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A mum’s night out

8 May

Up until now I had – naively or arrogantly – assumed I’d side-stepped that awful mummy-pitfall of over-dressing for a night out.

I’ve noticed certain mums doing it over the last few years. I think the infrequency of nights out brings it on – like a rash. A night down the pub brings out the sparkly tops, skimpy skirts and pre-childbirth stilettos. It’s like having “I’m a mum on a pass out” written all over your forehead – it’s basically a spotlight highlighting how out of place they have become in the regular world of socialising.

So when I went out to meet some old friends at Green Park last night, I realised, as I tottered to Gunnersbury station in heels that I could clearly no longer walk properly in, that I had not so much side-stepped the over-dressing banana skin as gone hook, line and sinker for full banana skid.

This was confirmed, not only by the heels, but also by the fact that I spoke during the day of going ‘into town’ – like some true-blood suburbanite.

When oh when did that happen?

I have no idea how I slipped out of urban outfitters & into suburban mum unfitters, but I want to get back to the real world of socialising..

That means I need to go out more than once a month, not wear high heels on inappropriate nights (& re-learn to walk in them for when they are appropriate) and remember that living in zone 3 IS already ‘in town’…

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Working 9-5 – it’s no way to make a livin’

28 Mar

I’m no Guido Fawkes, raging political commentator or even Dolly Parton (sadly) but it seems to me we really need to radically rethink the way both women and men work for the next generation.

Clegg’s latest suggested working mother benefit is tinkering around the edges pure and simple, with a grand here and a grand there.  It is just a distraction from the main event. We will never solve the problem of women returning to work after children unless the entire working culture is changed.

Clegg’s stab at it has enraged stay at home mothers as their hard work seems to’ve been ignored, while many working/career mothers would probably give the money up in a flash to have working life that was more sympathetic with their home life or more flexible hours, without damaging their career prospects.

The male dominated workplace –and its 9-5 culture – is the culprit and nothing else really matters before this issue is addressed. And it needs to be radically rethought. In this age of instant messaging, working from home, internet, skype etc, it cannot be beyond the wit of man (or women) for employers to embrace part time work properly once and for all. So that means accepting that many women – who are highly skilled in all sorts of areas – can do a serious job, but within the hours of 9.30am t0 3pm.

Let me take a step back. We all know that many women fall off the career cliff and there’s a dearth of estrogen at senior management and board levels. This is due in a large part to the child-rearing issue. Many women I know were heading up the ladder and doing very well, keeping up with men and doing better than men in many cases, before the babies arrived.

But now, five years later with our toddlers, pre-schoolers, and reception kids in tow, many of these ladies have gone back in some way shape or form to their former employers or to new jobs but in a smaller, more junior role – doing the grunt work and picking up the other projects that no one else wants to do, because at it’s safe, it’s something and it’s better than nothing.

But what a waste of a great talent pool. We are missing out on these excellent minds which have been well educated, learned from experience in the workplace, learned about life from becoming a mother – plus have often become much better multi-taskers and much better people managers in the process too.

If forward thinking employers could only look at women returning to work as assets and allow them to work around their family but in jobs that are at use their level of expertise– I would be very surprised if many were let down. It’s a bank of talent that’s waiting to be tapped and the first employers to do so will surely reap huge rewards.

We are not all Sheryl Sandeburgs. Many of us, myself included, just want interesting work that makes the most of all our skills, experience and knowledge, which is fairly paid, and that we can do while the children are at school.

It can’t be right that so many women to have to take huge backwards steps and accept lesser roles in order to try and achieve some semblance of work-life balance.

 

Stop Press: Easter is a RELIGIOUS festival… oh & btw so is Christmas

26 Mar

News Flash: So a Travelodge survey finds that half of all kids think Easter is about bunnies & chocolate. I’m not surprised.

I’m getting fed up with this constant pushing of treats to our children on religious festivals with barely – or any – mention of the god-connection.

In a world where (some) parents are trying really hard to convince their children that the whole world does not revolve around treats – either of the present or chocolate variety – these religious festivals are just becoming insane.

Christmas is about the birth of Christ, Easter marks the resurrection. It’s not complicated but it is Christian. As a Jew (loosely speaking) I want my children to learn about all religions and their significant dates – I fundamentally believe that this is the only way to break down barriers in the long term. Why can they not be taught this first and foremost in schools and nurseries, rather than the main event being the present or the food associated with it. It’s all completely back to front?

