Author and Hot Cross Mum blogger Hazel Gaynor tells us about her experience working from home...
Working from home may sound idyllic, but like anything that involves the concept of ‘work’, it comes with its problems. Yes, it’s nice not to have the daily commute to Dublin. Yes, I’m glad that some days I don’t need to worry about the state of my hair. But there are times when the lines between ‘working’ and ‘home’ are so blurred that it becomes impossible to know whether you are a working mum, a mum, a writer, a writing mum or just a very tired person who is struggling to achieve anything.
I am not ashamed to admit that since leaving the boardroom and a fifteen-year corporate career, I’ve struggled to adjust to life at home. Turns out that the occasional performance review, team ‘away day’, Christmas party and 25 days annual leave are harder to relinquish than you might think. There doesn’t tend to be that much positive feedback from a baby and a toddler (or a six and eight-year-old, as they are now). It was partly for these reasons that I started writing - to try and forge a new career for myself. A ‘second-career’ – how very modern! I believed it would keep me sane, give me some ‘me’ time, give me something sensible to think about while I folded tiny pants and socks or blended another pan full of vegetables. Thankfully, I was right!
My parenting blog, Hot Cross Mum, was a life-saver. Through it, I connected with lots of other parents who were sharing similar experiences to me. We were all struggling. We didn’t even know what to call ourselves: SAHM? WAHM? Vice President of Broccoli and Peas? The internet became our coffee shop/water cooler. And slowly, slowly, as I moaned and laughed online about my imagined failings as a mother, my confidence in my writing grew. Soon, I was in print in the national paper. I won a blogging award. I wrote for Hello! Magazine. I wrote my first novel (it was dreadful). I had taken my first baby steps on the road to being a published author. Five years (and a LOT of coffee and tears later) my debut novel THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME is being published in America, the UK and Ireland.
My so-called ‘routine’ is as messy as my house, with my working day varying from Monday to Sunday. Weekdays, I write while the boys are at school (8.30am-2pm) and afternoons are a random mixture of play dates, trips to the library, building Lego, taking phone calls, meeting deadlines and making the dinner. With my agent and publishers based in New York, I usually spend an hour or so, after the kids are in bed, catching up on emails and admin. Some days I get nothing written. I abandon my characters and go to Aldi. Do the washing. Clean the loos. And I feel constantly guilty when a tiny hand grabs my leg to pull me away from the desk to go and play cars. “Give Mummy a minute,” I say. (*whispers* I am often much longer than that minute).
It’s chaotic and – at times – stressful. Just as when I worked in an office, I struggle to balance the demands of working life with family life. Would I go back to the boardroom? Never. Do I love my job? Absolutely. Do I struggle to make working from home work? Of course! But I hope that somewhere among all the madness, the children will (one day) appreciate me being around for them and will benefit from having a mum who is mentally fulfilled as well as excellent at making Lego castles. The lines may be blurred, but they are lines of my own making. And there’s a lot to be said for that.
Hazel's novel The Girl Who Came Home tells the story of a young Irish woman, Maggie Murphy, who reluctantly leaves her Irish home and her sweetheart, to start a new life in America with her aunt. They travel on RMS Titanic. Seventy years later, Maggie confides in her great-granddaughter, Grace, sharing her experience of the traumatic events of April, 1912. Maggie’s revelations have unexpected repercussions for them both. Publication date for The Girl Who Came Home for UK/Ireland date is April 24th 2014.