Posts Tagged ‘working mum’

Back to work day for homeworkers

In Homeworking on January 4, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Tree shredded. Cards recycled. Kids back to school. Partner back to office. Heating off. Jumpers on. Glasses on. Computer on. Wash on. Coffee drunk. Twitter checked. Facebook checked. Emails checked, then ignored. Spam checked optimistically, then deleted. Work-begging emails written. Invoice-chasing emails written. I-haven’t-had-time-to-finish-that-thing-I-thought-I’d-have-loads-of-time-to-do-over-the-Christmas-so-called-‘holidays’ emails written. Childcare swaps in the pipeline. Quick crossword done. Tax not quite done. Fridge empty. Biscuit tin empty. Celebrations tin empty. Stomach empty. Inbox still empty. Bank account empty. Appallingly-paid, takes-three-times-longer-than-you-thought commission stuck into. Blog posted.


Does not going to sports day make me a bad parent?

In Kids on July 10, 2011 at 10:40 pm

The answer is probably ‘yes’, but hear me out.

At this point in the year, there are, depending on your local authority, two weeks left of the school term. Two more weeks of freedom before you are juggling kids and work and daytrips and deadlines and your whole finely tuned routine is thrown into chaos. (Those in the independent system have just finished term and are already staring down the barrel of some eight weeks of school holiday.)

Now I know I shouldn’t think of school as a free childminding service, but – as was brought into sharp relief by the recent public sector one-day strike – I do. And after the succession of school holidays, bank holidays, royal bloody weddings, and yes/no referendums that meant my children were at school for just five days between 8 April and 9 May, you’d forgive me for assuming I was in school/not school credit.

So why so many ominous demands on parents’ (and, to be fair, teachers’) time this month? Is it supposed to be fun?

Read the rest of this entry »

The amateur commuter

In London on June 21, 2011 at 10:11 pm

So this week I’ve been doing a bit of commuting. Believe it or not commuting can be fun! For us homeworkers its an adventure, a chance to get out into the big wide world, a break in our routine (once we’ve tied up all the loose ends that hold our routine together, such as finding random people to look after the children at the last-minute, and having clean, socially acceptable clothes). It’s a chance for some amateur anthropology, a bit of gawping at crowd behaviour, regarding ourselves not as one of the crowd but as the wry observer, slightly removed from the scene. More importantly, we won’t have to see these people again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next… Read the rest of this entry »

Tips for working mums (or those who want to be)

In Jobseeking on March 8, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Actually, I should just clarify that headline. When I say ‘Tips for working mums or those who want to be’ the tips will be for those who are already mums but who want more work, not those in work who want… That wouldn’t be appropriate. Read the rest of this entry »

#49 Dreaming of Soho, sandwiches and a really good cup of coffee

In Homeworking, Jobseeking on June 18, 2010 at 10:40 am

So it’s now finally official, I didn’t get that job. But before I cave in to disappointment, I thought I’d pause one last time to indulge the fantasy I’d created about what it would be like to be back working in an office…

The fantasy basically involves me meandering up through Soho in the morning, perhaps pausing to indulge in a really good shop-bought takeaway coffee, full strength, ground on the premises, and with that pleasing crema it’s impossible to replicate at home. Read the rest of this entry »

#46 Kids

In Jobseeking, Kids on May 14, 2010 at 8:42 am

‘I mean I like spending time with you, Mum, but it would be good if you could get a job.’

Great. Not even your children respect you when you’re unemployed. You spend you working life feeling guilty that you aren’t spending enough time with your children, give up your job even, and it turns out they’re not even that bothered.

My eldest (the one, above, who is sick of me kicking around the house) won’t even let me pick her up from school any more now she’s old enough for an Oyster card. She’s already cut her own door key and we’ve given in and got her a mobile phone so we can keep tabs on her. My youngest still holds my hand on the way to school without realising it, but dumps me as soon as he hits the playground. Read the rest of this entry »

#44 Baggage

In Jobseeking, Kids on April 30, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Phew, just about made it from ripped-jeaned mum to plausibly employable professional in just 72 hours.

But here’s the inventory of what I had to empty out of my bag in order to restock it with grown up things like business cards and make up:

Two packets of colouring pencils from a child-friendly restaurant

Six 2010 season Match Attax trading cards (happy to trade if there are any Hull fans out there)

Two Love Film DVDs that I STILL haven’t had time to watch

a glittery hair tie

a single, child’s sock

five notebooks (have rationalised down to one)

two biros that don’t work

one pencil, minus point

6 Eurocents

a compilation CD

a wrist support

two miniature bodylotions from a hotel bathroom

a nit comb

the timetable for kids classes at the local sports centre

sunglasses (it was rainy)

a wooly mitten (it was warmish though)

four packets of tissues

a Build-a-bear loyalty card

Return family tickets to Manchester for a fortnight ago

an empty bag of Haribo

a tiny booklet of seed sticks

out of date book bag notes

a cheque book with no cheques left

two pots of Vaseline rose flavoured lip balm

an AA battery

a conker

#42-and-a-half: Over to you…

In Homeworking, Jobseeking, Kids, Tales, Tips on April 26, 2010 at 10:56 am

So I’ve been banging on about me, but what about you?

It would be really interesting to hear everyone else’s experiences of being unemployed, under-employed, job searching, home working, being made redundant, feeling bored of looking after children, thinking of going back to work, or thinking of jumping ship.

Do you have any tips to pass on? Any observations to share? Spleen to vent?

Visual entries also welcome.

In the best traditions of the current exploitative jobs market, I can’t actually pay anyone to write anything of course – I just thought it would be fun.

