Turning That Frown Upside Down

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This morning I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

Not literally, you see I seem to stick to the left side (never been a starfisher) but I woke up in a vile mood. Grumpy. It was 6am, I was tired, Hux was shouting about wee wees and all I wanted to do was go back to sleep.

I got up, grabbed milk for the children and heaved myself into the shower. It was cold and I wanted to get back into bed. I tried on four tops, two pairs of trousers and three pairs of shoes before deciding that everything looked rubbish anyway so it didn’t matter what I wore. On Hux’s demand I got the iPad for him and he demanded “Toy Story, no TANGLED, mummy, but I want FROZEN!!! Where’s Toy Story?”.

I huffed that I could only find two pairs of clean pants for Hux because I think his nursery aren’t offering him the potty often enough and he’s going through multiple changes a day (#mumlife) and wondered if I’d get judged for Elfie’s choice of outfit (yellow shorts, red tshirt, knee high school socks – I think we were having a similar wardrobe crisis). We drove to nursery and both children wailed as I left, I could see their fat tears running down their cheeks through the window and it felt dreadful.

Driving to the station I worried about a situation that’s been weighing heavy on my mind. I muttered over the fact my favourite parking attendant wasn’t there so I had to walk across the car park to buy my parking ticket. My tea was too hot, the station too busy. It was going to be a bad day.

But then I sat down on the train and read a Facebook post from my friend Stu.

Stu is one of my oldest friends from High School and we went through a lot of things together – most notably Reading Festival 2002, and our weekend jobs, right Stu?. He lives in Melbourne, Australia and works for The McGuire Programme, a company that helps individuals overcome a stutter to become ‘articulate, well-spoken people’.

Stu’s post said:

I had a call from a recruitment consultant this morning, she wanted to ask me some questions about a guy who came into her work looking for a job.

He’s a grad from The McGuire Programme and has been working on his speech for about a year, so I answered a few of her questions about how I knew him, how he had been progressing over the past 12months and how these traits (commitment, ownership, punctuality, etc) were translatable into a work-environment. After 15 minutes of chatting, she started telling me of her encounter with this Grad:

A couple of weeks ago this young man had walked in to her office unannounced, with a resume looking for work; he’d had a brief chat with her and his stutter/stammer had been noticeable.
About 10minutes after he’d left the office, she was talking about the meeting with another lady in the team when the same guy came back in. “Oh, have you forgotten something..?” she said.
“Actually, I wanted to be honest with you about my speech and by doing that I’m cancelling out any negative feelings I might have about the speaking situation…” he replied.
She told me how inspired she felt at his courage and bravery to come back to the office and explain his work with The McGuire Programme Australia so she immediately decided to bring him back for the full interview process.

Again, he came back and demonstrated his work ethic, determination and commitment to overcome the speaking challenge, despite any fear, anxiety and uncertainty about what the interview process comprised of, which left her with the impression of a great young man, full of character that she would be confident to put forward to her clients for a role.

Not only that, but she actually said “I’m determined to find him a job through our company and I’ve already been ringing around other branches to put his name and resume forward, he’s such a wonderful young man.”

So thank you to Owen Westwood for bringing a big ray of sunshine to my dreary, cold Wednesday morning. You have a fervent supporter at Adecco in Dandenong and she simply can not speak highly enough of you or your commitment to improving yourself.

It really made me think.

Have I really just wasted the first part of my morning feeling sorry for myself because I’m tired/cold/my bulging wardrobe isn’t suitable/the sun was too bright?

The kids cried at nursery but I know full well they’re fine 30 seconds after I leave.

My tea will cool down, I will enjoy my day at work in a job I love.

I felt like a total dick for whinging when there are people out there doing actual inspiring things, overcoming obstacles in their life to be the best version of themselves.

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I knew it made sense when The Universe emailed me this morning to say:

Appreciating what you have little of is easy, Alice.

Appreciating what you have lots and lots of takes a spiritual master.

