As editor-in-chief of The Early Hour, Annie Ridout is a conversation-starter. She’s a journalist, editor, blogger, mother and public speaker. Observant and quick-witted, she’s driving forward discussions – both online and offline – about mornings, sleep, family, wellbeing, work-life balance and feminism.
I love The Early Hour. It was refreshing to have content-rich magazine articles to scroll through on my iPhone during those long nights up with a small baby. Its life began as your journey into motherhood did – how has running an online lifestyle magazine influenced your parenting, and vice versa?
Firstly, thank you. What a nice introduction and I’m so pleased that you read The Early Hour in that way; exactly the reason I set it up - to give parents something to keep them sane during the night-feeds.
I launched The Early Hour when my daughter was one, so a lot of the early content focused on the various stages she went through. For instance, when she started tantrumming, I wrote a piece about terrible twos. Parents with similar-aged kids have commented on feeling like we’re on the journey together, which is what it’s all about. Then I had my son and started writing lots of newborn stuff - sleep (or not), new mum anxiety, how to dress postnatally. But I hope that with other people contributing articles, the content appeals to a wider audience than just those who have kids the same age as mine.
In terms of how working on the magazine has influenced my own life, I’ve found every single interview inspiring in some way. For instance, the incredible strength of Jessica Clasby-Monk who had a miscarriage, followed by a stillborn baby, Leo, before her surviving son, Eli, was born. The story of two dads who had a baby using a surrogate - I interviewed them, and her - was joyful to write up. And then the bits about how parents encourage creativity in their kids always give me a few ideas for things to try at home.
To be inclusive, to be ethically and environmentally aware, and to be personable – these are the three values underpinning your business. Why these three? And how do they play out on a daily basis?
Inclusive: I will tell anyone’s story - I don’t discriminate. I’m particularly keen to seek out those who are usually less likely to be given a platform.
Ethical: I make a big effort to only work with and promote ethical brands. And to run The Early Hour as I do my own life - caring for people and the planet.
Personable: The Early Hour is mostly run by me, but it’s become an online community and that makes me so happy. So making sure that people feel comfortable to speak out and contribute.
You recently wrote an article about honouring the intentions of projects and dreams. You gave some great advice: “It’s important to keep going back to your initial reason for setting up shop and to see if this has changed, and if not – whether it’s still working for you.” For you this meant shifting from a daily article to one per week on The Early Hour. What has the response been like to this change? And, most importantly, how is it working for you and your family?
Amazingly, the first month of reduced content was my best month ever in terms of views. The SEO is doing its work. Also, it’s given me more time to focus on sharing the content on social media. But I’ve found that while I wanted to be working less and spending more time with my family, I’m just filling the ‘spare’ time with more work. (Like the novel I’m working on). However, I can pick this up and put it down, whereas creating daily content is a constant underlying pressure.
How do you balance your consultancy business with running an online magazine and having a family, relationship and social life?
My daughter is in preschool Monday-Friday, 8.40-3.40. My son has a childminder two days a week, 10-3. So when they’re both in childcare, I hammer out articles, meet with clients, have Skype chats, pitch for new work. And on the three days when I’m with my son, I work when he naps (around four hours a day). Most evenings, I do some social media stuff. And a bit at the weekends. My husband and I will occasionally realise we haven’t been out in a few months and get a babysitter. Those nights are so fun, partly because they’re so rare! I meet mum friends between naps in the week, family friends at the weekend and my old pals in the evenings.
What advice do you have for someone starting out right now? What do you wish you could go back and tell the Annie of two years ago?
To buy my book. It will have everything you need to know about setting-up-shop. More info coming soon…
It takes passion and commitment to continually create original, thought-provoking content. What drives you to create content and share it with the world?
I love telling people’s stories. I’m a natural introvert (middle child of three - I think it’s common), so I like listening to other people. I like to ask questions. I’m nosy. And I find other people’s lives endlessly fascinating. So I assume other people will too, if their story is told in the right way.
What would you consider your most transformative life experience and how has this shaped your approach to your work?
After getting together with my husband, I quickly moved from London to Somerset to live with him. We had an amazing two years in the countryside before moving back to the Big Smoke. He has made me calmer, less self-conscious and so happy (on the whole - we argue occasionally, like everyone else). And of course having children has completely changed me. It has made me feel confident and empowered and capable. And it has led to an entirely new career path…
For me as a follower and reader, your Instagram feed holds space for open conversations – sometimes light-hearted, sometimes serious and political. How has working with Instagram shaped the way you communicate?
I love Instagram so much! The women on there (and men, but so not many follow me) are so supportive and encouraging. Instagram has made me feel confident to just put it out there: boobs, post-birth vaginas, postnatal anxiety - I’ve discussed it all, and have never been trolled. Except once. And I quickly blocked a few people, because I couldn’t handle it. It’s reminded me that honesty is best - and that if you are transparent, there’s less space for criticism or judgement.
What does healing mean to you? And what healing do you think is needed in the world right now?
Because of where I am in my motherhood journey healing, for me, is all about the postpartum body and mind. I’ve just hit the one-year-mark and everything is starting to feel more healed. Sleep deprivation prevails but doesn’t taunt me, the bickering has ceased, my body feels comfortable again. But beyond me and my family, healing is about fixing things. I think the world would recover if we all gave and shared more (kindness, conversation, food, company, shelter).
How do you contribute to this through your work?
In terms of motherhood, I write about my journey in the hope that others will then feel less alone. In terms of the bigger picture, I’ve just made a film for Metro, with my husband, about old people and loneliness. My grandma told me that sometimes she doesn’t see anyone for a week and she’ll feel so lonely that she’ll go to a coffee shop, just to talk to someone. But everyone ignores her, because they’re on their laptops. We made this film to remind people to talk to the elderly woman who sits at your table. And anyone who might be lonely, in fact.
Who, what or where inspires you?
My sister - a designer, and the funniest and most creative person I know. And my mum - the kindest person I know (and an avid reader - she instilled my love of books).
What would you like us to know about you?
It’s all out there already. People can make their own minds up!
What is the next challenge you are taking on in life?
Writing a non-fiction book. Writing a novel.
If you could leave us with just one message what would it be?
If you ever see a mother with her baby/kids who looks like she’s struggling, smile and ask if she’d like any help. That might mean opening a door for her; it might mean sitting down and having a coffee. Motherhood can be incredibly isolating - we need to help each other to feel less alone.
Thank you so much for your time! xx