With two children under five, I was working full-time, studying for a Masters degree and writing my first book. As far as over-committing myself goes, I was having my cake, eating it too, baking it in the first place and washing up afterwards.
Within one year, I was holding a publishing contract in one hand, divorce papers in the other and staring feverishly at my bedroom ceiling trying to ignore the acute Glandular Fever that I was bedridden with and – worse – the fact that this was preventing me from staggering to the pre-school Nativity play, like the good mum that I so desperately wanted to be.
This was not what I called ‘work-life balance’.
Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum was reviewed by OK Magazine as ‘Hilarious!’ Fellow mums ‘will sympathise and find comfort,’ the review said. ‘Those who are yet to breed will consider sterilisation!’
It was a nice review for an author to get, and a bit of a debacle personally. It wasn’t until I found myself accidentally and distractedly consuming a Lieutenant-Colonel colleague’s salad (because I was so distraught about having left a crying child to go to work that I no longer recognised my own Tupperware), that it finally occurred to me that life didn’t have to be this hard.
I began looking for different ways to do things. Better ways to be. Ways of saying ‘no’. Eventually the light dawned: life wasn’t this hard at all – I’d been making it this hard.
Bit by bit, I clawed control back over my family, my career, my identity as a woman – the works. I worked out that I could have it all, just not necessarily all at once, and certainly not at the cost of my health, sanity or most special relationships. The more I spoke about this at seminars and fund-raising lunches, the more intensely the message seemed to strike a chord with the people I met, many of whom were plain exhausted from the struggle.
A decade on, with three kids, two step-kids and a business to run the contrast in my life couldn’t be more pronounced. I don’t juggle any more with the things that matter most to me – it’s too precarious and I might drop something.
Instead, I carefully weave my family life, friendships and personal aspirations into a career that I adore: helping others to make a similar transformation in their lives.
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