My husband and I made the decision to keep our children at home with with us in their early years, instead of putting them in full-time childcare or getting a nanny. But neither of us wished to give up work and it certainly wasn’t the default that I, as the woman, would be the one to make the sacrifice. Instead, we have found a model that enables us to still put in at least a 35 – 40 hour week, whilst still being very present for our children and being together as a family as much as possible.
Our typical day usually looks like this:
5am Get up and prepare for the day mentally and spiritually. This is important for us to take care of ourselves, feel grounded and ready to be able to have the mental energy for small children :-)
6 – 8am This is when I do my writing and the more creative side of my work. As an entrepreneur, writer and thought-leader, I relish the time to be free of email and team leadership to really get creative and set up my day with what I'm most passionate about.
7.30/7.45 Team meeting with my husband and I to discuss the day's activities and any life admin stuff
8am Breakfast all together as a family
8.30am Shower and get ready for the day
9am My husband starts his day: he works all morning whilst I am with our girls. The baby usually naps between 10am and midday, leaving me to spend time with our pre-schooler, reading, playing puzzles, cooking or being in the garden (as well as processing the enormous piles of washing that is the reality of having 5 children between us!)
1pm Lunch all together as a family
2pm Both toddler and pre-schooler take their afternoon nap; this is when I go to my office and typically deal with team meetings, emails, project work, fundraising and business development, my husband also works during this time
4.30pm Baby and toddler wake up and my husband takes over whilst I continue to work. He usually does the cleaning in this time
6.30pm Dinner prepared by my husband.
7pm Bath, story and bed for our baby, toddler in bed by 8pm
8pm Spend time with my husband (we make sure to have twice-weekly 'date nights' even if we have to stay home - watching a movie or working on a shared project together); or reading time. I consider my reading time to still be ‘work’ as it informs my writing and helps me keep up with what I need to know as a thought-leader in the area of global leadership
My work day is thus divided up into particular bursts: two hours of creative work and content creation in the morning; an afternoon of meetings and emails (4 and a half hours); 1 – 2 hours of reading and learning in the evening. The breaking up of the work day enables me to also have some discipline in what is truly important in ‘work’, forcing me to compartmentalise and not spend the entire day on emails and the ‘busyness’ of work but, equally importantly the creative and thought-leadership side. There is some variation within this – I work Wednesday mornings instead of afternoons to enable me to speak to my team in China (the time difference makes it impossible to do this in the afternoon) as well as take my daughters into Paris on a Wednesday afternoon for English-language programmes in the city. I also work Saturday afternoons whilst my husband is with his older children and to compensate for slightly less time than my husband during the week. Over the course of the week, my husband and I are therefore able to put in about 35 – 40 hours per week, often more as we regularly get up even earlier than 5am!
Our daughters have been very good sleepers which certainly makes things abit easier. I sometimes joke that our girls know their parents are entrepreneurs and have wised up to the fact that sleeping longer enables them to be able to stay at home with us instead of going into childcare. But, it’s important to us that, even as they grow up, they are able to be comfortable playing on their own and taking quiet time as it is well-documented how important it is to raise children at ease with themselves, able to spend time reading and developing their imagination without constant stimulation from other people.
If the girls do wake up early, they are encouraged to play quietly until we have finished. We talk often to them about what our work is, how work is an expression of contribution to the world, and how important it is to love what they do. We believe that work can and should be an integral part of life, not separated from the other demands of everyday living, and that we bring our children up to understand their responsibilities to the wider world too.
We’ve found this schedule really works well for us but it might not work for everyone. And I’d love to learn from others too! What do you do to make it work in your own work-family life balance? Please do post your comments below!
Mum, stepmum and honorary foster mum. Passionate about fulfilling the potential of all the world's children - both big and little. Serial entrepreneur and life traveller now living in Paris. www.carolinewatson.org