Being a Mum and Running a Successful Business While Managing Chronic Illness
It's not easy being a Mum. It's not easy running a business. It's certainly not easy doing both these things while managing chronic illness.
However, this is something that Jude Wharton manages to do.
In this podcast episode, Jude shares her story of how she has built a successful business that complements her desire to be a hands-on mum and also her needs to manage her chronic illness.
Jude's story is inspirational, and illustrates how you are able to face hurdles, find a solution, and go forwards to live your best life.
So listen in to discover Jude's journey and her personal message to other women who want to live their dreams, but are facing their own challenge of managing chronic illness.
Jude is the Business Director of 2nd Floor Designs Ltd and the co-founder of readysteadywebsites.com. She has been running 2nd Floor with her husband for nearly 10 years and in 2019, launched 'Ready Steady Websites®' to cater to the needs of their target market but also to create a business model that was more flexible for their personal needs.
Jude has lived with chronic illness most of her life, and as a mum of 2 energetic boys, she has learned to manage her illness on a daily basis so that she can be the mum she wants to be, as well as living her life on her terms.
How to Contact Jude
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Gillian Duncan: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the Clarity Junction podcast. In this episode, I am chatting to Jude Wharton. Jude is a mum of two and runs a successful website design business while managing her chronic illness. Jude is here today to share her own story and experience on how she manages to balance her work and home life on top of ensuring that she stays as healthy and well as possible.
It's certainly not easy being a mum. It's not easy running a business, but having chronic illness to tend with as well, really presents a challenge to everyday life. So, keep listening to discover Jude's story on being a mum and running a successful business while managing chronic illness.
My name is Gillian Duncan, Positive Life and Wellbeing Coach, inspiring women to live the life they really want, and I am delighted that you're here with me today.
Hello, Jude. Welcome to the Clarity Junction podcast.
Jude Wharton: [00:01:02] Hi.
Gillian Duncan: [00:01:03] I'm so happy to be chatting with you today. We have both got a lot in common. We are both mums. We run our own businesses and we live each day coping with chronic illness. So, we have lots to chat about.
I love that you have come on to the show today as we always hear of wonderful, empowering stories of women who successfully run their own business while being a mum, but not many of them will come and chat about the fact that they manage to do all of this while coping with a chronic illness.
I, for one, have tried over the years to hide my illnesses from everyone, only recently have I started to talk about them. Illness in our society tends to be regarded as a weakness, and therefore people would rather not here or know about it. So, we tend to keep it hidden where we can. Living with a chronic illness certainly makes life more challenging, but it doesn't mean that we need to throw in the towel and give up on our dreams in life. And you are here to help share this message with our listeners today. So, Jude, I would like to start by asking you to tell everyone a little bit about yourself, your background, and also about the type of business that you run.
Jude Wharton: [00:02:22] Okay. So, I am Jude. I live in the South of England and my business background, my sort of work background, was actually in youth work and training, which is far, far away from what I actually do now. I now run a web design company with my husband and over the last couple of years, or last year, we have changed the direction of the company a bit and now have a service called Ready 'Steady Websites', which is a service where people can buy their website or membership site template and create their own website, but with our training and our help. And we do a lot of the tech stuff for people so that we remove that headache for them.
I also have two children who are nine and four. Two little boys who definitely keep me on my toes.
Gillian Duncan: [00:03:13] I'm sure they do!
Jude Wharton: [00:03:14] Don't give me much of a break and sort of that's me really. My life does really revolve around the children and the business, it feels. We do like to do quite a lot of stuff together. We try to be quite an active family and into swimming and that kind of thing. But yeah, that us.
Gillian Duncan: [00:03:31] I think with boys, you have to be active. I have to two boys myself, as you know and, yeah, that was my advice, that I got when I had the two boys, when they were little, was from another mum, and she said to me, the best thing, when you've got boys, is to always keep them busy and active.
Jude Wharton: [00:03:50] Definitely. My eldest, he plays football three times a week, weather permitting, as long as the pitch isn't an absolute bog, which it is most of the time at the moment with the weather we have had, and he also does kickboxing. Like I said, we enjoy family swimming as well, and there's a like, parent and child gym class that he goes to with my husband some weeks. Like, that child does not stop, but he's so much happier when he's like that, so it's all good. So yeah, the little one is slightly calmer, at the moment, but now he's started school, that will soon change, I'm sure.
Gillian Duncan: [00:04:25] I am sure it will. Yeah, it's such a good thing to do, is to keep them busy and occupied. It definitely keeps them out of trouble.
Jude Wharton: [00:04:32] Yes.
Gillian Duncan: [00:04:33] Jude, how long have you been in business, and how has your business changed in the time that you've been working on it?
Jude Wharton: [00:04:39] So, we've been in business for 10 years this year, and our business started very much as a sort of a standard web design company, really. People coming to us, wanting a website, we would design it, build it from scratch. Sometimes, we would be used as a, sort of an extra resource for a bigger web design company, especially as WordPress became more well-used. and my husband, Chris, is a bit of a WordPress specialist, so there'd be bigger web agencies out there who would have designers and developers, but they wouldn't have WordPress specialists, so we'd be used in that function for them. So, it was all very much client-based work, essentially, exchanging time for money.
And so, as long as the work was there, the money was good. And as long as we were there able to do it, it was all good. But with me having chronic illness, like you mentioned, it was not always working that way. So, if I wasn't good and I couldn't be in the office, that would be a bit of, a bit of a struggle.
And then, if I really wasn't good and couldn't look after the children, couldn't do the school runs, then Chris wouldn't be in the office either because he'd be having to help out with that, and so we would really struggle to keep up with the work and we realized that we needed to be looking at different income streams, really, ones that were more passive.
