You’re A Stay-At Home Mum… What Do You Actually Do All Day?

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“You’re a stay at home mum… so what do you DO all day?”

If I had a pound for every time someone had said that to me then I would have, well, a lot of pounds. But I don’t, I just have a lot of urges to clock acquaintances who ask me annoying questions in the face. Where did the idea come from that mums who work in the home spend their days on the sofa watching Jeremy Kyle? The kids won’t feed themselves and the house won’t clean itself. Shit needs to get DONE people, and very often the only person to do it is mum.

Mums wear a lot of hats. Educator, cook, cleaner, laundry maid, chauffeur, disciplinarian. But it’s not just as simple as that; not only do we have to perform in all these roles but we have to try as hard as we can at them. The pressure is on to cook well-balanced, healthy meals from scratch (tough when your kid will only eat white pasta, bananas and avocados). We have to teach them the ‘right’ things (Montessori? Phonetics? I need to Google all these words). And then, still some of us have to hold down jobs, progress in careers, keep other halves happy. It’s exhausting. 

So here it is: this is a run-down of exactly what I did one day last week. And the next time someone asks me that question I am referring them straight here… right after punching them in the face.

- Got myself and the kids up. This involves tactical negotiations over exactly what cup our milk will be drank from and intense decisions over Weetabix, Shreddies or toast. I’m not kidding, the UN’s negotiators have nothing on me.

- Prepared everyone to leave the house. Three year olds aren’t rational, they will insist on wearing a summer dress and they won’t understand when you explain why this is most definitely not possible because it’s 2 degrees outside. Oh and cardigans? Only idiots wear cardigans, apparently.

- Drive Elfie to pre-school. Do you know how many times you can listen to Katy Perry ‘Roar’ on a 10 minute car journey? Three, but it will feel like twelve.

- Took Hux to creche. Sometimes fine but mostly heartbreaking. A three year old clutching on to your leg crying ‘Mama! Mama! Cuddle!’? ARGH.

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Went to the gym. My favourite time (I’m mental), but it’s the time I get that’s not for work, not for children, not for anyone else but me. 20 minutes on the cross trainer, 20 minutes on all the weight machine thingys then 10 stretching and admiring myself in the massive mirror ;) We all do it when we have muscles, right?

- Designed a blog. I’ve been doing a bit of blog design work recently and there’s nothing I’d rather do after the gym than a couple of hours of coding CSS. I’m not even joking here.

- Did three loads of washing. Though my two are little, one of them attracts paint like there’s no tomorrow and the other likes eating soup with his hands. I basically get through a lot of Fairy Non-Bio (which I buy and use because it reminds me of having newborns :’)

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- Cooked, photographed and wrote a recipe. I needed to eat lunch and because the light was on my side I photographed the recipe – sticky chicken cashew salad – for a new website I’m launching about my Paleo journey. Because I don’t have enough on my metaphorical plate. 

- Wrote an article about iPhone photography. I’m working with a new client (details coming soon!) and getting to do a lot of work about photography which has been fantastic.  

- The kids came home! Always a lovely time. Although today they brought cake, definitely not Paleo.

- Met a friend for a playdate. I think it’s really important to socialise – not just the children, but me as well. Because I work at home in funny snatches of time I don’t always get to see many people so I like to meet up with my friends when I can. Today we went to IKEA to meet our lovely new pre-school friend Amy: we get meatballs and the kids get to tire themselves out playing the ‘Arrow Game’! This is a genius invention (all Amy’s): the kids run from arrow to arrow throughout IKEA… they aren’t allowed to move on from one arrow to the next until we get to them so they stay within sight yet still have a good old run around. Brilliant! I buy a bath mat, loo brush and a candle, because I challenge anybody to go to IKEA and not purchase a candle.

- Get home in time for a bath. Elfie doesn’t like the bath after a busy day. She doesn’t like to get her hair wet and she is always worried that Hux is going to poo in there (a valid concern, admittedly). Sometimes I have to bring out my negotiation skills again but this day she actually managed to let me wash her hair without a fuss. Success!

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- Put the kids to bed. Bedtime is one of my favourite times of all. The children are clean, cuddly and smell delicious and everyone is happy after a busy day. We read a book (usually Hairy McLairy) and then Hux is the first to get tucked in with his muslin and RaaRaa the lion while Elfie and I have fifteen minutes alone for a cuddle on the sofa.

- Write a blog post. The evenings I have dinner with the kids are brilliant because it means I can spend an extra half an hour or so working rather than cooking. I’m sometimes too tired to sit down and write a blog post but I like to try and get some ideas down at least. Plus if I’ve poured myself a glass of wine I suddenly start to find my own writing rather hilarious.

- Go through my emails. The one thing I’m really bad at is not replying to emails that aren’t urgent. I’m trying to make myself spend an hour on them each evening but it’s hard. I’ll get there.

- Fall into bed. I usually remember I have a washing machine full of wet clothes waiting to go in the tumble dryer AFTER I’ve gone to bed. It’s good it keeps me on my toes.

 

So, Mr ‘What do you do all day’…  This is what I do. What did YOU get done today?

