The one where Pinchy gets a proper job (sort of)

So I haven’t blogged for a while. I’m sure you’ve all been feeling terribly deprived of my wit, pathos and insight since November, but hey. I have been busy, people! Busy doing what, Pinchos? you may enquire. Busy getting an actual grown-up proper job, THAT’S¬†WHAT!

My new walk to work :-)

My new walk to work ūüôā

Yup. This die-hard solitary writer now has a regular income for the first time since leaving my last salaried employment, 14 years ago. And actual colleagues! Since the start of January I have been working for one of the very biggest PR consultancies in the world, supporting the EMEA marketing team with copywriting, editing, editorial consultancy, social media content, training, and other word-related stuff.

Cool, huh?!

It’s¬†been a very slow burner, but there was something inevitable about it. I’ve been working with this team since my earliest days freelancing: as soon as I resigned as features editor of trade¬†mag PRWeek on a whim in 2001, my now-boss commissioned me to help her with some case studies, and to turn a couple of PR campaigns into entries for industry awards schemes. We discovered we worked well together. We became friends. Over the intervening years, our combined skills built an incredibly efficient, successful awards strategy, which has helped¬†the consultancy become¬†the most award-winning across Europe. I worked for her throughout both of my ‘maternity leave’ periods (which don’t really exist when you’re self-employed), and was even editing stuff¬†to meet a looming deadline while strapped up to my drip on the chemo ward.

I also started doing¬†award entry writing, editing and training for other agencies, of all sizes, around the world. I created a niche: there aren’t many former journalists who really get public relations and can do this sort of stuff well. My clients were often¬†shortlisted and frequently won. But there was one problem. It was a rollercoaster. In the run up to awards entry deadlines, I was rushed off my feet, working for clients in several time zones, all charging PELL-MELL¬†towards the same cut-off date. At peak times, midnight shifts (and beyond) were common. I was working while the children were at nursery, and then school, switching to mummy mode for a few hours, then back to my desk when they were in bed. I was frequently juggling dozens of pieces of work, including many first drafts written by people whose first language is not English, all of which had to tell an equally engaging story to convince the judges, all at the same time.

But then, the week after deadline: silence. I never quite worked out the trick of doing marketing and filling the pipeline with other non-time-sensitive stuff while you are rushed off your feet, so my working life was essentially manic peaks and then depressed troughs. I could have been writing my taking-bloody-forever novel during the down time, or spending hours in the gym, or decorating, but mostly I used to sit at my desk fretting. (And pissing about on Twitter, obviously.) Not having a deadline doesn’t really work for me: I descend into the slough of despond pretty bloody quickly if I haven’t got a pressing to-do list.

On paper, I had an amazing work-life balance. I worked school hours, was able to¬†drop off the children and pick them up every day, and was¬†there for every single school thing, while still earning a good living doing something I really like and am good at. In reality, I was stressed out and constantly worried about¬†money – cash flow was ridiculous, as some months I’d be billing thousands and then other months, practically zero. And when you haven’t quite had¬†the five-year¬†sign off from your oncologist, this level of stress is probably a bad idea.

Something had to give.

Last summer, as I hit my 41st birthday (so much less dramatic than 40…) I took some time to reflect on what I had achieved with my career, and what I wanted my next decade to hold. As I pushed towards the 10th anniversary¬†of starting my limited company, Besparkle, in August 2015, I knew I had two choices. The first was to change things dramatically to make it into a real business rather than a winging-it one-woman band. This would involve sorting out¬†childcare, working pretty much full time, finding¬†other contractors and partners, and investing in marketing. Maybe even writing an actual business plan for the first time! (Told you I was winging it…) The second option was to chuck it all in and find a job.

I dropped my biggest client¬†a casual email, on a whim (this appears to be a pattern): if anything came up at her agency, job-wise, that she thought I might be a good fit for, would she let me know? She read between the lines (and presumably¬†decided she didn’t want to lose me to a competitor) and within a couple of weeks had created a new job description, just for me.

