I’ve been a little quiet on flamingomonroe.com recently. Not because of any brain block or lack of interest. I’ve been busy!!
Who am I? I’m Camilla, a mother to a 17-month old TODDLER (yes I said toddler in capital letters because #toddlerlife been a shock to the system). I’m self employed – a freelance marketing pro (mainly for local businesses/individuals) and sometimes for big brands. I also try and call myself a “blogger” – although I haven’t blogged in over a month but I still try and stay active with content on my Instagram/social media pages. I also consult for Neal’s Yard Remedies. I’ve been project managing house renovations – recently living in a building site for 8 weeks and without a kitchen (not even a fridge). I’m involved in all sorts of charity and community projects – all things thyroid, women’s cancers and baby loss. I’ve also tackled another round of medical blips, in and out of hospital again in recent weeks (with more appointments imminently coming up). Oh and before all of this, 7 months ago I moved house and in to a new area where I’ve been settling in to a new postcode, new baby groups, new work etc.
And breathe. Have I forgotten anything? It sounds a lot when you put your last 7 months in to one paragraph!
So this blog post is not necessarily an update, it’s more of an overview on what I have learned. If nothing else, it’s been a dose of self care and therapy, because whilst writing this post I have realised that occasionally in life some things have to give and that it is okay to not be a multi tasking super woman excelling at everything (not that I ever was a super woman!).
Some fellow working mamas may read this and think I’m very late to the (understanding) party on a few matters – but I hope this also gives some of you some reassurance that we’re all in this together…
Writing down my brief summary of my last 7 months is not about trying to trump (ugh that word) anyone, or outdo or out speak anyone. Slowly but surely though, I’m realising that I can’t do everything. AND NOR CAN YOU. I’ve realised there aren’t enough hours in the day to achieve everything I wanted to do and for life, stress, even recent medical factors, I’ve had to switch off at times, try and go to bed earlier than midnight (still a challenge!) and to stop running ragged every day because I was trying to juggle too much.
I was guilty of feeling a failure and underachieved when I didn’t tick everything off of my to do list. I’m guilty of lying in bed at night either making mental to do lists, or watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy because I didn’t allow myself any down time during evening to watch a bit of easy tele. I’d also feel a failure when another day goes by and I haven’t blogged or tick off something else I wanted to do. But I am, however, very thankful that I have now learned to prioritise…
My biggest priority, of course, is to be the best mother I can be, to give Henry the best start in his life and to really enjoy him and his company. Every now and then I blink and so much time has flown by and I don’t want to miss ANYthing. It’s so much so, that when I look at my week ahead, I literally think about when I’m going to have time with him – whether it’s fun in the garden, a make-shift soft play den in my lounge before snuggles watching Toy Story, a trip to a local farm or a play date with friends.
My second priority, is (shock horror) to earn money, which is explains why I’ve been absent on here lately. I’m focusing more time on building my freelance marketing gig which I’m thrilled to say is taking off. Since I last wrote on here I’ve officially taken on 3 new clients on a retainer contract, which is keeping me and my brain busy and active, and the one off projects are fun too! It’s great to be fully utilising my marketing skills again since I left my Head of Marketing role at HELLO! magazine just before Henry was born, 17 months ago. I’m lucky that the clients I have taken on are right up my street and I’m really enjoying supporting local businesses – it’s a great feeling to be involved in the local community, networking and meeting new people all the time. It’s made me realise what a bubble “London Life” can be, and when you work for a company based in London they sometimes often forget there is a world outside of the M25!
I thank my lucky stars every day that I didn’t have the intense financial pressure of finding a full desk job in time for when Henry was 9-12 months old (I was officially jobless having been made redundant) and that I have been able to become self employed, build up my work portfolio and organise my own working week. Henry has childcare in place (he is loving nursery, and it’s proving to be so good for him and just what he needed), he is much more self sufficient nowadays and life has naturally evolved in to a place where I’m able to earn a living and contribute to my household.
(Needless to say, and not forgetting that I did actually start working again when Henry was just 6 months old. That was when I started working with Neal’s Yard Remedies and when I officially registered as self employed (that reminds me – I really need to do my tax return!).
It is true that a BIG plus to working for yourself is that you can choose your own hours. I work solidly when Henry is in childcare, and I do find some days I am working in the evening, on a weekend or making the most of that 6am-7am time slot before he wakes up, but mainly just to get ahead.. Managing your own diary and work schedule is an admin task in itself, as one has no choice but to be mega organised (my diary is full of reminders and notes) – but to be living the flexible working way is satisfying and something I do not take for granted.
