Karen Coakley, otherwise known as the Kenmare Foodie, is a successful Food Blogger and Home Cook based in Kenmare. A mom to 4 boys whilst running a nationally successful business and profile, I wanted to see what her secret to having it all really is? I sat with Karen recently in the spirit of International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day to get to know more about the Woman behind the brand.
Can you tell us about your own experience in becoming a Mom, what it felt like, fears, anxieties?
I became a Mom at 19, almost 30 years ago so my experience of being a 1st time mom was very different to most. We weren’t married and faced a very different Ireland back then. Thank God it has changed as it was a scary time for us but once he was born everything fell into place. I threw myself into motherhood and have loved every second of being a mother to my children since. It has also been wonderful being a young mother when he was growing, we have a very close relationship. People have always mistaken us for brother and sister.
The bond between a mother and her child is something quite special, can you tell us the things you love most about being a Mom?
Celebrating their milestones and even the smallest of achievements. Making our family memories. The simple pleasure of having them with me, I am happiest when we are all together. We have always loved picnics when they were little and days out together. Now that they are older and grown up it is time together around the kitchen table or on our deck and the odd weekend away or night out too. I also am happiest cooking for them and knowing they will always connect with me through food and food memories.
Can you share with us perhaps an aspect that you struggled with?
Having twins was my biggest struggle. Coping with 2 babies and knowing how different it was having a single baby made me feel like I was failing as you can’t physically give each of them the time you gave the others and I was taken over by guilt. Simple things like going for coffee, shopping, loading them into the car, eating out suddenly became difficult with two. But as with all things that passed and I have to say now that being a Mom to twins is very very special.
Is there something you know now about motherhood that you wish someone would have told you? Advice, tips etc?
We only have our children on loan so don’t sweat the little stuff, trust your instincts and leave an opening for conversations, btw as they grow the best and most important conversations usually take place in the car. Take all the hugs. the cuddles and kisses. I lost my 1st cousin in a drowning accident when I was 13, he was 15. I tell mine I love them every time they walk out of the house, step out of the car or hang up the phone because none of us know which day may be our last.
Do you feel there are challenges facing this generation of Mom’s that perhaps previous generations didn’t face?
I don’t know, I think every generation has had their challenges but I think this generation has the pressure of activities. Activities are great for kids but not to the detriment of family time and rest is important too. Parents are juggling work, homework, housework, me time and on the road constantly to various things. It is ok to take downtime.
You have a very successful career, did you find it hard to navigate this and parent at the same time?
To be fair I spent most of their lives as a stay home Mom so this is all new to me and them and all happened very accidentally through my presence on Social Media. A lot of what I do aside from the Food Tours I do from home so I can work around that and they sometimes help me with the Food Tours and Cookery demos now. I did work full time up until my oldest was 4 and then worked 3 days a week when his brother was born for the following 2 years. I really hated being away from them. I had to give up work when we moved to Kenmare and from then I was at home and I loved it. I did part time restaurant work for a few years and that gave me the perfect balance of home by day and out to work in the evening.
What advice would you give to women who have just had a baby and maybe considering their return to the workplace?
Have a good support system in place and go easy on yourself. There is huge pressure on us to be all things to all people but we can’t pour from an empty cup. Don’t be afraid to trust your partner with housework, shopping etc as it will all help to lighten your load and share as much of the household responsibilities as you can.
In a world driven by social media, what advice would you give to Mom’s who feel intimidated or pressured to live up to the Instagram perfect image of what a Mom should look and act like?
Very little on Instagram is real and you only ever see a snippet of a person’s life which might not be as they portray it. If an account you follow is making you feel inadequate, doubt yourself or feel like you are failing then unfollow. I only follow accounts who add value to my Social Media experience. There is no such thing as the perfect life or the perfect parents. Life is full of ups and downs and learning as we go through life.
Can you give our readers your top tips to surviving parenthood?
Keep calm and carry on.
When they go high then you go low.
They will never eat all the vegetables so don’t pressure yourself.
You will always embarrass your teens until they go to College then they will arrive home with all the laundry and you’re the best all of a sudden.
Can you give our readers some insight into how you built your current business model?
My business has all happened by accident. Despite being busy I find it hard to think of it as a business as it only ever started as a hobby and things accidentally happened and it grew. It started when my now 15 year old twins were toddlers, documenting our life in a gorgeous part of the world and sharing our family food. If you told me then that I would be cooking on Live TV, running Online Cooking Groups and Food Tours I’d have told you that you were raving. I have loved every second of this journey and just gone with the flow.
What have been the highlights and challenges of your career journey?
The biggest highlight was being asked to do a screen test for The Today Show and getting it and also working with a German TV crew last summer for a show that aired on DMAX TV across Europe showing off the best of Kenmare/ South Kerry and local food. Also getting my Food Tours up and running and them being named one of the Top 10 Food Tours in Europe in The Irish Independent up there with Tours in many European Capitals. The biggest challenge is working alone and self-doubt. What I do is very different and very niche so I miss the support of having others to bounce off.
What advice can you give to someone currently considering starting their own business?
Get good support and advice from the beginning. There are a lot of mentoring programmes available so take full advantage of all of that. Do your research and networking.
And finally, with Mother’s Day and International Women’s Day falling in the same month, what are you most proud about in terms of being a successful Business Woman?
Kind of funny that I don’t see myself as that at all but I am very proud of my Food Tours and the amazing producers that they show case, many of them successful women working with their partners and families in the Food and Tourism business in Kerry.
You can follow Karen and get her must have family recipes on Snapchat, Twitter @kenmarefoodie,