I don't believe there's ever a purely passive income stream. You've always got to put the work in to make sure that, you know, it's happening, but there are ways of keeping the money coming in that isn't purely you having to be there to do the work, to get the money. And so, initially, we started designing and selling WordPress themes on ThemeForest, and that became a bit of a sort of sideline to all the client work.
And that worked really nicely, until everyone who knew WordPress cottoned on to that idea and ThemeForest became so oversaturated with WordPress things it was so hard to remain seen amongst everybody else and still get the business from that. And then we sort of carried on and we looked at doing other things.
We did some WordPress courses for a while, and then it all kind of came together. And the WordPress courses were great from my point of view, because it was using the training background that I'd previously had. And I should say that the reason I didn't go back to youth work and training was, I did youth work, I was a youth work trainer. I had our first child and I just couldn't see myself being able to fit in being the kind of mum I wanted to be and doing that work. Like, I would have to be somewhere in Hampshire at 8 o’clock in the morning, set up the training. I wouldn't leave until five 30 in the evening, and it could be anywhere in the county and it's a pretty big county. So, that would mean I'm not back at whatever time. And I just thought, 'I'm not going to see him', and I didn't want to do that.
And the reason that my husband and I decided to set up the business was so that both of us could see our child more because at the time Chris was working for a web company that had massive blue chip clients in London, most of them. and again, he wasn't going to be working the hours that were going to be conducive with being a hands-on daddy, really.
So, the business was formed and then, so, yeah, so skip forward. As I said, and we had, the training, WordPress training, which was great. So, I was using my training skills again, but it wasn't taking off as much as we wanted it. There's so much free WordPress training available out there that people weren't really wanting to pay.
And then 'Ready Steady Websites' popped into our minds, because it was kind of a combination of the bespoke websites that we'd always done, sort of, but then bringing more of the WordPress themes into it. But then, also, we felt that if we're going to give people these website templates that they could use and take away and do their own websites, to do that successfully, they really needed to have some really good training tutorials alongside that plus access to us through our support.
And it also means that we've kind of, we've got that hands on element with our clients, but not to the extent that if I'm not around for a week or two, because I'm not feeling good, it's not a huge burden and on Chris to be able to keep that support function going, but also be able to help out when needed and so, yeah, it's just been like a perfect development for us, really.
Gillian Duncan: [00:09:01] It sounds absolutely brilliant that you've managed to create something that both of you can be available for your children, because it's so lovely to hear it that, you know, you've got an involved mum and an involved dad, and when it comes to boys, I mean, personally with my own two boys, I think that's so important for them to have that male figure close to them. I was very fortunate, the fact that my husband was able to work from home every day when the kids were little, and it's only been in the last three, four years that he goes to an office and he has the odd days that he works from home, but my kids now a little bit older, they're now in their teens so, you know, they get dropped off, picked up and, you know, sometimes I don't see them from seven in the morning to seven at night, depending on what activities they do, it's a different lifestyle, but it was brilliant that we could both attend school plays and you know, all the little concerts that they put on, or the, the parent and kids events, you know, like go in and make a sandwich together at school, or, you know, the sports days, all those things that really mean a lot to the kids. And although, as parents and as an adults, you sit there and you think, 'Oh, not another one', sometimes it can be a little bit much of your, especially when you're busy and everything, but it means so much to the kids. So, being there has, has been brilliant, and also the fact that, you know, just like you, and my husband was able to attend them, it meant that he was able to form a closer bond with, with our two boys. Do you find that as well? Do you feel that it's helped the bond?
Jude Wharton: [00:10:33] Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, yeah. Our boys, they noticed it as well, especially William, the older one, like, he absolutely loves it that mommy and daddy can be going to these things. And he really does clock, I think, that there aren't that many dads that are turning up to these events and he thinks it is really nice that his is.
And yeah, just, I think as well like, that Chris knows who the teachers are in the school. I think quite often, I've got a lot of friends who like, our children are in year four now, and I can probably count on one hand how many times they've seen their husband's up at the school, over those years. And, whereas Chris, like, absolutely kind of knows who everyone is in the school and it's just, it's so nice and easy really. And, yeah, I think it will definitely be the same for the little one too.
Gillian Duncan: [00:11:23] It helps the parenting aspect, doesn't it? Because it means that you can share the parenting. So, you both know the teachers. You both know the kids that they play with. You both know the other mums or dads that go there. And I think that that helps as a family when you're trying to organize things. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's usually mainly me that does all the organizing, and I do feel like I'm up a PA most of the time, but I think when it comes to different things like, 'Oh gosh, I can't make it today', or 'I can't do this today', or, 'Can you talk to such and such?', that can be done by either of you. when you've got that, that availability to hand.
Jude Wharton: [00:12:03] Yeah, definitely. And I think it's as nice as well that the other children, when they, they know the dad. Like, so if, if like Chris is doing the school pickup and we are having somebody home to play, like they're just as familiar with Chris and that's all good. Like, 'I'll go home with him', rather than, I can imagine, like, if I said to my son, 'So, you're going home with so and so's dad today', it'd be like, 'I don't know who he is', whereas, yeah with, with us, like yeah, it could be with Chris, yeah, our son's friends would be just as familiar with both of us, so yeah, I think that is, is really nice. And, I just think it is so important for the children as well.
Like, I know that I've got friends who it is, they have jobs that mean they cannot be attending every concert, and, like you said, the go and make a sandwich morning or the go and make a Boudicca doll morning that we had not long ago in our school.
Gillian Duncan: [00:12:59] Interesting!
Jude Wharton: [00:13:00] I know. Yeah, it was a Celts and Roman's topic and we've made a Boudicca doll.
Um, and yeah there were lots of grandparents there and, and that is so lovely, that I think that extended families can get involved. But I do know that, I think if I said to my sons, 'Nanna and Grandad are going to be with you today', or 'Grandma and Grandpa, are going to be with you today', they'd be a bit like, 'Why? Why, why are you not going to be there?'
