Monthly Archives: June 2013

My husband is in the way…

Well, he is!  Every time I want to quickly do 3 tasks, one after the other in the kitchen, he’s there, dawdling by the bin. IN MY WAY.

You’ll have to excuse me, but I had 5 very lovely days last week, where I was doing a stint of solo parenting.  I do realise some people have no choice but to do this all the time, either because they are a single parent or because their other half is at work a lot.  At any rate, I don’t often get a long stint of solo parenting because my hubby is self-employed so he’s highly likely to be here getting in my way mucking in.

I got into a bit of a rhythm you see.  I got into a routine when I was up in the morning and there were the bits of the kitchen I tackled first, the moments I sat down, the areas of focus.  I remembered to swill the kids breakfast bowls in water, I NEVER forgot to clean the hob or the kitchen counters when I was clearing up.  That’s because THAT is part of the clearing up.  I think hubby’s get a different manual or something.  Theirs says that the hob should only be cleaned when the burner is no longer accessible, counters are not part of tidying and washing up and that swimming bags can stay dumped on the floor outside the washing machine until they are next required.  That’s a whole different blog post and one I’m reluctant to write, because he’s not that bad, really.  Well, maybe a little bit.

Whilst he was gone though, nothing was sent to “committee”.  So, when Pickle was a bit cheeky with me, I decided what to do and how to deal with it.  No one put their two penny worth in and suggested any difference.  When The Monster stayed awake in his cot chatting until 9pm, I let him.  I didn’t have to have a discussion about the pros and cons of going upstairs and telling him to sleep….we’d reach my conclusion anyway, why talk about it?

There were no arguments as well. Well, other than the two kids having a few words with each other.  That was bliss. Nothing I said was misinterpreted, twisted, escalated or argued with.  I was my own boss, saying whatever the hell I wanted.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Of course, all of this enjoyment could well have been marred if either or both of the children had been an absolute nightmare and thankfully that wasn’t the case. They were both so lovely, that the time was a delight and we had a truly wonderful time together.  I bet if one of them had been trouble I’d have been pining for hubby to return with wails of “I bet he’d know what to do with this” or acknowledging that his cabin fever would have had the kids out playing in a park and any frustration would have been resolved.

Of course he came back and was immediately in my way.  Inevitable really.  It has happened before and even when we didn’t have children I found his return from stints away requiring a settling in period.  “General annoyance” moving to “slight annoyance” to “oh yeah, he’s here” to “this is how we live together.”  It all takes time and usually by the time we’ve figured it all out again, he’s off again for 3 or 4 days and the whole cycle starts again.hubby home

I think today I’m sitting at “slight annoyance” so I’m on the home straight now.

Do you enjoy solo parenting when you get the chance?





Rating your friends on their Appearance

We all do it, don’t we?  We rate our friends on their appearance.  Obviously that’s the most important thing about them surely.  Their ability to look good!  After we’ve rated them, we do a video reading out their names and telling them whether we think they’re “hot” or “not”.

No.  No, we don’t.  Well, I don’t.  However, you’ll be moritified to hear that THIS my friends, is pretty normal practice when you’re 13 years old.  Oh yes.

2of5star  This morning I had the misfortune to read some random 13 year olds Facebook status in my timeline because she is friends with my 13 year old niece and she had been tagged in the video.  In it the 2 girls on camera say “This is our ‘hot or not’ video”.  then they launch into all of their friends names, both boys and girls.  I should point out that nobody is marked badly, they are either “quite pretty”, “So pretty”, “pretty”, “fit”, “quite fit” or “hot”.  The girls have taken some care in compiling their list and I appreciate it could be a WHOLE lot worse.  We are probably only about 20 videos away from someone somewhere just getting to the nitty gritty and being deadly honest!

It’s the fact these girls have jumped on the bandwagon (or so I’ve been told….this is not an uncommon practice. Along with my nephew who often does a “like for a rating” on his Facebook page – I should really like it, shouldn’t I? See what he does with “them apples”).  At what point did this all become so bloody normal.  That our view of ourselves and that of others is based on how good looking we are.  I’m not stupid, I appreciate that some people are visually more appealling than others, I can see that, but to outwardly project that in such a blatant way makes me incredibly sad.

