High-fiving the school holiday spreadsheet

home-business-4-1238760-638x425This is the last summer before our daughter properly starts school. Last year we chose the independent school route, but the lengthy school holidays were a big cause for concern.

How do people manage to hold down full-time jobs and cope with the childcare challenges?

I was beginning to feel so thankful for nursery – an 8-6 wraparound care, for 51 weeks of the year.  A safe home-from-home single environment where I knew my child was looked after and happy. (fingers regularly crossed for no sickness and enforced exclusion from nursery).

During one of my many analyses as to whether we would actually, really be able to manage, I dropped a line to a lady who actively promotes women in the workplace.  I shared with her my fears, my guilt at working full-time, my resentment at not having family close-by. I asked how people manage school holidays whilst holding down careers with only twenty five days annual leave.

She gave me an excellent piece of advice:

“Take one year at a time.”

She spoke about the fact that when our daughter starts school I will start to make a network of school Mums and the management of the umpteen weeks of holidays will fall into place.

She was absolutely right.

At the end of the day, and through whatever means, we would get through the holidays. That was always a given, even if it meant downsizing the house and hiring a Nanny (never going to happen, but it was a solution). I just couldn’t see it.

Our daughter started the attached pre-school last year and at one particular party I got talking to another Mum.  A Mum who also worked full-time, whose partner is self-employed, a career-minded Mum who comes from a modest background and is, like me, putting her hard-earned money towards her only child’s education instead of the flash car and luxury holidays.  Our daughters had made friends recently.

It was fate.

Just before the school broke up for the summer, we met up, shared diaries and scheduled specific dates when we’d be able to have each other’s child. With the school holiday club weeks, two weeks leave, three days of Grandparent-daycare, a few days of Daddy-daycare and my new found childcare buddy my school holiday spreadsheet was filled!

tick-1241542-639x444I had done it!

All the worry and anxiety about how on earth we were supposed to hold down our jobs when our daughter only goes to school for thirty-odd weeks of the year was pointless.

Every year will be a logistical Krypton-Factor-esq challenge, the spreadsheet will always be required, but it will work and it isn’t half as bad as you think it will be.

So if you’ve got your school holidays sorted to a tee, I high-five you.  If you’re already thinking about how you’ll cope when you child starts school – Don’t Worry! 

Trust me, just take each year as it comes and you’ll soon find a school holiday routine that suits your family and maybe you’ll even find yourself meeting your own childcare buddy. I wanted to add ‘in the playground’, but realistically for us full-time working Mums, it is much more likely to be at the weekend birthday parties!

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

 
 

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The detrimental effect of loyalty

Last night I had a eureka moment. Well, it wasn’t really me, but I received some advice that suddenly called into question one of my most important and as I see it desirable traits.

obedient-dog-1360683-1279x1705Loyalty.

I am in the main fiercely loyal. Both in my personal life and my working life.  I will support, argue for and defend anyone who I am loyal to, and woe betide anyone who tries to cross me when I’m passionately fighting the corner.

This particular post is centred around loyalty in the workplace.

I work full-time for a company where I’ve known members of the board for many years.  One person in particular head-hunted me for this role and is possibly the best leader you could ever have.  He is supportive, he understands I have a young family, he is flexible, he trusts me and he is inspiring.

It is for this reason that I have an unwavering loyalty towards him and I want to succeed in my role, and to help the business succeed.

Now, here’s the problem.

I’m unhappy.

unhappy-1444685-1280x960

Whilst I work with an amazing leader, this is not a 2-man company.  It is substantially larger.  There are other members of the board and multiple colleagues and peers.  Some of these people I work well with, and some I don’t.

This is normal.

You can’t expect to get on with everyone.

I have passion and drive, I feel I have a lot to add but this isn’t recognised and as a result, over the last year I have felt underwhelmed, undermined, under-utilised and upset.

Now, as I’ve said, I’m very loyal.  I left a previous job to move to this company to help my leader because I trust him and was excited about the challenge.

