DARON: Evert, 32 years old, Regulatory Affairs Manager and start-up entrepreneur as a sideline
DARONNE: An, 35 years old, freelance design and lifestyle journalist
FAMILY SITUATION: Married and parents of Lou (3 years) and Jack (8 months)
The most important career choice for a woman is choosing her husband,’ states An. She is a freelance journalist specialised in interior and design. Evert is a Regulatory Affairs Manager in a company producing environmentally hazardous substances and has a start-up business on the side. ‘My career could continue because I had married the right man,’ says An, ‘Someone from the old school may have wanted me to work parttime. That’s not a problem if that is something you want as a woman, but it is not for me.’
I was determined to prove that children and ambition can go hand in hand. I did not particularly want to prove this to men, more to childless women.
Evert was recently chosen as one of the twenty Belgian young potentials to keep an eye on. An had never wanted to start a family with someone who was less ambitious than she was. They both work more than full-time. Evert outside the home, and An at home, since recently no longer at the kitchen table but in her own home office, with a view on the playroom. She does not work between 4 pm and 8 pm, which means she can pick up her daughter from school and her son from nursery every day. But what most people do not know is that An often works after 8 pm too, also in the weekend, just like Evert. Staying home to look after the kids was not something that appealed to An. Only being a mum felt too restrictive and claustrophobic.
I admit I regularly choose to put myself first, because I am convinced that a happy mum is a good mum and that you must stay true to yourself above all.
When she decided to become a freelancer, people around her thought she was planning on taking it a bit easier. Nothing could be further from the truth. ‘I was determined to prove that children and ambition can go hand in hand. I did not particularly want to prove this to men, more to childless women.’ When Jack was ten weeks old, An went on a press trip to Milan. After three months she went to Tokyo. She made a conscious choice not to breastfeed so that she could get back to work quicker. Other mothers’ comments about it sometimes made her feel guilty, but now she ignores negative comments. An’s mother stopped working when she had children; a choice she later regretted. So An and her sister solemnly promised to deliberate that choice if it should arise. ‘I admit I regularly choose to put myself first, because I am convinced that a happy mum is a good mum and that you must stay true to yourself above all,’ she says.
Who is interested in a newsfeed full of selfies and baby photos?
As they are both very busy, Evert and An eagerly use services with which they can buy time. Through curated shopping services such as Smartmat.be and Suitcase.be they allow others to decide what they will be eating and what Evert will be wearing. They buy as much as they can online or take out subscriptions; to coffee, to food, to socks or flowers. They also rely on a cleaning lady and an ironing service. You would expect them to share their life on social media but that is not the case. It is only occasionally that a photo or status update appears related to the family, as ‘who is waiting for a newsfeed full of selfies and baby photos?’
Planning is important in An and Evert’s family. They sit down each week to go through their diaries, because Evert has to travel abroad every month. This doesn’t make him an absent father, by the way. He plans his holidays around the school holidays and he saves his parental leave for when An has to go on a press trip. If one of them is away, they chat on Facetime and extensively show the children where mum or dad is abroad. Since a first city trip to London, their daughter has also caught the travel bug. An and Evert feel it enriches their children to show them that the world is larger than their backyard. They enjoy exploring a city through their children’s eyes, although they shudder at the thought of a ‘family holiday’ catered entirely to them.
An and Evert share a passion for London. They go there whenever they can. It was where Evert proposed to An and it was in that city that they decided to start a family. But living there would be a step too far. They see London, much like Paris, as child-unfriendly, in comparison to Copenhagen and the rest of Scandinavia. Or even in comparison to the neighbourhood where they currently live, which is close to the city centre, surrounded by parks. There is a playground in front of the house, a bakery, a good cheese shop and there is a great butcher and an excellent school within walking distance. And it is not too far from the motorway, so that they can easily drive to grandma’s house to drop off the children when they want a weekend away with just the two of them or with friends.