Because they're so familiar with us doing it now and I think that's nice. I think, while we can, it makes sense for us to do that really.
Gillian Duncan: [00:13:34] Oh yeah, time, honestly, it goes by so quickly. At the time you do it feel that it does, but, oh my goodness. I mean, I, I sometimes long for those days, again, you know, my boys are teenagers. It was, it was a very special time, and, I am, I am so pleased that both me and my husband were able to be such a big part of it. Would you actually say that that was one of the best parts of running your own business?
Jude Wharton: [00:13:58] Yeah, the flexibility is definitely the best part. And I think another thing I've really like, it all focuses on the children, really, what's so good about running our own business, but I think another thing I love about it is the fact that, certainly our eldest, so mine are four and nine. So, the nine-year-old, he's so interested in the fact that we run our own business. And I don't think it, we're not uncommon in the school, like I can think of a good handful of families that I know in the school that parents also have their own businesses, whether it's one or both, but it's still not the norm. And so, he's really interested in the fact that, like, we decide what we're doing. We are our own bosses, why we do what we do, and he asks questions and he tells us that he is going to be a designer himself one day, now. That does get interdespersed with the professional footballer, but, you know, it's good to have a backup. So, um, so yeah, so, and he really is sort of intrigued about how it works, but he does also, so as much as we can be flexible and we can go to all the school events and it was half term last week, so it's pretty much, no problem to just go, like both of us will be off for a couple of the days. And you know, one of the days, sort of one of us did something while the other one was there, equally, it's very rare for us to be able to have a completely whole day off without the computer going on at some point.
Gillian Duncan: [00:15:28] Ah yes, that's the downside isn't it?
Jude Wharton: [00:15:30] And he does see that. So, we did have a couple of support requests come in last week that we really needed to deal with. And. Yeah. He said to me, Chris was in the kitchen with the laptop open, and he said to me, 'So much for having a whole day off'.
Gillian Duncan: [00:15:46] I know.
Jude Wharton: [00:15:47] And I was like, 'Oh you little monkey. I just said, 'But that's, we run our own business and that'll take 10 minutes to sort out and you are busy watching telly at the moment, and actually you don't care, really where any of us are'. And, um, and so, yeah, so yeah, it's like he's getting clued up on it, but I think it'll be interesting to see what he does do in the future, I think. Whether we've influenced like that. Um, I also think he might be a bit naive as to what actually having a full-time job is like, so it could be a downside. But yeah, we'll see.
Gillian Duncan: [00:16:22] Yeah, it was, it was brilliant for myself. I, I work solely from home now, and just in the last week, as you said, it was half term here, and my two being a little bit older, they've got so much homework to do and they've got music exams coming up and they've just got so many things to do in their, I would call, 'spare time'. I don't really think it is spare at all. But, uh, and when they're not doing their homework, they'll maybe go on the Xbox or they'll go out on their bikes, they'll, they'll take her a ride round the island or whatever the they're onto that, that time. But it's so nice because I could get on with my work and they appreciate that, now that they've seen both me, I'm a husband working and they know that we have to put the hours in, you know, they appreciate that now that they're older. And, you know, my, my son's knocking on my door saying, 'Do you want a cup of tea?', or my other son's, you know, he's put a wash load on for me, you know, they're emptying the dishwasher, they're putting some things away, you know, that sort of thing, because they can see that it's a balance.
And also, I have actually had to say to the boys, you know, that age now it's time that you looked at your own washing and your own, you know, food prep and things like that. To start to learn to do it. So, they're becoming more independent, and I do believe it's because they see us at home more, balancing the work and life situations.
And they also know that I have my own little challenges. I have my chronic illness. So, some days it's really not possible for me to be so mobile. Some days I'm in, you know, just a little bit too much pain. And I just have to focus in on coping with that. And, you know, they'll, they'll help me, as I say, they can make me cups of teas or though, you know, bring me what I need. Which is so, so lovely.
Jude Wharton: [00:18:04] That is lovely. You've got them so well trained. I need to work on that.
Gillian Duncan: [00:18:10] I've got a few years yet.
Well, it starts at the weekends for me. I, few years ago, I said that the weekends, if you can use like an X box, then you can learn to put the washing machine on. And it doesn't take much to fill up a washing machine with your school things that the weekends, you know, and I showed them how to do that and that just became routine.
Jude Wharton: [00:18:27] Wow. Good tip I am using that one in a couple of years, time,
Gillian Duncan: [00:18:31] Well, nine, nine's not, you know, it's not far away from it.
Jude Wharton: [00:18:35] They would definitely put a red sock in with white shirts. That is all I'm saying.
Gillian Duncan: [00:18:39] Yeah, we've had a moment or two. Oh bless.
I'd like to move back onto the topic of you coping every day, being a mom and running this business and this busy lifestyle, while you are managing your chronic illness. I'd just like to ask you how much does your health actually have an impact on your business?
Jude Wharton: [00:19:02] It depends whether I'm going through a good time or a bad time, really. I think since we've started doing 'Ready Steady Websites', and I feel like the pressure is off a bit and I feel like it's less stressful. There's less worry about the fact of, 'Oh my goodness, we've got this, this, this, this, and this that has to be delivered by the end of like two weeks’ time or whatever'.
I feel like it doesn't impact as much because as long as I am doing what I need to do. I set, we set ourselves like yearly goals, monthly goals, quarterly goals, and as long as I know those things are going to get done within those times, it's so flexible because there aren't clients waiting on us. They're not expecting feedback in two days’ time. And so, I do feel the impact isn't as great. I also feel like on the whole, my illnesses are better managed at the moment. So, to put it all in context, I was diagnosed with chilblain lupus when I was 23, and it took a long time to diagnose because, well, I think because lupus, just even that, like I'm 37 now, so it was a little while ago, and I just don't think it was as well thought of, and also chilblains were something, I've had many doctors tell me this, that basically died out when central heating was invented. I'm basically presenting something that no modern-day doctors had come across.
