Oh the joy of being ‘Mum’

I am going to try not to sound bitter in this next paragraph….

My cycle test to be a bikeability instructor for primary and secondary schools went well and they want me to do the full course. Downside being that, as a Mum of a 2 year old, childcare costs will mean my earnings are minimal. However this will improve as he gets closer to school age. Hubby doesnt understand this. Thinks I should stay at home until I am in a position to earn ‘decent money’. But when will that be…. when they turn 18? The fact is that jobs that fit around school time dont tend to be big earners. But when I have proposed to hubby that I take on the full-time breadwinner role and that he stays at home, he back-pedals faster than Chris Hoy in reverse. Why is it women who have to organise and deduct childcare from their salary thus limiting what they can actually do as a job?

So I guess my issue is not with parenthood but society’s historic approach to womanhood.

On a separate note, Oxfam emailed me about the appalling situation in South Sudan, which seems to be un-reported in the media. The country is nearing a famine and thousands of families are in refugee camps living in appalling conditions…… all because of war. If you can help please visit this site.

This blog is for Unicef. As i missed last night’s blog, £1 in the pot to Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

PS I did feel a bit of an idiot in my over-sized hi-vis gear and my panic buy helmet from Halfords, particularly when positioned next to  lycra clad and cycle shoe heeled streamlined instructor.

PPS, if you are in need of a laugh,check out the Sam Mendes film ‘Away We Go’.






The careers race – who will win?

My husband and I are engaging in a careers race. His body is broken and he needs to switch into the slow lane, my career has ground to a halt as most of you know thanks to the HMRC. But to get a job that makes childcare worthwhile, i need an experience level that i havent had the chance to attain. No wonder most women leave it til their forties before they have children, because then they at least stand half a chance of earning enough after childcare to make it worth their while (assuming they spent their twenties and thirties climbing the ladder). I spent my twenties and thirties in labour/toddler groups and voluntary roles  sandwiched between two dead-end jobs.

So when my husband eggs me on to go for the ‘big roles’ that I know i dont have a cat in hell’s chance of even getting to interview, i start to get frustrated by what is expected – Mum and career woman – aahh! I give it my best shot while cursing i wasnt born with a willy.

Then i moan at my husband for not focusing enough on his career change because of the continued effort to bring the pennies in – you cant really blame him for that can you?

All the while i wonder how many couples are going through the exact same issues and what, if anything, can be done about it?

At the moment we are taking the machine gun approach to job applications – a fast-track route to feeling rather shit about yourself rather quickly.

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

Maternity leave or better pay?

Today I broke the news to my boss about HMRC’s decision. The option to improve the salary was quickly squandered and the other alternative that he offered was to work from home, although he later back-tracked from that idea. So, since receiving the news from HMRC last Thursday, i will now be leaving my job next Thursday after four years (because i was due to finish for the school summer holidays anyway). I have yet to find out from HR  whether i will be required to return to complete outstanding notice in September, I hope not as I will incur further childcare costs that exceed my salary.

I was also interviewing for the maternity cover post for my colleague. Three candidates were interviewed. Myself and my colleague favoured the woman with the most experience and skills set. My boss wasnt so keen, feigning surprise at her independent school background saying she was “a little rough around the edges”. What he really disliked was the lack of a posh accent and her short skirt. If I was to be brutally honest, the woman he preferred was very pretty and lovely but with nowhere near the same skills-set or experience. He felt that she would be a better ‘fit’ within the department – more like he has one eye on the hareem of good-looking women he has in his office. The only problem is that women have children and need maternity leave and money for childcare – damned inconvenient.

When my Mum had me in 1980, there wasnt such a thing as maternity leave, but she did at least get paid enough to afford childcare when she returned to work a few weeks later. Supposedly in 2014 we have ‘moved on’ but what is the point of maternity leave if most mothers cant afford to return to work anyway?

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.


Eco motorsport gets a Legge up

I am very pleased today about two things. The first that a friend from school has secured a drive to enhance her racing career, the second is that she will be driving in Formula E – an eco version of Formula One – about time too that these two boxes have been ticked – a woman at the top of motorsport and environmentally friendly racing.