I have been praised for my work and encouraged by my leader. However, this hasn’t been the case from others, which makes the leader’s praise almost worthless.

I have been carrying on with the role, trying to articulate my frustrations, show initiative but with little progress.

I continue because I am loyal.

I do not want to let my leader down – he has faith in me and therefore I will strive to do well.

But how long should someone put up with unhappiness?

Is loyalty enough?

When my friend told me to leave after I had mentioned some of the incidents that had occurred, my immediate response was that I couldn’t.  It is not because I was worried about finding another job, it was because I am loyal. I feel bound to support my leader as he has supported me over the years in different jobs and roles.  I feel like I owe him.

But then I thought about it.

My career path is my own. I choose my destiny and I should remain in control.  If I am respected as an individual and an employee then I should still be respected if the unhappiness continues and I choose to leave.  It shouldn’t tarnish my integrity.

Loyalty is a great trait to have, but only if it sits alongside happiness and a sense of worth.

This goes for everything – career and home life.

So, if you’re in a situation where you are loyal but you have nothing else backing it up, ask yourself something.

Is it enough?

If it isn’t, make a change.

 

 

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The emotional attachment to clothes (theirs)

After a busy weekend, today I felt inspired to start going through my daughter’s clothes. This exercise happens every 6-12 months when I’m beginning to get fed up of rummaging past old outgrown pairs of knickers and odd socks for the new pack of vests I bought the other week.

child-and-snowman-1394151-639x424The only difference today was that I was also going through another secret stash in a old wardrobe, one that I hadn’t dare open for quite some time. It was whilst pulling out unused packs of nappies, nappy sacks and the baby bjorn that I suddenly felt a little sad.

Not because of these items but because there, nestled away on a wardrobe shelf was my daughter’s pink snowsuit.

I loved that snowsuit.

We have pictures of her at 5 months lying in snow with a smile on her face, snuggly and warm with a fake-fur-lined hood and no hands and feet visible. She looked like Maggie from The Simpsons.

I don’t just love that snowsuit, I miss it.

I put it to one side, for some reason unable to throw it into the charity bag along with the umpteen baby gros, sleepsuits, a slightly stained cardigan and several pairs of pyjamas that had managed to escape the cull the last time round.

It is items such as these that make you remember the really joyous times with a newborn. It isn’t that you have no photos of your beloved in these outfits, you have plenty on your phone, laptop, potentially a photobook, or framed and sitting pride of place on your parent’s mantelpiece – but holding the item is different.

Entirely different.

It’s empty.

You realise that you’re unlikely to ever use it again. It came from a different stage of both our lives and that stage has been and gone.

At the same time as I was going through the clothes, my daughter actually decided to try and put on one of the sleepsuits. It was funny to watch a four year old wrestle with the legs of a 9-12 month item of clothing and she gave up after a few minutes with two legs pulled up around her knees.  I had to let her try.

tiny-clothes-1527650-640x480It snapped me out of my memories but I still couldn’t let go of a few more items that included a little dress that she wore to a first birthday party and a swimming costume bought by her late great-grandmother. These items are essentially useless to me and to my daughter. They can’t be worn or used and they are taking up precious space in our house, but emotionally I’m still attached.

So for now I’ll find another place for them.  They will be forgotten again until the next time I decide to declutter and I wonder what their destiny will be then.

Do you have any specific items of clothing from your children that you can’t part with?  Let me know.

 

Petite Pudding

 

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Toys!

toys-1541239-1279x852On Saturday morning as I was frantically rushing around trying to tidy up for our visiting guests, I started thinking about toys (as I vacuumed bits of kinetic sand out of the play kitchen hob).

As our daughter is in nursery a lot of the time, I’ve always worried that she doesn’t have enough toys at home. At friends’ houses I assess their ‘toy’ area and try and work out if we have the right balance or not. I have some friends who seem to be able to have perfectly organised shelves with a pretty collage of board games and jigsaw puzzles, and a play kitchen with pans on each hob, a bucket of fruit and vegetables and some posh Melissa and Doug wooden sets.

