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STRONG: "My mum and me" by Dominique Hughes, Jem + Bea

Brand Story Jem + Bea Strong

Dominique Hughes is a director and co-founder of one of your favourite brands - Jem + Bea.  A couple of months ago I saw a moving post on Dominique's personal Instagram account where she talked about her mum and the drive that her mum gave her.  Today being Mother's Day, it seemed the perfect opportunity to ask Dom about her mum, herself and her thoughts on gender equality.

This week we celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD), what does it mean to you?

IWD goes way back to the 1900s when women went on strike to stand up to poor pay and working conditions. The fact it is now 2018 and there is still an equality gap on issues such as pay and career opportunities (including when you have had a career break to start a family) means that IWD is not only about recognising and remembering the pioneering women who fought so hard for us, but to remind the world that there is still a long way to go before that gap is closed. This year is particularly poignant with it being the centenary of women receiving the right to vote.

You recently wrote a lovely Instagram post about your mum. Given that today is Mother's Day, can you tell us about her and the inspiration and drive that she gave you?

My mother was the leading doctor in the UK in psycho-sexual medicine and also the only women in her field in the 1980s. We moved a lot due to my parents placements in different parts of the country as newly qualified doctors. I remember being about three and having to go to a child minder when mum was going to work, and the feeling of sadness as we got closer to the childminder's home as I knew that I would have to say goodbye to mum for the day. But the days she did have off, she made count. She did so much for my brother and I and I know that we missed out on nothing. She taught me that you can give your children what they need whilst satisfying your own intellectual ambitions by working. I want my daughters to see me work and be proud of me, the way I am of my mother. Very sadly Mum was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimers at the young age of 63, and passed away 4 years ago. I miss her so much and I am so sad that she never got the chance to know my children, or they her. I talk about her all the time to keep her alive in their heads.

Who else inspires you? 

It’s a cliche but it has to be my family and my desire to make my time count. My children drive me to be better at everything I do so that I can build a future for them. I want them to learn by example that they can go out into the world, be who they want to be and do something that makes them happy. As I’ve matured and had children my mindset has shifted and rather than thinking of myself and my needs as number one, I now have three children to teach and educate in the life skills that school doesn’t touch on. I want them to grow up full of ambition and hungry to explore the world and experience different cultures. I have sadly lost three friends who were all under 40 to cancer in the last 12 months and it has made me realise that life is happening now and that you have to live in the present as time is so precious. Don’t put anything off or think ‘one day’. If you want it, do it now.

There are many different types of strength, was does the word “strong" mean to you and who do you know that embodies the word?

I wish every woman believed she is strong, to enable her to be true to herself, but we don't see ourselves this way, or more often than not, not until our strength is tested. I never thought I was, but I am proud to now say that I now believe that I am strong, and that gives me huge confidence to just be me. Four years ago, a week before Christmas, my suspicions that my husband was having an affair with a girl in his office were heartbreakingly proven right. We were at a wedding and I was wearing my husband's suit jacket as it was freezing. I went to the ladies and while I was there his phone beeped. I pulled it out of his pocket to see if it was our babysitter. There, flashing on the screen,  was a message from her, from which there could be no denial or comeback. I broke down there and then in the toilets as my marriage and family life was shattered into a million pieces. At the time my children were four, three and eight months old. My mother died 12 days later.

Step by step I picked myself up from the floor. Four years on I have created a safe home for my three young children, and hugged them through the tears of missing their daddy, gotten over my feelings of judgement for being a single mum, survived a nasty divorce and started my own business which is going from strength to strength. From the darkest of times I found the strength to create a new and happier life. I don’t know how I got through it looking back, the first six months are a total haze. I guess we are all a lot stronger than we think. 

In the year that is the centenary of women receiving the right to vote, what do you want to teach your children about their place in the world?

My poor son (who has just turned seven) is growing up in a house full of girls, so I don’t think he will have any doubts as to equality of the sexes! I guess it is the men whom we are trying to prove our worth to, so it is important that we educate each younger generation that the sexes are equal. It is for us to change.

Thank you so much Dom for sharing your story and thoughts today. I agree that strength is within all of us, even when we can't see or find it at times. It's inspiring how you have put yourself and your family back together AND built an amazing business. Total admiration for you. Much love, Claire x


We would love to hear about what strength means to you. Please do get in touch if you would like to write for us. 

You can buy our beautiful, bone china STRONG mugs here. £5 from the sale of each mug is donated to charity - split equally between Mind and the Miscarriage Association.

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