- Name: Kim Yorio
- Children: Thomas, aged 15
- Where: New York
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Up All Hours talks to Kim Yorio about her latest book, how she balances life as a working mother, and her advice for any mums who want to set up their own business
Kim Yorio is a writer and a publicist. She has co-authored the series 'The Girl's Guide to...' from everything from 'Being a Working Mum', to 'Being a Boss' to 'Starting your own business'.
With her PR hat on, she's worked with some of the biggest names in the food world, including Jamie Oliver, Annabel Karmel and Julia Child.
We are excited about meeting Kim, in her open-plan midtown office, because we too like food and books, we have kids and a job. So maybe she can let us in on the secret of how to juggle it all!
Yorio turns out to be a fiercely intelligent, funny, blunt, savvy woman who keeps no secrets, and takes no prisoners.
We kick off by asking her about her latest book, 'The Joy of Writing a Great Cook Book', which, according to Amazon, she wrote with Jamie Oliver.
"Well I didn't write it with Jamie — he wrote the foreword. He wrote 50 words!" she corrects.
"Funnily enough, I didn't want to write the book," "Somebody came to me and said 'I think you should write this book', and I said 'Well I think that's a ridiculous idea, nobody needs a 'how to' book in a cook book.'"
But eventually she agreed, and "ended up loving the book", declaring it "probably my second favourite" of all the books she's written.
"I think it's a really good service to anyone who wants to think about how to write a book, especially a cook book. It really takes you through how to get published, how to give good content and then how to promote it afterwards."
What it boils down to, she explains, is that
"You need to know how to cook, and I think you need to learn how to write a recipe. And this is why Jamie, I think, is so special — his voice is completely unique, totally authentic, and 100% him. So that comes across on the page, and I think that happens very rarely in cooking. In maybe, like, 25% of the time."
Although Yorio can make some things seem simple, her personal life has certainly not been. She has a 15-year-old son, Thomas, who is visually impaired. She is divorced, though now lives with her boyfriend. She is incredibly candid about what the experiences have taught her.
"If I'm really honest, my marriage suffered because I devoted lots of time to my work, and lots of time to my kid, and I was a shit wife. It's not something I even made a priority. Maybe if I'd made it a priority," and here she hesitates, "...that's why lots of marriages fall apart — because there's only so much time."
She is at pains to explain the realities of having a visually-impaired young child, but does so with a wry helping of hindsight —
"I didn't put my son down ‘til he was about three years old. I carried him in that carrier everywhere I went. He was like affixed to me. Of course now he can't get far enough away from me!"
The next thing she said struck a chord,
"Until the time he was around six, because of his visual impairment, he didn't watch TV. So I didn't have TV, or videos, or anything to give him. I always had to be engaging with him. I also always had to keep an eye on him, because if I turned away he'd be falling down the stairs, or touch something hot. So until he was about seven he was incapable of being alone, even for ten seconds. So thank God I went to work, otherwise I would've lost my mind."
Yorio is a great fan of the saying 'It takes a village to raise a child' and lists in detail the family members and friends who make up her village.
"I have been very, very fortunate with my village. And people who don't have that village have a much more difficult time."
So, when questioned on whether she really thinks the old work/life balance is bullshit, she is adamant —
"Yeah. Course. I don't think you can achieve balance"
"Striving for balance and perfection will make you miserable. I think you just need to do the best you can in the moment that you're in." "Striving for perfection is a mistake, it's impossible, and it makes everyone feel bad."
For Yorio, it's all about quality time, communication and taking the long view.
"If you don't spend the quality time,"
and she pauses to mock what she's just said,
"...quality time! Again, there's all these studies questioning whether the idea of 'quality time' is also bullshit. But I don't believe the number of hours is at all relevant. Because I know a lot of stay-at-home mums who spend a lot less quality time with their kid than I ever did, because they're on the phone, they're doing their own thing, their kids are watching TV. To me, that's like well, 'And you're going to judge me for going to work? You're not sitting on the floor playing with them, you're not taking them to the playground.