It’s the whole practice of it that I have the biggest problem with. The fact it’s ok to do this. The fact that there is a focus on your outward appearance, especially for women.  We are only as good as our parts. Boobs, legs, hair, face.  We are not whole. We all dealt with our fair share of bullying (well I did) and a nasty comment here, and a rude comment there, in the playground, in the classroom, it’s sad, it’s upsetting but the moment goes very quickly.  A permanent record on the internet on how people viewed you though, tagging a whole class, maybe more, that’s not right. Let’s all focus on what we look like. That’s a bit scary.

Where does it go from here then?  These girls are playing “their part” in a ghastly viscous circle that seems endemic in this day and age.  I was reading this article on the weekend and it sent shivers down my spine.  A 17 year old girl started a feminist society at her at her “all girls” school and things went from name calling by the boys in her peer circle and generally putting down the society, to some quite serious verbal attacks.  The words are truly horrendous and I don’t want to write them here, but if you have the stomach, read the article.

It always reminds me of someone on twitter who said “the comments on articles about feminism is the reason we need Feminsm” and the same can be said for those girls in the article.  The teacher wanted them to back down, yet the very reason for starting it all was to try and change the way boys and mens perceived them and how they viewed themselves.  The very fact the boys were so intimidated by them trying to unshackle themselves from the leering posts they had been put on, tells you an awful lot about how far we have yet to go.

In Australia there has been some publicity about the female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, being subjected to some pretty awful Misogyny.  It seems for previous Prime Ministers, they can be kicked about for their policies or their lack of guts but if you’re a woman, the focus is on what you look like.  A party conference held by the opposition party a few weeks ago had on their menu “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail – Small Breasts, Huge Thighs & A Big Red Box”.  She’s a red head by the way.  They saw this as perfectly acceptable code of conduct.

We owe it to our daughters and our daughter’s daughters to turn this on it’s head.  THIS is our suffragette movement.  Anybody that suggests FOR A MINUTE that we live in an equal society clearly has their head buried in the sand.  Until we drive forward, raise awereness, create the discourse for questioning this behaviour, women will forever be locked into a pathway where it is acceptable to apply merit to the way we look and behave. Be a good girl and look good and you’ll go far. That’s bullshit.  If you don’t fight back you’ll go as far as the mysogny tether around your neck will let you.



Workfest – hosted by Mumsnet

I was very lucky to win a ticket to go to last Saturday’s Workfest hosted by Mumsnet at Bafta in London.

Although I won the ticket through my blog I was not under any obligation to blog about the event, drum up business or do any sort of sponsorship for it. I am going to write about it though, because it was a very inspirational day and I picked up a more than a few tips that I’d like to pass on to you all. As one of the keynote speakers said; “We are all in this together”!WorkFest-logo

I won’t pretend I wasn’t incredibly nervous about the day. I didn’t really know what to expect and although I had pre-booked my breakout sessions I was thinking it was going to be a bit like an expo with lots of stands all trying to entice you in and sell their idea. It couldn’t have been further from the truth and I think that’s why I was so pleasantly surprised. I also thought I’d be a bit “billy no mates” as people would go in groups, but that also wasn’t the case. I would say that close to 100% of the delegates who attended, went alone. Which of course meant that every coffee break or the lunch break, was an opportunity to chat to the person sitting next to you, listening to their working life vs home life story and discuss our aspirations for the future. At no point did I feel lonely or uncomfortable.

I arrived at around 9am for registration and coffee/tea and pastries. This was my first opportunity to discover how lovely it was to be chatting to other working mums. Within 5 minutes I was talking to a woman who had a parallel life to mine, right down to the job she did and the people she managed. Bizarre!

We were then ushered into the Lecture theatre for the Welcome and Introduction and the Keynote Panel. I didn’t take any notes as this was laying down the common issues we all face as working mums. The Panel were made up of a pretty inspirational bunch of women, notably Lorraine Candy, Editor of Elle, who pointed out that production of the magazine had been altered to accommodate her hours. Justine Roberts, CEO from Mumsnet, Sarah Brinkley who was a head teacher who has done all sorts of permeatations of part-time working, Karen Lynch, CEO of Belu, Amanda Mackenzie from Aviva and the Chair was Gaby Hinsliff who is a journalist and author. They covered such topics as starting your own business with young children to the split of housework between both parents. “Share your housework.Stop emasculating men.Give them some power in raising their children.Share housework=better marriage”. Something I am quite passionate about myself. Not really sure why, in this day and age we are still doing the bulk of childcare and cleaning.

