Born: 1977, Ottawa, Canada
Job: Editorial and Digital Development Director at White Fox, a company she set up with a partner in 2012 following an eight-year career in publishing
Lives: Bow, with husband Ed, who works in advertising
Children: Magnus, who is 5, and Finn, 2.
Works: four days a week, mostly in office, sometimes at home.
Childcare: Magnus at school, Finn in nursery, Mon – Thu. Afterschool babysitter, Tues – Thu. Annabel at home with them on Fridays.
‘We all followed his career. The postings were all for my father… I think my mum started work again when we moved back to Canada at some point, probably when my sister was two or three. And then we got posted again, so she left her job again. And she then did bits and pieces while we were in Geneva… She told me that the first year we were back in Geneva she didn’t work, and I think she got quite bored, so she then got some work teaching – she was an economist by training. So she taught economics, and she did really odd little bits and pieces. There was one organisation that she wrote up papers for, I think. And then when we moved back to Canada when I was fourteen she was working full-time again, because we were both in school. And then when they moved to Washington, she got a job at the embassy in Washington. So because her jobs had been in government, they gave her – not exactly sabbaticals, but they often hold your job for you… But definitely we were following my Dad’s career. My dad had a good career, and my mum’s was much more patchwork.’
‘I remember grocery shopping with my mum, so she definitely did that. She did – she still does – the cooking. My dad can’t cook. And she probably did the laundry. My dad ironed – my dad’s a bit of a neat freak!... In some ways it’s quite a traditional division but he’s quite a neat freak. He hoovers obsessively, still. So he did a lot of the general tidying stuff, just because I think that was his bugbear. But mum did the kind of – certainly anything that involved, you know, making our lunches, or anything like that. Mum would have done it. But I do remember Dad dropping us off at school, too, so that was shared. But, you know – dad would mow the lawn and mum would make the dinner, to sort-of summarise.’
‘I felt that there was an expectation that you would perform academically, and that that would logically extend to professionally… Every girl from that school went to university, most of them then went on to do graduate degrees, most of them were lawyers and doctors and, you know, very high-achieving, well-remunerated careers. So there was an absolute sense that you would become a professional, contributing member of society.’
"I did suddenly know that I wanted kids, and so my decisions I guess at that point stopped being about where’s my career track going and started being more about, you know, how can I have kids, how can we afford them, where can I commute to?"
‘Did I think I’d have children at that stage? I wouldn’t have definitely said either way, probably, but I was never somebody who had constant serious relationships at all, so it was never kind of an option that I had given that much thought to. I think when I was a kid you always assume you’re going to have kids because you look at your parents and you think “oh I’ll just do that.” But as an adult it wasn’t really on my to-do list particularly. I think I had other things that I was thinking about at that stage in my life… I wanted to live in London, and I wanted to work with books, and that was what was driving all of my decisions’
‘Ed and I got engaged, and had a conversation about whether we wanted kids or not, and we both did, so we knew that that was going to happen. And I think that there was a definite switch in my head… my focus had shifted a lot. I had felt quite career-driven initially, and I got promoted quite rapidly, and it was all very rewarding, but then that slowed, and I was becoming more frustrated with my job than excited with my job. And I did suddenly know that I wanted kids, and so my decisions I guess at that point stopped being about where’s my career track going and started being more about, you know, how can I have kids, how can we afford them, where can I commute to? I had a job where I was working till seven, or sometimes eight most nights – could I do that with kids? I didn’t see how I could do that with small children.’
"I wanted to work, I wanted to be a working partner in our marriage in a way that was visible to the outside world"
‘Yes, there were female role-models in terms of balancing it at the publishing firm. They lived close to our offices and they had nannies and I felt like they were probably in a better financial position than I was. They were more senior, so they were. And I saw that during their maternity leave they were still doing quite a bit of work, and still in fairly constant contact… One of them left on the dot at 5 every day, because she was like “I’ve got kids, I’m outta here.” But I think she was still spending her evenings and weekends reading all the time. They never really switched off from work, I don’t think… I didn’t see that I could do what they were doing. We couldn’t have afforded a nanny on my salary, that would have been my whole salary gone. And I didn’t know how else I could manage it, frankly. And even if I had found a nanny I would never have seen Magnus – because of the hours and the commute I literally wouldn’t have seen him all week, and nor would Ed.’
