Nikki Clarke: “A good parent to me is someone who tries their best”

A good parent to me is someone who tries their best. Someone who spends time with their children, who loves them, who hugs them, kisses them, nurtures them. A good parent is someone who is firm, but fair, who has solid boundaries, but is also fun-loving and spontaneous at times. A good parent is someone […]

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A good parent to me is someone who tries their best. Someone who spends time with their children, who loves them, who hugs them, kisses them, nurtures them. A good parent is someone who is firm, but fair, who has solid boundaries, but is also fun-loving and spontaneous at times. A good parent is someone who knows they need to take care of themselves as well, and someone who doesn’t beat themselves up if they didn’t parent as well as they would’ve liked to that day. A good parent is someone who learns from their own mistakes and tries to do better next time.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Nikki Clarke.

Nikki Clarke is the Founder of Cadenshae, the maternity activewear global leaders, wife to Adam and a mother of five. Helping others has been at the core of every major decision Nikki’s ever made. From serving as a Medic in the New Zealand army, to performing treatments as a beauty therapist; to encouraging others as a personal trainer, and now by helping mothers worldwide be the best they can be.

Nikki loves spending time with her family at the beach, on the farm or out camping!

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I was born in Whangarei in the north of New Zealand. I have an older sister — Jacqui who is my best friend. I was lucky enough to have an amazing childhood and fantastic parents. I have nothing but good memories!

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

Before I became a mother, I was a personal trainer, and so once I had recovered post birth, I decided to head back to the gym to catch up with clients, show Caden off (my first born), and do a bit of a work out. As I was working out, Caden got fussy, so I went to feed her and this is when my ‘ah-ha’ moment came about! I battled my sports bra, trying to pull it up over my breasts to feed. It was a mess, and I was left infuriated. “This is impossible! There’s got to be a better way!” I thought. So, as soon as I got home, I went online to look for some quality nursing sports bras. There was nothing.

“Why has no one thought of this? How can mothers be expected to keep active and breastfeed when there’s nothing practical out there to do it in!”

I decided there and then if no one else would make the gear moms needed, then I’d give it a go! I had absolutely no experience in fashion design, but I knew what was needed, so began drawing…

Flash forward 19 months, and Adam (my partner in life and business) and I have just welcomed our second baby girl, Ryan into the world! Four days later, 20k dollars of nursing sports bras arrive from China, and are emptied onto our front lawn…here we go!

Cadenshae (named after Caden, her middle name is Shae) now employs 16 staff and is recognised as the leading activewear brand for pregnant and nursing mothers, worldwide. Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the USA and Canada are our target markets.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

As a business owner and mother of five children, I can tell you, it’s intense sometimes! I am the first to admit I am not so great at routine, so every day is a little different! Basically though, I wake up, I try and do some exercise, have a cold shower, (try it, it’s such a mental challenge and once you’ve done it you feel so prepared to take on whatever the day throws at you!) get the kids ready for the day, drop the kids off, head to work (with my baby, she comes to work with me). At around 4pm I leave the office, go pick the kids up from wherever they are on that day, head home, play, do a bit more work while Adam cooks, have dinner, do a bit more work if I need to (Adam generally does the bed time routine), help put the kids to bed, then get into bed myself! Obviously this is the skeleton version of my day, there’s a bit more chaos thrown in there from time to time!

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

To your children, you are their world. You and their dad, or guardians etc. When they’re young they depend on you for everything, to keep them warm and fed obviously but also for guidance, for knowledge, confidence and of course, for love. Your children NEED you to spend time with them so they feel loved, safe and secure. If you don’t give them time and fill their cup up in some way, then they won’t be able to focus on learning, growing and developing in a positive way. In our household, we are all about building confident, strong and kind children. We figure if we can make them feel secure and safe, then they are able to focus on learning and development…if they don’t feel safe and loved they simply won’t thrive. It’s all pretty obvious isn’t it? Humans need to feel a sense of belonging, humans need to feel loved, that’s amplified when they’re small, but it never goes away really. We all need to feel safe in order to succeed and be happy, even in adulthood.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

You have to spend time with them to show you love them and give them a solid sense of security so they can grow, develop, learn and thrive. They can then become more independent and confidently morph into the people they’re going to be knowing their parents love them unconditionally. When you feel supported you can keep pushing forward in life…that’s what we want to give our children, love and support so they can push on, achieve and become great, kind people.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

With five children this can be difficult sometimes, but every day I try and spend time with each child individually. I will sit down with my eldest and draw with her, or teach her to spell a few new words, or read, or simply have a chat. With my eldest boy I’ll play rough and tumble for a bit, because he loves that. When I’m breastfeeding my baby, I really focus on being in the moment, so we can bond. I stroke her cheek, focus on her suckle, admire her little hands and just be present. I try and do something with all my children, whatever they like doing. I also put my phone away and give them all my attention. Throughout the day I give positive affirmation, lots of hugs and kisses, but of course I am firm when I need to be if they’re being a little naughty! It’s all about mindfulness I think, being in the moment with your child and really giving them your whole self. That’s quality time…I could watch T.V with a child for an hour or two and half be on my phone, yeah I’m sitting beside them, but there’s no real interaction, that’s a solid example of quantity time, but not quality.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.