Gillian Duncan: [00:20:37] No, I, I suffer from chilblains as well, so you're not alone. You're not alone, I've, I've actually, I've been tested for Lupus, but I don't have it. But the symptoms that I do get are very similar. So, as I said, we've got a lot in common.
Jude Wharton: [00:20:50] Yeah, we have. So, I was presenting these chilblains which doctors’ thought were athlete's foot, even though I was fairly convinced they were not, especially when they started to appear on the end of my fingers as well as my toes. And so, it took a long time to be diagnosed and I was getting more and more run down during that time. And I was then starting to get the face rash that so like, prevalent with people with lupus. That's when it started to be easier to diagnose, but I was so much younger then, but I did manage to keep going.
So, I was an actual face to face youth worker, then. I was working in youth clubs, and it was hard and, but I just managed to keep going because I didn't have children. So, I could literally just go home and crash as soon as I got home, and I would just make myself get up the next day. And as a youth worker, you don't have to get up typically early in the morning, cause no youth work tends to start until after school, so it worked quite nicely. So, that was sort of a tough time, but it was easily manageable. And then once that was diagnosed and I was on the right medication, I was then actually fine for a long time. I came off the medication to have our first son and then managed to stay off it until he was about two, but then I went rapidly downhill, like it, all of a sudden, like the chilblains, I could feel the chilblains were coming back, the itchiness was back in the fingers and toes, the markings were coming back on my face again, and I got put back on the same medication as before, and it just didn't work this time. And. I just got more and more fatigued, felt more and more ill.
I had pains in my stomach, my joints. Like, I'd had some minor joint pain in my knuckles the first time around, but the joint pain was like everywhere. And that period of time was so hard on the business. Like, that was when I had to have somebody with me every day. So, sometimes it'd be Chris. Sometimes grandparents would come and spend the day. Sometimes I'd have friends come and spend the day. They had children the same age as William and so, William would be entertained. And it just, and that was when we realized we had to do something else and not just be doing the client work. We couldn't just keep doing that because Chris just was struggling to cope. Invoices weren't getting sent out because I wasn't doing that, and yeah, it just was sort of falling apart then.
And, that's when they realized it wasn't just chilblain lupus anymore. That's when they said it was lupus and Sjogren's syndrome and they identified that my thyroid had become overactive after having William as well but had balanced out again. So, then they put me on different medication to treat the Sjogren's syndrome as well. And after a while I started feeling better and then I went a bit mad and so I could just do everything I used to do ‘cause I was thinking better. And so, I went back to try and do back to back Zumba classes and body balance classes and doing all the activities you do with a, he was probably about three and a half, four by this time, and you know, and I couldn't.
I just, I just had to really accept at that point that, that couldn't be my life anymore. Like, I couldn't maintain the same level of activity as I always had done. Even though it was on medication, if I did too much, that was it. I then wiped myself out for another few weeks, and then it took me a long time to get over it again.
And so, yeah, so I just had to slow down a lot. And once I learnt to do that, managing everything became a lot easier. I'm still not brilliant at doing it. I'll be honest. There are still times that I do go, 'Do you know what? I've had a really good phase. We can have this night out and go here for a weekend and then we can do this'. And then I go, 'Oh no, I can't.'
Gillian Duncan: [00:24:48] I often find that's really hard because, you're like myself, we've got very active minds, and I like to think that I've got this great active mind, but I'm so imprisoned by my body, and as you were saying, when you get that sort of signal, that, okay, something's not quite right. I'm not feeling a hundred percent. I need to take a step back. I need to slow down, by that point, though, you're on the track of, you know, sort of one of your episodes. And there's no stopping it once it starts. And we were talking off air, beforehand, saying that, that episode could last days or weeks, and for myself, it can last months and it's sort of learning to cope every day, rather than, you know, sort of getting so excited about the fact that you feel okay. You have to constantly have a level head on your shoulder and say, 'Actually I might feel okay, but I need to prolong this feeling and I just have to sort of be steady in what I do'.
Jude Wharton: [00:25:52] Absolutely. And I find that if I maintain a really good routine, then I can stay feeling well for longer.
But that, with children, that's not always possible. So, I find, I know that if I work three pretty solid days each week and then have two days where, and that will be in our office, because we do have a, an office away from home, if I work three pretty solid days in the office and then I have two days where I'm at home and I'll do bits of work at home and those days, but I won't go full on on those days, so they're a bit more chilled out and I get a bit more of a rest. But I also managed to do on those two days, a bit of exercise, as long as it's gentle, so I'll go for a gentle swim, or I will do some yoga, or I will go to the gym, but it would all be stretching, toning stuff, pretty much. It won't be anything high impact like I used to do.
I used to go and do 10K runs just for fun at a weekend. Like, that would be a standard weekend activity for me. And it just, it just can't be anymore. And so, if I can maintain that routine, if the sort of that, that nice balance, I can feel well for quite long time, but the school holidays get in the way.
And so, like we've said, we had half-term last week, and by Thursday, I felt awful because I hadn't been able to maintain the, just going for a nice swim, just to do that little bit of gentle exercise, which is good for you, if you've got chronic illness, especially with the joint pain, I love swimming because it just is weightless and my knees aren't being affected, and my ankles, but yeah, but having the children for five days in a row leading up to the Thursday and just not having had those slightly more chilled out days and yeah, it just, it completely throws me. And like you said, like, you know, when it's coming, so to start having that kind of fluey ill feeling by the evening, and I just think, 'Oh great, here we go', and then it'll invariably be my right knee that hurts first.
