MEET THE MOTHER: Kirstie Beaven
Introducing Kirstie Beaven, mother of 2 and co-founder of Sonshine, a parenting magazine aimed at breaking down gender stereotypes in how we raise our children. I chat to Kirstie about dreams of dancing with pals, beautiful furniture and changing the world for girls and boys.
As mothers, we often begin to see the world quite differently once our children arrive. One of the differences noticed by Kirstie was the way in which children are treated because of their sex. As mothers with newly turned two-year-old’s and babies, Kirstie, and her friend and fellow writer Hayley, began to see that not only did others treat their children differently, but the ways in which they thought about them too conformed to gender stereotypes. While there were many “great resources to help parents raise daughters for equality’, there was a lack for “parents of boys to do the same”. It was during this time Kirstie and Hayley founded the magazine, ‘Sonshine’.
Having previously worked as commissioning editor for the Tate galleries, Kirstie created content for their website and galleries. Having extensive experience creating themed content online and working with “really interesting contributors”, Kirstie was well equipped with the skills needed to drive their message forward. Sonshine originally began online yet moved into a printed magazine format, “I’m always DELIGHTED when a new issue of the mag goes to print - I love seeing it come back from the printer!”
“We can’t change the world for girls and women without changing it for boys and men too”
Sonshine is a parenting magazine with a twist. ‘Raising boys for a more equal world’ drives Sonshine’s mission. We know that there has been a significant and important shift in how women and girls are discussed. As Kirstie explains, “We’re starting to teach girls they can be or do anything, and the boys need to know that too. Boys need to know that gender is not a division, just the same way the girls need to know it. Then they can all change the world”.
Since starting the magazine over three years, Kirstie has seen an increase in conversations about how young boys are treated, and how that translates into adult experiences; “It’s been great to go from people saying what we do is ‘niche’ to it becoming a more mainstream view; to try to let boys be sensitive as well as strong, gentle as well as brave, and to listen as well as to raise their voices”.
“It’s so magical to not be tied to our adult ways of seeing the world”
Living in East London with her husband and two children, aged 6 and 8, Kirstie’s experiences of motherhood ring a familiar bell. Having two maternity leaves very close together, Kirstie found the changes to her identity difficult to process, unsure of how to feel about herself or who she was. Like many mothers, Kirstie found the newborn stage a challenge, wondering if she’d make it to that magical much-discussed milestone. Her father-in-law offered a piece of advice she still remembers today, “to know that this phase will pass. Whatever you are struggling with now, it won’t last forever”. Kirstie offers solidarity with every parent with children who don’t sleep a lot and has found the New Horizon Holistic Centre kids' sleep stories and guided relaxations have helped her children, especially her night-owl eldest, “I have even used them myself!”
With her youngest starting reception in 2019, Kirstie expected to have more time for work, but then 2020 happened. Like most families, Kirstie has found this past year tough, “it’s been almost impossible this [past] year”. Kirstie often found herself working between 9pm and midnight, “as it’s so hard to write or edit with the kids around’ but has found balancing the load with her husband has served their family well. Even with her husband steering the family through their morning routine and managing the school run, it’s still been an exercise in time management; “I definitely let the balls drop often. I’m always hair-drying a PE kit at 8.15am because I forgot to get the laundry out in time!”
“I can now look back on some of that time as a gift (some of it!)”
Despite the challenges of the previous year, Kirstie is grateful for the extra time she had with her children and to get to know who they are now, “you spend so much time with them in the pre-school time, but they are so interesting as they get older too!” With children starting school being a major game-change for families, Kirstie reflects on how our time with our children often becomes quite functional, “getting ready for school, going to after school clubs”, so the extra time with them has been a true source of joy. Kirstie’s favourite aspect of motherhood is knowing them and wondering who they might be one day, “I love seeing their personalities grow and hearing their weird questions and getting to see the world through their eyes”.
I get the impression from Kirstie that she very much agrees with giving her children freedom within appropriate boundaries. At present, the family is currently negotiating a new wall colour in the children’s shared bedroom. Kirstie believes in giving her children a say in how their room is decorated, “even if it doesn’t go with my own aesthetic”, giving the children freedom to choose prints. Favouring simple colours and graphic prints, Kirstie recently bought some reconditioned old school desks from Blue Ticking and adores Sessions & Co heirloom pieces, “I really love the way they are perfect pieces of art for children and adults alike”.
For Kirstie, simple yet stylish is also reflected in her wardrobe, favouring comfortable Sideline jeans and “an absolutely massive sweater from Cos. I love the way it looks smart while feeling like pyjamas!”. But it’s music that keep her going through the day, “I often have 6 Music on in the background if I’m not writing, and I love hearing new music: I’ve been enjoying the new LoneLady single. Can’t wait to get back to dancing to music with other people”.