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The Tale of the Work-At-Home Mother

It feels like such a long time since I’ve come on here to write something. Anything. I go through phases of wanting to write, and then sometimes it’s quicker to get my thoughts down, fingers whirring, as a caption to a photograph, posted fleetingly to Instagram, in the moment, and then those thoughts are gone as quick as they came.

I used to write on here almost every, single day. It was the best outlet for someone like me. I loved my old job, but sometimes, I just felt so caged up. I just wanted to do things my way. I wanted to write what I wanted to write about. And do what I wanted to do. Which I suppose, looking back, from where I stand now, makes a lot of sense.

You see, my dad, for as long as I can recall at least, has worked for himself. I remember seeing letters arrive at our home with the name of a company on and feeling puzzled because the Taylors lived here. Not this strange business instead. It’s funny really, I was a very curious and nosey child, but I preferred to observe and work things out for myself, rather than ask a question (I went on to study journalism at university – must have been in me from a young age). But it did take me a long time to work out that, actually, the business was my dad.

Dad did contracted hours. He is a civil constructional engineer. And to be honest, aged 29, I still don’t quite know what that entails. But I know he’s very good at it. He’s always done his own thing. And while that has meant that my parents had some tougher times in the past, and he has been out of work from time-to-time, I have always admired the power and the freedom he has with what he chooses to do. He never gets bored. He can negotiate a great wage. And he is able to work so hard that my mum doesn’t have to, and, so, really, when it comes down to it, Dad made it possible for Mum to look after Bill for all those years while I worked.

And I did work. I have always been a worker bee. My first job was as a waitress at a rather posh golf club. I didn’t really enjoy it because I felt intimidated by the older, and wealthy clientele, and I also didn’t like the tight black skirt and white shirt I had to wear. And I would hate doing the dessert course, because, at 14, I couldn’t pronounce mille-feuille to save my life.

I moved on to working at a local pub for a couple of years. I like it there. I had sore hands from helping out in the kitchen, and I hated using the tills, but the team were lovely, the tips were great, and you got a free lunch every day, so I basically ate as many onion rings as I could, because back then my figure wouldn’t budge an inch (and yet I still thought I was fat). I liked my colleagues. Some of them were a year or two above me in school, and I remember going for drinks with them before I started university. And having a mutual crush on one of the boys, but we agreed to leave it where it was, because I was about to start and he was about to go back for his second year, and after getting dumped by my long-term boyfriend on my 18th birthday, I still wasn’t ‘there’ when it came to men.

When I was at university, I worked as a librarian at the university library. I’d do it around my studies. I liked it, I had first dibs on books I needed for my course, and I just plugged in my headphones and listened to music on my phone. We weren’t technically supposed to do that – our boss was a rather strict lady called Theresa who was not to be crossed – but the library was so big that she would rarely find me, and that’s the beauty of having long hair. Hides a headphone wire very nicely if you tuck it down your university hoody at well.

I liked the library. A lot of my colleagues were foreign exchange students and I LOVED hearing about their lives and where they had come from. I also loved it when Adonis-like guys would ask me where they could find a book that they needed. I’m not entirely sure that a shy girl with a librarian lanyard around her neck, mouthing the words to whatever was blaring through her headphones was the most attractive thing in the world, but it gave me the opportunity to try and not look at my feet when talking to someone I found attractive.

By the time I graduated, after a brief stint as a nanny to a German family one summer (I felt so Maria from the Sound of Music – I loved it!), I already had a job as some sort of PR and marketing hybrid at a PR agency specialising in hotels and hospitality. Before my final exams, I flew to Cologne, in Germany, to visit one of their latest client acquisitions in the form of a hotel there. It was beautiful. I was 21. And I made friends with a girl called Laura who was due to start alongside me. We didn’t really appreciate the cuisine we were served. Bison tartare wasn’t quite up there on my list of things to eat at the time. So one night, after dinner and drinks, we snuck out of our rooms in our pyjamas and went to McDonalds. We ate Big Macs and laughed our heads off in Laura’s hotel room, before I went to bed and decided that being a grown-up was quite fun.

By the time I graduated. I was offered the job of my dreams – I had to interview and I beat several candidates despite having no experience. I worked so hard on my presentation. I was desperate to prove myself. A few days later, I received a call. I was now the editor of a new start-up business magazine.

In journalistic terms, I had made it.

I had to hand in my notice at the PR agency. Which they didn’t take particularly well at all. Part of which I understood. The other part I didn’t – I was hounded for weeks with phone calls demanding why. And I think I made a narrow escape. Laura left not long after she started. It wasn’t us – it was them.

In my new job, I thrived. I felt like Carrie Bradshaw. If Carrie Bradshaw worked in a small office above a beauticians in Macclesfield, and wrote about the commercial and industrial cleaning industry.

I travelled to places like Amsterdam and Geneva. I launched four magazines, and managed a small team. I sold space, as well as wrote interviews and commissioned pieces. I was good at what I did. I was really good.

