I don’t usually like talking about myself as there are much more interesting people out there. But I’ve been getting asked about who’s behind Newy with Kids and how it started so I thought I would share some information

Why did you start Newy with Kids?

After my daughter was born, it was one of the happiest times of my life, but it was also one of the most challenging. I went from full-time work at OneSteel surrounded by other adults to being at home with a new baby on 12 months maternity leave. Honestly, some days it just sucked.

I was so bored and life started to feel a bit like Groundhog Day with every day the same as the one before. I wanted to get out but I just didn’t know where to go. I remember thinking that it would be so useful to have a website that contained information on local attractions, events and activities for parents with babies and kids.

A year after I returned to work at OneSteel, I was made redundant from my position and decided to start The Mummy Project (the former name of Newy with Kids). I figured it would be a great learning opportunity while I had a career break for a few years. The universe had other plans though and soon after launching The Mummy Project in late 2012, I ended up receiving a part-time job offer. And so, I juggled work and a website for a number of years.

Are you Newcastle born and bred?

Not even close! I have to admit there are times when I feel like a fraud as I wasn’t born here and didn’t grow up here and yet somehow ended up creating a website about things to do around Newcastle with babies and kids. #impostersyndrome #gofigure

I was actually born in London, England to parents of Indian Sikh ancestry which explains my not-fake tan and my tasty Punjabi Indian Butter Chicken recipe. Think Bend It Like Beckham except I don’t play soccer!

When I was ten, our family moved to Canada. We first lived in the small town of High Prairie in Northern Alberta for two years and then to the big city of Edmonton (home of West Edmonton Mall, Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers hockey team). I quickly dropped my London accent for a Canadian one and learned how to survive -30 degree Celcius temperatures in winter.

In my twenties, I decided to fulfill my dream of visiting Australia and arrived in Sydney for a year’s working holiday*.  I ended up working in Sydney for four months and then backpacked around Australia and New Zealand. I fell in love with Australia (and later an Australian).

Fast forward a few years, I moved from Canada to Sydney to be with my boyfriend (now husband). Although I love Sydney, the relaxed lifestyle, beaches and friendly people attracted us to Newcastle in 2006 and we’ve had more than 12 happy years here. (By the way, how long do you have to live in Newcastle to be able to call yourself a local?)

As a result of my upbringing, I have a mangled accent, wide range of interests and a collection of passports. I love travelling, experiencing new destinations, cultures and cuisine and meeting new people. If you spot me out and about, please do say hello.

*Coincidentally, on the flight from to Australia (LAX – Sydney) in September 1998, I was sitting next to a friendly woman from Newcastle. When I asked her if I should include Newcastle on my list of places to visit, she replied “Don’t bother, it’s a dirty steel town”. How I wish I had ignored her advice and visited then.

Are you married? How many children do you have?

Yes, I’m married to Mr Newy with Kids, a local firefighter who is the love of my life except for when he annoys me. We have a nine year old daughter who was conceived after a few years of  IVF. We would have loved a larger family but due to my infertility issues from severe endometriosis, just having one was a bloody miracle. My ongoing thanks to Dr Andrew Hedges and the staff of Hunter IVF and endometriosis specialist Dr Danny Chou at St George Private Hospital. Without them, I wouldn’t have my daughter or this website.

Do you work on Newy with Kids full-time?

Until the last couple of years, I didn’t have a chance to work on Newy with Kids full-time. In the beginning, I actually worked three days a week for Arrium and then later at NSW Crown Lands and balanced paid work with running the website.

Now I’m working from home as a freelancer while running Newy with Kids. Some weeks, I’m working full-time hours or even more on Newy with Kids. Other weeks, it’s less while I work on client projects.

What kind of work do you do?

I manage social media and content creation for a few clients in Newcastle. It’s a big change from my previous corporate life in which I analysed data, managed online IT systems and wrote technical documentation as detailed in my LinkedIn profile.