And you so have lots,
The Universe

I spent five minutes counting my blessings: I have two beautiful children who are being played with and educated at a great nursery while I work in a job I love that allows me to spend time with them. We have food on our plates, a roof over our heads and clothes in our wardrobe. The sun is shining and there’s a man out there who wants to treat me like a Princess and surprise me with flowers after work. Yes, a couple of things are wobbly but I have a life full of courage, motivation, love and excitement.

Isn’t that amazing that I have these things in my life?

Take five minutes to think about your lot: what are you grateful for today?

The Life And Times Of A Working Mum

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6am: alarm goes off. I swear like a sailor because really this is way too early for any human to be awake. Hi, I am not a morning person, nice to meet you.

6.15am: the latest possible time I can drag myself up out of bed. Get in the shower before the kids stir which usually wakes Elfie up. Make a cup of tea while I’m heating up milk for them (obviously never have time to drink it). Wake Hux up with milk and have a cuddle. Start the daily debate over exactly which dress Elfie will wear. This can take a while and usually involves a drawn-out debate touching on the finer points of how Queen Elsa dresses.

6.45am: get myself dressed while Elfie and Hux either argue (and sneeze) over the iPad or perform an impromptu stage show in their bedroom. I have never been allowed to watch the show; Elfie says it’s not for mummy, it’s for ‘the people’. I have to step over ‘the people’ to get into their room. Get the kids dressed and downstairs because then we have a small hope of grabbing breakfast before we leave. Attempt some make-up, check the kids’ nursery bags have everything they need (sun hats, coats, spare clothes, baby wipes, sun cream, nappies, kitchen sinks…) and my work bag has everything I need (Oyster card, notebook, phone charger, train entertainment, purse).

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7.30am: leave the house for the 15 min drive to nursery. Depending on whether or not we’ve had time for a ‘proper’ breakfast the kids munch on bananas, breadsticks and shreddies. Try not to feel so guilty as at nursery they’ll have toast and fruit at 9.30. Hux never too excited for his mum to leave him with his teachers though I know as soon as I go he enjoys playing with his friends. Elfie slightly more excited but not as much as at term-time which is when she gets to spend an hour or so at Gagi and Papa’s: they give her bacon and egg for breakfast. Bacon and eggs > playing in a sandbox. Fair enough.

8.22am: I board my train to London having had a chat with my favourite car parking money man. Sometimes I buy a cup of tea but I’ve spilt boiling hot liquids on two different commuters in the last three months so… yeah. Depending on how tired I am I either work, sleep, read or watch Mock The Week on my iPad. I enjoy how the LOLing at the comedy disconcerts the other commuters.

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9.10am: pull into London. It’s crazy how you position yourself on the train affects your ongoing journey; I always sit at the front of the train so I can beat the crowd, otherwise you can be stuck on the platform for five minutes. The escalator down to the Northern Line at Euston isn’t working at the moment which is a big fat pain in my arse and adds an extra three minutes onto my precious short journey.

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9.30am: Old Street. Power walk to the office in Shoreditch and catch up on overnight blog posts from the world of interiors. Check Twitter and Facebook feeds (for IKEA, not for me, duh I already did that on the train ;). Make sure there’s great content lined up that day to share on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. I don’t have time to eat breakfast at home so I either have a green juice from POD, porridge from Pret or some Kale and Apple juice from Waitrose. This is me trying to cling on to some sense of healthy diet in the face of a million croissants.

10am: department heads meeting, catching up with what’s going on with the production of the magazine and how the Social Media activity can support it. Earlier on this month I helped Homes Editor Jo co-ordinate a storage makeover and shoot at the home of one of my favourite New York bloggers which was really exciting.

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10.30am: catch up on emails, have a bit of a chat with followers on Twitter. Check on how my targets are looking for the month and compare with my strategy.

