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How Mothers Work: Allison Tait

How Mothers Work: Allison Tait

Mums of babies and younger kids seem to share their day-to-day story all the time, but after that — crickets. In an effort to hear more from mums of older kids, we’re sharing this new series called How Mothers Work. We’ve asked mums we admire to tell us how they make it all work — from raising the kids, to doing the job, to living the dream. We hope you’ll pick up some great advice from mums in the trenches along the way.

Hello Allison Tait

Allison Tait (A.L. Tait) is the internationally published bestselling author of middle-grade adventure series The Mapmaker Chronicles , The Ateban Cipher novels, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. Her latest novel, The Wolf’s Howl (A Maven & Reeve Mystery #2) is out now!

Al is a multi-genre writer, teacher and speaker with many years’ experience in magazines, newspapers and online publishing. She is also co-host of two podcasts: So You Want To Be A Writer and Your Kid’s Next Read. Little wonder then that Al is known as the go-to for both her expertise and her kindness. She’s exceptionally generous with both.

If all that weren’t enough already (and honestly, when does this woman sleep!?), Al is also the sister of Mumlyfe’s founder Bron.

(That was our disclosure there, and before you start with the “Oh, two ‘writers’ in the family” schtick, Bron wants you to know she’s okay.)

~ ~ ~

I’m Allison Tait, aka A. L. Tait, and I’m a children’s author, freelance writer, podcaster and speaker based on the south coast of NSW. I’m married to The Builder and have two boys aged 17 and 14, and an Insta-Famous border collie known as Procrastipup.


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A typical week

I’m lucky to have the flexibility of working from home and have done so since my eldest was born. A ‘typical day’ sees me get my kids up and out of the house, then I walk the dog, and head back to my desk, usually by 9.30am or so.

I might spend the next six or so hours writing, editing or promoting a book, recording a podcast, interviewing other authors for a podcast, working on social media content for a client, creating blog posts or social media content for my own platforms, giving a talk at a school, or, occasionally, working in the garden while I work up a new book idea in my mind.

After school/work, I am often driving my youngest to various sporting practices and fixtures. My 17-year-old drives himself these days, but I used to have his various musical endeavours in the mix as well.

A typical weekend doesn’t look that different a lot of the time. More sport and gardening, less podcasting and speaking, but being a writer is a seven-day-a-week job.

We joke it’s like having unfinished homework every day of your life… but it’s not really a joke.

My working life

I’ve been a professional writer since long before the boys came along. I have remained a professional writer and expanded that into new fields and new spheres. When the boys were young, I wrote in the middle of the night so that I could have time, quiet and space. As they’ve got older, the writing has moved more into focus as my day job.

I cannot imagine my life without either of these things and I am endlessly grateful for both.


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What’s most important to me

I value time spent with my boys. I’m at the pointy end of parenting these days, when they’d rather be doing ANYTHING else than spending time with their mum.

The 120 hours of driving practice, for instance, is a burden, but it’s also a blessing and a gift. I did a lot of those hours and I savour every moment of that time my eldest and I spent together. (Well, maybe not the first 20 or so hours, but once I was sure we weren’t going to actually hit anything, it was.)

The half-hour drive to and from footy practice twice a week gives me the only solid, focussed time I get with my 14-year-old. Sometimes we chat, sometimes we sit in comfortable silence. Either way is fine with me.

Weekends for Allison Tait are invariably spent at the rugby field

I also, conversely, savour time spent alone. I’m a solitary person by nature and I enjoy nothing more than walking with my dog, digging deep into the crevices of my subconscious to winkle out story and character ideas. I do some of my best writing far, far away from my computer.

Little kids versus big kids

I think the main difference is making room. When they’re little, they need you close, to help, to advise, to show them how to do things.

When they’re bigger, they need room to work out how they do things. You’re still there, on call to help and advise, but you have to trust that they remember everything you’ve shown them.

