Give it a go! 

This is my mantra for 2017.

Following in from last year and embracing the power of ‘yes’, this year I just want to give it a go. 

Nothing specific, but whatever random experiences and activities that spring to mind, I’m just going to try them. 

I’m currently on a busy train, drinking overly priced Merlot from a plastic cup, having missed bedtime, but I’m buzzing. Why? Because I gave something a go. Details can’t be shared just yet, but I’ve had a brilliant day trying something out. Not the best of outcomes, but I have it a go. 

In fact one of the reasons I’ve done this ‘thing’ today is to encourage my kids to give it a go. While it’s great to plan and be prepared, sometimes time isn’t on your side and you can’t wait for things to be just right, because that perfect time may never come. 

You have to seize the opportunity, especially if you can’t lose either way. Children need to see us trying new things and challenging ourselves. Showing them that it’s ok to ‘fail’, trying is the important thing. 

You can’t regret trying. The worst kind of regret is when you’ve done nothing at all. 

So, join me. Just give something a go. No matter how small, make that step into the unknown. You’ll thank yourself for it! 

Was I just trolled? It kinda hurt

I’ve mentioned before that I’m trying to challenge myself more this year. Saying ‘yes’ more often in a bid to finding the ‘new’ or ‘real’, post-baby me. Just starting this blog and more importantly, sharing it, has been quite a big step.

This week, I took a bigger step. A journalist asked me to post my most personal piece on the Huffington Post. VERY.BIG.DEAL. So in the shock and excitement, I posted it. People were happy for me. My mum said she was proud (sob!). It felt great.

Then I started to read the comments. Yeah, someone called it a load of tosh. Fine, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. Someone on Twitter said I was perpetuating the issue – I don’t think they got what I was trying to do with the piece. Whatever. But one of them really stuck, suggesting ‘we return to my country of origin if I think the UK is so bad.’ Woah.

Do people really say that? And to complete strangers?! Isn’t it this kind of ignorance I’m trying to challenge? Was my piece so offensive, that a stranger took the time to type such a comment, rather than just click on the next article? If they’d read it in newspaper, would they have written a letter to respond? Probably not.

Whilst this was a faceless person, I’m very unlikely to ever come into contact with, it still hit me and it hurt. I’ve always just thought ‘ignore trolls’, ‘they have nothing better to do’, but my instinct was to reply, defend my opinion and put him in his place. I could have so easily given in to his provocation.

It’s really made me think about how powerful social media and the internet is. I consider myself to be quite a strong, confident person, but was quite surprised at how much one random comment hit me. What if I was a young, impressionable teen, whose taken months to build the confidence to post something online? The impact it could have had on me, could be so much worse.

Social media and the internet has made it so easy to react, insult, provoke people we do not know, without any thought of the consequences. Maybe I should be worried about my children going into a world where this is the ‘norm.’ I just  hope I can give them the confidence and resilience to ignore these faceless, and probably spineless, people.

xx

PS – you can read the piece in all its glory here http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/claire-quansah/teaching-children-about-racism_b_11873270.html?utm_hp_ref=uk

 

Why are women still getting ‘pregnant then screwed’?

My thoughts on how to reduce maternity discrimination.

Another week has gone by and more reports are being published showing how working women are being treated like crap when they are pregnant or on maternity leave, only to become victim to a pay gap with their male colleagues once they return to work.

This really annoys me. Particularly women who are sacked, made redundant, demoted etc just because they have pushed out or are due to push out a baby. This is illegal and needs to stop.

Yes, I understand that for some organisations (particularly small businesses), the cost of maternity pay could have an impact, especially if they need to pay for additional cover. BUT that doesn’t mean we make it ok for any business not to employ women of childbearing age, or treat them like rubbish. Nor does it mean we should just accept there isn’t a place for us in the workplace after we’ve given birth aka comtributing to the future of the human race. 

What it means is that we clearly need a more equal view in our approach to parental leave and responsibilities. Society’s mentality towards leave and parenting is outdated, still in a time where women didn’t have professional roles and fathers weren’t as hands on. But times have changed. Women are pursuing or already in senior, demanding careers (God forbid) and many fathers actually spend time with their children (shock horror!). But the ‘system’ doesn’t acknowledge this.

Let me explain. At the moment our maternity system is very much that, maternal. Focussed on solely the mother. She is allowed to take time off for medical appointments, without question. She gets paid to take time off caring for a newborn. If a father wants to take significant time off, he might get funny looks from an employer and he’ll have to accept a drop in pay. Not the best move at a time when finances are already be impacted by nappies and wipes (and coffee and cake for mum lol). So it makes sense for mother to take more time off (up to a year), leaving her with a gap in her career, which according to statistics will impact her financially for life,  whilst dad continues to work, progressing his career to bring home the proverbial bacon.

And in most cases, this then continues once she has returned to work as she is the primary care giver. She takes the pay cut to work part time, leaves the office early when a child is sick etc etc. And employers kind of expect it. Some embrace it – ‘that’s her being a mum’ they accept. Some use it as an excuse to treat women differently which is down right wrong. Either way, all employers need to respect the fact that fathers are parents too! Make it acceptable, in fact the norm, for a dad to leave the office at 430 to do the nursery pick up or ask if they can do a conference call from home to nurse a sick child.

