Work Life Balance As A Mum, Is it Possible?

Work Life Balance As A Mum, Is it Possible?

Career or kids? Is it possible to have it all? There are a hundred different ways to balance work and home life and my story is just one example.

I Wanted To Be A Full Time Mum

I have always worked from home. Very early on, I decided I wanted to be a stay-at-home mum. My ex-husband travelled internationally and was away throughout the working week.  I didn’t want the kids to grow up with both of us working all the time. With the birth of my first child, I happily waved goodbye to my career, my salary, my company car and became a full-time mum.

Over the last nineteen years, I’ve popped out four delightful kids. Earning money from my kitchen table (although not a lot of it) has enabled me to be there in the early years and then after school. I have been able to share in the joy of Christmas school plays, attend parents’ evenings and not miss out on any significant events in any of my kids’ lives. I’ve had the time to prepare family meals and take on school arty, crafty projects with enthusiasm. Our weekends have always been relaxed because I did not have to cram every hairdressing, banking, dental and doctor appointment into the nooks and crannies of time. In essence, it’s been stress-free. The downside? Well of course, there is always a downside and it is that I have not fulfilled any personal career, financial or travel ambitions. I admire, greatly, the women that have.

All I Need Is A Fool Proof Mummy Plan For A Great Work Life Balance?

However, nine months ago, with all four kids in full-time education, I decided that it was the perfect time to get a ‘proper job’.  The kind where you have to turn up on time and can’t leave when you want to. I picked teaching. I thought that getting into teaching, rather than business, would be simple.  Particularly as the country is desperate for secondary school teachers, but no…it was challenging and arduous. There were lengthy application forms and personal statements to complete, interviews with exams, teaching assessments and role-plays as well as literacy and numeracy exams to pass. I did it all, and in September, I began my Initial Teacher Training (a combination of in-school and full-time university hours).

I lasted 3 weeks.

To ensure a healthy work life balance as a mum who did not want to ‘drop the ball’ with the kids, I had prepared everything perfectly: laundry, meals, cleaning, ironing, bed-changing, school drop-offs and pick-ups, after-school clubs, bus passes for the teens, shopping and everything else we all know it takes to run a house with four kids in it. I was super organised with almost military precision. Clothes hung in my wardrobe in colour coordinated order, the house was immaculate, and my diary was planned to within an inch of its life. My home office was ready for all the university homework, future lesson planning and marking.  My freezer was also full of pre-cooked meals. I left the house at 7.00am at the latest and got home at around 5.30pm. I worked all evening, once the little ones were asleep, and every weekend too.

The Plan For A Great Work Life Balance Didnt Go To Plan

I missed my third child’s first day of school.  I can tell you that FaceTime doesn’t ‘cut the mustard’ when you’re feeling guilty. By the time three weeks had passed my house was a catastrophe.  The kids’ routines were all over the place, and I was exhausted. Trying to actually build a career, do Masters level studies and be the same mum that I was before was just impossible. I couldn’t be ‘less’ of a mum, if that makes sense.  I’d spent nineteen years parenting in a particular way and being ‘less of a parent’ is like asking someone to ‘dumb down’.

It’s just not possible, no matter how hard you try and plan for a better work life balance as a mum.  Not in my case anyway. The kids could not adjust either. I have always been diligent so I couldn’t perform less well at work and ‘drop a few balls’ there.  So the balls that I had to drop were the housework jobs, stress-free evenings and weekends, being on top of school admin, sleep, laundry and….looking after my kids.

“One-half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it” – Sidney Howard

I knew I had to stop. We were all unhappy. Part of me hurt that I had jumped through so many hoops to be accepted.  I desperately wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I wanted the career, the job security (the pension); and I desperately wanted to work with children and make a difference. But it was all at the expense of my personal sanity and my family’s happiness.

Trying to have it all is, in my opinion, un-achievable. Work life balance as a mum is near impossible, as something is always sacrificed. I could have undertaken a part-time job and managed, but a career, for me, was simply unattainable. The relief of quitting teaching was palpable. I will miss, however, just being me and being pretty good at something other than parenting; even if it was only for three little weeks.

Today, I find myself sat back at my kitchen table, working from home around the kids.  Just as I always did. I will never be rich, but I will always be happy.