Also any thing that makes the likes of Jeremy Clarkson squirm and grumble is a good thing. Not that I dont like the guy, i think he is quite entertaining, but he does come out with complete crap sometimes – a bit like Boris Johnson (just less frequent).

So well done to fellow school-mate Katherine Legge for continuing to push for a career in an industry that is more male dominated than a working men’s club and well done to her sponsors Amlin Aguri, for backing her.

And as for Formula E – what it lacks in sound and fumes it will more than make up for in edge-of-your-seat racing. Watch this space…..

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

High-earning Mums Receiving Childcare (HMRC)

Further to yesterday’s post, my call to HMRC this morning left me with no other choice but to quit my job. It is not until something is taken away that you begin to realise how much it is appreciated in your life. This is the case with my job. I have been with the company for 4 years, enjoy working with the team, the variety of the workload and the work environment. The simple fact is i can no longer ‘afford’ to work there. Now HMRC have said our joint  income is  over the threshold, they will no longer contribute towards my childcare costs. My salary only exceeds my childcare costs by £50 and that is before fuel, so i would effectively be paying to go to work. It seems it is a luxury if you are a working mum earning less than £15 per hour to keep the wheels of your career turning, if you want o work before your child is at school and your husband earns at least 20k. In other words, unless you are earning megabucks, the Government want you to be a good wife and stay at home with the children.

As much as i love baby boy, i also enjoy some time at work and I am not altogether thrilled at the prospect of being at home 5 daus a week, but i have done it before when my daughter was my som’s age, so he may as well get the same level of attention. Some people would argue, ‘if you dont want to look after them full-time, why bother having kids’? Which has an element of truth, in an ideal world i would share this responsibility with my husband but  i can only justifiably do this if i can match his salary or exceed it. This is tricky when my CV already has gaps from previous spells of ull-time parenting.

I have just got to do what most mums have to do and ‘suck it up’ , whatever ‘it’ is. This scenario goes to show that Kirstie Allsopp’s view that young women are better getting married and having children in their twenties makes far more sense than spending years getting qualified, only for it to all fall by the wayside once children come along – because to work is a lifestyle choice, only worthwhile for Mums in the top income brackets.

Now…..where is my pinny?

The only Mums who can work are the HMRC – High-earning Mums Receiving Childcare

This blog is for Unicef – thanks for reading

The cry of the banshee

I have now spent 6 straight days as a single mother. Sure Daddy has been back since Thursday night, but other than helping out with the final moments of the bedtime routine, he has been busy catching up on all the  work he missed out while he was on his course. So, a hacking cough, mild nausea, a period, lack of sleep plus the constant demands of being a Mum are taxing to say the least. I was up half the night with baby boy vomiting everywhere and then my husband expects gratitude for having sorted their breakfast out the following morning so i could ‘lie-in’ til 8. Well i didnt feel like being grateful because why should he get thanks when i dont get any? Why is the woman expected to ‘pick up the tab’ regardless, but when the man does it he should get a fanfare. I could understand it if i had been at home all week, but actually i worked 3 days flat-out. But apparently that doesnt count as i earn ‘pittance’. It is not my fault that childcare costs come out of my wages and that fuel prices are so high. Maybe I would be better off staying at home full-time but where would that leave my cv after 2 years of doing jack? So i am doing what i’m sure a lot of Mums are doing and stomaching a crap salary just to keep the cv ticking over.

With a demanding male boss at work and one at home, is it any wonder that i almost called my boss by my husband’s name the other day, but thankfully i caught the first syllable before it was out.

Dont get me wrong, i love my husband and my children but sometimes they make me want to indulge in some primal screaming. Maybe that’s what the screaming banshee is really all about, a woman at night finally losing the plot. Technically, it’s meant to be the call of a vixen, maybe she feels pretty hacked off too.

Another £1 in the pot to Unicef for last night’s missed post. I have raised well over £100 now – at least this mindless ranting is put to some good use.

Thanks for reading.

Let’s hear it for the girls

Sorry I was absent last night. I hit my Thursday night wall again for the second time. I have this wonderful boss who is very charming and this helps in his powers of delegation. He askes me to focus on one project and then keeps adding to my task list, forgetting that I work 22 hours a week. I’m not the modern day Cinderella, my work more resembles the ugly stepsister trying to squeeze work into the petite shoe that is my part-time hours. I’m sure part-timers the world over are nodding their heads in sage agreement.  I also got a dose of what it is like to be a single working-mum, as hubby was away. Hence me hitting the deck as soon as possible. Single working mothers I bow down to you all in awe – hats off girls and keep up the good work!