I get very envious!

In contrast, all our daughter’s bigger and what I’d call ‘proper’ toys and games are interspersed with bits.

Just little pieces of cr*p.

Plastic binoculars from comic books, broken crayons, dried play-doh, a Happy Meal toy, a wooden peg jigsaw piece from a toy that she has totally grown out of – as well as teething keys. She’s almost 4!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve also found plenty of non-toy items. A proper saucepan and wooden spoon, some little pink candle holders, bits of toilet paper (probably from a mopped-up spillage), nursery drawings, some hair clips, a pair of gardening gloves, some beads, a bit of string, a paintbrush, some ToucanBox foam pieces.

To my paranoid eye, the place is a mess. How can a child play when everything is chaos?

I make an effort to put jigsaws and board games back in their box when we’ve played them – primarily because these are stored in the lounge. However, for everything else, I just leave it in the play area. The Great Little Trading Company play table that I bought – having seen one at one of the said organised friends’ houses looking splendid, is now littered with stuff. The play kitchen sink looks like it is full of dirty crocks and old food.

You certainly wouldn’t get pictures of these in an Argos catalogue.

However, despite the clutter, my daughter does play.

In fact, she plays very imaginatively – because she has to, and because everything is fair game.

She puts beads, broke crayon and kinetic sand in the grown-up saucepan and presents it to me as dinner. She uses the paintbrush to pretend she’s putting on lipstick and has used the candle holders as bottles for her baby.

She is resourceful and finds things that are buried beneath the collection of tat that I wish I could just sweep together and throw in the bin.

As a result, I feel justified in leaving the tat where it is.

We have two main places where the playing takes place. The lounge, which tends to be for structured play, and the play area which is in the kitchen and is where our daughter will play unstructured when I’m making dinner. And you know what?

It works!

I admit, I wish I tidied the play area up sometimes (or even got round to asking her to), but she never complains about the tools she has for her trade and until she actually says she’s fed up of the mess, I will keep that particular chore off my long list of things to do.

Toys don’t need to be toys to be classified as toys.

But I do hope that one day she will start playing in her bedroom – which is probably the tidiest room of the house!

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A nation of risk takers?

Now, I consider myself a bit of a goody-two-shoes. I was reasonably well behaved as a child and whilst I went through the torrid teenage angst, I never ran away, have never really dabbled in drugs (other than alcohol and the odd pack of Marlboro Lights), and have never been in trouble with the law.

The other day I saw an adult cycling along a country lane without a helmet and it got me thinking.  Are we a nation of risk takers?  As a parent to an almost 4-year old, rather than become even more risk adverse, I think maybe I am now even more of a dare-devil!

And here’s why:

  • I rush to work and to home (driving a little worse than I used to)
  • I barely exercise and eat copious amounts of chocolate even though I used to love staying healthyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • I have the 5-second rule, ok, the 15-second rule and don’t batter an eyelid
  • Frequently I forget to remind my daughter to wash her hands before dinner
  • I don’t always wash fruit and veg before I or my family eat it
  • I send my daughter to nursery with a coat, but always forget the gloves and the hat
  • Twice I’ve let my daughter go to bed without brushing her teeth
  • kitchen-1542971-640x480The kitchen regularly looks like a bomb-site and there are crumbs on the work-surface that may end up walking themselves to the bin
  • I never sterilised or washed my daughter’s toys. (I might have once rubbed a wet-wipe over Sophie after she had been slobbered over by a teething toddler friend a few years ago)
  • I stare at a screen for over 8 hours a day with poor posture
  • I sometimes cook food that has a use-by date of the previous day

But, you know what? Our family are doing just fine. We’re pretty happy and thankfully healthy and if a few risks and corner-cutting mean I can juggle motherhood, a career, a blogging hobby and a relationship then I’m high-fiving the dare-devil in me.  Remember, nobody’s perfect.