Gillian Duncan: [00:28:03] Yeah. It's always my right knees as well!
Jude Wharton: [00:28:05] Weird!
Gillian Duncan: [00:28:06] Yeah!
Jude Wharton: [00:28:06] And then it will be my knuckles. And then I get really intense rib pain. And then it just yeah, I just know it's all going to flow, and I tend to not sleep well either cause obviously when you're in pain, you're not going to sleep. You can't get comfortable. So, I had quite a few nights last week at falling asleep about 3:00 AM, which is fun.
Um, so, um, so yeah, it's just, it is getting that balance and having the 'Ready Steady Website' side of the business, now means on the whole, when it's not school holidays, I really can maintain that nice routine, and it means that I can really balance work and the children and feeling well pretty well, but there will always be a spanner in the works.
And after this half term, Chris and I did say that we need to, next school holidays, we've got to manage it better. We've got, I mean the children had one day with the grandparents, this half term, so that we could do some work, but now they're both school age, I need to be booking in sports holiday clubs for two days a week, each week, so I can have my two days a week that are more chilled out. And it's, I am still learning. I just think, as life changes and the children's ages change, and everything's still adapting and still having to work out how is best to balance everything, really. So, yeah. And I think it probably half term, just coincidentally did come in when my body was going to flair anyway, but yeah, it's just, it's unpredictable.
You've just kind of got to go with it sometimes. And. Yeah, it's not easy. And I'm so lucky to have really good friends around. Like, one of my friends who lives in the road has children exactly the same ages as me. She has a child in both of my children's classes. It's very handy. And so I did get a message from her last night going, 'Do you need me to take the boys to school tomorrow?', so it is really nice to have that support around, cause I don't, I don't tell everybody about it. Like we were talking earlier, we don't tend to look like we're ill. We don't tend to go and announce it to people. 'By the way...'. But I will, after a while, tell people who like, need to know really, otherwise I feel when I'm very flaky, you can come across as I'm a very flaky person. I think from a social point of view, if I tell people as well. Because it's so often that I'll try and commit to doing an evening, and then the symptoms will start and then I have to go, ‘I'm really sorry I can't come', and it's just so much easier if they know why, rather than me looking like, yeah, I can never commit to anything past 7:00 PM.
Gillian Duncan: [00:30:41] Yeah, I can completely relate to that. I would for years, I think that's something that I've kept to myself. I, I didn't tell anybody, because people look at me during the day and they think that I'm fine, and obviously when they don't see me, they don't know that I'm at home or I can't, you know, move because my knees have gone or, you know, my stomach's gone or whatever whatever's gone at the time. People don't know. And I don't tell anybody because, you know, I always think, well, you know, they don't need to know. It's, you know, I don't want to burden anybody. I just get on with it, just do. It's part of my life. And I just accept it. But, when it comes to things like, as you were saying, like an invite to go out, yeah. I've, I've had to cancel last minute. It makes you feel terrible because you want to be there. You want to go out, you want to be part of the group. You want to have fun, but you just, you know that you can't, um, you know, when my stomach goes, I, you know, it's like food poisoning sometimes for me, and it can happen without a notice. And so, I'm, you know, I have to be home. There's no other way. I can't go outside. I have to be home and, you know, obviously when my knees go, I can't walk. I can't drive. I can't do anything. So, going up to a dance floor for, you know, if we've organized the night. There's no way that's going to happen. I can't even get dressed. I can't even get in and out of the shower, never mind getting in a car and going somewhere to party. So, you do tend to come across that you are a little bit flaky, like you said, or that you can never make your mind up, or perhaps it comes across that you just don't want to spend time with the people. And so, you do have to tell people eventually, but I mean, have you ever had that need, though, to hide it from anyone? I mean, if you like myself, I'm saying, it's taken me a while to tell people. It's only really to explain the fact that I've cancelled, but do you ever feel the need to hide the fact that you have a chronic illness?
Jude Wharton: [00:32:27] I think I did. I think I used to when I was younger, like, when I was employed in youth work and then in the youth work training. I was young as a youth worker. I started being a youth worker when I was 18, so I was, I was still a young person, but I tended to obviously work with the younger ones. So, there was an age gap, and then I kind of moved through the ranks pretty quickly.
And so, I was managing staff when I was 19 and I was training other youth workers by the time I was 24. And I already felt a lot of pressure, a lot of, I will, I'm going to say, I felt ageism. There were people who were looking at me thinking I shouldn't be in the job role I was in at the age I was in. And so, because I already felt that and felt like there was an element of needing to prove myself, I didn't want to add in the fact that people might see me as being weaker because, like when I was, like with the chilblains lupus, and so I just, I just didn't say anything. And one of the medications I was put on when I was eventually diagnosed with that made me need to eat like, so often. Like I would eat every two, I still do to be fair, I'm still on the medication. I'm better now. But, um, I did really graze every two hours. If I hadn't eaten something I'd need to eat. And it became a bit of like a, like a joke in the office, almost. Like, one of the senior managers, in Hampshire County Council, where I worked at the time, I didn't even realize, like I knew if he knew me and we'd had chats at meetings and things like that, he walked past my office door once and then he backtracked, I he looked into the office and he went, 'Oh, my goodness. You're not eating'. And I wasn't even that aware, that everyone was that like, like aware of it. And, and I just thought, 'Oh, I could actually like say why this is happening', like, but I just didn't. I didn't, it was just easier not to.
And I also had a colleague who did know, because we used to have deliver weekend training residentials. So, obviously when you're doing something like that, your colleagues, like, you get fill in medical forms, so that if something happens to you, your colleague can sort you out appropriately, and so obviously all of my medical details were on there, and she knew, and she said to me once that she thought it was good that I didn't wear my illness, like as a badge, and I didn't like talk about it. That I just got on with things and it was really good.