 

Waiting, by Jana Romanova

It’s a bit heathen-esque for me to admit that I’ve never been into art. I like a pretty picture as much as the next person but I really have no great appreciation for cows suspended in formaldehyde or great water colours by 18th century French men. This possibly goes against  my middle class facade and I may well be turned away from John Lewis the next time I step through their doors but it’s the truth: I am the woman who went to the Louvre, took a look through the window then decided to drink a bottle of wine in the cafe next door. My motto? You’ve seen one painting, you’ve seen then all.

 

 

One exception to this rule is PHOTOS.  Photos, I love. I really appreciate the work of artists like Ryan McGinley, Harley Weir, Terry Richardson and even Richard Kern, and I was introduced to these people in my job at Vice Magazine before Elfie came along. It was the most wonderful exciting, cutting-edge and creative atmosphere to work in and gave me so many opportunities, from going to fashion week to sending my dad to a rock festival in France and as much vodka I could possibly drink.

 

 

Unfortunately, family life was not so compatable with all that crazy fun so I went self-employed after maternity leave but I still like to keep up with my old friends at Vice; that’s how I came across this incredible series of photographs by a Russian artist. Entitled ‘Waiting’, it’s a collection of pictures that Jana Romanova took of her friends and their partners in different stages of pregnancy as they slept in bed. Setting up a ladder the night before she would creep in at 6am to snap her photographs quietly, before they woke up. I’m not sure how well I would sleep knowing someone was about to come in and capture the crusty bits around my mouth but I think it’s such a wonderful idea and a real intimate insight into an aspect of a couple’s life you don’t normally see. It makes me think back to that special special time when we were waiting to meet our babies, the kicks, flips and turns  you feel so much more at night.

You can see the full story and an interview with Jana Romanova over at Vice.com or visit Jana’s website here.

On Having It All

I so enjoyed the article about hipster mum bloggers in this week’s Sunday Times Style (for those behind the paywall it was entitled “Mothers of invention: Mummy blogs have moved on from maternal martyrdom to focus on fun, fashion and hustling freelance work – all with baby in tow”). It really answers the question: can I have a baby and keep my career, my 100% silk clothes and my sanity?

The answer is: YES.

When I was growing up all I wanted to do was be a parent. I still felt this way when I was pregnant – I worked in a stressful job for a magazine and couldn’t wait to give it all up to raise kids. I wanted to bake cakes and grow herbs. I never wanted to step foot in an office again or worry about deadlines (bar the odd pre-school application). I even thought I might like to start crafting.

But I didn’t figure how important my career, my wardrobe, my hobbies and err, my figure, were to me. In a nutshell I had unwittingly signed up to give up everything that made me ME. And as soon as Elfie was born it felt so unnatural. I loved this little person to death but didn’t bank on how much my job (and wardrobe) meant to me.

So when Elfie was four weeks old I started my own business. I picked up my first client when she was six weeks old and have worked ever since, anything between three hours to five days a week. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination; because of Elfie’s condition I don’t trust any childminder apart from my Mum so we moved closer to my parents, I often sit up late into the night answering emails and CBeebies is much more of a crutch than it should be. I love my days in London but I get a massive ache in my heart every time I see a baby and I get jealous that my mum is doing fun things with Elfie when I’m not there.

Had I given my career up I worry what I would have done with myself when Elfie goes to school. I worry I could be left 5 years behind my industry with no recent experience, bar a possible foray into glass painting or hat making. I didn’t want that to happen; I want to be a role model to her, to demonstrate that it is possible to parent successfully, to keep your friends, career, style and sanity (just). One year in and we’re doing OK though I still struggle with having enough time to be the perfect wife (I’ve mastered cupcakes… isn’t that enough?). And let’s not talk about where I find the time to blog.

Put it this way: if Sharmadean can be the amazingly stylish businesswoman (I was in awe of this girl before she became a mother) she is whilst raising a beautiful baby boy, then I can do it too. I can wear my sequinned jackets to NCT meetings and buy M&S ready meals for my husband because I held a conference call rather than going to Tesco.

I can do it.

I am NOT a mumpreneur

I got a bit rageful on Twitter today.

Have you heard the term ‘mumpreneur’? It’s been bandied about for a couple of years and had felt a sense of unease in the blogosphere about it before, but the connotations of the term never struck me until this morning.

I started by saying:

It’s been mentioned before but I find the ‘mumpreneur’ term SO derogatory. ‘Ooh you clever old mums fit business in between the washing up’

starting to simmer…

Like this ‘mumpreneur’ in Aus – http://bit.ly/lehJyE - ‘cleverly’ balancing work, storytime and the home. VOM. @MumpreneurUK, it’s wrong.

and then I got really fuming…

Well done for setting women’s rights back about 20 years #mumpreneur

I was so pleased to get tens of responses and re-tweets on this subject: I am not alone in thinking this term is demeaning.

 

I happened upon the MumpreneurUK Twitter stream which seemed to me to be one of the most offensive things to hit my eyeballs in a while (and I’m not talking about the hot pink background, though OUCH to that). The tone of it all, the ‘well done you’ statements really don’t sit well with me. Do us poor working women really struggle so much with our business confidence that we need to actively seek positive reinforcement at places like this?

