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...