But more than that, in another way, the less we mark their religious significance, the more these events become solely centred around the commercial. So Christmas is now all about Santa, stockings full of presents and chocolates on the tree rather than baby Jesus, a stable, wise men etc. Similarly Easter is now solely about chocolate for many children. I have not heard my kids mention Jesus at all yet. My three year old’s Easter party this afternoon consisted of a tea and Easter egg hunt. He ate 2 sandwiches, 1 piece of sponge with chocolate icing, one chocolate nest, one chocolate biscuit, one chocolate bunny and some hot cross bun. Not a single mention of what Easter is really about. Seriously not one.

I’m fed up with it, not only does it engender religious ignorance, but it also undermines the healthy eating message we so desperately need to impart to our children and the ability to help them learn to make the right eating choices. Schools and nurseries providing food like this is not a treat – it is condoning this type of food in a child’s brain and as such is very damaging to ‘the main message’.

However although it probably sounds like it, I’m not a food-puritan  – I am happy for my children to have the odd bit of chocolate – but why should it always be the nursery or school who gives it – it’s only Tuesday and my kids have already had way too much chocolate than is good for them this week from school and nursery respectively.

Why should I not be the one able to spoil them on Sunday, once they have been taught at their various schools and nurseries what it is all about. The trouble is, if treats happen every day they become the norm and so not only lose their treat value, but also make our kids fat, spotty, moody, ill and sluggish.

Surely, it should be a parent’s prerogative to ‘treat’ their child if, when and how they choose – the fact that everyone else now feels this is the part of the festival to highlight means that by the time many parents get their turn, the kids should not be having those treats as it will be completely over-doing it.

Pull yourselves together girls. We need to stop pressing ‘self-destruct’

20 Mar

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. As children of the 80s we were promised it all. The perfect body, the gorgeous & rich husband, the 2.4 kids, dog, big house, luxury holidays and glamorous career. It was Loads-a-money all over. But reality is a hard mistress.

And guess what – most of our lives have fallen short in one or more areas because, like it or not ‘having it all’ is just not possible for most of us. So when we hit our mid-life (I won’t say crisis – but the point where you look back and reflect on where you thought you might be, where you actually are, and what lies ahead) many of us feel disappointed with our lot.

And the result is to press the self destruct button. But women are sneaky creatures. We don’t just fall apart, we pick one area of our life to let go, lose control or blow out the water, while managing to carry on our daily lives as if nothing is wrong, so no one else can tell.

Take friend A. Super-successful international career girl in mid forties but single who would give it all up in a heartbeat to have a husband and kids – her self-destruct weapon – unprotected sex with random men during her travels and at home, genuinely putting her health (life) at risk.

Take friend B. Again high powered career woman but with family and husband who never gets a moment to stop or breathe. Her self-destruct weapon – she barely eats at all during the day, then binges at night on packets of biscuits and chocolate. Her weight peaks and troughs taking her regularly from a size 10 (on diet shakes) to size 20 when reverting to normal food.

And finally friend C. The stay at home mum who also works, but not to a high level because she is also doing all the family organisation and kids routine. Her self-destruct weapon – alcohol. She can’t wait till 6pm for that glass of wine that inevitably leads to half a bottle or more. She’s not an ‘alcoholic ‘ as such,  she doesn’t get wildly drunk or have raging hangovers that force her to stay in bed, but similarly she can’t not have one, she is the oft-written about middle aged, middle class alcohol dependent – worrying constantly about how much damage the wine is doing to her body, yet unable to stay dry for more than a couple of days.

There are more examples out there no doubt, but it just dawned on me that for those of us affected by this self-destruct tendency, instead of focussing on these negative influences – and they do become a focus of our daily thoughts, be it the “I am/am not having sex with anyone” or the “I can’t wait for my first drink/biscuit” – we need more positives to focus on in our lives.

I for one have done very little to take care of my body since I was single, pre-kids. But since the start of the year, a couple of friends and I have shared a personal trainer – Ron – once a week and it has become the highlight of my week. It has become the ONLY thing I do for myself that I really look forward to in my life which combines both total personal enjoyment, benefits to my body and fitness and has no bad side. It is in fact the opposite of self-destruct – it is rebuilding me.

