Friday, 26 November 2010

From a rock to a hard place?

Look at this - a whole month almost since the last post. How crap is that. I'm so impressed with the bloggers who get something up every day. Could it be that I'm losing enthusiasm since my last post got no comments? Yes, I think that's it - yet I know that it's no good just writing the posts, you have to market yourself to other bloggers if you want an audience, and that takes time - time I just do not seem to have. In addition to work, I have spent November xmas online shopping, sorting out two new cars, researching car & life insurance, driving Lily to extra ballet lessons for exam, home-coaching for said exam, home-coaching for drama presentation, revising Erosion, Tectonic Plates and Volcanoes, having new bedroom furniture fitted, digging out various dirty sportswear from wash bin I haven't had time to wash, entertaining 8 adults and 9 children for Sunday lunch, pleading with my son to do x, y, z without being told......

I watched a great programme on Sky 3 the other day. 'The Real Desperate Housewives'. It made me feel a whole lot better about my life! Basically featuring women who had given up careers which they had thought were crucial to their self-esteem, they found they were more content with their lives having stepped down from the ladder. Most of them were in their 40's and had been brought up in the 1980's, told by their frustrated mothers or academic girls' schools (both in my case) that we owed it to the pioneering feminists to have it all.

I bought into this completely. I had seen what staying in the home all her life had done to my intelligent, opinionated mother. As with most women brought up in the 50's, she married young to get away from home, giving up a place at university to start a family. She missed out on the liberation of the 60's by three years. By the time skirts went above the knee and The Beatles to the top of the charts, she was a housewife in Suburbia with two children and a husband planning a year's trip to Tanzania 'for work'. Why she had me in 1967 I have no idea (well, as a teenager I did hear them arguing once about the merits of that decision - yes, I was a slip up).

I was completely seduced by the media of the day too - Cosmo was forever printing articles about 'How to get Ahead' at work, illustrated with images of beautiful power women with glossy hair and slimline briefcases, knee on desk, perfectly manicured hands around the tie of a weak and feeble male colleague. Advertising was also littered with these depictions of the modern female in charge - Charlie, VW Golf, Clarks, Kenco - this was our destiny, and lo and behold if you even considered the possibility of a family.

I was very good at biology - my mother spent a long time counselling me to go into physiotherapy, chiropody etc. on account of the fact I could do it easily part-time once I had kids. Huh! I wasn't going to work part-time! I wasn't going to have kids! And anyway, I had never seen anyone in the NHS in a shoulder padded suit and heels.

So I took a law degree, began a career in marketing and lived the life. It was no-where near as glamorous as I had been led to believe. There was a lot of stress, not a lot of money, far too much alcohol etc. I still loved it tho' and frankly, felt smug that I had ticked all those boxes.

Then I met Mr G. Now, after a couple of painful relationships, I hadn't had a boyfriend for three years. I was never getting married, or having kids. I was about to buy my first flat, and was interviewing for my next step up the ladder. So getting engaged after eight months, married after a year and pregnant the following winter (just before Millenium eve.....) had definitely not been part of my plan.

Neither had staying at home. But that's exactly what happened. Back in 2000, 6 months maternity leave was the max. I wanted a year with my baby, and my boss said he would have me back part-time any time I wanted. Perfect. Then he moved, there was a re-shuffle, and I was left with no career, and a mortgage we were struggling to pay on one salary. However, the main issue for me was that I was now a full-fledged 'stay-at -home mum'. I had loved my year 'off' from work, but there was no way I wanted to make it permanent! There was only one thing for it - get pregnant again, and at least justify the 'sacrifice' I was making.

And that's the way it stayed for another 8 years. Slowly, slowly, I began to embrace my new role. I was a mother, yes, but a home-maker too. This encompassed all the financial admin, holiday organising, house buying and selling. I hated not having my own money, but I had a husband who never kept tabs, and we shared everything. Money was very tight and we had our fair share of ups and downs adjusting to family life and my role within it. We had always agreed that I would work again, and I'm incredibly lucky to be doing what I'm doing now, but I would be ok with my life if I wasn't. I had a great career and then a family - that is having it all. Bringing up a family is the most important and rewarding job there is, and I really think that it is finally being appreciated as such.

What are your thoughts on this? Are our teenage girls still getting the 'be ballbusters' message or is there now a more measured response to the dilemmas of being a woman in today's workplace?

I know I've only scratched the surface of theses issues - but look at the length of this post! Not the best way of securing comments... I know, I know!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


Well, you'll never guess (well, you would if you knew me better) - Sam's crutches got left on the trolley at Charles de Gaulle airport. I blamed the taxi driver, but clearly the fault was mine. The reason they were on the trolley however, and not on Sam's arms, was because he had made a miraculous recovery that morning and said his ankle was fine. I insisted he take the crutches in case the walking in Paris proved too much, but alas, we now had no choice.

Fortunately, it was all good. We stayed in a traditional French 17 century hotel, The Henri IV, and the kids loved it - especially the winding staircase which stretched up 8 floors. The sun shone and we did the works. My feet have never been so sore - God only knows how Sam coped, but he did great.

Can I make a confession tho'? I'm secretly glad it's all out of the way. The next time I go to Paris I want to spend my time languishing over a glorious breakfast, followed by a spot of boutique shopping (and cook-shops! I had to walk past so many fabulous cook-shops on our way to the next 'must-see' on our list that I almost cried). In the afternoon, it would be back to the hotel (Crillon, with any luck...) for a nap, afternoon tea (there are some English customs I take with me everywhere) and an evening out in a fabulous restaurant or smoky jazz club. I will glance out of the cab window (as I am whisked along the left bank) to spy the Eiffel Tower, admire the Notre Dame as I stroll along the Seine, appreciate the splendour of The Louvre from the outside, but I will never again do the tourist trail. I know it makes me sound like a cultural heathen, and I swear if the museum could be closed just for me I would love it - but the more of an old bat I get, the less I am able to cope with crowds, and I want to simply enjoy Paris for what it intrinsically is, rather than what it has on show. That is hard to do with kids. They are not welcome in good restaurants (the food is too sophisticated anyway), they can't drink and they hate shopping.

I'm so glad we did it tho' - I love creating memories for the kids. I had never seen the Eiffel Tower sparkling like it now does on the hour - especially as we were right at the top when it first happened; it's like a thousand flash bulbs going off. When our plane took off at 8pm on Sunday night, Lily caught it shimmering again in the distance and she instantly had the whole plane ooing and ahing. Brilliant.