You can remain anonymous, or plug your own websites/Twitter accounts/Facebook groups/CV to your heart’s content.

There’s no way I’m letting you all become administrators of this blog, so I’m thinking you could send me something via this Facebook group, email me if you already know me personally, or put something in the comments below that I’ll cut and paste into a proper blog entry.

[If you are more blog-minded than me and have a better solution as to how to make this work, please let me know!]

#42 A year of living frugally

In Homeworking, Jobseeking on April 26, 2010 at 10:29 am

It was this time last year that I realised that I was unemployed. My last book (The World’s Greatest Cities, since you ask) had finally gone to press after a full on couple of months, and the other small writing jobs had been filed. It is a common experience for the freelance to come to the end of bouts of intense work and realise that you haven’t had time to line the next things up. But in the past, something had always turned up. Not this time.

As is standard practice, I dropped a line to all my contacts letting them know I was free, pitched a few ideas, applied for some jobs. But nothing. Then more pitching and applying. More nothing. And so on… Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

A year on and I can talk it all up as a ‘learning experience’. I’ve used the time to trim budgets, making us a leaner fitter household not weighed down by too many  financial commitments allowing us all to keep our options open. I finally embarked on a printmaking course at one of our wonderful adult education colleges that the Tories will probably kill off (Morley College), and felt the thrill of learning new things again.

I’ve toured secondary schools exhaustively and been heartened by the improving standards of the state system, despite received opinion otherwise. I’ve subsequently got my daughter into a local school that’s just been judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted (from being a no-go zone a decade ago) without even having to temporarily rent a house in the catchment area, fake a separation from my husband, or pretend I go to church.

I’ve realised that I don’t actually miss those interminable meetings that seem to take up 50% of office life – it’s a relief to be able just to get on and do stuff. I’ve been to careers workshops, sent my details round agencies and signed up for every jobs websites. I’ve realised that filling in job applications and looking for work is even harder than a full-time job – at least with a job you get holidays. I’ve done some really dull stuff for the money which has freed up time to do some really interesting stuff for none. I’ve taken heart from all the entrepreneurial things I’ve seen my friends doing and stopped thinking the world owes me a living.

I’ve gone from being antisocially miserable to artificially chirpy, reasoning that sitting around feeling sorry for myself isn’t going to solve anything. Most importantly, I’ve come to terms with the fact that my career has hit the buffers and needs to follow a different track, but found that the change of scenery is actually quite pleasant.

I’ve talked to lots of other people who are at different points on the same journey: some still at the stage of despairing that there doesn’t seem to be anything out there, others well ahead of me and now enjoying hard-won success after a period of gloom. Some contemplating that leap into the unknown (go on, jump!).

The past 12 months have been bloody hard work, and will continue thus, but that’s how it should be. Friends, family and former colleagues have been incredibly supportive (thank you!) and even put some work my way (thank you again!). Though my earnings for the last tax year have been pitiful, almost half came in the first three months of this year, which I hope means things are picking up for all of us.

My next book – writing this time, not editing! – is due to be filed at the end of May; another proposal is with an agent. And I’m so busy for the next month I’m even going to have to get some temporary childcare.

#40 No rest for the self-employed

In Homeworking, Kids on April 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm

‘Enjoying the Easter break?’

Let us look at this seemingly innocent sentence. Although the people who have asked you this over the past week have probably used the word ‘break’ to mean ‘rest’, as any self-employed homeworker – especially those with children currently on school holidays – knows, the Easter ‘break’ is very rarely restful but more literally experienced as an ‘interruption’. A crack in one’s life.

Or perhaps the speaker means ‘brake’, a thing that slows you down and prevents you from getting on.

While the workaday world carries on bombarding you with emails and issuing deadlines, children demand entertaining and feeding, the house gets filthier, and routine goes to pot. Blackberrys and iPhones have become essential for replying to enquiries while supervising trips to the park – simultaneously pretending to potential employers and clients that you either don’t have children or won’t let them hinder your dedication to the work, and pretending to your children that you are actually paying them attention. Minutes are snatched in between making sandwiches, buying groceries and shouting at people to tidy their rooms.Writing anything longer than a paragraph in one go becomes impossible.

Full-day childcare can be so expensive it wipes out most of one’s wages. That is if you are actually getting paid for what you are doing (which if you are pitching ideas or applying for jobs or studying for a further qualification, you aren’t). Instead we get by on a complex network of child swaps, though I’ve also bitten the bullet and signed mine up for one of those sports day camp (AVP Sports) reasoning that although after taking off fees, income tax and NI, my net profit on a day’s work will be about a tenner, a) it’s good value, including a swimming lesson, bouncy castle, arts and crafts, and sports tuition, b) if I paid for them to do these classes separately, it would cost even more, c) and I would have to go with them, d) it is possible to spend about the same amount on a day trip to town once you’ve been talked into taking them for pizza, e) they have a good time, make friends, and avoid obesity,  f) with freelance work thin on the ground, if you aren’t available 24/7, people aren’t going to call you back.

If you work in an office and need a break, you simply switch on the auto-reply and voicemail, direct the extra workload to an unwitting colleague, collect the holiday pay, and tell everyone to leave you alone for a fortnight. But there’s no rest for the self-employed, no holiday pay, no fallback colleague.

In the mean time:

HTBU is temporarily away from their desk at the moment, but will get back to you as soon as they’ve made lunch, tied football boot laces, hung the washing out, supervised a homework project and practice SATs papers, hoovered the stairs, given in and taken the kids to a playground, broken up a squabble, bought something for supper, made supper, put children to bed, tidied up supper, and poured a large glass of wine. If anyone has bought any.  Thank you for your interest. Hope you’re enjoying the Easter break.