And I was like, but I took that at the time. I thought that that was a really brilliant thing I did because she was so much older than me, but we're in the same job role, and I just thought, 'Oh yeah, but that is good. I just carry on. I'm such a stalwart, you know', and I was just like, as I've older, I've thought, I don't think that was good, but I'd probably, and especially the kind of training that I delivered, it was delivering training to other youth workers, and it'd be quite experiential training. Like the fact that they're going away, going to go away and work with young people who could have issues that need to discuss their issues with them. And so we would be delivering training where we would be expecting these people to open up in the training environment and discuss themselves so that they could experience what it's like before they go away and facilitate sessions like this with young people. And I was being such a hypocrite because I wasn't divulging anything about me that was actually personal or emotive.
And, and yeah, so I what, I spent many years not mentioning it, and I think as well, like at the time, if I was going through a well period of time, I would almost feel like, 'Well I'm not ill at the moment', like, 'I'm fine. I'm literally carrying on doing my job, seeing my friends. Everything's good at the moment. So, I'm not ill', but that isn't true because it's always there. There's always that, for me, certainly, that anxiety of when is it going to hit again. Especially when I'm getting busy and I'm putting quite a lot of things in my diary, I do look at it and I just think it's so likely I'm not going to make some of these things.
And sort of all the mental health stuff that goes alongside having the physical chronic illness is, is just as impactful, really. And so, ignoring it and pretending it's not there or, yeah, not telling people about it, like I just, it was silly, really. And now I don't like meet people and go, 'Hi, I'm Jude. I have a nice hat trick of chronic illnesses. Nice to meet you'. But, as soon as like it does, could come up, I will be honest. Like, I do the school run and often end up walking to, and from the school run with the granddad of some of the children who live on our road, and he just sort of said to me, the other day, when we were walking back, 'Oh, so are you off to the gym today?', and I said, 'I'm not today', and just, 'I don't feel well enough', and so, and I just said, 'I don't know if you know, but...', and just told him my medical history, and it's just easier. I could have blagged some reason why I'm not going to go to the gym or just said I was, even though it wasn't or, but I just. I just, now I'm just open about it because I just think it is so much easier. And then people understand why I'm having a day where I'm not as conversational or I'm walking twice as slowly as I normally do back from the school run or whatever. So, yeah. I just think it is much easier to be open about it.
Gillian Duncan: [00:38:10] Yeah, I think it's definitely easier to be open, but I can also understand the reason why you keep it from people because people don't understand chronic illness, to certain levels, and I know, particularly when you're younger, like yourself, I suffered chronic illness from a child and people, they, they don't want to know you. Friends sort of go, 'Oh, she's ill', and then they are just disregard you. And employers as well. You have to put it on your medical forms. You have to say what you've got, but then, you know, you don't want to look weak in front of them.
You still want the job because you know that you can do the job. You might just need some time here or there to sort yourself or, you know, to, to make sure that the pressure's not there on you, you might just need to adjust some certain things in your role, but you're frightened to mention that or say that, or admit it in case you lose your job.
And I have lost jobs through my illness, and I've also lost friends through my illness because, you know, they just can't cope with illness, but yeah, I think that's just, that's just part and parcel of having chronic illness, and I think that's where you find your true path, actually, in life.
Jude Wharton: [00:39:20] Yeah, definitely. And I just think the friends, my friends have certainly changed. Like, there's some, I see less and I don't know whether I could definitely attribute it to the chronic illness, but I do feel like a lot of the things that they would often do would be very active and I'd often be saying no, but then I kind of just think, but the ones that I have now, whether they've become, their new friends or whether they're friends who have just stuck around for an awful long time, I just think, well, they're, the friends I'm meant to have now, and so, yeah, I kind of think that it sort of worked out right, if you know what I mean. And I know that because they do stand by me and are there for those mornings where I can't do the school run or just want to have a cup of tea and like, just be with people that perhaps I won't say very much, or do very much, but they're happy for me to be there and having a cup of tea. Like I just, I'm grateful for those people because those are the type of people that are just worth having around.
Gillian Duncan: [00:40:20] Yeah, and it's not that you want to sit down and go, 'Oh, woe is me. This is what's wrong with me today'. I don't know about you, but when I'm going through sort of an episode and I'm feeling really awful in myself, the last thing I want to do is talk about it. I don't want to, you know, not that don't want to acknowledge what's going on, I just want to listen to somebody else talk. I just want to hear something else that's going on in their life. I want to think about happy things. I don't want to dwell on what I'm coping with. I just want to sit down and absorb everything else.
Jude Wharton: [00:40:52] Yeah, absolutely. Normally, if I'm not feeling great, like my friends who know me very well and they can go, 'So, how are you feeling this week?', I can give a sort of couple of word response and they'll get the picture. I don't have to go into the details. I'll just go, 'Hey, you know?', and they'll go, 'Okay', like, or I'll be like, 'Do you what, really not great', and they're like, 'Okay, like, good'. And yeah, and it just, I have quite a lot of friends who unfortunately at the moment, are not going through good times themselves, and I just like, I think it's nice, like, even though I know I'm feeling rubbish, I go and have a cup of tea and I'll actually quite want to hear what's going on with them and see how I can help them. It just takes my mind off the pain that's in my body and actually, perhaps I can give some constructive support or advice, or I can point them in the direction of a service. Because quite often, if it's going on with their children, in my background, I can be very practically useful. You can go, 'Do you know what? Try this person at this point in the council', and yeah, I just, I like to have the distraction of being able to do something else.
