Monica Malhotra

Monica Malhotra

Unicorns, Candy Floss and Rose Petals: An Interview with Helen Farmer (aka The Mothership)

An inside look at one working woman’s approach to work, style and e-learning



Helen Farmer is host of the popular Arabian Radio Network’s (ARN) Dubai Eye 103.8FM show, Afternoons with Helen Farmer; an editor and BBC-trained broadcast journalist; founder of the parenting blog The Mothership and mum to two active girls.  Helen is a woman of many talents, juggling career, personal interests, and motherhood. 

Having lived in the Middle East for over 10 years, Helen has worked on books, magazines, broadcasting, and uncovering the ups and downs of life, work, and motherhood in the UAE. Through her daily afternoon radio show, Helen helps listeners navigate the uniqueness of UAE life, sharing advice, opinion, and anecdotes that get to the heart of what life in the UAE is all about.

If ever there was a realist, it’s Helen.  A firm believer that motherhood is not “all unicorns, candy floss and rose petals”, Helen’s take on motherhood via her blog, The Mothership, puts a refreshing lense on a world where it seems women try so hard to keep up the ideal ‘Stepford Wives’ façade when really the struggle of being mother, wife and individual is very, very real and difficult. The endearing thing about Helen is that she tells you right as it is…no filter on her take on living, working and parenting. 

I have been following Helen on her Instagram page, @themothershipdxb, for some time now and admire the rawness of her posts. And, when the opportunity to interview her popped up, I thought it would be a great feature to share with The Gaggler community and shed some light on who Helen is and what makes her tick. 

Being Helen…

Monica: What is the biggest challenge you face as a female entrepreneur?

Helen: Where to start? As a mum of two, lack of time is a big one. Not only to get everything done (huge thanks to Loreta our nanny for the endless help), but also being able to take a step back and reflect on the bigger picture and put goals in place.

Monica: What do you feel is the most important lesson you’ve learnt as a working mum during the lockdown?

Helen: That my relationship with my kids is more important than phonics! I know lots of working parents have felt a huge amount of pressure when it comes to distance learning, but when it became a source of stress and tension between my daughter and I (she started hiding when the school iPad came out) I knew I had to let it go, and enjoy time together.

Monica: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Helen: Done is better than perfect.

Monica: Which female entrepreneur do you admire the most?

Helen: Many of the women who inspire me aren’t necessarily businesswomen, but those who do what they love (writing, social research, music) and just happen to make money from it. Brene Brown is a great example of this; she speaks about her passion, and it has led to a career I’m sure she could never have imagined.

Monica: What’s inspiring you in life right now?

Helen: Amid the chaos of the pandemic it has been great to take some time to get back to quieter pursuits. I’m listening to a lot of music (Laura Marling’s new album has been my lockdown soundtrack) and podcasts. The honesty of Elizabeth Day’s How To Fail is so refreshing – she interviews people about where they ‘failed’ and what it taught them. I really recommend the recent episodes with COVID-19 in mind.

Monica: How would you define yourself in three words?

Helen: Always pretty tired.

Monica: What’s something you have always wanted to try but have not mustered up the courage to do so yet?

Helen: I’d like to try improv, but public speaking that I haven’t prepared for makes me want to vomit…

Your Style & Beauty Picks

Monica: How would you describe your style in three words?

Helen: Hopefully it’s clean.

Monica: Who inspires you most when it comes to fashion? When it comes to beauty?

Helen: I’m really pretty boring! Breton tees, jeans, flats, though I can’t resist a floral dress. I don’t wear much makeup but I’m a bit of a skincare junkie, so rely on the advice of a great dermatologist. I wish I could steal the wardrobe of Erica Davies (@ericadavies) – she has a sense of fun and loves prints, without looking like she has run through a charity shop covered in glue.

Monica: What’s a style trend you would like to see disappear forever?

Helen: Those clear plastic bra straps.

Monica: Besides phone, wallet or car keys, what are 3 must-have items in your purse?

Helen: Powder to combat the shine, some kind of snack, and earphones.

Monica: What is your go-to outfit you always feel [Strong/Confident/Good/Invincible] in?

Helen: Don’t laugh, but I feel great in gym gear! Lorna Jane leggings are amazing.

Your Self-Care Tips

Monica: How do you start your day?

Helen: Cuddles with the kids, as much water as I can drink while I do a word puzzle, and some kind of stretching, even if it’s for literally 30 seconds.

Monica: What is your go-to self-care activity after a hard day?

Helen: There’s very little that a chat with my mum, a bowl of Heinz tomato soup, a strong drink and an early night can’t solve.

Monica: What is a practice you would encourage your younger 20-something self to do?

Helen: PUT ON SUNSCREEN!!!!!