One year balancing work and life, by Helen Perry @notaboutthekids Not About The Kids

One year balancing work and life

It’s been a while since I have written about personal stuff here, due to a bit of wobble over how helpful it is. I’ve felt unsure and uncomfortable about discussing my life because I have choices and a good standard of living. Privilege. All of my problems are first world problems. Is it possible to contribute anything worth reading on the juggle between family life and work, when you have the luxury of choice? Or to talk about frustrated ambitions, when you are not tied to a job you hate because it pays the bills?

Matt and I switched from a joint to a single income family a few years ago. I supported that by doing (almost) everything at home, while he focused on his work. It’s a less common story than it used to be, but it’s our story. Which makes me wonder, if we don’t depend on me to earn a certain amount of money anymore does that make my goals frivolous and my views lightweight? Is this just an indulgence? That’s the conversation I’ve been having with myself. But last week I took a phone call that has made me feel like sharing again, so for now, here I am.


It was a chat with a stranger, I’m going to call her Sarah. She had been put in touch with me because she wanted to discuss life coaching (I love a bit of life coaching, read this). Sarah’s story is similar to mine. She’s not sure what to do after a few years as a full-time mum. She knows she wants to work but can’t work out what. Sarah is “stuck” and she said a couple of things that I could have written myself.

The one that made me really feel YES ME TOO was that as a mum she feels she is “facilitating everyone else’s life” rather than living her own. That’s exactly how I felt and sometimes still feel. That I’m facilitator-in-chief for my family, without the title, kudos or paycheck. I’ve never spoken to anyone else before who felt exactly as I did. So, I’ve decided to look at it this way. I’m not writing about my problems, I’m writing about my experience. It’s not particularly different and special and other people might relate to it.

So here are a couple of things that I have felt like chatting about.

Living the flexible working dream?

I set my own working hours around the kid’s timetable. I am my own boss. So I’m living the 21st-century flexible working dream, that at times, is actually a bit of a nightmare. Is flexible working really the answer? Juggling work that you are desperate to do well, around kids who need your attention. The reality is that this can be stressful and shouty with neither much good work or good parenting happening.

While ultimately I would choose choice over a boss and 4 weeks holiday, I admit I often crave more defined working hours. If the result of flexible working is that women take on even more, that they are effectively squeezing two full-time jobs into the week, then I think it’s a hollow win. If it means all people taking equal responsibility for caring roles, then excellent.

Stop telling me to put my phone down

I’m pretty bored of people telling women (I think it’s particularly women who are accused of this) to stop looking at their phones. BOG OFF. As I recall, my mother did not welcome me home from school with freshly baked bread and a table full of constructive craft activities. If she wasn’t at work, she left me to it and got on with whatever she needed to around the house. I think that smartphone and social media shaming can be used as another stick to beat us with. Or to beat ourselves with. If you need to be on your phone for work, or fun, or do sort something out, or to connect with other adult humans because infant ones just don’t feel like chatting about wallpaper then do not apologize for it.

Change is hard

Going back to work has been brilliant and difficult. I’ve learned that acquiring a new skill set is tough to do part-time. That in fact, I don’t want to do it just part-time. That ‘giving it a year’ is actually giving it no time at all, but that when you look back over what can change in 12 months, it’s quite a lot.

I’ve realised that this is about 4 blog posts in one, but while we are here…

Hastily written 2019 goals

Manage my time better and map out each week so that I don’t waste precious hours. 

Get an electronic diary (every fibre of my being rejects them but….).

Stop double booking myself (see electronic diary).

Pay for another full day at coworking per week with money I am earning myself.

Host an Elevate event in London.

What are yours?

What's your View?

6 comments on “One year balancing work and life

  1. Sarah Leach on

    Couldn’t have put it better myself. Lovely read. Yes I understand the privilege bit, but it’s all relative. There’s always someone out there that feels just like you and, no matter what your circumstances, it’s nice to feel you’re not alone. Keep writing like this Helen. It’s great, if not therapeutic in its own right!

  2. Helen on

    Thanks for reading Sarah, you are right, it’s extremely therapeutic to get these thoughts down on paper I quite often find myself gaining a little clarity as I go. Mine is just one of many voices, and I can only write about what I know, but hopefully with a bit of knowing-ness about my good fortune. Relatively speaking 😉 xxx

  3. Kate west on

    You are spot on as you so often are.
    So much of this resonates and it’s hard trying to make the best job of being everything we want or need to be.
    Manageable goals for 2019 for me I think so I don’t stress when I’m not achieving by the end of January!

  4. Sally on

    Great article voicing the thoughts of lots of mums. That facilitator thing doesn’t go away in my experience; my children are 18, 25 and 27 and I only have the youngest at home but I’m still facilitator in chief. I also feel like the air traffic control person waving the ping pong bats around to secure space for everyone to move into. Maybe it’s just the type of person I am? Maybe I decide to divert from my own indecision by focusing on my family? Or maybe it’s just a habit after so many years? I’ve always balanced working full time and having my family and so has my husband. I never expect the calm still waters of achieving equilibrium because it’s not going to happen. I get out and run and do outdoor Bootcamps to keep myself feeling alive and fit and ready to take on the next ‘facilitation’. I’m sure lots of women and men feel the same?

  5. Helen on

    Hello Sally, thank you for reading an commenting so thoughtfully it’s interesting to read about your experience. I guess that deciding to become a parent means that you are forever the fascilitator…at least until we become decrepit and need facilitating ourselves! Perhaps 2019 will be the year of Boot Camp for me. Helen x

  6. Helen on

    I have very mixed feelings about goals. On the one hand, it’s great to have a focus, on the other if you don’t meet them it’s just another thing to berate ourselves for. Not healthy. Thank you for reading Kate, I’m off to think about some goals that it’s impossible to fail at….Hx

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