Facing the storm of change

I took this first photo of my eldest son two years ago, as he was about to move from infant school to the junior school a mile down the road. A storm was coming and I thought it captured the essence of facing new challenges head on and not being afraid. Now, two years later, my second son, has reached the same place on the climbing frame and has also started junior school. At the same time, my daughter has started school and being a third child she’s already almost at the top. My BUBs no longer toddle, they climb. They don’t dribble, they make jokes. They don’t cling to me, they soar. It’s not only a sad time. It’s brilliant.

But for a primary carer it can be a real struggle. I don’t mean the tears at the school door or the sense of our babies growing up, although that can be hard. For some people, whether they’ve been working around their children’s nursery hours or spending the majority of their time at home, it can be like leaving school all over again. Suddenly the security of the beckoning school gates, the scheduled lessons, the looming exams, it’s all gone. That stage of life has been completed – hooray – but now what? Suddenly there’s a huge blank horizon in front of us and we’re not sure what to paint across it. People start asking you “So what are you going to do now?” Going back to an old job or an existing profession is one option for some. Retraining to try something new is another. Many of the Mums who are sending their last child off to school are in their late 30s or 40s, facing a simultaneous mid-life crisis. How long do I have left to achieve what I want to? Do I even have the energy left? Will anybody want me?

For those Mums who are looking for a job around school hours, who don’t have a job to go back to or don’t want to go the full 9 to 5 and make use of wraparound care, there’s a power struggle in the mind. On the one hand you’ve got the pressing issue of earning some money, and wouldn’t that be nice and often necessary? Then there’s the need to re-enter the adult world and get some of your mojo back. On the other hand there are still the millions of jobs to do at home, the wardrobe clear outs, the garage tidies, the maintenance, decorating and don’t underestimate the day to day school admin. You also might feel you need time to just sit back and recover from the last five or more years where you’ve tried to keep on top of everything. Then there’s the exhausting morning routine, and the after school chaos, the dinner to prepare, groceries to buy, pets to walk. It can feel overwhelming. The hours between 9.30am and 2.30pm pass like lightning. If you manage to find a job within those hours or one that offers some flexibility you are winning, if that’s what you want. But before the search even begins, many Mums are left feeling a mixture of sadness, self doubt, and awkwardness. Just like many of us did as we approached leaving school.

But on a positive note, it can feel like second chance at life and it can feel like a chance at trying something new, career wise. There is absolutely loads of support online for Mums (and Dads) in this position. I’ve recently joined an amazing Facebook group called Flexible Working for Mums Like Me (Dads Welcome!) Since setting up the group in February 2018, Katy has grown this group to over 12k members. It is definitely worth checking out for support, advice and jobs. I’ve got a couple of friends who have set themselves up as successful Virtual Assistants (VA). Maybe creating your own business is the way to go? If so check out this excellent source of inspiration, Carrie Green, founder of the Female Entrepreneur Association. She was recommended to me by one of my VA friends as she’s very down to earth but has some fantastic advice. Her She Means Business podcasts are also worth a listen, and she has a book out with the same name.

Whether it’s blue skies or stormy clouds, autumn is a season of changes and dusting off the old. If you’ve just waved your youngest child off at the school gates, how are you embracing this new stage of life? Or for now are you just sitting down with a cup of tea and enjoying the silence before the storm arrives again at 3pm? If so, you deserve it.

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Everything is perfect

Children aren’t looking around wondering why Clara is fluent in French or Luke plays junior badminton or Minnie has stronger collection of googly eyes and fuzzy pipe cleaners in her craft drawer.

I saw one of those “quotes of the day” on Facebook the other day that read: “When I’m with Mummy everything is perfect.” I groaned and probably made a gagging face.

I must have had five or six conversations this week, with different Mums, about feeling guilty about not “doing enough” with their second, third or in one case, fifth child. We have access to millions of things our own parents didn’t: toddler groups, soft play, messy play, swimming, kids mornings at the cinema, craft ideas on Pinterest, baby music classes, sensory classes, sign language for babies, football for toddlers, rugby for toddlers, oh I could go on for eternity.

