How Real Mums Find Their Happy Life Balance

by Shelley Marsden |
Published on

Whether you spend all day discussing Octonauts with your toddler or race home from work desperate to be immersed in baby chaos, we find out how three mums make life work

The High Flier

Claire Larquetoux, 34, lives in Hertfordshire with husband Frédéric, 41. She is mum to Oscar, nine months, and works full time as A partner at accountancy firm Mazars

6am I get up quietly and try to shower and dress without disturbing Oscar. He’ll wake at 6.45am and we have a play on my bed. I love this time – he’s happy in the morning, giggling and kicking his legs.

7am Oscar goes in his highchair to hear a few French nursery rhymes on the iPad (his dad’s French), while we get breakfast ready. Then my mum takes over – she has Oscar five days a week and travels home to Wigan at weekends. We’re very lucky to have a willing babysitter and a spare room where she can sleep. Although I have no regrets about working, I hate knowing I won’t see Oscar until evening. When I leave, he doesn’t cry, but looks puzzled.

8am Fred and I take the Tube together for some of our journey. It’s nice to have a few moments just to catch up.
9am Once I’m in the office, I tend not to ring home, so I can switch off from my mum duties and focus. I assume Oscar’s fine unless Mum calls or texts. Otherwise, I’d be distracted and feel guilty about not being home with him.

'I’ve become more efficient, and less likely to be the person chatting in the office kitchen'

1pm Unless I’m lunching with clients, I grab a sandwich at my desk. I love being in control of my own time. If I decide to work on a task for two hours, I can do it without being interrupted. I also enjoy the variety – seeing clients, working with team members and thinking on my feet. Although I’m working, it does feel like time to myself.

3pm I’m conscious that I can’t stay in the office late, so work extra-hard in the afternoon. I’ve become more efficient, and less likely to be the person chatting in the office kitchen.

5.15pm I leave work. On the journey home, I’m on my laptop dealing with work emails, so I can switch off and devote myself totally to Oscar once I get home.

6.30pm Oscar’s always delighted to see me. No matter what’s happened at work, his smiles make it all better. I’ll play with him for half an hour before his supper. By 7pm, Fred’s home and we’ll take him for his bath together. Then I give him his last bottle and he’s in bed by 7.45pm. We stick strictly to this routine, which allows us time as a couple after bedtime, too.

8pm Fred and I have dinner together, taking it in turns to do the cooking (he does a great beef bourguignon). Afterwards, one of us works, or we’ll be busy doing online grocery shopping.

11pm I’m usually in bed, but sometimes work later. It sounds full on, but we make sure weekends are free to enjoy Oscar – we love swimming – and spending time together in the evening. That’s how we find our balance. It’s not easy, but it works.

The Part Timer

Jessica Winter, 28, lives in Essex with husband joe, 32. She is mum to Harry, 17 months, and works part-time (two 12-hour shifts a week) as a paediatric nurse

6.30am When my alarm goes off on a working day, there’s a brief moment when I feel sad it’s not a ‘Harry day’, but then it’s time for a quick shower.

6.45am Harry wakes and I take him to my mum’s, as she looks after him when I work. I do feel guilty about leaving him, but I love what I do and it feels good to be ‘me’ again sometimes.

7.15am Harry gets upset and cries when I leave, which is tough. But Mum texts photos to reassure me he’s fine.

8am My shift starts. I work with children with a variety of health conditions and it’s wonderful to be able to help them. I like being able to use my professional skills, as well as enjoying a laugh with colleagues, or simply having the time to go to the loo!
10am On my break, I ring home and chat to Harry. He shouts, ‘Hello, Mummy!’ followed by something unintelligible. It’s the highlight of my day.

1pm Lunch is a sandwich at the canteen while I have a catch-up on the phone with Mum. It’s a contrast from my home days, when Harry and I treat ourselves to lunch out with friends and their babies.

3pm I’ll be hard at work, but already looking forward to my next day with Harry. I don’t worry too much about housework, but focus on playing with him.

'I miss putting him to bed, but I know he couldn’t be in better hands'

7pm By now, Harry will be having his bath. To keep to his routine, he sleeps at Mum’s two nights a week and I pick him up in the morning. He has his own little room. I miss putting him to bed, but I know he couldn’t be in better hands.

9pm My shift’s over and I’m usually exhausted by the time I get home. Joe and I will catch up about our day before we turn the telly on and maybe order a Chinese.

11pm On a work night, I’ll go to bed later than when I’ve been with Harry. I put so much into our time together – it’s more tiring than work, but so rewarding. It’s a squeeze to make time for my career, my relationship and Harry, but it’s worth it.

The Stay-At-Home Mum

Angela Ferrari-Murray, 32, lives in West Wickham with husband ed, 35. SHE IS mum to Maia, two, and Lia, seven months, and is currently on maternity leave

7.30am Ed leaves at 6.30am, but I stay in bed until the girls wake up around now. My philosophy is, when you’ve got two small children to look after all day, you need as much rest as possible.

8am After hanging out in bed together, surrounded by books and toys, we have breakfast in our pyjamas. Once dressed, I take Maia and Lia out for a morning activity, such as a baby sensory class or a play date with friends. I like getting out of the house – the fresh air gives me a boost and I can engage with the outside world.

12.30pm My mum and dad, or Ed’s parents, may come round for lunch and we’ll eat leftovers from last night’s dinner, anything from risotto to couscous with chicken. Although I’m always on the go, I love using shortcuts that mean I’m not stressed about things all day. Sometimes, I do miss having time on my own but, at weekends, when Ed could look after both girls and let me go to a yoga class, I prefer to spend time as a family.

2pm The girls love their new playroom (it’s actually our dining room, but means the living room stays relatively grown-up), and we hang out doing jigsaws, playing musical instruments and reading books. If I need to get on with some cleaning, the kids might watch a bit of Peppa Pig.

'I do start to miss adult conversation'

4.30pm If I haven’t been with another mum, I’ll start to miss adult conversation around now, so I might ring a friend or invite someone over. Just having a half-hour gossip over coffee and cake while the kids play gives me a break. The social side of things is what I miss about working, so I do make the effort.

6pm Ed gets home and the girls get very excited – Maia literally jumps on him. I try to take a backseat. When I’ve been with them all day, it’s amazing how doing washing up can feel like a break. If dinner’s something like stew or pasta, which Lia can have, we all eat together in the kitchen to encourage the girls to try new food. Then it’s bathtime. Watching the two of them in hysterics, splashing each other, is my favourite moment of the day. It makes me realise why I decided to take a full year of maternity leave.

8pm It’s bedtime for the little ladies, so we’ll both go up and I’ll put Lia to bed and Ed will help Maia. They settle quickly, so we’re back downstairs half an hour later.

8.30pm We’ll chat over a nice glass of red wine. Even if we talk about silly things, it’s a reminder that we’re a couple who love each other, not just strung-out parents. We generally migrate to the sofa.

10pm We go to bed early as Lia still wakes at night, and Ed needs a good sleep as he gets up so early for work. I’ll nod off after reading – the kids certainly tire me out, but I’m happy.

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