What little risks do you take that you always feel a little guilty about?

 

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

 
 

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What a difference a week makes (with a digital detox)

norwegian-fjords-1548564-640x480So, last week we were cruising the Norwegian Fjords on a much needed break. Having spent the last few months glued to my laptop at work and my phone and macbook at home either blogging or browsing, this couldn’t have come at a better time.

It is quite scary how much your persona changes when your technology is not only at your fingertips, it is permanently on your fingertips. As much as some of it is very enjoyable, what is it doing to the rest of your brain and body?

For the bloggers on maternity leave, there are so many relentless non-IT chores to do, the ability to be permanently online is somewhat lessened. However, as I’ve found, when you return to office-based work and there are no more nappies to change, bottoms to wipe, or foods to mash, it is far easier to slouch on the sofa and do the same thing in the evening as you’ve done all day.

On holiday it was a different matter. There was no signal for large periods of time and the data roaming charges were extortionate. Needless to say my phone was on airplane mode for the majority.  It was the best thing that could have happened.

turn-off-computer-1311970-639x468Here are the 5 benefits I found from being offline:

  • My other half and I actually spoke to eachother. I’m talking proper conversations and eye contact!
  • I slowed down – the brain took in the environment around me rather than the electronic screen.
  • I slept better – ok, the cocktails and the rich food probably contributed, but it was a relaxed progression into sleep rather than a 30 minute facebook and twitter scroll and a 10 minute read of my book.
  • The focus was on the here and now and my life and my family, rather than reading and worrying about everything else going in other people’s lives – it was about time I put ourselves first.
  • Our daughter had our attention and eye contact, there was no “yeah, in a minute”, “uh-huh”-ing that both myself and my OH are guilty of doing when we’re browsing aimlessly as if looking for an alternative situation to the one we’re in.

Now I’m home, I’m revitalised.  I feel more positive that I have in weeks and feel like I can take any work-related struggles or confidence blips in my stride.  Being forced into a digital detox was the only way to get me to stand still and live my life rather than obsess over other people’s.

Try a digital detox once in a while, you never know where it might take you on your career or your blogging journey.

 

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When the PMT affects the MMB (Motivated Mummy Brain)

salad-1-1323575-639x462Today (Tuesday 10th May 2016) I have worked from home, it is a sheer luxury and something I try to do at least once a week. Most of the time I have an extremely productive day, with no interruptions and the ability to stack the dishwasher for a couple of minutes, in place of spending ten minutes chatting to a colleague about the new hair do, the awful weather, her lavish home-made multi-coloured salad.

Usually I love it because I can do a few mummy/housewife chores around my working day, which means I’ve achieved double in the same amount of time. Something us full-time working mums struggle with on a regular basis.

Today though, I am thoroughly unmotivated. There is washing that could be folded, a present to wrap, some work to do and some emails to send, but instead of multi-tasking at 100mph like normal, I am distracted, grumpy and unenthused.

Then it hit me.

the-stress-1473487-639x463It’s the dreaded PMT.

The PMT that affects my MMB, which is my Motivated Mummy Brain.

Having self-diagnosed this horrible mini mental-health blip, I felt immediately a bit better. I could justify why I felt so fed up, disillusioned, sluggish and generally not on top form. My daydreaming about quitting the job to do something more exciting and the sudden negativity and ridiculous paranoia that I am a rubbish employee is in the main because of a hormonal imbalance.

Amazing!

I know that a sudden influx of important emails and calls will spur me back into action at some point today. The accelerator will be depressed and I will whizz back up to  a respectable 80mph with much better focus.

This is because the main impact of my PMT is a self-motivation drain – the Motivated Mummy Brain Drain. I need someone or something to drag me out of it, to get me going and to inspire me again. I don’t have any major deadlines for today, so that isn’t helping. We haven’t got any guests coming round, so I needn’t worry about the washing in the dining room, or the cups on the side. My daughter is at nursery until 6, so I have no entertainment requirement and my other half is at work. It feels a little like I’m not needed.

