My life is in a constant state of tension between loving gleaming floorboards, keeping my troops fed and watered and doing the work that uplifts and fulfils me, and, of course, takes care of the aforementioned feeding and watering that comes with keeping offspring alive, happy and healthy. So, how does she do it? It’s one of those questions that gives me an automatic urge to eye roll while also reaching for a pen and paper to scribble down ideas. There’s no shortage of content out there about the mental load and productivity when blending parenting with work and here’s my take, offered with great humility.


Many moons ago, I read Stravinsky’s Lunch by Drusilla Modkeska and it put me in an almighty grump, to the point where I still feel my hackles rise when I think of it, oft the sign of an incredibly well-written book. The reason for my grumps? Basically, it’s the tale of something the author stumbled upon about Stravinsky, the composer, while researching a biography of two (female) artists. Stravinsky had a rule that his family eat lunch in complete silence. He believed the merest hint of noise would destroy his creative flow. The image of his wife tiptoeing around, shushing her children while getting shit done breaks my heart and infuriates me. It also makes me a smidge jealous. Where’s my wife keeping the home fires burning? While the whole concept of bigamy repulses me, I can’t deny having a sister wife or two (or three) would come in handy.


Sister wife not withstanding, I’ve managed to find a few tricks over the years to blend mum life with work life without too much infringement on the either. My mate and client Brian Klindworth talks a lot about life by design and as someone who is decidedly anti-hustle I really love how Brian’s approach takes into account competing priorities and roles within the course of an ideal day, week and month.


Here’s the thing: like all of us, I fulfil a ton of roles in life. I’m a daughter, wife, mother, friend, and that’s not taking into account the role I play in my business, helping people tell their story and grow their brand. From a work perspective, my goal is simple: do bloody good work that I love, that helps people, that makes them fall in love with the possibility and potential of their communications. From a home perspective, while I make no judgement on how other women approach parenting, I have an ideal and an idea of how I want to be mum to my cherubs. I want to be a present, fun mum who role models passion for work and for life in general. Unlike Stravinsky I’m ok with noise, although the angsty music that fills the house is something to behold, but a clean house is a non-negotiable. I don’t know if it’s the former nurse in me, but messy makes me uncomfortably and unbearably twitchy. I’m highly averse to clutter. Herein lies my ongoing dilemma: I also have an unholy aversion to cleaning. It’s not fun for me in the slightest. We’re not a family where I set a timer and music and we dance-clean. The very thought of vacuuming makes me unreasonably angry. This is while having a dog that on a daily basis sheds enough fur to coat seven smaller dogs. Seriously, some days it’s furball/tumbleweed city around these parts.

Holly at her a desk looking happy

So how to reconcile my home life with my work life where work is home and home is work and not be a screaming banshee?


Well, on a basic level, I could (and have) be a resentful shrew about keeping the house clean but instead? I throw money at the problem by way of engaging a cleaner. This actually makes financial sense – in a strict time vs money equation, the money I spend on cleaners is a fraction of my hourly rate. if I had one, but you get my point here. Every hour I spend cleaning is an hour I could be writing for myself or for clients, marketing my business, creating new services, whatever! It’s also an hour I could be out hiking or spending time with my cherubs, whether they like it or not.


So that’s one way I remove the mental load as a working mum. Another is boundaries. Yep, boundaries. I have some non-negotiables, and one is not trying to work while I’m in mum-mode, and vice versa. Saying no when I need to is an important part of this – I can’t write a book, run a business, go hiking for a day, daydream through a bookshop, be a wife, mum, friend and the rest if I’m putting my hand up for every call out. I learnt that one the hard way – f you, school fair of 2013… The expert on this subject is Kylie Broadfoot, so go have a wander around her website, and join her mailing list while you’re there, her writing is sublime!


Before we can establish boundaries, however, we need to know what we’re enforcing. Enter the ideal day, week and month to set out, well, the ideal of mum life, work life, Holly life and life in general. This guides my not-so-secret weapon for balancing out parenthood and work: a to do list. I organise like a mofo, and I’m proud of it. I’m a planner from way back and love that endorphin hit of striking through an item on a list. And yes, I’ve been known from time to time to write something on my list after doing it just to strike it through. I have a CRM that automates so many things, I delegate, prioritise and schedule as things come in so I don’t have items lurking around my periphery, and big and little picture stuff like holidays, date nights and fun (hello, Festival of 50!) are put in the schedule at the start of the year so they’re locked and loaded and ready to go. The concept and practice of the ideal day, week and month is how I don’t get lost in providing for everyone else.


Another one of my ways of keeping myself nice is to embrace a power nap. I freaking love a power nap. Just twenty minutes when I’m feeling less than fighting fit and I come out swinging. And I don’t feel guilty about it, not for a second. I am, after all, southern Italian and so siestas are part of my DNA.

The last piece of my non-banshee puzzle is my 3pm run around. Years ago when I was freelancing writing I interviewed a working mum who described her practice of having a gap between her mum life (dropping her kids off at daycare) with her work life as a designer. Before entering her studio she sat and had a coffee at a local cafe. She believed this transition was essential to her creativity and her productivity. She shut down her working day in a similar way, with great mindfulness attached to the physical act of locking her studio door. While I’m blessed to have a dedicated separate office space at home, for me, I like to ‘shut down’ with mental and physical space to step into mum-mode. I do a ridiculously quick tidy up, especially if I’ve taken over any communal spaces such as the dining table to layout a book outline or to create a comms strategy. I make sure we know what we’re having for dinner and make a start on that if need be. I love cooking so this isn’t as much as a chore as it could be. I do the boring but necessary check of the laundry and clean undies situation. I give the floor a quick going over to banish the furballs. Is it perfect? No. Do the kids walk through the door and I’m earth mother extraordinaire? Bahahahaha! Is it enough? Hell yes!


Thinking through this post, I can’t help but feel a bit miffed and a bit Stravinsky’s wife-ish. I know for a fact that the thoughts behind this post wouldn’t even cross my hubby’s mind. That’s not to say he doesn’t struggle at times with the whole work/life balance equation, but he can write his own damn blog post.


In fact, this whole piece feels like a combination of self-indulgence and vulnerability on crack so I thought I’d finish off with a quick pep talk for people with small kids underfoot who are reading this while supervising homework or sweating poolside at swimming lessons. Side note: can’t they do something about the ventilation? I had a decade of lion king hair thanks to swimming lessons. Anyhoo – my cherubs are now teenagers in high school who can get themselves to and fro the house which eases the load in ways I couldn’t even imagine when they were in primary school. On paper, all I really need to do is make sure there’s food available and then back away slowly without making eye contact. That said, the ‘oh my gawd…’ increases exponentially and they’re much more expensive to run, but the mental load feels much more manageable.


Tell me, how do you view the mental load? How’s your concept of life design or work/life balance? Do you like shiny floors too?


I love writing about communications, writing, life in business and life in general! If there’s something specific you’d like me to cover in my writing, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help, or address it in an upcoming blog post or on my social media platforms.

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