Monday, 11 January 2016

Family plc

My feet have hardly touched the ground since 2016 kicked off in a burst of fireworks over the banks of the river Thames. Once the kids were back at school, I threw myself in a maelstrom of overdue paperwork, house tidying, novel-editing and publicity work for the Henley Youth Festival. The kids only went back at the beginning of last week and already it feels like a month!

Kids performing at the Henley Youth Festival
Credit: Cheryl George
Sometimes friends ask me: "Now your kids are at school full-time, when are you planning to go back to work?" How does one answer that tactfully? Here are some multiple-choice responses.


a) I never stopped working. Admittedly, I don't work nine to five with a regular salary flushing through my bank account, but I write/sell my ebooks and occasionally freelance.

b) I run a household and organise the lives of two busy children. After they were born, I decided I would stay home to look after them. In effect, my husband and I have agreed to run a "company" together. He is on the revenue-earning side of the business while I am in human resources / public relations. A good chunk of that income is still mine.

c) I volunteer. Currently I help out with publicity for the Henley Youth Festival, one of the largest, volunteer-run youth festivals in the UK.

Lots of my local friends give up their precious time to volunteer for festivals or cultural events that enrich the lives of people living in our community (and beyond). They may not draw a salary, but they work pretty hard. These same festivals attract visitors to our town and increase the footfall outside our shops and restaurants. Last September/October, the Henley Literary Festival, which is partly staffed by a team of volunteers ranging from teenagers to retirees, managed to sell more than 18,000 tickets. All of that translates into a significant boost for the local economy. 

Sometimes I think life would be simpler if I jacked in all of my projects and found a regular job in an office. But then I think about how diverse my days are and how much satisfaction I get from selling my own books. Most of all, I get to play a major role in my children's lives. As my husband kindly pointed out the other day, "Who do the children want to be when they grow up? They want to be like you, not me." I was decent enough to remind him that none of this would be possible without his financial support! We are all cogs in the machine that we call "family life" and together we make it work.

The Henley Youth Festival offers more than 3,000 children the chance to perform, sing, play music, create art or write for a friendly audience. This year the festival will run from 12 to 20 March. For more information, check out the Facebook page or www.hyf.org.uk.


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