Wednesday, 20 October 2010

new school jitters

daughter #1 started school in august and the last few months have been spent negotiating the precarious way through new school nerves, sad school gate goodbyes, making new friends, not trying too hard, not trying too little. not her you understand; me. #1 doesn’t seem to be too worried about any of the above. not now anyway, half term is here and she seems to have worked out her fit in the class and got her head around the newness of it all; it has taken me a bit longer. the first month was hard all round; #1 has always had a bit of what is broadly branded “separation anxiety”. she calls it sadness: she told us she hated the sadness that she felt when she watched us walk away. she didn’t want the sadness, and asked if someone else could take her to school so that she didn’t have to feel it. she didn’t like the unbidden tears and the fact that she had to try to manage it quietly so that the other children swarming around her, loud and confident in their pre-school established relationships didn’t notice. the first few days were fine; all new and shiny and big girl and uniform and like her cousins. the start of week 2 was dreadful; clinging like a spiders web to me with all available limbs, sobbing and shouting out and tangled and dreadfully dreadfully sad whilst she was slowly peeled off. and as i steered my unwilling body away, holding onto confused #2, i felt like such a failure. how had i not prepared my child for this? at what point had my decision tree been so flawed that it left her so apparently insecure in her own strengths to swim large-fish like into the class. she had been to nursery since she was 1 for a couple of days a week, been to pre-school for the last year for 2 mornings a week, she had had sleepovers, play dates, friend and family visits galore. but she hadn’t been to this pre-school; she didn’t know the children and she wasn’t sure about the every day part of it. i did what everyone prescribed: i made my goodbye quick, i gave her a special routine, i was assertive and strong and kind and brief and all the other things that the internet/school/friends/family advised. i didn’t want to be getting it so wrong, so i tried so hard but still she wailed.

#1 is a lover of justice; in extremis. she is incredibly fair but expects scrupulous behaviour from all. she is also passionate about one-on-one relationships with friends and with adults. and suddenly in this new space there was very little evidence of any of the above and it threw her into such new territory that all her little supporting struts were down. sharing tales of injustice with the teacher was getting short shrift, understandably. she felt very alone and i wasn’t at all sure what the best way of managing it was. the school were very supportive and called me to tell me how quickly she had recovered, and given a specific job to do had blossomed back into confidence each day. but the following morning was to be the same for three weeks.

on work mornings i would arrive shattered, weepy, drained for the day. on non-work days i felt helpless and redundant, and a fraud as i took #2 to jo jingles and pretended to be a good parent whilst clearly failing so obviously. i tried not to take it personally, and to brush it off as one of those things that would pass and get better, but it was on reflection one of the hardest periods i’ve gone through with the children.

on coming home #1 became incredibly obsessive about debriefing her actions in a daily confessional of minor sins on which she wanted guidance and steering. she also became insistent that i know everything she did “i just touched the table mummy”, “i just thought about poo mummy” and could talk non-stop for two hours on minutiae without pausing for breath. the child seemed to be in full meltdown.

and so what happened. friends are what happened: for both of us. i turned to my cohort, my rocks lined up with their different angles and strengths and intelligences and was steered through this sea by their views and ideas. one mum told me in a very straight forward way how her daughter was going through this too at the same time; but that she had always been like this and always would be. it sounds so simple but made me stop comparing #1s behaviour to other children, but instead to her own history. and she has always struggled with goodbyes; even at her nursery and her friends houses. she simply doesn’t like them but comes through them quickly and moves forward in her day. another mum, a teacher, suggested that if #1 was entering a daily confessional mode and seeking rules then to match her rigor with my own. to give her my rules, to give her parameters of acceptable behaviour so that she didn’t feel so lost and without guidance. to not be scared by her need for definite advice and to not back away saying it was up to her, but instead to match her need with my support and to not worry about being a control freak. (permanent worry, growing massive roots throughout this period). and the third advised i try a star chart. again, not a coup in terms of original thought, but just the prod i needed to spend less time analysing and more time in positive action. and it worked a treat. she chose swimming as her activity, we printed the chart of choice from and wrote the treat across the top. 10 consecutive days of no crying and we were at that pool! and over that period #1 formed her own relationships with her own rocks and i hope she’s as lucky as i have been in finding her own buffers for the rocky seas that occasionally flood us all.

Friday, 16 July 2010

sausages big and small

i’m eating a rice cake and i’m a bit cross. for one thing, my diet has so far resulted in me gaining weight. i think this might be due to a visit to centre parcs at the end of week one and a three day visit from old friends at the end of week two. my ability (and desire) to diet when with friends is negligible. i may say “i’ll pass on the croissant” only to follow it up with “and opt for the pain au chocolate”. no pork chop; just fourteen sausages. etc. one friend did comment on how fast i could eat a sausage straight from the barbeque which i found mildly discomfiting from a number of perspectives; however i reminded that it’s due to having to time-manage on such a regular basis.

i’m also cross because in my lunch break i couldn’t exchange a top i’d bought in french connection for a gift card. i could have an exchange note but not a gift card. i offered to use my exchange note to buy a gift card but this also isn’t allowed. i suggested i bought a non-sale item with my exchange note, exchanged it for a refund then purchased a gift card (pulling all the process options out: i know my trade) and they said no. the till would KNOW what i’d paid with and only offer that in exchange. so once you have an exchange note it’s pretty hard to do anything other than buy more french connection items: something which is hard if your bottom seems to fit a size 14 but your leg length is more like a 10. don’t i sound scrummy?

the offending returnable item looked great in the shop on a different lunch break: a navy satin under dress with a bat-winged long, thin , floaty but gathered at the bottom top/dress. top/dress as fashion currently seems to have drawn a line under “definite” clothing description in exchange for no holes being barred on the option front. use it as a pair of pants or an attractive hat. wear it with jeans, or leggings, or jeggings, or why not just wear nothing at all under it? and show off your hat-pants? a dress madam? we don’t do dresses anymore. would you mind just trying on this bag instead? i think it would nice with a pair of harem pants pulled up to the knee, then you can wear these strappy shoe/glove combos underneath. when you stand on your head you look just the same. it’s great; and have you seen the hat-pants?

so in the shop the top/dress looked great that day: i think my hair was looking nice which makes all the difference. the lights were low as it was raining (again) and i looked a bit mystical; a bit on trend but classical too. i can be trendy, please call me wendy. but i also like to be know as ms and am hugely capable and sophisticated. and could you tell i have two children? i thought not.

when i got home it didn’t look quite the same. it looked more like someone had pulled a cord along the hem of the top/dress making it blatantly apparent that my bottom couldn’t escape. the bat wings looked more terrifying than ethereal and the top part looked more or less like a purple poncho which i’d lost my arms in. gone was the look and in was the reality. i would lose my children in the top/dress while trying to cuddle them, the satin underdress gaped at the boob and i wasn’t sure quite what i would wear on my legs given the endless options.

so i bought it back. today was a less good hair day and while i tried on various other options in the changing room i was accompanied by two different women doing lunch break shopping (we were in the open disabled access changing room; all the better for bottom humiliation). one tried on a 10 dress, then requested an 8, then asked me how i thought it looked. i honestly told her it looked great; she showed me how it gaped at the boob though; oh what a dilemma. she then looked sympathetically at me and said how much she hated shopping for jeans too. joy. she was replaced by a skinny banking ( i know because she told me) women who bought in a tight dress in three sizes. i think they were 6, 8 and 10. what was really nice was that she too wanted an opinion. she wanted to know if the dress looked too tight and tarty. honestly; the women was a twiglet. i asked if it felt too tight. she said it didn’t and i said it was meant to be a structured fitted dress, but it didn’t look as if it was stretching anywhere. she told me she had tried on the bigger one but it was a big baggy. bear in mind i’m still hear in my oversize jeans. i reassured her it didn’t look tarty; she said she worked in a bank so definitely didn’t want to look tarty, i asked if she had a jacket……………..jeeeeeeeeeesus! i just wanted something to look nice on my bottom. i didn’t want tiny women who’d passed out of the tiny-sausage sausage factory asking me to reassure them about their tinyness. i put my cagoule back on; over my work trousers and flat shoes because i’ve got a VERY SORE VERRUCA and felt like the least desirable women in the actual physical world and marched to the counter only to be told i had to buy something in the shop to get my money back. and hence the credit note saga began.

