I’ve dropped the balls!

You might have noticed I haven’t posted for a while. I’ve tried. I have about 5 drafts started and saved, but unfinished. If you ever read my piece about work life ‘balance’, you’ll know what I mean when I say I’ve dropped my balls!

Work has been busy, an expand role, lots of travel. Kids have been busy, matches, performance, tests. I haven’t exercised. I’ve eaten crap because of the stress, which has made me tired and therefore less motivated to go to the gym. Hubster had an injury rendering him unable to even pick up a toddler to put him to bed. Then once he was better, he had to travel for work, leaving me in charge of the tribe.

It’s been a tiring, calorie-laden, vicious circle. Then today was the tip of the iceberg. Rush home to cook dinner, a lovely herby buttered cod with new potatoes and steamed veg (yes, on a Wednesday!) and what do a do…. knock it over and smash it on the floor. Butter, cod and shards of glass everywhere!!

Fast forward to 6:45 and my children are sat on the living room floor eating fish & chips and some leftover sweetcorn. Total. Parenting. Fail. Balls totally dropped. Tears filling up and a feeling I have totally let everyone down. SO much so that in the rush to get them a replacement meal, I didn’t actually buy anything for myself!

But tomorrow is a new day. I’ll slowly but surely try to pick the balls back up, so nothing or nobody goes ignored. One more working day tomorrow, then I’m putting down the laptop to enjoy a fun day with my gang. It will no doubt involve more calories, but it will be quality time.

Sometimes, when things get hectic, you just have to pause, take a breath and remind yourself why you are doing this. Then I’ll gradually work out which balls to pick up when and which to start throwing.

Bring on the weekend. And the balls!

 

Let’s talk about Flex! 💪🏿 

So on Friday Boy 2 and I packed our cold selves off into Manchester City centre to take part in the latest #FlexAppeal flash mob hosted by the insta-famous @motherpukka and @papapukka. 

I donned my Lycra and flexed to the music, along with 200+ other parents and little ones to campaign for flexible working. 

Why? Because everyone should have the right to work and live. It’s not just about parents trying to save money on childcare. Or about allowing people to rock into the office three hours late with a hangover. 

It’s about giving people a bit of flexibility in the working life, without fear of being held back from career progression. 

It’s about realising that people can bring more to the workplace if they are able to develop their lives outside of it. Whether that’s because they are walking their dog for thinking time, or taking a course to enhance their skills, or even God forbid, pick their child up from school every now and then. 

It’s about recognising that advances in technology and the changes in our workforce mean that so many job roles (or elements of them) could easily be done from home, coffee shops or on-the-go. 

It’s about employers trusting their staff to get the job done, even if they have a late start or early finish. 

It’s about realising the next generation of workers aka ‘Millennials’ will expect to be able to fit work and life together easily, without jumping through a million hoops and feeling guilty for it. They’ll automatically be prepared to juggle the two in a way that works for them. 

It’s about acknowledging the facts. The stats that say the UK economy would benefit by £165 MILLION if flexible working was more widely available for parents and non-parents alike. That’s a lot of cash money and I have a sneaky suspicion our country could do with it right now. 

Far too many women are discriminated against for getting pregnant or asking to attend the odd assembly when they retun to work. It ain’t right! 

Attending this event made me realise just how common this sneaky discrimination is. I also realised I’m kind of ok when it comes to my job. I work 4 days a week and thankfully have an employer who is good at protecting that day off. And my hard work has been acknowledged – without me having to bang someone’s door down. It might not be perfect for everyone, but that’s what #flexappeal is asking for….Flexibility that works for yet benefits everyone!  

We can’t keep losing smart, talented people because of restrictive, old-fashioned approaches to work. 

When you have a spare minute check out www.motherpukka.co.uk. She’s very entertaining. Her employers’ loss is our gain. If you are on instagram check out @motherpukka and @papapukka. Use the hashtag #FlexAppeal and you might spot me trying stop Boy 2 from running off whilst I try to keep up with the routine. Or just see below 😬


But if you do anything else, please just spread the word about the importance of flexible working. 

*Mental & Capital Wellbeing Report 2016

** photo courtesy of Bec Lupton via MotherPukka 

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. 

 

Why work-life ‘balance’ isn’t for me

When I had Boy1 and declared my intention to go back to work, I became overwhelmed by conversations, articles, reports and the like about finding the ‘balance’ between work and home life. As someone who prides themselves on their organisational skill, I thought I’d have it sorted quickly. Schedules, reminders, booking things waaay in advance, I did it all. All in the name of ‘balance’.

But something wasn’t right. Whilst I looked like I was on top of it for the first few months, I was genuinelly beating myself up because I felt I hadn’t found that ‘balance’. I constantly felt confused and guilty for not getting it right, because I my time and headspace just weren’t evenly split between work and life.