But it wasn’t to last. Becoming a mother, unexpectedly, aged 24, made me realise that I didn’t want to pour expressed breastmilk down the sink at a convention in Birmingham, and have to make-small talk with a variety of older male clients. I didn’t want to leave my baby. And I didn’t like the way things had changed. I think I resented working there. I had to return to work when Bill was eight weeks old, there was no maternity package, and I couldn’t afford another day away from my desk. I never got over that.

I spent about six months deliberating changing jobs. I would look every day. And I never applied for anything. I was on the brink of giving up for a while. When one day I saw a job advertisement for a content lead at a Manchester agency, who specialised in charities and non-profits. They made websites, apps, launched campaigns. It sounded like a place I could be.

I got the job. I cried to Jo on the phone. She didn’t know me. We had babies a few months apart in the end. Her son just a bit older than Daisy. One of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.

I was there for a few years. I ended up falling in love there. Mark started a couple of weeks before I did. I spent a good few months assuming he was gay. Then we became friends and it turned out he was quite the Jack the lad instead. He amused me. In an eye-roll sort of way. When my relationship fell apart. He was not the person I expected to have in the wings. But things quickly changed.

I enjoyed my job, but I think I still spent some time wondering what was missing. I just felt very incomplete. I felt like I was frustrated sometimes. That I had skills I wanted to use. And I didn’t know how. And I felt like I was still hurting from leaving Bill so soon in his life. As coparenting became more routine-like, I spent even less time with him, because I knew he had to have time with his dad, and I just felt so frustrated.

I spent a lot of time looking at what I had in front of me. I had the skills. I had the CV. I had the passion. I had an outlet, blogging – this right here – was going well for me at the time. A time before I became the blogging ghost that I am today. I had a relatively new YouTube channel that I was dabbling in. And I just felt like I had the tools, and the ability to make a go of something. But it was a bit like IKEA and the instructions just made no sense at all to me.

But I was never brave enough to act on my hopes and dreams anyway. I just carried on. We tried for a baby. I fell pregnant quickly, and before I knew it, I was squirrelling away money so I could have the maternity leave I never had with Bill. The maternity leave designed to heal me. To make it better. To have one last summer with him, to see my son off to his first day of school, to really soak up my days with a newborn, to never have to express in a server room with paper stuck over the window as a makeshift curtain so no-one had to see my nipples being sucked forcefully into a breastpump.

Despite everything that happened in the end. With Daisy being so poorly. With things simply not working out the way I had (perhaps naively with my medical history?) just plain, old expected them to. I found myself building up somewhat of a mini – and I’m talking of Lego-proportions – empire.

YouTube began to grow for me. I found it easier to talk to a camera, imaginary therapy if you will, than to write. I hated to write when my daughter was poorly. I experienced my first bout of writer’s block and the words wouldn’t come because they hurt too much to produce. I forgot who I was for a while. And making videos of my children, or simply chatting away about this or that, was a great way of escaping how I really felt.

I would say that it was only in September 2016, that things felt like they would work for me. We had saved up enough so that we never struggled over my maternity, despite only having SMP, and when I checked my spreadsheets and looked over tax returns, I realised that, if we scrimped and cut back, we could make it work. So, at the beginning of December, I handed in my notice and I became a solely self-employed mother of two.

I didn’t really know what to expect in the end.

I started 2017 with terror grabbing at my throat. I was very worried that I would be back hunting for a job in no time at all, and I was trying to find a way of managing motherhood and raising two small children, around earning my keep.

Months on, it seems as though I’m still trying to find my way.

But things continued to grow. I started this year with less than half of the subscribers I have now. And YouTube suddenly became my thing. I have worked with lots of brands. I’ve worked with fellow YouTubers. Travelled to locations. Tried new products. I did a cookery Facebook Live for Channel Mum over the Christmas period. I wrote and filmed 42 pregnancy videos for them too. And much more besides.

It’s been wild.

Really, very, very wild.

There have been times when I have seen a comment pop-up on my phone and I’ve been terrified that it’s a troll with words like swords, ready to shred me to pieces. There’s no HR in this world. No one can protect you from that side of things. We’re often told to ignore it. Not speak of it. But being scared to check emails and messages is definitely a downside of the job.

There’s all the old ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. At work, you usually get an idea of hierarchy, or who is payed more than who, but in this world, the numbers speak a lot. And you worry that you are just not a likeable human. Or you are offensive. Or just not very good to be honest.

And then there is the perception. I don’t know if I want to be the inspirational mother who has legs like a giraffe and a tumbling mane of hair. In fact, there’s nothing ‘don’t know’ about it – I’m just simply not that mum. But I’m also not the sort of mum that is able to completely open up about her life either. I really like my privacy – you’ll see me disappear sometimes – and I want to be honest, but I struggle to get what is ‘real’. We hear of it A LOT. But I am still no closer to understanding what ‘real’ is. I am real, when you pinch me, I feel it. But I’m still no closer to understanding what it is. Or how I am perceived.

The thing is though, for all the downsides. Of which there are some no matter what role you choose, or are even unable to choose for yourself. My life is completely different. And for the better.

