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!
Yesterday, we made the painful decision to cancel our trip to Australia. After nearly 3 years in the planning, and in the grip of fear of the spread of the coronavirus, the Australian government declared the necessity of quarantining new arrivals for 14 days which would make our trip completely impractical. Even if we were to sit the quarantine out, the writing is on the wall of complete lockdown for all other events in the ensuing weeks.
I had been looking forward to one of our first trips since giving birth last year and to really testing out 'baby in a backpack' with a pre-schooler and soon-to-be-toddler. I had definitely been having anxious thoughts about entertaining the said little ones for such a long journey but we were generally excited and raring to go. But the inevitability of the situation meant that we felt it necessary to cancel.
But I’m grateful that this enforced lockdown period is helping us all to evaluate what’s important in life. My husband and I were already making steps towards limiting our carbon footprint and thinking through what it would mean to be ‘global, yet local’ and this new situation is indeed calling into question the values and life choices that we make on a daily basis. Having been born and brought up in Hong Kong, and having had the privilege to have travelled to over 50 countries, it is important to me that my own children benefit from a global perspective and develop a confidence and comfort in being in new places and learning from others. And with the rise in nationalism and increasing xenophobia in the world, I am determined to keep opening my mind, heart and thought to others. But with the rapid onset of climate change, I had been wondering what we need to do to express the spirit of adventure in a way that respects our climate. Coronavirus notwithstanding, here are some steps we had already been thinking through:
There is already much evidence and conversation circulating the internet about the impact that the enforced lockdown is having on our climate, with clear skies in China, and a return to the appreciation of nature and the great outdoors as people look for alternatives to cooped-up city living whilst still 'physical distancing'. And it is heartening to consider how this period of battening down the hatches and staying in the moment with more simple life pleasures could help us transform our ideas about what is truly necessary in life.
So, I for one, will welcome the opportunity to do some armchair travel in the coming months, reading books, exploring the garden and surrounding woods with my little ones, and opening my thought to what ‘adventures’ there are to be had in my mind. Baby in a backpack has always been metaphorical, not just literal, and, whilst I hope we won’t be packing away the suitcases for ever, I look forward to a reframing of what true adventure means!
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