too much ranting? too much sausage probably. so i’m munching on the rice cakes, hobbling in my flatties, spotty with my period and have to find something excellent to wear this weekend for a family party. good. i’ll crack on and get to it.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

philosophy is the talk on a cereal box

i’m on a diet. it’s official: prĂȘt sandwiches and buses into work = 3lb increase over 3 months. and i’m a bridesmaid in about 6 weeks; arghhh! the other two bridesmaids are child free, hence not only do they have the benefit of not looking like a now empty giant seed-pod; they also have plenty of me-time to dedicate to sport and activity; and don’t face the trauma of needing to eat fast calorie intensive snacks in order to muster the energy to manage the bedtime process.

so today i had mini shredded wheat for breakfast; a banana for snack, a coffee made by me rather than a deluxe fatty latte, a floppy ham sarnie for lunch (with some school fete chutney for taste and hopefully no bogies) and am now crunching away on apple rice cakes that i’ve stolen from the children’s snack cupboard.

and i also have my, gulp, running stuff with me. my plan is to factor sport INTO my daily routine rather than trying to wedge anything else on top of it. so at the moment i have a rather arduous trip to work involving driving the kids to nursery, driving to a non-parking metered zone of the city and getting a bus in to the centre. today on the way home i plan on running, or rather gently jogging, back to the car. no doubt i’ll be so starving i’ll have to stop to gorge my face with a pastry but i’ll let you know how it goes.

i had a funny seagull moment the other day; it sounds quite philosophical so please do bear with me on this one. i was sitting in a deckchair at home, a rare moment, wearing my sunnies and trying not to sneeze every nano-second due to hayfever being a total nightmare this year. i was somewhat frustrated, albeit guiltily, with husband (#1…) because despite the huge amount of domestics needing doing he was watering his veggie patch. (i know; i was lying in a deckchair, but i HAD just hung out washing...). as i sighed and stared into the blue sky i spotted two seagulls flying; they were in perfect synch, close together, swooping and turning in the late afternoon sun. shocked at their ability i blinked and two became one as i realised a mixture of suncream and blazing light had created this illusion from one solitary gull. and it was a pivotal point of self-realisation because i realised that of course two gulls can’t fly that closely together. if you try to enforce a closely synchronised flight like that all it would take was one piece of independent thought and a shift in direction and a crash would ensue. whereas if you fly close-ish but with room for manoeuvre then you can have a life where two gulls happily glide with fewer crashes but both enjoying the same view. so this is my new take on life: try not to hold everyone too close and force them to take my route because a clash is inevitable. let everyone have room to breathe and manoeuvre and that way we’ll all get there in the end!

i know; most people got there way before me; everyone else sometimes seem to exist in a much calmer state of harmony than the constantly pushing style that i seem to favour; but it was quite an epiphany for me. it reminded me of another morning when, on the bus, i glimpsed a poster for robin hood that i genuinely mis-read as “the untold story behind the leggings”.

talking of which daughter #2, aged 2 ½, has becoming very bossy on the clothing front. she picks out things that have to match; leggings are very IN but have to be in the right colour. trousers are OUT, skirts are a must-have if the correct colour and if the design is not for babies, just for big girls. daughter #1, aged 4 ¾, wants me to predict each nursery morning, with unerring accuracy, exactly what her best friend will be wearing and how her hair will be styled. when i mis-predict it’s not a good day. the morning nursery run is currently accompanied by a lot of black-eyed peas music and i’m not allowed to change the cd. this is an improvement on abba gold that previously dominated the sound waves which had itself been a welcome relief, replacing the Disney princess cd. however that being said, it did have me weeping occasionally during the hard first few months of daughter #2 (particularly the song about being a caterpillar, crawling about in the mud, stuck there, but knowing that you’ll eventually turn into a butterfly and fly around....)

i need to crack on; processes to map and risks to identify. i didn’t get any comments posted last week: have you all gone off me? did i neglect you for too long?! sorry …. i promise to be better!

Friday, 11 June 2010

poo and wee

i just glanced out of the window while i was on a conference call and saw a tramp pooing in a corner off princes street. i couldn’t see detail, but enough to understand that it involved some effort. what is mcdonalds for, for goodness sake? it reminded me why i should always watch where my children wander when we’re out; as it is #1 keeps trying to climb lampposts and from her height the initial chest style embrace and subsequent shimmying action ensures a full drenching of fetid dog urine on her sweaty palms. clearly i try to stop this but daughter #2 has become amazingly speedy on those amazing john lewis scooters, but not so skilled at keeping on the pavement so i’m torn between road monitoring and urine avoidance; and the former tends to edge ahead.

conference call probably sounds quite business like; however i was actually conference calling the other two hen weekend organisers to ensure our day’s agenda is cost effective, appropriately timed out and includes enough dildo action. i think it does.

so i continue in the world of public sector contracting for three days a week; my 8 week contract was happily extended to include change management and became 12 weeks and joy of actual joys i’ve been offered another piece of work to run for another 4 months. from a flexible working perspective it is just perfect and i can’t recommend it enough as a way to bring home the moolah but not feel totally tied to corporate needs. if i don’t work they don’t pay me, but then i also don’t have to feel hugely guilty about leaving to pick up a sick child from nursery; and the to-do list is mine to manage and deliver resulting in no overwhelming nightmarish return from holiday phase combining with the realities of family living.

i did have to leave early a few weeks ago; it was a wednesday afternoon and we were due to fly to mallorca on friday. and the call was to say that #2 looked as if she had chicken pox. which was nice. however amazingly by the next day all the spots had disappeared! it was a lazarus style recovery and we thanked the lord and gaily got on the plane with grandparents and headed to warmer climes, happy in the knowledge that all was well and we’d avoided the plague. unfortunately on day 3 she woke up pickled and truly poxed but hey, at least we were there! i think it must have been a viral rash in the first instance; so in her non-spotty phase we probably infected the whole of ryanair; apologies for that.

i say we were gaily on the plane but clearly the run up to this point had been true mania. is it only me that goes into ubersuperplanning frenzy pre-holiday? i wish i knew how to get a family of four packed and on a plane with less energy having to be expended for two weeks in advance; someone please share. with planning the washing cycle, siphoning off what is not to be worn again, organising in-flight snacks, in-flight entertainment (thank god for where’s wally; or where’s willy as #2 insists on calling it), weighing and re-packing, sourcing insurance, remembering to check in to avoid pointless needless ryanair charges, forgetting to get the new E111 form (£500 on credit card waiting to be repaid thanks to this; hoping insurance covers tiger mosquito bites and pox okay to fly certificates….), forgetting to tell pre-school, remembering to cancel nursery and nanny, remembering to have stuff in freezer for breakfast on return, cooking big lunch for day of departure to get us through to late evening arrival, and being rejected by our local state school to just make it more fun.

so of course adam’s employer decides to run a prototype motivational course for six weeks prior to this, given the working title “how to distance yourself from your family, exist on 2 hours sleep a night, visit london every three days (flying easyjet to stanstead to save money) and grind yourself to actual ash”. i believe the raison d’etre of the project was to test endurance levels of senior management and then analyse the impact on wives. i think i did quite well; i may have lost it a few times but hung on in there, focusing on holiday while doing the nursery drops, pick ups, working, running house, running family, appealing school decision, organising appeal group, planning holiday, endless bathtimes, tea times, morning rushes, urine drenched lamppost climbing etc etc. at last the evening before holiday dawned: #2 was spot free, grandparents had arrived, we were checked in, husband was in london. husband’s easyjet flight was moved from 7pm to 11pm. husband got home; husband then had to work from home all morning of departure day until i detached the blackberry from his flesh and we all got into the taxi.

on morning 1 of holiday when children both made a fuss about their breakfast milk not tasting right i actually lost it. i think i had a mini breakdown and should probably report it to adam’s work for research purposes. i had to sit on my bed sobbing and request that all child micro-management become his responsibility for at least 2 days until i’d regained a sense of perspective. so it was good when 3 days later the pox entered our lives.

