Tag Archives: Working mum

A C-section, Bottle feeding, Nursery using Working Mum

I am really bloody angry.  I’m fed up to the back teeth of people who write articles, blogs or tweets about something that they can take the moral high ground on.  Something they do/don’t do, but they know darn well others do/don’t.

  • Breastfeeding/Bottle feeding
  •  Natural Childbirth/C-sections
  •  Nursery or Childminders/Stay at home care
  •  Stay at home parents and Working parents

The Perfect Scenario – so we are told

You have a baby naturally (no drugs), you sail through breastfeeding (feed as late as possible, but not too late – there’s a whole other brigade ready to leap on you if you do), you Stay at Home until your child is in school (if you don’t do SOMETHING once they’ve started school you WILL be vilified – “What do you do all day?”), you then make sure that your work to homelife balance is just right so you can stay on everyones side.

Life doesn’t work like that.

Nor should it.

I don’t want to live in a world where everyone does the same thing.  I want to live in a world where everyone gets to do what they want to do, they have choice.  Sometimes that choice doesn’t seem like a choice at all, it’s what they have to do, but then we need to make sure that it still works, that its still safe and right.  Hey, and if you get the perfect scenario and it works for you I’m really pleased for you.  Maybe a little bit jealous.Angel Mother

I really don’t give a shit if you breastfeed or not.  I’m pro breastfeeding, I think if you can, you should. If you can’t then bottle feeding is the next best thing.  Give it a good shot. Don’t give it a good shot (especially if it’s a psychological reason), I really don’t care.

Have a baby as safely as you can.

Homebirths sound awesome to me. Could I have done it?  No way. I don’t have that much faith in myself to be able to remain calm.  Every likely situation that may go wrong will be sitting there, right in front of my head.  Wasn’t right for me.  It may be right for you.  Go for it. Gather the information, talk to people, make the decision.

Go to hospital if you like. If that will make you happy, have your lovely baby in the hospital.  Have a go without drugs?  Why not, it’s what we are designed for.

Don’t fancy the pain? Cool. Have some drugs.

Can’t deliver your baby naturally?  Gave it a good shot?  You’re in luck, we have the very best of care in hospitals.  You can have a c-section.

Want to head straight for an elective c-section?  Ooh, controversial.  You must have your reasons. You know the risks, you’ve weighed them up.  Go for it.  You just want the best for you and your baby.  Happy mother, happy baby. I get it.

I could go on.  I might.

The whole SAHM vs Working mum malarkey is starting to really piss me off.  Some people work and some people don’t.  Some people HAVE TO work. Some people don’t. Some people like working outside the home. Some people really enjoying looking after their children full time.  Some people like to mix the two of them up.  GET OVER IT!

Some of us put our children in nursery.  Some of us don’t have the choice.  Some of us are vigilant and would not bat an eyelid at having to take our children out of any situation where we think there might be any danger or where there is inappropriate care.  We are paying attention.  We just think that people should be given the choice and that choice should be safe and right.

I get that the Perfect Scenario is good.

I don’t get that variations on it are bad.

And just for the record.  Every time you post your opinion on something that you know is the opposite of what someone else does, you are putting them down.  You are making yourself feel better about your decisions by making other people feel bad. End of.

However, offering support, supporting those that make different decisions and might be struggling with that and being sympathetic to that, well that costs nothing. It’s actually quite nice.

“You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”

Bear that in mind next time.

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.

 

 

The Working Mum vs The Working Dad

No, I won’t be embarking on an “us against them” post, although I will be pointing out a few things that should remind us all that the battle for equal rights is not over just yet.

I am a working mum.  I don’t have the choice, unfortunately, so I’m not sure that if we were able to live on a single income I would be working.  I know the 4 days I do at the moment doesn’t feel right for my family, but it does work for my employer, so at least someone is winning.

I am lucky though (and unlucky) as my husband is an actor and he has a sporadic working life.  Generally he works around 2 days a week, but often we will have weeks on end where he is working more than that.  We have a few emergency options open to us and I just have to take leave from work occasionally.  However, he does do childcare 2 days a week most of the time.  I love those 2 days. I can come and go to work like a normal person.

