Tag: parenting

Christmas traditions…is it time to break them?

What are your Christmas traditions? For Grump and I, who have been together for a looooooong time, we always go for a curry on Christmas Eve. Pre-kids we used to go to the pub with our friends and then off for a drunken curry at 10pm (not ideal for digestion or the hangover the next day, I know!). Since having the J, we have still had our Xmas Eve curry, but as a relaxed takeaway at home, once she had gone to bed. She is now coming up to 3 years old and I feel that this is the first year she really understands Christmas. So it got me thinking about traditions and what we could start with her.

The J is old enough to get excited about Father Christmas (FC) and receiving presents, but young enough to not really understand or question the mechanics of how it all works. This year, I plan for us to write a letter to FC and leave him a mince pie, a glass of sherry and a carrot for Rudolph (as I did as a child). FC will bring her a stocking on Xmas day (full of Pound Shop goodies) and then all of the other bigger presents will be from family members/friends. Why should a fictional character get all the credit for the lovely presents that other people have bought her?!

I’m not convinced on Christmas Eve boxes, as it is giving yet more presents and the J got very overwhelmed with the level of presents last year. This year we have cut back massively. For me, the magic of Christmas is spending time with people you love – and eating an obscene amount of roast potatoes. Perhaps in the future, we could watch a Christmas film together as a family on Christmas Eve? And when the J is a bit older, we can get her properly into eating curry! Annabel Karmel’s microwave chicken tikka just doesn’t cut it.

I know that FC is about creating Christmas magic, but all of this lying is very stressful as a parent. I’d be interested to know what you tell your kids about FC and also which presents are from him? To make things worse, everywhere we go we’ve seen an FC with a very fake beard. Even in Sainsbury’s! Do you say it is a regional representative of FC? The lies are spiralling. But, I’m not going to be that parent who tells their child the truth and ruins Christmas for everyone else.

So this year we are breaking our tradition as a couple and all going for an early dinner at a local pub with my parents, as we won’t see them on Christmas Day. The plus point is that we can walk there in under 5 minutes and they serve delicious food (and wine…)! While it isn’t curry, the world isn’t going to end because we have broken tradition. I’m pretty sure that Tom’s family will thank us on Christmas Day when we aren’t doing smelly curry farts all day, too!

While I am keen to start a family tradition with the J, I also don’t want to be tied down to having to follow through with something elaborate and expensive every year. Don’t even get me started on Elf on the Shelf – that little sod is not welcome in our house.

As a final note: don’t forget to explain to your little ones that they can’t open presents sitting under the tree. Last night, I heard rustling and caught the J opening one of the presents (ironically it was for her). I did tell her off, but she was a bit confused as to what she had done wrong. I might have forgotten that we hid the presents last year and had not made it clear that we don’t open anything until Christmas Day. Bless her heart!

Happy Christmas to you all, whatever your traditions are.

Women at work: lawyer

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Continuing my series on women going back to work after having a baby, this week we meet an ambitious lawyer who is refreshingly honest about wanting to get back to work and showing a strong work ethic to her son.

 

How did you get into law?

From a young age, my dad always told me he thought “law was a good job” and I basically followed his advice (and am thankful for it). I took the traditional route of studying law at university, then onto law school for a year followed by a two-year training contract with a law firm, before eventually then qualifying as a lawyer (which I have now been for almost 13 years).

Briefly, describe a typical day at work…

No day is ever the same – which is one of the many things I love about my job. However, typically it might look like this: Early morning tends to see some form of management meeting (maybe a Business Development meeting, firm strategy meeting or a Graduate Recruitment issue – I am also the firm’s Training Principal and Graduate Recruitment Partner). Then it’s client work, which can be anything from meetings, calls, document reviews, drafting, court applications and hearings. I am a private client lawyer and specialise in a mixture of contentious and non-contentious trusts and estates work. Lunch might be a training session or another internal meeting – or it might actually be lunch! The afternoon will be back on client work, which will see me through to the early evening and then it’s either home or it might be a networking event.

What is the best part of your job?

I absolutely love the variety of my work and the fact that I am challenged every day. I knew early on that dealing with pure transactional work was not for me, but working in a large corporate city firm means I am very fortunate with the type of clients I have. By way of example, I can be looking at succession planning for high-net-worth individuals who might hold large companies or landed estates, negotiating deals with national heritage bodies to save estates for the nation or I might be dealing with applications being brought against trustees of multi-million-pound trusts. I also feel very fortunate to work with some of the brightest lawyers and barristers and not just in the UK.