so we are holidayed; a bit browner, a bit wearier but it was a lovely place and pre and post poxy bit had a great time. now we’ve just got to claim on insurance and have unfortunately lost our deposit on the accommodation due to #1 having an accident and the mattress being deemed unfit for continuing use; oh well, long may the contract extend!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

dressing gown joy

so where to begin?! it is nearly a month since my last blog due to easter holidays and work and normal life logistics meaning i only get near a computer to do a sainsburys on-line or try to plan my friend’s hen weekend. all other time is being consumed by the chicks in the nest, feeding on my regurgitated life and draining me of all energy, making one of the highlights of my day the moment when i justify putting on my turquoise dressing gown. scoff not. this dressing gown is an important part of my life. i spotted it in john lewis when i was heavily pregnant with #2; it is big and fluffy and when i first gleefully put it on and looked in the mirror i genuinely almost passed out in horror. granted, i was huge with 9lbs of baby and a lot of “support” (cake) weight; however it wasn’t my size that had floored me; it was the witnessing in a stalled, framed moment of mirror hell, my passing from newly married youngie to middle aged coronation street extra. i looked rough; i looked like i should be “avving a FAG”. frankly this was baby #2 and i was 34 so nothing huge had changed, but I think I’d managed to preserve a faux self-image that had the life wrung out of it in that moment. i nearly marched the offending item back to john lewis but realised it wasn’t really the dressing gown’s fault; i had changed. i had moved into a different stage and really needed to know how to address it mentally rather than swapping the dressing gown for some sort of gossamer lacy affair. this being said, i’ve never been a gossamer lacy lady anyway; but i guess I liked to imagine I looked sort of “beach house at the hamptons” laid back; think meg ryan in men’s shirts or a vest top with baggy pj bottoms; think gwynnie in almost anything she wears when her hair is up in a bun, think, well, i can’t think of anyone famous that looks good in a big fluffy dressing gown (not actual fluff; you know, those big sort of fleecy but somehow also furry ones). whilst I wasn’t under any illusion that I looked like meg ryan or gwynnie, i did feel I was fleetingly nodding in that sort of direction. rather than style-less middle-aged fatty. i felt for my husband; how had this happened without his mentioning of it? what a kind kind man.

so the dressing gown stayed, the baby birthed and the joyous joy of 10pm to 2am endless crying started and lasted for 14 weeks really. and i genuinely think the only thing that got me through it was the dressing gown. #2 was born in january in edinburgh and getting out of bed was instantly pain on three fronts; sleep deprivation, anxiety of how long it would be before i was back in bed, and cold. and the moment that dressing gown engulfed me in its hugeness everything got a lot better! it seems to have instant thermal warmth and i would wrap it around me, around #2, walk around with her in it, lie it on top of us on the sofa, engulf her in it and bring her back to bed, beat my husband over the head with it tightly rolled up, that sort of thing. and even now, on the rare occasion the girls do wake the first thing I do is wrap myself in it so that i don’t pass on any irritation to them; well none about being chilly anyway. and i have some lasting mental images of adam wearing it, slightly short on the arm and leg and him, sleep deprived and desperate lying on the soft in front of trans-world sport.

it also works well on one of the now rare hungover mornings; wrapped in that and lying on the sofa I can doze quite successfully through milkshake or cbeebies. And as I’ve said, the point in the evening when the dressing gown goes on is still a moment of joy and really signifies the jobs are done, dinner is made and I’m ready for some tv and wine and easy chat with adam.
i know some people feel you shouldn’t dress down in front of your partner, that making the effort is a big part of marriage and I’m certainly not saying they’re wrong. but adam and I have always been keen to “dress down” and when we stay at peoples houses I find it quite hard to remain in jeans all evening and sometimes pretend they got wet at bathtime and I had to put on pjs.

so this is probably a very boring blog; it being all about my dressing gown. I feel like I’m new at this writing lark all over again so i’ll sign off for now and attempt to write something vaguely relevant soon…

Friday, 26 March 2010

for the love of lamination

so i'm just finishing my second week of gainful employment and how quickly one reverts to type. while i take my half hour lunch (as a contractor i feel much more aware of productive time hours and am uncharacteristically nervous of being branded a work-shy fob) i am guzzling down a gorgeous pret sandwich washed smoothly back with a can of ginger beer. the days of home-made soup have passed, and the promise of a packed lunch hasn't yet materialised so each day i guiltily, excitedly, stand like a proper business lady-type-grown-up infront of the shiny pret shelves and gleefully decide which one to launch into with shameful gusto. my only sadness is that they've stopped stocking diet coke in cans. this is a terrible decision; diet coke is one of my life-loves however it does need to be from a can. if it is from a bottle, plastic or glass, it tastes totally different, a little bit shabby. but a gleaming, slightly frosted can of diet coke is a joy. so i've reverted to ginger beer which is actually very nice and i wish i'd thought of it throughout pregnancy #2: fraught by nausea which only abated with the consumption of waitrose traditional pasties, oddly. in the six days i've been here i've tried four sandwich varieties and the ham and mustard with more than a smear of butter is winning so far. it is dijon mustard: another one of my desert-island essentials. sometimes i take a teaspoon to the dijon mustard jar; there has to be one in the fridge as well as an emergency supply in the cupboard. i particularly like it with poached eggs, cheese and biscuits, roast chicken, gammon and omelettes. however i'll happily eat it with almost anything.

but enough of this food fest; today's post is meant to be about the public sector and an intellectual review of the differences to corporate life. so a key difference is the love of lamination. since i started in this office i've been enthralled by the volume of laminated guidance, smoothing my flow around the space so that wherever i am i am never short of thoughtful tips. in the loo i am gently advised to "leave this space as you'd like to find it", that "loos are scared of the dark, so please turn off the lights", to"please not turn off the taps too tightly", to ensure that i "think of the environment in usage of towels" and to note that "the hot tap is hot" and some quite detailed descriptions of what articles should go in the bin. the only missing advice is where to wee so i go in the sink.

moving through the office, noting everyones' laminated names on their desk areas, we arrive at the kitchen. i know this is the kitchen, not the sick-room, because both are carefully labelled in case i mistake the kitchen units for the medical bed and try to fold my body into the fridge when taking a moment away from my non-ergonomic desk arrangement (more later) on one of my every 40 minute strolls around the office (also more, sadly, later). having thankfully avoided the risk of accidentally lying down with the "please ensure your food is in date" goods it is with a happy heart that i note i must "hold your cup close to the tap to avoid splashing", and straight after usage "wash and dry immediately to avoid bacterial growth". i could go on, at length, but feel you're getting the general idea of work-place as parent.

to my mind the risk of this is that people lose all ability to think for themselves and in this environment anything that could go wrong is clearly the fault of the three (THREE?!) office staff delegated to look after this office space of 60. i knew that i was accepted when, on day 3, i was approached by a team member brandishing my own special laminated name plate, which i was instructed to put on my desk to ensure that...and at this point, to his credit, the health and safety rep did lose his thread and wonder exactly what the short-coming of not having my name on my desk would be. but he gathered himself and advised me that i'd have a 30 -40 minute introduction to the health and safety of the office. i did blanche slightly and mention that i was just a contractor and only involved in the use of a computer but apparantly it is a statutory requirement.

so i now have a new ergonomic mini-bean bag wrist rest; nice. budget please? and my chair was swapped for one less likely to cause "long term upper back issues; then what would the true cost to the government be?". i was checked for three right- angles while i sat: back to thigh, thigh to calf, elbow to forearm (nearly resulting in an acute angle, pointing-finger to tall finger). and i know how to operate a pair of skis for people in wheel chairs needing to evacuate the building down the stairs (i can look but not touch as am not formally trained) and i've walked through the emergency exit route which goes quite close to the pub, i noted.

now to anyone reading this that has spent a lot of time in the public sector you might be nodding and wondering what the point is. my background is all private sector and i have to say i have never experienced an office management to team ratio of 3 : 60. i'm not saying that this doesn't have it's advantages: one day after being here i had an active email account, computer login, access to all relevent drives, working telephone, and a desk. these things usually take a few weeks to finalise the details of in the private sector, because they join a queue of working issues. however if there is no queue then i guess it can get done quite quickly. i'm not sure what needs to be done once the new joiners have been dealt with, ergonomic bean bags distributed and office stationery updated. but there are probably some other things.

so i'm time limited today, my half hour is up, and i haven't even mentioned the children (#2 wants to live with the nanny, #1 is being less adaptable and running rings around her: more another time) but my first few weeks back into work have been surprisingly smooth and so long as i don't eat up all my earnings then we're back in the black, which is more than can be said for the government right nowl; i wonder why?.....