If you enjoyed this article, please read our article on work-life balance from a father’s perspective: 4 Tips on How to Achieve a Great Work-Life Balance

Tips For Travelling With Kids – The Essential Guide

Tips For Travelling With Kids – The Essential Guide

Travelling with kids can be a total nightmare or a walk in the park.  Preparation is definitely the key to drama-free travelling.


Under 10 Minutes, When Travelling With Kids? Not A Chance

So you’re hitting the road for an impromptu trip or a holiday that has been planned for months?  Preparing well for car, rail or aeroplane travel when you have small people in-tow, is vital if you want a stress-free trip. Gone are the days when you can simply pack up your backpack or handbag, in under 10 minutes, with only life’s essentials such as your passport, money, toiletries, phone, earphones and book. Of course, you’ll still need all that stuff, but you’ll need a lot more if you’re going to have happy kids and a nightmare-free journey.

Tips For Travelling With Kids Looked Very Different Before The Pre-Mobile Phone Era

Back in the day when wi-fi didn’t exist, and mobile phones could only call and text, preparing for a journey with toddlers meant that entertainment was not readily available on a screen. You had to pack colouring books and pencils, travel games, reading books and more. You needed enough to rotate over the hours so that your little one did not turn into a monster because of mind-numbing boredom.

Nowadays, most people prepare ‘phones or iPads as sources of entertainment, making sure that there are enough videos/games downloaded to see the kids through the journey. This is great, and I am the first to make use of modern technology, but too much screen time can cause little ones to become totally overstimulated creating the kind of meltdown you don’t want to happen at 35,000 feet above the Alps. Best to add in a variety of non-screen activities your child likes and to eke them out over the travel time.

The Practical Tips When Travelling With Kids

The bag you pack for your child should, therefore, have enough activities to keep them out of mischief. But what about the practical items you might need? Here’s a good list of things to consider:

  • Change of clothes (including layers and warm socks)
  • Water bottle
  • Comforter (favourite teddy bear/soft toy/dummy/blanket)
  • Nappies/underwear/travel changing mat if appropriate
  • Ready-made baby formula/bottles if appropriate
  • Baby wipes/muslin cloths/tissues
  • Calpol/ Ibuprofen sachets and spoon/plastic syringe and any other medicines
  • Little first aid kit for any bumps or scrapes

I’d also recommend packing one bag for all your kid’s travel needs. It’s a cute idea to give them their own little bag or case to carry.  But I guarantee you’ll end up lugging it around for them.  So leave it at home, it’s easier to have one bag to take, than two or three or more. Also, the more bags you have to keep track of, the easier it is to lose one; and it’s every parent’s nightmare to lose ‘Bunny the Rabbit’ or ‘blankie.’

If you are travelling by ‘plane, and your kids are old enough, a top tip is to take lollipops for taking off and landing. They’re handy for keeping the children calm and helping to banish any earaches they might get. I would not, otherwise, overdo the use of sweeties for keeping them occupied. You’ll end up regretting the miss-use of chocolate when the sugar rush hits and you’re doing 130 km/h in the outside lane of the A10 in France or sat next to the grumpy guy on the coach. If you can, aim to eat regular meals and pack fruit, sandwiches and healthy snacks.  Although that doesn’t mean you can’t have your airport breakfast beer if you want to!

If There Is Only One Thing You Remember 

Finally, it’s good to remember that everything takes so much longer with small people.

Ushering the kids through airport terminals, up and down escalators and moving walkways takes double or triple the time. Then there are the bathroom stops to consider, wrangling of pushchairs and dealing with tired little legs. While us adults can move quickly and grab food on the go, the same cannot be said for our 3-year-olds.  So factoring in a lot of extra time is sensible. There’s nothing worse than trying to leg it with your brood to get to the last gate call or to the bus stop on time, with everyone crying. Definitely a scenario to avoid.

By thoughtfully preparing everything in advance not only will your children have a stress-free trip but so will you; ready to start the weekend or holiday relaxed, happy and raring to go.  