And the worst?

The hours are long and clients’ expectations are high – but then so they should be, as ultimately I work in a client-service industry. As a partner, there are also a lot of demands on you that come from other areas, such as the need to build your practice. This involves not just doing the work on your desk, but going out searching for the work too and investing time in other areas for the firm’s growth – in my case Graduate Recruitment and the development of our trainees. Juggling the demands of a busy career and making time for the important role of business development, and ensuring we recruit and retain the best talent does have its challenges and very often I feel there are not enough hours in the day!

How many children do you have?

I have one delightful little boy who is almost 21 months old.

How old was your child when you went back to work?

My son was 10 months old. I started my maternity leave three days before he arrived (which wasn’t planned, although in fairness I hadn’t left myself much time as was aiming for a week of feet up on the sofa before he arrived). Part of the reason in leaving it to the last minute was because I had decided early on to take 10 months and return to work full time, so I wanted to make sure I used all of my maternity leave with him.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?

The honest answer is that I was actually rather desperate to get back to work. To some, this might sound horrific, but that does not mean that I didn’t find it hard leaving my son, nor do I find it easy that I don’t see him as much as I did. But I have got my own identity back and I also truly believe that it is important for my son to see me working and understand the importance of a strong work ethic.

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?

I went back to exactly the same job and never considered doing anything but this.

Who provides childcare for you?

We have a nanny for three days a week and our son attends nursery two days a week. I work from home on one of the nursery days so I can do the pickup and I sometimes leave the office before 5pm on a nanny day so I can do bedtime. This allows me to see my son one or two nights during the working week and my hugely-supportive husband is responsible for all the other days in terms of getting home on time to do pick up/relieve the nanny.

Was it easy to negotiate flexible working/returning to work?

I was in a very fortunate position, as being a partner I am ultimately responsible for my own practice. Of course, going back full time meant little was changing, but I was able to make the decision about working from home and if I want to leave early I just do – but if I do I am then in the study after bedtime logging on and catching up on emails for a couple of hours.

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?

I still have the same career aspirations I always had and, in that regard, my career has stayed very important to me, but I do work more efficiently now and I do say no to things. I can’t go to every drinks evening (and lawyers do find themselves at a lot of these!) and I have to think carefully about travel that takes me away from home for a few days as I have other responsibilities now. However, I believe in balance and sometimes there is something in the work calendar that is very important and I have to prioritise this, and other times I cancel things to make sure I see my son.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?

Make the most of the time, as it goes so quickly. Try to get out and about as much as you can. Meet new mums and make an effort. Maternity leave can be lonely and you need to have at least one person that you can be open and honest with and call on for a coffee. I would also say don’t feel guilty if you pine for the office (or equivalent). Having a baby and how that changes your life is very personal to you – my own view is that I don’t believe motherhood defines you. It certainly adds a new layer to you and brings a new element to your life that brings so much joy. But for some (and I absolutely accept it’s not for everyone) being a working mum can make you a better mum and don’t be afraid of accepting that if you fall into that category as I certainly did. If you miss work while you are on maternity leave then do whatever you can to keep in touch. Take the baby into the office, log in and check the odd email – do whatever keeps you sane! Quite frankly, maternity leave can be really hard work and yes there is coffee and cake (and sure I miss this now and again) but it’s not a breeze by any stretch.

 

 

 

Second-best blues: how it feels to be the least favourite parent

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I was inspired to write this post after the J had a crying fit because she didn’t want Mummy to put her to bed. She only wanted Daddy. And I have to say, it hurt my feelings (I may have the beginnings of PMT today, but I still feel this is a justified response).

We as Mothers don’t often have to play second-best with our children. In the traditional family model, it was the Mum who primarily looked after the kids (and so got to be the favourite) – it was certainly like that when I was growing up. These days things are very different and have certainly changed for the better in terms of shared parental duties etc. I always wanted Grump and I to have equal responsibility for the J and he is a very ‘hands on’ dad (I don’t like this phrase, as it implies that being ‘hands on’ is extra special and not just part of his job as a father, but you get my gist).

As Grump is a teacher, he has more time off than the average father to spend with our daughter. This works well for me, especially with freelancing, as it means I can take on more work in the school holidays, with free childcare to boot!

However, I have noticed that during those times when I am working more and Grump is in charge, the J goes off me. She constantly asks for Daddy, runs to him for cuddles and just seems disinterested in me.

