Towards the end of last year, I cleared my laptop history of feminist film blogs, deleted 418 screenshots of client competitors doing clever things from my phone and handed in the security pass I had almost managed to lose – for the first time since being given it four years earlier, when we moved to that building – at my leaving drinks. I put my mug in kitchen, tucked in my chair and headed out into a cold, November night. And with that, I no longer worked for an agency. Continue reading →
I’m late writing about this. The reasons are many; some of them I can talk about (a flurry of minor family illness, busy work, social obligations) and others aren’t my story to tell so I will simply say… well… let’s go for personal drama. The effects have drained me of both time and mental availability, so I’m about 3 weeks later than I wanted to be to share my thoughts on this book, which was painstakingly and lovingly written by a friend of mine, Vicki of Honest Mum. (Yes, that Vicki.) Continue reading →
I am a work-out-of-home mother. This necessitates some sacrifice in the amount of time I can spend with my daughter, and that can be difficult. My employer is reasonably flexible, allowing regular work from home which means maximising before and after school time. Despite various weekend commitments Continue reading →
I’ve been thinking a lot about being a ‘working’* mum recently, since a colleague – I call her that, she’s really, very rapidly, become a friend – decided that the time was not right, family-wise, for her to be in the role she was in. So she left. It was, for her, exactly the right decision at exactly the right time.
For me, being in my job is a no-brainer in all sorts of ways – financial, intellectual, emotional, you name it. I get satisfaction from work, I enjoy work and I need to work. But in talking to her about all the things she intends to do now her time is more her own again (she will, of course, have to share that time extensively with her children, as was her intention, but they are school age so there are hours in the day without them), I realised there is one piece of my otherwise happy puzzle I’ve left out: me.
An average day is pretty rushed. I get up early for my very favourite part of the home day: waking Ramona up. She is an absolutely snuggly, warm and gorgeous delight first thing in the morning. A little bundle of wonderousness and at her most cuddly, rubbing sleepily at her eyes and grinning that slow-blooming, dozy grin that makes my heart pound and swell with pure, melting love.
Then off I shuffle to work and Get Things Done, all the while learning, learning, learning. Even in just the last two and half months (probation meeting next week – eek!), I’ve taken part in various aspects of agency life that are completely new to me, and stretched creative muscles that had been getting a bit creaky. I suppose using muscles you’ve let go soft builds up a bit of lactic acid – there are always times when it briefly seems Too Much – but they also quickly condition themselves, and you start to come by those ideas faster, develop them a little better, feel your initiative jerking up a gear.
Then back home again, and if I’m lucky I’ll be back just in time for my other favourite part of the home day: bedtime. She’ll have had a bath, and I’ll be there to read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish or Meg and Mog or Oh, The Thinks You Can Think (this week’s choices) followed by snuggling down in her big bed and then singing. We have to have Hungry, Hungry, the alphabet, Baa Baa Black Sheep and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star; Ramona generally sings comedy versions where all the words are ‘Mummy’ or some are replaced by blowing raspberries. She’ll make a great stand up comic one day, if fart noises are your kind of thing.
Days when I work from home, I get to pick her up from nursery and have extra play and reading time together. This is immeasurably precious.
Yet even when I’m with Ramona, in those wonderful few hours, or at weekends, I’m too often weirdly attached to my phone, or trying to do ten things at once. I can’t switch off one brain for another. I’ve got so used to multitasking, I try to do it constantly, phone in hand, one eye on a screen.
And then I eat, and collapse. I’m not exercising enough – I’ve started going for brisk lunchtime walks on the days I work from home, and that’s helped, plus I insist on getting away from my desk for some air every day now that the weather isn’t totally arctic. I do have a little extra time, especially the one day a week Ramona stays the night with grandparents, and I have from 8pm to 10pm every night once she’s asleep. But somehow, all I fill that time with at the moment is… nothing. Or, at least, not the things I really love doing.