Women are rubbish at sport

15 Mar

Really?

Well if you talk to the mums and women I know, that’s what you’d believe. Recently I set up a weekly training session with ‘Ron’ – a fabulous trainer who I’d met while working on a feature.

But as a sex, I must confess we are rubbish. Not one of the women I spoke to said: “yeah but watch out as I get really competitive, so be prepared to eat my dust.”

It was all: “Well… I’m really bad at sports/I’m really unfit/I haven’t done any exercise since the birth of Tiddles/ I can’t run….” you get the picture. And I’m not judging them because I include myself in this. I regularly use the lines: “I make a ‘grapevine’ look like Spaghetti hoops” and “I gave up aerobics as I knew my super-bad co-ordination would never improve so I’d be able to actually go in the right direction as the rest of the class.” to belittle my abilities – which as it turns out are not quite as awful as I remember.

It’s just insane and I’m coming across it ALL the time – Many of the women I now know are the women all those articles were written about over International Women’s Day – we are the lost mummies – the professional women who had good careers up till about 35, then had kids and are now floundering in the ridiculous ‘you-can-have-it-all’ mantra we were promised as children of the 80s but clearly doesn’t exist.

But it’s not just these women who have this self doubt – and it’s not just in sports – this was just the latest example.

Over the years I’ve interviewed many successful women (often not mothers) and I would guestimate that at least 80-90% of them have self doubt and are constantly scared that they are going to be found out as frauds and will be ‘discovered’ as inept or incapable of doing their job.

What is it in the female psyche that makes us put ourselves down so much… and so often? I just can’t imagine men saying those things. We limit ourselves by our own put-downs. Surely there are enough external influences out there in the big wide world to put us down and challenge our success, we shouldn’t need to sabotage ourselves and our own potential as well.

I don’t know what the answer is, it seems no one does – but it sure isn’t belittling ourselves and our abilities. Every one of the women I’ve come across is not only super-capable, intelligent, charming but they are also adeptly juggling more than most circus performers. That’s not to be sniffed at, or belittled. Ever. Especially by ourselves.

Build-er relationships

12 Feb

Preparing to do a spot of ‘refurb’ in the flat recently, I got a couple of builders and decorators in to do some quotes. All well and good.

On arriving to quote, they are as nice as pie, “yes Mrs G”, “no Mrs G” and “of course we can do that too Mrs G”.

It’s like a first date, where both parties are trying to make a good impression and woo each other:

‘I’m not a control freak, actually I’m a nice lady that you want to work for’ is my fake persona – aka I’m not a bunny boiler, whilst theirs is that they give two hoots what you want and are not going to bodge anything but will do your work with love, care and attention – aka I’ll still love you in the morning darlin’.

But of course the moment of truth comes and I pick one – they are puppy-dog enthusiastic – aka second/third base and on their way to a ‘shag’, while the others I have to let down. I do it nicely with a “thanks but no thanks” – aka it’s not you it’s me, while their response is “yeah, whatever” – aka I never fancied you much anyway..

And don’t get me started on the delivery men. No subtle or amusant message there, just “screw you lady – I hate you and my life so take your own flooring in, *itch.”

Nits

12 Feb

Every week it seems we get a note either from the school or nursery warning that yet ANOTHER set of nits is doing the rounds.

I have stocked up on the obligatory nit comb, lotion etc and made a mental note of how I will wash and clean everything in 24 hours so as to expunge the creatures from my home should they dare enter, but so far we have managed to escape any infestation.

This does not, however, stop me from becoming totally neurotic every time I visit a hairdressers. As they part my hair and say in that inane way “So how would you like it today?” I can’t think straight, I’m watching their eyes, looking at the reflection of their comb running through my parting hoping, nay praying, that they do not see bugs jumping up and down on my scalp or little white eggs clinging to strands of hair.

I live in fear of the words: “I’m so sorry Mrs G. (married name) I’m afraid we can’t do your hair today, you have nits.”

Kids & nits, I can deal with… but me being ‘outed’ in a salon – that must surely be the ultimate humiliation. I wonder if I’m the only one with such neuroses or if other mothers have to confront similar demons just to get a trim?