Category Archives: Mental Health

Taking the Plunge

Well, not literally.  I suppose it’s just as well we have no cliffs in London because the last few weeks at work would have certainly made the thought of it very appealing.  The trouble with having a difficult time at work is that it inevitably creeps into your home life too.  Hubby and I were arguing more and I was losing my patience with my children.  Nobody likes to be “that” mum.  The whole thing ends up spiralling up until you really don’t think you can take it anymore.

You may have remembered that I had a bit of a “losing it” moment with a senior executive a couple of weeks ago.  Well, not content with having one emotional angry moment I decided to book end it with another.  This time with my bosses boss.  This isn’t generally seen as a good career move, but I think it really summed up my general mood at the time.  Thankfully this man has a bit more emotional intelligence than the other guy and pressed me to the point where I was in fight or flight mode.  I was either going to shout “Fuck off” to him or walk out and even I was a bit apprehensive at which way I was going to go.  He saw the whites of my eyes, backed down and wandered off.  I knew I hadn’t won.  I had been lucky though.  I could have really made a mess of that.  We met the following Monday, much calmly and sorted out the disagreement in the right way.  Thank goodness.

So I’m at a cross roads.  I’ve been here 10 years in March and I recently decided I was going to find another job.  I’ve got lots of obstacles to getting there, but none that can’t be overcome.  I just need to break this all done in nice manageable chunks.  I’m concerned I’m going to miss out on my long service leave in March.  An extra 2 weeks holiday on top of the 4 weeks (Pro-rata for me, but works out the same).  It may take me that long to find the job I want, I can’t let that be a reason to hang on.  “I won’t earn as much” – Well, you never know.  “I won’t get the same benefits” – you never know, and at any rate, being happier is much more important. “I haven’t got a CV” – schedule the time to work on it.

The plan was that I start to look for a new job and then that would dictate where we might move out to.  We really want to move.  I feel stifled where I am.  The trouble is I don’t want to get a job somewhere only to discover all the areas around it I don’t want to live in.  We are, therefore, planning to go and do a bit of snoop around in areas we might like.  Hubby knows these places quite well, but I’m been a Londoner for 17 years and have never been to most.  First stop is this weekend.  Off to Hampshire to sample the delights that this county has to offer.  I’ve got a couple of villages recommended to me by people on Twitter (we nearly went on Sunday with hangovers, but some friends cancelled a weekend with us this week, so we thought we would use that), so we are going to check them all out.The Woods

We are making a whole weekend of it and will be staying overnight at relatives in Newbury which also gives us the opportunity to have a look West of Newbury too.  I’m really excited about it.  If we find an area we like I can find out about school and other amenities and then look for jobs that sit somewhere between there and where I am now.  Then I can commute for a while from here, hopefully with some flexibility and Pickle can complete Year 1 at her current school without me feeling guilty for pulling her out early.

All sounds so simple on paper though doesn’t it.  I’m hoping it pans out that well.

Any advice on what to look for in a new area, other than good schools?  What do you think makes a good place to live?

Competitive Parenting

I think I’m missing a special gene or something.  The gene that tells you that a 5-year-old child should be over achieving and focussing solely on maths and English and little else.  I don’t know why I don’t have it but I sure as hell am VERY VERY glad it’s missing.hard working school girl

I have had my eyes opened to the competitive parent this week.  School reports were sent home on Monday and it was very exciting for me and the hubby. Our little girl’s first report. New education measures have meant the reports have changed (although having not seen a report for a good 20 odd years, we didn’t really know what we were missing).  For Reception children there is a new grading system of 3 grades.  These are listed as “Emerging”, “Expecting” and “Exceededing”.  I think I’ve got a pretty bright little girl, she comes from pretty bright stock, but I’m not really one to start shouting it from the rooftops, or for that matter put a load of pressure on my daughter.  We’ve spent our first year in school focussing on the enjoyment, understanding how homework fits into homelife, learning to read (woo hoo) and being creative with the ways we learn (numbers with cooking, reading street signs, counting in twos on the house numbers).  I’ve not wanted anything more as I really wanted Pickle to get a thirst for learning, the joy of passing on that knowledge either to me or her brother and the understanding of what needs to happen in a classroom, how to conduct yourself, follow instructions, be kind to your classmates.  At any rate, her report had her at “Expected” on every level.  I was happy with that.  It was her first year.  She’ll find a subject she really likes and I’ve no doubt she’ll get a few “exceeding” scores in years to come. I just liked reading her teacher’s comments. Glowing comments about her being a joy to teach and her social skills.  She has a good grasp of everything. Well rounded I’d say.

However, being in the school grounds on Tuesday was apparently not for the faint hearted. Hubby was there for an end of year picnic and the other parents were up in arms!!  Over what, you might say?  Well there were two things specifically.  Firstly, the wishy-washy scoring system.  “What does it mean, exactly”? spouted one irate mother.  “So she is exceeding.  By how much?”.  “What is it she isn’t doing that means she gets “expected”” shouted another.  Geez!!  You’ll note that these were all mother’s of girls.  They happen to be my daughter’s friends parents.  I’ve never been so glad that they are all being split up in Year 1. Hallelujah.

The second thing that one such mother talked to me about this morning was about the comments on the report. “I don’t want to know how she’s feeling or about how she moves her body” she complained, rolling her eyes.  I want to know what maths problems she’s working towards. FGS!! These are 5 year olds, people. 5 YEAR OLDS!

