Meet the women with know-how

Julie Robinson set up accountancy firm Footprints in April last year – and gave birth to her second child Charley this March.

Julie, 41, had a long career in bank managing before becoming head of finance and operations at Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, and all while caring for son, Danny, now 16.

Now self-employed with a wealth of clients large and small, it’s not unusual for her to be emailing clients from her blackberry at 3am while she’s breastfeeding.

Does anyone say to you: “I don’t know how you do it”?

Yes, often clients – women who understand and men who have wives who either don’t work or work part-time.

Fictional character Kate Reddy has a support network - a PA, a caring husband, a best friend and a nanny. Who do you have?

Hubby, who is on paternity leave until February and is an excellent dad.

My son, who understands what we are trying to achieve and has his own goals and aspirations.

Both sets of parents, my sister and some good long-standing friends

Sarah Jessica Parker’s character makes a long ‘To Do’ list every night. Are you an avid list-maker?

Every night, I end up emailing myself with reminders for tomorrow. Things like ringing a client to see how they are getting on if I’ve not heard from them.

Are there things on your list that never get done?

Booking in the hairdresser’s seems to take a back seat. I have had to realise that clients are not with me for my hairdo.

How do you juggle work and home and achieve a balance?

I am busy and that is a blessing in the current economic climate.

You have to enjoy and appreciate what you are doing and ensure your grab the quality family time wherever you can.

Can women “have it all”?

No. I do miss out on things. But I wouldn’t be happy not working and that would affect the family.

I don’t believe my work is to the detriment of the family, though; I have already raised a confident, ambitious, content son and I am sure that Charley is and will be just as happy.

The plus side is that running my own business means I run my own diary and I can go to events at nursery and school.

‘Some days I think something’s got to give

Claire Taylor had only just given birth when her marriage broke up, but she didn’t crumble.

A single parent for the last nine years, she worked her way up from a secretary to head of department at the University of Sheffield while studying part-time for a masters degree in communication studies, then founded Claire Taylor Therapy a year ago.

She is now a qualified advanced clinical hypnotherapist and coach. Her Abbeydale Road practice helps clients with depression, anxiety and stress.

She lost her staunchest ally, her mum, this year.

Does anyone ever say to you: ‘I don’t know how you do it all’?

All the time.

The truth is sometimes I’m not sure I know how I do it all, either. There are days when I think something’s going to have to give, but it never comes to that. In my spare time I’m a Beaver Scout Leader at Sheffield 79th Crookes and I help cover shifts at my daughter’s after-school club.

What is your support system?

I have fantastic friends – and parents of my daughter’s friends are very supportive of me too. They can tell if I’m getting overtired and volunteer to have her for a night.

While its been quite a roller-coaster of a journey settling our relationship, my ex-husband is a very good part time dad. He gives me a hand with DIY jobs, too. His new partner is always happy to help out if I’m stuck for child care.

My mum was a major support until she became too ill. We lost her to her third battle with cancer earlier this year. Dad is 80 and is absolutely fantastic and supports me in any way he possibly can.

Do you make ‘To Do’ lists?

I learned a lesson about lists when I set up my business. I used a hard-backed book I couldn’t pull pages out off. But after a few months I realised I was never going to get through the majority of it, and that seeing all the things I’d not done was not helpful, so I scrapped it.

Now I make a business list and a personal list on my iPhone, usually created quite late in the evening when I’m motivated to move mountains the next day.

I’m not a morning person so the lists are absolutely essential.

What doesn’t get done?

Jumping around my living room to my Davina Fit DVD. There are bits of decorating I’d love to touch up and the garden could do with some TLC, but I can’t see any of that happening any time soon.

There are shops I would dearly love to wander around but time never seems to permit.

And I sometimes feel guilty that I don’t prepare far enough in advance for things like my daughter’s fancy dress costumes.

Can women have it all?

To some extent I think we can, and have.

I have the most well-behaved and happy daughter, so I must have done something right. Being a single mum has never felt hard to me, but it is very tiring.

Some may think I’ve added to that by giving up a career and starting my own business but instead of stress being imposed on me, I now have my own stress and that is so very different.

I can choose not to work one morning and then end up working until 10pm that evening.

Some would argue I haven’t got it all as I haven’t got a partner. But, honestly, I never feel lonely. It would be wonderful to meet someone special, but I don’t have an awful lot of energy left to look for him!

How do I do it? I think the real question is more ‘WHY do I do it?’

Joy French is writing a Christian book for mums and training to become an ordained minister around caring for her three sons.

The 36-year-old, whose husband Clynt runs the ‘Messy Church’ project in Emmaus School on the Wybourn estate, hopes to begin part-time vicar training in September and see her book published in 2013.

Her life story includes sacrifices, gladly given for the sake of her family.

Does anyone say to you: “I don’t know how you do it”?

Yes, but I reckon they think I’m a bit daft to take so much on.

I’m not actually someone who finds multi-tasking easy, and I’m not really a machine-like super-organised woman. I often have an unrealistic view of what I can fit into a day, so I commit myself to too much. Maybe what they ought to ask is: “I don’t know WHY you do it!”

Do you have a support network?

Well there certainly isn’t a nanny! I do have a very domestically-able husband who, if truth be told, is much more handy with a pair of Marigolds than I have ever been.

We both work together from home and we do it as a team. This might mean he does the school run so that I can crack on with some admin, or that I’ll be making decisions with him about strategy planning when all has to stop to take a toddler to the naughty stair.

I have a fantastic group of supportive friends in Nether Edge. We’re all maxed out with the demands of children, work and keeping life running but when one of us has a new baby, or gets ill, someone puts together a meal rota for a couple of weeks to take the pressure off.

Do you make ‘To Do’ lists?

I’m used to keeping lists in my head – although since I’ve had an iPhone, I use the notes app to record things I need to remember. Like the things my son needs for his school trip. Then I’ll forget I’ve recorded them and still end up disorganised.

To-do lists make me very anxious, as they’re always reminders of what I have failed to accomplish on any given day.

Are there things on your list that never get done?

I spend 90 per cent of my time feeling I am one or two jobs away from satisfaction. Two things that I love to do that hardly ever seem to happen are going to the cinema and reading a book.

How do you juggle work and home?

Our eldest son is now 12 and our youngest 2, so our lives as parents have been split. When the eldest two were small I spent three years studying part-time for a post graduate certificate in infant observation and psychoanalytic studies. I got a job in clinical training as a child psychotherapist. But then I discovered I was pregnant.

I began the training, took a year of maternity leave and then made the immense decision not to return. I just didn’t feel I could give that much of myself in this season of our family’s life.

In September, I decided to take the plunge and left my part-time job as a primary school learning mentor to work with my husband.

From Monday to Wednesday, I am a full-time mummy at home. On a Tuesday morning I help run a local community toddler group. On a Thursday and Friday, Moses, now two, is in nursery so I write and work. It is lovely to have designated child-free time to do the things I was previously trying to cram into the odd evening.

Can women ‘have it all’?

I think we are capable of “having a lot”, but whether we can “have it all”, I’m not so sure.

Working full time made me feel pulled between the career I loved and my family that I wanted to be with.

That’s why I have chosen to focus my energies on what fits for our family at the moment. I sometimes have a pang of anxiety that I haven’t achieved enough when I’m around friends with awe-inspiring careers, but I love being productive in the world while building a strong family.

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