**** pause *****

I’m writing this out of a lack of inspiration for what I should be doing. It’s a bit naughty and honestly, I am a committed and devoted employee, but today I’ve taken a little time out to brain dump on how I’m feeling. This should blast some of the negativity away and already since starting this post, I’ve paused to answer calls, crack on with work and have even taken the washing upstairs.

Tomorrow should be a better day, and now I have recognised that my PMT will always affect my MMB, I will aim to be a little kinder to myself and put it down to an off-day that will require some chocolate.

How does your PMT affect you?

 
 

Petite Pudding

 

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Accepting the differences – she isn’t a mini-me

kim-4-1481991-640x960Ok, this post is a little premature given our daughter is only 3.5.  However, even now I’m beginning realise the horrid, startling, fact that No – my daughter is nothing like me.

This is a bitter pill to swallow.

If you had a great childhood, you want to impart every excitement, interest and passion into your child because you remember what you were like and therefore, you think they will be thinking along the same lines.

Wrong.

As a child I loved to read, I loved to play alone making up imaginary games.  I loved sport and music and trying out all manner of different activities.  I was and am scatty and hairbrained, I didn’t really care about my appearance and I was not what you would call a ‘girly girl’.

As a parent, I impart these things on my daughter.  I focus on what was important to me, assuming that she will think the same way. I introduce her to umpteen books, she’s got involved with gymnastics and been horse riding twice. I’ve asked her whether she’d like to try martial arts. No. I’ve asked her whether she’d like to go horse riding again. No. I ask her whether she’d like to play rugby or football in the garden, or try and ride her bike. No.

little-princess-1561402-639x958If I ask her whether she’d like to play mummies and daddies, I know she’ll say yes.  If I ask her if she’d like to dress up in a princess outfit, I know she’ll have the shoes on before I have the chance to get out the Cinderella dvd.

This is awkward.

How do you play and engage with a child who isn’t your mini-me?

The answer – you watch how they play and engage with others and take those cues.

I remember doing a small jigsaw puzzle with my daughter a year ago.  I was trying to get her to work horizontally across the picture, whereas she wanted to work vertically.  It really hit me that not only is she the girly girl that I never was, she also learns differently to me.

I watch her play and engage with my other half and I can immediately see less frustration as they are on a similar wavelength and use a different logic to solve problems.

One of your jobs as a parent is to teach and impart knowledge.  However, if your brains are wired differently, it isn’t as easy as you think.

So what am I doing about this?

I’m learning to take a step back.

As a naturally competitive and dare I say it ‘pushy parent’, it goes against my instinct to just accept the differences and not try and change them.  But, I think it is so incredibly important to allow a child to grow into who they are destined to become and not live the dream that their parent had mapped out for them.

So, I’m off to buy some more pink bracelets and some clip-clop princess heels for my little diva. Maybe I’ll buy a pink football too………just in case.

 
 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

 

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When your child is the ‘offender’

angry-1432367-639x463As I write this I am full of cold, have had a long day at work and have spent the last couple of hours thinking about my daughter’s latest ‘incident’ at nursery.

We have a lot of ‘incidents’ at nursery.

Over her short life, our precious, loving, chatty, caring, gregarious little girl has pushed, bitten and scratched her peers many times.  The bites were around the toddler stage and the progression to scratching has been over the last year or so.  She is now three and a half and goes to nursery five days a week.

As a parent, if your child is hurt by another child, it is horrible – I get that.

If it is your child that has done the hurting, believe me, it is a million times worse.

The embarrassment, the shame, the lack of understanding as to why your child does this when every other child you know doesn’t.  Feeling like your child will be ostracised from the nursery-society, won’t make friends, will be hated and lonely. Feeling guilty that she does this because Mummy works full-time and she misses me.