Now, imagine if both parents received the same pay for leave? They could split the leave, reducing the ‘time out’ of work for either parent, but ensuring they bring in some kind of income, meaning the onus isn’t on any one parent. I know that the right to shared has been introduced in the UK, but statistics show that take up has been very low. But we shouldn’t give up on it. If we got to a stage where this was the norm, employers wouldn’t or couldn’t discriminate against workers just for being parents. They wouldn’t have many people left in their books!

If you haven’t heard of the wonderful Joeli Brearley, check out her amazing campaign, Pregnant then Screwed. It really is an eye opener into the number of working mothers being discriminated against. But she is actually helping women to challenge their employers and supporting them in the process. Positive action! Thankfully I haven’t had such experiences, but it really is sad that in the 21st century, this is such an issue. What’s more sad is that it’s getting worse. 

But I think it fans, and will get better. It will take time. It will take a lot of effort. It will take mothers to stand up against discrimination to hold bad employers to account. It will take fathers to use their right for shared leave and make it known to their employers that they actually want to parent! It will take the government to make discrimination tribunals cheaper and easier. And it will take the rest of us to provide support for our friends and family in these situations.

Then maybe less of us will be screwed. 

 

Being brave

A few weeks ago I did something I hadn’t done for a long time. I stepped out of my professional comfort zone.

I received an email inviting me to speak on a panel (won’t bore you with the topic details). My first instinct was to pass it on to my line manager. He couldn’t make it, neither could anyone else more senior to me. Bugger.

Just as I’m about to hit ‘send’ on an email to decline, I stopped. I realised I didn’t have a good reason not to take part, only fear. I had been recommended for the event, I’m not sure by whom, but clearly someone out there thinks I’m pretty good at my job.

Rewind a few years and I would have jumped at the chance to talk in front of a room of people. I’ve always been the friendly, chatty one. People love having me at events because I tick a few boxes (female, black. done!). But without realising , my confidence had faded and I had been turning away from opportunities.

I had become the person that said ‘why’ rather than ‘why not’. I was slowly slipping into a habit of just doing what was in my remit, rather than pushing myself. Not the ‘me’ that many people would describe. The impact of motherhood or wifelyhood (yes, its a word!), I don’t know, but I need to change it.

So I reminded myself of my commitment to say yes more often and accepted the invitation. And guess what, the event went well and I had loads of positive feedback. Result!

Then last week I was asked to do an interview with the local paper about ‘successful women handling careers and motherhood’ with the help of family-friendly workplaces. I laughed out loud about the successful bit, but was honoured to be asked. I guess I’m doing a good job of juggling everything.

That’s two yeses in a few weeks. Has my life been transformed? No. But I’ve reminded myself of a few things:

  • Taking on a challenge every now and then is good for the soul
  • If someone else says you are good at something, they are probably telling the truth, even if you don’t believe them
  • The more opportunities you invite into your life, the more that will be opened to you. It’s down to you to accept them or not

Feeling good after a few positive experiences, I think I’m slowly starting to find ‘me’ again.

xx

 

Body talk…

This week, with no intentional searching, I stumbled upon countless stories and images of the ‘post baby body’ (PBB). Chrissy Teigen, Sam Faiers, Anne Hathaway and even Rebecca Adlington have all been in the papers for that very topic. Some were ‘showing off’ their ‘toned’ ‘slender’, ‘sexy’ PBBs, whilst Rebecca was talking about how she’s embraced her ‘kangaroo’ body.

Great. Good for all of them. But I have one favour to ask my journalist friends. STOP! Please stop the continual obsession with mothers’ bodies. Yes, some women snap back straight away. Some take a few months or years. Some never regain the body they once had. Why make it news?

Yes, I know some of these celebs make money from their bodies (in a respectful way), so have to make sure they are slim again. Plus it gives them a reason to talk to magazines and get paid whilst they wait for their next ‘job’.

But there’s just no need to make it headline, or in some cases, front page news. As women we spend so much of our lives being bombarded with images, stories and ‘advice’ on achieving the perfect body, can’t we just get a break during this special and oh so precious time?! We have so many other things to worry about, this body pressure isn’t necessary.

Don’t get me wrong, I am conscious of my body more so than I was pre-children. I try to squeeze in some excercise every now and then and do keep a watchful eye on the latest health tips in the hope that I’ll one day squeeze back into my favourite dress. But it’s my choice to. Now that I’ve made it through the confusing, foggy state of caring for a newborn, I can think about who I was and who I want to be – and that includes my appearance. But when you’ve forgotten what a good night’s sleep feels like, smell of puke and feel like you need cake/chocolate/biscuits just to get through the day, the last thing you need is to be reminded of how you compare to other women’s squishiness or wasboard stomachness (I’ve created a new word).

Whether a new mum is back in her size 8s or ballooned to an 18, just leave them be. Her health and happiness and that of her newborn are far more important. It’s not fair to talk about it at a time when many of us are probably quite emotionally fragile anyway.

Yes, we could ‘praise’ Ms Adlington for ’embracing’ her new tummy, but by making a story of it, we are making more people conscious of it. Not just mothers, but everyone who comes into contact with a new mother. Just think how often you hear people mentioning how good someone looks ‘considering she just gave birth’. Its another way of pitting mothers against each other.

If you want to stuff you face with cake whilst baby naps, do it. If you want to work out, do it. Just do it for you and your happiness. Not to keep up with someone else. I’m sure you have enough on your plate.

Why don’t we focus on the beautiful wonder that is the newborn baby and the journey ahead of raising that child.

Post baby bodies don’t need to be part of the conversation.

So please, just stop.

X