When I was 5 in Australia, I was doing water play and playing in the sand pit in pre-school.  I hadn’t touched a book.  It was fun.  I learnt to read very quickly from the age of 6 and as I got older, some grades slipped and some went through the roof.  I somehow muddled through it all.  I got there.  I came out the other side an intelligent woman. I’d like to think I could do anything I put my mind to.  I’m still learning now. It never stops.

I loved all the stuff in the report about Pickle’s social skills.  At this age, it’s so important.  All the bloody high scores in the world, but if you can’t actually conduct normal relationships with people then how will you ever be fulfilled?  I loved hearing about her PE skills too. Nice to know she is coordinated and enjoys it.  All of it was heart warming, comforting and demonstrated to me that she will be a good student.

Clearly it’s just me though. I have yet to find a parent in her class who isn’t fuming.  I’m actually gobsmacked, truth be told. I appear to be one of the few parents with a child that didn’t get an “Exceeeding” score on one of the areas.  I had no idea people started getting so worked up about grades at this age.  As if these grades set the scene forever.  If Pickle had got “emerging” for everything, maybe I might have been a little concerned. Maybe I’d have chatted to the teacher about getting her up.  How can anyone be upset that their child has achieved set goals though?  At this age?

The mother I spoke to this morning informed me that her and her husband had spent all night on the internet downloading homework for her daughter to do over the summer break.  I looked at her aghast. “Really?  I’m letting Pickle have a well deserved break”.  She replied “Oh no.  We are getting on with this.  She did some homework this morning before she came to school. She loves it.  She gets bored otherwise.  I’ll let her have a week off when we are on holiday and then she’s back on it”.


I feel incredibly sad for her daughter, because if this is what her parent’s are like now, what will they be like when she’s 8, 10, 11?

I’m clearly in the minority.  Education IS important but enjoying learning and doing so in a measured way, at your own pace, surely that’s important too.  I WILL be doing homework with Pickle. I will be teaching her over the summer break, but it’ll be accidental.  She will be reading books she has chosen and enjoy and exploring her new knowledge by using it in everyday settings.  I’ll probably be teaching her without even realising.

She’s 5 FGS!!


I’ve had an epiphany.

I really have.  I reached breaking point on Sunday.  Tired, emotional and in the midst of tidying the house and I had one fleeting thought about work and BAM I started feeling dizzy.  I took a moment to sit down and it didn’t go away.  My heart started palpitating and I felt a bit sick and I realised……I was having a panic attack.

 So I told hubby I wasn’t feeling very well and headed upstairs to lie down for a bit.  I didn’t want to sleep so I didn’t shut my eyes, I just lay there wondering what the bloody hell was going on with me that I keep on having all these anxiety attacks happen to me. At this point I realised I had had a thought about work.  Could this really be the issue?

 So I picked up my notebook and started scribbling a pros and cons list.  This is what it looked like (I’ve typed it up so you can read it). Pros and Cons

 It looks pretty conclusive to me.

Admittedly on the top list the “money” side is heavily weighted.  I earn very well, but it’s clearly not making me any happier and I’ve got the same % of disposable income I had 10 years ago, because in order to keep my life ticking over 10 years later I have to spend more. 

Pickle’s love of her school is also heavily weighted.  I get very emotional about things like this. She loves her little friends and I would feel awful ripping her from that.  That all said though my husband moved about 4 times as a child to different parts of the country and has no bad memory of any move and I moved from one school to another at 8 years old and I don’t remember being distraught at all.  Still, the thought of doing it to Pickle weighs heavy on my heart.

 However, I can’t ignore the stark truth.  By simply writing down that list above and I looked at it in disbelief.  This is how I’m running my life.  Seems a pretty awful way to run your life if I’m honest.  I’ve worked out how to make me happy out of work (painting, Gardening etc..) so now I need to focus on my day to day life.

I had a brief chat with hubby about it after I skulked back downstairs with my list.  I think the first step is to find another job.  I don’t need to rush into it, but I need to start making some changes.  I’ll set a goal for September to produce a CV I can use and adapt for possible new job applications (seems a long way off, but we’re in July now and Pickle is on school holidays soon and we have a holiday booked in August).  Then I need to start looking at companies I might like to work for as well as looking out for jobs.  The most critical thing is to either work less hours OR find a job that will allow me to work a few days at home.  THAT will make all the difference I think.  I also need to brace myself for loss of income.  I will keep looking at the pros and cons list above and remind myself why I don’t need it.

If I find a job outside London but commutable, then we can stay where we are until we’ve worked out our strategy. This seems a less drastic plan of action than looking further afield and finding a new job AND a new house. After that, we can look to moving out and finding the place we REALLY want to live.  Hubby agrees. We really need to do this. Our house is not our forever house.

I’ve already had a few wobbles about my decision.  I get my long service leave in March and get an extra 2 weeks holiday. Part of me doesn’t want to squander that, but I have to be realistic. It’s only 2 weeks, it’ll be gone in a flash. I have just had my car allowance raised and was looking to get a new car.  Why is that so important? It really isn’t.  The mere thought of Pickle going to a new school or the fact a new school might not we walkable, worries me.  I love to worry about things I don’t even know is the truth. I need to calm down and just focus on each little baby step.

Each baby set that will slowly, s l o w l y create the life I’m dreaming of.


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.



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.