At that point, obviously, I got cold feet. I felt utterly torn. One the one hand: oh my goodness, the bliss of never having to worry about whether I was earning enough again! And it wasn’t even that big a leap: I would still be doing a job I know and¬†enjoy, with someone I work really well with. On the other hand:¬†do I want to give up my independence, my flexibility, the children being my priority? Did I want to hand them over to¬†a nanny? Do I want my days to be owned by someone else? Could I still go to all the school things? Aren’t I happy just working alone? Do I really want to do any commuting at all? Do I need colleagues? Do I want to say goodbye to my business? It’s only little, but it’s still mine, and I built it, and¬†I’d just had my most successful year since having children.

Many of these points of resistance were incomprehensible to DH, who was just over the moon I was even considering it. He’d never really forgiven me for¬†resigning without any discussion with him, and doesn’t exactly embrace¬†financial insecurity. But he had another, more positive, reason for encouraging me, too: he reckoned that having colleagues and getting out of the home office¬†would do me good personally, in terms of my happiness and emotional stability. Other high-flying (mostly male) friends also told me to basically ‘get over myself and get a job’.

Then HR got involved, and it became apparent that¬†what they could offer me in terms of a full-time salary was below what I’d need to earn to factor in childcare and travel. The numbers weren’t adding up on either side. But we all persisted, going backwards and forward on possible scenarios: the will was there to make this work, somehow. Then I had a lightbulb moment: Option 3 – let’s stop talking about employment, just¬†put me on a retainer contract for a few days a week instead. This was a win-win: they wouldn’t have all the overheads of a new employee but still had priority over my time, and I would get to stay in control and keep my independence. Essentially, this is the holy grail for a freelancer.

And so that’s what happened.

The logistics have sort of fallen into place. After a couple of false starts, we finally found a fabulous, cheerful, capable after-school nanny who does pick up, tea, homework and bathtime, enabling me to work two long days and spread my other hours out over the rest of the week. The smalls are in breakfast club a couple of days, too. And despite my worry about not being there for them, they are, of course, absolutely fine. They are eight-and-a-half and six-and-a-half this month, after all, rather than babies. I still mostly work at home, I can still do school stuff (though the school campaigning has had to go on the back burner) and still do some work for selected other clients, and still manage my own time.

The best bit, though, is Wednesdays. My London day. My grown-up, proper job day. The day I get up early and put on a smart dress and get on a packed train and go to a big open-plan office and see my inspiring, clever, creative colleagues, new and old. I have a half-hour fast walk from Waterloo in my trainers, through a historic bit of London that is very easy to love (I only forgot shoes and had to buy a new pair of fierce heels once, honest), and get sushi for lunch, and have meetings in cool little break-out areas with some of the cream of the communications industry.

It’s the one day of the week where I’m a professional first, and mummy second. I leave before the kiddies are up, and DH does the morning routine and school run. I get back around 7.30pm to find tired, happy, freshly-bathed kiddies in their PJs watching the Simpsons with a glass of milk, with the nanny having handed over to daddy. That this is possible, and everyone is OK, is a revelation for me.

I know this is already a very long post but I have to make one final point: I could not have done this without DH. He has totally stepped up. He has a greater childcare role than ever before and has taken on more of the domestic burden without blinking. I feel like he takes my work really seriously for the first time in a long time, and he is doing his bit (thankfully with a pretty flexible employer himself)¬†to make sure this new level of formality in my career works for all of us. We’ve always been a team, but now it feels more like we are equals again. It’s turning out to be good for us. And I have to admit that¬†he¬†and our friends, who are all a bit ‘I told you so’, were right all along, damn them: creative solitude¬†is all very well, but sometimes you’ve just gotta put your lipstick on and get out there. Who knew it could be such fun?

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Moodswings to the max

Bridget’s picture of Hockney’s Arrival of Spring

Yo. Hello y’all. It’s been a while since I last blogged, a few weeks after my breast balancing op. Loads has happened in the meantime: DH and I hosted ‘Polish Easter’ for the first time, which was rather special; we took the kids to London on DH’s birthday, including brunch at the Wolseley, the Hockney exhibition, and the London Eye;¬†work flooded in; I submitted the first 5,000 words of my novel to a Good Housekeeping¬†competition; we found out that DS will be joining DD at her school (of which more another time); and after some stiff negotiation by my amazing DH, a group of neighbours yesterday finally all signed up with a small developer to sell the bottoms of our gardens.

