Charlie Plunkett on motherhood and career
If you are a parent who also has a freelance career or runs your own company, then this post is for you. Charlie Plunkett, author of The Secret Diary series and 100 Little Words on Parenthood has visited my blog! She has kindly chosen to guest here during her big blog tour and I am thrilled to have her. Charlie and I are both mothers and we both have freelance careers.
Charlie is an author and a dance teacher and I run my own design company and I’m also an author. We have to constantly switch back and forth between being ‘on’ as a professional and being a mum to our children.
Charlie has a son named Cole who has just started school. As most of you know, I have three children – two school aged and one 3 year old. I’ve put together a few questions for us both to answer. Feel free to join in on the comments section. I would love to hear what others think!
1. When you think of yourself, what word springs to mind FIRST? Then second, then third (if there is a third/fourth/fifth)?
CHARLIE: Fun, loving, loyal, sensitive, sentimental
ME: Mother, business woman, designer
2. Why do you think those words come to mind first? Is that how you mostly see yourself?
CHARLIE: I’m not sure why the word fun popped into my head first but I guess it is because I see the fun in most things. I live life joyfully and since becoming a mum have connected even more to my inner child. Life should be fun and funny, when I look at my face in the mirror I see lots of little smile lines that have appeared since having my little boy and they are a sign of how happy I am.
ME: At the moment and for a long time, my main ‘job’ is to be a mother to my children. But I also have a career and would never want to give that up.
3. How do you think people view you? Mainly as an author?
CHARLIE: I think I am viewed in several different ways. To my son and husband I am mummy and wife who loves writing and dancing. To my followers on Twitter I would say they view me as an author but I would hope also as a friend to them. To the students I teach they view me as a ballet teacher and some of them know I am a mum and that I have written several books. I have many different ‘heads’ a bit like Worzel Gummidge lol !
ME: I would guess most people view me as a mother first and foremost. But also as a business woman. Most people know about my story and how I built up my company from scratch when Anna Grace was a baby and I had been made redundant from my design job when I was still pregnant with her. I’m not sure, but I would also think people view me as an American.
4. Does this affect the way you operate as an author / as a mother?
CHARLIE: I don’t think so, my little boy only started school recently and so he was always with me whenever I went on a book signing or if I popped in to ask a bookshop to stock my books and so I have always come across as being a mum first and foremost. It is hard to remain professional on the telephone when you have a little voice in the background saying ‘Mummy I need a snack!’ I have found that this personal approach has gone in my favour especially as the books I write are about pregnancy and babies and many of the people I am contacting have children of their own and so I instantly become more familiar and sound less like a salesperson! As a mother I try hard to make sure that now Cole has started school that I get all my writing done whilst he is there and in the evenings when he is in bed. I want our time together be spent having fun.
ME: Being more than just a mother does make me try and perfect the art of multi-tasking! I am pretty darn good at it but I do sometimes sigh and think “there just are not enough hours in the day for everything”. I recently had to turn down a work opportunity because I needed to put my family first. 6 years ago I would have beat myself up about that, but now I realise that if you are a mother AND a business woman, you can’t do EVERYTHING and you shouldn’t have to do everything.
5. How hard do you find it to switch ‘hats’ from one role to another? Or do they blend into one or do you try and keep them separate?
CHARLIE: These are all traits of my personality that compliment each other and that make me who I am. I think I have become even more sensitive since having a child and have empathy for how he is feeling as well as being far less judgemental of others than I used to be. With me I’m a kind of what you see is what you get person. I’m very open, honest and approachable and I’m like that in my personal and professional life. I am loyal to my husband and friends but also to companies whose products I like and when it comes to love I believe in spreading it round although most of it is lavished on my hubby and son! ‘Treat everyone the way you would like to be treated’ is my mantra in life.
ME: Because my industry is so competitive and mostly (still) male dominated, I like to keep my design company separate as much as possible from my role as a mother. Having said that, I am part of a network called The Mumpreneurs Networking Club which is great for mothers who also run businesses. But in terms of the everyday running of the business and dealing with clients, I am a business woman rather than a mother. Although it does help with some design projects – like the Harbour Park website which is a family run family entertainment centre. It definitely helped to think about design concepts with my ‘mum’ hat on. Working from home also requires a certain amount of skill in being able to switch back and forth between business and home at the snap of a finger. Being an author allows me to merge motherhood and my writing career a bit more. My daughter is very keen to become an author so we often write things together. She also likes to comment on the designs I’m doing!
6. Is there anything you would like to change or do better, do more of, do less of in your life as an author and parent?
CHARLIE: As a writer I always am looking to improve my work and to get better and the same applies to my family life. Writing is one of those jobs where you are never at a stage of finishing because no sooner have you published a book then you have to start promoting it and then you are back at square one again when you start your next manuscript. As a parent I have always been strict with myself not to write while my little boy is with me, although I do check the occasional email. I think if I could change anything it would be to increase my productivity in the daytime to allow quality time in the evening for my husband. Saying that I am at my most creative in the evenings and often once he has gone to bed I will stay up until 1.30 am working away.
ME: I would love to be a domestic goddess! I do my fair share of cooking and baking but I am no expert and have failed my children on many occasions by burning dinner whilst tweaking a design or answering an email. I need to be better at keeping the house clean and tidy. I let the domestic chores slip because of lack of time mainly. I’d like to rely less on Domino’s and more on my husband. No, just kidding!
7. What advice would you give to other parents who also juggle a freelance career and parenthood?
CHARLIE: To set yourself a restriction on what you do work wise when your child is with you. When Cole was a baby I only wrote when he napped and when he stopped napping I did notice a drop in the amount of writing I got done but first and foremost I am a mum and I know that these early years go so quickly there is a fabulous quote that sums it up by Patricia Clafford ‘The work will wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won’t wait while you do the work.’
Once your child starts school it feels like you have suddenly gained so much extra time to work. When Cole first started school full-time I got so stuck into writing I would miss lunch and that is something I need to be strict with myself about to take regular breaks and not to lose track of time.
Do not check your phone or computer when you are sitting at the dinner table, is a little pet hate of mine. It is so tempting but I realised if I started doing it then it would become a habit and family mealtimes should be a chance to connect and be 100% focused on each other and of course the wonderful cuisine hehe!
ME: I agree with Charlie. Set your boundaries. Don’t answer the phone after hours. That’s what voice mail is for. Make sure your clients know your office hours and don’t answer emails or text during dinner. But also set family boundaries too. If you have a deadline which means you have to work on a Saturday because you went to your child’s parent-teacher conference on the Friday, then explain this to your family and tell them it’s important. My children understand that I work and that it’s important for me and for us as a family. As long as there is a good balance then some give and take can happen. It’s hard at first and takes time to recognise what takes precedence but soon it will come more naturally.