Andrea Mara

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Diary of an Out-of-Office Mum

Day 1 not in the office – Tuesday May 5th 

The kids were off school today, and it was a very normal day. I’ve had dozens of days like this, when I’ve taken annual leave during school holidays, and this didn’t feel too different. No big “shock” moment. That’s good.

We went to the playground – they ran around in t-shirts despite the freezing wind, while I trudged after them, hugging myself to stay warm. But I did feel virtuous – they got fresh air and exercise, so I must be a good mum.

The halo didn’t take long to tarnish. When I went to make dinner, the only food in the house was some chicken, a red pepper, and, inexplicably, some Gorgonzola. So I googled, found a recipe for a Gorgonzola based pasta sauce, and got to work. The output was truly the most horrible meal I’ve ever made. There’s no photographic evidence of this hideousness. But yes, big fat fail on day one.

By the time the kids were in bed, and I sat down to finish an article due this week, I was shattered. This is going to be hard. But I’m determined not to make judgements based on day one.

I do usually like to do a good bit of judging, assuming, and over-analysing, so this is quite a new approach. It’ll take time to figure out how best to make it work. See? Grown-up attitude. Not panicking. At all.

Day 2 – Wednesday

A rainy school-run made me wistful for my office commute, but the small boy and I did have a nice morning hanging out at home together. I’ve realised that he does sometimes play by himself, which means I can get some things done too.

Lego time - Office Mum

Sitting down tonight to get work done after the kids were in bed was even more tiring than last night – I was trying to prepare for an upcoming workshop, but at 10 o’clock I gave up and watched House of Cards instead. Did I mention this is turning out to be quite hard?

Day 3 – Thursday

The kids are getting used to me being around, and one of them told me I’m a “brilliant childminder” today. Result.

The smallie and I made it outdoors, and he finally had his first try of a proper bicycle (poor third child). We played a seriously tough game of hide-and-seek, taking turns to hide behind very small trees.

Hide and Seek Office Mum

We also ran to the shops while the girls were at gym this afternoon, and bought a new table-cloth. It made me disproportionately happy.

And I bought an “Ultimate Summer Parka” from ASOS, so that I don’t spend the entire “summer” avoiding the playground.

ASOS Ultimate Summer Parka - Office Mum

I made a dinner that was not at all hideous and had no Gorgonzola (it’s a really simple recipe from BBC Food – chicken filled with mascarpone and pesto – because having researched protein for this article, I am obsessed with getting more of it into my kids)

Chicken and Pesto - Office Mum

Day 4 – Friday

The smallie and I decided that after a few days of self-imposed house-confinement, we’d make a run for it. So after the school-run, we went for breakfast in the Mellow Fig, then had a lovely morning, pottering around the shops and bumping into people (I bumped into friends, he literally bumped into strangers.)

I could get used to this, I thought. My small coffee buddy was in excellent humour, in fact, he has been in super form all week. I wondered if he had always been this agreeable, and I hadn’t spent enough time with him to notice. If so, how lovely the next few months are going to be!

Small boy busy doing his own made-up art - and there's my new table cloth
Small boy busy doing his own made-up art – and there’s my new table cloth

My husband arrived home from London tonight, and the little boy jumped into his arms for a big hug, then continued being deliciously cute for the rest of the evening. “He’s never like this,” my husband remarked, bursting my bubble. So, I guess he wasn’t always like this, it’s just a phase, and soon he’ll be back to storming off every two minutes over some imagined slight. But hey, it means week one has been pretty perfect, so I’m grateful that he gave me that.

Week 2

Fifteen school-runs

Three playground trips

Two coffees where I avoided buying scones for the ever-hungry child, two where I gave in

One video of us telling the Disturbing Cow joke

Ten tomatoes and one  red pepper washed with washing-up liquid and a dishcloth by my helper


Four sheets that dried on the line in an hour one sunny morning, and a new obsession with the clothesline is born (oh dear)


Week 3 

Rain, hailstones, wind, clouds, rain, cold, rain, more rain. And one short interview with LMFM Radio, while the kids were in the house – who knew how much silence hot chocolate and TV could buy?

Week 4

Good Housekeeping tip of the week: you can hoover anything. Even cupboards. Possibly fridges.  A neat, quick, one-size-fits-all solution.

Saboteur of the Week Award: goes to the three-year-old, who spotted I was on the phone (trying to get quotes for an article) and attempted to grab the phone out of my hand, tried to turn off my laptop, then pulled leaves off a plant and stuck them in my eyes.

Thing I miss most about the office: being impervious to the weather. Looking out the window at rain is much easier than doing fifteen school runs in the rain.

The one-month-in verdict

I’m not as terrible at the being at home thing as I thought I’d be, and the kids adjusted far more quickly than I expected.

My biggest fear (apart from having no money, losing my identity and killing my career for good) was the school-run. I was sure it would be extraordinarily stressful getting them up and out every morning. And actually, it’s not too bad. We’ve been on time for school most days. And on one particularly adventurous morning, I made them omelettes.

Work-wise, sitting down at the kitchen table after they go to bed is hard. But I’m doing it six out of seven nights a week, and trying to be very disciplined about it.

Freelancing, not unexpectedly, is a bit feast-or-famine, and for me, with only a small margin of time each night, it can tip from famine to feast with just two emails. I freak out a bit when I have no deadlines, and two days later, I freak out when I have many deadlines. So my husband is just delighted, listening to all my freaking out.

I’ve also started attributing pretty much everything to the transition from work to WAHM. Like, when I realised on a Friday* night that I wasn’t too bothered about having my usual glass of wine (*yes, I really mean Thursday), and figured it was due to not being at work anymore. A week later, when by Tuesday night I was gagging for alcohol, I figured that was due to not being at work anymore.

Five days of anything is relentless. Relentless. There shouldn’t be a five-day-week of anything. In work, I had three days in the office, one day from home, and one day off. That was very nice. School should be three days a week  I think. Five school-run-mornings is HARD.

The guilt never goes away – I wrote a post last month about never having enough time with the kids, about putting them to bed at night and realising I didn’t always spend quality time with them. That hasn’t changed a bit. I’m no longer in an office, but still entire days can slip by without feeling like I’ve been fully present for the kids. So, whether you’re at work five days or three days or four mornings – take heart, it’s not all rosy on the guilt front, even when you’re at home.

My biggest learning point is not judging a year on a day – not deciding that one bad hour is a prediction for a disastrous future. So, although one month in, I haven’t quite got a routine going, and I’m completely exhausted, I’m OK with it. Just don’t look at my laundry basket.

PS: Since this post featured just one child so far, here are the other two, in case they feel left out Clara - office mum

Emmie - office mum


One thing that hasn’t changed at all: I still detest making school-lunches. For, here’s a rundown of how badly school-lunches work out in our house: Why I won’t miss the tedium of the school lunchbox menu

Andrea Mara Her Family article on school lunches





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