Time waits for no man (or woman)

Never has a saying had so much relevance to life these days.  Time waits for no man (or woman) – it really doesn’t.

In the passing year, as our daughter finishes her first foray into the British education system, tempers are flaring, tiredness is abundant and the family dynamic is very slowly morphing into something that I can honestly say I despise.

Time waits for no man/woman/child because, quite frankly, there isn’t enough of it.

I call myself the paranoid working parent because I am paranoid, I am working and I am a parent.  Oh, and I am also a daughter, a sister, a friend, a partner, a neighbour, a customer.

I’ve written posts about holidays, work problems, child problems, friend problems, health problems – generally just problems.

However, as I sit here on a Saturday night with Daniel Craig on the box, my phone on charge, my daughter in bed and my partner on his way back from Goodwood Festival of Speed I am realising that time is what causes the frictions, the pain and the difficulties.

Or rather, lack of time.  Or, quite possibly, a lack of decent time management.

Each area of life which feels stressed and in trouble can be put down to time.

Let me show you:

  • Relationship with partner strained and arguments a plenty = a distinct lack of time with eachother to talk,  to just be together
  • Fractious moments with daughter = usually caused by being a rush to get to school, to get home, to go out, to get up, to get dressed
  • Work pressures = time-bound tasks, the need to leave early or arrive late, the missing period of calm between home and work which allows the brain to switch into professional mode
  • Health problems = little time for ‘me’ to exercise, to cook healthily, to fully switch off and relax, to see a doctor, dentist, optician at the time of need; instead appointments being put off for a later date
  • Social-life challenges = lack of social life as difficult to fit in the visits to family, to long-distance friends, to school Mum coffee mornings (almost impossible to make)
  • Confidence problems = no time to work on appearance, iron barely used, make-up several years old, nails broken and bitten, roots looking distinctly mouse with a hint of grey; all this because I don’t make much time to focus on myself even though the face looking back from the mirror looks tired and weathered

All this comes back to time. To rushing around trying to fit everything in and desperately making sure that no balls are dropped.  But what would happen if a ball was dropped?  Do these so called ‘life balls’ actually exist and are they as fragile as I think they are?

What if I arrived at work a few minutes late because I had a short social chat with a Mum at the school gates?  Would work reprimand me?

The answer is probably no.

What if I booked a night away with the other half and left our daughter with her Grandparents?  Would she hate us?

The answer is most definitely no.

What if I decided to go to the gym after work, which meant Daddy doing the 5:30 after school pick-up? Would he resent me? Would our daughter be upset that I wasn’t around to make her tea?

The answers are probably not.

So, generally, all this rushing around and struggling to be everything to everyone is a pressure I put on myself.  We all put on ourselves. Worried that the slightest hiccup sticks us on the bad parent, bad employee or bad partner list.

Actually, it turns out that time does wait.

It isn’t always about making time, it is about losing time.  About allowing time to run away a little in one area of our lives at the mercy of another for the sake of our sanity.

Whether it is a few minutes at the school gate, or getting home late because you went for a run – these little time losses allow us to re-prioritise and re-balance and the impact will be far less than we fear.

So, starting tomorrow I will spend a little longer in the shower and will moisturise, even if it means we leave the house a little later than normal. On Monday maybe I’ll arrive at work a little late, but I’ll have made myself a healthy packed lunch so will be able to take a shorter lunch break to make up the time that I have deliberately lost.

I will stop rushing and just do my best and if I lose a little time in a few areas over the course of a week who cares? If it means that I’m a bit happier and feel a bit more relaxed and in control, then I am winning.

Where will you decide to lose a little time next week?

 

 

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Taking back control

Welcome to 2017, with it comes some hope, some desperation, some joy. People all over the world are daydreaming about what 2017 will bring as they sip their flat whites, ferry the kids back to school, saunter into the office and if they are feeling really optimistic spread a cheeky smile with a high pitched “Happy New Year!” to a colleague or friend.

For me there is no New Year’s resolution (apart from the obligatory eat healthier and do more exercise maybe). Instead, I am just taking each day as it comes, for once not flinging into grand plans, diets or detoxes.  This isn’t because I don’t fancy them or have no motivation, but more like:

‘What’s the rush?’

I am taking back control and rather than ricocheting from one exciting escapism idea to another, I’m going to take my time, evaluate my life as it is now and then make a few subtle changes as I see fit.

And here’s the crack.

It is,

As I, see fit.

No more keeping up with the Jones’, feeling dreadful because I haven’t cleaned out the fridge yet, my work clothes aren’t looking too sharp anymore, panicking that my daughter isn’t swimming 1km,  and we haven’t had a date night for 5 months.

So often, the decisions we make are as a result of a multitude of influences, feeling like we ‘should’ do something because others are doing it. Social media is the worst for this, it is everywhere from celebs, family members, friends, crikey, even the local hairdresser is on Facebook and giving advice on the right 2017 style!