Friday, 12 March 2010

nannies and porn

i am employed! i have my first contract: 6-8 weeks working for a public sector client. yes, it was through an agent but i'm still chalking it up as my first role under my own banner, it is hard to get a foot through the door with public sector work so i'm hoping to enthrall them with my business process mapping and become directly contracted further down the line. the role is three days a week and starts on the gears of micro-managing the change have been engaged and life is hectic.

i'm going to try not to allow this week's dispatch to become a rant about men and their inability to truly focus on more than one thing at a time. my gut-feeling is that i will fail. something about mothers' day stirs up a resentment which is not wholly fair or appropriate given the fact that we hope to be spoilt for our general wonderfulness. but its existence in the calendar leads us to dwell on what we do, and as such just how our other halves should be in reverent awe of this one day of recognition. in my heart i know that i am loved, respected and appreciated. but i'd just like it demonstrated a leeeeetle bit more, and especially on that day, regardless of whether it is a dreadful retail-driven consumer fest of appalling proportions or not.

i want that day to somehow encapsulate and reward the rest of the year; and i want it done with heartfelt genuity, possibly with a bit of grateful weeping and an awe-struck expression as the general enormity of a mothers role strikes like a lightening rod of reality into the heart of my husband. i'd like him to prostrate himself on the bed, earlier strewn with flowers and gifts and now adorned with croissant crumbs and freshly made coffee droplets, and to say "i really don't know how you do it. i have noticed this week you've managed to organise from scratch a nanny, the posting for which hit gumtree about 4 weeks ago in preparation for this moment, to interview a shortlist and choose one then arrange for an afternoon visit to introduce the children, followed up by a trial pre-school run, both walking and car, and meeting with other mums. wrapped around this you've organised sainsburys for two weeks of groceries including the weekend guests, done work from home as well as a day of marking, prepared the house for visitors, sorted all elements of our mothers' days, arranged a painter viewing and now agreed a price, arranged a hedge cutting (three men with chainsaws in the back garden while i marked accounting papers and drank tea; was tolerable...) and i've been in london for 3 days. and my business doesn't like me to do less than a 50 hr week. you've had two sets of friends around for playdates, cooked shortbread for the pre-school sale with the children, made cards for the teacher who is leaving, and cooked all the meals for the family. the washing is up to date, the beds are all clean, you appear to have cleaned the micro-wave for the first time this millenia, and i think you might have lost some weight".

this is unlikely. i hope to get a card. unlike last year. don't go there; the deep grief-wracked sobbing may have scarred adam more than intended. the wobbly hand as i accepted daugher #1's nursery-provided offering and the fresh onslaught of uncontrollable sadness in response to her unsure look were probably over the top. however i had been bed ridden for 24 hours with a sick bug the day before and wasn't really myself, and suddenly lost all ability to cope. so i think i will get a card. and i know that men do have it hard too. i know my husband's long hours are not his fault, that work-life balance is a nod in the direction of being allowed a doctors appt once every three years, that the economy is hard and we should all be grateful for jobs and not pushing back. however bodies are not just machines to carry around a brain in; large corporates should have some sort of direct answerabilty for the health of their employees and also their partners. and not a taxable benefit sort of answerability. more a "you should go home" or "we should have more people on this team" or "we should set some groundrules for acceptable working hours" or perhaps even "isn't there an EU directive that covers this sort of thing?"

i know; i am ranting. usually my work is going to be tues, weds and friday but next week they've requested weds, thurs and fri to get ourselves set up. the ability for my husband to release thursday seems to be questionable. just how flexible is a true work-life balance?

i truly am delighted i've got a position; a chance to earn some money and to start a reputation in my own right, but it is already a gentle reminder of the balance of power: who does the sick day cover? who does the early pick up? these are genuine questions; and each family does have to work this out for themselves and cover it in some way but it is another discussion point to have to negotiate our ways through. women working is more than just about money and childcare, it is about the withdrawal of the day to day coverage of the family side of life. however, as i've said above, we appear to have found our own mary poppins.

i decided that for day 3 of childcare i didn't want to increase the nursery hours: partly because the role is only temporary and partly because i want the children to be home based on a friday, and for pre-school to continue and to have one day without pick ups and drop offs. the nanny we've found seems to be heaven sent; seek and ye shall find etc. there was a wobble point when daughter #1 pointed to the dvd cupboard and informed her that they weren't allowed to watch them all as some were adult dvds..... there was no explanation for this. to try to explain she meant anything over a PG sounded like an excuse for porn. to make a joke about it not being porn made it sound like porn, and if she hadn't thought that initially then she would definitely now think it was porn. to say nothing but stare vacantly into the cupboard was the route i found i had taken. then i shut the door and changed the subject. so she probably thinks there's a lot of porn in there. however she didn't leave; and she ticks all the formal boxes, but more importantly all the informal ones. rosy cheeks, no warts, plays games, all sorts. in fact watching her with the children when icing cakes made me doubt my own approach; i seem to rush through all activities as if there's a train about to crash through the house. and it feels like there is; so i'm hoping a nanny for the day will give the children a different approach. she won't scold or, dominate them. never give them, cause to hate her. unlike me; both mine seem to not like me very much at the moment; this may be because i'm the main job do-er hence manic mornings and rushed evening activities lie with me. not just the once has a daughter of mine been heard to mournfully cry "i want my daddy", and for me to respond under my breath " you're not the only one". then to assert that daddy would have said exactly the same. although i'm not sure; i heard them merrily chuckling in the bedroom this morning while i showered and i had to stop and wonder how. how is there time for some chuckling this morning? are they dressed, hair up, breakfasted, shoes on, cardis ready, essential toys to hand? and i know that there should be time for that laughing and at point i am honestly grateful that perhaps adam isn't thinking of all the other things that need doing but allowing the moment to be, and to enjoy it.

so then we come full circle; in mothers' day we seek a full understanding recognition of what we do, however that can only ever really come from another women. men do different things well; they simply don't see or get everything else that needs doing, that it is not rose-tinted glasses that make us expect work to be flexible, but the genuine fact that someone has to do the other things. but if their difference means that they turn the full beam of their attention on to the children, that they have the brain capacity to play strange non-sensical games involving hiding, being unside down, and repeating funny words umpteen times then i'm pleased. and i'll just have to buy myself a huge present for sunday and give my mum a call to say thank you, i know what you did for me and i know what you continue to do for me and i'm just so grateful.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

fatties, flights and infestations

yesterday evening daughter #1 cocked her head in the mirror, tossed her hair over her shoulder and said "i really like the way you've styled this mumma". this raises a few questions in my mind. firstly why has my four year old taken to talking like scarlett o'hara? the adoption of a deep mid-west accent is also manifesting itself when talking to #2 and saying "you're a cute litt'l fella, i love ya litt'l fella". we've managed to mitigate her growing love of all things american by telling her that's where the wolves live; this wasn't a purposefully xenophobic move to stop her moving stateside on the next gravy train, but more a desperate attempt to end the evening panics about wolf attacks in her bedroom. the next question is where she's picked up the phrase "styled this" as i favour a less styled, more au naturel approach to my own physical appearance. in fact when time allows more than a wave of mascara (essential to cover pig-eye-lash syndrome) and a slide of lipstick (or people come to help me thinking i'm about to pass out) the girls actually stare in awe and say things like "have you got a meeting mummy?" or " your eyes look all brocolli mummy". which we think means sparkly. or i've overdone the shading again. however the biggest question it raised is why she would feel quite so proud of the oil-based nit removing lotion that i'd just lacquered all over her head.

