Diary of an Out-of-Office Mum

Day 1 not in the office – Tuesday May 5th 

The kids were off school today, and it was a very normal day. I’ve had dozens of days like this, when I’ve taken annual leave during school holidays, and this didn’t feel too different. No big “shock” moment. That’s good.

We went to the playground – they ran around in t-shirts despite the freezing wind, while I trudged after them, hugging myself to stay warm. But I did feel virtuous – they got fresh air and exercise, so I must be a good mum.

The halo didn’t take long to tarnish. When I went to make dinner, the only food in the house was some chicken, a red pepper, and, inexplicably, some Gorgonzola. So I googled, found a recipe for a Gorgonzola based pasta sauce, and got to work. The output was truly the most horrible meal I’ve ever made. There’s no photographic evidence of this hideousness. But yes, big fat fail on day one.

By the time the kids were in bed, and I sat down to finish an article due this week, I was shattered. This is going to be hard. But I’m determined not to make judgements based on day one.

I do usually like to do a good bit of judging, assuming, and over-analysing, so this is quite a new approach. It’ll take time to figure out how best to make it work. See? Grown-up attitude. Not panicking. At all.

Day 2 – Wednesday

A rainy school-run made me wistful for my office commute, but the small boy and I did have a nice morning hanging out at home together. I’ve realised that he does sometimes play by himself, which means I can get some things done too.

Lego time - Office Mum

Sitting down tonight to get work done after the kids were in bed was even more tiring than last night – I was trying to prepare for an upcoming workshop, but at 10 o’clock I gave up and watched House of Cards instead. Did I mention this is turning out to be quite hard?

Day 3 – Thursday

The kids are getting used to me being around, and one of them told me I’m a “brilliant childminder” today. Result.

The smallie and I made it outdoors, and he finally had his first try of a proper bicycle (poor third child). We played a seriously tough game of hide-and-seek, taking turns to hide behind very small trees.

Hide and Seek Office Mum

We also ran to the shops while the girls were at gym this afternoon, and bought a new table-cloth. It made me disproportionately happy.

And I bought an “Ultimate Summer Parka” from ASOS, so that I don’t spend the entire “summer” avoiding the playground.

ASOS Ultimate Summer Parka - Office Mum

I made a dinner that was not at all hideous and had no Gorgonzola (it’s a really simple recipe from BBC Food – chicken filled with mascarpone and pesto – because having researched protein for this article, I am obsessed with getting more of it into my kids)

Chicken and Pesto - Office Mum

Day 4 – Friday

The smallie and I decided that after a few days of self-imposed house-confinement, we’d make a run for it. So after the school-run, we went for breakfast in the Mellow Fig, then had a lovely morning, pottering around the shops and bumping into people (I bumped into friends, he literally bumped into strangers.)

I could get used to this, I thought. My small coffee buddy was in excellent humour, in fact, he has been in super form all week. I wondered if he had always been this agreeable, and I hadn’t spent enough time with him to notice. If so, how lovely the next few months are going to be!

Small boy busy doing his own made-up art - and there's my new table cloth
Small boy busy doing his own made-up art – and there’s my new table cloth

My husband arrived home from London tonight, and the little boy jumped into his arms for a big hug, then continued being deliciously cute for the rest of the evening. “He’s never like this,” my husband remarked, bursting my bubble. So, I guess he wasn’t always like this, it’s just a phase, and soon he’ll be back to storming off every two minutes over some imagined slight. But hey, it means week one has been pretty perfect, so I’m grateful that he gave me that.

Week 2

Fifteen school-runs

Three playground trips

Two coffees where I avoided buying scones for the ever-hungry child, two where I gave in

One video of us telling the Disturbing Cow joke

Ten tomatoes and one  red pepper washed with washing-up liquid and a dishcloth by my helper


Four sheets that dried on the line in an hour one sunny morning, and a new obsession with the clothesline is born (oh dear)


Week 3 

Rain, hailstones, wind, clouds, rain, cold, rain, more rain. And one short interview with LMFM Radio, while the kids were in the house – who knew how much silence hot chocolate and TV could buy?

Week 4

Good Housekeeping tip of the week: you can hoover anything. Even cupboards. Possibly fridges.  A neat, quick, one-size-fits-all solution.

Saboteur of the Week Award: goes to the three-year-old, who spotted I was on the phone (trying to get quotes for an article) and attempted to grab the phone out of my hand, tried to turn off my laptop, then pulled leaves off a plant and stuck them in my eyes.

Thing I miss most about the office: being impervious to the weather. Looking out the window at rain is much easier than doing fifteen school runs in the rain.

The one-month-in verdict

I’m not as terrible at the being at home thing as I thought I’d be, and the kids adjusted far more quickly than I expected.