Then at some point, about three months in, I had to question if balance was what I actually aspired to.

Emotionally my family will always be more of a priority than my work.  Yet in terms of time, at the moment anyway, I have to spend more days at work than with my family. I can’t expect both to be equal. Plus ‘life’ covers so many more elements than ‘work’, from spending time with children, feeding/clothing them, transporting them to clubs and classes, housekeeping, seeing friends, not forgetting my husband, oh and doing stuff for me (which usually involves a monthly trip to the gym, a 5min eyebrow appointment, or a sneaky coffee whilst child is asleep in the buggy).

Balance wasn’t right for me. In my mind it implies some kind of equilibrium, with all elements taking an equal share of the big chunky, mixed up, pie that is my life. But I don’t want my work to be equal to my children, or eyebrows for that matter. What I actually want is the ability to prioritise the different elements of my life (work included) at different times without feeling guilty. For me, that’s different to balance.

These days, I try to avoid the term altogether. I prefer to use the analogy of juggling. When you are a competent juggler, you have a number of different balls to deal with. At any one time, you’ll have at least one ball in your hand, you know exactly where it is. The other balls are up in the air dangling above your head. You know where they are but they don’t have all of your attention just yet.

Last week I was at my desk, work ball securely in hand, until I got a call from the childminder to say Boy2 was unwell and needed to go home. At that point I had to make a decision. I had to throw my proverbial work ball up in the air so I could grab hold of my motherhood ball.

Once he had been tended to back home, I then had to take hold of the housework ball and sort out food. Then the teacher ball came out and I helped Boy1 with some homework. Once that was done, the work ball was back in hand for a couple of hours.

You see, this is what happens in life. Not just for working parents, but anyone who works and has a life of some sort. Its all about knowing which balls need to be in your hand at any given time and which balls you can let go of, safe in the knowledge you’ll grab hold of them again. Sometimes you will have to let go of the motherhood ball and miss an assembly, so that you can go to that all important work meeting. But sometimes you’ll decide to throw the housework ball up in the air so you can go splashing in puddles with the mummy ball. And don’t ever forget the ‘you’ ball. It’s usually the smallest one in my juggling bag, but I try not to forget it (the eyebrows are a visual reminder).

None of these balls can be let go of for too long, otherwise they’ll all fall down around you. That’s happened to me on a fair few occasions, but as soon as you drop them, pick them back up and start again, maybe at a different pace, with a different style or with some help.

I’ve come to realise that I can’t let anyone else’s juggling style influence my own. Everyone will have a different number of balls of different sizes or weights and they’ll need to juggle at a different pace. I’ve had to find my own style. And guess what, the guilt levels have reduced massively.

People might say I’ve found a balance, but I’ve really just become a great juggler. Let’s face it I feel like a bit of a clown at times, but hey, my kids seem to love me for it.

xx

Disclaimer: the juggling analogy is just how I view juggling. I could have it totally wrong. I am by no means a competent juggler in real life, so any jugglers out there should not take offence.

NOTE: This post first appeared on the fabulous Selfish Mother

Starting my transformation 

With just a week to go until I head back to the working world, I’ve decided to start sorting my appearance out. 

The weightloss hasn’t quite worked out as planned, so I’m feeling a bit self conscious about being back in the office, knowing I can’t live in jeans and baggy tops. I know that appearance isn’t everything and that I should focus on getting my kids sorted and doing my best at work, but I really do feel more positive and confident if I’m happy with what I’m wearing. 

On Sunday hubby and I hit Cheshire Oaks outlet village in Ellesmere Port. Not only did we get to spend the day picking up bargains, but we did it without children… How decadent! 

Just being able to browse through clothes AND try them on without squeezing a buggy into the changing room made me feel like ‘old me’. 
  
It’s not just how you look on the outside that can impact confidence, well-fitting underwear can make the difference. Our bodies change after having children so I’d always recommend getting yourself fitted for a new bra. It can completely change the way an outfit looks, usually for the better. 

 

Last but no means least, I invested in a decent lipstick and nail varnish. I’ve tried to keep wearing lipstick whilst I’ve been off, but it tends to wear off by the time I’ve left the school gates at 9. 

I’ve picked up a lovely colour from Bobbi Brown as their styles tend to last a bit longer. I think the saying goes “a bright lip diverts from a tired eye”. 

 

So that’s the easy bit done. Now it’s just the matter of getting Boy1 settled in with the childminder, Boy2 used to early wake ups,  and Hubby prepared for helping with housework again.
It won’t be easy but at least I’ll look fabulous whilst making it happen.