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Changing the work/mother balance. Is it working?

{me busy crafting for Max's first birthday party. Always busy!}

Over the past twelve months or so I have been making steps to change the balance between my work (my own business) and being a mother. I was struggling to be the mother I wanted to be and the photographer I wanted to be. Balls were dropping in both courts, I was exhausted, frustrated and stressed. I wanted to do it all but I just couldn't. I had to make a decision. I would either get more childcare, work more and earn more (to justify the childcare costs) or I would cut my childcare and cut my work load. I already had plans with where I wanted my business to go and I knew that along with making changes I could also make a decision to work less. I knew that I really wanted to spend more time with my children. They are only this young for such a short amount of time and once they are all at school things will change again. And I was very lucky that my husband supported me in this and was prepared to work more to cover the cost of me working less. It works for him too. If I work less I am so much calmer and a better mother, wife and friend.

So, back in September we cut our childcare to just one weekend a month (which is our little luxury in all the madness!) and I began to make changes to the amount of work I accept and the ways in which I work. Six months in, I though it was a good time to look at how and if it's working for me and my family. I have also received some emails from lovely readers asking me if it really is possible.

For the first few weeks I was lulled into a false sense of security. My daughter started school and both my boys were napping at the same time (I know, can you believe it?) in the afternoons, so I was able to work for a couple of hours every day. But then one day Oren decided that he could no longer sleep in his cot and didn't always need a nap. Oh. Right. Panic. Lots of late nights and getting my head around how much work was the right amount.

Then things changed again and Oren started nursery two mornings a week and Max had his first nap of the day during the morning. Perfect. I could work again. Until...Max decided to drop the morning nap! And I was back to square one.

There is a part of me that would like to stop my business altogether. Juggling work and a family is really hard when you work for yourself. You have to draw strict boundaries to make it work. Ideally you have childcare. You actually need to sleep, even if you try and convince your body otherwise. Sometimes your children are poorly and they need you even more. Cashflow (why do they call it flow when usually it's just cashstuck or cashallatonce?) can cause the biggest stresses ever. But there's another part of me that knows I don't really want to let it go. I actually want to keep it going and definitely keep it alive for a time, in the not too distant future, when suddenly all my little ones will be at school and I will be free (and lonely!) from 9-3pm every day.

This morning I was a really grumpy mummy. I worked until too late last night and then my little ones were up in the night too many times and then up at 6am. And the house was a mess and I didn't have one pair of matching socks without holes in. Everything seemed too much and I wanted to crawl back to bed and hide away. But now, after a morning of lovely activities with my children, a sleeping baby and a chilling on the sofa toddler, I'm ok again. My to-do list has calmed down (thanks to last night's late night) and I'm feeling in control.

What I am doing is beginning to work but it requires me to keep doing and working on a few things. Firstly, to accept and turn down the right amount and type of work. Secondly, to manage the expectations of my clients and of myself. Thirdly, to set clear boundaries between work and family (my phone challenge is really helping me with this one). And fourthly, to keep making time for myself and realizing that making time for myself does not involve sitting in my office working! I think the final one might be the hardest to get my head around but actually the most important in making sure everything else works and flows. In my head I think I can work every evening of every week. And that's how I have been working out how much I can work. Well, that is just plain crazy and I need to stop it.

My changes are beginning to work and I think I'm finally starting to really understand how this can work over the next few years. I hope if you are doing or trying to do something similar that my ramblings have helped a little! I'd love to hear how you are getting on if you are in the same position or thinking about it for the future.

Happy Tuesday! x

March for Mothers - 17th March

My little Fairtrade Councillor