After the keynote panel we went into our Breakout sessions. I went to the CV session but I could have also gone to “build your confidence” or “Running a franchise”. I found the session really useful. Here are some of my notes:

  • Keep your CV simple
  • On average it takes 45 seconds for someone to read your CV. That means sometimes it might be 20 seconds. Make sure that in those 45 seconds the points you want to get across are put across. Ask a friend to read your CV and time them. Find out what they see. Move your CV around if the wrong things are being picked up.
  • Nowadays there is no need to put date of birth or marital status. Keep your name and address and email on 3 lines maximum. Don’t fill up the top quarter of your CV with a fancy, centrally aligned address.
  • Don’t put useless interests on there and if you do put interests on your CV, write around them. Don’t put “reading” down. Say “Reading thrillers when I get the chance”. That tells the reader you are busy and you like thrillers. Lots of people “read”.
  • Personal statements aren’t highly regarded, especially when spoken about in the third person and “big upped”. For example “Rachael is an exceptional Project Manager, with the skills to deliver….” You’ve written it yourself. Of course you’re exceptional. Better still to write around facts in your business history, pinpointing the challenges and achievements you’ve made.
  • If you can put a third dimension activity on your CV, all the better. Charity work for example. This can be very helpful if you’ve taken time off from work to raise children. Keep your hand in doing something, so there is no gap in your CV.
  • If you have a degree, put that in first on education. Don’t mention A levels or GCSEs. If you don’t have a degree, don’t have an education section.
  • Latest employment is always first!
  • Keep your CV to one page

We then had a morning break, more chat and then off to my second breakout session. I went to Personal Branding with Zena Everett but there was another “Build your confidence” session and “Get Ready for Business” which was run by Barclays, one of the sponsors of the day.

My session was very helpful and dovetailed beautifully with the CV one. It focussed on remembering that you are a brand and you project that brand onto others, so you need to work out what you want to project before hand. She says “Stop LOOKING for work. Create an opportunity”. 20% of all jobs are advertised, including through recruitment agencies. That means 80% of openings are created or managed via companies being approached directly.

  • There were 4 key things to bear in mind and unfortunately I only scribbled down 3, but these were “be visibly good at your job”, “Have a good reputation in your own job”, “Project a good reputation outwardly to others too”. You can do this via linkedin, this is used a lot by employers. By keeping your CV up to date on Linkedin, you are doing all of the above, reminding your current employer about how good you are too, so don’t feel you will look like you are touting for a new job.
  • Be specific about what you can do for an employer / client and do people favours. If you do favours for other people, they will do the same for you. You never know, that might be a job in the future.
  • On average employers receive 300 CV’s per job, they need to cull, so if you apply to a job that requires a qualification you don’t have, don’t bother. They won’t read through your CV to find out what other skills you have. However, you may find a way to create the skill based on what you do now, so think outside the box. If they ask for communication skills, demonstrate this.
  • Write this out, fill it in, memorise it and use it in interviews: “I am a person who can…………and…………and……….. I am looking for an organisation that is/needs/does……………….. and…………………………………….
  • CV is a marketing piece. Sell yourself!

I noted much more, but don’t want to write it all down here.

After a really lovely hot lunch and an opportunity to win a new car by doing an “elevator pitch” with Honda (which was lots of fun to do after I got over my nerves), I went to “Taking the Plunge” but also available was “Returning to work” and “Build your confidence”.

Taking the plunge was chaired by Carol Smillie who had recently started her own business and she was so slick and perfect in the role of chair, the whole Panel discussion worked really well. We had Lynne Franks from SEED (the inspiration for Eddy in AbFab), Kate Hardcastle, Katie Powell and Gemma Payne. Perfect split of experience and new businesses. Gemma ran a small craft business from her house. I quite liked the idea of this workshop even though I have no immediate plans to start my own business. Here are some gems from the discussion:

  • Make sure you have a good business plan, even if it’s just a single A4 page scribbled with info about projections, margins and marketing plans, what is your product? Market research is essential.
  • Find a mentor. Banks will often help you create a business plan. There are a lot of mentoring websites that will hook you up with someone, but perhaps you have a friend who runs a business and you can use them
  • Get a business idea that fits around your life.
  • Do a wishlist but accept you won’t get all of it.
  • It is difficult but not impossible to run a business alongside your day job
  • Be strict about your working hours, be flexible but when you are with your children, don’t dip in and out of work.
  • It can be isolating running your own business so focus on your confidence levels and keep reminding yourself what an amazing job you are doing.
  • Don’t be afraid of failure. Making mistakes is a learning opportunity.
  • Set small targets and congratulate yourself at every stage as you climb your “Everest”.