How do you do balance work and family?

I won’t lie. Sometimes it’s a challenge and I get stressed when I look at the unclean state of my house or piles of unwashed laundry and an empty fridge. Like many other busy mums and dads, it often feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day. I juggle what I need to do but sometimes I do drop the ball in a spectacular fashion. It helps to have a sense of humour to keep things in perspective and remember family comes first. Alcohol or chocolate help as well on those bad days!

Is it just you working on Newy with Kids? How do you find out about what’s on?

I do most of the work on the website and social media but now I have writers who contribute as well. I’m also in the process of expanding my writing team.

In terms of finding out information, I find out what’s happening through research, press releases and emails from contacts at local councils. I also get plenty of tips from readers about upcoming local community and school events which I greatly appreciate.

Do you make any money from Newy with Kids?

Yes, after years of running it as a hobby, I’ve finally started to earn money from advertising which helps with IT and web hosting costs. A big thanks to all of the local companies, big and small, who advertise with Newy with Kids. Their financial support ensures the long-term viability of Newy with Kids and means it can expand to be an even more useful resource for local parents and caregivers.

Honestly, making mega bucks isn’t the main driver of why I run Newy with Kids. I’m more interested in keeping the website and social media channels real, authentic and useful to local parents. So when Newy with Kids receives free products or services to review or tickets to local events, I will always disclose that to readers as I think it’s important to be honest and transparent. By the way, getting free stuff or entry doesn’t affect our write up on Newy with Kids. If we don’t like it, we won’t write about it.

What do you like about running Newy with Kids?

It gives me a great excuse to get out and check out the family-friendly places and events in our region. From discovering the Fairy Garden in Broadmeadow, riding miniature steam trains at Edgeworth to experiencing the Steel Show at Newcastle Museum, we’ve had some fantastic family excursions and great memories. It also highlights the Newcastle and Hunter region as a great place for families to live.

I’ve learned so many new skills through Newy with Kids such as researching, writing articles, photography, social media and search engine optimisation. It’s my much-needed creative outlet!

I love that I have met so many amazing parents in person, via Facebook and email who follow Newy with Kids. (I’ve made so many new friends in these past few years – you know who you are).  Thank you to those readers who have been following The Mummy Project / Newy with Kids for years. Your support has been invaluable especially in those early years. And thanks to those who have emailed or PM’d me the most lovely comments. You have no idea how much your kind words have meant to me over the years that I’ve been running this website.

Also, it’s lovely to receive emails from mums and dads who have moved to the Newcastle region who find my website and Facebook page helpful. As someone who’s moved around a lot, I  understand how challenging it can be moving to a new city or country and trying to fit in and belong. It’s very gratifying to know that I can help other parents.

One thing that has blown me away is the sense of community of Newy with Kids. It’s great to see the helpful, supportive and positive community of mums, dads and carers on Facebook and website providing tips to my readership and me.

What are your plans for Newy with Kids?

Basically, keep continuing what I’m doing and see what unfolds. Newy with Kids has already surpassed my expectations so I’m just enjoying the ride.

Thanks to all of you for your help, support and tips about local events and activities. I really appreciate how many of you have recommended me to your friends and family.

Reena x

P.S. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask. Here’s my email.

Something Random

Here’s a TV commercial for a 2010 Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation that we ended up in purely by fluke. We were at Wallsend Library and my baby was being extra loud when Julie Swane, the Children’s Librarian approached and I thought we were going to be kicked out of the library. Instead, we (myself and my fidgety baby) were invited to be in a commercial. Blink and you’ll miss us.

Reena Bilen

In 2012, Reena founded Newy with Kids to share information about family-friendly Newcastle. Originally from Canada, she had no idea about what to do with her toddler and after searching unsuccessfully for a family guide, decided to start her own. Since that time, both the toddler and Newy with Kids have grown keeping Reena busy. If you see her out and about, say hi.
Reena Bilen