  1. The first thing I think we all need to do is take care of ourselves so we can be the best version of ourselves for our children. That’s why when I wake up I try to do some exercise, as that makes me feel calm, focuses me and it keeps me strong both mentally and physically. If I’m feeling good, then I can give my best to my children.
  2. As mentioned before, I just try and do something with my child that they love, and really get involved with them doing it. The phone is off…my attention is theirs. Even if it’s only for 15m, sometimes that’s all they need to get their cup filled up, then they’re off playing again. Just do something with them that they love doing and focus on it.
  3. I think one thing Covid-19 and lockdown has taught me, is that kids, especially when they’re little, they don’t need all the bells and whistles. They don’t need a million and one toys (in fact too much is overwhelming for them), they don’t need to go out and do special activities all the time…they just want to be with you and being with you at home is awesome! Slowing down and spending more time at home makes it easier to spend quality time together I think. If you’re rushing around taking them to swimming, athletics, rugby practice, the playground, the café etc…you’re spending a lot of time ‘doing things,’ but you’re not always spending quality one-on-one time with them. There’s definitely a place for activities, but perhaps you don’t need to do one every day, maybe just a few a week instead? Strip it back to basics.
  4. Work as a team with your partner, or your support person. For example, sometimes Adam will take four of the kids out down to the beach, while I spend one-on-one time with one of the kids. I do the same for him. Create one-on-one time with each child for both of you. One-on-one time for both parents is equally as important.
  5. I also try and not demand too much of myself. I try and get all my jobs done on any given day, but sometimes I can’t and that’s okay! I think easing up on deadlines and demands helps you to be calmer, relaxed, more present and more fun! Do I NEED to do the groceries today? Can it wait until tomorrow when we have a bit more time? Most the time it can…just take the pressure off I reckon. We put so much unnecessary pressure on ourselves these days, the world is so fast paced, it’s not very healthy! Again, another Covid-19 lesson.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

A good parent to me is someone who tries their best. Someone who spends time with their children, who loves them, who hugs them, kisses them, nurtures them. A good parent is someone who is firm, but fair, who has solid boundaries, but is also fun-loving and spontaneous at times. A good parent is someone who knows they need to take care of themselves as well, and someone who doesn’t beat themselves up if they didn’t parent as well as they would’ve liked to that day. A good parent is someone who learns from their own mistakes and tries to do better next time.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

Our eldest, Caden, she is a very good wee runner. She does athletics, and she’s been winning a lot of the local sprints and cross-country races at school. I remember when she was about to run her first long distance race, Adam got down to her level and said something like, ‘it doesn’t matter if you don’t win Caden, but if you really want to win…you have to give it your all, leave nothing out there.’ Caden started the race…she was up the back and then something kicked in, maybe her father’s words? She went into fifth gear, she passed all the other kids and had a massive lead coming into the home straight. She won, easily…and I will never forget that moment. I was so proud of her, but also so proud of Adam, he said exactly the right thing to her, he gave her the security in knowing it’s okay if she doesn’t win, but he gave her the space to dream big, to take the win if she wanted it…and she did. It gives me chills just thinking about it now!

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

Happiness. Simple. If I’m happy, my family is happy, then we’re successful…being happy isn’t a constant emotion though…there are ups and downs obviously but if we’re happy 90% of the time, I’d say that is a huge success.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I don’t read books really, but I do read online articles…I don’t always search for them, I often stumble across them and can sometimes get something out of them. The best resources for me though are my parents and my husband’s parents. They are wonderful parents and grandparents, that’s the ultimate resource.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Just be yourself, follow your intuition and do things your way. March to the beat of your own drum, I think that really helps to be happy and successful.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I actually already have! Cadenshae started a campaign called, ‘Sister Support,’ whereby women throughout the world donate their old bras to a local charity, and then we gift them 20% off their next purchase. It means women can help each other, and our 20% incentive hopefully encourages more donors. ‘Sister Support’ has seen over 100, 000 bras trade hands, and Cadenshae has supplied over 3,000 brand new bras to the cause as well. We aim to help over one million mothers across the world by 2025. We’re so proud of how this has gone so far!

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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