When a Mum goes back to work, organising childcare is both complicated and a real emotional wrench. When I picked up my baby boy from pre-school today, he helped himself out of the school as soon as he saw my car pull up. I picked him up and he pressed his little chubby cheek so close to mine and cuddled me so tightly. The lady who runs the school had to tell him not to run out of school again because its dangerous but she wasnt as stern as she would have liked to be because he was just too cute. Although he is 3 he knows how to work the look. That is going to come in very handy when he is older.
I also face the issue of what happens with our 2 Jack Russells, who will have no-one to spend the day with when I return to work. I need doggy day care too. In fact the more I think about it, the more I realise how much of our current lives depends on me being at home working part-time.
But….as readers of my previous blog posts will know, somethings gotta give.
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Tomorrow I will have to take a break from blogging in anticipation of preparing for a bike test. This time a bicycle with a view to getting a job as a bicycle instructor. I like cycling but not to the extent that I wear lycra, I have even had to buy a helmet in anticipation of the test. I will be expected to negotiate a busy roundabout without causing a crash and demonstrate how I would teach a 10 year old to negotiate the roundabout.
My bike is loaded with a basket and baby seat , yet the google profile image of my examiner is of a racing cyclist in style of Chris Hoy (gulp).
Exam nerves have a negative effect on me. During my motorbike test, I sailed through the gymkhana test through cones. However, on the road test I got obsessed about coming out of the parking bay at the test centre at a certain angle and tipped the bike over before I had time to negotiate the road. The examiner let me carry on once I had righted the bike and by the time we returned 40mins later, he said he would have passed me had I not tipped the bike at the beginning.
So I do not do myself any favours (needless to say I passed 2nd time).
Fingers crossed! I will report back on Thursday.
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Unlike Jim Carrey’s character in the film ‘yes man’, I have the opposite problem – I find it hard to say no.
I am a change junkie, I love change. If my husband said tomorrow that the whole family were leaving for Australia, within minutes I would be researching flights without a backward glance. I was once told I have a higher than average sense of mortality (which is a bizarre observation when you think about it), I am not one of those people who say ‘it wouldn’t happen to me’, more like ‘what if it happened to me?’ So I believe in living for the here and now (you might have guessed by now that I am not a huge fan of saving, but surprised to hear that I have been paying into a pension since my early twenties……i am also an optimist).
The trouble with being a yes woman is that pretty quickly your life can fill up. Just in responding to adverts publicised in my locality since giving up my job because of childcare costs, I have said yes to: a job working from home for the council, an interview to be a cycling instructor and become a member of a netball team). This is aside from two children, helping my husband with his business and helping look after horses 3 times per week. Oh…..and I did sign up to bootcamp on the village green every Wednesday from September.
Thinking about it, the only time I say ‘no’ is normally in response to my husband asking me if I can do something……because I am too busy doing everything else. I am also (on the whole) successfully saying ‘no’ to sugar (although ate an eton mess for pudding earlier…..whoops).
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There are not many of us pursuing the dream careers we fantasised about as children. As a parent, i am all too aware of not letting one misguided remark influence the entire future aspirations of my children. This can actually happen, hence the burden of responsibility that is parenthood. How many autobiographies have you read where the author followed what their parents ideally wanted of them and were happy about it? The same goes for teachers, my university lecturer scoffed at my ambition. Sir Jackie Stewart’s teachers didnt rate him but look what he achieved.
So when my daughter starts talking about what she would like to do ‘when i grow up’, i listened without passing judgement but telling her what it would take to achieve particular career choices. For example she said she wanted to be an actress and that she would need to go to theatre school from age 11 or 12. I said we couldnt afford to pay for a special school so the best way to attempt to get in was via a scholarship. The best way to get a scholarship is to do LAMDA exams. “But that would be torture”, she said. I replied that if she felt that way it might be best to think of another route to acting. “But i really want to go to drama school”, i said she shouldnt put pressure on herself too early on in life as it gets tougher as you get older so enjoy being young when you can. But i soon realised you dont know how good you had it when you were young until you are grown-up so that was particularly useless advice.
She then rattled off a list of things she would like to do including: actress, racing driver, writer, midwife or maid for a rich person. She then asked which of the two ideas i liked best. I refused to answer as i said it was ‘entirely your choice’. She then begged me to answer her but i refused and said ‘the best advice i can give is do what you enjoy and the job will come and find you’.
I just hope she doesnt like watching tv and eating crisps to the extent that she waits for the job to arrive.
In the Tarantino film Jackie Brown, De Niro says to Bridget Fonda ‘you need ambition’ (or something along those lines) and she replies her ambition was to ‘get high and watch tv’.
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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.
Outside I can see swallows swooping in the late summer evening sun, they genuinely appear as if they are ‘hanging out’. There is no particular purpose to their flight, they are just enjoying the ride.
That’s life really isnt it?
Apologies for the deep and meaningful, but it is Sunday night and I am in a reflective mood seeing that my career hangs in the balance this coming week.
Further to my news on the HMRC, I am now forced to go cap in hand to my boss and ask for a pay rise. I am not confident of the outcome so will let you know how I got on tomorrow evening.
A few of my friends are only able to work because they have free childcare via the grandparents. I would be interested to know how many grandparents have returned to becoming child-carers again in order to help their own children back to work?
I also have another friend who doesn’t see her husband because they both work in emergency services and manage childcare between them by juggling shift patterns.
I have two children, one age 8 and one age 2. I had my eight year old under a Labour Government and I was able to work, I had my two year old under a Conservative Government and I cant work.
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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