Working Mum: Clara Spencer-Phillips, Graphic Designer

The life of Brighton-based freelance graphic designer and part time shop worker Clara Spencer-Phillips: cycling orders to the post office, after-nursery trips to the seaside and bed at 9pm…

Clara, 32, is mum to Luna 20 months, works as a freelance graphic designer and has a part time job in Loula & Deer in Brighton, where they live

“I’m a freelance graphic designer, working mainly in fashion, retail, beauty and jewellery. I have an online shop selling personalisable cake toppers, vinyl milk bottles with personalised stickers and wall stickers here and here.

I also work for a children’s boutique in Brighton three afternoons a week called Loula & Deer doing their design, marketing and social media as well as working in the shop occasionally. It’s a juggling act!

I started my online shop when my daughter Luna was five months old, and freelanced here and there, but started working properly in Loula & Deer when she was 18 months old.

The day after my three month scan I went in to work to tell my boss and she told us that the company was going into administration

Prior to Luna’s birth, I was working as senior digital designer for a London-based company. The day after my three month scan I went in to work to tell my boss, who was really my mentor and a very special person to me, that I was pregnant. She took us all out to a coffee shop and told us that the company was going into administration.

They were really good to me and I freelanced for the new owners when it changed hands and then began my life in the unpredictable but often great world of freelance. Life looks very different now to how it looked before so it’s hard to compare.

Every day is different but a working day looks like this: we all wake up in the same bed about 7am and run around doing various tasks such as making Luna breakfast and lunch, jump in the car and take Luna to her nursery for 8.15am.

Her dad, Joe, loves dropping her off – then I take him to the train station and rush home to get any freelance work and my shop orders done, cycle to the post office to send them out and then into the shop by 1pm.

Usually I’m upstairs in the shop designing flyers, marketing emails or packaging up their Not on the High Street orders. I finish at 5.30pm then cycle to Luna’s nursery and we ride home either via the beach or playground or straight home to make dinner.

Joe arrives back as we’re doing bath time, by 8pm, and usually takes over to read to her, give her milk and settle her into her bed where she starts the night. At the moment this includes sitting in her room until she falls asleep… toddlers! We then eat and go to bed about 9pm to watch True Detective or read.

Joe commutes from Brighton to London, which I found very tough when Luna was smaller because I wanted to keep her up so that he saw her in the evenings. Also small babies in the evening can be so grumpy so there was definitely a stage when weekends were the only time of the week that he saw her in a good mood.

I love her nursery but we can’t afford to have her there for any more time

We have Luna one day with her grandma or a friend – both of whom she adores – and the other day at nursery. I love her nursery but we can’t afford to have her there for any more time.

I think that there is a healthy balance and I really respect mums who are at home the whole time but I need something that is just for me. Financially it’s been a bit of a shock; I’ve taken a big step back career-wise – but I think it’s important to remember that there aren’t a lot of years when they really need you and I hope to work more when she is in school.

I think it’s hard to find a new balance in your relationship after a baby, which impacts the whole situation. My partner is the most generous person I’ve ever met but he now pays all the bills and most of the mortgage and I have a lot of guilt related to that even though I pay the childcare and a third of the mortgage. However, my main priority is Luna so if I have a bit of guilt for the short term – it’s a small price to pay.

My advice for other working mums: try a few situations to figure out what’s right for you. Whether you’re there for every hair cut or just making it home for baths but putting food on the table by working long hours; your intentions will always be to give your children the best life and that’s all good.”

Clara Spencer Phillips