When our daughter has a day of ‘incidents’, my whole day is ruined.  I could have had a really productive day in the office but when I pick her up and get the awkward look from the nursery staff and if it is pretty bad, an ‘incident’ form to sign, it sends me reeling with anxiety and stress.

We are currently at a loss as to what to do and are now engaging SENCos and I’m also going to book a doctors appointment without her to discuss.  She doesn’t miss a trick and listens to everything, so she definitely can’t be with me when I start trying to explain her behaviour through quivering bottom lip.

To give them their due, the nursery have been supportive and when I’ve cried in their office they have comforted me, offered me a tissue and said that she isn’t the only child they have seen with these tendencies.  It still doesn’t make me feel much better.

Part of our issue is that she very very rarely has any incidents when we are around.  As an only child she doesn’t have any siblings to hurt and she doesn’t hurt us.  Her close friends whom she has grown up with also no longer get hurt (although there was the occasional one during the toddler phase).

We’ve tried reward charts, treats, taking things away and time-outs (which isn’t suitable if the incident was several hours ago at nursery).  We try and talk to her about it. We’ve been stern, we’ve been gentle and supportive, yes we’ve shouted when we are at our wits end and don’t know what to do.

It is relentless.

Quite often I feel like I just want to take a few months off work to just focus on our daughter and try and sort out whatever is going on in her little head.  Only, I’m not in a position to do that.

We have had weeks and even months of no incidents and then suddenly a spate of them.  A lot of the time the staff say there was nothing to provoke it. This makes it worse – random acts of aggression with no visible reason.

Her behaviour is a source of tension between Mummy and Daddy. I take the overly soft stance and Daddy takes the firm stance.  Neither of which seem to be working.  If anything, I think she is worse when there is tension at home – something that is hard to address when you’re tired and stressed from trying to be the model worker, model Mum and model partner. I just want all three of us to be happy and have fun days.

But, there is hope.

This week we’ve had two party invitations.

To me, it is like I’ve won the lottery.  Knowing that a child at nursery wants my daughter to come to their party makes me so incredibly happy and relieved.  I could jump for joy.

With school starting in September, we are desperate for this problem to resolve itself. We have been told she is ‘high functioning’. What does that mean?  Does that mean she is on the spectrum? Does it mean she is just quite bright and is developing asynchronously? I don’t know.

But what I want to say is this.

If your child is on the receiving end of a bite or a scratch, the chances are the parents of the ‘young offender’ are absolutely mortified. They will do their best in conjuction with the nursery setting to resolve the problem. They will google everything to do with an aggressive child and will read copious articles.  They will drop their child off wishing them a good day and hoping beyond all hope that they really do have a ‘good day’.  They will praise their child when there are no incidents and they will talk to their child when there are.  They will ask why they did it and whether they said sorry to your child. They will seek the help of professionals.

Children are all different, and some express themselves differently and need a little more help as they grow.  Please consider this before you judge them and their parents. We are already feeling fragile enough as it is.

 

 

The Pramshed

 

 

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Parenting poetry – A moment

safety-1316981-640x480Over two years ago, I started writing in my limited spare time.  My daughter was almost 18 months old and for the same reason as my recent venture into blogging, I had something say and I needed an outlet.

At that time, poetry was my solace.  I could express myself differently, showing raw emotion that I sometimes hid and rarely shared.

‘A moment’ was one of my early poems about motherhood.  It goes like this.

As she clutches my arm,
her breathing husky and thick,
I lean my head on hers.

She strokes my soft, comforting sleeve,
nestling her warm, slightly sticky nose into my side.
I pause and gaze at this wonder of mine.I grab a white, fragile, pristine tissue
navigating it towards this quiet, gentle soul.
Picking my moment to disrupt her peace.

As quick as a flash,
the moment has passed.
She wriggles free of this joyous time and runs over to her toys.

 
 

Petite Pudding
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