Excited to feature an interview this week with Anita Cleare, author of The Work/Parent Switch (how to parent smarter not harder) which is published by Vermilion. She also writes the award-nominated Thinking Parenting blog which can be found at www.anitacleare.co.uk.
- Where about in West London do you live and how long have you been there?
I was born in Northolt and spent my early years in Ruislip. I now live with my husband and two teenage sons in Windsor. We are lucky to be very near the river and to Windsor Great Park but still only a train ride away from central London. And not too far from my favourite haunts in Teddington and Richmond.
- What inspired you to write your book?
Being a working parent isn’t easy. We have limited time, limited energy, limited patience and too much to do. Most of us feel like we are failing one way or another. I think it’s time we moved the goalposts. Stopped trying to cram more work and more parenting into our lives (while undermining our own wellbeing at the same time). My book is about helping working parents to focus on what really makes a difference for children. Parenting smarter rather than harder by understanding how your children think and what they really need from you.
- How did you come up with the ideas in your book?
The aim is to help working parents build a harmonious, guilt-free family life. But the focus is on small changes that can be fitted into those bits of time around the edges of work. I look at the big pinch points in a working parent’s day, like getting the kids dressed and out of the house on time in the mornings. And I draw on my academic background in developmental psychology to explain why children do the things they do and what makes them tick. And I use my years of experience working with families to offer proven parenting solutions for crunch issues like managing tech time and sibling fighting.
- What advice would you give to parents heading back to work?
One of the big challenges of being a working parent is that you need to be two different people on the same day. When we’re in work-mode, it’s all about getting things done quickly and efficiently. But if you use that mode with children, you will quickly get frustrated, Because children are chaotic and distractible and not focused on goals. Children require a different set of strengths from us. They need us to be playful and curious and empathetic. Learning to switch easily between those two modes is the key to being a happy working parent. Don’t try to be superhuman, be smart. Stand in your children’s shoes and understand their priorities and family life will be much smoother.
- Where do you prefer to work/ write?
I have a home office. You’ll often find me at my desk in my pyjamas at 7.30am! Sometimes, if I am a bit stuck on a piece of writing, I’ll head to a café for a change of scene. And if a thought strikes me when I am out and about, I dictate a note into my phone. So, if you see a strange woman pacing up and down an underground platform shouting slowly and clearly at the wrong end of her phone, that could well be me!
- When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was a teenager and full of angst, I wanted to be a poet. I also loved kids and dreamed of running a children’s home. And I have always been fascinated by people and what makes them tick. So studying child psychology and writing a book about it brought together everything I had ever wanted to do in one neat package!
- What activities do you enjoy doing as a family?
My children are teenagers so the real challenge is getting them to do anything with me at all! They are in that breaking away mode and are hugely embarrassed by their mum. I am hoping this phase won’t last long because I really miss their company. I was a single parent when they were little so the three of us have a very close bond. We’ve always liked doing adventurous things like climbing and canoeing and travelling to off-the-beaten-track places like Nepal and Mongolia.
- Did you go on a family holiday last year? If so, where?
Our last family holiday was to Cuba. We spent a few days exploring Havana and then a week by the beach. I am not good at just stopping. It takes me a few days to stop bouncing off the walls and nagging everyone to come kayaking or play tennis. But I got there in the end!
- What is your favourite parenting podcast?
I am a huge fan of the Motherkind podcast with Zoe Blaskey. She always interviews such inspirational thinkers. Listening to Motherkind is like have a warm nurturing cuddle while being made to think differently and deeply about something at the same time. That’s a lovely combination!
Thank you Anita, I’m off to check out the book now!