I’m really pleased to introduce the latest in my ‘Meet the #WorkingMumsClub’ series – lovely Kate Orson. Kate is a Hand in Hand parenting instructor and the author of Tears Heal: How To Listen To Children. She has a very interesting work/life balance to achieve – as a writer working from home, it’s very different to a 9-5 office job! I asked her to tell me about how she manages it.
How many children do you have?
I have one daughter. She’s 4.5. Although I’m originally from the UK we live in Switzerland, and my daughter isn’t due to start Kindergarten till August, but she goes to playgroup once a week.
What does your work entail?
I work as a writer and Hand in Hand parenting instructor. My work is part-time as I’m a stay at home mum. I work mainly from home writing my blogs and working on my next book. I also do courses and consultations via phone and skype, as well as in-person. I tend to work early in the morning while my daughter is sleeping, or in the evenings and weekends when my husband takes care of her. I do get a bit of work done when she’s at her playgroup too.
What is a typical ‘working day in the life’ for you?
My morning routine is to get up, and if I’ve got enough energy, I’ll do a bit of Pilates before breakfast. Then I write. My daughter has never been an early riser, and as I am an early bird, it makes sense to get some work done in the morning before she wakes up. A typical ’working’ day, doesn’t actually involve much work! I’m usually meeting friends or in the park with my daughter. But I try to squeeze in and hour or two each day. Last year I was working intensely on a book so then I did more. But since then, I’m tending to focus on writing blog posts each week, and networking on social media, as well as working with my existing clients.
Do you find being a working mum impacts negatively on family life or is it positive thing for you?
For me it’s quite positive. As I’m a parenting instructor, writing and helping others tends to feed back into my own parenting. I write a lot about something I call ’giggle parenting’, where parents use laughter and play to help our kids co-operate, and I find that writing stories about the way I overcome my own parenting challenges actually helps me to stay focused on parenting well.
Having said that I tend to get quite ambitious and my mind fills with all sorts of ideas of what I want to write, and the pings on my mobile phone can be quite distracting. I recently stopped drinking caffeine (again!) because I found myself constantly in ’doing’ mode, and I wanted to slow down and just ’be’ with my daughter instead.
What do you wish you could change to make life easier for working mums?
I recently read this wonderful book called ’Mothers Of The Village,’ by C.J Schneider. In it she talks about how in more traditional societies, mothers would have had a whole tribe of grandmothers and aunties, on hand to share childcare and household tasks. Schneider talks a lot about arranging childcare swaps, sharing meals, and creating strong social networks. As a writer it’s just not cost effective to pay for childcare as writing is really a leap of faith in just hoping that your book does well. So I’d love more free childcare, and neighbours helping each other out.
How did pregnancy and the early days with your daughter affect your work?
I think my situation is quite different as I’ve freelanced for many years, first as an English tutor and then as a creative writing teacher and journalist. Being freelance meant I didn’t get any maternity leave, but living in Switzerland the wages are quite high, so it was possible to live off my husband’s teacher salary. After my daughter was a few months old, I did a few hours English tutoring here and there, and also magazine writing. Because I was working for myself, and my work was so flexible, being a parent was not a disadvantage at all; on the contrary it was inspiring, and gave me the direction I needed to write a book. However, as my daughter’s not in school yet, my working hours are limited, so I’m still not earning much.
Does your partner do their fair share of the household chores while you’re working?
I’m actually terrible at household chores. My husband does most of the cooking, and tidying up. I feel really guilty admitting that! I’m really not a superwoman, and whereas he’s very organised and practical. Because my writing time is so precious, I would never clean the house while my daughter is sleeping, for example! When my daughter starts Kindergarten this year, I’m actually looking forward to having a bit more time for work, and to do more of my fair share of the household tasks.
Have you ever felt guilty about being a working mum?
I felt guilty in the early stages before I got a book deal, because I was slightly uncomfortable with taking time away to write when I wasn’t earning any money. I also sometimes feel guilty because my job isn’t a ’proper’ one where I earn a regular wage but one where I take chances in the hope that my work will grow.
Now I’m thinking about it I realise that I feel guilty about being on Facebook and Twitter, even though that is in effect part of my job! It’s funny reflecting on this question, that I feel all sorts of guilty feelings, as I build my career. Ultimately though I’m sure my daughter benefits, from being around a happy, fulfilled mum.
Do you enjoy your job or is it simply a means to an end?
I absolutely love my job! A lot of the work I do is for free, answering people’s parenting questions online, or blogging, and I do it for the love of it, as well as the hope that if people enjoy my work they might one day buy my book. I feel very lucky that I’m able to do something that I love that helps other parents too.
What’s the worst thing about being a working mum?
The worst thing is not having much time to relax. Because I’m working in my spare time, I have almost completely lost the concept of doing things simply for fun. If I read it’s always for a purpose – research for my next book for example, and although I love doing it, it would be nice to watch a film just for pleasure from time to time. Luckily being with my daughter is about fun, and being in the moment, so that helps balance things out!
What’s the best thing?
The best thing is feeling completely fulfilled. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and I always worried that having a child would get in the way of that. In the end it’s been the complete opposite. I feel like I have found my calling in life!
If you’d like to feature as a guest in Meet the #WorkingMumsClub, give me a shout on Twitter @WorkingMums_UK or send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.