I have blogged before about the stress of doing the nursery, school run and dash to work (and then all in reverse on the way home) on the 2 days I have to do it.  Just 2 days seems like it’s okay really, but I dread those 2 days so much I can’t tell you.  My stomach in knots that I won’t make drop offs or be late for work or the worse one, that I will get stuck in traffic and my two children who are in two different places will be stuck there with no one to pick them up.  I can’t park near work (although I do pay to use a car park that costs me £10 a day if I am feeling particularly pressurised) so I drive so far and then use a Brompton folding bike the rest of the way.  Occasionally, if I’m sneaky, I can work out when a few people who have car parking spaces at my office are off and I can nick their space.  This makes things so much easier and cheaper and lifts a level of stress from me.

Recently at work I realised that it was mostly the mothers amongst us that were in charge of pick ups and drop offs from school, breakfast clubs, after school clubs or nurseries.  Most of the men, particularly those in a more senior position, were not.  They  didn’t really “get” our situation at all.  I get blank looks when I mention my parking problems or the stress of my 2 days.  When pressed they say “Oh yeah, I understand, my wife has the same problem”.  Ahhh, no.  You don’t understand, because it’s not you.  You aren’t going through this, you have no bloody idea.parents at work

Before you say it, it really isn’t bloody MY CHOICE. Yes, I wanted children, yes all of those women wanted children, but so did their husbands.  Why is it that the husbands aren’t also being responsible for the childcare?  Well, it’s down to our working culture primarily and until that changes, we haven’t got much hope.

A male colleague of mine has recently started doing the nursery run in the morning before work.  He lives very close to work and the nursery is nearby, so it’s not quite the juggling act others have, but none the less, he has to do this because his wife is a lawyer who has got a new job since maternity leave which is quite a distance away.

He has regularly arrived in to work late in the morning, to be greeted by me cheerily saying “Good afternoon”.  Helpful I know!!   He has sat down at his desk with a massive hurumphh, looking exhausted before he’s even started work.  He looked at me the other day quite forlornly.  “It’s a nightmare”!

“What is?”

“Trying to get two small children out of a house and to nursery before work”.

“Yes, isn’t it”.

“Finally got shoes on both of them and then eldest pushed the youngest one off the front step just as we were going to the car”.

“Yes, they do that.”

“I had to comfort her, get the first aid kit out. She refused to get up.  I got angry. It was horrible”

“It usually is”.

“I’m counting the days until I don’t have to do this anymore,  when we move and get that au-pair.  I can’t stand it. I’ve not even started work and I need a lie down”.  Ahh an Au-pair.  Yes, that would be helpful.

And here in lies the problem.  I need ALL male employees at my work to do this for, say, a period of 6 months.  To step into their helpful wives shoes, whether they are Stay at home mums, part-time employees or full-time employees, I need all my bosses to experience the pain in the arse that is childcare.  And I’m not suggesting this because I want to punish them or I think we deserve a medal or because I want special treatment.  I want this because if they realised what a bloody malarkey it was we may see a bit more equality and help in the work place.  Until more dad’s start doing this (and I know there are lots that do, unfortunately just not where I work!) we are never going to change a thing.

So, what might change if this childcare situation was more evenly distributed?

  • More emphasis on parking facilities for working mums and dads who are in charge of childcare.
  • Senior meetings or away days that don’t start at 8am and finish at 6pm (or at least a bit more notice of them.  Better still, I’d like to see a senior male manager leave at 4.30pm to go and do pickup so the rest of use don’t look like we are uncommitted)
  • An end to working long hours in order to impress people.  Let’s finish off the report at home, hey?
  • More crèche/nurseries in workplaces or nearby
  • Being able to work from home (biggy for me and my employer is very against this).  If you’ve got children and have worked at the business for XX number of years, this should be offered.  I’d happily fill in forms, write a business case and jump through hoops to allow me to have this flexibility. Especially when both my children are at school and then at an after school club. I could drop off and be at my desk by 9am and work until 5pm.
  • Flexible working hours for ALL employees. Why does it only get offered to women after maternity leave?  Surely that’s wrong.

So, there you have it.  It’s not very eloquent or a very well written rant, but it’s a rant none the less.  I am tired of it all.

Let’s get more equality back in the work place for all parents.

School mums

Huddled over, whispering, smiling, turning to wave as familiar faces pass, reminding each other of people they know….

“Wonder what she’s doing”, “Did you hear that they didn’t get the house”?  “Well, what was she thinking, it’s miles out of the catchment area”.

School mums.  A rare breed of creature, especially adapted for the harsh school ground environment, prone to working in packs, skilled at the eye roll, experienced in dressing for every occasion.

