PLTS Family: Interview With Susanne Willekes
If you have a child who has trouble sleeping and have been looking for solutions, then it is likely you’ve already heard of Susanne Willekes. Susanne is a trained sleep coach, founder of the Sleep Agency and author of the book Slaap!, a guide to help your baby sleep better. Lucky for us, Susanne also happens to be a PLTS Rockstar! We had the opportunity to sit down with her (virtually, of course) and delve a little deeper into her life, her routines and her experience with the Sleep Agency and PLTS. We hope you enjoy discovering more stories about the PLTS family as much as we do!
First of all, could you introduce yourself and what you do?
Susanne: My name is Susanne Willekes, a former sleepless mom, the first Dutch certified Gentle Sleep Coach, author of bestselling book Slaap! and sleep expert for several radio and tv networks. Being the first Dutch Child Sleep Consultant (‘Kinderslaapcoach’) and founder of The Sleep Agency, I feel lucky to work with so many families to reclaim their restful nights and in many cases, sanity. In line with my mission to help as much sleepless families as possible, I published my first book in 2017. My second book, covering one to four year olds, is expected in the fall of 2020. The Sleep Agency has grown over the past 4,5 years, my team now consists of four coaches. I live in Amsterdam with my hubby and our three kids: Viggo, Sofia & Bodhi.
How has your life changed during this quarantine?
Susanne: I think schools closing and not being able to see the grandparents have been the most live-changing events. Also restriction of movement – even though we have an intelligent lockdown – is something modern people are not used to and can be mentally tough. However, I think it makes people more aware and grateful for the small things in life.
What do these surreal times mean for your company, The Sleep Agency?
Susanne: Luckily, my work has not been that affected by the Corona crisis. Besides offering the extensive consultation in-home, I have always helped families on a global scale by offering the consults through FaceTime or WhatsApp video. Besides the two hour consultation, the coaching process of 2-3 weeks in general is all done remotely. Many parents have stated that they desire less stress and more sleep even more in these bizarre times. I am happy that me and my team have continuously been able to help them the past few weeks.
Could you tell us a little more about The Sleep Agency? How it started and what inspired you to do so?
Susanne: I’m a mother of three and suffered from acute sleep deprivation with our eldest son Viggo. For months, I could barely function like a normal human being. Having tried all possible sleep methods out of sheer desperation, I also became professionally interested and discovered the Gentle Sleep Coach Program. After a law degree and 12 demanding years in sales, marketing and PR, it was time to switch lanes and follow my heart five years ago. I made my ultimate childhood dream a reality: working with families and making a difference in people’s lives. My son is very proud that he actually is the inspiration and reason behind my company.
How do you organise your work days at the moment? How do you stay focused and productive?
Susanne: Like everyone, we had to find a new mode but didn’t want to lose the structure the kids need. We get at up at the same time every morning, enjoy breakfast together after which we start ‘school’. After setting it all up, we try to work as much as possible and try to alternate our time with the kids. In the afternoon, the kids go outside and play, accompanied by the same sitter every day until dinner. I also manage to squeeze in a few workouts in 4-5 days a week – I have to stay fit and sane!
How do you manage your different roles at the moment (mother, sleep coach, founder, and so forth)?
Susanne: Well…I can tell you it’s been challenging. Luckily, I have coaches whom I can schedule clients with. What is important for me is that we can still help everyone who contacts The Sleep Agency without any exception – I’ve experienced what they are going through and I know they need help when they reach out. So having help makes it easier to handle the work load. However, meeting deadlines for my second book has been less fruitful. Also we decided to focus on homeschooling with our 10 and 8-year-old only and letting go of our (school) efforts for our 4-year-old. To make this quarantine as stressless as possible for the kids, we let them play outside with friends and cousins. We try to make it a fun time at home as well, with popcorn movie time, making cupcakes and sleepovers between our three kids.
What is the biggest challenge you are facing at the moment? What is the hardest part of the quarantine for you?
Susanne: I feel like I haven’t been able to all the things and all jobs at 100% which feels unsatisfactory. But then I listen to my sister in law who says: ‘let it go’. And she is right, as always.
What are you most grateful for during this quarantine?
Susanne: Me and my families’ health, of course. Our garden. The fact that we Dutchies have been able to get out of the house without being completely locked in. The sun that has been shining for weeks. The few social distancing outdoor gatherings with friends. My outdoor workouts. Deepening and strengthening relationships with family and friends, despite the distance
Have you taken on any new hobbies or self-care practices lately?
Susanne: The days are quite filled with work and homeschooling so no new hobbies there besides trying different types of wine!😉
We have, as a family, been focusing on our health – it’s even more important now to stay fit and boost our immune system – by eating healthy with lots of veggies, fruits, zinc and vitamin C, by sleeping 8 hours a night ourselves and keeping the kids schedules and routines as normal as possible to keep them rested. We also go outside as often as we can. At 3PM, after school studies, the kids usually go out and about until dinner, being active and exposed to outdoor air and sunshine. After PLTS closed down, I started working out with a PT outdoors, running in the Vondelpark and doing online workouts in our garden.
Could you share with us your current quarantine favourites?
Favourite book: The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Favourite quote: ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’
Life Saving gadget or product: My iPhone 11 Pro! Essential for work, it allows me to stay in touch with family & friends and come on, the camera!
Do you have a word of advice for all parents out there, given our current situation?
Susanne: ‘Something’s gotta give’. Most parents are trying to juggle all priorities at the same time: taking care of their kids, raising them, working from home (or trying to) and being a teacher at the same time. There is a reason that it’s difficult because working, teaching and parenting are three different things. Do the best you can!
As a member of the PLTS family, what is it that you love the most and miss the most about PLTS at the moment?
PLTS is my family and part of my daily routine, so no surprise I miss it a lot! Working out on the reformer made me a lot stronger and toned and always gives me so much energy and positive vibes to start the day with. Let alone, I miss working out with my PLTS friends, our laughs, drinking coffee afterwards before our work day starts. And, of course, I dearly miss my favourite teacher Marco.
Thank you so much to Susanne for taking the time to talk with us! We hope reading about her story, her thoughts and advice will inspire and maybe help some of you PLTS rockstars out there.
See you on the reformer!