i'd spotted them that morning; she is very blonde and they were immediately clear to see, swarming around in a vaguely sickening way. i didn't explain what was going on in any detail, her imagination already being rather developed, and said we'd just have to give it a really special wash. i read on the pack that the lotion is oil-based and results in all the head-lice body juices osmosising out of their skins in what is probably the most inhumane culling method known to man. however in the glowing bathroom of an edinburgh house i undertook this liceicide, smothering the oil all over her head and hair. and while she posed and postulated in front of the mirror admiring her new style the lice slowly expired. i had to then comb them all out, now looking less plump and toned than previously, and squish them in a bit of loo roll. feeling very itchy all over i then did my own; NOTHING THERE i tell you...

but i know what she means about the look as to be fair it did make it look quite shiny and brown, and she no longer likes her blonde hair apparently, wanting to now live in england (like her cousin) have a bigger house (like her cousin) have a different mummy and daddy (preferably her cousin's) and have brown hair (you've guessed it).

this weekend we went to the girls' cousins' house near bath. they've only recently left edinburgh and the children have all pined for each other so this had been a much talked about, counted down to visit, the cancellation of which offered up the most powerful blackmailing tool for some time.

i flew on my own with the girls as adam had been working in london and met us there. this was quite an adventure; i'd been looking forward to it and had packed carefully ensuring plenty of snacks, nutritious and treat based; plenty of different colouring options and a dolly each. it all started well and after checking in online, being waived through security queues and securing a large windowed corner table overlooking the apron (my husband wasn't an aircadet plane spotter of the year for no reason; i know all the terms) i tucked into my corona while the children had pizza, feeling quite smug. we arrived at the gate at 7pm only to find it had been delayed for 2.5 hours. self satisfaction leaked out of every oriface, the fact that bedtime was now due and #2 was all bright eyed and red cheeked, highly wired and screeching about getting on the plane was somewhat de-calming. but we spent quite a lot of time in the kids play section of the airport which was surprisingly absorbing for #1 while #2 practised climbing up the chairs and commando rolling down the otherside caterpaulting her over excited body around the furniture. we ate the fruit squeezies. we opened the apple juices. the raisons were rejected, the dried pineapple were a success for #1 and #2 thought she liked them so much that she wouldn't bother chewing and just kept putting more in until i had to leverage out a huge wad from her cheeks.

we moved back to the gate where #1 developed another OCD trait. the imagining of fat people. she sat staring at people, saying "i'm imagining a fat person mummy". i sort of hushed her, vaguely saying" are you darling? look at the flybe plane? is it easyjet"..."i can't stop imagining fat people mummy. i keep seeing them, in my imaginnashun, all fat, moving, i can't stop them, i can't stop seeing them, it's my naughty brain". i decided to reassure her that it was okay to think about what ever she liked, that it was fine provided you didn't then talk about it as people might think you were saying they were fat and feel sad.... "yes, but when i look around here it just makes me imagine more fat people, mummy, i just imagined you were fat, sorry". at this point i gave her the emergency percy pigs and turned my attention to #2. she hugged me exhaustedly and then gazed into my face and said "i love you mummy. and i love your mole". which was nice.

by this stage speedy boarders were speedily boarding; not feeling willing to pay £60 for the three of us to speedily board we were in group 2 so i hung around the desk and #1 writhed on the floor mutttering about fat people. thankfully boarding was a distraction and we grabbed three seats near the back row (top tip: always good as usually free, near the loo, quick exit) and got out our drawing. #1 was engrossed for a while before leaning forward and groaning; i asked what the matter was and in an exasperated tone she said she'd managed to forget about fat people but had just been reminded of them. while staring pointedly at the larger lady sitting across the aisle from us. i resorted to a twirl bar each, and resolved to order myself a beer to help take the edges off the journey. as we started to take off, after admiring the pilot's voice (english) and stating that she didn't like people who say "heh low instead of hello" (scottish?) the pressure picked up and #1 pushed her hands wildly to her ears and started shouting "i'm turning into something"...and so the flight began with some more percy pigs, a pot of pringles and full fat ribena for the girls, stella for me (which ended up all over #2 lap after a drawing incident) and at 10 we arrived in bristol.

i welcomed the girls' uncle warmly to my world as he drove us home and #1 accompanied the first 5 mins of the trip with "i just burped, i don't think you heard because i kept my mouth shut. i might have said excuse me. i can't remember. pardon me. i've said it now. i wasn't sure if i'd said it before. oops i did another one. pardon me....." before passing out like a tired duracel bunny.

on the work front there are various things happening but little definite to report. i have marking work next week so there is cashflow on the horizon. the public sector role is apparently to be confirmed later today, we've had a few conversations about rate and i really do hope it is going to come off as will be flexible, foot through the door and hopefully an interesting piece of work. yesterday i met with a head at the university and he has suggested that there might be a three day a week role going at one of the more successful spinout ventures which definitely sounds interesting. my gut feeling is that i want project work rather than another permanent part time role however any opportunity will be fully investigated. this week my two full time applications for later massaging into something more part time will have been processed: i've heard nothing yet. so there are things out there and hopefully this week will firm some things up. however today has been absorbed with two major non-work issues. #2 picked up a v&d bug over the weekend and i'm currently changing nappies every hour or so and constantly asking her to sip at her drink. i'm doing this while managing a rather large hangover due to helping a friend try on wedding dresses last night and then celebrating rather heavily. the combo is hard but entirely self induced and my only solace is to eat a lot of fat based foods. so #1's imaginings may not be far off the mark i'm afraid.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

bending the rules

i'm sitting at my desk with the fire on, gas hissing away in a very lady's parlour sort of way so i feel somewhat decadent but unusually i'm not feeling guilty. not about the global warming element of this activity because it must be better than centrally heating the whole house. not about not earning money because i did yesterday and have possibles for next week (more later...). but largely not about the children being in childcare.

sometimes i do fret about this; usually when i'm not fully occupied by paid work. i sometimes feel that income justifies not only the expense but also the decision not to have them with me everyday. but i've been thinking about this recently when weighing up the options: pulling the plug on childcare to free up the domestic p&l vs continuing to pay for two days a week so that when work does come along i can do it. albeit at the immediate cost of holidays, groceries and scarily my daily wine quota. and i've been almost relieved to find that i'm not sending them to nursery simply to bring more money into the house (wine shortage remaining an issue) but also because i think it is good for them. i feel they flourish in an environment where they have to interact without a mum in attendance. this might not have been the norm in our parents' generation, but our kids are going to start school with a whole class of other kids who HAVE been in nursery/childcare for at least a few days a week and i don't want mine to be behind on the social skills front when it comes to nabbing the best chair, sharing pens, taking the biggest biscuit etc.

naturally these aren't the skills i advocate at home; sharing is sacrosanct, as is "she's your guest so she can choose" and even more painfully "she can have the pink fork/spoon/cup/plate..." chocolate is dutifuly halved, thank-yous adhered to and please-may-i get-downs a must. but that being said; i don't want them to be the sooks; the little-miss-perfects, the goody two shoes, and sometimes i find this hard to parent for. how to encourage non-compliance when also showing the right way to be. to give a moral code but then whisper "but don't always do it; gauge the situation, feel your way through the social rules in play and choose your route".

maybe i worry too much about this and we should just assume that they will break rules in a very human way; that no child is altruistic and the selfish gene will always out. i think i worry because my eldest is very compliant. #2 is a monkey and was possibly picked up at the scrap-heap. she seems to intuitively get the real rules; she smiles agreement then does the opposite, says "i love you mummy, i want a hug" then purposefully uses my cardi to wipe away her bogey and giggles. she eats her chocolate really really quickly, safe in the knowledge that #1 will give her a share of her own. and my god can she shriek; i do seem to remember this from my first at the same age: a high pitch scream that must have genetically evolved to scare off anything they've just prodded and galvanise action in any previously non-attentive adult. it must be survival: in the same way that they go off anything green on their plate. the gene for easy vegetable ingestion was extinguished by the cave-dwelling 2 yr olds pre-disposition for all things poisonous and only the picky eaters made it through.