She did this once before at around age 1. I vividly remember being at a friend’s son’s 1st birthday party that had a children’s entertainer. All the Mums were sat on the floor with the children, singing and joining in and the dads were stood at the side chatting. I tried to sit with the J, but she wasn’t having any of it. She wanted Daddy. And so I took on the role of a spectator with the other Dads and felt really left out. It hurts when you are not wanted. Granted it was nice to have a break and scoff down some party food, but I was embarrassed when every time I tried to pick up or cuddle my child she cried. I had spoken to a friend about this problem beforehand and she came up to me after the party and said that she had no idea how bad it was. Of course, over time things got better. Grump went back to work and Mummy was favourite again. But that party always sticks in my mind. I wonder if this is how many Dads feel on a regular basis?

As she has got older (now almost 17 months), the J has become more confident and now has close relationships with Grandma, Granny and her childminder. She is happy to be left with them, as well as myself and Grump. As her affections are split between more people, she tends to be happy with whoever is happy to play with, feed or cuddle her.

Over the last week or so, Grump has broken up on school holidays and he has become the firm favourite. I think this might also have something to do with the fact that he gives her more treats (fruit juice from his glass, chocolate etc), whereas I am perhaps a bit more strict (water only!!).

Tonight, it was me who spent 20 minutes singing songs with her, throwing balls down the hall way, and getting splashed during bath time. When we tried to get her ready for bed she kept running off and wouldn’t get dressed. Grump was unsuccessful at getting on her PJs and he admitted to me that it had taken him half an hour to get her dressed this morning. I decided to show him what I normally do, which involves firmly holding her down and putting clothes on her.

She cried a little, but nothing major and then Grump put his arms out for a cuddle and said “Horrible mummy”. Now I know he was joking, but the J is taking everything in at the moment and understands a lot. She looked at me with a heartbreaking stare as if to say, “I don’t like you”. Then she wouldn’t come to me for a cuddle. I had to tell Grump to leave the room and force a crying child to be cuddled until she had her milk and settled down. Not fun at all.

The only way I can describe that feeling is when you were younger and you fancied/had a massive crush on a boy, and you found out that they didn’t like you back. That sad sinking feeling. Your affections are not returned.

But when you’ve carried a baby for 9 months and gone through labour, you expect to get the best cuddles and kisses from your child – not Daddy who didn’t go through any pain (apart from a squashed hand). It’s not fair.

Now I’m sitting on the sofa, feeling put out. The answer…?

There isn’t one, except the knowledge that at some point the tables will turn and I will be her favourite again. Although it makes me sad to think that Grump will feel like this at some point, or has done in the past. Being number two just isn’t fun. A big shout out to all the Dads or Mums out there who know how I feel. But when they do run to you for a cuddle or desperately call you name, that feeling is so amazing and special that it makes all the other tough times worthwhile.

 

Women at Work: copywriter and author

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This week we have an experienced mum with three kids at school. She currently works from home and has done a few different jobs throughout her career before sticking at, what sounds like, her passion.

 

Name: Nicola Young

Current profession: copywriter and author

Town or county you live in: Sevenoaks

How did you get into copywriting?
I’ve been writing copy since I started my first job following university. I worked for the Food Standards Agency and wrote articles for trade magazines, text for leaflets, speeches and q&a’s for parliamentary question time, and answered enquiry emails. Every job I had after that always saw me gravitating towards anything involving the written word, so moving into copywriting was a natural step for me.

Briefly describe a typical day at work…
I work from home so there is no typical day for me. I have an office in the garden, so once the kids have gone to school and I’ve walked the dog, I’ll make myself a strong coffee and take myself down there for a few hours. What I do depends on what I’m working on, but generally, I do a lot of business blog articles, product copy and website pages. If I get time, I’ll do some editing, writing or planning for my fiction work.

What is the best part of your job?
I like the flexibility of what I do. I can go from meeting mode to mum mode within five minutes and back again. That’s not for everyone, but it works for me.

And the worst?
Some of the things I have to write about aren’t of any interest to me, but it’s the nature of the job. I also find that some people aren’t prepared to pay very much and don’t appreciate how much research you have to do before you even begin to write the words.

How many children do you have?
I have three children – 13, 10 and eight.

How old was your child when you went back to work?
I first worked part-time when my eldest daughter was just a few months old. I trained as an exercise-to-music instructor when I was pregnant! And ran a few classes in a local hall.

