The aim of having my own business was always to give up the day job so I could be around for my children, and I finally did so in 2010. The best thing I ever did… in many ways. My editorial business is thriving, I keep a large group of subs busy and am now the Managing Director, overseeing the workflow, a position I only dreamed of when I started out. However, it hasn’t come without sacrifices and big changes to my life.
Never work with children and animals
Ever since I worked from home, I knew I could never do it with the children at home too. In my line of work I need total peace and quiet. I organise childcare and just like when I had an office job, I sit at my desk for the hours I need to work – which is usually 9-3pm, Even the dog wasn’t getting much of a look in and I’ve had to hire a dog walker! At first, when I told people what I did, they would say ‘Oh that sounds great. A job you can do from home…go for long dog walks and play with the kids.’ But how can you do two, three, four things at once? I’m good, but not that good!
Before I left my job, I recall chatting to a colleague at work who was expecting her first baby, she was calmly talking about how she wasn’t going to bother with childcare as she would ‘work from home’, that all too familiar term these days which sounds so simple but yet creates more problems than it solves. I’d been allowed to work from home for a couple of years at this point and I just smiled at her. I tried to suggest that you cannot work when there is anyone younger than a teen in the house, especially a baby, but she had that glazed-over look only first-time pregnant mums have. The following year, she was back at her desk and looking very relieved about it!
Killing one bird with two stones!
It was during October half term that I ‘cracked’. School holidays are always tripley challenging if I’m doing all the childcare. I put the kids first but my business still needs to operate as normal so I end up answering emails in the loo (if I’m lucky enough to have time for a wee).
The icing on the cake was I was managing an important job for a high-profile client (I’m talking UK Prime Ministers here), and it was necessary to talk to my client’s Head of Comms on the phone (challenging at the best of times with one child let alone my three all at home). I deliberately missed a few calls from her, hoping she would email, but I couldn’t avoid another as I knew she’d be pissed off, so I put the baby in the car in his car seat and gave my son the iPad and told him to get in too. Then I went back in the house and made the call. The car is parked next to my window so I can see what’s going on.
I made the important client call and fired off a couple of emails and then got the children out again. I laughed about it later, but client satisfaction is very important to me and I felt bad about not being as professional as I wanted to be (even though the client was happy and didn’t realise all the juggling I was doing just to make a bloody phone call).
Baby means (no) business!
My desk is a mess of files and paperwork, and, as I work from home, that paperwork is ‘home’ paperwork too, not just the ‘office’ stuff. My email box is busting and needs sorting. It feels like it resembles my brain at the moment! But I’m on ‘maternity leave’ and with my little boy needing me all day, I literally only have time to complete the most essential tasks such as dealing with my client’s orders; filing and admin are a luxury.
I love having my baby boy at home with me, and I love that I can always pick my other children up from school and be with them. I feel guilty for having this big old moan as I know I’m privileged. Most of my mummy friends have had to go back to work … but then I’m doing it again, denying my own work and the significance of it… I’ve had to ‘go back to work’ too but just because I work for myself some people assume I live a kind of carefree life where the work just does itself! It doesn’t.
When your world turns upside down, you still have to pay the bills
Things have changed a lot since I went solo… my daughter suddenly dying was, and still is, a massive blow to our lives. My hubby works for a big company and was given around a month off work paid, but my jobs just hung there – needing to be done. I passed over most of the work to a reliable colleague in the immediate aftermath of her death. I’d just been commissioned to write a children’s book but had to drop it mid-way along with a few other jobs.
My clients were fantastic and understanding, but it doesn’t change the fact that I had to get back to work or we’d start facing financial difficulties as well as emotional difficulties! We have life insurance for ourselves but not in the event of losing one of our children!
Added to my grief, I had a baby eight months ago. While my pregnant friends were getting away from work for nine months or so to enjoy their maternity, I paid a colleague to cover for me for a couple of months all the while keeping tabs on the business. I haven’t had the ‘luxury’ of completely switching off from it all for six months or more this time.
A new perspective on what’s important
When you have your own business it can so easily take over your life, as you have to devote so much time to getting it set up and running it. My attitude to work has changed now. Previously my business was my ‘other’ baby – the thing that helped me retain some kind of identity and allowed us to live more comfortably – now it’s become a means of supporting the family, for paying for treats and holidays, clubs and creating a nice home. But while my attitude has changed, for the better I should add, it doesn’t change the fact that I still need to work. I feel lucky that I have been able to carve a career out of my love for words. I have some fab clients who like working with me, but I can feel the professional edge slipping when I’m pulled every which way.
Despite this, I realise I need to stop apologising for my job. I do work hard as well as doing everything else. I’m running a business yet I feel guilty sneaking off to the computer to snatch half an hour while the rest of the family scowl at me for taking so long. My hubby is great and does what he can, but as I expect with most marriages, I do the lion’s share of everything still and then when he’s home I am grateful that he watches the baby while I email my clients. I’ve been getting annoyed at him, but it’s not his fault. The old me is shouting in my ear… ‘pull your bloody finger out!’
Taking action at last
Not being prepared for this has bitten me a bit. I guess I’ve been in denial. I don’t want to hand him over to a childminder, it feels like admitting defeat and I’m too proud for that. I feel I should be able to look after my own children and be calm and motherly, but I’m kidding myself as I’m not a mother who either can afford not to work or who wants to give up that part of me entirely.
So I slapped myself to stop being so flaky about it and I called the childminder who had cared for the other three in turn, she’s not really on my doorstep but she was a brilliant carer. It turns out she had just had two days a week come free for a baby! Now someone ‘up there’ is telling me something! I’m starting to believe that rather than feel constant guilt, that I might actually be called to work as well as be a mum. it feels like this is all falling into place.
Ready for a change
And you know, I’m actually looking forward to his first day. Oh yes, I’ll have a massive cry and will beat myself up about it. But I know he will be in very safe hands, it’s almost like a surrogate mother. As she looked after my others, especially Abi, she’ll understand how important this is to me. And while he’s having fun and being entertained like he should be at his age, I know I can do so much in that time and can pick up him and spend the other days with him with less stress on my plate.