- Tell us a bit more about yourself, Alex.
My name is Alex Stansfield, co-owner and Director of Parsons Green Nursery group based in Fulham, London. I am a 40 something British/Belgian/South African with a colourful professional life which began quite differently from the one I now find myself in. I began my career working as a political risk analyst for a private security and insurance firm which specialised in Kidnap and Ransom for small corporates.
While spending a large part of my early 20’s travelling for business to unwelcoming destinations, I decided to leave the discomfort of my perilous job and move to London for a more stable life in investment banking with Morgan Stanley where I worked for several years between London and New York. After a mostly exciting but at times rather soulless career in finance, and with a 6-month-old baby in the mix (Micky), my wife Camilla turned to me after hearing me winge one too many times and asked if I’d like to help her expand the nursery business. Excited by the prospect of a new adventure, I agreed and here we are today.
I think the above reflects that I am constantly on the hunt for new experiences and not averse to change; monotony is my nemesis. As cliched as it might sound, travel and new adventures excite me and will continue to be a necessary staple of my life, now with an ever-expanding family to experience it all with.
- And your role as a dad, what does parenting look like for you?
I have two little boys, Micky and Caspar, aged 5 years and 3 months. I became a father at the tender age of 37. I must admit parenting never came naturally to me but my wife Camilla has been an incredible inspiration and we work well together and complement each other. I believe the fundamentals of parenting begin with clear communication, knowing each other’s expectations and how to achieve these. Child 1 was a bit of a case of finding our groove and what works, as I’m sure it is for most, so we’ve now established what we’re good at and work collaboratively to achieve this as best we can. We of course fail at times but try not to let this overshadow the good we do and as long as we’re open and honest with each other we feel this translates well into effective parenting. That said, every year (day?) presents a new challenge though, so we are still finding our way in many respects.
Being a parent most certainly equipped me with the necessary tools to adopt a very personal approach to the running of Parsons Green Nursery (PGN) as well as a unique perspective on what the secret ingredients are for a happy childhood and how this translates to parenting and running of an early years setting.
- How was transitioning into the new role as a father, how did you adapt and how do you cope with tough periods?
I never truly realised the extent of how drastically my life would change when becoming a parent. Having led a rather selfish existence up to this point with regular golf outings, a busy social agenda, having time to keep in shape (dreaded dad-bod waiting in the wings), and everything else related to personal pampering, the initial shock of my new-found responsibilities as a father meant that I would have to grow up and grow up fast. Changing a nappy was something I’d only ever done twice previously and the daunting prospect of being responsible for another human and every facet of their lives thereafter strangely left me feeling both terrified and excited. Luckily my personality is one that adapts well to change. I hit the ground running and have made every effort to be the doting father I hoped I would be.
Both our children have sadly suffered from chronic reflux and this has at times been incredibly challenging for us when juggling the stresses of work and family life. My coping mechanism is to keep my head down, try not to lose control of the situation and accept the realisation that any hardship is temporary. Going into parenting while already suffering from a long battle with insomnia is a particularly lethal concoction and I did find the added sleep deprivation overwhelming at times; trying to remain composed while not sleeping for days/weeks on end is mild torture to say the least.
- What does your support system look like and what are your tips for building one?
My wife Camilla is my ultimate support system and without her I’d be frankly lost in the realm of parenting. Her stoicism and love for our family knows no bounds and I will be eternally grateful for everything she does for day to day. We’ve also been fortunate enough to have an incredible back-up in Camilla’s parents who have never hesitated to help when the going gets tough and are always a shoulder to lean on when we’re struggling to cope. The tip for building a support system is simply to nurture all friendships and family relations and be sure to reciprocate a kind deed.
- What’s has been your best parenting moment so far?
Sitting at a pub with my son Micky and a group of family friends. Micky proceeds to draw a questionable picture of the bangers and mash I was eating, goes over to the table next to us and in a loud voice announces “This is a painting of my daddy’s sausage”. Everyone was in stitches.