My two worlds – image by John Nassari
Today is International Women’s Day and it seems the perfect moment to write a personal post that I’ve been wanting to compose for a very long time:
One of my favourite vendors here at Smashing The Glass is the photographer John Nassari. He has taken some of the most beautiful wedding photographs I’ve ever seen but he has other strings to his photography bow. His latest project is ‘Alters’, a series of images which, with some clever editing, explores different aspects of an individual’s personality.
When John asked me if I would be willing to sit for him I was delighted but I couldn’t think what my alter ego might be or how my personality might be split. And then I realised that as a working mother, I exist almost all the time in two separate headspaces, always navigating two different worlds, divided between my family and business.
This is what John captured in his portrait. Here I am, on one hand a businesswoman: smartly dressed, high heels, make up, ready to take on the world with my independence and ideas. On the other hand, I’m a mother: dressed for practicalities, juggling the demands of two small people who are completely dependent on me.
But John’s captured something else.
Work Me is facing towards Family Me and smiling, while, simultaneously, my body is turned away from them, angled towards the window and the world outside. It’s like I’m in constant conflict with myself, twisting in every direction to keep all the plates spinning at once.
I began my business on maternity leave, a way of keeping my brain ticking while I was looking after a baby and I developed it to fit around family life. I wanted the two aspects of my life to sit happily alongside each other but, in reality, it is so easy to get sucked into one thing or the other. The trick is juggling the two.
Today is International Women’s Day and right now is an interesting time to be a woman: the Harvey Weinstein scandal, ♯Me Too, ♯Time’s Up, equal pay discussions at the BBC, the centenary of (some) women winning the right to vote. This is a big moment for the possibility of gender equality, a time of evaluation and change. And yet, I can’t help thinking the concept of juggling childcare and work is still mainly an issue for women rather more than it is for men.
My husband is a brilliant hands-on dad but does he consider himself to be juggling the different parts of his life? I’m not so sure. When men choose a job or a career, how often do they consider whether it will fit in around family life? How many choose to work from home or part-time so that they can pick the kids up from school, or stay with them when they’re sick, or just spend some time with them each day?
I’m not saying men don’t do all these things. I’m just wondering how many factor it into their life choices. Here at Smashing The Glass we speak to lots of couples who think really hard about gender equality in their marriage ceremony, tinker with the traditions of our very own patriarchal religion to bring the proceedings up to date. But I wonder how many of us take that sensibility through to what, for many, is the next rite of passage – having children.
The truth is, I’m not two separate people. I am not Family Me and Work Me. I’m not the sum of two elements but many. And those elements are mixed up and blurred and fuzzy at the edges. The most challenging aspect of juggling motherhood and work is actually the lack of separation between the two.
Everything bleeds into one.
I don’t go to work, do my thing, come home and hang out with my children. I work from home, usually when the kids are in childcare but when they are home they are also in my office. And to get a business off the ground requires something close to obsession, you have to throw yourself into it completely, which means sacrificing the time you have for friends and family.
Plus, in this day and age of mobile phones and social media, work rarely stops.
It’s not a bad thing that my daughters see their mother running her own business and being fulfilled by work but I do wish they would see me on my laptop a little less.
I couldn’t help feeling a pang of guilt when my eldest daughter, aged 4, gave me a Valentine’s card wishing me ‘a hundred, million work’, because she knows how much I love what I do.
I can’t help feeling the pressure to be everything – a good mother, a successful businesswoman, someone equally at home playing with Lego as I am on Instagram. And that is the thing for women right now. We’ve come so far, but those feelings of guilt linger on. The modern family has transitioned hugely but I’m not sure its done transitioning.
I feel very lucky. I have a gorgeous family and a job I’m passionate about and it is fantastic to have both those things. They are not mutually exclusive but they could both be all-encompassing if I let them, so maintaining the balance between the two is what I strive for.
My daughters are growing in wonderful ways too and finding out how to nurture both simultaneously means I am growing as well. Long may we all prosper, separately or together. As John Nassari suggests, we are all the sum of many parts.
I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the subject of work/life balance, how to achieve it and whether there is a gender dimension to it all. Please do leave a comment below and let me know your story.
PHOTOGRAPHY – the fantastically talented John Nassari (and do check out his Alters portfolio here)
WORDS – Karen Cinnamon, founder of Smashing The Glass and VIB Club
KAREN CINNAMON’S MAKE UP – Pamela & Andrea (I love these two so much!)
KAREN CINNAMON’S HAIR – Love Hair by Lou (another totally awesome babe)