I know that if I really wanted to, I’d find time to do those things I mean to do: exercise, draw and paint, write more (especially on here) and, crucially, pay 100% full and undivided attention to Ramona whenever I’m with her – or at least admit I need an hour to myself and go and sit elsewhere and get whatever it is done before coming back to again commit myself to her. As I’m doing now, actually, with one ear on her playing and reading happily with her dad. This is not an ‘I’m addicted to technology’ cry for help; it’s an admission that I try desperately hard to be all things to all people, but risk failing the people who matter the most: myself and, most importantly of all, my family. I’ve always been organised and efficient at work, and able to compartmentalise and prioritise; at home, however, I seem to let it all slip to everyone’s detriment, and in spite of an excellent, supportive husband who more than pulls his weight all round.
So taking the time to write this and get this off my chest is the beginning of a shift to being more my work self at home. Bringing the attentiveness and care that I like to pour into my work, and pouring them into family life just as much. To spend more time playing pirates, and painting hands green (there’s a whole other blog post in that one coming soon) or scribbling on this blog, sketching and scrawling, reading, reshaping that novel or catching up with friends.
I made a resolution this January that the theme for this year would be Decisiveness. It’s worked out pretty well so far, so I decide to pay attention to making all the parts of my life work better together. Let’s see how it goes.
*I do hate that term, and I’m enjoying seeing it being used less in general. It’s pretty much the ugly sister to ‘full time mother’. I am Ramona’s mother all the time, even when I am at work in an office. Mothers who don’t work outside the home sure as hell work in it. And both terms rather unpleasantly imply that mothers are the only parents that count.
On Thursday, I had a day that felt pretty much like I had never had a baby. Okay, it began with dropping the littleun off at nursery, and I did pick her up and say a quick goodbye, but I spent the morning doing grown up things like, erm, cleaning house. Then I headed into the office to do some catching up, and was answering email queries within five minutes of stepping through the door.
I then headed over to the NFPtweetup social with my manager, Jacqui, but we didn’t end up being all that sociable, at least for the first couple of hours! Though I got to chat babies with the wonderful Rachel, Jacqui and I spent most of the time talking about work… and it was brilliant! We were bouncing around a few ideas, talking about things that have changed in the last year, talking about how we could develop one thing or another. Nothing concrete and certainly nothing I could talk about here, but it just generated this exciting atmosphere of Things To Be Done. And it made me go from happy to be going back to work to itching to get started. I was all set to start brainstorming some ideas for Monday today, but had to remind myself to enjoy my weekend and spend my last few free days soaking up as many Ramona cuddles as possible!
And those cuddles are wonderful. I will miss them. But I know from that swell of positivity and surge of determination that work is exactly where I’m meant to be.
Having said a quick hello to the lovely Steve Bridger and got a chance to meet my husband’s newest colleague, Rochelle, I then got a delicious dinner bought for me at Moshi Moshi (my first visit; quite pricey but excellent – I recommend the soft shell crab).
Thank heaven for grandparents who agree to put a squirmy little baby to bed. And thank heaven for squirmy little babies who start the next morning by giving you a just-beginning-to-be-toothy smile and a hug that melts hearts at fifty paces.
Okay, working world. Make some room: I’m ba-ack!
Well, not really. I’m not planning to return to my desk just yet, but it was good to dip a toe back in the water. Of course I never really exited the pool; part of being so interested in things like social media – look, I’m blogging! – means you follow what’s happening even when you’re not being paid to.
Anyway, in a change of the usual play – change – feed – play routine, I attended the 10th NFPTweetup, and enjoyed it hugely. Rachel Beer, the team at beautiful world*, sponsors JustGiving and the speakers did an excellent job bringing it all together, as ever. Last night was a return to an older but much-loved and very useful format: a couple of short, focussed presentations, some break-out sessions on particular topics and a panel and plenary.
