Janina Monaghan, Founder of MaD MICE, on why lockdown is the perfect time to build a community – and how you can get involved


“I don’t want to be around mad people,” said Alice. “We’re all mad here,” the Cheshire Cat retorted.

Three years ago, my daughter dressed up as the Queen of Hearts for World Book Day (WBD), an event that I didn’t think I’d have the opportunity to be part of since it clashed with a work trip to Canada. Adverse weather conditions – the Beast from the East – meant that WBD was postponed and so, on my return, I was able to be involved, much to the excitement of my daughter.

Following that trip, I wrote a blog: ‘Swapping the School Run for Snowmobile Fun.’ The response to my words was something I never expected; many mums contacted me to express how much they enjoyed reading about my personal experience of travelling with work and being away from the family. They resonated with my emotions: a sense of gratitude for a strong home network, the feeling of guilt, the vulnerability and the fear of something happening to you at a time when you’re apart from your loved ones.

But, despite the challenges, I also brought to the fore the positives and how my travels would actually benefit my children. Although I didn’t have the same level of contact from dads, at that time, I’ve since spoken with both married and single industry fathers to discover their feelings on juggling a busy life in events with family time. Conclusion? We’re all experiencing similar challenges and emotions to a greater or lesser degree.

What if the mums who had contacted me and the dads who shared their thoughts with me could be connected and share their stories with one another? Perhaps parents would feel less anxious if they could express themselves in an empathetic environment and have the ability to unpick problems with others who may be faced with the same situation – a problem shared…

What if there was a place where people could support one another, inspire each other, champion one another and provide tips and tricks on achieving a work-life balance?

Events profs know only too well how easy it is to let work-based projects get in the way of personal initiatives and so my ‘what ifs’ remained dormant and unanswered, until now. Since Covid-19 presented itself, work for a freelance MICE professional, like me, has become non-existent. Alongside my new role as home-school teacher I seized this opportunity and, with my newfound time, set-up MaD MICE: an online community for Mums and Dads in the MICE sector, and the response to my what ifs.

“When Covid-19 calms down we’ll have built new connections within this group meaning that, together, we can strive to make the MICE industry strong and buoyant again.”

With 188 members from Sydney to Solihull, posts have been quite diverse. And although the current discussion is different to what future posts may look like when travel restrictions have been lifted and we’re back up and running, it’s heart-warming to read some of the discussions taking place. Parents of our industry are using this platform to share their creative tips and activity suggestions for keeping the kids entertained, recommending sites with educational content and posing questions to the group based around usual industry challenges affecting family life but with an added curve ball: the children being around 24-7!

We’re involving the kids, too. Each week, we upload a temporary logo – designed by the mini MICE – which is a visual interpretation of the MaD MICE group; as we know only too well, the quality of the brief can determine the quality of the end result – how well parents have conveyed the group’s concept can be seen through their child’s art work.

In a recent poll (and pre-furloughing), 68% of members claimed that their biggest challenge is juggling work with home-schooling – a challenge that I am sure, if we polled again in a few weeks’ time, many will have conquered in true eventprof style!

So how does this differ from any other parenting or networking group? Because it’s designed to be industry-specific and combine the two areas – recognising that work is not actually separate from ‘life’. And when Covid-19 calms down and we can revert to normal (whatever that might end up looking like), we’ll have built new connections within this group meaning that, together, we can strive to make the MICE industry strong and buoyant again for the benefit of ourselves, our companies, clients, suppliers and – last but definitely not least – our families.

If you’d like to be around MaD people, search MaD MICE on Facebook and come and join the conversation!