I juggle work and motherhood everyday – balancing success with failure in almost equal measure. “Working Mother” is more of a confession than a profession – in this household anyway.
I doubt this is ever the case with my friend Kirstie Allsopp. Kirstie (British TV star, Real Estate Oracle and Home Crafting Queen) is the British doyenne of the happy household. I interviewed her as subterfuge – to get some good tips – she’s the Grand Mistress of Organization.
She is extraordinarily successful and she should be immensely proud of what she has achieved because (never mind the string of popular prime-time TV shows, books and home-furnishing ranges) her children still know who their mother is – and they get her attention for all of the school holidays. She’s got the balance right. She has her own two boys and two stepsons: “My children give me so much pleasure and joy every day. I love everything about them and when they’re happy, I’m happy.”
Kirstie came from a good, solid foundation. Sane, hardworking parents, British private school education, a loving environment. All ticks. What was different – and I SO get this– was that despite her privileges, she had ambition.
She had been brought up to believe that ambition was a bad thing (our British parents were good at so many things – but WHY did they do that to us?). “To try and be better than anyone else was always presented as a vulgarity,” Kirstie says. “Ambition – for women anyway – is so often a dirty word.” But Kirstie made a conscious decision to ignore this. “Something switched on in me after I left school. I realized that I wanted to do better than anyone else,” and she found a way of being happy with that.
She always wanted kids but realized that if she wanted to work too she had to do it with total honesty, which means “celebrating whatever method of help you get to achieve it.” And it’s important, she explains, to know your limits – especially that of time. “You know,” she confides, “if I have to employ another person to work with, what better than a woman who has kids in school? They are so focused with their time; their levels of organization are so much greater than someone who has never had to juggle kids, partner, holidays, social life, shopping, cooking. These women are hardwired to be organized.”
Then we both need to go – to get on with the juggling – and she says: “Someone once told me, you can have young kids, you can have a career and you can have a social life – but you can’t have all three.”
It’s a revelation, not yet a resolution.