I took so many more notes, but can’t share them all here. I found this the best session of the day!

My final breakout session was the weakest. It was about online marketing and spent a lot of time explaining google ads (which I guess, I now understand) but I thought was too detailed. Then a bit about creating a Facebook page for your business (did you know you can sell from that page? for Free? I didn’t). Overall though I found this information too simple. I didn’t take as much from this session as I had hoped, but I’m sure there is a need to have a session like this. Maybe one for beginners and those that already have their own business. I’m sure some people found it very useful.

We then had 2 Keynote speeches at the end. The first one was by Thomasina Miers who was a masterchef winner and runs 9 restaurants. Her story was very interesting and inspirational. She reminded us that it’s all hard graft and that we should always ask for help when we need it. As embarrassing or awkward as it is, it will always push you on. My favourite comment from her was “As mothers we know what it’s like to get everyone’s shit together”. That makes us good at business!

Last Keynote was supposed to be James Caan, but he couldn’t make it as he had a family emergency so Yasmina Siadatan did it. She is currently in partnership with James but had previously been a winner of the Apprentice. Her story was great and she was a natural presenter. She ended by explaining the company “Start up Loans” was setup to receive money from the government to give to new businesses. It currently gives to new businesses run by 18-30 year olds but will shortly have that age gap lifted and it will be open to everyone.

Overall Workfest was brilliant. It was inspirational and informative and the opportunity to speak to other mums in a similar situation as me was fab. I got talking to another ticket winner at lunchtime who admitted (like me) that she hadn’t planned to come and pay for a ticket because she was still trying to figure out what she wanted. What we both agreed was that this was the perfect time to visit an event like this because it helped us to start to formulate that plan. For that reason I would recommend an event like this to anyone who is unhappy with their current work life balance, but can’t quite work out what they do want! I’ve already started to think about possible businesses I might like to run and I didn’t even know I wanted to run my own business.

Next year’s Workfest? Bring it on!!




PS: the lovely blogger @headinabook also blogged about the day. You can read about it here.



For My Sanity

I was at Mumsnet WorkFest on Saturday and it was a very inspirational and interesting event aimed at mothers returning to work after a career break or maternity leave, wanting to look for another job or starting their own business. I’ll be blogging about it shortly. 

One of the discussions that came up during the introduction was the topic of finding time to do things for yourself.  For one of the panel she always made time for running, that was her “me” time.  For the other 5 on stage, they admitted that juggling a family and work was keeping them busy enough for the time being.  One person admitted that they weren’t really thinking about hobbies at this age and imagined they would be off in a villa somewhere painting and doing poetry when they retire.

 As many of my regular readers know, I have gone on a bit of a mission in my life to try as many things as I can. I have the philosophy of “don’t put off tomorrow what you could be doing today”.  You never really know what is around the corner so you really do have to seize the day.  It’s why I created the joy jar.  Anyway, I really stepped it up when I turned 40, my little midlife crisis, as I became more and more aware of time slipping away.  I don’t think I’ve got the time to keep putting things off forever.  I made a decision that I was going to start to make time to ensure I was happy as well and I was going to try and do all the things I’ve quite fancied trying.  The only issue being I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. 

 I’ve done my half marathons now (pre dodgy knees) and I have my Psychology degree under my belt (graduated the month after I turned 40) and so I set my eyes on having a go at blogging and here it is.  More enjoyable than I ever dreamed but most importantly constantly pushing me on to try things, improve my wardrobe, seek out new makeup and generally be more positive about getting older.

 What I really wanted to try was painting and I previously blogged about this so I won’t go into the details of why, now.  Suffice to say I have done 6 weeks (on and off, brilliantly I was able to roll over days if I couldn’t make it) and I loved every minute of it.  I think I got very lucky with the teacher and the way she ran her business.  It was very often one on one tutoring and about half the lessons there was one other person there, usually more advanced than me.  She hovered a bit on day 1, hovered less on day 2 and then went about doing her own painting either alongside me or in her other studio, popping in every 10-20 minutes to offer guidance where necessary.

