Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Dropping the Balls


I’m juggling two major deadlines, both due in two weeks’ time on the same day. One is a six-page story for a magazine and involves interviewing about ten people over the phone. The other is a deeply technical chapter of the book I’m helping to ghost-write.

I work in the fissures and cracks of my life, when people are at school and kindergarten (a grand total of three and half hours free every morning), during someone’s nap-time and then at night when all three are sleeping. This method has worked for me thus far, but is starting not to work so well anymore. I may just have too much on my plate.

Today, for example, I:

  • forgot Ollie’s rucksack – containing nappies, wipes and spare clothes – at home
  • imagined that an interview was at 10.30am when it was in fact at 9am
  • carefully planned my entire afternoon around an interview which I thought was at 2.30pm, only for it dawn on me at 2.20pm that the interview was scheduled for 2pm

Aargh! Embarrassing! Normally, I am professional, but today I am dropping all the balls.

The good news is that in two weeks’ time (yes, after these two deadlines are past), we are importing a lovely au pair to help me out. She is in her sixties, speaks excellent English, cooks like a dream and will run around fetching and carrying the children so that I can focus on my work. She will do anything to help. I will be able to work all afternoon if I need to, all morning without having to stop, collect people and cook their lunch. I can’t wait for her to arrive, and I hope that my professional standards improve as a result of having her help.

Her name is Granny, and she is that special kind of au pair – the unpaid, but much-loved, kind.

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

15 thoughts on “Dropping the Balls

  1. Oh yes! I desperately wish for such a lovely au pair. I hope yours does help your rhythm settle. I too am running around missing deadlines and being all strange about work and children.

    Nice (in a kind of solidarity way) to hear that I’m not the only usually professional person who sometimes drops (all) the ball(s).

    I am running around catching them now.

  2. I’m hoping my balls will bounce so that I can catch them on the rebound. I’m also juggling several work and family roles at the moment and we have got Granny and Grandpa arriving tomorrow and youngest’s birthday on Friday, for which I need to write a treasure hunt etc etc….

    Good luck with your deadlines and make the most of your au pair!

  3. Oh boy, I can see a souce of much blog material just around the corner…

    We had a full-time maid in Hong Kong. She was also a grandmother, was very kind and loving. She sent most of her salary back to her home country, the Philippines. It was quite sad when we finally had to say good-bye.

  4. How long is Granny staying? My mom was here for a few days and that was such a huge help. I’ve been having a hard time keeping the balls in the air myself.

  5. Let the balls fall. It’s good practice. That is what having kids is all about: plan b, lowering your standards, making due, learning that we are valuable even if we are not rich.

    Well, this must be a big step to invite your mother-in-law to stay. How long is she planning to stay? Do you think she will be able to build a life of her own.

    My mother-in-law is moving into the apartment across the corridor from ours in December. She bore and raised nine children without any help from her terrible patriarchal tyrannical husband. Inviting her to live across the hall is the least we can do. She’s a feisty, independent being, but I’m hoping that the close proximity will allow us the opportunity to pamper her a bit, but also allow both of the parties two doors to close so we may luxuriate in our own need for privacy.

  6. Take care girl. It’s not good when there are too many balls and you start dropping them. If you ask me you need to take some chill-time once those deadlines are passed.



  7. I say that a great business idea would be to start up a Rent-A-Granny company, where you could call on a lovely reliable granny to come round and help you whenever you needed one. Wouldn’t that be a godsend to parents living without any family nearby? I want to call them right now!!

    Heh heh, I can relate to your post so much. Up until yesterday, for a week, I was incapable of remembering a single simple job – put a new packet of baby-wipes in Kiko’s going-out bag. So for a week he was a boy with a very dirty face when we went out…! (Wet tissues just don’t do the same job on little-boy dirt). Now I have to remember to change the clothes in his going-out bag. He’s suddenly grown enormous and none of them fit.

  8. It sounds like Granny will make things much easier for you. I can’t wait to hear about how much more productive you’ll be in your work life, since I know that will fill you with a great sense of accomplishment.

    Are the kids excited about Granny coming to visit?

  9. Hi Francesca. Good to hear from you. Nothing like a bit of working-from-home-mother solidarity to make me feel better about yesterday’s embarrassments. Today I resolve to be better.

    Kit, now that’s a concept. I did manage to rescue both of yesterday’s interviews so I guess my balls did bounce. Have fun with your set of grandparents visiting and good luck with all your commitments.

    Letters, this au pair really is my kids’ Granny. However, I do dream about fulltime help.

    Yogamum, she’s here for nearly four weeks, including the week-long autumn holiday. She can bond with her grandchildren and I can work. YAY!

    Hi Lia. The Granny in question is my own mother, who is ten years younger than my MIL and very fit and active. I’m pleased to hear your granny plans. I hope that works out well for all of you, especially the children.

    Aphra, I’ve just had a Big Chill in Berlin! But yes, I will build some chill time in between these deadlines and the next ones. Promise.

    Helen, I want that too. It’s a brilliant idea. And aren’t wet wipes essential?

    Ms Marmite, they are thrilled. Granny is very popular (with me too and with my husband, because then we have babysitting possibilities).

  10. Welcome Granny!

    It’s so nice to pass on the reins to someone you trust implicitly. Enjoy her visit, and good luck with your deadlines.

  11. Dear Charl, here is my comparable stressed out embarassing behaviour; a week ago I stepped into the lift at work, and my project manager stepped in behind me. I hit the floor button I want and nothing happens, so hit it a few times more. Project manager leans over and hits the third floor button, because I had been hitting the (for me looking down) upside down ‘E’ floor button.

  12. Oh, what I would GIVE to have my mother nearby to come help me out. My mother in law does a sporadic one half-day a week but it’s not enough. Not enough, I tell you! Today I had from noon until 7pm and what did I do instead of write? I cleaned the house from top to bottom, I painted 2 1/2 walls in the dining room and I spent about 1 hour doing research for my next article. Grrr.

    I need to get a housekeeper, that’s what I need.

  13. You have just described my life.

  14. I don’t have three young children, so what’s my excuse for all these balls rolling around at my feet?

  15. oh god, I’ve just remembered that I haven’t done anything about Sally’s birthday in two weeks. She wants me to book the traffic school (kids get to ride bikes around a mini town with traffic lights and houses etc).

    Granny sounds like a breath of fresh air. Lucky you!

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