Ms I Can Do It All (my thoughts on Emotional Labour)

Or…why I am my own worst enemy.

It has been a busy month – World Book Day, International Women’s Day London Book Fair and my daughter’s birthday. For a freelance book publicist, this is a lot of work in a very short space of time and include party planning for my daughter’s birthday, a lot of mental energy required. With my husband also working in publishing, it means that both our schedules are stretched.

Last week I found myself getting more and more angry with my husband. He was just getting himself ready for the Book Fair – sorting out his clothes, paperwork etc… he leaves on the Saturday and returns on the Thursday evening. Whereas I was commuting between London and our home in Leicestershire, staying overnight just twice. This was in a bid to give our daughter a little stability, but also because I didn’t want to be away from her for too long.

My busy London week meant I spent a lot of time at the train station
My busy London week meant I spent a lot of time at the train station

That isn’t something to get cross about until I realised that I was also organising childcare, dog care, cleaning the house, organising all my daughters extra curricular activities and getting all the laundry done so that she had everything she needed a week in advance. Plus getting myself prepared for the most important week for my business.

Technically it wasn’t his fault, it is just the way our household has been run. I ‘semi-retired’ when we moved to the countryside to settle Amy into the area and I wasn’t earning much. It made sense for me to take on the running of the house while he was at work. Now though… my business is growing year on year and I’m still doing the grunt work in our home. We hadn’t really discussed this and how he could start to help – I assumed he would realise and he assumed that I was handling it. He hadn’t appreciated my workload and the mental energy required.

Commuting to and from London during the week meant long hours...
Commuting to and from London during the week meant long hours…

I wouldn’t say there was a row but I simmered about it before telling him that I’d had enough. I told him that I couldn’t believe that he was just going to leave on the Saturday and assume that it was okay. He was shocked at my outburst but immediately offered to help. But guess what I did? Yup, I refused and told him I could do it. Argh!!!! No wonder he was confused.

Am I the only one that feels by admitting that I need help that it makes me a failure as a wife and a mother? Because that is how I felt – I needed help because I was drowning under the To Do list and needed a lifeboat.

Fed Up by Gemma Hartley is worth a look at after reading the article I mention
Fed Up by Gemma Hartley is worth a look at after reading the article I mention

If I’m not explaining this feeling very well then I fully recommend that you have a look at this article by Gemma Hartley about ‘Emotional Labour‘. It sums up everything I feel/felt. I even forwarded the article to my husband to help clarify my thoughts. (yes, he did read it…eventually)

So after a week away, we have come up with a new way of working our household which involves:

  1. A shared calendar – I now put all of Amy’s activities, school trips and my work meetings in one online calendar that we can both see.
  2. List sharing – one for food, another for birthdays etc… with initials by who is doing what.
  3. At the weekend we plan our meals for the week – this is really useful because it reminds us who will be home or if there is a late meeting etc…
  4. Job delegation – what we expect the other to do during the week. I’ll do the laundry but he will help with the ironing, takes the bins out and cook dinner on a Thursday. (Weekends – we both cook)
  5. Sharing the cleaning schedule – I follow the Organised Mum Method (do give it a go – it has changed my life) and he is now aware of what needs to happen each day.
  6. I will tell him about incoming work deadlines so he is aware that I may be looking for extra support at home

None of these are really that major but I do think that I need to be able to ask for help and learn to accept it. We are learning that our roles in the home are ever-changing and that we need to take a moment every so often to make sure the other is okay. I also need to get over the fact that a lot of time, I will be the one that says what needs doing because I’m at home. My husband isn’t a mindreader and I need to remember that!

Other reads:

World Book Day – why reading is my joy

Why I love to read…plus a book review or two…

I thought that as it is World Book Day I would pop down a few thoughts about why I love to read and also share my latest reviews on a couple of books that I’ve read. I should also point out that I work as a freelance book publicist – I work with books on a daily basis! I’ve worked with fiction and non-fiction authors and I’m in awe of anyone that can write a book. I struggle with writing a blog post, let alone an 80,000 word manuscript!

