Like most mums, my life is a constant work-life battle. I don’t work that many hours a week, but on the days I do work, everything else suffers – the house, the homework and the kids (I shout too much!). Then when I’m at home it’s a balance between my life (non-existent, no time) and the demands of the kids, their activities, the house and school governors.
One thing I do get right, in my opinion, (although it is probably the reason I’ve never been promoted) is that I don’t think about work when I’m not at work. I have colleagues who can’t bear it that they miss out on stuff on their day off, when they have to go home early or when they’re on leave. I walk out of that office on a Wednesday and don’t give it another thought until I walk back in on a Monday. Thursday to Sunday, I am mummy. With just a little bit of me thrown in.
Except when I’m on call. As a council press office we provide a 24/7 service 365 days a week. If something goes up in flames in the middle of the night, we get called. Then we call the newspapers and the TV crews who are only too happy to go out and film/ photograph the drama. They would much rather be woken at 2.30am than miss the money shot of the flames.
I’m on call for a week about once every six weeks. We all do an equal amount of on-call duty, whether we are full-time or part-time. Some weeks we get nothing, some weeks we get very little, some weeks we get a lot.
When that phone goes (and it has the worst ring in the world ever – sufficient to wake the dead) we have no idea what it is going to be, but we spring into action and deal with it. Although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get p*ssed off with it sometimes. Especially on the occasions when it’s not really an emergency.
We have a little card with the phone numbers for the key players in the council, a list of who’s on call for highways and access to our work systems from home. And we sort it out as best we can.
The work phone is a Blackberry and I hate it. My home IT can be a little dodgy. So to make sure all bases are covered, people contact my by all means possible – the Blackberry, my mobile (text and phone), email – general work, personal work and personal home, Twitter – home and work, and Facebook. It’s hard to know where to look – it’s coming in at all angles.
I have just finished my week on call. It’s been raining and I’ve been busy.
I got a call on Saturday evening warning me that BBC Points West would like up-to-date information from fire and highways at 7am on Sunday. So I tipped the highways manager off and set my alarm for 6.45. More calls came in on Sunday morning and I worked for two hours to make sure all media was up to date.
Later in the day I set up interviews for the BBC Radio Gloucestershire breakfast show on Monday and put out a press notice of a fire service water rescue exercise taking place the next day. Thank goodness it was raining and we were stuck inside with nothing better to do anyway.
The phone went five times between me getting up and getting into the office on Monday morning. And, yes, I did ignore it when I was driving.
I’d just dropped my son at Cubs on Monday evening when I noticed an email on my personal email from ITV Daybreak. They’d seen the footage of the fire service rescue exercise and wanted a firefighter live on TV from Tewkesbury the following morning.
The whole time my son was at Cubs, I was on the phone backwards and forwards, sorting out an interviewee, confirming times, locations and questions. Whilst also cooking the tea.
The kitchen was a mess, but the tea was made and eaten and my son was picked up from Cubs on time. Oh, and the interview on Daybreak the following day was really good.
That’s what I call multi-tasking.