"So my guilt — which is really all about managing your 'work/life balance' right? Managing your parental guilt, or your professional guilt — my guilt is totally assuaged because the time I spend with my kid is good."
Yorio appears to be 100% honest, with anyone she comes into contact with and she stresses that this applies to children too:
"Being honest with kids is really important. Like, 'You’re important to me, you're the most important thing to me. However, if I can't go to work and do a good job, then we can't have a good life together. So this is a team effort. We're a family, and we're all working towards the same goals.' And I'm telling you, 3-year-olds understand that, 5-year-olds understand that and obviously 15-year-olds understand that."
Her point about perspective is something many of us will find helpful:
"I think you really need to try and look at the time on a much longer scale." "If you judge yourself over a month, or three months, six months, or the year, you get a hell of a lot more chips on your side than you do if you're like 'Oh, today I sucked'. Well, it's like, it doesn't matter about today. The kid's only six months old!"
Alongside all this, she does acknowledge
"I'm also very fortunate that I own my own business."
We ask what advice she would have for a mum who's done with having kids, and wants to start a second career, her own business, to give her some flexibility, Yorio cuts (unsurprisingly) to the chase:
"Treat it like a business, not like a hobby.
"The first thing you need to do is set up your one-page blog, with your work and your social media channels, and really start gaining some crowds. Start doing stuff for free, so that then in return they will promote your service." It is abundantly clear that she is obviously seen as a font of all knowledge on the subject of starting your own business and is asked regularly to give advice as she has all the steps marked out.
"Like, even if you get paid one dollar, or even if you get paid nothing and it's a trade — 'I'm trading one Instagram mention for...' — this is a business not a hobby. So that means you need to be on time, that means you need to meet your deadlines."
It is a lesson in how to behave in business delivered by the woman that has been there, done that and is the owner of a whole wardrobe of t shirts!
She thinks mums should take advantage of being naturally good at multi-tasking, and acknowledges they are often time-poor, e.g. if they can only work when their baby has a nap.
"You need to be very goal-oriented and very efficient, and say 'Okay, I want to do these three things in these 90 minutes. If I get those three things done then I've moved my business to the next step.'"
And even once you're up and running, she has a caveat:
"Even now, after all these years, I have to constantly be chasing the new work, and making sure that I'm taking care of the work that I have in-house. Which is a very hard balance. Like, that's the balance challenge: how do I constantly bring in new stuff, on-board them, the sales process, the landing process, then the working of it? And that's going to be anyone's job, whether they want to be a writer, a photographer, run a little café, whatever."
And she has a word of warning for those hoping to find happiness in work
"I don't think work's role in life is to make you happy. [But] I think you should be able to find happiness in it, it should be able to give you success — if you work hard you should be rewarded."
Remember this too, working mums, at the end of a bad day.
"If some days are miserable — of course they are! Everything you do, some days will be miserable. But if more days than not are great, or good enough, then that's fine."
Finally, we finish with the Up All Hours 'quickfire' round.
Up All Hours watching: "Ray Donovan. Oh, Liev Shrieber..."
Up All Hours reading: "I just finished two books, 'The Vacationers' and 'Station Eleven'. But now I'm trying to read non-fiction, which is very difficult for me. It's called 'The Unravelling'. I'm on page six!"
Up All Hours listening to: "MPR, which is like your BBC, news radio."
Up All Hours eating: "Everything! Today I cooked breakfast. I'm having what I call a 'green is good' frittata."
Up All Hours wearing? "Ella Moss. I don't know if you guys have her. I am absolutely not wearing 'athleisurewear' because I think it's ridiculous! I like Calypso a lot, which is a store."
If you could be Up All Hours with anyone, who would it be? "Oh, that's such a good question. I feel like the only name that keeps coming to mind is George Clooney! Because you could talk to him. And apparently he's a little selfish, but apparently he's good in bed."