1pm: I try not to eat lunch at 11.30 but it’s a challenge. I either walk to either Itsu or Pret and return to eat at my desk while perusing blog posts or meet up with my boyfriend. If it’s a nice day we go to sit in the park and on Fridays we visit Whitecross Street Market – YUM. I like lunch.

2pm: more meetings. I’m working on a couple of really fun projects at the moment – one is monitoring how the rest of the 31 countries in Europe are using our content – so it’s time to catch everyone up on where I’m at with them. Elfie and Hux’s nursery send little videos of what they did that day and they’re with my mum at that point so we have a lovely chat. Apart from that one time I discovered they had Hand, Foot and Mouth disease… that wasn’t so lovely.

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4pm: review how the Social Media posts have been received that day and have a peruse of IKEA’s Pinterest account.

5.20pm: tie up any last-minute emails or issues before hometime. On Wednesdays the kids’ dad comes to put them to bed so I’ll pop for a burger and a glass of wine with a friend or Mr Alice, otherwise it’s straight back to Eustom for the 6.13 train.

7pm: arrive back into Milton Keynes station. It’s a 15 minute drive to pick up the kids from my parents’, then back home for bedtime. Once a week I’ll hang around with them for a chat and a glass of wine while Elfie and Hux run riot in the garden. When we get home it’s milk and stories; they’re never in bed before 8pm but I don’t mind anymore (I used to be a 7pm bedtime Nazi). That time in the evenings with them is so precious.

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8.30pm: decide I’d better have dinner. Shamefully my diet is no-where good as it used to be but I really struggle with the time and energy to cook solid Paleo meals. Consider it a success if I don’t eat a jar of salsa and tortilla chips (oops).

9pm: answer any essential emails, write blog posts. My email account is one thing that has suffered over the past few months and I’m kind of scared to look at it. Put a load of washing in the machine, stick the dishwasher on. I love my box sets and I usually tidy the kitchen or cook a big Spag Bol to the tune of Grey’s Anatomy.

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11.30pm: fall into bed, realising I should have done this an hour earlier. I like to try and read before I go to bed – my gorgeous friend Neva bought me a book subscription for my birthday and I have Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg burning a hole in my nightstand – but I normally fall asleep before I’ve had time to read a page. FAIL.

11.45pm: suddenly remember to set my alarm. I haven’t forgotten this part… yet.

Ramblings On Tiredness And Work That May Or May Not Make Sense

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When you become a mum, you learn how to be tired. There are the different sorts of tired; that hazy newborn stage when you’re up all night and are urged to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ so end up zoned out in front of Jeremy Kyle while you feed the baby. The tiredness in these weeks meant I don’t remember those days save for lots of sofa and TV, but at least there was minimal pressure to get out of my pyjamas all day.

Then there’s the tiredness you get with a slightly older baby who just doesn’t want to sleep through the night. The incessant nights of never sleeping more than two hours in a row, resulting in a mama who can get up, comfort her baby back to sleep and crawl back in her own bed without even realising she’s woken up.

Next you’re presented with the toddler who considers 5.30am a lie-in. Yet you can’t go to bed when she does because, you know, those box sets won’t watch themselves and if you don’t keep those eyes open til at least 9pm you won’t get any alone time whatsoever.

But these days, oh these days I have the single-working-mum tiredness. And that my friends is something else altogether.

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We’re out of the house and on our way to my mum/nursery by 7.15am so I’m required to be out of bed and on my way to dressed by 6am. That, my friends, still hurts like a punch in the face each and every day. As one who has never been a morning person I spend the first fifteen minutes of each day practicing my sailor swearing and wondering how much it would hurt to break a bone. Because at least then I’d get to go back to bed.

The upshot of this is that by the time I get to the train station at 8am I am pretty much fully awake and with a full face of make-up on feeling ready to take on the world with a cup of tea that may or may not end up on a stranger (sorry, man on the 8.22 to Euston on Monday). This feeling of world conqueror would never come to me until at least 10am in the old days, so there you go – I now have two more hours each day to make a difference. Boom!

This doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes enjoy a little sleep on the train though. Never underestimate the restorative qualities of a 30 minute upright power nap. Unless you end up in a town fifty miles away from yours on a Sunday evening because you fell asleep on a kind stranger’s shoulder… never again.

Once I’m at work I’m surprised to find out that my job requires a fair bit of thought; deep thinking about strategies, statistics, results, proposals. I can’t zone out, can’t sleep with my eyes open, can’t watch Millionaire Matchmaker. Welcome to the real world. There are meetings and presentations that require intelligent input and by the time 5.30pm rolls around (HOMETIME!) my brain is quite literally spent, devoid of any conversation or leftover intelligence.

All that thinking, it wipes you out. And yesterday I was so knackered from just being ON and THINKING and DOING that I got home, took my bra off (the first thing I do as soon as I walk through the front door at 7.30pm) and had a good productive weep. This single-working-mum thing, it’s so hard. It drains you mentally, physically, even emotionally, until you’re not sure there’s anything left.

But then I thought – who am I doing this for?

I’m doing this because my career is super important to my family; my children rely on me as the breadwinner in the house so it’s crucial I work hard. I’m doing this to show them how important it is to work hard so they can do a job you love and get paid well for it. And I’m doing it to show them that while life is not a walk in the park you can find happiness in hard graft and success.

I might be falling over from tiredness but for those little people I am setting the best example I know how. And you know what? I’ve never been happier than now: I’m doing it, I’m making a difference.

Now can someone tweet me at 11pm and tell me to turn off Orange Is The New Black?

When Is It The Right Time To Return To Work?: The Working Mum’s Dilemma

10276511_10154214284780206_615580309_n Four years ago all I wanted to do was be a mum. I had it all planned out: give up work, have a baby, make cakes, cook every recipe Annabel Karmel ever wrote, drink coffee with new mum friends, have more babies. I didn’t think this plan through: I don’t like coffee for a start (unless we’re talking Espresso Martinis, natch).

Three years and ten months ago – four weeks after Elfie was born – I realised that being a stay at home mum was Not Me. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike the new role I found myself thrown into. But I hadn’t realised how different my life would be, how freaked out I would feel at the expectation from not just myself but people around me to be a completely different person just because a 6lb ball of baby had popped out of me. I also hadn’t realised how much the thing I was looking forward to saying goodbye to forever – my work – contributed to the essence of who I was. Targets, successes, hard clients, presentations, meetings; I missed the stimulation of my job like I’d never expected to. My work friends were pushing on with their careers, moving to New York, becoming pop stars, launching businesses. I felt left behind.

But I felt totally selfish feeling that way. I had everything I ever wanted, there was no financial pressure on me to go back to work, I had plenty of empty days with no pressure to fill them with anything but coffee (yuck) and babies. Meanwhile I saw other mums struggling with work and raising their kids because they had to; I felt totally ungrateful that I missed my career and, it has to be said, like this yearning for something more than motherhood made me less of a mum.

Nevertheless I had to do something about it. When Elfie was six weeks old I started working for myself. Slowly at first, a couple of small clients, working hard on my blog. I accepted a part-time freelance gig project managing a couple of brands three days a week but had to leave when the job went full-time and I couldn’t with a nine month old at home. I pottered around again, consulting on small projects, blogging my little heart out, getting divorced. The need to earn money became more of A Thing as I embarked on my single life, I had to generate an income to sustain a household of three. But I always missed that happiness I found in an office, the camaraderie, the gossip, the adrenaline of pitching to a bunch of people.

You don’t get so much of that when you’re working at home in your PJs with The Real Housewives of Atlanta in the background. If any clients are reading this I’m only joking. I much prefer Millionaire Matchmaker.