Books on the windowsill
Nothing beats a good read…

My favourite reads have changed as I have got older and I’m noticing that I’m really enjoying autobiographies at the moment (Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Craig Brown’s Ma’am Darling are two of my recent favourites) because I think I’m a) really nosy and love hearing about other people and their lives b) looking for inspiration within my own life – who can I learn from and where will that take me. One of my reasons for loving to read is that you never know where you’ll end up. I like to read for inspiration and motivation.

However I will always love Jane Austen (Persuasion is my favourite) as I can remember reading her books as a teenager and wondering when my Captain Wentworth or Mr Darcy will arrive. I’d literally go walking round the fields near our home hoping to bump into a wonderful man! (it never happened…) Her books are definitely the ones that I reach for when I’m seeking comfort.

There really is something amazing about starting a book and then not wanting to stop reading it. It is really magical and doesn’t happen all the time. It happened for me with Harry Potter, His Dark Materials and a lot of the JoJo Moyes and Maeve Binchy books. I’m a huge chick lit fan – nothing wrong with an Aga saga from Joanna Trollope either! Or those one tales that take you to a different era like William Boyd’s Any Human Heart (I also really enjoyed Restless) or allow you to walk the streets of Edinburgh in Ian Rankin’s detective novels.

I really enjoyed Still Me - a triumphant return since the disappointment of After You
I really enjoyed Still Me – a triumphant return since the disappointment of After You

Which nicely segues into my first review: Still Me by Jojo Moyes (Penguin Books)! This is the last of the Lou Clark trilogy (the first was Me After You followed by After You) and I have to admit that I was so disappointed with After You that I wasn’t interested in reading this book. However I kept hearing people around me discussing it and when I saw a copy in my local library I decided to give it a go. I’m so pleased that I did.

The book starts with its heroine Lou Clark embarking on a new career in New York as a personal assistant to the new wife of a very wealthy man. Here Moyes really excels with a glimpse into the super rich life and I’m a sucker for anything based in New York. As a reader you get to attend these affluent and over the top galas/events alongside the characters and learn about working as a companion where you have to wear a uniform! I loved these bits, especially the complicated wife, Agnes. As always nothing is what it seems and Lou is struggling: finding her feet, juggling a long distance relationship and the continual grieving she feels for Will Traynor – her first real love. (see Me After You) I really enjoyed the book, in fact I’d recommend that you skip After You and go from the first book to the third. You could also happily read this without reading the other two. As you would expect with a classy writer like Moyes, there are moments of hilarity, heartbreak and escape. I loved it.

This is a brilliant concept novel.

The next book I wanted to mention was Vox by Christina Dalcher (HQ Publishing). This isn’t a novel that I would normally read but my husband gave it to me as he had heard good things. He was right. It is really good and very addictive. It is written in present day America except that women are only allowed to speak 100 words a day. That applies to girls too. (Yup, even 5 year olds) They wear a bracelet/counter that gives them an electric shock every time they go over the limit. The shocks get more painful with every utterance. Women are no longer allowed a passport, a job and must learn to obey their husbands. Homosexuality and infidelity is a sin, as is sex outside of marriage. Punishments involve televised public shaming and labour camps/prison. The idea being that society was happier when women ‘knew their place’. It is completely fascinating because there are times when I thought that it could happen today. Scary!

I would recommend both books

As a concept, the book is brilliant and very well written. You are on the edge of your seat the entire time however I was really disappointed in the ending – it felt rushed as if the author had run out of steam or had reached their word limit.

Other books that may be of interest:

Lastly, for me World Book Day is about celebrating books and encouraging people to read more. It doesn’t have to be about the costumes or who reads the most but instead about starting the conversation. I love asking people what they are currently reading – the answer is always surprising! So…what are YOU reading at the moment?

World Book Day is about celebrating books!

My #10yearchallenge

Photos of me from 2009 and 2019
My #10yearchallenge

The #10yearchallenge has been doing the rounds on social media and instead of me thinking about how much I have changed (weirdly in the photos, I don’t look that much different except the extra lines around my eyes, I now have better eyebrows and can use a filter!), it has made me think about what I have achieved in those 10 years and what I would like to achieve in the next ten.