All of which has happened under clouds real (sodding rain) and metaphorical. It’s the tamoxifen, you see. A rather unpleasant side effect has crept up on me over the past couple of months. Not hot flushes and night sweats, as I had the first time I tried the drug a year ago, but a severe and at times fairly debilitating state of permanent PMT, combined with waves of deep fatigue. Mood swings, to the max.

Well, it is a rather powerful hormone-fiddling drug, designed to stop my particular sort of pesky cancer cells taking hold in either breast again. Apparently this is common: about six months after starting the meds, a raft of side effects tend to kick in, hang around for about six months, and then settle down for the rest of the five years it is prescribed for.

My birthday boy on the London Eye with our pair of delicious herberts.

I am so up and down it’s not funny, for anyone, least of all DH and my precious kiddies, who are constantly on tenterhooks to see what mood I’ll be in. They scan my face anxiously: are there signs of softness,¬†affection,¬†a smile, playfulness, understanding, patience? Or are they about to feel the Wrath of Mummy for the smallest misdemeanour? I notice there is often a silent pause after a spillage or similar, as the children hold their breath, frozen, waiting to see whether the eye of the hurricane will pass by and come to nothing, or they are going to get caught up in its distressing¬†and noisy disturbance.

No-one in this house knows whether, on the spilling of a drink (which happens daily with a 3yo and a 5yo) I am going to say ‘never mind’ and just wipe it up, or whether I’m going to go completely ballistic and shouty and throwy, and turn a small accident into a major ‘state of the family’ incident.

And that includes me. Because it genuinely feels like I am not fully in control, most of the time. Not an excuse, I know. But I am as surprised as everyone else about the speed and force of my disproportionate anger. It’s usually confined to those I live with (don’t we always hurt the ones we love the most?), but there have been a few occasions where I have flown into a rage at other family members and friends, and they have been shocked, not recognising the roaring harpie who has replaced me. After an angry episode, I feel drained, and sad, and terribly guilty, and wish I could turn back time and react differently.

Other times I feel so exhausted and low that I just want to go to bed, in the middle of the day, and I can’t seem to get my thoughts straight. I cry silent, prolonged tears about nothing in particular. My brain won’t work properly. I find making plans difficult, and I stutter and mix words up when I read stories out loud. Sometimes¬†I resort to absolute crap for the kids’ tea because I cannot muster up the energy to make anything healthy, and have the inevitable battle of wills about what they will and won’t eat.

I have little tolerance for excessive noise. I am irritable, unresponsive, and disengaged, some of the time. My joints ache. My hands and feet tingle and fizz. Life is un-fun. DS tells me every night he doesn’t like me when I shout, but he knows I still love him even when he’s naughty. This breaks my heart.

I am also starting to realise that tamoxifen and alcohol are not best mates. A couple of glasses of red are fine, but put white wine, and especially fizz, into the mix and I get drunk teenagerly quickly. While everyone else at the party might have a slight fuzzy head the day after, I am panicking because I have a huge gap in my memory of the evening and have to check with everyone whether I need to apologise for anything. Blackouts are not conducive to mental equilibrium. So I don’t really look forward to going out any more, because I can’t relax and enjoy myself like I used to.

And then other times I am completely fine and feeling like the best of myself: calm, cheerful, full of energy, funny, creative, clever, organised, and capable. This happens most when I am at work, writing and editing silently at my desk overlooking our monkey puzzle tree, focused and in a flow that takes me¬†very much out of my own body and far away from the torturous maelstrom. Then I have peace, and clarity. The sunshine helps enormously, and goodness knows we haven’t had much of that lately.

In some ways, this is tougher than going through chemo. It’s doubly hard because as far as I, and everyone else, is concerned, the whole caaancer thing is over, and I’m well.¬†Quite rightly, everyone moves on with their lives. But I am reminded frequently that it is not over, not by a long way, and sometimes it feels a bit of a lonely struggle after so much love and support for so long.

