For Years, I Missed 3 Hours A Day With My Children While Commuting Into London. Now I’m #FreeToBe… a

One of the most rewarding parts of running The Harpenden Collective is watching people use it to build the life they really want. Their life no longer revolves around work, it is their work which revolves around their life.

They fulfil their dreams and do the things that are most important to them. For some it’s being there for their children, for others it’s to create, to inspire, to express themselves, to give back to the community or to change their world in whichever way they can.

Over the course of the next few months, we will be telling the stories of people from our community who, through working at The Harpenden Collective, are #FreeToBe who they really want to be.

Natalie Harmer is a mum of two and a graphic designer. She owns Noah Design and is based at The Harpenden Collective full time.

Natalie laptop

I was brought up to think I could have it all: a glittering career, a fulfilling family life and reaching the heights of personal development too. My career and my business were a huge part of my life and defined me to some extent. I worked in Shoreditch, surrounded by the hum of busy East London offices, building my own business. Every day, I’d wake up, mentally prepared to invest 3 hours of commute on trains and Underground, putting in the time and energy, often returning exhausted but thinking it will all be worth it in the end.

I was and still am very proud of all the hard work and determination to succeed I’ve invested in those early days.

Natalie and children

When I had my children everything changed. I so desperately wanted to be a stay at home mum - but at the same time I really didn't want to leave behind my business that I had spent years building up. For the first three years of my son’s life, I still put in the commute, when I had an epiphany.

Commuting three hours per day wasn’t the best use of my time nor my finances. The time it took me to get to London, I could’ve been spending quality time with my son.

son arts

So I’ve taken the plunge and relocated my business closer to home. These days, my commute is all but 10 minutes long, 13 minutes if I take a detour via a coffee shop.

They say you can't buy time, but I now have 3 extra hours in my day and my office outgoings are a third of what they used to be, with no travel expenses.

Working from a collaborative workspace close to home has taken a layer of anxiety out of my day, knowing that I can attend any assembly, sports day, parents evening or other commitment and be back at my desk within minutes if needed. No longer would I have a niggling fear at the back of my mind, every time the phone rings - if I need to pick my children up, I can do so at the drop of a hat.