Gillian Duncan: [00:41:58] I think that's so important when you're trying to manage pain. The distraction. I said that to my son, the other day. I was, I was working, and working and working and he says, 'Are you not taking a break Mum?', and I said, 'Actually, if I take a break, I'll feel my pain. And at the moment I'm happier just sitting doing my work and being focused on one thing without, you know, coming away from what I was doing or, you know, thinking of anything else'. And I explained that to him and he said, 'Hmm, good plan', you know, as, as a 15 year old would say that, but, you know, 'Oh, good plan, Mum'.
So that's, he now, understands that if I throw myself , you know, completely into something, it's because I want to be distracted from something else that could potentially just make me sit down and give up. You know, like, 'Woe is me. I can't cope with anything', and as you say, that sort of mental wellness side of things, so it all comes on and you start going, 'Oh, what's the point?', and you know, you get yourself into this rabbit hole, you know. But, if you have something just to occupy your mind, and friends are great for that, you know, if they can share things with you and make you feel part of their community and, and you feel helpful as well, then that all of a sudden distracts you from anything that you're going through, but I believe it helps in your recovery as well.
Jude Wharton: [00:43:15] Yeah, definitely. Yeah, definitely need to have that kind of, yeah, something that is occupying you to yeah, boost your mental health, because otherwise yeah, you can definitely just get down this rabbit warren of despair.
Gillian Duncan: [00:43:30] I would like to ask you, because you cope so well with your chronic illness and you juggle a successful business and also being a mum of two pretty young kids at the moment. We know that that is not an easy time in your life. There's so much going on, and I do know that, with chronic illness, stress really has a massive part to play in it, so if you were sitting, talking to somebody, another mum, say, and they were thinking about doing all the things they want to do in life, but they also had a chronic illness, but they were sitting there and they were thinking, 'Oh, do you know something, what's the point? I can't do anything. I've got this illness. I'm a mum. You know, I just, I feel that that is just enough for me. And I'm quite happy to put my dreams on the back burner. Perhaps it's not for me.' What would you want to say to them? So, if there's any mum's listening out there to our conversation who has a chronic illness and is apprehensive about fulfilling their dreams because they think it might be too challenging, what would you say to them?
Jude Wharton: [00:44:41] I think I would say that it's just worth trying it. I mean, like I've said, I have found it easier, as time has gone on, to, to know how I'm feeling, to predict when things are going to start going downhill so that I can manage around them better. I've also, I think symptoms that seemed absolutely horrendous to me, say 10 years ago, because they just become more normal and you get more used to them, I find them easier to cope with, so I can carry on working through them, perhaps better than I would have done previously. It's not to say I still don't go, 'Do you know what? Today needs to be a day on the sofa', because I do understand when I actually do need rest. But I think things that panicked me 10 years ago, don't now. They are just something I have to live with, cope with.
And so, over time it gets easier. And I do think as well, that if you start off doing something slowly, so if you've got a business idea, perhaps initially you just gonna start off by putting the idea out there, perhaps you set up some social media for it. You start chatting to people about it and just doing little bits at a time, so it's not too overwhelming, you're doing it in bite sized chunks, and that is a good way to start cause that will be testing the water of how much you can manage doing each day, how much you can commit to. And also, I think you can be driven by just other people's enthusiasm. If you're putting a business idea out there or your starting to put feelings out for a job and you're talking to other people about it and they're enthusiastic about it, that will drive you on. And I do think that will boost your mental health, which will definitely help with coping with your physical health. And so, it really is worth kind of, taking those steps and just doing something for yourself. And also like, I think it is also, when you've got a chronic illness, very easy to just go, 'I'm feeling ill. I'm going to stop. I'm going to shut down and just wait for this all to go away', but I absolutely feel better if I just get up and do something each day. So whether that is just a little walk around the block or a gentle swim or a task I need to do for work, and I actually get it ticked off the list, and that is a boost, I really think that helps. So, I actually think, for some people, if they are sitting there, they're not doing anything, they are just going through the mundane day to day lives and coping with their illness to put something else in there that is for them, that can give them that boost, it could be really beneficial for them. So, I just say, give it a try, but slowly but surely, and little steps at a time. Don't overwhelm yourself by trying to do everything at once.
Gillian Duncan: [00:47:31] Thank you, Jude. That is brilliant advice. I was nodding my head through everything that you were saying there, completely in agreeance with you.
And I'd just like to add to that. The term 'chronic illness' means that it is long term. It's not going to go away. It's not going to disappear overnight. It's something that we have to live with, day in, day out, and manage it and manage it as successfully as we can. So, what does that mean for the rest of your life?
If you decide that you won't follow your dreams and your goals in life, and you're waiting for a time where you feel better and everything else is in place in your life, then the chances are that time will never happen. And, you'll get to a point in life and you'll look back and you'll think, 'How did I spend my life?', and it will be, 'I spent my life nursing a chronic illness, when I could have perhaps been doing something else'.
You know, everybody's illness, sure they have completely different levels, but there's always something, no matter how small it is, there's always something else that we can do. And, just as you were saying, those little things can bring a whole of positivity into our life. It can help reduce our stress levels and it can have a great impact on our illness and how we feel about it. So, I completely mirror what you're saying there, and I'm saying, 'Do you know something, you don't know how you're going to cope, and how you're going to do it, until you try', and that's the same for everyone, no matter whether they're suffering from a chronic illness or not.
So, my advice, like yourself is, take baby steps, go see what it's like and give it a try.
Jude Wharton: [00:49:14] Absolutely.
Gillian Duncan: [00:49:15] Jude, you mentioned earlier that your company is called 'Ready Steady Websites', and you create some beautiful websites for your customers. Please, can you tell us a little bit more about the services that you offer?
Jude Wharton: [00:49:27] Okay. So, 'Ready Steady Websites' is kind of that middle ground between getting a website designed and built for you or completely doing it yourself with like, a template or one of the free or cheap website builder services that are out there. We decided there was this gap in the market because we were working with a lot of small businesses and entrepreneurs who all essentially wanted a very similar website to each other.
