A new book, 'The Pie Life', suggests dividing your time into slices - career, family, relationship etc - as a guilt-free recipe for having it all. Emma Bartley's 'Doing It All Pie' looks rather different

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You know what, I’ve decided to like Samantha Ettus, the Harvard MBA work/life balance expert and author of The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction  (£17.79). She didn’t make it easy for me, suggesting that I divide my life into no fewer than seven “slices” (career, family, health, relationship, friends, hobbies and community) and get up an hour earlier than the earliest riser in my house to catch up on things. An hour earlier than 5am  is pretty early, Samantha.

Still, she’s only trying to help, and I’m sure the pie concept is a great way for mums such as me to manage our lives. She’s just got her priorities a little bit wrong. Here are the real seven pieces of pie that working mothers divide our time into.

1. Feeling guilty

Because there’s so much to fit in let’s keep guilt to a headspace minimum, like 60 per cent. Much of this will be taken up with work-based guilt but you can also diversify your guilt. For example, could you be feeling guilty about the current state of the kitchen, or having double-booked a playdate? Try reading a newspaper, they are always full of really big things that you can feel guilty about while lying awake at night.

2. Arguing

Primarily with your partner but also, if necessary, wider family and members of the public. Walk around in a state of readiness for an argument , looking for things to disagree upon, such as what the baby is crying about or whether cutlery should be placed in the dishwasher with the business end up or down. Never admit that you are wrong, even if you realise quite early into the argument that you’re entirely wrong.

3. Staring into space

Thinking about work… what to have for dinner… what might have been… I’m sorry but concentrating the whole way through a game of Snap with a person who can’t even put their cards down in a pile, never mind recognise a pair and call it out, is tough.

4. General drudgery

The Pie Life suggests setting up a Golden Triangle between your home, work and childcare and making sure that you can run all your errands within that space. While obviously sensible, I spend most of my time within the Grubby Triangle between the washing machine, bathroom and kitchen sink. (One commenter on an article about Ettus said that his wife, having given up work 30 years ago when she had children, had “thoroughly enjoyed keeping an immaculate house”. I can only imagine his wife is having an affair with her cleaner.)

5. Watching Netflix

I was immediately struck by the absence of TV time in Ettus’s pie. Where does Homeland go? Is it a hobby, or can we count it as relationship time? For couples who do not yet have children, asking someone to come over for “Netflix and chill” is apparently some kind of booty call but once you do, the main reason to put it on is that it’ll create a 45-minute window without an argument.

6. Using the bathroom

Surprisingly, Ettus did not create a slice of time in her Pie Life to go to the bathroom. This is probably because she classifies it as “family”, given the way people wander in and out of the room when you shower shouting “MUMMY! I NEED you! I can’t find my sticker book with the pink heart stickers!” (You can have a lock fitted, but they will only start banging on the door instead.) Against this chaotic background, taking the time to use hair conditioner a few times a week feels like such a massive self-indulgence that I would consider classing it under hobbies.

7. Eating pie

Mmm, pie. Also chocolate... cake... biscuits... in the newborn phase I pretty much woke up in the morning and poured an entire pack of sugar down my throat for breakfast, and things haven't improved much as we move into the hastily-gobbling-up-the-kids'-leftovers phase. Yes, I'm fat  and lethargic, but I don't have time to be making chia seed and wheatgrass smoothies or whatever these clear-skinned 23-year-old bloggers are on. And on the plus side, it's one more thing to feel guilty about.

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