Working Mum: Anna Whitwham, Author

Her debut novel Boxer Handsome was published in 2014 to critical acclaim. Anna Whitwham is now lecturing, raising her one-year-old daughter Sylvie and working on her second novel…

This is one from the archives – originally published in October 2015.

“I live in Ladbroke Grove. Before Sylvie was born, I was doing some lecturing at Royal Holloway and writing my second book. I had a few months off after the birth but then went back to teach.

I had to take Sylvie with me – my wonderful mum had her in the canteen as I taught so I could run down in the break and give her a feed and a cuddle. She was just that bit too young and I was lucky to have my mum to help.

I have an incredible family. My mum and dad have been amazing. Not only in watching Sylvie some mornings, but they’ve kept me bonny since she was born. They’ve made sure I’ve been getting my vitamin D with walks in the park and worldly chats.

I’ve actually found life kinder and clearer since Sylvie was born. I am making it work around what I do – she is no obstacle. I am keen to break that old narrative: Sylvie does not take anything away from my life. A baby does not take who you are away.

Anna and Sylvie

Having Sylvie has made my life feel less cluttered. I ration my time and energy a lot more. My partner is very supportive and works madly long hours then comes home and often does the dinner. My agent has been brilliant. Everyone has been great, actually.

On a typical day I get up when Sylvie gets up – usually about 7am. We have a little Radio 3/French pop to ease us into the morning and I let her chill and play while I do breakfast. We eat the same, pretty much. Right now it’s sourdough and almond butter. And a tonne of blueberries.

Next it’s a wash, a change and some reading and playing. Then hopefully a nap (nothing is ever set in stone!). Soon as she naps it’s my writing time and I thrash out as much story as I can, knowing I’ll edit in the evening.

Or I’ll use that time for lesson planning – or any other work I have to do. I usually have an hour. Then I tidy all the breakfast and flat and she’s up again for lunch. We go out in the afternoons to play somewhere. Then a nap, a snack and home for dinner.

Looking after your baby is enough – the rest is extra. An untidy house is fine. Leave the laundry. It’s much better to go and walk in some sunshine if you get a break

We take it in turns to cook and we eat with Sylvie round the table. Then my partner will do her bath and I’ll put her to bed at about 8pm. If it’s a good day I’ll have some evening left to work, have a tea and a biscuit with Troy and watch a bit of TV, or do some editing. I’m pretty tired by about 10pm.

Troy works very hard. And he’s setting up his own business too. He’s an enormous help when he gets home but if I have to get something urgent done in the day I ask family. I can’t afford childcare so am very lucky to have some family help.

I do like working – it’s necessary and it puts me in the world. Looking after Sylvie is a different kind of work, a beautiful bubble. My days seem filled with a nice mix of both.

I guess if you’re freelance you have to learn a new level of discipline, to be able to switch yourself on and off. As soon as Sylvie is asleep I have to get into gear very quickly because the time is so precious. Usually still in my pyjamas and with a cold coffee. There’s no more pottering like the good, old writing days.

Advice for other working mums: be kind to yourself and get out of the house. Looking after your baby is enough – the rest is extra. An untidy house is fine. Leave the laundry. It’s much better to go and walk in some sunshine if you get a break.”

Boxer Handsome by Anna Whitwham, now available in paperback, is published by Vintage
Twitter: @anna_whitwham

Photo credit: Nick Tucker