I have seen my son off to school every day. If he is poorly, or hurt, or out-of-sorts, school call me and I’m there in ten minutes. I don’t have to worry about the logistics of it anymore. I can pick work up and put it down again. I have so far spent almost every day with my second-born. My little Daisy. When she had her medical needs, hospital appointments, and her operation, I was able to be there. I didn’t have to use annual leave or panic about my job security.

Five years ago I went back to work after having my son. He was 8 weeks old. I sat in the back of our work’s accountant’s car. I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t know how. My best friend and colleague, Eve, turned back from the front seat and held my hand, as we made the familiar journey to the office once again. My desk hadn’t moved, or changed, or even gathered dust. I hadn’t forgotten anything.

I felt so strongly that I didn’t want to be there. I understood I was a working mother. Proud of it in fact. But it was too soon. I needed more time. I never got it back.

And now I’m here. The 13th August 2017, marked five years since that first day back at work. I promised myself when I got home that day, and cried into my son’s creased and milky-scented neck, that I would find a way to put it right. He’s never missed out on a thing. He’s so loved. So supported. Raised up by a village of people. But I did. I missed out on so much.

So now, my daughter sleeps, my son has just popped his head up, like a meerkat, playing with Lego, and said: “I love you, Mama.” I’m writing. I’m editing. I’m working. It’s so unconventional. It’s so messy. It’s so haphazard. It’s so free! Sometimes I feel talented and successful and proud. Other days I despair. I panic about bank balances. I am frightened of people I don’t know.

But I’m here.

And what amazes me the most about all of this is that, ultimately, I’m here because you put me here. Those of you who read, who watch, who follow, who do all of the things that enable me to make a living.

It’s completely unconventional. And when you really break it down, it’s actually stupid that I make a living by creating content about my life and putting it online. But I am riding this wave and surfing life until I get washed up on the shore. And then I will set about my next adventure.

Maybe one day, I’ll actually write that book.

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Mum
    16th August 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Yay! BOOK xxx
    PS beautifully written as ever x

  • Reply
    Sophie Durrans
    16th August 2017 at 3:53 pm

    I’d definitely buy that book. And I love reading your posts, I’ve missed them. I rarely get round to watching your videos (sorry) as my daughter goes mad when I play on my phone, but wish I could find the time. I used to love watching your pregnancy updates when you were pregnant with Daisy as I was only a few weeks behind you. You’re a wonderful mother and blogger/vlogger

  • Reply
    Amber
    16th August 2017 at 4:20 pm

    I would read the back of a Cornflakes box if it were written by you. And I don’t even LIKE Cornflakes unless they’re smothered in chocolate and shaped into one of those cake things. So lovely to see a new post on here! <3

  • Reply
    Gemma
    16th August 2017 at 8:09 pm

    I can’t really find the words to say how wonderful this post was. That time five years ago was so hard for you, I remember feeling totally devastated for you. You are an inspiration Charl – and I know you will rebuff that, but you really are. That’s why people love you. Lovely to see you writing again darling xxx

  • Reply
    Nuria
    16th August 2017 at 9:32 pm

    Wow! You can write girl!

  • Reply
    Lisa
    16th August 2017 at 11:21 pm

    Oh Charlotte, I always get lost in your words. Like when I read a book, I see the chapters play out in my head. It’s a talent, to write in such a way, it captivates the reader. You are a wonderful mama, with two beautiful children. Like a book, your life has chapters maybe ones you’d not like to read again. But it’s the chapters to come, that will complete the story. xx

  • Reply
    Alice
    17th August 2017 at 8:12 am

    You have done so well and are a great mum, blogger and vlogger, I love reading and watching your work! Also, your kids are so sweet and hilarious, a real credit to you and your village of people πŸ™‚ xx

  • Reply
    Clare
    17th August 2017 at 1:49 pm

    I would love to read a book of yours, you have such a way with words. Be proud of yourself lovely, you have worked so hard to get to this stage. You deserve it xx

  • Reply
    Jen
    18th August 2017 at 3:15 am

    Love this! I started working for myself in April this year – not blogging, im a freelance Board administrator – and this line in your post basically sums up how I feel “Sometimes I feel talented and successful and proud. Other days I despair. I panic about bank balances”. I just love your honest writing style Charlotte!

  • Reply
    Inga Keyes
    19th August 2017 at 7:49 pm

    Beautifully written Charlotte, you are doing an amazing job! I must admit I think I found you via You Tube rather than your blog and haven’t really read much as favour watching videos at the moment whilst putting my son to sleep but I do miss reading blogs as well so I’ll definitely have to trawl through back through some of your posts! πŸ™‚ x

  • Reply
    Hannah
    7th September 2017 at 11:42 am

    I really miss your blog posts Charlotte! They’re nearly all ads/sponsored now but I loved your blog before you moved over to youtube. I loved the weekend posts, non-sponsored recipes and chatty/personal posts like this. I know they don’t make you money but please do more as that’s how a lot of us started following you in the first place. I prefer reading to watching videos and I’m sure I’m not the only one! Congratulations on baby no. 3, very excited to follow this next exciting chapter. It would be great if you could do a post/video on how you found out about your pregnancy (and what method of contraception led to this happy surprise!)

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