I was unsure whether to write this post. I’ve actually written and then deleted it a couple of times now, but it’s something I’m asked about a lot so I feel like it’s time to blog about it.
I get lots of lovely emails from readers who have either recently had kids, are pregnant or are planning kids in the future and they love to see that it is possible to continue to travel and have an exciting life after having babies. I hope that I’m living proof that you don’t need to chop up your passport when you have kids!
The reason why I was reluctant to write this post was because I have some days (OK, hours) where everything is going amazingly smoothly and I feel like I’m totally nailing it. I’m like Super Mum and I wonder why anyone suggests this motherhood malarkey is difficult.
But this will be swiftly followed by a reality check of a shitty day where everything goes wrong and I’m counting down the minutes until bedtime so I can have a large glass of wine and get to bed myself!
Am I really qualified to write a blog post about finding the work/life balance when you also have two young kids and travel a lot? Probably not. So I’m just going to tell you how I’m making it work. And by ‘work’ I mean surviving the day and getting to 10pm each evening in one piece.
So as a little update or in case you’re new to the blog:
I have two little boys, George aged 2 and Joseph aged 6 months. This blog is my business and provides me with a full time income. I know blogging looks like it’s just a simple case of snapping a few photos and uploading them to Instagram but there’s SO much behind the scenes admin involved so it is pretty time consuming. I also travel a lot – or I will do soon anyway, once my baby boy goes to nursery. We live in North Wales so most of our travels have been fairly local but we’ve got more and more trips abroad planned!
Read more: 20 truths of being a full time blogger
Maternity Leave and blogging
I didn’t take a maternity break when I had George or Joseph. I slowed down for a couple of weeks following their births but then got back to it, fitting in work between naps. The problem with being a full time blogger when you have kids is that there’s no one else to pick up the slack when you take time off. I know my blog wouldn’t fall apart or disappear if I took a few months off but I work hard to grow this blog and I didn’t want to lose momentum. I didn’t want to lose touch with clients or go silent on my social media channels so I carried on doing bits of work wherever I could.
Blogging is the most awesome career choice possible if you want to work flexible hours so it’s great for new parents. I love being able to fit my work between my kids, rather than fit in time with my kids around my work.
Before having George I also worked really hard to increase my affiliate income. This is the income I get through recommending products and experiences through this blog. The % of each sale is miniscule but if you have 1,000 miniscule sales everyday…well it quickly adds up! The good thing about affiliate sales is that once you’ve set it up – by writing a review or recommending a product – it requires very little admin to keep earning an income. I have a backpack review I wrote about 5 years ago and it still leads to so many sales each month – it’s almost enough sales to pay my mortgage!
Affiliates are a great source of passive income and it’s great to know I’m earning enough to cover all my bills without having to lift a finger.
There is a downside to working the odd hour here as it takes me months to complete a project. If I’m working on a big project I often get stressed about not having enough time. And then there’s the times when I plan to do work during Joseph’s nap time and he won’t go to sleep. That’s probably the most frustrating thing about this – when I can see that he’s exhausted and needs a sleep but fights it and just cries!
Finding time to work
Have you ever noticed that if you have 10 hours to do something then it’ll take you 10 hours, but if you only have 1 hour you’ll still manage to get it done in an hour?
This is especially true of blogging!
Since having kids I have become much more productive – quite simply because I have to be!
I used to work on the blog for about 8 hours per day, 5 days a week and I treated it exactly like I would a normal office job. And then I had George and I went down to a couple of mornings a week when he was in nursery. This worked well and I was surprised how much I managed to still get done. And then I had Joseph and it went down to a couple of hours a week and then everything went to shit 😉 Only joking (sort of)
George usually goes to nursery 4 mornings a week and Joseph normally has a nap for about 1.5 hours in the mornings so this hour and a half is pretty much my only window to get most of my work done. And that is the most productive 90 minutes you could possibly imagine.
If anyone dares to disturb me during those 90 minutes then there’s hell to pay. If anyone knocks at my door, calls my phone or attempts to contact me via any social media platform then I am NOT happy!
Both of the boys also have a nap in the afternoon so I often get another 90 minutes in the afternoon to blog like a demon.
Whenever possible I try to do a bit of work in the evenings but as Joseph still wakes up frequently during the night I’m often too tired to do much.
How have I gone from 40 hours work a week to about 10!?
My biggest time suck used to be replying to emails. I don’t mean lovely reader emails, I mean complete time wasters who expect me to do a crazy amount of work in return for peanuts, or worse still, nothing. You’d never ask a builder to build you a house for free, or a hairdresser to cut you hair for free. So why do people think it’s OK to ask a blogger to work for free!?
Anyway, mini rant over.
Over the years I’ve got better at recognising who the time wasters are and simply deleting their emails. That saves me a tonne of time! I know I might end up missing out on some opportunities but I guess it just can’t be helped.
I’ve also got better at streamlining processes so I’m just much faster at certain things.
But other things, lots of things, have just had to get pushed to the side and added to that ridiculously long and never ending to-do list.
At first it stressed me out, having this to-do list with items I knew I’d never have time to complete. But I’m naturally a laid back person and as long as I’m not letting clients down I know I just need to let some things slip. A phrase I often need to repeat to myself is, ‘For god’s sake woman, you’ve just had a baby, cut yourself some slack!’
My family are awesome and it’s because of them that I can continue to do this job. My mum doesn’t have the boys that often but she’s basically our back-up option – something I didn’t realise would be as important as it is.
Any working parent to young kids will know that it isn’t as easy as just sticking your kids in nursery and going to work each day – because kids are sick ALL THE TIME! And then you can’t send them to nursery so that mountain of work or all those meetings you scheduled are going to have to be cancelled because your snotty little munchkins need a duvet day.
