1. Tell me about the most unexpected change to you as a person or to your life since becoming a parent?
Discovering that I can survive on an average of five hours sleep is definitely up there! But beyond that, I think learning that while the advent of children in no way dimmed my career ambitions – if anything it gave them greater purpose – at the same time those ambitions were overtaken, or put into context, by a love and passion for my daughters that nothing can match. And nothing will ever be more important.
2. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced since having children?
First, balancing my wish to be a present, attached, hands-on parent, with the desire to pursue my career and also nurture my own identity. Next, balancing that juggle with all the other roles in my life of wife, daughter, friend. And then doing it twice over – trying to be as tuned in and available as I was for my eldest daughter, for the youngest, and for both of them at once.
3. What do you regard as your greatest achievement?
Work-wise, being long-listed for the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction. This was such a surprise, and so affirming to me as a writer.
4. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. What hasn’t killed you?
In my career, years and years of rejection! Outside of work, before my first daughter was born, we suffered a miscarriage, discovered at the 12-week scan. It was an incredibly hard time, and one I still feel emotional about. But it brought my husband and I even closer together, it gave me an insight and empathy I may otherwise have been blind to, and it made me cherish the miracle of life and of my children.
5. Who inspires you?
My kids do. I think as we grow older we lose our sense of wonder. We become more cynical and less passionate. I watch them meet each new part of their lives, each new simple activity of their days, with endless imagination and enthusiasm (and sometimes strong-willed resistance) and I am inspired by the strength of their feeling, the fire wrapped up in such a small bundle. And I try to channel that.
6. I have just invented a time machine (and you thought you’d achieved something great). You can now go backwards or forwards to any point in time and deliver any message to any person, what’s your message and who is it for?
Wow…not a hard question or anything! I mean, I should probably deliver a message that would prevent a great war, or tell the Titanic captain about the iceberg. But they probably wouldn’t believe me anyway. So keeping it personal, I’d probably jump forwards in time to when I’m not around any more, and make sure my kids know how much I love them.
7. You have the opportunity to influence the entrepreneurs of the future. What life changing invention would you like to see on the drawing board?
Well I quite liked your idea of the time machine…
8. I have waved a magic wand and all of your responsibilities have been taken care of for 24 hours. What are you going to do?
It sounds trite, since it’s my job, but I actually love writing, and reading, so I’d probably spend a few hours doing that. Then I’d go for a run with my hubby. (If your magic wand could arrange it to be good weather too, that would be fab.) Maybe at the end of the run we’d swing by my favourite café where we could bump into some good friends. Then I’d spend the afternoon at my parents’ house where my kids would be dashing around, and all my siblings and their families would descend upon us for a great big bbq that would finish just in time to put the girls to bed (with lots of cuddles and no resistance) and curl up on the TV with a movie and a take away.
9. How can parents best be empowered to properly balance a career and a family life?
I think first by freeing ourselves of the guilt that comes with whatever decision you make. For so many parents, no matter how you structure the balance, there is often a feeling of not being enough, not being present enough or good enough. After that, I think we need to encourage the infrastructure in our societies that would allow parents to really make these choices without them being impossible for practical reasons. For example if returning to work, mothers may need ways to continue breastfeeding, or have better access to good and affordable childcare.
10. You’re off for a night out tonight. Where will you go, what will you drink and what will be the topic of conversation?
I’ll go to the theatre with my husband. Then pop into The Landsdowne in Primrose Hill for a late night pizza and a glass of red wine. And we’ll talk about the play…before probably straying back into conversation about our girls.