I have another four and a half years on tamoxifen. I am hoping things will settle down at some point soon. The only solution my consultant mooted, last summer when I took a break from my first attempt at taking the drug, was to also take anti-depressants – SSRIs – to even me out. I’ve been on anti-depressants a couple of times in the past and although they work beautifully, I’m just not keen on taking medication to combat the side effects of medication. It seems like the start of a vicious circle. And you do rather lose yourself on SSRIs. Comfortably numb. Don’t want to go there again, really.

The other options are to investigate the complementary routes: kinesiology to try and reduce my reactions to the drug and keep my energy balances; herbs and supplements to take the edge of the extremeness of the mood swings. Plus fresh air, deep breathing, exercise, healthy foods, soothing teas, reading, meditation, laughter: anything that increases my background sense of wellbeing.

So. I have blogged this one out. Time to get back to client deadlines while keeping an eye out for any blue sky peeking through the clouds and the drizzle. And wait to see what mood I will be in when my babies get home from school and pre-school today. I hope I will smile at them and make them feel safe and loved, rather than fearful and confused. But I just don’t know.

Who wants to play?

It’s not often that a feature in a women’s magazine makes me go YES!, let alone weekly fashion glossy Grazia. I love the very good journalism in it, and have a subscription, but as a nearly-38-year old mum of two smalls who has greeted her¬†Kew and Boden Years with relief, I am winging it a bit as far as being the mag’s target audience goes.¬†This afternoon, however, I not only said YES!, aloud, but also snorted tea up my nostril in a manner about as far from cool, stylish and insouciant as it’s possible to be.

The cause of this double outburst was a feature by the rather brilliant Caitlin Moran (she of the newspaper columns and the billion Twitter followers) debunking some of the myths of motherhood, for those women who haven’t got children yet and may or may not be longing for them. In particular, the sheer mindnumbing boredom of many aspects of the very early years. I quote: ‘Asked now, I can’t really remember what stupid stuff they were into – I can only remember them repeatedly trying to post tiny bits of Lego into the VHS player which, to be honest, now strikes me as fun, but I do remember it being long and tedious. Not once did those babies run into the room shouting, “F**k work, dude! Let’s go and see the Pet Shop Boys! In PARIS!’

This resonated with me, all the way down my nasal passages. (Not only because I heart the Pet Shop Boys and they are roughly 50% of the reason I just spent a stupid amount on Viagogo on tickets to see Take That at Wembley supported by PSB. I cunningly positioned them as a Father’s Day pressie, since I am taking DH and my sis along).¬†It¬†rang a big bell because not five hours previously, I had been lamenting to my Health Creation Mentor, Kit, that I think I’ve forgotten how to play. Because otherwise why would I find playing with my beautiful, funny, clever, edible children so damn boring?

‘I need to get in touch with my inner child again!’ I thought, and then, as usual when I have one of my Big Ideas, I ordered the relevant book off Amazon to be sent forthwith to my Kindle (in this case Playful Parenting by someone with a middle initial, which probably means it will be a bit American and ghastly). Yup, I thought I needed a book to learn how to play again. Which was a big fat clue staring me in the face because truly, when I was an actual child,¬†I would also much rather have had my head in a book than the sort of things I feel I should be doing with DD and DS. You know, sitting down playing educational board games, going to the park, craft sessions, ball games, playing farms with toy animals, jigsaws, all that ‘quality time’ stuff. I didn’t like playing much as a kid, so why would I want to do it now?

Which got me thinking about the things I did like doing when I was Mini Pinchy, and which might translate into me spending more authentic fun time with the nippers than if I was playing Snakes and Ladders like some Stepford Mummy with a glazed smile while secretly thinking about food preparation/laundry/hospital appointments/blogging/taking a hot Latin lover (I’m joking, darling, obvs. I have HALF a TIT.)