Oh yea, and once they’ve had their icky bug for a few days they’re going to pass it on to you and the rest of the family and just as you recover from that bout of sickness they’ll skip back to nursery with all the other snot bags and bring home another bug that will have you clinging to the toilet for yet another week.
Yea, Mum Life, this is glamourous.
Anyway, back to how awesome my mum is. Yea, she doesn’t have them too often but I know that if either of the boys are sick I can rely on my mum to look after them. And if I get sick she looks after me too which is a bonus.
This might not sound like a lot but having my mum as a back-up option makes a huge difference to my work life. Because if I arrange to go to London for two days and George gets sick then I’d have to cancel all my meetings and lose out on a hotel room and train fare – so that’s about £200 gone to waste – not to mention letting down clients who might decide I’m not reliable enough to work with again in the future. Sometimes Sam does take the time off work but it’s just as difficult for him too. So my mum makes this possible and she’s awesome so thank you mum!
Sam is also awesome and supportive and my biggest cheerleader. Just having Sam constantly egging me on and encouraging me to do more and travel more means so much to me. I feel the ‘Mum Guilt’ when I leave him alone with the boys but I know I shouldn’t, especially when it’s usually Sam pushing me out the door!
But I think Sam also knows he’s in a lucky situation. Of course, there’s all the free holidays but it’s mostly because our finances haven’t been affected by having kids. Most families have to survive on the dad’s wage whilst the mum is on maternity leave because maternity pay is so low but we haven’t had to worry about that.
Of course, I’m always going to make time for travelling! We haven’t done anything majorly adventurous (yet!) with the two boys. We’re been skiing and been to Barcelona and lots of weekends away in cosy cottages around the UK.
Our first few trips with two little kids were difficult but it gets easier every time. With each holiday we learn to pack less, worry less and just enjoy the holiday more. We’re also learning what does and doesn’t work when you’re travelling with children.
Things that don’t work for us are hotels with tiny rooms, posh restaurants and activities that last more than 2 hours!
Here are some of my family travel tips.
When I travel alone or on press trips for the blog, the boys will both go to nursery and Sam will be flying solo with him. It is tough for him when I’m away and it makes both of us realise how amazing single parents are. It’s tough when you’re on your own and I know Sam gets up at 6am and doesn’t sit down until about 9pm! My mum is a big help while I’m away and often makes Sam’s dinners or picks the boys up from nursery if Sam is working late.
The main thing I do that I think really helps me balance everything – and this would be my number 1 tip for anyone who is juggling working and kids – is to switch off your phone when you’re not working.
When I’m working I want to be 100% working and focusing on what I’m doing.
When I’m with my kids I want to be 100% with my kids and playing with them and chatting to them and cuddling them and playing Monsters with them.
If my phone is nearby I can’t help but glance at it every time I get a notification. And when you get about 300 emails a day it’s difficult not to open up a couple of those notifications!
I’ll be sat there reading a story with George and my phone will ping and I’ll see it’s an interesting email so I’ll open it and read it and before I know it I’ve spent half an hour responding and looking into different things and poor little George is sat there on his own while his mummy complete ignores him. I don’t want to be that mum!
I do this for the boys but also for my clients. If I reply to an email on my phone while also watching Finding Nemo and playing Peekaboo and feeding a baby and tidying up, that email isn’t going to make an awful lot of sense! So it’s much better for everyone for me to be ‘available’ less but be 100% focused when I am available.
So there you have it, the real way I’m balancing working and kids and blogging and travelling and attempting to have something that vaguely represents a social life.
In summary, here are my top 10 tips for anyone who might want to do the same:
- Get your kids in nursery as little or as often as you need to – and don’t feel bad about it. George LOVES nursery and I’m counting down the days until Joseph starts! Yea, it’s expensive but you can’t put a price on your sanity 😉
- Accept that you can’t do everything – choose the things that matter the most and focus on a couple of really cool things rather than ALL THE THINGS! This applies to everything – work and socialising, activities with your kids etc.
- Take all the help you can get from friends and family.
- Learn to delegate – women in particular often try and do it all from childcare to household chores to working and planning your family social calendar. It’s the 21st century ladies, we don’t need to do everything.
- Switch off – that thing I said about switching off? Yea, do it and thank me later.
- Have a switch off time – No matter how much work I have on, I always aim to close my laptop at 9pm to relax and chill with Sam. If I didn’t consciously make an effort to do this I’d often end up working until 2am. This wasn’t an issue before I had kids but looking after babies on 4 hours sleep is torture.
- Remember that work is important but your little kiddos are always more important. Work can wait.
- Make yourself a packed lunch – this was a tip from my midwife when George was first born. Sometimes you get so busy in the day you don’t have time to make yourself a decent lunch. I often end up having 4 rounds of toast instead of a proper meal so whenever possible I make a packed lunch like I would if I was going to an office! It sounds weird but it’s another one where you’ll thank me later when it gets to 1pm and you’re starving and the house is a tip and you’ve got a client call in 10 minutes!
- Have a work space – preferably a little office where you can shut the door and leave all your work worries in there. I lost my office when Joseph was born as it became his bedroom and now I really miss it!
- Go to as many parenting/baby groups as you can – it’s not for the kids, it’s for you. A strong support network of other mums and dads and grandparents makes the world of difference. My top tip for these groups is that the first 4-5 sessions are hell because it’s just a bunch of cliquey mums and snotty kids you don’t know. But once you get to know them all then it’s great! When I had George I gave up on the mummy groups after 2-3 sessions but I persisted with Joseph and now I love them.
If you have any more tips to add to this list then please please please let me know because there are definitely still some days where I need all the help I can get 😉
Oh, bonus tip 11 – coffee. All the coffee.