As the kids have grown older – Hux is at pre-school two mornings a week since turning two and Elfie is starting school in September – the urge to work harder on my career has grown. I’ve done as much as I can working from home but I always feel like I should be doing more. I should be at networking events – impossible because they’re either over breakfast super early or glasses of wine in the evening. I should be hitting up my old rolodex for new business leads, pitching to prospects, hiring a couple of talented freelancers to take care of my day-to-day so I can look after the bigger picture. Then the guilt returns again… how can I consider doing all that when I have two babies at home who need their mummy to be around? I make enough money to keep us afloat and sustain a Waitrose habit, why am I hungrily wanting more out of our lives? It’s back and forth, back and forth.

Last week I had to make a decision… I was offered a job contract working as Digital Editor for a project I’ve worked on before. An amazing brand, an amazing team, the only kicker being that it was a five day a week London-based position. Uh-ho.

It shouldn’t have been a difficult decision. It’s a freelance job so I wouldn’t be tied to a contract, I’d still have evenings and weekends to work on my blog and other projects plus I’d be in the Big City so could lunch with my old work pals. But again the guilt consumed me. I couldn’t imagine being out of the house and away from the children from 7.30am-7pm, running them around from nursery to pre-school to grannies. Could I? What if they were sad/tired/cold/hungry and needed their mummy for a cuddle?

This has been one time when I have put myself first and said actually, yes I can do this. Our little family of three, WE can do this.

Hux and Elfie are going to watch their Mama work her butt off five days a week and I think it is going to be a positive experience for all of us. I’ve managed to get Hux into a fantastic nursery three mornings, I’d planned to send him there from September anyway, and he’ll spend the additional time with his Grannie. Elfie’s at pre-school four mornings and one full day a week so she’ll barely notice the difference (her Grannie is her favourite person in the whole wide world so any extra time with her is a bonus).

It’s going to be a BUSY couple of months for us all but I’ve made a mental promise to take my two away for a little holiday once the madness is over. I’m going to be a commuter, in an office, with work colleagues, heels, lunches out and meetings. I’m SO excited.

I’m still feeling the guilt of  not being there for them 24/7 like I have for the last four years; I’m going to miss their delicious little faces like nothing I’ve ever known before but that’s going to make the time we spend together all the sweeter. And I guess all this guilt and worry I’ve been feeling about being away from my children means that actually, I might be a pretty good mum after all.

If you’re having similar returning to work dilemmas have a read of Alison’s piece: ‘I Work Full Time And I Love It‘. We are not alone :) 

Blogging As A Business: How I Turned My Blog Into My Career

When people ask me what my job is I never know what to say. “Erm, well, I have this website, and I write about stuff and people read it and yep thats it.” Reactions range from “ah, you blog for a living? That’s cool!” to “what’s a blog?”. And I mean really, if you can explain what a blog is to someone who isn’t computer savvy without tearing your hair out then you’re a better woman than I.

Increasingly I’ve been receiving emails asking me how to go about the business of blogging as a career, and I love that people are feeling inspired by this online world we’ve created. I am thankful every day that I’m able to do this for a job and that as a community we’ve been able to build something this influential. I’ve worked with some truly magnificent brands in the last couple of years, and really, how lucky am I to be making money from something that started as a much-loved hobby?

So I’ve put together a short (long) guide that I hope will help some of you who are thinking about blogging or a wondering how to build their blog into a career: here’s how I’ve done it (and thank-you to all the questions that came via Twitter and Facebook!). It really is long, you might want to take a loo break before you sit down to this one…

Blogging Professionally: How I Made Blogging My Career

Why do you blog? 

My first blog as an angsty teenager was started back in 2001 (thankfully there is no trace of it any more) and I started blogging about pregnancy nearly five years ago. Back then the blogging community was totally different; there weren’t that many of us and we were really just writing for ourselves and each other. But my motive for blogging has remained the same, and I think this is something that has been so important to the integrity of what I write. I do it for the love of creating a story out of what is going on in my life, to sort through issues in my life in a way that I know how – words have always been so powerful in that way for me – and to connect with other people.