My biggest fear (apart from having no money, losing my identity and killing my career for good) was the school-run. I was sure it would be extraordinarily stressful getting them up and out every morning. And actually, it’s not too bad. We’ve been on time for school most days. And on one particularly adventurous morning, I made them omelettes.

Work-wise, sitting down at the kitchen table after they go to bed is hard. But I’m doing it six out of seven nights a week, and trying to be very disciplined about it.

Freelancing, not unexpectedly, is a bit feast-or-famine, and for me, with only a small margin of time each night, it can tip from famine to feast with just two emails. I freak out a bit when I have no deadlines, and two days later, I freak out when I have many deadlines. So my husband is just delighted, listening to all my freaking out.

I’ve also started attributing pretty much everything to the transition from work to WAHM. Like, when I realised on a Friday* night that I wasn’t too bothered about having my usual glass of wine (*yes, I really mean Thursday), and figured it was due to not being at work anymore. A week later, when by Tuesday night I was gagging for alcohol, I figured that was due to not being at work anymore.

Five days of anything is relentless. Relentless. There shouldn’t be a five-day-week of anything. In work, I had three days in the office, one day from home, and one day off. That was very nice. School should be three days a week  I think. Five school-run-mornings is HARD.

The guilt never goes away – I wrote a post last month about never having enough time with the kids, about putting them to bed at night and realising I didn’t always spend quality time with them. That hasn’t changed a bit. I’m no longer in an office, but still entire days can slip by without feeling like I’ve been fully present for the kids. So, whether you’re at work five days or three days or four mornings – take heart, it’s not all rosy on the guilt front, even when you’re at home.

My biggest learning point is not judging a year on a day – not deciding that one bad hour is a prediction for a disastrous future. So, although one month in, I haven’t quite got a routine going, and I’m completely exhausted, I’m OK with it. Just don’t look at my laundry basket.

PS: Since this post featured just one child so far, here are the other two, in case they feel left out Clara - office mum

Emmie - office mum


One thing that hasn’t changed at all: I still detest making school-lunches. For HerFamily.ie, here’s a rundown of how badly school-lunches work out in our house: Why I won’t miss the tedium of the school lunchbox menu

Andrea Mara Her Family article on school lunches

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13 thoughts on “Diary of an Out-of-Office Mum”

  1. So glad you posted this – I wanted to know how things were going. I know if I sat down to do real work after the kids were in bed my brain would be totally fried, so I congratulate you on your perseverance. I’d just be counting all the lovely money we were saving on childminding and convince myself that was as good as an income right there.

    So anyway, I’ll just be over here trying to hoover my fridge. Really happy to hear it’s going well for you.
    Maud recently posted…Irish summerMy Profile

    1. Aw, thank you.
      Even when my brain is fried, I’m very motivated by fear – if don’t make this work, I have to go back out and get a proper job again. You can hoover bathrooms too, it’s the business.

  2. Great post, I can imagine it is a huge adjustment, I know if I had to go from being at home to into an office it would be a big adjustment but we all get there in the end, school runs are a pain in the behind and the day seems to disappear between them, rain is a nightmare!
    Sara recently posted…And now you are 5!My Profile

    1. Good god yes, the days just blur into school runs – sometimes I park in different places just to vary it up. I wouldn’t mind it wasn’t raining. But it is. Every single day. Every. Single. Day….

  3. I was also thinking of you and how you were getting on… Although I cannot believe it has been a month!! You must be relieved to know if this writing lark goes bottoms up, you could always take to your (obvious) vocation: child minding 😉
    Emily recently posted…Blog Tag: The a-z of MeMy Profile

    1. Good point – I didn’t even think of that! Although I do ask them each morning if I get a gold star for getting them to school on time, and so far they’ve refused!

  4. This is a wonderful post, Andrea. Can totally relate to it , being a WAHM myself, and the feeling of not being totally present for the kids, even though you’re physically there. I must try harder!

  5. The transition sounds pretty seamless to me, and no mention of missing the water-colour moments, or the office gossip or putting on a suit, or time to yourself on the commute, or any of the other things that I miss! Long may it continue.
    Looking for Blue Sky recently posted…Bloom, Books and BoysMy Profile

    1. Wow your comment really got me thinking – why am I not missing those things? I think it’s partly because I have three school runs a day so get loads of chats with other parents, and of course there’s the online chats too throughout the day 🙂
      I do miss wearing nice clothes. I was sure I wouldn’t slip into wearing “any old t-shirt” and within two days I was thinking “well, there’s no point in wearing anything good…” But yes, you’re right, overall it’s going really well! Thanks for the thought-provoking comment 🙂

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