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The perfect work life balance, an update

Judging from my serious lack of posts this year, you’d be right to assume that work has taken over my waking hours. In the past year, I’ve helped cover the Indian elections for the Guardian, presented endless episodes of BBC’s World Have Your Say from India and London, and spent weeks covering the heart-rending devastation of the Nepal earthquake for BBC World Service Radio.

So how does it feel to be living my dream: mother of two beautiful kids, work as an international news reporter/presenter, a husband who writes novels, endless adventures in one of the world’s most beautiful, interesting and vexing places? Foof, well that’s the first problem right there… I seldom sum up my own life that way. And I’m sure we all suffer from such myopia, especially parents of young children with the added challenge of working entirely for ourselves.

On an average day, when I’m not dragging myself out of bed at 06.15 to ready a reluctant 6-year-old for school… I’m usually struggling to make sure I get enough exercise, rest and moments of quiet between work and home (and working FROM home!) to stay sane. Freelancing means you are not only the reporter (glory!) but also the one who cleans your desk, deals with invoices & payments, organizes the logistics of work and home — usually in mind-boggling detail, and then has to deal with moments when deadlines and tired, hungry children clash over your laptop!

Still, in the midst of all that, I do also manage to squeeze in passions like producing my first podcast and I’m still plugging away on my first Hindi-English kids book (oh god I can’t wait for it to finally see the light of day!!) as well as a secret, secret passion, writing short stories (not at all ready to see the light of day!)

It’s also true that Facebook and the internet generally are a huge drag on my morale. It’s far too easy each day, especially for those of us freelancing in isolation, to spend time comparing our own day/feelings/work/progress with others online. And the end result is all too often worry or envy, though of course there are many many days I’m simply happy to share my own successes and trials and to celebrate or commiserate with others.

Here’s what I now say to parents- especially mothers- at home with young children. Even those who chose to do so and are largely enjoying it fret about the careers they’ve put on hold, especially in a global climate of great economic uncertainty:

ENJOY it. Trust that in hindsight this time will have been miniscule, brief. Trust that what you cultivate now — patience, trust, love, memories, perspective — are some of the most valuable investments for your future, professionally too. Some people climb mountains (and you still might someday), or go on a gap year, some meditate. You’ve chosen to bring new life into the world and you will learn from it and be changed by it in the most miraculous ways. And however you manage those initial years (stay at home full-time, part-time, not-so-part-time), it will be an adventure and a gift that will far outlast the office.

Think of it as eulogy-worthy rather than resume-worthy.

And remember, those little wriggly creatures who drool and kick at you now will someday be capable of holding long meaningful conversations (and shouting matches) with you. What you do now will accompany them long after you’re gone…

Now go get a pedicure or see a movie. I guarantee, once you’re back at work (Oh, you will! Doubt not!), you’ll bitterly regret not having enjoyed your brief time off!

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