Bringing up baby: How mums are making the rules

Jugglers who want the best of work and home; power mums who call the shots; yummy mummies who are going to look good whatever. Can women have it all? These mothers are giving it their best shot
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Money, nurturing, a life of the mind, adult company, good cappuccino - modern mothers have to negotiate a maze of conflicting needs and desires to carve out a life that works for them, and their children. Luckily they are proving adept at it. Mums who can't get the office to respect their needs are turning entrepreneur; chief execs are giving it all up for finger painting, and A-types who love 50-hour weeks are refusing to feel guilty. Good for us all. Here is a guide to the new breeds.

THE POWER MUM

Nicola Mendelsohn, 35, is deputy chairman of Grey London advertising agency and has four children aged nine, eight, five and two

Long hours are traditional in advertising, and I certainly do my share. But you can combine a high-powered job with being a mother. What matters most, I reckon, is being organised. You need excellent back-up as well. I've got a great full-time nanny, Amelia, and an array of cleaners. My husband has a very full-on job too, so it's not as though he's around to take the slack.

I try to make sure I'm home by 6pm two nights a week, and I work later the others. And even on the nights I'm home early, I might go back to the computer when the children are in bed. Technology helps enormously: you can save so much time sending emails from your BlackBerry.

I feel very strongly about being there for the key events - the ballet performance, the football match. If there's a crisis, the key is honesty: being honest at work about your home commitments, and being honest at home about work commitments.

I've not had any negative comments from my children about how much I work: they're interested in what I do. My mother worked, and her mother. It's what I've always expected to do, and I think it's possible to do it extremely well.

Joanna Moorhead

THE ENTREPRENEUR

For the first time, more than one million woman are self-employed, and many of them are mothers looking for ways to work flexibly. Janey Louise Jones, 38, an author and publisher, lives in Edinburgh with her husband and three sons, aged 12, nine and seven

I was an English teacher but didn't go back after I'd had my first son because I wanted to be a full-time mum. It wasn't an easy decision financially. We did without lots of things, such as holidays and clothes. But the first four years of their lives are so precious. I can't believe the extent to which you lose intimacy with your children when they go to school.

When the boys were seven, five and three I reworked a children's story called Princess Poppy I had written for fun at university. The reaction I got from the big publishing houses was frustrating, so I set up my own small press - The Peppermint Press. I wanted WH Smith to take 20 books in the Edinburgh store; they ordered 2,000. In 2006 Random House acquired Princess Poppy as a series of 12. I only had one and a half books ready, there are now 28 under contract.

Working from home means an organised diary. On a Sunday I make a list with columns: children, chores, publishing and miscellaneous. I'm quite hard on myself with what time I've got. I think mums become entrepreneurs to get time at home without the horrendous routine of being at work for 8.15am. If you're on the phone and you've got a toddler on your lap it can be difficult. I have a laptop in my kitchen: emails are fantastic, no one can hear the din in the background.

Julia Stuart

STAY-AT-HOME MUM

Nikki Harries, 36, is a full-time mother to two children, a boy and a girl aged four and 18 months. Previously she was an art director. She is married to Nicholas, a lawyer, and lives in Barnes, London

Looking after children is the hardest and the most rewarding thing I have ever done. I haven't got the responsibility of big business, but I do feel I have the responsibility of two lives. I find it overwhelming, sometimes, how easy it is for them to hurt themselves.

I miss the spontaneity of my old life. But there are such wonderful moments. It's fascinating watching small children grow, they're like little walking science labs. I gave up work after Felix, my four-year-old, was born. I couldn't give my children over to someone else.

My day is planned with military precision. We have morning, lunchtime and afternoon activities. I have a very loyal husband but it can be lonely. Nicholas works long hours so it's hard for me to go out.But it will get better. I have two hours a week now when Felix is at nursery and Imogen, the little one, is asleep so I can flick through Heat.

It has been a real struggle financially. If I were working we'd be paying less tax. Feminism forgot about childcare. Sometimes I think, did I waste my education? But every day I have to keep my wits about me.When you say you're a full-time mother, people go blank at dinner parties. But I feel awful moaning. When we sit in a pile on the sofa at the end of the day, I know there's nowhere else I'd rather be.

Liz Hoggard

THE YUMMY MUMMY

Rachael Flintoff, 28, is married to England cricketer Andrew Flintoff. They have a two-year-old girl and a one-year-old boy and live in Cheshire and London

I always try to wake up before the kids so I can put my make-up on, get dressed and know I look OK. It makes me feel better but it's been hard recently as the one-year-old has started to wake at 6.30. When I get the chance I go for beauty treatments; I do like manicures. If I have my hair properly blow-dried it lasts longer than if I do it, so it's easier for the kids if I get it done professionally. I've a fab hairdresser in both London and Cheshire.

I don't go to a gym because we've got one at home. Holly, my daughter, and I have little exercise times. Holly is quite girlie and sometimes we just spend the day together. I take her to the cinema and once I took her to have her nails done. Andrew thought I was mad but she loved it.

We have cleaners in once a week. I do have a girl who helps me out with the kids if I need it and our parents look after them too. I like to keep busy, especially with Andrew away so much, otherwise I would feel lonely. I've just signed with Storm modelling agency and with Andrew's sports management company. I'm also fronting a campaign for Persil Small & Mighty.

I worked full-time up until I was pregnant for the second time. I started my own business at 19, providing promotional staff nationwide. That's how I met Andrew. I sold it at the end of 2005.

I spend as much time with the kids as possible and we do fun things. Andrew is away at the moment and at the end of the month we're going to the West Indies to see him for three weeks.

I feel extremely lucky to have children and to be able to spend a lot of quality time with them. On the other hand it's not great that they don't get to see their dad that much. Since October he's been home for two weeks. It's not all that glamorous.

Julia Stuart

THE JUGGLER

Marie Dimond, 41, has four children - three girls and a boy - aged 13, 11, five and two. She divides her time between caring for her family and part-time work

Juggling feels enormously stressful at times, and it's exhausting, but I think it's the best way of sorting life out for me. I have no help, and Esme, at two, only goes to nursery three mornings a week. I fit work in at weekends and one evening a week when my husband, Iain, comes home early to look after Ellie, Luke, Honor and Esme.

I'm a Kumon instructor in maths and English, so I run classes for children on Saturday mornings and one afternoon after school. I do some freelance fundraising, too. It all gets a bit dodgy: you end up staying up all night to finish a project to deadline because you have to push your work time into when they're all in bed.

I do manage to be at the school gate every afternoon. When I've had office jobs they've been picked up by a carer, and I know they prefer it when it's me. One plus is that Iain is very involved in the childcare. He goes to work early every day so he can get home early on a Tuesday to collect the children and make their tea. But on the downside, doing it this way is sometimes completely exhausting.

Joanna Moorhead

Comments