Ergo. Reading. I read to the kids a lot. They like looking at books and talking about books. The house is full of books. DD is doing terribly well with learning to read. So this one has a big tick next to it. Ooh, that’s a good start. Next up, drawing. DD is addicted to drawing. She is rarely more than five minutes from whipping up a masterpiece. I used to love drawing, and painting, but haven’t done much of either lately. Perhaps I could indulge in some Caran D’Ache pencils and join DD with the doodling, or even dust off the paints. She would be enchanted, and I would have another little creative outlet. Sounds like a plan.

DS has absolutely no interest in drawing, or art generally, but he is just as creative than DD in other ways, role playing with various character toys, for example (last night his shoe was a space ship for Fireman Sam. Fair enough.) And he is very, very happy to watch an entire Toy Story movie, fully immersed, and likes it best if he is doing it with my arm around him. Next time, rather than fretting about the to-do list, perhaps I could just sit and watch with him, and talk about it together.

The kids like the park, but are not fussed about swings. I liked parks a bit when I was little, but actually the thing I was interested in was climbing, whether on a climbing frame or scrambling up a tree. And me and my sis spent most of our childhood weekends in the woods building camps, which I loved, and which the kiddies are probably old enough to start enjoying too, now. Perhaps we could find some cool woods to hang out in at the weekends, with logs and trees to climb on and hide under. We’ve recently discovered the arboretum at Wisley and I actually felt the same sense of adventure as my four- and¬†two year old, exploring under the trees and collecting pine cones to make a ‘display’ at home.

Wisley fun

 

Plus, I do like Lego, and I’m not averse to Barbie and her acres of pink plastic tat. I like playing tea parties, especially with real tea and biscuits out of tiny cups and plates. I like cutting up magazines and doing collages and scrap books. I like making paper aeroplanes. I like paddling. I like lying on my back on the grass and spotting shapes in the clouds. I¬†like baking.

So perhaps it’s not a case of being¬†‘not good enough’ (again) at doing what I think I should be doing with the kiddies. Perhaps it’s a case of spending time doing more of what I genuinely love doing, and taking them along for the ride. Showing them the magic of the stuff that floated my boat when I was young, and getting a slice of the wonder myself. Of seeing what we have in common as fellow human beings. If I let them, they might even introduce me to stuff I never knew I liked doing. I¬†doubt that I’m ever going to love playing vets as much as reading Grazia with a cuppa, to be honest, but let’s give it a go. Bring on the games!

 

I don’t know how she does it

A friend of mine who has finally given up the stress of corporate life and is setting up her own business part-time from home asked me this week how I compartmentalise work and family stuff. Here’s what I said.

Work days/half days are work days. Mummy/family time is family time. When I’m in the office and the children are at nursery, I am at work. if I’m not on a deadline, I also do some household stuff during work hours, just so I’m not always doing laundry/tidying/ironing/shopping around the children.
 
When I’m not in the office, I’m running the family business. I dip into emails/Twitter on mummy days/afternoons/weekends to keep up. I’m thinking of getting a Blackberry, but actually as soon as I start responding to an email I’m in work mode and notice I’m not tuning into the children when they are¬†talking to me, so I’m not sure that’s a good idea for me. If I’m busy,¬†I go back into the office when they are in bed.
 
If a client desperately needs my help on a non-work day, I try and sort grandparents or friends to help out, even if it’s only for a couple of hours. If I really need him to, DH will leave work early or work from home if I have a networking do or something and need him to pick the kiddies up from nursery, bath and put them to bed. He’s the breadwinner, but actually when my work time is all accounted for, I can sometimes earn more than him in two and a half days a week, and he is well aware (thanks to good conversations and bad rows!) how important my job is to our financial situation as well as my own sanity, so it’s in his interest to be as supportive to me as I am to him.

Like most husbands, he mostly needs specific instructions on household stuff, but he is pretty good these days at mucking in and seeing what needs to be done around the house. I don’t think he actually knows how to use the washing machine, but he does iron his own shirts if I don’t have time! And although I cook, he’s a pretty good sous chef and is happy to chop onions and wash up. Again, if I request something of him, it usually gets done.
 
