing my heart on my sleeve this book: the book proposal came about after I had quite a tough postnatal time of it after my first. Birth trauma, difficult newborn time, breastfeeding issues, fear of judgment, all that jazz. Followed by miscarriages in between my two boys, one of which was very traumatic…so highlighting mental health for mums and easing others’ experiences of loneliness, birth trauma, struggles with fertility, feelings of failure, has been something of a mission for me since then.
I am currently writing my next book Pilates for Pregnancy, which will publish with Bloomsbury next September. It’s been a hard slog but I feel like my career now makes a bit more coherent sense, and I can feel glad and proud that I’ve cobbled it all together while juggling small people.
Often during the past 6 years I have yearned for a “proper” more secure permanent job, but I feel like there are glimpses of it all making sense now and coming together. It can be really hard being “heart-led” where career goes as you question yourself more when it’s not making you any money (lol)!.
Honestly, if there were more part time editorial roles offered at my level of experience, I possibly would have not remained self-employed for so long as it is hard (being pregnant and self employed, with no maternity leave etc, is particularly tough). But I knew in my gut that I didn’t want to work full time in an office while my littles were little, and now, with a few books under my belt and enough confidence to put myself out there as a Pilates and wellness expert, things are beginning to look clearer and brighter.
I’d like to continue along this perinatal wellness path: creating mind-body workshops for mums, and for pregnancy. Sort of hypnobirthing meets life coaching (lol). Train as a life coach or grief counsellor (or both?!) along the way too. Write a few more books…

What advice do you have for your 16-year old self?
Lighten up! Be less hard on yourself, you’re actually amazing. Don’t assume you know what other people think of you (and that they are judging you as harshly as you judge yourself – they are absolutely not!). I wish I hadn’t worried so much. Or been so down on myself and the way I looked.

What three things are you most grateful for today?

My health. My family. My work – I really love what I do and am grateful every day that I have somehow managed to make it work so far!

What are your natural highs?
You can’t beat a good Pilates session – it makes you feel lengthened, massaged, uplifted, rejuvenated all in one. Even if I’m totally knackered (unless I’m actually unwell) it totally turns that around. I’ve never quite found the “runner’s high” that everyone talks about but I benefit in that way from swimming lengths of front crawl or walking in green space. I love listening to music, having a good sing and a boogie, festivals, gigs…. Being outside in nature, swimming in the sea…. I used to love horse riding, haven’t been for years but that would still qualify as a natural high if you found me a horse to ride now.

What gives your life balance?
I really suffer (and so does my husband…) if I haven’t had any downtime alone. I’m an introvert and definitely definitely suffer if I don’t get any time alone to recharge: meander with a magazine or a book, have a walk in a park, switch off totally from social media buzz or work. So it’s those times when all my evening space is used up with teaching/freelance work and I don’t have childcare during the day for an extended period of time that I begin to gnash my teeth and get a bit frazzled and everyone around me suffers. So for me I really need to build in head space, quiet breathing/yoga time just for me on my own, time to catch up on trashy TV such as Made in Chelsea, to make sure I don’t spill over like a boiling pot.

What makes you laugh?
My kids, my best friends. I love listening to comedy on the radio, watching good comedy on the telly.

What is your proudest achievement?
Apart from producing two humans, writing 4 books. Doing the London Triathlon when Freddie was 6 months. I didn’t do it quickly, but I did it.

Who in your life has influenced you the most?
My parents: my dad has probably had the most direct influence on my career, given that I have inadvertently basically become what he is, a self-employed author and teacher. My Pilates teachers: two in particular but I guess all of my Pilates teachers over the years have had some influence and impact on my Pilates journey and understanding. My best friend, who died suddenly when we were 28, she was the reason I decided to jack in a permanent solid reliable full-time job and retrain as a Pilates teacher, because her death really did show irrefutable evidence that life is too short not to do what you love. It’s a bugger to realise she’ll never know how much she influenced that.

Which five people, living or dead, would you invite to a fantasy dinner party?
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr…and Stevie Wonder. There aren’t any women in that list! Argh. But I think that would be quite a cool crowd, I’d love to hear their stories and get them to jam some good music.

Tell us something we don’t know about you?
I sang the jingle for the Milky Bar advert, when I was 10 years old.

The Supermum Myth is out now! You can also follow Anya on instagram.

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