We've just come back from a trip to the US, as my husband and I had fundraising and work meetings on the East Coast. We had a wonderful and productive time, both personally and professionally and lots of fun too boot!
Here are a few highlights of our trip:
Pumpkin spotting during Halloween
The Americans go all out at Halloween to decorate their houses with ghosts, witches and pumpkins and we had so much fun spotting pumpkins as we travelled
We also got to do our first hay ride whilst apple picking in a New England orchard with our friend Lari
Boston Children's Museum was also a massive hit! A giant 'spider web' tower to climb, 4 floors of water play, construction sites, model towns, bubbles, musical instruments and dinosaurs and more, we spent 5 hours here and wanted to stay longer (despite missing our nap)! Highly recommended for anyone visiting with little ones.
Providence, Rhode Island, was also a pleasant surprise having never visited. Very walkable and with an attractive waterfront area. We were recommended to try out the beautiful Atheneum Library and arrived just in time for storytelling
Encouraging our little ones to enjoy food and eating out is an important part of family life for us and the girls did us proud wherever we went. They both seemed to love it and we received lots of compliments from fellow diners about how well-behaved they were :-) At one point, my toddler nearly had a melt down at a restaurant we went to and I explained how much we enjoyed having her with us when we go to a restaurant and how much we need to be respectful of other diners and not make too much noise. We encouraged her that she could be part of all sorts of adult things if she could be 'like a big girl' when we go to restaurants. We feel it's important that our children can be part of adult life where appropriate and that they learn what that means. She totally got it and we had a lovely evening!
Next step, the White House, and a Halloween gift from the Secret Services :-)
New York as ever was fabulous and was so proud of my Broadway babies discovering the city with Papa whilst Mummy went to her meetings.
My husband and I both work from home which we consider to be a huge blessing in the mutual responsibilities of raising a family. Though not without its occasional challenges, we have found a way that works for us. We believe that teamwork is key and have applied that to all aspects of running a home and masterminding family responsibilities too. Whilst considering that each day is different, we have found it super helpful, both when travelling and being at home, that we try to keep as regular a routine as possible, not just for our daughter but also to manage our work.
Our day looks something like this:
5am/6am My husband and I get up for spiritual study which is important to both of us in grounding us for the day ahead.
7am Our daughter wakes up and I feed her whilst my husband continues to work
8am We have breakfast all together and discuss the day’s activities
8.30am We take our showers, usually with our daughter playing on the floor
9am Our daughter plays in the family room (which is also my office) whilst I check email, send messages to my team in China and Europe, and sort out any administration piling up on my desk. My husband starts his half -day shift of work in his office
10am Our daughter has a feed whilst I read her a story and then goes down for her nap; I put in the first load of washing!
10.15 – 12pm I speak to my team in China, do client calls to Asia and/or write a blog
12pm Our daughter wakes up and she and I hang out the washing and prepare lunch and play together
1pm Lunch as a family
2pm – 7pm My husband takes over care of our daughter and I work all afternoon, writing fundraising proposals, talking to clients, working with my team and dealing with other work matters. During this time, my husband usually does the house cleaning and work on admin matters, as well as bathing and playing with our daughter and then dealing with his own work when she naps between 3.30 and 5pm.
7pm Dinner as a family
8pm I feed and put our daughter to bed as my husband clears dinner
8.15 – 10pm Evenings for us are a chance to catch up on both work and personal reading, as well as improve my language skills through Duolingo (Chinese, French and Arabic!) and spend time together as a couple
On Wednesday’s the day is reversed, with me working in the morning so that I can take my daughter to see friends in Paris, especially English-speaking parents, to enable her to improve her English.
The concept of splitting our day works well for us and enables us to still be with our daughter as much as possible. And she gets the benefit of having her parents very active in her life.
I marvel at the fact that we are both able to keep a 7 – 8 hour work day whilst also spending plenty of time with our daughter but it does come down to the fact that we take an equal share in raising our daughter and respecting each other’s work time.
A few things to think about:
As many parents comment, having a baby really helps you to focus! You are super strict with how you use your time and any work that takes me away from my precious baby has to be worth it :-) I’ve also come to understand more and more the importance of not being reduced to the money = time equation and to understand that wealth is created more on the basis of the value you produce rather than hours inputted. There are tonnes of articles and books out there now that are challenging the notion that work should be 40 – 50 hours per week, in an office, and that childcare is outsourced to someone else. We have found that it is possible to maintain momentum in your career whilst also taking care of the family and building a life together. That our day is more than the sum of its parts and that we have a vision for family that is our mutual responsibility.
It’s important too, that our daughter does not suffer from her parent’s work. Working from home in partnership with my husband in this way ensures that each of us is able to give our full attention to our daughter when we are with her. The ‘baby in a backpack’ metaphor extends to the travels she accompanies us on for our respective work as it does in the day to day adventure of exploring the every day more ordinary aspects of life. She is as happy helping me hang up the washing as she is strapped on my front during a workshop with refugees; or helping her dad vacuum the house or being cuddled by a New York policeman.
In any case, the values we wish her to grow up with – interest and concern for others, kindness, an awareness of the world, openness to other people and cultures, comfortable with travel, tolerance, leadership, social responsibility, flexibility and openness – are all facilitated by our choices as parents and entrepreneurs. She is growing up right now with adoring friends from all over the world - China, India, Syria, Pakistan, the US, Germany, Latvia. And a fearless understanding that she can do anything she puts her mind to.
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