Andrea Mara

Official website

Office Mum Stories: Back for More

Once upon a time, six years ago this month in fact, I spotted a newspaper feature on an old school pal. The article was about her career – she was and is a successful Qualitative Researcher with three kids, a husband, and a home in San Francisco. What struck me though, was that while she had climbed the ladder, she is (I’m sure she won’t mind me saying this) a very normal person. She’s not Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer, and for me, her story was all the more interesting for it. I liked reading about someone relatable – someone who literally came from the same place as I did, and faced all the same challenges that come with juggling career and kids. So I asked her if she would be interested in doing an interview for my blog. She said yes, and a four-year interview series born.

Ironically for a series about balancing work and home, it was when I switched from my office job to self-employment that I ran out of time and could no longer keep all the balls in the air.

I was writing books, writing newspaper features, blogging, and then dropping everything at lunchtime each day to run to pick up the kids. Some thing had to give, and the Office Mum Stories series was the first casualty.

Fast forward another few years, and it was time for something else to give. I was working every minute I could find, rushing the kids’ bedtime so I could get back down to my laptop, and crying over my tax return when I realised how little came of all of it. I was working a thirty-five hour week with no childcare, and I wasn’t sure why anymore.

There was satisfaction, yes, when a piece of work was delivered to deadline and in good nick. But the time it all took was sucking the joy out of it, and relentlessly rushing bedtime to get back to the laptop didn’t sit well.

So the next casualty was freelance writing. And it’s good. Most of the time. Sometimes I feel guilty – I spent so long building up a fledgling freelance career only to give it all up, just like that. But mostly I feel better. More focussed, less stressed. And no longer rushing bedtime (well, any more than the next person).

And it struck me as I was filling out this Q&A about writing, that I miss my own Q&A, the interview series I spent so long putting together. And then I figured, why not put it back in place? So that’s what I’ve decided to do, for a little while at least. I’ll share existing interviews and I’d love to put together some new ones. If you’d like to take part, email me at and I’ll send you the details. It’s an email with questions on childcare, work, hours, flexibility, and thoughts on glass ceilings and the annoying but seemingly unavoidable topic of guilt.

I’m curious still about how other people manage – what works, what doesn’t, which hours are best, how things change as kids get older. Since having kids, I’ve worked full-time, worked a four-day-week, worked three days in the office with one from home, worked an early-start early-finish, stayed home full-time for a few months, and finally, my current set-up, working from home while my kids are at school. I feel like I’ve seen it from all sides but the conversation never gets old. So if you’re out there, tell me your story, and if you’ve already done an interview but your story has changed, I’d love to hear that too.

For now, here are some of the eighty or so existing interviews:





Click the button below to sign up to my Penguin newsletter.