As we head towards Christmas, I wanted to highlight an “Our Altered Life” founder, author and fellow career twin mummy Charlie Beswick who I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing virtually!
Tell me a little about yourself?
I’m 44 years old living in North Staffordshire. I am mum to 16-year-old twins Oliver and Harry and Step Mum to Benedicta and Harrison. Besides that, I am a self-confessed cheeseaholic and gin lover. I have been teaching for !16 years and my life purpose is to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
Tell me about your company “Our Altered Life”?
Our Altered Life is very much about showing that a life altered by disability can still be a happy one.
I share the highs and lows of life with my son Harry who was born with a craniofacial syndrome and severe autism. Its important to me to be as real and open as I can be (while obviously respecting my sons privacy) because I know what it feels like when you’re the only one in your network who has experienced the isolation and overwhelm of a life with additional needs and all that comes with it.
The business – Our Altered Life – is online, where a beautiful community has grown around me and my family. Now, I support other mothers who are at the start of their own altered lives and need someone who truly ‘gets it’ to support them.
I am also beginning to work with organisations who want staff to feel empowered and valued in their lives as well as their roles.
What inspired you to write your book “Our Altered Life”?
I have always loved writing. Initially, collating the diary entries, medical reports, health, and educational assessments etc. for over 12 years was a cathartic exercise. As it was coming together, I began to think that reading something like this would have really helped me when Harry was born.
Everyone was so supportive and encouraging when the boys were born but no-one sat with me and gave me the space to be sad or angry. No-one acknowledged that the detour our life had unexpectedly taken was unfair and hard. I needed that.
I published the book in 2017 and since then, mothers from all over the world have said that my words are what they want to say but daren’t speak out loud. They have thanked me for my brutal honesty.
I feel, behind my boys, the book is my greatest achievement.
What is your favourite part of running your company?
I love, love, love the moments when people have a realisation about themselves or their lives that helps them to move forward.
As I said, making a difference is a huge part of who I am. While I don’t pretend to ‘do’ the work for them that they need whether that’s with themselves or their own organisation, I feel very honoured to walk alongside them for a while. I help them develop the tools, strategies and mindset that they need for success and happiness, whatever that look like for them.
What has been your biggest frustrations?
I am an excellent employee; diligent, organised, and efficient because I hate to let people down.
However, I’m not as disciplined being my own boss because I am happier to let myself down and so my drive often turns into frustration.
I have used accountability buddies and groups to tackle this. I think it’s really important when you have your own business to know where your strengths are but also where you need to either outsource or get support.
How do you feel your organisation supports women with an unexpected altered life?
There are many ways that women can get support.
Many simply join our online community and watch the stories as well as images that I share.
A lot of the feedback from our followers is that they love how genuine and real my message is. I don’t shy away from the tough topics, and I definitely don’t pretend that life is always rosy.
Being Harry’s mum has absolutely made me a better person. However, it would be wrong of me to project an easy, smooth life because that would do an enormous disservice to the women I support and the lost mother I once was.
Women can also access free e-book support and work with me 1-1 as their mentor as they navigate the grief, frustrations and challenges of an altered life. I am launching a group programme next year which will be amazing. I can’t wait.
What advice would you give organisations in terms of supporting women in work?
I think there has definitely been progress in the workplace view and treatment of women over the past few years but no-where near enough.
Organisations need to set their preconceived ideas about what a woman may or may not be able to bring to a role to one side and to allow her to shine without the weight of pressure or expectation.
I recently posted on LinkedIn about the qualities that a mother of a child with additional needs can bring to a role despite the fact that they may need to work more flexibly. Flexible does not mean less.
The post has had almost one million views at the moment. It has definitely resonated with those women who don’t necessarily want to be seen as anything special or different but simply want to be seen for the value they bring and the contribution they make.
I would say to speak with women about their potential barriers, challenges, and what they actually need from the role. This will allow them to shine their brightest.
Basically, my advice for them will be to work WITH women to co-create the environment they need rather than micro managing them. This only leads to resentment and stress.
What should we expect to see next from “Our Altered Life”?
I am keen to collaborate more with organisations and speak about how to thrive in high stakes and high pressure situations. I want to show how relevant the lessons from my own journey are to their workplace and how they can benefit from these lessons.
The group programme for Mum’s with an altered life will launch and of course, my 1-1 support will continue.
I am so very passionate to support women whose lives, dreams, and self-worth have been impacted by their child’s diagnosis or disability.
Few people genuinely understand that you can (and need to) grieve the loss of the life you expected and still love the child you have.
I can’t wait for 2022!
I see you are a fellow lover of cheese, I love a cheeky Cheddar! What will be on your showstopper cheese board at Christmas ?
I’m going to be really boring and say that an extra strong cheddar is my kryptonite. I do love an Austrian smoked too though. All cheese is a winner for me.
Anything else you would like to share?
Only that I am looking to connect with organisations who want a ‘transformational’ speaker rather than an ‘inspirational’ speaker. I want to build relationships that can facilitate true growth and not just be a box ticking exercise.
Where can we find you?
I am on LinkedIn as Charlie Beswick and as @ouralteredlife on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and twitter.
And your book?
We have 4 books to give away as our Christmas gift to our readers. Please email Samantha@samanthalubanzu.com before 8th January 2022 to be in with a chance to win !