I use a big whiteboard in the kitchen for family dates so everyone (ie DH) knows what’s going on each week. This has hours of the day and days of the week, plus a section at the bottom for future dates. This is known as My Brain. My memory is not as good as it once was – too much stuff leaks out if I don’t actually write it down. I also use Outlook for birthday and anniversary reminders as well as work appointments.
 
My big regular clients who are more like friends know exactly what my weekly official office hours are. No-one else does. When I first went back to work part-time after having DD nearly four years ago, I got my knickers in a twist about letting everyone know when I was working and getting annoyed and resentful and stressed when they didn’t remember/know and wanted something done when I was on mummy time. Now I let people assume I’m available five days a week in normal hours, and just respond to emails and phone messages as soon as possible.

I do occasionally say, when relevant, that I need to pick the children up from nursery, but only when I know I’m dealing with someone who won’t have a problem with that being the reason. Otherwise I’ll simply saying I’m leaving the office at a certain time, or will be out of the office all day tomorrow, or whatever – just like they do. I’ve also done a fair bit of changing nursery days and hours over the past year or two to suit me and the children, and it gets confusing if people think they know you work all day Monday and then find out that’s no longer the case. So I don’t make a thing of it. It doesn’t hurt if people assume you are just busy and successful!
 
My office, by the way, is a self-contained ‘shed’ in my garden. It is just a few yards from the house but it has a door and a lock and a separate phone line, so the start and end of office time feel physically very defined for me. I do use the computer in the house to check emails, and everyone has my mobile number.
 
On paper, my life looks pretty well balanced, and I am broadly quite good now at keeping work and family separate, but when you’re running your own business part-time there are lots of times when you need to be flexible, not only doing bits of work when you’re meant to be in mummy mode, but also dropping everything when a child is ill or something else comes up. Sometimes this juggling act gets stressful, and I need to ask for help, change things so they work better, drop balls etc. Sometimes,¬†I feel like I’m not giving either my kids or my clients 100%.

But it can be done, and a good week where everything has worked smoothly is enormously satisfying.

The wisdom of Ferris Bueller‚Ķ

There’s a lot to be said for finding some couple time when you have smalls running around. When did you last have an actual¬†conversation with your other half which wasn’t about the kids, various logistical arrangements, work, or the latest round of the ‘I’m tireder than you’ competition?

DH and I spent Saturday night at Pennyhill Park hotel and spa.¬†It was a birthday pressie last August from my M&D and this was the first chance we’d had to take it at a time when they were available to have the kiddies for the weekend instead of cruising or something.

I want to go back! Now!

We got there at midday on Saturday. I hit the amazing spa immediately and did not shift for the next seven and a half hours. After a solo nine holes on the golf course, DH joined me. I’d booked a back massage for us both in a double treatment room, and later a facial for us both. (DH said this was the gayest thing he’d ever done but he looked ten years younger and rather more handsome afterwards). It was bliss. I can’t remember the last time a) I felt so relaxed and b) was being so with DH. We swam, tried out all the thermal rooms (from rubbing crushed ice all over to sweating in a steam room full of mosaics, twinkly lights and soothing music), read, enjoyed the silence as well as the iPod, dozed off on a gel bed in the sensory room, and got wrinkly in the outdoor bubble pool. The best bit was not feeling any pressure to leave, since we had a room for the night.

I have to confess I managed to take the edge off the romance by enjoying the cocktails and wine at dinner a little too much and insisting on having a heated conversation about a fictional 10th wedding anniversary party this summer, which it transpires DH is dead against. But hey, the comfiest bed in the world put things right again, especially with no unplanned wakeup call from the little ones. (The England Rugby squad were staying there after the Twickenham game so there was a fair amount of late night carousing in the distance. DH was VERY excited about having brekkie next to Martin Johnson and his brood.)

We headed home on mothering Sunday after another quick golf/spa hour , and I felt refreshed enough to cook a roastie for eight of us. Two days later, I still feel very chilled, and it was lovely for once to share such a relaxing experience with DH rather than with a girlfriend or just myself.

Needless to say, we’ve gone back to bare minimum communication already and I don’t think DH is going to be getting more excited about spa days than golf any time soon. But it was nice to press the pause button for 24hours. As Ferris Bueller wisely said: ‘Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it’.