But the result of these wonderful itineraries are the perfect images of childhood and parenting that we see on social media, and the horrible feeling that everyone else is stimulating their child so much more than we are because we’re knee deep in laundry (literally) or trying to sort the bathroom cabinet out or matching up tupperware lids or bagging up old clothes or rearranging the toy storage or rustling up food and snacks fifteen times a day or looking for lost keys.

All I could think about was that silly Facebook quote and how suddenly it made sense. I think the little ones just want us to step away from Facebook and Pinterest, put our phones down* and smile happily into their little faces as they find a bug on the floor or they master a new karate chop on their brother.

I have touched on this before in my post “Lazy Pig”. But as half term looms, and my only solid plan is to visit Poundland for party supplies for BUB.2’s fifth birthday party next weekend (I dream big), I am going to remember that silly little Facebook quote and try to hold on to the fact that children aren’t looking around wondering why Clara is fluent in French or Luke plays junior badminton or Minnie has stronger collection of googly eyes and fuzzy pipe cleaners in her craft drawer.

They’re just looking at Mummy looking at her phone and wishing she was looking at them.

*Without my phone I would go mad, MAD, I tell you. I just should probably hold onto it for dear life a little less.

Skeletons with red noses

With BUB.1 sitting on a potty and BUB.2 propped up against wall next to him red-faced and spluttering, I found myself wearing a Halloween skeleton mask and a Comic Relief red nose as I leaned head first into the washing machine only to pull out amongst the clothes Willy Wonka’s reading glasses that had been through a 40 degree spin. They were a bit steamed up, but on removal of the skeleton mask I couldn’t see any further damage. A good moment. A highlight.

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I absolutely loved this story that popped up on my Facebook news feed this week. It’s about how most of us are guilty of constructing a false picture of idyllic parenthood in our Facebook posts, when the reality can be…disgusting and awful. We do it of course to make ourselves feel better and to tell ourselves that this is OK, everything is OK, honestly. When often,  like any day, for anyone, it’s not.

In light of this, last Friday went something like this.

On waking BUB.1 complained of tummy ache so we spent an hour trying to coax him to do his business. Before, during and after breakfast there were shouts of “Squeeze!” and “I can’t!” and “Just do it!” and “It’s just a pump!” and “Try!” and “No!” and so on. As he slowly got paler and more miserable, it became evident he wouldn’t make it to the 8.30am doctors appointment I had made for us regarding a lovely skin complaint, so I bundled him and his brother into the car and offloaded them to my parents who now, thankfully, live five minutes away and I went to the doctors alone. At last, some “me time”.

On my return he sat up and puked in Nanny’s hand and a little bit down her dressing gown and felt a lot better.

Back at home, following a root around the dressing up box, the tummy urges returned, this time synchronised, and with BUB.1 sitting on a potty and BUB.2 propped up against wall next to him red-faced and spluttering, I found myself wearing a Halloween skeleton mask and a Comic Relief red nose as I leaned head first into the washing machine only to pull out amongst the clothes Willy Wonka’s reading glasses that had been through a 40 degree spin.

Clearing up the lunch things in the kitchen, I heard a loud yelp and a cry of “Mum!” from the living room, which normally means the TV has been accidentally switched off but this time I got wind of the word “spider”. Rushing in, I found BUB.1’s cream cheese bagel strewn across the cushions as he stood pointing at the sofa, upon which a spider the size of Saturn was seated. Unable to get close enough to this beast to save him, and fearful of him scampering deep into the cushions, I had to suck him up with the vacuum cleaner, which I then had to sling outside on the porch in the driving rain, for fear of a reprise.

As I dashed off to the local hairdresser, I was looking forward to half an hour pampering. I was therefore disappointed to be subjected to half an hour of discussion about a missing curling tongs invoice and the messy details of someone’s divorce. A quick blast (no blow dry, no point), and I was home.  An old, tatty magazine and smile costs nothing.

A bit later I saw a man lurking by my car, before knocking to tell me I’d left my lights on. Well, the three that worked, because as it turned out one had blown.

Tea time saw BUB.1 suffer his first blow to the bollocks as he slid off the windowsill too fast and landed on the side of a chair.

And I thought to myself, welcome to the real world son. Some days are just like that.

Petite Pudding