I go to bed around 10pm and get up at 5am, but often wake in the night, usually because I am stressed by the things I have to do the next day. I’ve learned to say: “Look Helena, this is silly, everything will be fine in the morning.” It’s not a fail-safe method.
I am a pescatarian – I think it is better environmentally and for health reasons to avoid meat. The family eat breakfast and dinner together. Mostly, my husband cooks, and I bake at the weekends with my daughters. I was anorexic as a teenager, but I am long past it now. I am not into deprivation – my treat is a mid-morning pain au chocolat.
I am in the office by 8am and work until 5.30pm. I try to squeeze in a lunchtime pilates session at least once a week, but otherwise I work through. I’m not keen on meetings – I try to get up and talk to people rather than wait. I make sure I have space to think through problems. I can switch off, but I work on weekends. When the children have homework, we all sit around the table and work together. Work for me is an activity rather than a place.
Richard volunteered to stay at home after our fourth child (we have nine) and that’s a big part of how I cope. It is comforting to know a parent is there to give emotional support to the children. Two of the children have left home (one had a baby at Christmas), two are at university and one is at boarding school. So in term time we go down to four girls at home. I write up a whiteboard early each morning, detailing who is collecting who, who has activities, etc. When I was home for four months in between jobs, I realised I have been cutting corners a lot. It was lovely to walk my youngest to school. I did have a pang of regret, but that is the reality of being a working parent.
There is nothing nicer than hanging out together at home and walking the dog. My husband and I usually manage one night away, just the two of us, around our anniversary. More than that seems very self-indulgent.