It’s hard.

This took me by surprise

Just how capable they can be. Not always. Not every time. But I can see it there.

The other thing that’s really taken me by surprise is the grief I’ve been feeling as my eldest approaches the end of school. He’s ready to move on, move out, and that separation process has been really obvious over the last year or so. 

You know your job is to raise them to not need you anymore, but doing your job well has never been so painful.

Some things I’ve gotten right along the way

At my house, parenting is a two-person job, and one thing that The Builder and I have got right, I think, is consistency. The boys don’t always like it, but they know where they are with us. Our expectations are always clear.


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We’re also not afraid to say no. The response is not always pretty, but I’m happy to say that I have weathered some awe-inspiring teen tantrums and come through the other side. And I’m still happy I said no.

Lastly, I am as good at selective hearing as a 14-year-old boy – which is saying something. This has been particularly useful with my actual 14-year-old boy. If I hear the phrase ‘all my friends’ ever again in my life, it will be too soon.

My biggest challenge

I think that trying to raise older kids has been made even more difficult over the past couple of years with the pandemic. The general uncertainty over everyday life seeps into every aspect of their daily lives and it’s so very hard for them to make plans for the future.

I don’t have any tips beyond trying to just be ‘the rock’ they need. Even as they’re pulling away from you, be steadfast.

I watched a documentary recently about Britain’s rock lighthouses – lighthouses built on tiny, craggy, piles of rocks in the middle of some of the wildest oceans in the world.

I reckon that’s what parents are, and have been through the ages.

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My biggest joy

My biggest joys are all about tiny moments. I’ve never been one for grand, sweeping gestures.

I remember once when my eldest and I were on one of our many ‘night driving hours’ tours of the dark countryside and he told me about a poem he’d read that he liked. He got me to Google it.

It was called ‘Home is So Sad’ by Philip Larkin. It begins:

“Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back.” 

It’s a short, bitter-sweet reflection. I kept a copy.


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And then, because this is not a Disney film, he also told me about another Larkin poem called ‘This Be The Verse’, which begins:

‘They f*&k you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.”

I did not keep a copy of this one.

My youngest is more physically affectionate. When he was little, he just wanted to be touching some part of me all the time – my hand, my hair, my lap. I confess it drove me crazy. Now I savour every random hug, questionable teen hygiene and all.

Tiny moments.

My hopes and dreams for my children

One of my mum’s favourite, oft-repeated phrases, legendary in the family is this: “I just want you to be happy.”

I don’t think you realise how important that statement is until you have older kids. With younger kids, you’re so busy trying to keep them alive and expose them to a million different possibilities and passions that you forget there’s a funny, quirky individual inside there.

You really start to see that individual once they hit about 14, I think. They’re less concerned with pleasing you (oh boy, are they less concerned) and more focused on following their own thoughts and interests.

I do what I can to support their passions.

My eldest is a musician who’s been performing professionally since he was 13, and my role there was just to get him where he needed to go, be a friendly face in the audience when he needed one and trust that he could do it.

I mean, really trust.

Joe Visser has been performing since before high school

When your kid is getting up in front of a large audience, on his own, singing songs he’s written himself, he looks very small on the stage – the only person who can perform up there is him and he will only do it if he wants to do it.

It always blew my mind (and continues to do so) that he wasn’t terrified. I was terrified for him, but I tried to never, ever let that show.

My youngest has always been all about the sports. Which is why I, the least sporty person in the world, has found myself on the sidelines of endless ball sports since he was six.

Training two, three, four nights a week? No problem.

I’ve written a large portion of several of my books while he did soccer/rugby/basketball drills.

I think one of the best things we can do for our kids when it comes to their dreams and passions is to simply not get in the way.

I just want them to be happy.

Nicole Avery

Thursday 7th of October 2021

Loved reading this so much Al, thanks for sharing. I actually love both those Larkin poems - please thank your teen for introducing them to me!

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