A little while ago, I asked you to contribute questions for a Q&A blog post. Despite worrying I was setting myself up for a tumbleweed moment, the questions started trickling in and eventually I had more than enough. As I read them through, a few clear themes began to develop.
Today, I’m tackling those that focus on the subject of motherhood….
What has motherhood taught you above all else?
That I am stronger and more resilient than I could ever have imagined. Motherhood was thrust upon me at a time when I was preparing to live a very different life. The circumstances were far from ideal. I was living at home, waitressing to put myself through college and studying A Levels as a mature student. My relationship with Mr L.A. was far from solid and unshakeable and to top it all off, my father was dying of cancer.
Izzy will be 12 in January and when I look at her now it’s hard to imagine the initial despair I felt when I first saw that positive pregnancy test. Somehow, I found a way to make things work. I didn’t do it alone, but I was the driving force, and to be honest, I didn’t know I had it in me.
I kept going to college. I worked hard at being a good student and a good mum. When my dad passed away, I picked myself up and continued moving forward. We had another baby! We got married! We literally built a life from a moment that made me feel like everything was ending.
How on earth did you juggle your MA with motherhood and come out with your sanity in tact?
Good question! The year I spent studying for my MA was one of the most intense periods of my life so far. When I started, Isabel and Jesse were five and one respectively. On a practical level, we relied on a lot of childcare. Jess had a full-time place at nursery on campus and his sister was at afterschool club until 6pm, 5 days a week. Drop-offs and pick-ups were something of a juggling act, especially as we did everything on foot and without a car. I would often finish in the library at 4.30pm, walk up the hill to collect Jesse from nursery, walk a further 2 miles to collect Izzy from school before finally heading home to do dinner, bath and bed. It definitely kept me fit!
Being a student parent forced me to develop an excellent work ethic from the very first day of fresher’s week. Even with an abundance of childcare in place, my study time felt limited. Whenever I was away from the kids, I was incredibly focused and I continued working for at least a couple of hours every evening after they went to bed.
I’ve always been a very organised person and my time at university only served to increase my love of lists and deepen my attention to detail. I was constantly researching my next assignment while editing the last, finishing next week’s reading on top of this week’s and writing revision notes as I went along. It became second nature because it felt like the only way to survive. I lived in perpetual fear of the children getting sick, so I always aimed to be a few steps ahead of any deadlines, just in case.
Outside of university, I had an amazing support network in the form of Mr L.A. and our parents. I also carried on working part-time while I was studying and having one afternoon a week where I had to switch off and focus on something else was great for my mental health.
Maintaining a relaxed approach to how I ran our home definitely helped too. Housework simply wasn’t a priority. Unless we needed to eat off a surface, it rarely saw a cloth! It might sound a bit grim, but we didn’t die and I got a degree. Whatever gets you through.
What would you say your greatest joys and struggles of parenting are?
Now that Isabel and Jesse are a little older, I would say my greatest joy is getting to know the people they’re becoming. I am endlessly fascinated by their likes and dislikes, the things they’re passionate about and the dreams and aspirations they’re starting to develop.
It’s scary at times. I feel like the work we put in when they were little has to prove itself in the coming years. Will they be good people? Have we given them a solid foundation from which to make the right decisions? But mostly, it’s exciting.
My biggest struggles would be the usual maternal guilt, keeping on top of the admin children generate, Jesse’s stubbornness and those pesky tweenage hormones that have recently started raging.
How do you fit work in around school? How has this changed as your kids have grown up?
Both Mr L.A. and I are self-employed which gives us a great deal of flexibility in terms of our working hours. I tend to write fairly intensely between 8.30am and 3.30pm while the children are at school. When I’m particularly busy, I’ll work in the evening after they’ve gone to bed and, if I have a big deadline, I might do a little at the weekend too.
My business has grown fairly organically as my children have gotten older. I’ve gone from doing 5-10 hours per week for a single client when the children were little to around 35-40 hours per week for multiple clients now both children are in school full-time.
It’s worth bearing in mind I already had children when I started my business, so I’ve consciously tried to create something that aligns with the demands of family life almost perfectly. I’ve always felt the ‘limitations’ of having children are fairly fixed. I can’t make the school day longer and half term will always happen, so it would be pointless to build something that doesn’t work within those constraints.
This, rather than financial gain, has been the driving force behind most of the decisions I’ve made in my career. Similarly, doing work I enjoy AND being able to pick my kids up from school is what makes me feel successful, not money. I don’t bring home mega bucks, but I earn enough to make it worthwhile and experience tells me there’s the potential for even more growth as the kids get older.
For more on this subject, listen to my interview with Steve Folland on the Being Freelance podcast here.
What’s your favourite way to spend time with your family?
It’s hard to pick a favourite. Any time that’s completely dedicated to the children and free from distractions tends to feel pretty special. I like eating out, trips to the seaside and pottering together in the kitchen. At the moment, board games feature heavily in our family life. I also like lazy afternoons spent watching movies together, especially films from our childhood the kids have never seen before.
What are your hopes for your kids?
Any ideas I might have about the children’s futures are all pretty abstract. I hope we’re able to give them a life of opportunity, that they have the confidence to pursue their ambitions and that family will always be important to them. I hope they’ll look out for each other and that their memories of childhood will be overwhelmingly positive.
I hope they’ll always think of us as supportive of their life choices. I hope they’ll be kind, caring and considerate human beings. I hope they are accepting, both of themselves and others. I hope they read a lot of books, watch a lot of movies and listen to a lot of music. I hope they travel often and phone home once in a while. I hope they make good friends. I hope they fall in and out of love without too much heartache. I hope we’ve screwed them up just the right amount to make them interesting.
- Congratulations if you’ve made it this far. Thank you to those of you who asked such insightful questions. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about motherhood in such detail before!
Love Audrey xxx