Toleration busting!

I had an amazing day last Thursday. It was the first of the Action Accelerator Days as part of the FaB coaching mums programme I’m doing with Amanda Alexander.

Basically, the idea is that you list all your ‘tolerations’ – ie things that you are putting up with, whether an unstarted or unfinished task, filing, phone calls, admin, dealing with a situation etc.

The eight of us on the course were invited to phone Amanda on the hour every hour from 9am to 5pm, telling her what we were going to deal with in the next hour and reporting on progress.

Each call was no more than a minute or two but I was amazed how motivating it was to break the day down into chunks, state my intention for the next hour, and tick so many things off my ongoing and ever-growing to do list.

During the day, this is what I achieved:

 By 11am:

Ordering ink for printer (plus got refund for sending back dodgy one!) (Ink Cycle)

All the filing

Order a swimsuit that fits before weekend away (Landsend) (nb I have to say wouldn’t buy anything else other than magic swimsuits from these guys)

 By 12pm

 Finish filing

 Declutter and clean desk

 By 2pm

 Finish desk tidying and hoover office

 Tidy up/organise kids’ art box

 Recharge camcorder and fit new battery

 List 2 ebay items for sale

 By 3pm

 Post ebay parcels, meter reading, thankyou card etc and cancel papers

 Order new front and back door mats

 Initial thoughts on new besparkle product for PR agencies

 Arrange night out with old friend and book family lunch

 Book oven cleaner

 Plan for bottom of garden

 By 4pm

 Wash make-up brushes and clean out make-up tidy

 Edit feature for client 

By 5pm

Quick trip into town to buy birthday presents for godchildren before picking kiddies up from nursery at 5.

Phew! It was a Very Busy Day. Full of energy all day, though towards the end I was flagging and starting to run on adrenaline so I slowed down and made sure I had a break from the house and office before seeing the babies. It just goes to show what I can achieve during the day if I put my mind to it – no more excuses for procrastinating! And this week the payoff has been working on a clean, ordered desk in a tidy, spacious office that is no longer a dumping ground. I’ve been finding it¬†tricky to be creative with piles of crap all around me, so investing a day in spring cleaning/clearing the decks has blown all the cobwebs out of my brain too.

Back to work, yay!

Happy New Year! So how was your Christmas break with the kiddies, then? I have to confess I am very happy to be back in my office with peace and quiet and space to think and only me to consider for four hours this morning.

Don’t get me wrong: it¬†was a really special Christmas, with DS running around and DD really getting the whole anticipation/Santa/excited about presents¬†thing this year for the first time. And it was lovely to have DH off work for so long.

But I haven’t got¬†those New Year new term back-to-school blues this year. I don’t get that sinking feeling on Sunday nights anymore, either. I love my children immeasurably, and am increasingly finding them genuinely good company. AND I really enjoy having space and time to myself, which only really happens when they are at nursery two mornings and one full day a week, and I am in my home office.

A couple of times over Christmas I got a little bit desperate and just needed an hour in the house to myself, just to have a shower in peace, straighten the house, have a bit of a tidy round and get my head back together. DH stepped in and whisked them off to Pret for ‘coffee and cake’ both times, and I got some much-needed breathing space.

At least two of my close friends with children¬†say they rarely or never have time in their own house by themselves. I’ve written before about the liberating feeling of heading off into town alone for an hour for a potter sans pushchair. I find the odd hour at home by myself when I’m not at work and am choosing to do things equally refreshing,¬†whether I’m getting on top of the laundry without the two little ones piling it all on the floor and throwing themselves on it in the game they call ‘boff’, or sitting down for 20 minutes with a good book or magazine, a cuppa and a chocky treat. For me, it feels almost as rejuvenating as a minibreak. Oh God, that sounds sad. And doesn’t mean I don’t need an actual minibreak…

So how is it for you? How much time – during the day – do mums really have to themselves, in or out of the house? Is it enough? Do you need or want it, or is it just me who skipped into the office after the nursery run this morning?!