I write about the bad times and the good, and nothing makes me feel happier than knowing I’ve helped someone who’s going through a shitty situation feel not so alone. This motivation to touch people, to make them laugh and to get my words out there is what keeps me going. I would still blog if I wasn’t getting paid for it and I think it’s important to keep that love of what you do evident. I try to be as enthusiastic about my sponsored posts as I am about the posts that come straight from my head and I think (hope) that’s appreciated by the people who read here.

I also feel so inspired by other bloggers out there and that’s a great motivator too. I love A Cup Of Jo, Hey Natalie Jean, Little Green Notebook and Liberty London Girl; mostly American blogs, but then their blogging market is a couple of years ahead of ours. I see aspects of these blogs that I enjoy and try to incorporate what I love about them into my work. There’s no use trying to emulate another blogger, though.. when it comes to creating a space people will want to visit your own personality and originality is key. You are the only person in the whole world with your outlook and experiences and it’s important to remember that.

When it comes to inspiration I look to every single aspect of day-to-day life - the experiences you go through, your kids, the clothes you like to wear, the news you watch on TV. And every time you see something that gives you a lightbulb moment, write it down… I have a list on my phone where I store most of those middle-of-the-night ideas

How do you start a blog? 

For me it was as easy as creating a WordPress account and just letting all my thoughts, feelings and concerns about pregnancy come out into a text box. I had no filter and just wrote and wrote and wrote until I found my ‘voice’. As the years have gone on and I’ve wanted to diversify my content I’ve been a bit more measured in my approach, brainstorming how I’d like my blog to be and working out how I can get there. I write lists weekly about things I want to post on… if I get to a third of them it’s been a good week ;)

It takes courage to write and publish that first post, I get that. There’s no right way or wrong way to do it, but my advice would be to just stay true to yourself. Write about something you’re passionate and knowledgeable about, whether that’s beauty or babies or goldfish. Don’t get bogged down in the technical stuff at the start and enjoy yourself with it.

How much money can you make from blogging? 

If you want to make a quick buck from blogging then it’s probably not for you. It took me two and a half years to start making money and even then it was only drips and drabs of pocket money, certainly not enough to live off. Through my advertising and sponsored posts I now earn about half my income from my blog with the other half being through Freelance Digital Marketing-related activities, most of which have come about because of my blog. It helps that I was a Digital Marketing Manager before Elfie was born and the fact I have a really active online presence definitely drives my freelance gigs. There are other bloggers out there doing the same when it comes to Freelancing: check out Tweet Pin Share from lovely Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and if your blog needs a re-design then look no further than Bryony.

I work about 32 hours a week between the blog and my Freelance work and annoyingly 40% of that time is probably spent on admin: invoicing, chasing invoicing, keeping track of invoices (I hate invoices), tax rubbish, answering queries, sending out my media kit. As my business has grown so has the finance side of things and I keep track of everything using spreadsheets.

With my hours I make enough money to keep us all ticking over – we aren’t millionaires (YET) but it’s more than I’d be able to make at a part time admin job that would fit around the kids and let’s face it, blogging still doesn’t feel like work. It ain’t easy though, I’m ‘on’ all the time and spend all my evenings at my computer. When the school holidays come round it is HARD to fit work in around the kids, ditto sickness (mine or the children’s).

How did you start making money from your blog?

There are a few ways you can make money from your blog. You can look into ad programmes, like Google Adsense, join an ad network (I’m a member of Handpicked Future and I love them) or work with affiliate networks. I use SkimLinks as it’s an automated service and as I’m not blogging much about fashion, which I think is where you can make the big bucks through affiliates such as RewardStyle. Saying that, I earn about 7 quid a month through them so it’s not exactly a big money spinner ;)

There are plenty of agencies offering sponsored posts out there. My favourites are Collective Bias (lovely Jo Middleton is in charge of CB in the UK – you can apply here), TAN Media and iProspect and I’d say it’s definitely worth reaching out to them if you’re interested in hosting sponsored content on your blog.

