Nicole Kennedy lives in Kent, UK with her husband Tom, and two sons Dylan, three, and Arthur, one.

I’m a lawyer and I work in the city (London) for a financial institution. Until recently I worked full time but since returning to work after having my second child I work part-time (three days a week – two in the city, one at home). I don’t come from a legal background, growing up my mum was a secretary and my dad is a builder. I went to local state primary and secondary schools in Essex and from there to the University of Bristol where I studied Law. 

Last year we moved from East London to Kent. I didn’t know anyone when we moved, I was there, alone in the suburbs with a two-month-old and a just turned two-year-old year old, and my husband (also a lawyer) was working long hours. Safe to say it was a huge adjustment for us. In London we’d been living in a flat over Regent’s Canal and I was lucky to have one of my oldest friends living in an apartment opposite us and a uni friend living in our block. I was one stop into the city for work. It was great. But we had outgrown our flat and wanted the boys to grow up closer to countryside. It has taken me a while to get used to life here, and building up the same sense of community is a work in progress. For the first six months or so I really hankered after London but now I love where I live – the countryside, the country pubs, the locally produced food, ales and wines, and, of course, the quiet.

Pre-kids we travelled a lot and we want the boys to enjoy travelling too so we’re trying to prioritise time away together exploring new places

I work Tuesday to Thursday so we have a nanny who comes on those days and it works really well. On Wednesdays I work from home which gives me a brilliant balance. I drop my husband at the station, go for a quick swim and am back home ready to work for 9am. It’s by far my most productive day of the week. Unless I’m going out after work, most nights I get home in time to read to the boys and put them to bed, which I know as a working mother I am very lucky to do. If I’m working on something urgent I’ll tend to leave work to see the boys and then log back on from home once they’re in bed. It’s great that remote access makes that possible. I also write a poetry blog called The Brightness Of These Days. I write the poems on the days I’m not working, and sometimes I write them on the train. 

I’ve always been a transactional lawyer but since I moved to working part-time I’m working on more of a project basis, such as negotiating discreet commercial matters or advising internally on new laws or legal developments (for example at the moment I’m working on the implications of Brexit). It’s good because I’ve had variety which is a plus for me. A negative of the legal profession is that working in law can be stressful. It’s very deadline based and clients (whether externally or internally) can be demanding. It’s not for everyone.

I think finding a good work-life balance is hard. For mums, dads, non parents, everyone. Technology has made it possible to always be ‘on’ and it’s important to make a conscious decision to be ‘off’ sometimes

On an average day the boys wake up at around 6.30am. They’re good at staying in bed chattering to themselves or Dylan will grab a book or play with his trains until we bring milk in to them at 7am. On the days that I work our nanny arrives at 7am and is with us until 7pm. She fits in an average working week in 3 days. It’s hard work. On my days off when our nanny is not there we get up and dressed and have our breakfast then we get out and about in the morning, before heading back home for lunch and Artie’s afternoon nap. I always have plans for me and Dylan to do some baking or arts and crafts while Artie’s asleep but more often than not we’re both worn out and end up snuggled on the sofa watching Thomas and Friends. I figure I have a short window of time where he will want to sit with me under a blanket watching telly so I’m making the most of it. When Artie wakes up we’ll play in the garden or pop out somewhere locally. Dinner is around 5pm and after a bath and books the boys are in bed between 6.30pm and 7pm.

Pre-kids I didn’t want to be tied to a routine with them but we have naturally fallen in to one and they are good sleepers so now I daren’t do anything which might jeopardise that – sleep above all things. They’re both good at sleeping and eating – like us. My husband is fantastic. I hate to admit it, but he’s miles better than me at cleaning and keeping the house in order. We have a natural division of labour – I’m food (shopping and cooking) and he’s cleaning and tidying. We split admin between us.

Having sons has made me look at the world differently. It’s really made me notice how gender-biased our society is. I’ve heard people assume my sons won’t want to play with certain things because they’re boys, or use things which are certain colours. One of my (dear) friends each time she comes over says she loves how I have Peppa Pig plates ‘for girls’ even though they are clearly for my sons. They love that little pig. And this is when they’re pre-schoolers. I want the boys to make choices based on things they like and enjoy, not because of outdated ideas about boy’s things and girl’s things.

Having sons has made me look at the world differently. I now notice how gender biased our society is. People assume my sons won’t want to play with certain things, or use things which are certain colours, because they’re boys

The boys love being outdoors so we do as much stuff as we can outside: playing, reading, having picnics. A big favourite with the boys is building dens. Indoors or outdoors, if they can make or find their own little space to sit in they love it. Pre-kids we travelled a lot and we want the boys to enjoy travelling too so we’re trying to prioritise time away together exploring new places. The fact is though, going away with kids can be bloody hard work and if you think too much about it there’s a danger you’ll never do it, so we’re trying to just get on with it.

I think finding a good work-life balance is hard. For mums, dads, non parents, everyone. Technology has made it possible to always be ‘on’ and it’s important to make a conscious decision to be ‘off’ sometimes. I think you need to be very disciplined to achieve it on a daily basis. Having grown up with working parents (my Mum always worked full-time when I was growing up, and still does) I think there’s a value attached to seeing both your parents working. Also two parents working means there isn’t all the pressure of being a breadwinner on just one of you. I think as humans it’s important to feel productive and inspired, whether that’s at home or at work. For me, personally, that’s achieved through a balance of the two. 

For more about Nicole follow her on Instagram @thebrightnessofthesedays and Twitter @nicolekkennedy

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