 I had to start from the beginning. Apart from a few recent sketches in a moleskin pad that I’d started at the beginning of the year I had not done anything remotely artistic since I was 16 and that was at school.  I didn’t show a particular flair for it either, I remember quite enjoying it but not being very passionate about it.  As I’ve said, my sister was the one labelled “creative”.  She started by making me sketch cups mostly.  Lots of the buggers.  So sick of cups and mugs.  However, she said they are the hardest thing to get right (those ellipses at the top are tricky sods) and it is a good solid ground for learning shading.  So I sketched about 4 mugs over around 3 of my lessons.  We then moved to the paints.  I painted one mug with acrylics which was enjoyable. I liked what I’d done. It wasn’t spectacular but I was pleased at my detailed painting and the shading inside the mug.  When you paint, you don’t have to be true to the colours you are painting so for me, that was the hardest part.  Accepting that a cream mug, needn’t be cream if the overall picture suffered as a result and that I could experiment with different colours, shade in different colours, bring a random colour in, was very freeing but also petrifying in places. She picked up on my particular style of painting and suggested oil paints to aid with blending, so I progressed to those.

 Some nights I was so tired I would get a bit fed up, especially when things weren’t going to plan.  Some nights I was just switched on and time flew, I enjoyed the process and I was pleased with what I had done.

 So now I’m done. I did two little paintings that I worked on in the last 3 weeks or so.   I was going to buy a canvas and pick a subject I could paint, but my teacher has decided to take some time out from painting and her classes as she is in the throes of becoming a guardian to her sister’s daughter and so I will have to go it alone through the summer until she decides to return.

 So I think I’m going to take the plunge.  Buy a canvas, buy some oil paints and all the bits and bobs that go with it (brushes, white spirit, oil mix) and see how I am going to fit it into my home life.  I’m actually going to have to give this a lot of thought, because it’s all fine and well heading off to a purpose built studio on a Monday night, but I’m not sure I’d have the discipline to do that at home.

 Who knew, hey.  I not only enjoyed it but according to my teacher I am a bit of a natural.  The lesson : Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today, you never know what talents lie beneath.

My painting…..not perfect, but I’m a little bit proud of it.


What’s in a Name or… Telling My Husband I Blog

So, what’s in a name?  Well a lot apparently!  Especially when you have the opportunity to change your name.

 I’m talking blog name of course. I’m planning on going self hosted shortly (paying for my page and getting a personal URL) and so I have this little window of opportunity to sneak in a name change if I so wish. I’m very tempted.

 You see, as well as taking this momentous decision to move to self hosted I decided to come clean to the hubby about my blogging.


It only took 18 months. To be honest, it’s a huge weight off my mind and he took it very well, partly because I was mumbling along trying to find the right words and mentioned something about the laptop and he thought I’d broken it, so to discover I hadn’t, made the impact of my secrecy seem very tame.  He didn’t ask that many questions but I did keep talking about it to make sure he understood what I was saying. He was cool about it. Didn’t seem overly concerned. Didn’t ask for my blog name.  A little later on in the day he didn’t admit to wondering what I blogged about, so I told him the content of the last 3 posts I had done. He was ok about it.  I guess time will tell.

 So, back to my name.  I spent an exceedingly long time picking the one I have now, which sound ridiculous.  I was trying to think of something I could abbreviate and use as my name as well when I was signing off, so Freefalling into 40 (FFF) sounded good. freefallingAs it turned out, I ended up signing off as “the 40 year old” so I’ve never used the shortened version. 

 The name sort of summed up how I felt though.  Like a runaway train, I couldn’t stop my 40’s from happening and it’s kind of a freeing up feeling, free falling.  It’s fun and scary and exhilariting.

 Now, do I want to change it? 

 I was thinking of switching it to just Freefallinginto  or just Freefalling and then doing something with the header to include “40” and then in time (if I should hang about blogging that long) I could change it to 50 or ……..god forbid 60!!! What would I be blogging then?  Information about pensions and bunions?

 Who am I kidding, I’m not far from those topics now!

 So, is that a good idea?

 Or should I COMPLETELY change my name?  Any suggestions welcome. I’ve come up with these rather limp options (none of which I’ve checked):

  •  Fortyandbeyond
  • Beyond40 or BeyondForty
  • Past it
  • AgeingFabulously
  • Runawayage
  • NoFearAfter40
  • FearingForty
  • MidlifeMusings

 Your help would be gratefully received.  Like my current name?  Or fancy one of the new ones?