In 2009 I was 28, organising my wedding to Jonathan (we married in the August), tentatively dipping my toe into freelance life working 2 days a week for myself and I’d just bought my first house in the countryside. It was a time of implementing the plans that I had dreamt about through university and my first few years working. My ambition in my career lessened as I wanted to find a way to pay my mortgage but having a baby was on my horizon.

In 2019, I am still married to Jonathan (phew!) and we are looking forward to celebrating our 10th Wedding Anniversary this year, we have a 7 year old daughter and live in our dream house in the English countryside. I work from home, still freelancing with a business that is growing. The #10yearchallenge has made me realise that yes there have been many bumps along the way but what I have worked really hard for, is the life I am currently living and want to continue living.

However, I’m always wanting to move forward and I’m now wondering about the next 10 years. I would like to keep my constants – Jonathan, Amy, health etc…and I’ve been working on a vision board for 2019 but actually I want to look ahead and set goals for the next decade. Not many and they won’t be specific – more words then anything else.

To help me with this, I created a Word Cloud using www.wordclouds.com as it was easy to just write in words as they popped into my head. It is free and very simple to use. I imagine, those of you who are more creative than me will be able to create a beautiful image!

For me, the word that kept coming back was Adventure. I want to have adventures with my family, my husband and if its not too creepy, myself. That doesn’t mean expensive long haul holidays, but I think more getting out of the comfort of the life that I have created in the past ten years and experiencing more.

Here is my 10 year Word Cloud.

My ten year word cloud
I created this Word Cloud using https://www.wordclouds.com

Anyway, that’s my take on the #10yearchallenge. What’s yours?

Happy New Year!

I posted this on my Instagram account on New Years Day
I posted this on my Instagram account on New Years Day

Hello! Apologies for the non-posting but I decided to have a break from the blog and actually most social media over the school holidays. It has been a brilliant way to discover more about what I want to blog about this year but also my plans for the future.

When I started the blog, I was passionate about searching for solutions and inspirations for parents who want to work and be a hands on parent. I actually posted about this on my private Facebook page and was surprised at some of the negativity that I received. I think that I was a little naive! However, what it has taught me is the cliche that I really should follow my own path, not be concerned about what other people may think and to enjoy it. These past few weeks away from the laptop has shown me that I not only really love my job but I am also enjoying blogging and using Instagram.

Instagram post!

I have chosen not to get caught up with the numbers as well, or trying to be somebody or something that I’m not. What I am going to continue is to offer advice and solutions that have worked for me on this precarious juggling act of work and parenthood. I’ll also share my failures as well. No one gets it right everytime.

I’m really excited about the opportunities that have already started to open up with this blog and I have fantastic parents to feature that share the feat of a work/life balance. Here’s to a great 2019!

A new tradition for our family this Christmas

Have you heard of Jólabókaflóð? Please tell me you haven’t because otherwise I am going to be seriously embarrassed! I’ve worked in book publishing for around 15 years now and my husband…a lot longer!  Neither of us had heard about this brilliant tradition that runs in Iceland every Christmas Eve. 

Simply put, Jólabókaflóð means The Book Flood and every Christmas Eve you celebrate by gifting each other a book that you then read that evening. Think hygge but so much more – I’m planning chocolates, the woodburner on, fairy lights and lots of blankets and cushions. Amy is also gifted new pyjamas on Christmas Eve. We are going to be really cosy! 

Book reading with a fire. Cosy.

As you would expect, we are big readers in our house – we love books, love talking about them and sharing reads with our friends and family. This Icelandic tradition was made for us, especially as in the last fews years we have been to the local Christmas Eve church service which is sadly now a few days earlier. This meant that our evening was suddenly free and I didn’t want us to just watch television. So instead we will be doing this! 

I can’t decide if Jonathan and I should get new books (my to be read pile is huge and I’ve asked for a few more titles for Christmas) but I have ordered my daughter this book – Pages & Co by Anna James. It looks beautiful AND it has brilliant reviews. I know Amy will love it and I can’t wait to kickstart this new tradition in our family.  

I have bought Amy this book for our Jólabókaflóð

What festive traditions do you have in your family? 

To find out more about  Jólabókaflóð then please look here and here.