‘I wanted to work, I wanted to be a working partner in our marriage in a way that was visible to the outside world, not just the invisible domestic work - even within our marriage that work is kind of invisible and I wanted to be doing something that was more visible. And we’ve got sons – I wanted them to see that women work, I wanted them to see an equal balance. And parenting is hard! Spending all day at home with kids is really hard, and I wish I were a more patient parent but I’m not… and the theory was that if I didn’t spend all day trying to make play-doh, then when I did have time to do that stuff with the kids I’d be into it as opposed to thinking it was a chore. And I like working. I like adult conversation. I like getting out of the house.’
‘We thought about nanny versus nursery, but nannies are very expensive, and I liked the idea of nurseries because it seemed more social. We looked at a few nurseries and did the math based on our income and then picked the one we liked the best…One of my NCT friends was a former primary school teacher and had really good things to say about the nursery where Magnus went and now Finn is. I don’t think we thought past nursery – we only got that far and then sort of forgot about school!’
‘It’s a mish-mash. I do the bulk of it… My theory is that it’s in fact a hang-over from having been the one to take parental leave, because you do all that stuff when you’re on leave because it makes sense to do it, and then it’s difficult to readjust back. My husband exercises really early in the mornings on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, so he has always been much better at getting up early than I am… He’s doing it in the mornings so that he’s not doing it after work, so that he can come home and have an evening, which is something we discussed and which I really wanted him to do.’
"I read an article in the Huffington Post about the ‘default parent’, and I feel like I’m the default parent. I order all the groceries, I remember the birthday parties, I make sure the uniforms are washed for the right days."
‘Absolutely he could and he would - if there was any desperate need he would get out of meetings and do whatever childcare needed doing, but mostly, I have felt, and both of us have felt this, that my job can take more flexibility and my job is a lot less profitable, so if one of them is going to suffer it’s going to be mine, basically.’
‘Ed loves cooking, so he does a lot of cooking. If we’re both home, he’ll cook because he likes it and he’s better than me. I do a lot of the ‘bog-standard’ cooking. So obviously evenings if I’m home – we don’t eat with the kids, we usually feed the kids first. So during the week I almost always do the kids’ dinners, because either I’m doing them because I’m home with them or I’m trying to do them the night before so that there’s something for the babysitter, so that she can just reheat something for them. So I do most of that stuff. But then often what will happen is I’ll come home, I’ll have made dinner the night before, the babysitter will be giving it to the kids or I’ll have told her what to give them, and then started getting them ready for bed, and then I’ll be putting them to bed and then Ed will come home and make dinner for us.’
‘I want to do well, I want to demonstrate professional success to my kids, but it’s more that way round, I’m not actually thinking about it in terms of being driven from personal ambition.’
‘I never finish stuff during the day and I always say – I should stop saying this – I’ll look at it when I get home. And then by the time I’ve got the kids down – that’s usually 8 – and I’ve eaten and cleaned up it’s like 9, and I’m just dead, I can’t do anything… I’ll do the odd one or two emails, but nothing substantial because I’m too tired.’
‘Do we have a good balance now? Yes and no. We rely on Ed’s salary, so his career definitely takes priority. I think we split domestic duties to a degree. We’ve got a cleaner, which is great otherwise we would kill each other! I do most of the laundry and grocery shopping. I read an article in the Huffington Post about the ‘default parent’, and I feel like I’m the default parent. I order all the groceries, I remember the birthday parties, I make sure the uniforms are washed for the right days… And Ed does the bits that he can do, but basically he’ll just say “Tell me what to do” but I’m the one who has to tell him. It’s not equal in terms of parenting, but it’s not equal in terms of what we bring in financially either, which is a really difficult thing to negotiate because I feel like I’m not earning as much but I’m working four days, I’m working hard, and that does impinge on how much I can do domestically, but someone’s got to do the domestic stuff too. I don’t quite know what the solution is… We talk about it all the time.’
‘What I feel I want now is a job which allows me to balance my interests, a decent income and family… I want to do well, I want to demonstrate professional success to my kids, but it’s more that way round, I’m not actually thinking about it in terms of being driven from personal ambition.’