i say #1 is compliant but her mot-de-jour is bottom and derivatives thereof. so not that compliant. botty, fat botty, big botty, you've got a fat/big/botty etc etc. she knows she isn't meant to say it, although i have been grilled on the rules. "can i say it when i'm on the loo talking about my bottom? can i just not say it, like, in a shop? when i shout it really loudly? can i talk about my bottom when i'm not in the bathroom if i'm telling you about something on my bottom? can i say the lady on robots does big pops from her bottom?". so i did impose a no-bottom-comment rule and now i have "i just thought about saying bottom mummy, but i didn't say it. but i imagined it." and in the same vein "i just picked out a bogey and put it up my nose again" or "i thought about hitting my sister but i didn't do it" and even more derangingly "i just breathed like this mummy. no like this, look at me, like this, can you see me? well wait for a red light. like this" infinitum. i know that they all get OCD but this is extreme and drives me up the wall; i try and try and try to just listen and respond, with the occasional "well i don't think mummy needs to know all of this" (which was met with outright hurt "but i like to tell you things mummy, why can't i tell you things"...........) and when she's really testing it "i thought about saying bugger" which has been totally vetoed with the threat of 1) no bed-time story and 2) no playing i-spy for one day

yesterday she had time-out, really for general naughtiness, over-excitement culminating in leaping on the television table like something from planet of the apes when i turned it off, bellowing and ranting like a bull. she threw herself to the floor snorting in abject anger. so off to her room for time-out, first time in a while. 3 mins of stamping, snotting, yelling: super-nanny like i remained calm while #2 delighted in not being in trouble and bouncing on the bed. on entry to her room, through the snot and tears we had a conversation about appropriate and acceptable behaviour. she was repentant and happy to be out of time-out then brightly said to me "you'd have been even more cross if i'd pulled your eyes out like i just imagined doing"................

tumble weed actually blew through the bedroom; i'm reading a thriller at the moment which is always a mistake, i love them but as the dark of night comes in and when adam is away i FEAR the attack of the insane killer. and i panicked that she might be a sociopath in the making. that her first crime would be against a woman who wronged her and she took her eyes out with an ice-cream scoop. that in a post-crime admission of guilt she would blame it all on her up-bringing "i mean i couldn't even say "bottom", what sort of freaked out mother did i have? how could i have flourished? she didn't even have a stable income and used to pretend to us that she was going to meetings but it was just to starbucks because i could nearly see her getting there when i stared at her until she'd vanished into a little dot from my nursery window, deserting me and my sister simply to fulfil her caffeine need" etc etc.

so of course i blame nursery; a good reason for not packing it in quite yet.

and another good reason is because the quest for work is more positive than in the past few weeks. albeit agency generated rather than under my own label but no matter. i have interviewed for a public sector role; rather predictably they then advised that confirmation of the funding wouldn't be possible until a week on thursday due to the need for a sub-sub committee to convene to approve it. i'm feeling the red-tape curl luxuriantly around the process already. however they were very positive about our conversation and to their credit didn't even blink at the question regarding flexible working and part time hours. and another agency has called with a role for a different public sector client also happy to consider part time hours so i should hear about an interview next week. i've also decided to apply for two full time director roles for charities in the hope that i can then talk about virtual fd possibilities. we'll see: one of those was actually really interesting and i'd have loved to have given it a go on a full time basis but them's the breaks.

and from a rules perspective; perhaps it is wrong to apply for a job knowing that you can't do it on the basis that they have advertised it and hoping to change their minds on the structure of the team. but i've always been a bit of a rule-bender. i blame my mother.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

church, chicken and beer

i've got writers block. i knew it would have to happen, a glimmer of a true audience rather than just my dutiful family and badgered friends and suddenly i'm all fingers and thumbs and racing heart. and my concentration is not being aided by the fact that a presumably local vicar has chosen the table next to me at starbucks to gather his ministerial flock for a breakout session. he's just used the line "i've been flagellating myself all day but that was for pleasure....".....? i'm sorry but this isn't what i expect to hear from the appointed. being an agnostic at heart; lordy, one has now sat AT my table! i am being slowly absorbed INTO this religious melee! it's quite exciting; a minute ago i was on a small round table trying to work out how to type html code onto my page and suddenly i've been pulled into a tribe, trapped by the spindly tangly fingers of faith and stilted conversations about gardening and heating.

i AM agnostic at heart but have found myself offering up the odd desperate prayer to an all encompassing spiritual non-judgemental being about obtaining the state school place we crave. i hope this omnipotent entity forgives me my civil wedding and the childrens' lack of christenings, aligning them to my belief in something less organised than that offered up by the encumbant holders of the earthly posts. and somehow moves catchment areas to facilitate my request. they're making gags about sharing the small starbucks sandwich among the 5,000; this is like being at an accountant gathering and everyone sniggering through double entry jokes. and i think someone has "released". we're sitting far too close for physical comfort and i may need to actually leave soon. apart from the proximity they're all struggling a bit with social chit chat and this always makes me want to wade in and offer up some conversational aid....and i'm sure to say something controversial about the pope's recent condemnation of society as being responsible for the exposed abuse of children by priests, rather than the expected apology and restructuring of controls to prevent it happening again.

anyway. is what has made me feel so knock kneed: a top 25 mummy bloggers listing! so thank you so much to those of you that felt the pulse of a deep need for communication and female complicity last week.

workwise things have also suddenly looked up and partly due to the power of BLOG; if you don't blog you won't get may be my new mantra. i have been contacted from across the water! a stateside possible piece of contract work has made its way to me from a previous employer; i will find out more later this week and even if nothing comes of it the glimmer of hope has rekindled the fire of possiblity. there is also a 6-8 week piece of work at a public sector entity in edinburgh which may accept 4 days a week (i'll try to push for 3 post interview, assuming i get one) and i received money back from nursery for the pre-school government funding credit which i'd forgotten about; so everything is feeling much less dire. and i received 12 red roses; not on budget but definitely an adverse variance i can live with.

however, this week's menu which represented a cost reduction of 50% on our usual sainsbury's bill has been remarkably satisfying! so i cooked a roast chicken (and did still opt for a free range one, hugh whittingly fittingly whatsit's voice ringing prosaically in my ear: eat less, not cheap meat) on monday. i lobbed it in the oven with an onion up it's bum (or down its neck? never sure what end is which as i don't look too closely) and hastily peeled carrots strewn all around it. usually i ask daughter #1 to peel for me, 4 yr olds have surprisingly nimble fingers for such tasks and she does an excellent job.... but she was absorbed in gigglebiz which both are obsessed by. so i also threw in jacket potatos and apart from steaming a few veg later on, that was dinner done: a hugely quick weekday option that cooks itself through bathtime.

the following day i took the carcass and in a method akin to that used back through the ages to cavetime (i liked to think romantically, nostalgic for a vestige of family gathering ritual) took off all the meat i could, kept some of it back for the girls and chopped the rest up. i fried this with an onion, threw in some brocolli, frozen peas, a tin of coconut milk and a few spoons of curry paste that has been in the back of the fridge for some time and yum! and quick! and then i boiled the carcass with an onion, pepper balls (what are they called again?!) and bayleaves for an hour and now have stock for tonight's risotto. so one 1.4kg £7 chicken will have done 7 adult meals and 6 children's meals. now that is a WIN WIN!

yesterday daughter #2 said "i whan chickin mummy" which warmed my heart until it transpired that this was her first ironic joke; a sarcastic prod in the direction of regular chicken dinners. when i gleefully presented her with some she cackled and said "i dohn like chickin mummy ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa"

last week also ended on a high as daughter #1's pre-school (and hoped for primary) did gym in the playground each morning from 8.50 - 9.00; i was there on friday in my puffer and scarf (-3; not usual aerobics temperature) and as i enthusiastically assisted the girls with kung fu panda kicks, cotten-eyed joe jiggling and YMCA actions i felt genuinely uplifted. and it wasn't just the blue sky, or my mum being on hand: it was the delicious gym teacher. just window shopping but as i hurried to thank him for his efforts i realised that i was probably 15 years older than him and had snot down my front. not mine, you understand. i confessed all to adam later and he forgave me my rampaging hormones in the face of young virility.

