Breaking the stranglehold of the 9-5

Working at home


“Do we really have to go to school today? I think it might be better if we stayed at home,” announced only son on Monday morning. To be fair, he’d had a long weekend of sleepovers and the like which meant we were still doing homework at around 8.15am. “I’m afraid it is Monday and you do have to go to school,” I replied. “What is half of 400?”

After a quick lesson on quarters and halves we did an online quiz on pirates, this term’s theme. Only son doesn’t like pirates. At all. This is making homework slightly more of a challenge than it might have been if, say, it had been sharks. I have tried to introduce sharks into my pirate stories, but as soon as the word pirate is mentioned he switches off. I even bought Pirates of the Caribbean from Poundland, but he tuned out within seconds of the opening scene [basically as soon as the pirates appeared].

Daughter three was looking spaced out after a non-stop birthday weekend. She’s now focusing all her post-SATs energy on the end of term show and worrying about secondary school. I’ve caught her researching make-up. “Do you really want to wear make-up?” I asked her. I think she sees it as compulsory at secondary school, but she has never expressed the slightest interest up until now. She has noticed daughter two and her ever growing eyebrows making their way to school.

Daughter one, meanwhile, appears to have reached peak GCSE and gone into a more relaxed phase now they have started. She’s settling into study leave and went into school late on Monday and Tuesday to finish up some art stuff [will this art GCSE never finish?]. She has become slightly obsessed with the Eurovision song contest which may or may not be an avoidance tactic. She has still not got over the fact that Loic Nottet [Belgian entry for those not in the know] failed to win last year despite having, in her opinion, a far superior song and general stylishness. She has been playing it over and over again on Youtube together with this year’s Polish entry [just for the outfit]. It has replaced One Direction on the school run. Indeed, so obsessed has she become that her passion for Captain America has been slightly overshadowed. Some days it is hard to keep up.

Today is the first day where we are co-working – ie I am working from home and she is revising. Her work preparation tactics include sleeping in and watching America’s Next Top Model. She does, however, stay up late writing “mind maps”. Just watching her I am feeling slightly nostalgic for my student days as I think I probably work best at around 2-3am…One of the perks of freelancing is that you get to choose your hours a bit more than you might normally so you can pick the hours when you are more productive. Maybe not 2-3am, because then you’d end up with no sleep because of night-time wakings-up of small people – but not your standard 9-5pm. That means you can be incredibly productive in shorter spurts and avoid work in those periods of the day when your brain fades out.

Yesterday celebrated a whole raft of businesses which support the kind of flexible working that makes sense for many people these days. The Top Franchise Awards highlighted a wide range of businesses which get the value of flexibility and family support. Most were set up by women who know only too well the challenges. They are helping to break the stranglehold of the 9-5 routine and show that you can be successful in business by working in all sorts of different, and often highly productive, ways.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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