Of course I also took advantage of hubby being away by organising a girls night in. I also gave myself a night-off from checking the nutritional info o the back of pre-prepared food, so just chucked some dips on the table and breadsticks and let the girls let rip. I had my fair share too plus a couple of glasses of wine. So I was incredibly puzzled when I found myself upchucking over the toilet bowl in the small hours – has my diet made my tummy completely intolerant of anything mildly rubbish? I don’t know, needless to say I haven’t touched the dips since, I am also a bit scared of the crisps …and rose wine.

In my bid  for the bed and rest, I missed the England Men’s football, what a shame….lost again.

But on the flip side, look how well the women are doing:

England’s Women are just one point away from next summer’s World Cup after a narrow 2-1 win in Ukraine.

Mark Sampson’s side have won all eight qualifiers to date and are five points clear of second-placed Wales with two Group 6 matches remaining. A draw in Wales in August will seal a place at Canada 2015. (source: thefa.com)

Read more here

I am already looking forward to next year when I am hopeful the women can show the guys how it is done….and on (shock horror) less than £300k a week (or whatever Rooney earns).

I shall tell that to my daughter when I pick her up from football after school today, she is gradually receiving more passes from the boys having inspired the girls to get involved, come on we are in 2014 people!

As I missed last night’s post another £1 to Unicef. If you can donate to the campaign – great!

Thanks for reading.

Tom wears Toms

It is the summer, it is warm in England (so far) so it is time to purchase sandals. I am sure this purchase decision will doom the longevity if the sunny spell, but I have dusted off my nail polish in anticipation.

I dont want to faff with elaborate buckles, gladiator-esque wraps of leather. I’m a Mum so I need to slip on and go (but am not into the pool slider thing – that’s just dangerous. I also plan to go out on a boat a few times this year, but dont want to do the sailie crew deck shoe look either (reminds me of nineties school days when they were momentarily the ‘in’ thing to wear as school shoes and many of my contemporaries had the Kickers versions and would coil up the leather laces so that they hung like a jewish hairdo either side of their feet (not that there is anything wrong with a jewish hairdo, it is just better on the head not the feet).

So I am thinking espadrilles..

In my book if you are going to buy espadrilles you have to buy Toms – they do buy one get one pair free (except the other pair get given to someone who needs a pair of shoes in a third world/ developing country so it is all good. I am in to social enterprises so I am literally voting with my feet on this one.

The question is, what style to go for? There are so many. Do I play it safe with a dark or neutral colour or do I go on the zaney side? I wonder if I buy a pair covered in silver bling will a duplicate pair grace the feet of someone in the favellas of Brazil? I like to think they have a choice of the similar range but am guessing this might be a bit too much to ask for.

To make way for another pair of shoes in the household, my husband has a ‘one pair in, one pair out policy’. Over the years I have worked out ways to get round this (they are not mine they are my friends etc etc) but he has cottoned on to every excuse and has also developed the ability to spot a new pair as soon as he enters the house. He also has a good memory (in this area not others annoyingly). Sometime I buy a pair, shove them under the bed or in the attic for a while and then bring them down a few months later hoping that wont remember what my shoe collection even looks like. Nah, that doesnt work either…..’are they new’?

Before you think I am the brow-beaten dismissive ‘wife’, he cannot make any purchasing decision over £10 without my contribution – I dont insist on this, he is just a bit rubbish at making decisions. Of course it is me that gets the blame if the purchase goes wrong in any way….

If you fancy following in my footsteps (and millions of others), check out www.toms.com (btw they do ore than just espadrilles, although that is their bread and butter)

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.


Kirstie Allsopp and nesting

Finally a woman has had the balls to say women should not be expected to do everything and this is from a feminist standpoint.

Kirstie Allsopp’s views have divided opinion, like all views on life choices, there is not ‘the best’ choice and KA is by no means suggesting that women should give up entirely on higher education, it is simply a matter of priorities and like it or loathe it, most women would like to have children so why not do it earlier rather than later? Why should we bust a gut getting qualifications, salaries and everything else ticked off before children? Only to then exist on an endless and exhausting merry-go-round of work deadlines, bedtime routines and house-work, by which time we are too tired (and a bit too long in the tooth) to enjoy any of it?