our own valentines outing was mixed in success: i sat in pizza hut eating our shared order while adam had to go home to help re-settle #2. i haven't eaten at pizza hut since university: the sunday all-you-can-eat offerings presumably hadn't taken into account the scale of our hangovers and capacity for lard, but it was next to the cinema and i felt the usual stresses of the week melt into my double pizza portion and peroni; as the 14yr old waiters and waitresses stared sadly at me and my i-phone thinking i'd been stood up i felt strangely free from the strings of social expectation. but then realised i didn't have my wallet and that socially i would be expected to pay so was thankful when adam did reappear just in time to pay and for us to watch avatar: fab. comfy chair, surround sound, tummy full of pizza and beer: heavenly valentine!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

week thirteen: it's not that funny and is a bit of a rant

even i am getting bored of my same old budget-blues-poor me-look at my lack of income-i can't get a job- rant. yes, it is hard and psychologically challenging to be quite bright, quite adaptable and flexible, to have a CV crammed with words like international and qualified and STILL not be able to get a role because, heaven forbid, i want it to be.......PART TIME. flexible living, life-style balance, family first, prioritise children: the buzz words of our society yet when push comes to shove how many businesses will actually genuinely embrace the concept of part time workers without being forced into it via statutory rights of women returning to work post-maternity. and even then it is usually at the cost of the role to the women who is moved into a more administrative position thus forgoing true career advancement.

the glass ceiling might well have disappeared and yes, women can march right up to the top of any business now but quite frankly they will have either had to forgo the chance to have a family, or largely sub-contracted the childcare element of their life.

i am not anti full-time working mothers: this is their choice. well i say that but it is not actually an option to all women; the reality is that they have to be quite high earners facilitating the nanny option, or surrounded by oodles of family offering the joy of free and loving and flexible childcare. the next possiblity is nursery which has pros and cons compared to the nanny option, but is limited by the constraints of 8am - 6pm and children actually needing to be dressed and well to attend; and is still beyond the financial remit of most non-professionals.

so these constraints not withstanding, assuming one has a childcare option the next issue is career advancement. and for me it is the glass mezzanine that now exists: women encounter it when they try to go back to part-time work and find that, assuming their role does still exist for them, promotion is slow. and it isn't that i can't see the commercial and operational difficulties that can exist for a business with a part time senior employee: but they do seem to be surmountable.

in life, and sue me but i think this is generally true, men do a great job on a one-track route whereas women have to reinvent themselves as life moves on from the point that they have children. men surf the shifting sands but women have to stand in them, holding tight to all things domestic and familial while the dust resettles and they establish which way is up. the nitty gritty minutiae of name tags on clothes, missing favourite toys, fruit fads, five-a-day, shoe sizes, birthdays, anniversaries, food planning, family launderette services, social plate-spinning, banana skins out of car glove compartments, solidified weetabix under the high chair, snacks for nursery pick ups and much much more all fall to us; but we manage it. we prioritise it which means it isn't all achieved everyday, but the world keeps spinning, the children are fed and dressed and no major family birthday is missed. but somehow businesses feel that it is not within our abilities to bring this multi-tasking, process-led, time-line oriented prioritisation role to work and thus facilitate part time working.

because we might not be there when we're needed.

like everyone always used to get back to me on the day i mailed or called them?

very very few businesses decide to randomly recruit part time. instead, us work-shy pretenders have to surruptitiously apply for full time roles in the hope that we can shine shine shine and then quietly bring about a conversation regarding flexible working options, like we're admitting to a drug habit or a previous conviction.

is this a failing in society? is it right that women who are experienced and skilled at managing the many different elements of domestic life would not be able to manage the inconceivable difficulties of making a role work three days a week? i think it would actually add some real focus on task orientated project roles; but that is really by-the-by because the bigger issue is with regards to family, and children, and the instinct to be there quite a bit before they head off to school, and the instinct to pick them up from school and not always use wrap-around-care, and the reality of whether this is actually possible for a willing-to-pay-tax mum or whether there is a lot of smoke and mirrors surrounding the real issue of flexible working practises.

so as you might have gathered i've failed to get contract work on a part time basis this week: despite a lot of nice smiling and ooh and aahing at my cv. and today i've written to 10 accountancy firms and 6 private schools offering my services so i'm not giving up on the business idea but struggling with the intense lack of response.

my gut feeling is that my business is being waylaid by a desire for companies to not spend on external non-essential costs in this market and i really need to get a foot in the door. my contracting abilities are limited by my desire to work part time. my sainsburys budget is reduced such that i had to remove my marmite from the list in order to come in with a favourable variance, and i'm on day three of my socks. but that's just bad hygiene and a lack of prioritisation on the laundry front. i'm still justifying the cleaner but only by the skin of my teeth, and the menu for next week involves quite a few vegetable dishes with a roast chicken providing three meals.

and i might buy some spam.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

week twelve: to contract or not to contract

i've just had three meetings and marched around edinburgh (to blister point) through the snow and tram works selling myself. it is a lot better for the soul than sitting on my bum emailing unconvinced chamber members that they really want to pay for my services, when what they actually want to do is meet Q1 budgets and not be accused of frippery with regard to ad hoc consultant spend. however there may be some joy on the contracting front: more later. what has intrigued me for the last 5 minutes (and i stress it was only 5 mninutes so that no one thinks i'm wasting precious expensive child-free time on pointless web based shenaniguns....) is the chinese comment posted last week. i know it is chinese because i downloaded a translator, he's sitting on my sofa and is very nice. no, i downloaded a translator gadget and it came up with some translations and they are intriguing. it would seem that "smart people like to guess heart, though every time my guess was right, but lost his heart, silly people who like to mind, although each have been laughed, but got someone else's heart". hmmmm. there are 15,000 different translations of the comment but all follow roughly the same story. so does this mean smart people can lose heart even though their guesses are right? which, i would think, means something nice for me. or does it mean silly people mind about these things and we laugh at them? less nice. if anyone has a chinese colleague please do run it past them...

SOOO thank you for all the other comments and posts; especially for the reassuring ones regarding slow januarys etc. my focus this week has been on bravely undertaking a finance review and subsequently deciding it is time to bring in the agents thus avoiding bringing in the bailiffs. interestingly this week has also been challenging because daughter #1 (age 4) has gone through quite an interesting developmental stage and taken to shouting random things at me. for example: "grandpa ron? isn't he dead yet?" and to chris evans: "hey, you, it's monday on OUR planet too you know". also her addiction to my i-phone means that she now beats me at "toobz" and throws a total wobbly when not allowed to play on it. her favourite position is on the loo playing for hours. she get's this from her father, clearly. i thought this phase came at about 13. daughter #2 helped by saying very clearly last night "what's all this poo on my bed?". rather defensively i said that there wasn't any poo on her bed, then noticed rather a large clump of something brown on one of the rails. weetabix, surely. rather apologetically i wiped it off. who's the mummy please?

so i've been buoyed up by two good agency interviews (they always say nice things don't they? i think they're quite therapeutic! just when you need a boost you should go along and they ooh and ahh. you may not hear anything for a few months but it's always a nice way to spend a morning). however one of them does have a three day a week job; i tick some but not all of the boxes, and there is a possibility that i could do it under my company banner and thus have my first true client. so i'll find out more about that one tomorrow. i can't say too much about it as i think i may have to stretch the truth on my recent audit experience but surely that's the name of the game (i was an impossible case, no one ever could reach me. we're still listening to a LOT of ABBA in the car at the moment. however they do like some of the tracks on the recent live lounge CD and sing-a-long to "all the single ladies" before breaking into some warbling version of sleeping beauty's "i know you" song.)

also i think financial panic has set in because we are now very uncertain as to whether daughter #1 will get her state school place due to unprecented levels of application this year. joy. we're not keen on the next state school option hence enter the private school quandry: another variable to add to the melting pot of financial needs..

that being said, i do have a possible lead from one of my networks which i'll find out more about later today. also i met with a chartered accountant who runs her own business, specialising in value-add services today. she was fantastic to talk to, about 10 years ahead of me but the same qualification and similar commercial and strategic background in industry. she now offers formal accounting services as well as the value-add bits and admitted to having to wing-it on the technical front quite often, looking into the detail afterwards. so perhaps i need to change my business direction and rather than looking just for the cream, accept that i need to do a bit of the udder work too. so i think i may need to tweak the website and that may be my afternoon's undertaking.

so does anyone know anyone that works in the publishing business?! i need a lead into that so that i can suggest a diary style book based on the blog and make my fortune that way! answers on a postcard please...