The introductory presentations were two of my favourites so far because – at least out of the five or six tweetups I’ve attended – they were the most unusual. Jonathan Waddingham of JustGiving provided some insight into the next generation of their Facebook app, and the way it plans to simplify giving through Facebook, and then Amnesty International UK’s Fiona McLaren spoke about Amnesty‘s use of social media surrounding the recent protests in Egypt.
The latter was the one that felt really different and especially interesting for it. Although in specific content it’s far from what we do at Dogs Trust, actually every charity sometimes has to ride the wave of a public story. A lot of talk around social media is about creating the content, making the story and bringing it into the public eye. This was about becoming part of something already bigger than any individual or organisation and using it to send an important message to both existing and new audiences. It was fascinating stuff and I felt very glad I’d got mum to Whifflesit so I could be there to hear it first hand (even if the event was being livestreamed for the first time in a while).
A break out group led by Rachel and Ashley Clarke followed for me – others went into groups with Jon and Fiona – focussing on new and newish developments such as Facebook’s Page settings, Quora and Paper.li. It also segued off into an interesting discussion about brand feeds vs personal feeds and whether avatars should be logos or individuals as well as some talk of Twibbons (that’s a previous event’s presentation from my manager).
It’s thinking about that session that lead me into some other thoughts about community management that I’ve been musing over lately and meaning to blog about. I see post after post after post on what it means to be a community manager and whether it’s the same or different from a social media manager or a digital marketing manager. And of course no two community manager jobs can really be defined the same way in the particulars, just in the overall aim: to build, maintain, engage and influence a community around a particular brand, interest, message and/or product. But I got thinking about it in the context of my job title – Digital Marketing Officer – and what that means.
One of my favourite discussions about social media teams is from David Jones, from his H&K days (and it’s only five minutes, so you should totally watch it now). It defines four different people / jobs: Reconnaisance, Mad Scientist, Communications General, Community Manager. I love this because I think if you work in social media you should instinctively know which one you really are even if you do some of all those things, but sometimes the lines get so blurred it’s hard to do. I’ve been thinking about it recently because while actually at work it was hard to know for sure. Wasn’t I all of them?
Well, yes, in a way – I think everyone in this field is – but being away from the day-to-day of it let me know at heart who I am and what it is I love doing. I enjoy being part of strategic planning and I think you can’t carry out a strategy if you haven’t been involved in creating it. But if I’m totally honest I enjoy the daily implementation more. I do enjoy getting the internal buy-in and learning about / researching the big picture stuff, but get even more excited about the chance to get on and do it. So I’m maybe 20% Recon and Communications General.
I really do like trying out new tools and platforms and enjoy the buzz I get from using them in a way that results in something positive, in meeting an objective; I also love getting to grips with the language and etiquette. However, I can find it dull and frustrating at the beginning stages when it’s just a bunch of geeky early adopters talking in circles (*cough* Quora *cough*), so I’m maybe 25% Mad Scientist.
So if I’m the person that enjoys listening, talking, creating and curating content and generally being a helpful, positive voice, I must be the Community Manager (or at least 55% CM). And oh, I totally am. I miss all sorts of bits of my job at the moment, and the biggest part is actually feeling useful in the community. Sure, it can be frustrating sometimes, and occasionally I wonder if my skin is always thick enough for this. But if I ever wasn’t sure which element of the job I really own, now I am.
Of course, lots of social media jobs demand you be all four simultaneously and usually quite rightly so (though occasionally so much so it’s clear the employer doesn’t really get it and just wants one cheap uber-geek to do what at least two or three decently paid semi-geeks should be doing), and certainly you’ve all got to be holding hands and swapping skills and knowledge. Yet I’ve really found it helpful to know how, at heart, I define myself, and what I’ll be bringing back to the table – and hoping to learn – when I get back to work.
And now, bed. Or there’s no way I’ll be able to keep up with the Whiffle tomorrow.
*I feel like I should point out that my husband is now working with beautiful world as a designer, although he’s only just started doing so and I’ve attended these events loads of times before. But there you go.