In an ideal world, men would also carry babies and deliver them so partners could play swapsies with career progression and childcare. However we still live in a society where it is less acceptable by men to take a break from work and look after children, therefore women take up this role in the majority of cases. I believe being a mum is the best job in the world, but it also helps to have a bit of money coming in, not lots, just enough to pay the food bills and mortgage and enjoy  the occasional break and holiday. Not many couples can afford to do this on a single income. To get a job that pays 20k plus, most employers require a degree, so then we are back to square one again.

Hopefully degrees will not be such a pre-requisite for high-paying jobs and the value of experience, on the job training and apprenticeship schemes will once again come to the fore. This approach will help people who are young and unsure which career to follow. So many are under pressure to make these decisions at 17, work hard to get a degree in the relevant subject, only to be completely disenchanted when they enter the world of work.

I think my advice to my daughter and son would be to do what they enjoy and work and careers will come and find them . As for relationships and babies, i think these are better left unplanned because none of us ever start life knowing when we will meet the right person or whether we can have children, so to start life expecting to have this ‘ticked off’ by a certain stage in life is doomed to disappoint. If it happens, it happens.

If you make plans in life, God laughs.

Just like the Mummy and Daddy bluebird who returned home tonight to find their Oak tree gone and their nest full of babies gone with it. My husband thought he had checked the dead Oak before he felled it, but obviously not close enough. As he glanced down he saw a nest and three babies on the ground, one dead the others still alive. Cursing their misfortune and blaming himself, he moved the nest to the nearest safe place. Life happens and rarely in the way you had hoped or expected.

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

Own goal for Sports Direct

Dear Sports Direct,

Thank you for sending me another giant mug that I do not need and a magazine that seems to assume most of your customers are male. When I placed the order for football boots and socks, I saw that you had pulled your trick again of sneaking another item on the bill and was glad to see that you had the decency to allow me to press ‘the remove from bill button’. Last time it took me so long to figure out how to remove the unwanted items, that I gave up. This time round, however, it still snuck its way back onto the check-out section.

Searching for and finding football boots on your website wasn’t great. The only way to navigate the boots on offer was to click individually on each brand. One brand appeared to have wiped out 50 per cent of the population when displaying boots for ‘men’ and ‘boys’. I can’t remember exactly when women started playing football but I’m pretty sure it has been a while, so you might want to update your records, hence why my daughter is playing football (and why I was searching for football boots).

My daughter loves her new boots but i’m glad she didn’t read the magazine. I had a glance through it and came across the double page about Andy Murray playing tennis in ‘a dream world’ where all the ball girls are models. Next to the article was a full page picture of a woman in lingerie. It ended with a ‘loaded magazine’ style leer about this particularly scantily clad woman appearing on the tennis courts in future and once again the writer mused at ‘what a dream world’ that would be. To avoid ‘sexism’ he inserted the word ‘ball-boys’ although the picture of Andy Murray surrounded by lots of pretty ball girls did not include boys as well so that was an extremely lazy attempt to avoid being sexist.

Two things irritated me about this article. First, the writer assumed the readership is male and heterosexual (I am not a lesbian so, being a heterosexual woman, I do not consider female models being ball girls a ‘dream world’. Lets stick to boys and girls, preferably those kids who thoroughly deserve to get close to the action in professional tennis.) Second, I had to close the magazine when my daughter walked into the room as I was worried about her reading the article and thinking a man’s job is to play a professional sport and a woman’s job is to look good on the side-lines.

The magazine has now taken its rightful place in the recycling bin.

So in writing this letter, I expect you to think about the following:

– Review your customer base, particularly for football goods (I think you will find some of them are female)

– review your editorial policy for the magazine (I am assuming the editor is male, if so he should know better)

– stop putting items in the online basket that have not been selected by the customer

I hope you will take my comments on board.

If not I will shop elsewhere and forward this letter to a few people who may test the capabilities of your PR department.

With regards

Tom Marter


This blog is for UNICEF.

Thanks for reading.