I am a school mum, kind of.  My frantic drop on Wednesday and Thursdays allows me to be one for about 15 minutes.  Fridays I can be more leisurely but I’m not yet that rare breed, because I barely know anybody there.  My husband is more the school mum than me as he always does Monday and Tuesdays and often the other two days if he’s about.  He’s used to being ignored, he’s been a partime stay at home dad for 5 years and often finds himself on the outside of these circles.

Although this is all changing slightly, for him and me.  We ARE getting to know some of the people in the playground.  Our constant attendance has caught their attention.  My daughter has made friends and those friends have badgered their mum to talk to me because I presume they want to go over each others houses.  I’ve taken some opportunities to engage in the odd sentence or two “ahhh that’s Ethan is it.  I hear a lot about Ethan”.  Of course I’m usually met with an awkward stony silence, but I don’t think it’s intentional.

I blogged about my lack of friends here and nothing has really changed.  What I have become more aware of is that I’m not really that bothered about being ignored.  I think it’s age or experience or both, but I don’t blame the other mums for ignoring me.  They are currently unaware of my awesomeness (!), my strong sense of loyalty and my kind(ish) nature.  If they knew, they’d all be pouncing on me and inviting me to coffee morning left right and centre.  I am a grownup and I know how these things work.  Cliques are natural creations (mostly) and it’s hard to get into them.  My cautiousness helps me out a bit here, it allows me to sit back, assess and make judgements, good and bad, on whether I think I want to commit.

So like a lioness, I shall circle these mums, assess and review and I will smile, I will engage and I will bide my time.  I have time.  Who knows, one of them might end up being my best friend.

Being a Grownup

Like all of you, I dreamt of the day I could be a grown up.  I hated being told what to do, how to do it, what to eat, when to go to bed or not be able to make any decisions for myself.  When I was a grown up I would do things differently:

  • I would laugh more
  • I would chill out more
  • I would be kinder
  • I would join in with my children’s games
  • I wouldn’t get angry
  • I would only do fun things
  • I wouldn’t argue with my husband
  • I would work if I wanted to work and not blame my children for my (perceived) dull life

So, I’m here now and I can tell you that some of these are ever-present, guiding me to choose one thing over another, but some of them I fail dismally at and the reason pure and simple is that being a grownup is bloody hard.

photo courtesy of handbag. com

It’s hard not get angry when you’ve been on your feet for 6 hours cleaning and tidying for other people and you’ve asked someone 6 times to pick a piece of Lego up.  It’s hard not arguing with your husband when you are so tired and so exhausted from going through the motions that you’ve forgotten what brought you together in the first place.  AND it’s hard knowing whether working or not working is the right thing for everyone, because some days you manage and some days are just such hard work that you get in and want to cry.

I have blogged about my work-nursery-school journey here but suffice to say Thursday’s journey took it out of me.  I spent all day in a training session, reflecting on my ability to control others and have difficult conversations. It was absolutely exhausting (oddly enough) and very very emotional, especially when I realised that the difficult conversation I had chosen to practice with is probably one I really should have with a guy who is a bit of a bully.  I arrived at the training session late, because I start work late and then I had to leave the session early, because I leave early to pick up my children.  So I felt a bit shit about that.  Then I had my usual anxiety about making it in time and when we all fell into the house and I began to sort dinner etc out and Pickle kept asking me to look at something and The Monster (who doesn’t speak) started having a babbling rant because he couldn’t do something and I felt so tired I could have slept standing up, I then had to pop into the loo to have a little cry, because I’m not entirely sure any of this works.

My happiness has to count for something, right?  I’m not happy.  I don’t know if I’m just not happy at this small point in my life, or whether I’m not going to be happy whilst I do things this way.  I do know that that “Mystical” grown up decision-making that I so craved as a child is shit. I need someone to tell me what is right and wrong, because I’m just too tired to see sense at the moment.

The terrible thing is I will probably continue on for a bit with the way things are and that’s because I just don’t know how to tackle it and actually it’s part of a much bigger issue.  We need to make a decision on whether we stay in London or move out. I need to make a decision about whether I look for another job in a more stimulating industry because the one I am in is sleep inducing and I wouldn’t want to bore you with the detail.  We need to make a decision about what we imagine our life will look like and the bottom line is that I DON’T WANT TO MAKE ANY DECISIONS.

So if it’s alright with you, I will take my tired bones off to a little hideaway, pull the duvet up over my head and pretend I’m not a grownup anymore.  Because being a grownup is rubbish.