My Premature Baby and the SCBU – Part Two

My Premature Baby and the SCBU – Part Two

My baby was born at 33 weeks, and for the next month, home was the Special Care Baby Unit

Beeps Still Remind Me Of My Premature Baby Experience

The Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) is, indeed, a special place. When your baby is born too soon, and you need to check-in and stay a-while, you must learn to live in what can only be described as a bubble. The outside world seems so far away, behind the double swing doors, security cameras and buzzers and, of course, the bleep, bleep bleeping of machines that are monitoring your tiny, precious babies 24/7. It’s a strangely quiet place, apart from the beeps, running water (everyone is constantly hand-washing), and the whispering voices of nurses, doctors and families going about doing everything they can for these tiny, helpless babies.

He Was Just So Tiny

Our baby checked in 6 minutes after being born, which is quicker than any top hotel can get you a bed. When I first saw him, I was shocked by just how minuscule and fragile he was. I had been under general anaesthetic during the birth, so seeing him all wired up and in a sealed incubator, save the hand holes, was tough. The machines were, indeed, beeping, and he was in a room all alone. No other babies – just him. He sported only a nappy that looked ridiculously too big, and I worried that he might be cold. It’s mad what runs through your mind in the middle of a family crisis.

My Premature Baby Needed To Be Resuscitated Three Times

I learnt that this room was a holding room – the place where the babies came straight after delivery. It was here that the tests were taking place, assessments being done, and decisions being made. It was here where my panic set in. Would he be ok? Had he suffered any lasting damage? Would he even survive? He had already been resuscitated three times. I felt clueless, helpless and terrified. I was at the mercy of the SCBU nurses and hubby and I were powerless. We couldn’t even hold our son as it deprives the baby of much-needed energy. We could touch him through the holes. That was it.

All That Mattered Was My Premature Baby

Those first 36 hours were simply awful. No real news of how things were going to pan out, just lots of touching through holes and worrying. We did get to hold him after 24 hours for a brief skin-to-skin session, which was the most wonderful feeling. The emotion of that moment was overwhelming. I was still hooked up to a drip, could hardly walk and felt physically battered but when you have a child who is very vulnerable and whom you need to fight for, it’s incredible how you can muster up a ton of resilience.

I Found My Inner Super Hero 

We were powerless in terms of decision making, but I was very much in demand. The baby needed milk, and I was the only one who had it! So, I discovered the joys of expressing with hospital-grade electric machines while hooked up to a mobile drip (I can’t even remember what that was for) and being injected by midwives every few hours with something or another that I needed. It was a tough job, but I put on my virtual super-hero cape and got down to business. I cried a lot while doing it and I felt like a cow but wanted to be by my son’s side – not in this little room all by myself.

I Needed To Take A Break For My Premature Baby

After what seemed like hours in there on the third day, I snapped. The drip was gone, but the jabs were still happening, and I couldn’t cope any more.  Hubby packed up my room on the labour ward, and I checked out of Hotel Hospital. I went home (I hadn’t been there in a week) and spent an hour with my other two children. I showered, put proper clothes on and some make-up. By this point, I’d so overdone the walking around that I couldn’t walk anymore. We went back to the hospital, and a wheelchair was required. Those corridors are very long!

I Was Ready To Switch Gears

From this moment on, I was back to being strong and calm. I did what I had to do over the next month. Life also became a little easier when our boy had been moved to the baby room with other little survivors. I became the queen of double-pumping, and with the help of my mum, hubby, a brilliant local taxi-driver and some good mates I was able to juggle two kids at home and a baby in SCBU.

My Premature Baby Couldnt Feed

He wasn’t going to die and there was no lasting damage. He just needed to grow. At 33 weeks, babies do not have the sucking reflex and so he was fed via gastric tube. We learnt how to feed him this way, how to take care of all his needs and how to bathe him. The nurses were incredible, and we owe them everything.

The SCBU Did Not Let Me Leave

If you want to check out of a hotel, you can just go. Checking out of SCBU is harder. The baby needs to feed on the breast or bottle and be a certain weight. If you don’t tick these boxes, you don’t get to leave. My boy would not breast-feed. I tried and tried – so I was doomed to months ahead of expressing like a cow, almost hourly at first. It was not easy, but it was all worth it. Over the years, he grew into a super big boy with no health worries at all. We feel very blessed.

One month, minus one day, after his traumatic entry into the world, the three of us left the hospital.

