Diary of a busy practitioner, juggling work and family somewhere in England

For five and a half years the strapline for this column has been 'Diary of a busy practitioner, juggling work and family somewhere in England'. This week, this advocate for time management, a good work life balance and prioritising wellbeing has TOO MANY BALLS. I’m still in England, but a one way ticket to Mexico sounds appealing.


Why do I suddenly have too many balls? It could be that I am very busy at work and that there are an insane number of school events to get to in the next few weeks. It could be that we have no summer holiday childcare plan. But I think it is mostly a state of mind - sometimes I take all this in my stride, sometimes I can’t.

I really am stressed out of my wits. I feel like I could cry but I don’t really know why or how because I am sort of frozen in a numb panic. I am only using a small part of my brain - the 'fight or flight' bit - and nothing I do is considered or (probably) retained. Because I know all this, I am also self-flagellating. My internal voice is shouting at me to calm down and I am then feeling guilty for not being able to reach the state of calm I need. I know exercise will make me feel better, but I am too tired. I am laying in bed at night thinking again and again about small bits of work I haven’t done despite knowing they aren’t urgent. They are just going round and round my brain anyway. Because apparently I still have time for vanity, some photos that were taken of me a week ago at a wedding looking like a sack of potatoes are also tormenting me.

Of course, everyone is suffering as a result and that is why I feel guilty. Most of them are not suffering knowingly - I return all my calls, I do the intricate hairstyles my kids want, I’m polite to my colleagues.

My husband is suffering knowingly. I’ve come home most evenings, announced that the house is a s***hole, and gone to bed with the kids.

However, I remember years ago feeling this wound up and telling my wise old gran that 'him indoors' was taking the brunt of it, and she declared that was his job. He is my bridge over troubled water. So let’s not worry about him.

He doesn’t have the mental load of me. I can guarantee that if I looked at his Whatsapps right now, he would have been sent some memes about Farage, someone will have messaged him about golf and there will be a deliberately unread message from a school dad that he does not want to have a beer with. Just this week on Whatsapp I have supported three friends through the process of resigning from their jobs, helped one school mum through a family crisis, had about 90 messages from PTA groups, responded to various birthday party invites, given someone I (very much) used to know a bit of free legal advice and sent vouchers to two of my friends’ children for their birthdays. Oh, and sorted Father’s Day for three dads only one of whom, obviously, is my own.

With everyone apart from the one who took the vows, though, I am desperate not to be like some of the senior lawyers I trained with who have been much mentioned in this column. I will give the other members of my team the time they need with me, with a smile on my face. I will get back to my clients so that my secretary doesn’t hate me. I will pretend to be pleased when new enquiries are put through to me. I will attend all pre-booked training. Even though Deceptivley Angelic Child 1 can smell a stressful day on me the second I walk in the door, I will not snap at her.

The reason I say they are suffering is because this isn’t my A game. I’m not thinking about files tactically. I’m not taking a holistic approach to the issues that need to be dealt with. I am just doing enough to get to the point where I can tick something off my list.

I know what I need to do. I need to clear a few days in my diary to catch up on everything. I need to sing some power ballads in the car. I need to write everything down. I need to do one thing at a time. I need to walk the dog, not for twenty minutes between Teams calls so I can tick it off my list, but to keep walking and walking until the voices in my head quieten. I need to remember that Taylor Swift is currently trying to please about 80,000 people every night for about 18 months straight and, really, I’ve just got about 134 emails to sit and respond to. As she would say herself, I Need to Calm Down. OK. I can do this. I can do this really, really well. I just need to remember how.


Some facts and identities have been altered in the above article