When it comes to prospective clients I always try to keep any communication as professional as possible and so supply a Media Pack which includes a lovely little background about me, any awards I’ve been nominated for, where I can be found on Social Media and my blog statistics. Bear in mind that lots of companies will enquire about your Page Rank and Domain Authority so it’s worth popping those in too. You can find these things at the Open Site Explorer. If you’re interested in working directly with brands then this is a great resource, and here’s how to draft a great media kit.

Aren’t you selling out by hosting sponsored posts? 

Really, I don’t think so. I see the money I get paid for sponsored posts as payment for all the posts I do for the love ;) And I really do try to make sure they’re all as entertaining as possible, even if they are about supermarkets or vaginas. Plus, companies like Collective Bias are changing the way we work with brands by encouraging creativity when it comes to crafting our posts. My favourite work I’ve done for them was based on gin, obviously.

Blogging Professionally: How I Made Blogging My Career

How do you stay motivated? 

Not having any set working hours is difficult. As is working at home… it’s so easy to get distracted by the TV/washing/lunch/next door’s cat in the garden. I try to stay as focussed as I can when I’m at my computer, but oh look, a pigeon… so I try to mix it up and work from cafes on occasion. I also find that sometimes I can wake up after a bad night with the kids and just feel so uninspired. It’s really difficult to be creative and efficient when you’re running on four hours sleep and your bed is upstairs calling your name.

There are upsides to working for yourself though. On the one hand, if I’ve got a deadline to work to it’s a pain in the bum to tell my friends I can’t bring the kids to a picnic at the park today because I’ve got to write a post about mortgages, but on the other hand it’s great to be able to take a spontaneous morning off if I don’t have anything time-sensitive to deal with.

Writing-wise I find I’m pretty productive between the hours of 7-9pm so I try to get all my posts scribbled then if I can. Otherwise I try to use other empty pockets of time that would otherwise be spent staring into space; train journeys, waiting for school to finish, waking up in the middle of the night, that sort of thing. You’d be surprised how many of my blog posts began their life hastily planned out on my iPhone!

I find it really hard to motivate myself to respond to emails that aren’t urgent (SORRY!). My inbox is always drowning in messages and this is something I wish I could get better at. I also wish I had more time to reply to reader comments and comment on other blogs.

Looking at the bigger picture, it is really difficult to maintain a pace of posting. I’m happy with 3 posts a week but I know other bloggers (like the lovely Fritha) manage up to 5 posts a week. There’s a lot of time that goes into that: planning, photography, the actual writing, editing, promoting… and that’s before you take admin and factoring the running of Social Media accounts into the equation. Especially if you’re working a full time job or you have kids to look after- it can be impossible when the last thing you want to do is sit down at your computer and start writing. But I’ve always treated my blog like a business, even before it made money; it’s something I’m so proud of that I really want to be as successful as possible. I have given up things that I used to enjoy (evening Friends marathons on Comedy Central, going out to lunch) in favour of dedicating time to the blog. So far it’s paying off.

How do you keep your private life private? 

When I’m writing it’s very rare I think about oversharing. Is that weird? I write about what feels natural to me, issues I think others will benefit from reading about or times in my life I want to remember in the future. It is odd when my friends know what’s up with me before I tell them when we meet for coffee or when I’m recognised from my blog in the supermarket (hi Gemma!) (totally made me feel like a rockstar by the way). I guess there are lines I’ve unconsciously drawn; I wrote a bit about dating but won’t write about my relationship, my parents read the blog so I won’t write about sex (Mum: I’ve only done it twice, promise) and I steer away from anything to do with my ex. In the future if the children ever have a problem with anything I’m writing or have written about them then I will respect their wishes and take it down.

Basically, I just do what feels natural.

What do you think? Would you ever like to make money from blogging? Is there anything you’d like to know about my experience? Hit me up with any questions in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them. 

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?