They wanted a bit more than they could get from the real sort of grassroots level templates and things, but it didn't really need something to be purely bespoke, because there wasn't any major functionality or anything particularly clever in what they wanted. And so, we decided that we would build these templates that entrepreneurs and small business owners could use to create their own websites, but that were really beautifully designed, had been built as if they were being built for one of our clients, so we were considering every kind of page layout and element that they might want included on their website when we created them. But also, we realized that, just because you're an entrepreneur and business owner, you're not necessarily going to be that great with the tech side of things. And so, we have these templates that you can choose one of them from our website. And then once you've chosen, you complete a form where you give us your logo, your branding colours, and also your fonts and your branding. And we will set up the template with all of those, so that when you get it on a sort of a test site, it already looks like yours. It's got your logo in there. It's all got all the right colours, all the right fonts. And then all you need to do is put your content and your images into the template on the test site. So, this is a site that only you us can see. So, your website that you've got at the moment, if you've still, if you have got one already is still live and up, you're under no pressure to get this done really, really quickly.
So, you put all your content and everything in. You have access to our video tutorials to help you do that. You also have access to us for support in doing that by a private support tickets or via our Facebook group, where either us or someone else in the group that was already done it before could jump in and help you.
And once you're happy with how it all looks on the test site, we check it over for you. We will connect up any payment mechanisms like PayPal and Stripe, or any of your email systems like Mailchimp or ConvertKit or whichever one you've using, and we'll test it all to make sure it's all working, it all looks good, it all looks lovely, and then we will put it live for you.
So, you're not having to worry about doing any of that techie stuff. And putting the images and the content in, as much as that sometimes seems like a bit techie to some people, you're having to create your content anyway. It's only you can be the one who creates that or ask a copy writer and create it for you. So, you're having to write it and put it somewhere, so you might as well put it into the template, so you're not duplicating work.
And so, yeah, so it's all just, you, you're being handheld the whole way through. So, taking it above that completely do it for you level, and you get a really professional looking website at the end of it, but at a fraction of the price as if you were going to pay a designer or developer to do it for you,
Gillian Duncan: [00:52:46] That just sounds brilliant. It actually just sounds so easy, actually. Just the thought that you can just come along, give you the set up images or the fonts and the colours that you want to use, and you'll have that in place for your template to start with. To be honest, that is a huge job in itself because when you sitting there, I know this, when you're sitting there with a blank screen in front of you and you have a template that somebody else has designed, and then you've got to put it all in and you don't know where to start, really.
So the fact that you can have that easy step by step process, it will definitely mean that your website will be up and running in no time, and it will be something that you actually like to look at.
Jude Wharton: [00:53:26] Yeah. Some people have managed to do it in literally like, four days. So they've gone, 'Right. Do you know what? This is the week I'm doing my website'. They've bought it from us, they've submitted all of their branding stuff to us. We set it up and then they have literally just gone for it. Chucked all the content in. We've checked it over. If we found any niggles, we'd come back to them, whatever, but it's all done in four days and they're up in their live. That is, it can be done so quickly, if you just go, 'Right, yeah, I'm just gonna block in this time to do it'.
Other people are obviously taking their time on it a bit longer. Some people have bought the templates, knowing that they want to use them down the line, and they've done nothing with them for a couple of months, until they're ready to launch something or whatever. So, people are all using it differently, but it is. I love it when websites are going live. And it's so interesting to see how people can be using the same template, but because their branding is so different, the websites look so different. Like, there are some of the websites that go live, and I look at them and I go, 'Which template were they using? Because I thought that we were using this one, but it doesn't look like it', and it is, but it is just because the images they've used just make it look so different that it does feel like a bespoke website that I'm looking at. So it's just, it's like, it does give that real professional edge to those people, I think, rather than using some of the templates that you can look at and you, I mean, I can look at a website and go, that's a Squarespace website or that's Divi or... whereas, I feel like, when you're using 'Ready Steady Websites' ones who don't have that same kind of look really.
Gillian Duncan: [00:54:59] It looks more unique and more bespoke, as you were saying.
I know that on your website, you can go through and you can click to look through different themes and what they're going to look like. There's a part there, as well, for membership sites, if anyone is there a membership site, there's different templates for that as well. There's just so much on your website actually. And there's a great selection of freebies as well, just for anyone who's considering building a website, and I'd say that they're really worth looking at.
So, what I will do is I will pop the link to your freebies page, along with your website and your Facebook links on the post for this interview, so that everyone can easily get in touch with you.
Jude Wharton: [00:55:42] Brilliant. Thank you.
Gillian Duncan: [00:55:43] It's been really great to chat with you today, Jude. I thank you for sharing your story with us and for inspiring other mums out there who may be managing chronic illness, that it is possible to find a balance and a way forwards to creating a life that not only compliments their situation, but also one that they would love to live.
Jude Wharton: [00:56:08] Thank you for having me. It's been fun. I've enjoyed it.
Gillian Duncan: [00:56:11] It has been. I've loved chatting with you. It has been such a pleasure to have you as a guest on the Clarity Junction podcast. Thank you so much.
Jude Wharton: [00:56:18] Thank you.
Gillian Duncan: [00:56:20] That's all for this episode, it's been great to chat with Jude today, and I sincerely thank her for sharing her own personal story with us.
To find out more about Jude's business, 'Ready Steady Websites', access her free downloads and keep in touch with her on Facebook, then visit clarityjunction.com/managingchronicillness, where you will find all the links to her website and Facebook page.
It's my aim to reach out and inspire as many women as possible. So, I would love you to help me spread the word.
Remember to hop over to clarityjunction.com to find out more about our membership for women who want more from life!
Thanks for listening.
Bye for now and keep being awesome!