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

week eleven: no more the fool?

was I fool? i had a part-time senior finance position in a well established company. as i sit wondering quite when i'll derive some cash from my venture i can't stop that 1980s song from snivelling around in my head "no more the sound as my dreams fall and hit the ground, as i wait around, no more the foohooohoool"......

the problem is that there are lots of very positive very excited gate-keepers to possible clients, but the clients, well they ain't showing themselves and i'm losing confidence in what i'm actually saying that i can offer. i have just gone through the financial review that adam did of 2009 and it seems that last year i did spend quite a lot at M&S and John Lewis, not sure what on, and also things that fell into the "presents" category and the "baby" category and the "entertainment" category... life without an income is becoming rather gray and i just ate homemade sweet potato soup for lunch and haven't bought an americano today.

apparently the economy grew by 0.1% yesterday; that's not really very much. that's easily "swingable" by simply making a few casting or transposition errors as us in the trade like to term them. if i told adam that our personal economy had grown by 0.1% last month it would mean that i'd maybe had 4 less coffees, bought two extra i-phone apps (although the deal do-er in me favours the free ones: lineup; toobz, APOD (astrology picture of the day...)), off-set that by using my hazard lights rather than paying for parking when doing a nursery pick-up and made the children eat less squeezy-fruit-smoothies (instant delivery of one of the five fruit portions: guilt free treat). anything more significant such as clinique make-up remover, new tummy reducing tights, jo jingles astronomical term fees, would not be up for consideration in the 0.1% reduction as i'd deem them exceptional items and as such below the line of publication. and i think that is the broad-brush approach that the national statistics team have taken. "oh we've forgotten the self-employed finance sector, oh bugger, nigel did you get those figures? they weren't great were they? but it's january, i think that they were a bit slow on the getgo. it doesn't really count. let's just leave them out. now RETAIL; i definitely have those to hand because december was just so jolly for those folks"...etc etc.

so this week i've met with the two small companies that i will be a volunteer business mentor for in 2010. don't snigger. this was organised through the university spin-out group. both are very different and hugely interesting; the meetings did two things for me. made me realise that i do have good commercial and strategic instincts and things i think are intuitive aren't, they weren't for me 15 years ago either, but you forget what you've learnt and what experience does for you. they also asked some questions about tax and arghghghhh my "at my fingertips" tax knowledge is abysmal! so that was good to know.

i have also taken the plunge and contacted three agencies about contract work; i'll try to get interviews and then enter the "part-time" discussion after those. hmmm.

however on a more positive life note we did have a dinner party on saturday which was the first i've done in a long time and i discovered a wealth of fabby morrocan recipes; i do like to cook on a theme. gordon ramsay's world food book was amazing; i did the falafel and tahini, and also the spinach and feta filo rolls. and adam did the yoghurt cake which was delicious! unlike jamie oliver, who will always hold my cooking heart, gordon's recipes are probably slightly less forgiving however i followed them really carefully and it all worked as described. so i highly recommend a go! i did bill granger's lemon and sweet potato lamb tagine for the main course: easy and yummy and hot hot hot.

but enough; i divulge into my secure haven of cooking to move me away from focusing on getting a client. in fact even writing this is a naughty guilty pleasure as i should be drafting a letter to all the local venture capitalists and accountants in my next round of marketing push.

so enough wondering whether i should have stayed where i was; nothing comes from nothing etc etc and hopefully by this time next week i will have a teeny tiny glimmer of cash-based hope...

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

week nine & ten: running on vapours maverick....

adam is goose. he keeps pointing out more and more frantically that we're running on vapours whilst i hunt down the elusive cougar. i KNOW i can bring us home eventually but the question is can i keep flying this mig long enough before we go down due to lack of fuel? enough already of the analogies; the more i get into that one the more true it feels; and as a child of the 70s top gun comes quite high on the list of films i can quote endlessly from, alongside dirty dancing. actually just those two sadly. but the fact of the matter is i'm burning through the money (blame christmas, income tax, car tax,starbucks blah blah blah) but i think i'm about 2 months short on the use of the redundancy and if i don't bring home poor cougar soon then we'll have to sell the kids.

and i know this isn't strictly speaking week nine & ten but in terms of productive back to work weeks it probably is. i did do my backup-work in early january, trudging happily through the snow to mark accountancy exams(i know, i should think more selflessly about those it hindered but i loved the snow, it made me feel happy and the world looked nice and it felt like a gift to be sledging on the meadows and stomping to costa for hot chocolates....issue avoidance time as it delayed the real world a bit longer). oddly, some may think, i really enjoy marking accountancy papers. it is therapeutic, cathartic even. you have to focus and it is a challenge, but it is do-able, they make you coffee, there's no outstanding to-do list and it pays quite nicely! and, ought i admit it, four child-free days after three weeks of full on christmas debauchery all round was like a de-tox and i came out of it all breezy and renewed with vigour.

so i was back to proper work last week but it was also daughter #2's second birthday and i have to admit to using a bit of work-time to do a huge sainsburys (i don't know how a party at home ends up costing more than the national debt) and making THREE madeira cakes as requested by adam. actually adam was in charge of the cake. i was in charge of creating 12 peppa pig hand drawn pictures for colouring, drawing george's dinosaur (large) for pin the tail on the dinosaur plus 12 cardboard named tails, food for 10 adults and 12 children, present sourcing and wrapping, prizes, loser prizes (paddy avoidance), sweeties to go within pass the parcel layers (demanded as de rigour by daugher #1)and general organisation. adam was allocated (by himself) CD creation for the dancing. and cake making and decorating. i had to reject draft #1 of the former and request more bob the builder and less shake your booty style tunes. and on the latter task, he advised me that he would be making the george and the dinosaur cakes on friday night, and also decorating them that night, and surely 3 madeira cakes would take 20 mins max each. so i made them all on thursday (3 hours) and he did duly cut them out and fashion them into an amazing george and his dinosaur cake (will post photo). between 7pm and 12.30am fri/sat. so that was good. i did the rest, which was also good.

the party passed in the usual haze of sugar-infused-abba-based frenzy, culminating in cake admiration all round and a lot of inferences of less-than-male tendancies for adam from other dads. mockery aside, he was very very useful at tidy-up time and armed with a bottle of dettol had the house back to normal by 8.30, at which point we more or less downed a bottle of red, sainsburys curry (very cost effective compared to take out, justify justify) and laughed over-zealously at "the hangover" due to exhaustion.

however i did manage to meet with a private equity business that week and they seemed very keen to use my services on a contract basis...but nothing concrete in hard cash yet.

this week i have met with representatives from the chamber who similarly seem keen. however i had my first sleepless time from 2am to 6am today due to having "run the finances" on sunday and realising that i really do have to either stop nursery or get paid work soon, as the lead time on nursery notice is 4 weeks. i say "soon" as i'm avoiding working out the actual crunch date but i do need to do it and will decide this weekend on different scenario strategies. maybe, like maverick, i'm just doing a few flybys to test my own mettle, and will suddenly spot the bogey and NAIL it.

talking of bogeys, daughter #1 had a hearing test today as i wasn't sure if her lack of response to certain questions was due to a genuine difficulty. it seems not. 100% pass rate, proving that other things are just more interesting than my voice.

so watch this space for more up-dates on progress this week. i'm just wondering if adam is goose who is my kelly with a phD in astrophysics (civilian, you do NOT salute her)and more importantly where is ice-man? answers on a postcard please.