#MiddleClassRebel

I walk into the kitchen to find Boy2 with the fridge door wide open, trying to open a pot of houmous! 

My mum, who helps out with looking after him a couple of days a week, told me that he stole the smoked salmon off her plate at breakfast time! 

I have some how managed to create some kind of middle class monster. I laugh, but do wonder if I should be exposing him to more crap. Not just food wise, but generally in life. 

My mother moved to the uk when she was just 18. From living in a dingy flat in Nottingham, to a cold terraced house in Salford and eventually a lovely three bed and the leafy ‘burbs’, she worked her ass off to provide for us. She used every penny she had to pay for our education (I’ll share my thoughts on education another time). 

We were lucky enough to witness her struggle and the eventual rewards. We are eternally grateful for what she sacrificed to make sure her children put on the right path. I think it’s paid off. We all have decent jobs, work hard, have good friends, give to charity etc. 

But now that she’s put the hard work in, she’s got these middle class grand children. They live in a nice part of Manchester, have good schools on their doorsteps and a wealth of extra curricular activities to choose from. 

Life is good. It could be better, and I want it to be better for them, but I’m acutely aware that by reaping the benefits and rewards of a previous generation’s struggle, they become less aware of how hard life can be.

Yes they know about poverty and drought. But that’s different to the everyday battles educated and focused people go through to provide for their dependents. They don’t realise that whilst they are tucking into brioche on a Saturday morning, their neighbours or class mates could be counting the number of slices of bread left to get them through before pay day. 

I’m not sure exactly what point I’m making in this post. I guess I just don’t want my children to take for granted the half decent lives they have been given, by becoming ignorant to others. 

Or is this just a case of middle class mother worries?? 

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. 

 

Holiday prep, or lack of

I finished work today and won’t return for 17 days (yay!) as we are heading off on our road trip to France tomorrow. I should be excited, relaxed, but I’m not. Why? Because holiday prep with kids is so different. The boys are sorted, I started early….

  • New ‘holiday clothes’ bought – I still don’t know why we do this. My children look presentable most of the time, yet for holidays we want them to look photo-shoot ready
  • Sandals bought
  • Passport photos done – I’m sure they get more and more expensive every year. Apart from passports, what elser do people use these tiny photos for?
  • Passports ordered in advance
  • European Health Insurance card ordered for Boy2 – Thankfully these last a good few years so none of us will need new ones for a while. These are really important (I learned this during a fateful night in Ayia Napa many years ago. I’ll spare you the details, but believe me I’ll never regret taking the five minutes to complete the form. And now they are online!
  • Drinks and snacks sorted
  • Toys and activities for the road trip
  • Bought new contents for my make shift first aid kit: plasters, calpol, allergy medicines
  • Printed off the all-important Disneyland tickets 

It’s 1030pm, but I’m not sorted. I still need to:

  • Pack holiday clothes (I only treated myself to two new items after spending a small fortune on the  boys)
  • Try on said holiday clothes and pray to the holiday gods they still fit
  • Download a couple of books to read
  • Paint my nails
  • Clean the kitchen (I hate coming back to a dirty kitchen, it just kills your holiday vibe) 
  • Write a list for my mother re feeding the fish etc 

I guess even after eight years of being a mother I still haven’t admitted to myself that before the holiday ‘relaxation’ comes the stress and panic. It’s all about getting the little ones sorted before I can give myself a thought. 

Ah well, it’s all worth it. Bring on the early start! 

Work work work….

This past couple of weeks I’ve been reminded of how hard it is to keep on top of all the elements of ‘life’ when work so easily takes over. 

When a work load piles up and there’s genuinely nobody to delegate to, you have to face it head on. This can mean continuing my work day in the evenings, after meal times and bed times are sorted. It’s not fun. I should be at the gym or chatting to the husband. Instead I’m face deep in my laptop, Tv on to make me feel less guilty (trying to convince myself I’m actually watching it), not sure when I’ll finally go to sleep.

Food planning has slipped, washing piles up more quickly, general house admin goes to pot. I’m going to bed late and waking up early. I’m probably a little bit cranky with it too! 

It’s interesting how modern life has some how managed to make work so important. It’s so easy to drop other elements when it comes to issues about work. Why do we so often let it take over? 

I saw a photo online saying ‘don’t let anything stop you from going to church that wouldn’t stop you from going to work.’ Although it’s clearly targeted at a Christian audience, it could be applied to a lot of situations. We make excuses for not doing certain things, but rarely for work. Whether it’s plans with friends or a trip with the kids, it’s always easy to find an excuse. Tiredness, hangover, double booked. Would you use those with your boss?! 

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves about the other important things in our lives before work takes over. 

I’ve written before about my work-life juggling analogy, which helps deal with the many ‘balls’ of life. 

I have to remind myself that, as much as I might moan, I know this work situation is temporary. This particular ball needs to be held right now, but I’ve got plans to grab the others so I don’t drop them completely. 

I must keep on juggling. So should you.