Don’t get me wrong, all this information is teaching us new things and giving us new ideas, but we are so darn critical of ourselves we feel like we should follow to fit in and in doing so, undermining our own self-belief that we are doing just fine.

Blogging is a relatively new phenomenon in comparison to magazine articles, tv advertisements, radio shows and the like.  With an estimated 2 million blog posts written each day that is a hell of a lot of influencing in one small digital channel.

So, as I’ve said, I am taking back control and not making comparisons. I may choose to eat healthier and tomorrow grab that chocolate bar.  I may book a restaurant for two weekends time, or I may choose to spend another Saturday night watching tv on the sofa with barely a word spoken. Neither choice is right or wrong and there is nothing to stop a different decision being made in February, or March, or even August.

I’m taking back control.

Anyone care to join me?

 

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I am not a completer-finisher (and that’s ok)

It has been a few months since I last wrote a post. I’m not sure it is because I ran out of things to say, but more that life got in the way.

Life.

typing-1242387-639x424Nothing that mind-blowing has happened to me, or mine – except maybe the starting of school, another crisis of confidence at work, a sneaky new-ish car and some pretty damn good TV programmes…..Yeah, the latter has taken up its fair share of my evenings over the last few weeks. Strictly, X Factor, Cold Feet, Dark Angel, Masterchef, Suits – they have all become an important part of our family life.

Maybe it’s escapism?  Maybe it’s laziness?

Anyhow, this morning on a chilly and flood-ridden drive I thought once again about my blog.  I hope I can still refer to it as a blog?

My immediate thought was that, once again, I’ve started and unlike John Humphries from Mastermind, I haven’t finished. I’ve thrown myself into blogging, passionately and bordering on obsessively for almost 9 months and then just as quickly, it has evaporated away. It sidled onto the ‘too hard’ and ‘too time-consuming’ pile without me even realising it had gone.

In my defence, there was a stressful period of migrating my site to a new host, getting caught up in wordpress database hell which didn’t help matters, but this whole process has an air of familiarity.

music-1252161-639x852I’ve done a lot with my life.  Jumped in with both feet on many occasions, with all the best intentions, hours and hours of commitment and thought, enjoyment and an honest belief that it would continue forever. Musical instruments, gymnastics, athletics (well, one session), writing poetry, playing squash, using MyFitnessPal, getting monthly manicures – they are all what the untuned eye might call my ‘fads’.

Things that I am interested in but then I lose interest.

I disagree.

You see, I still have an interest in all these things, and I still wish I did all these things.  But life gets in the way.

Life.

I’m not a completer-finisher, and that’s ok, because my life is made up of experiences of all these things that I fling myself whole-heartedly into and that is what makes me me and what makes my life.

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I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none.  What’s wrong with that?

 

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Not returning the favour (or the entertainment)

party-scene-1177094-1279x852Back in 4BC (before children) I was always very careful to return the favour when we’d been invited to friends’ houses for the weekend or for dinner, or a BBQ.  It was enjoyable and I like entertaining.

The build-up was a delightful melee of scouring cocktail-making books, sending update emails, zooming around the supermarket picking up canapes, a box of straws and a delightful little set of shot glasses.

I loved visiting people and I loved having people to visit.

Oh how times change!

Over the last four years I have in the main loved visiting people – staying with family, weekends with friends and also the odd afternoon bbq at the lovely immaculate houses of my work colleagues. I don’t mind the packing, the travelling hasn’t been too bad and the enjoyment of having other people entertain our daughter has sent me to the dizzy heights of elation whilst I sip on a pimms and hold half-intellectual conversations about life, work and recent Netflix series.

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So, as I say, I love visiting people.  However, when it comes to having them back to ours to ‘return the favour’, my desire has somewhat wained.

Now, close family are always welcome as are friends with children (as long as they bring a bottle and don’t expect waitress service).  However, I cannot bring myself to host anything for my work colleagues and those who migrated beyond the nappy-changing stage over twenty years ago.

I’m just a bit embarrassed and a bit too knackered to put the effort in.

Our house is not immaculate, I don’t have time to plan a music list, make some home-made punch, buy some more shot glasses. I don’t have the energy to be the consummate host anymore.

I ask myself whether I should have refused the recent invites knowing that it was highly unlikely I’d ever invite people to ours for a similar soiree. But, with a limited social life and the opportunity to be waited on, fed and watered, in nice surroundings – how could I possibly pass up the chance!?  It is a rare luxury these days don’t you think?

There is guilt and if I had a spare week with no parenting duties, maybe I could organise a good knees-up, but I’m sorry, at this stage in our lives, I won’t be repaying the favour for at least ten years.

I hope my colleagues understand and don’t hold it against me that we’re all take and no give, I’ll make it up to them in 2026.

I promise.

 

 

 

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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.

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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!

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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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