How did you find going back to work after having a baby?
It was hard because she didn’t particularly like being left with anyone else, but at the same time, I enjoyed those few hours of free time.

Did you go back to the same job? Or consider a career change?
This was a complete move away from the market research job I had pre-children. I didn’t start freelance copywriting until I’d had my third child.

Who provides childcare for you?
I don’t need childcare because they are all at school now.

Would you say your attitude to work has changed since having a baby?
My children are my priority and the older they get, the more they need me around for support. I would always make sure I work around them.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
If you think you might like to continue with your current career, I would advise you to keep your toe in the water. The longer you are away, the more difficult it is to get back into work mode. On the other side of things, don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself, if that’s what you think you might like to do. Having time off is the ideal opportunity to think about where you see your future career going.

Nicola Young is a freelance copywriter at Nicola Young Copywriter.

She writes children’s fiction under the name Nikki Young and runs a food and health blog at www.afreefromlife.com

 

 

Women at Work: SAHM

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This week, the mum I have interviewed has an extremely demanding job that involves long unsociable hours, temperamental work colleagues and is completely unpaid. Yes, she is a stay at home mum (SAHM) or (as my cousin who is also a SAHM likes to say) she is working in the home!

 

Name: Victoria Whitewood

Current profession: Stay at home mum (SAHM)

Town or county you live in: Sevenoaks, Kent

What was your profession before you had children?
Deputy Headteacher

Why did you decide not to return to work?
A few reasons contributed to this:

  • I have loved being at home with my daughter Kitty full time much more than I had thought I would. I had thought I might want to return to work in some capacity, although I definitely knew I would not want to be full time again. As the time drew closer to go back, I knew I didn’t want to.
  • Teaching is not set hours and I didn’t want to go back to marking all hours once I am back at home. Now we have a baby, I want to make sure that my husband Chris and I get some time together of an evening.
  • I can easily go back to teaching at a later date. (Especially if the worrying shortage of teachers continues.)
  • I have a health issue and decided that at this moment, returning to teaching would not be the right thing for us as a family.

How many children do you have?
One.

Briefly describe a typical day…
Sometime between 6-7am we wake up and I get Kitty changed and dressed, head downstairs and get her morning bottle ready. I normally give her to her Dad so he can feed her bottle while I feed our animals (we have cats and rabbits). I try to jump in the shower while Chris is still at home, as Kitty is at that stage where grabbing the shower screen and throwing things into the running water constitutes fun for her (and nobody else).

In the morning we normally do an activity, could be a class or playgroup, but if we aren’t going out then I will try to do a messy play or an activity at home to break up the day for us both. Lunch is sometime between 12-1pm, depending on what time she wakes up. Sometimes she naps in the morning, or sometimes after lunch; her routine isn’t quite set yet. In the afternoon we do lots of play and always lots of listening to music, which is one of Kitty’s favourite things to do; thankfully I have quite a few CDs for her, which keeps it fresh for me!

Dinner about is about 5.30pm and afterwards, we play in living room, but this playtime can be more subdued than earlier in the day as she is often starting to get tired (although sometimes she can suddenly find a ton of energy!).

Bath time every other day at about 7pm; bottle around 7:15pm; and bed time about 7:30pm.

What is the best part of being a SAHM?
Not missing out on anything that my gorgeous girl does. At this moment in time, laughing every day with her is the best thing in the world. She is so funny and loves playing games and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

And the worst?
Occasionally losing sight of the fact that I am not just a mum. There are tough times and, when things are tricky, it is easy to get bogged down in it all – especially if there is a severe lack of sleep involved. I had a few days away recently and that has totally reinvigorated me.

What advice would you give to mums on maternity leave?
Enjoy it, whether you are returning to work or not. Spend time with other mums, as that support network can make such a difference in the early, often disconcerting days, but also as time goes on. Baby classes are a great way to get out and about. I had some quite tough times with Kitty’s tongue-tie affecting feeding and then she had awful reflux; it would have been easy to stay home and not see people, but getting out definitely made it all seem better. Even being able to hand over my baby to someone else for five minutes made a huge difference. Getting out of the house can be hard, but it is totally worth it, even if you are very late for something.

Do you have any tips for other SAHMs?
Take some time for yourself each week if you can; I know this isn’t always possible for everyone depending on family and/or partner circumstances or support, so it is easy to say, but for me, it makes all the difference. Buddying up with another mum can work to give each other a short break if you don’t have the family support available.