It was one of the best days of my life.


  • My Premature Baby – Part One Here.
  • The Realities of a C-Section from a Father’s Eye Here.

My Premature Baby at 41 years young – Part One

My Premature Baby at 41 years young – Part One

Being pregnant at 41 was enough of a shock let alone giving birth prematurely to the tiniest human I had ever seen.

Having A Premature Baby At 32 Weeks

Being pregnant at 41 was enough of a shock let alone giving birth prematurely to the tiniest human I had ever seen.

When my waters hit the kitchen floor it was just gone midnight. It wasn’t really so much of a ‘hit’ but, rather, a bit of an unexciting trickle. Ordinarily I’d have been happy at the sign that my baby’s arrival was imminent, but not this time. I was 32 weeks pregnant and my heart sank as I was about to give birth to a premature baby.

Time For A Cup Of Tea

I stood alone for a while and then made a cup of tea. I knew life was about to get crazy and I needed that quiet time to build my inner strength. It took me 20 minutes to get my head ready for what was about to happen.

Until this point, my third pregnancy had been uneventful except for the fact that it was 12 years since I’d last given birth and this baby was totally unplanned. I was now considered a ‘geriatric mother” (a delightful term for anyone over the age of 35). At 32 weeks pregnant, I still had the ‘glow’, shiny hair and lovely skin and I hadn’t even thought about nesting. There was shopping left to do and I was not in the slightest bit ready or organised to give birth.

Not being ready was merely an inconvenience. It didn’t really matter. What mattered was 32 weeks was way too early. At 32 weeks pregnant your baby is simply not ‘cooked’ enough and this midnight event, in the kitchen, was not good news.

Time To Get This Premature Baby Delivered?

I woke up hubby and the two kids who were, sensibly, fast asleep. We dressed and went straight to hospital. I walked into that hospital a radiant, confident and strong woman and walked out, a week later, a little bit broken.

The hospital staff took great care of me, very quickly, upon our arrival. I had steroid jabs in each thigh quicker than you could utter the words ‘premature baby lungs’, and everything was tinged with urgency. The delivery room was busy with people in white coats and I didn’t really know what was going on. As it transpired, nothing was going on. No labour. No baby.

It stayed that way for the next 4 nights. The policy was to do everything possible to keep the baby in. When the baby’s heartbeat started running way too fast for much too long and my temperature rocketed, that policy soon changed from ‘keep the baby in’ to ‘get the baby out’ and…quickly.

My Premature Baby Had To Be Resuscitated Three Times

The panic started, the room filled up and then we were on the move. Almost immediately, the noise stopped, and the bright lights went out.

I can tell you that I had an anaphylactic shock from one of the intravenous antibiotics used to reduce my temperature. An emergency c-section, under general anaesthetic, ensued in order to save my baby. He was born ‘flat’ and resuscitated three times before being admitted into SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit). I was out of it and missed the whole thing.

I Felt Detached 

When I woke up from the anaesthetic, hubby told me we had a beautiful boy and that he was in an incubator just next door. It took me 6 hours to go and see him. I have no idea why, as I felt all over the place.  The pain was incredible and I was also exhausted. I drank lots of tea, my very British answer to all personal trauma which also included having to express colostrum for a baby I hadn’t yet met…I felt detached. Also, as a side-note, it’s really hard to express colostrum. You have to do it with your fingers, and it takes ages. No one tells you any of this. It was the first of many new experiences to come my way.

Those feelings of detachment went away quickly but I still didn’t feel that same instant rush of love I did when I delivered (awake and naturally) my other two babies. When I saw him for the first time, I was only allowed to wiggle my fingers through the incubator holes. He was so tiny, and he was wired up to machines. I knew he was mine (because he was really dark, like hubby) but I didn’t feel like he was mine.

Every Premature Baby Deserves A Cape

But then came the moment that changed everything.

Skin-to-skin. A joyous moment of holding and feeling your baby (held like a kangaroo in a pouch) for the first time. It was then that I felt like his mummy, like fighting for him and was overcome with total and immense love. 24 hours after giving birth, I held my premature baby for the first time.

Welcome to the world my tiny, super-survivor baby. You already deserve a cape.  Read part two of my story here.