“I try hard not to compromise the kind of mother I want to be, by not letting work encroach on the children’s time. But inevitably, deadlines need to be met“
Next up, in this series of interviews with mothers, is Carmel Harrington, a sales manager turned stay-at-home-mother and now a published author. She is actually living the dream -but like the rest of us, not managing the laundry…
Carmel’s book, Beyond Grace’s Rainbow was published by Harper Collins in paperback this month, and has just won the Best Romantic Read eBook of 2013 as the UK Book Award’s Festival of Romance. You can also read her blog at CarmelHarrington.com
Thank you Carmel for taking part if this interview for Office Mum blog – so let’s start with the basics – could you tell me how many children you have and their ages?
Thank you so much for inviting me over to your lovely blog! I’m a fan.
I have two children, Amelia who is 3 & ½ and Nate who is almost 2. I also am a stepmother to Eva who is almost 11.
And now could you tell give me a little background your work situation – the career you had before becoming an author?
I came from a Sales and Marketing background where I worked for a company called 3M Ireland for over 10 years before I made the decision to become a fulltime mother.
What kind of hours did you work then and how does it compare with now – do you get to do much writing during the day?
I worked quite long hours when I was in Sales. It goes with the territory, which in my case in 3M was big! I managed accounts throughout Ireland and would spend quite a bit of time every week on the road, visiting clients.
However looking back, it was a breeze compared to the hours I put in now as a full-time mother and author!
As for writing now, things have actually gotten a little bit easier since Amelia started pre-school in September. She goes in 5 mornings every week. We also took the decision to place Nate in playschool 4 mornings a week, so that means I have 4 mornings to myself to write!
Once they come home at lunchtime, the laptop is closed and its time to be Mummy again. I do write in the evenings too, once they are in bed.
Did you have the flexibility to work from home or work part-time – was it a family-friendly employer?
Actually yes, 3M were very family orientated. However, the problem for me was the fact that I had to travel so much in my sales role, which meant that I wouldn’t get to put my children to bed every night. I can remember going back to work after my maternity leave on Amelia ended and crying the whole way into the office. Every day. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and I knew pretty quickly that it wasn’t going to work for me. So I decided to become a full-time mother.
Do you have to travel for work now, to promote your book?
Since I signed the book deal with Harper Collins I’ve gotten very busy. There were quite a few radio and tv interviews, that meant I had to do some day trips.
I have also been booked to do some public appearances over the coming months, (book readings, guest talks) but in this case, I am really looking forward to them. It’s a great opportunity for me to meet people who love to read.
It’s only once every few weeks too, so very doable with the children.
On a practical level, what did you find most difficult about balancing work and home when you were working in your previous job?
I don’t have enough hours in the day. But I think most working mothers would say the same thing wouldn’t they? I’ve had to be strict that when the children are in childcare and switch my mind off from the mountain of laundry that needs to be done or the floor that needs to be mopped. It’s difficult, because when you are working from home, it is hard not to say, I’ll just do this quickly before I start writing, only to find that you’ve lost an hour of the precious time allocated for it.
I try hard not to compromise the kind of mother I want to be, by not letting work encroach on the children’s time. But inevitably, deadlines need to be met and of course I feel rubbish for letting work seep into my precious time with the children, but that’s life!
Housework is an issue. There always seems to be a backlog of laundry and ironing. I feel guilty a lot of the time that I’m not managing to keep the perfect house. But something has to give!
And do you suffer from working-mother guilt?
I think it’s impossible for us women not to feel guilt. It’s inbuilt isn’t it? I find myself feeling guilty most days and I get annoyed with myself then for that. Because after all, part of the reason that I write is to make a better life for my family. When I have a deadline to meet for my publisher, I have to work at weekends. I hate this, because that’s supposed to be family time with my husband and children. But it’s inevitable. I don’t have the luxury of writing 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, because with children you never know what is in store! Last week my son had a bug and that meant I didn’t do any writing for two days. So then I felt guilty about not getting any writing done. It’s a vicious cycle.
Do you think there’s an optimal solution out there – a perfect balance that enables a mother to have a fulfilling career while being there for her children?
That’s a tough question, because I think that there isn’t one answer that will suit everyone.
Every family has different needs, so I think they have to find the right balance for their situation.
I have to admit that I am feeling very lucky right now with my work/life balance. I get to fulfil my creative side most mornings and fulfil my maternal side outside of that. It’s not perfect, but it’s close.
If you could do any job, what would it be?
I actually wouldn’t change a thing now. I have always wanted to be an author and to have fulfilled that dream this year is pretty incredible. If I was being totally greedy, I’d politely ask to have my novel become a bestseller!
Do you have three top tips that you could give any mother returning to work, to make her life easier?
Elicit help wherever you can get it!
Stop feeling guilty, you are doing great and I know you are being way too hard on yourself, because that’s what we do!
Carmel, your story is so inspiring – to write a book while being at home with your children and have it published is a fantastic achievement. It’s also reassuring that you face the same challenges as the rest of us!
Thank you for taking part in this interview and the very best of luck with your future best sellers!
Carmel’s book Beyond Grace’s Rainbow is available to buy on Amazon/ iTunes/ Kobo and all eRetailers for £3.99/ €5.99. It was released on paperback on November 14th and can be purchased on Amazon.co.uk for £6.99 or in bookstores.