Andrea Mara

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Balancing On One Foot

School settling for my junior infant is still a challenge, and I’m exhausted thinking about it and trying to manage it, so like last week, I’m posting about something positive instead. This week the positive thing is work – it’s not that the work itself is different but the time in which I do the work is changed utterly. On paper, it doesn’t sound like much – two hours forty minutes has become just under four hours – but in real life, having done it for one full week now, it’s incredible.

Instead of rushing though everything, I can allocate time – two hours to this, then one hour to that, and the final hour to the other thing. I can research in a calm, measured way – frantic researching just doesn’t work. I know, I did it for a year, and it always meant going back that night to take time to do it properly.

I can take the time to look into new avenues of work, something I haven’t been able to do in months and months.

I can mostly wrap up everything during my four hours, and keep afternoons freer than before, meaning less multi-tasking and less snapping. In theory at least.

I can stop and make coffee and put on a wash without watching the clock.

And I can reclaim night-time for writing fiction and reading fiction and lots and lots of watching fiction.

(And of course, the very act of writing this down tempts fate – no doubt now that I have more time for work, and because I’ve been foolish enough to write it down on a page, work will dry up immediately. So I’m writing this brackety bit as a reverse tempt fate.)

lap top - Office Mum

When you’re used to cramming everything into two hours forty minutes, it’s amazing what you can fit into four hours. And it’s quite surreal that school looks after the kids during that time – having paid for childcare for so many years, and having assumed pre-redunancny that I’d continue to do so for many years to come, this new world where my kids go to school and I work while they’re there is taking getting used to. In a good way.

Eighteen months ago, my lovely outplacement career coach Dearbhalla asked me to picture myself doing what I’d do in a perfect world. I said I’d give anything to be sitting at my laptop, at my kitchen table, writing for a living. Then I laughed at how silly it sounded and got back to updating my CV. I  don’t know how long it will last, but just like appreciating my eight-year-old, I’m stopping to smell the roses.

And of course, it’s not really balance because it’s not work-life balance, it’s just the work part. The life part is still all over the place. The early mornings and afternoons and evenings are hectic and fraught and emotions are running high. We’ve never had a back to school like this before, and I’m singing Wake Me Up When September Ends A LOT.

The shopping list I sent to my husband this evening sums up how the week's been going
The shopping list I sent to my husband this evening sums up how the week’s been going

But maybe balance doesn’t come all in one go – maybe you get one part working, and it frees you up to focus on the other part. That’s what I’m holding onto anyway. For balance.

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