I am a mother, and I have a business. I don’t think this make me a mumpreneur. My work life and home life is kept completely separate as each has nothing to do with the other, so why is there the need to label working mums with this term? Why is there the need to congratulate clever old me on effectively balancing my business with my family, cleaning and cooking? I would rather not reference myself as a ‘mumpreneur’ as I don’t think it has any bearing on the way I perform at work and I wouldn’t like my clients to think it does.

In my mind I have it easy right now; I went from a massively full on-career as a Marketing Manager to starting my own business which means I’m able to work in the evenings and when my husband is at home. It’s sometimes tough to stay motivated after a bad night’s sleep or to focus on a task when my mum’s out having fun with Elfie but I do it because I love it, not because I have to. In my opinion the women who need most support and work hardest are those who are on difficult shift patterns as nurses as doctors, who leave their babies to go and work in the forces or who have demanding jobs with inflexible office hours and locations.

I don’t need to be congratulated or patronised. I thrive on juggling all my balls and I get so much more out of life and my daughter because of it.

I understand my view is in the extreme and may touch a nerve with some, but to me the term ‘Mumpreneur’ is condescending, patronising and outdated. It says ‘well done, you’ve sent a couple of emails in between your baking’, or ‘congratulations, you gave birth and your business brain isn’t shot to shit’. It is a term that sounds like it was made up by a middle-aged advertising executive with a paunch and a belief that women belong in the kitchen.

My husband was at home today so he looked after Elfie whilst I caught up with work. He worked when she napped, yet he will never be labelled a ‘Dadpreneur’.

If you Google image search ‘mumpreneur‘, the first result is one of a woman baking cupcakes. The source is the BBC. Says it all really.

Thanks so much to Magz, Jen, Righteous, Emily, Sally, Kat, Hannah, Sian and numerous others for the support today… onwards with the mumpreneur revolt!

Image credit.

 

 

A Letter

This post originally appeared at my old blog, www.the-alice.co.uk.

Wow, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? It seems that my disappearance from the internet co-incided with starting work. Nothing too serious – just freelance and working from home – but boy is it tough to work a day a week with a baby in tow! Squeezing it in between naps, housework, husband, cooking… working takes up every single spare moment and I have to admit, Elfie has watched more Baby TV than I’d like recently.

We have also had some big big life changes. There was further success in operation Move Back Down South; Will was offered a job to work for a DJ Agency, full time in London. So within a week we were staying in my parent’s house in Buckinghamshire, in three weeks we had moved most of our life to their granny annexe at the bottom of their garden. This week our house in Nottingham went on the market. The operation is well underway.

(As a side note, if anyone would like to buy a lovely three bedroom house in Nottingham, you know where I am)

Living in ‘the shed’ as it’s known – it’s a wood-cladded chalet-style place – is a challenge, we have an open-plan kitchen/dining area, a small shower room and a bedroom. Elfie shares our room and we are employing some pretty inspired storage solutions for all our stuff though all our furniture is still in Nottingham.

I’ve also dipped my toe back into the world of work. Not freelance work, but proper office work. I miss the buzz of my job so much, and while we have my mum able to look after Elfie it seemed to make sense that I would go back into London for work. I’ve interviewed down to the final two for a couple of positions, and last week was successful for a freelance project for IKEA. I worked a three days last week, and what that taught me is that there is no way I can leave Elfie full time to work. Which is almost a shame as I was asked to go an interview at Net-A- Porter, AKA heaven. A year ago this would have been my dream job but I turned it down and after I’ve worked my time on the IKEA project I will attempt to work a two or three day week. I need work, but I need Elfie more!

So that’s pretty much it – apart from the constant worrying about whether to remain in the home counties or move back to London.

What’s happening in blogland – what did I miss?

Explaining My Absence

This post originally appeared at my old blog, www.the-alice.co.uk.

It would appear I have been on some sort of impromptu hiatus: no blogging since the end of November!

I had what you might call a kind of epiphany. Although maybe not, as it crept up on me fairly slowly and was a bit of a surprise; I have been realising a few things about myself, about my life, and the changes I needed to make to myself happy and fulfilled as a mother.

When I was growing up literally all I wanted to do was be a mum, and it’s all I’ve been working towards my whole life. So imagine my horror when, 5 months in, I realise that being a mum doesn’t make me feel ‘me’. I have spent the last 7 years working so hard and to suddenly stop (no matter how much I was looking forward to it!) was a huge shock to the system.

Without work, I don’t feel fulfilled.

Throughout December I had a go at freelancing, and despite a little lack of confidence on my part it turns out there is work out there for me – a couple of days a week if I want it of Marketing and PR. I have found scouting out business of my own so exhilarating, and I believe that it has made me a more contented person and therefore a better mum. I’ve been working easily in naptimes and after bedtime, and spending a few days in London whilst Elfie has lovely times with her Grannie.

Now I am going to concentrate on working out the guilt I feel at needing the escape from being a mum… I’m sure it will follow.