Down & Out In A London Kitchen

Esther Walker started a food blog called Recipe Rifle in 2009 when desperate and unemployed. In 2010 she married restaurant critic Giles Coren and far, far too quickly had a baby daughter, called Kitty.

Why be 100% when 65% will do?

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
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on Tuesday, 31 January 2012

A thing that a lot of working mothers say about their lives is that they feel they are not really succeeding at home or succeeding at work and that this lack of satisfaction at a job well done is what really gets them down.

For me, one of the great joys of taking on a bit of work while having a baby is precisely because you have the most terrific excuse not to do anything particularly well. I have always been Miss 65% at everything I do, whether it’s washing-up, exams, childcare or freelance journalism.

When you are exclusively trying to do a job or exclusively trying to bring up a child or children there isn’t really anywhere to hide, there is no excuse for not really putting your back into it and achieving only 65% feels a little bit like failure.

For example, I went round to my friend Becky’s house for tea yesterday. Becky is Miss 100% - she has a 12 week old baby and her house is always tidy and she had made me cheese scones for tea. Cheese scones. She is not going back to work, partly I suspect because she is the sort of person who wants to do one thing perfectly, rather than two things just competently.

But when you’re doing two things at once, trying to work and also trying to bring up your first child, being a 65%-er feels just right. Everything really pressing gets done, sort of, possibly a bit sloppily. But it gets done.

And people say “Wow” when they come round to your house to find that it’s not a total shambles and that the baby isn’t sitting in a three day-old nappy, chewing electrical cables. And they say “Wow” when they see your name in the paper or in a magazine atop a slightly rubbish piece you wrote in half an hour, three weeks previously. And I say “Wow” to myself as I dig into my first glass of white at 7.05pm marvelling at my semi-organised stock of loo roll and bin bags.

Then I peel the lid off a takeaway and try to find some clean plates. Because, after all, I am only going for 65%.

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