I thought I was pretty good at multi tasking. You know, sitting in the office, talking to someone on the phone, wandering to the kitchen to nibble on a Digestive, checking a couple of emails and sending a reply, being mindful to tap quietly so the person on the phone can’t hear. Because there is nothing that says ‘you are dull and uninteresting and I have more important things to do, so please shut up’ quicker than the tappity-tap of a keyboard in the background.
Anyway, I thought I was Queen of Doing Loads of Stuff.
Particularly when I started to work for myself, as it was only then that I realised that previously I must have spent quite a large proportion of my day in the office chatting, making tea and doing nothing of note, because once all the colleagues were removed from the equation and I was sitting in a little office all on my own, I could work at the flipping speed of light. Mind you, having absolutely no one to talk to was a tad unnerving.
My stapler became my office buddy, and that is not a good sign in anyone’s book. But to his credit, he never answered back or made snarky comments about what I was wearing, so it wasn’t all bad. I even gave him a name. But maybe that’s enough about my stationery friends…
So, as I say, multi tasking was a doddle. And then I had two kids. Not at the same time, just to clarify. In fact, it took me quite a while to summon up the courage to have the second one. About three and half years, actually. At which point I realised that I had entered a whole new world of trying to do loads of stuff simultaneously. This is a world where madness and waking up at 3am in a panic, realising that you have not organised a costume for World Book Day at nursery is commonplace and insanity is lurking around the corner clutching a load of bills to pay and a coat with a loose button that has been waiting three months to be reattached. This is a world where thinking about your business strategy happens on the toilet, or while you are sterilising the milk bottles, or even when you are on your fourth round of Sing a Song of Sixpence.
This is a world in which many ,many hats are donned, where several balls are juggled and a whole stack of plates are spun.
It is interesting that many metaphors for this busy hell bring a circus to mind. For that is me; wobbling on my unicycle, juggling, plate spinning and blowing a harmonica, ducking a custard pie and clapping to the music. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Unless it’s a play date, when it’s less metaphorical than I would bloody like.
I have run my own business for about ten years, and I look back on the first six years with a certain nostalgia. Ahh, those were the days when we didn’t have kids and I had half a day just to put a proposal together, and could allow myself a few good hours to update my website. I even managed to find someone with whom to have a sneaky lunch now and again. Or maybe once a week. My working time was my own, and I loved being master of my own to-do list. I had always thought about running my own business, and there I was, compete with clients, case studies and a stapler. I probably shouldn’t keep mentioning the stapler, should I?
And then my first son was born and it wasn’t quite so much fun trying to run the business. I would rock him to sleep for his day nap, willing him into slumber with every atom of my being, placing him gently in his cot and backing out of the room on tip toe, before turning and running to my office, baby monitor in hand, to cram in as much work as I could before he awoke. “When the baby sleeps, you should too,” chirped the advice from friends. “Oh really? Shall I just punch you now or later?” I would love to have replied, as naps were simply out of the question. They were not on my to-do list. I would be just getting up a head of steam when the monitor would spring into life and work would have to cease.
At seven-months old, I practically drop-kicked him into nursery so keen was I to reclaim some working hours.
So with two kids, a business, a husband, a house to run and a distinct lack of sleep, like many women, I wear many, many hats. Some don’t even fit that well, and others are downright uncomfortable… like the Nurse’s hat. Oh my God. I couldn’t be a worse nurse to my ill children if I was Freddie Kruger with menstrual pain. But I digress slightly. I was talking about my hats, and I will no doubt be blethering on about my hats for a while yet. But in the meantime, I have a report to write, so on goes my professional hat.
Whoops, I forgot to take off my Nose Wiper’s hat, and now look at the mess I’ve made…