Name: Nicola Washington
What do you do? How would you describe your working life?
I am now a SAHM with fingers in lots of pies as I figure out what I want to do with my time-poor life. Until three months ago I was a secondary school English teacher and felt so thinly spread, with two children (aged 1 and a half, and 3 and a half) and a partner who is out of the house from 7am-8pm, that something had to give. That something was my twelve year career as a teacher and while I feel sad to give that up, I also feel grateful to be able to spend more time with my children. I also feel like it’s a massive privilege, however disorientating it is, to be able to start again and do what I should have done in my 20s - try lots of “things” on and see if something sticks.
Did you show any early signs as a child that indicated that you would end up where you are today?
No! In fact, when I went to university to study English Literature I was adamant that I would not become a teacher! Now I have no idea what I am, but I was a dreamer as a child, so perhaps I am revisiting my roots after all.
Describe your morning routine
I wake when the first small person wakes, so (hopefully) between 6am and (more hopefully) 8am - the latter does not often happen. The Eldest sleeps like a teenager these days but the boy has different ideas. Once both children are up, I jump in the shower - sometimes they are co-operative and sit on my bed watching television until I’m finished but the sound of the toothbrush always brings them both to the bathroom. They don’t actually like brushing their teeth, they just like eating the toothpaste.
Showered and dressed we head to the kitchen for breakfast and then I wrestle the two of them into their clothes. That is one of the surprising things about motherhood - how PHYSICAL it is. By 9am I often feel like I’ve attended a body pump class followed by a 10K run, except its one where the other participants throw pancakes at your head and think it’s funny to crawl into small spaces from where you have to rescue them.
Where do you get your ideas/inspiration from and when do they arrive?
All over the place - comments made by family and friends, things I read, thoughts that have been circling my brain cells for years, or new epiphanies that usually strike when I am in a writing unfriendly environment such as in the shower or while grappling with an over-enthusiastic one year old at the top of the slide.
When motivation wavers, how do you get back on track?
I get cross with myself!!! Which isn’t at all helpful, so then I have to have a strong word with myself to back off. I am learning to recognise when things are not going “well” and rather than get frustrated and snappy with everyone around me, I now try to walk away, concentrate on other things and sooner or later, the “flow” returns.
What is the best thing about your job/lifestyle?
I now have more patience for the people who are most important to me. As a teacher you are constantly required to subjugate your needs and emotions to those of other people, and while parenting is remarkably similar, at least now I haven’t expended my finite supply of these things on someone else’s children.
I also love not having to rush out of the house every day. It’s such a simple thing, but such a luxury and I am intensely grateful for this.
Finally, I feel incredibly privileged that I have the chance to start over again. To reinvent myself once more. It’s cheesy to the point of Stilton to say, but I am so grateful to my children because it is them who made me even consider doing this.
If you could do something else for the day- what would you do?
Oh god, how do I choose?! Be a real-life writer; spend the day making bouquets of flowers; spend a day brushing horses and talking to them in murmurs and soft touches (I’m schizophrenic in my internal country vs city debate); lie on a beach and soak up the warmth of the sun; hang out with my one time partner in crime, now more partner in slime, touring the shops and streets of central London... I could go on and on...
How do you overcome any challenges in your working life?
My biggest challenge at the moment is not having the time to do everything I want to do. This is frustrating and as a person who always immerses herself fully into whatever I am doing, I find the constant stop, drop and parent a real challenge. I am getting there though. I’m forcing myself to slow down and accept that good things don’t have to happen quickly.
How do you celebrate your successes?
Quietly. Maybe with a cup of tea...I have the distinctly female affliction of downplaying my successes and assuming that anyone could do it. Of course this is not what I tell my friends when they achieve something amazing so sometimes I allow myself to feel all proud.
Do you have any tools/resources or rituals that you couldn’t live without?
My children. My partner. They are the ones who have facilitated this new journey I’m on, so I couldn’t do it without them. Oh and my phone (hangs head in shame).
What are your daily essentials to make you feel ready?
A shower and toothbrush. A cup of tea. If it’s a really good day and I have a spare couple of minutes a slick of mascara has a startling amount of power to make me walk a little taller.
What advice would you give your teenage self?
Try things out. You don’t know what you want to be yet so don’t just settle because you think you should. Don’t choose the job you think “people like you” do. Reflect on what you think about every morning and find a way to make that part of your life
Where would you like to be in 5 years time?
I would like to have a life where I can be present for my children AND earn some money. By then they will be at school and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to build something that allows me to watch their school plays, and be at the school gate. It’s a difficult trick to try and pull off but I’m working on it. Slowly.
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Photo by Bo & Bel