I’ve also learned to leave my phone out of sight, preferably upstairs or in another room whilst I work. I can’t always focus when various notifications are going off (and I may be guilty to putting WhatsApp and some busy Facebook groups on silent permanently – no offence to anyone here!).
When you’re on maternity leave, that time off, whether it’s 6 months, 9 months or a full year, you enjoy seeing your friends, mummy friends and family a lot more than before, and it’s a nice (temporary) normality to get used to. You meet up for lots of play dates and you may attend lots of fun baby groups. As soon as any parent returns to work – self employed or company employed – the reality is that your “free time” is cut – and drastically so. Your free time becomes just weekends, or a few days a week if you’re part time, or a few gaps here and there if you’re working shifts.
You now have to fit in all of your socialising, your play dates, your time with your kids and your own families, partners and friends – all within that short amount of time.
Let alone time for yourself to relax, recuperate, to watch boxsets or to keep up hobbies such as fitness.
For me, during the first year of motherhood it was lovely seeing lots of Henry’s grandparents, going to lots of baby classes, seeing my NCT friends, seeing my other mummy friends AND having time to run the house, cook dinners, blog on an evening etc.
As soon as you’re back working, it’s either all out of the window, or it’s all very much few and far between. I have some dear friends who I now only see once a month – if I’m lucky. But C’est la Vie!
Which is why you then realise you have to make effort with your friendships. They don’t work themselves and I now find myself spending time with my diary and phone, getting dates in with loved ones, before another month goes by where I don’t see them. Some times geography plays a part if they’re not around the corner, but that means sometimes you have to lock in those social dates far in advance if you want to maintain those friendships once you’re back at work.
So what else have I learned? I’ve learned I can’t do it all. I can’t be X, Y and Z all at the same time (X, Y and Z for me translates as mother, marketing consultant, blogger, Neal’s Yard Remedies consultant, housewife and a wannabe campaigner and philanthropist!!) . I CAN be them all if I want to, and I choose to, and I love it, but I have to accept that I have to prioritise (hence why I may only blog once or twice a month, for now).
I’ve accepted that the more I choose to work the more free time dissolves. This applies to most of us, and I’m even having to accept that I’ll start to see less and less of Henry as my work increases (needly so I should really add). But this is a good thing, as I have always loved my work, I’m getting my groove back and I love to be able to contribute financially to my world, his world and my household. It’s amazing to realise how much more I appreciate my time with Henry now that it’s less than a few months ago.
I’m really enjoying finding my career identity again – especially after the huge confident knock from being made redundant so heavily pregnant and high up in my previous career chain.
And as for my beloved blog, flamingomonroe.com – my therapy, my hobby, my digital baby. I’m not a blogger who posts daily, nor do I care for daily small snippets just to keep the blog numbers up. I take pride in my content and always prefer to provide effort, depth, honesty and creativity. So if that means I’ll blog once a month or twice in one week, I’ll blog when I see the opportunity and purpose. I enjoy having a loyal following, and I believe (hope!) my readers will stay with me here so long as I stick to such strategy. If I start blogging daily pointless snippets – that will become annoying, dull and not who I am as a ‘blogger’.
That’s why the joys of Instagram are fun, because they do allow me to be a bit more regular and offer access in to more of who I am on a more frequent basis.
In summary, I’ve learned so much in recent months – more life experiences and more chapters to document. As a result, and being able to prioritise (my life is a notebook of lists!), I’m finding (and really enjoying) a healthier work and life balance.
I’ve also mentioned a few times on the blog, about having “medical hurdles” and “recent medical blips”. I don’t mean to sound all “I’ve got a secret and I’m not telling you”. I’m desperate to be open, my fingers are desperately trying to type what’s been going on, but just can’t find the inner bravery to share – not yet. Maybe one day? Maybe I’ll start a paraody so I can get things off my chest and talk about important matters. Maybe I’ll just add that to the never ending ambitious list of things I’ll one day get round to doing. Haha 😉 Joking aside, this is also an ongoing chapter that I have to be mindful of too, and to ensure it also gets my attention, care and thought.
And that’s that!
Thank you for reading (if you’re still with me!). Next on my schedule is a week of prioritising family time – me and my little family are off to Spain for a 5-day getaway of sun and all inclusive joy. Family time is everything. I’m finally losing my “pirate ships in the pool hotel” virginity, albeit reluctantly, but needs must when you have an active toddler and I can’t wait to see Henry enjoying himself. Happy mum + happy baby = happy baby + happy mum. 🙂