How To Have a Stressful Morning With a Toddler

  1. Wake your toddler up, which is always a bad sign as they are bound to be tired
  2. First warning sign is the first thing they say “I want to stay at maison” (this use of 2 languages distracts you and you don’t realise what’s about to happen)
  3. Tell toddler it’s time to go to nursery and put their shoes on, they run away faster than Bolt
  4. Manage to get their shoes on, go to brush your teeth, come back and said shoes have been taken off in record time and toddler is now hiding
  5. It’s 7.47AM
  6. Pick toddler up and wrestle the shoes back on to a background of screaming
  7. Toddler is now very angry and attacks you like an enraged cat
  8. Tell toddler to calm down and be nice, toddler looks you in the eye and starts shouting “my glasses”, whilst trying to rip them off your face
  9. Strap toddler into buggy
  10. Walk outside, hair ruined by wind

Happy Monday everyone!

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to those of you who read every post and those of you who’ve only ever read a few sentences. Have a lovely day! 

Here are some pics of my cooking skills in action, I am now very tired after having spent 4 hours in the kitchen!

A Mum’s Guide to the Office Christmas Party

Some background information: my party is tonight, I used to always take the next morning off, now I don’t work Fridays but my daughter doesn’t go to nursery either

Stage 1: carry a ton of stuff to the office, various tights in case one breaks (mums are organised like that), a second outfit choice in case you’re not “feeling” choice number 1 and all sorts of makeup you never use and that you’ve had for ages.
Stage 2: strategic lunch choice as you know you won’t eat for ages and the whole “lining your stomach” thing is actually true and very needed when you have to look after a toddler the next day
Stage 3: spend the afternoon getting slightly more and more excited and wondering at what time it is acceptable to go and get ready
Stage 4: getting ready, the tradition is my office is for the girls to go and get ready Together in the biggest bathroom in the building. Every time a random person from another office comes in , they are always quite shocked by level of noise and stuff everywhere. Getting ready involves outfit choice (see above), trying to make yourself look as good as possible despite your lack of makeup application skills, the big glasses or no glasses debate and lots of laughing and “you look amazing”. Yep we all scrub up pretty well!
Stage 5: strategic drinking, my plan is always to only drink champagne and white wine and NO SHOTS. Who you sit next to is also very strategic and most importantly always aim to get the last train home, this reduces drinking time.
Stage 6 (the next morning): famous bloody last words, is it really morning? Why is there makeup all over my pillow? Of course you can watch telly whilst mummy just sits with her eyes closed drinking tea and trying not to be sick…

My Third Letter To My First Daughter

Cheeks, in less than a week you will be 2 YEARS OLD, needless to say these were the fastest 2 years of my life. I’m writing this so I remember what you were like and to try and embarrass you and maybe make you cry when you’re older and hopefully read this.

I’m going to start with my favourite photos of you of all time.

Look at those cheeks! Look at that smile, you’re really cute. I can’t resist, here  are some more (mummy is obsessed with taking pictures of you!):

 

I’m not sure where to start, you might want to know what you are like…well you are quite the character. You are EXTREMELY independent, “me do it” is one of the things you say the most. Determined is another characteristic of yours, if you don’t want to do something well basically I have to force or bribe you. For example yesterday, we went out for a walk and you were wearing your “bellies” once you realized there  were no puddles outside so you couldn’t do “splash”, you decided you would stop walking and just stand by a wall:

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I had to pick you up and carry you down the road. The power struggles are a daily occurrence, usually involving not wanting to go in the buggy or hold my hand in the street or let me brush your teeth etc etc. Sometimes it makes me want to scream (and sometimes I do but clearly it doesn’t help the situation at all), sometimes people give me pitying looks in the street and sometimes I’m actually quite pleased you seem to have such a strong character but I don’t think we’ll know if this is your personality for ever for a few more years as it is also quite typical behavior of other monsters your age.

You love the following:

  • dinosaurs
  • playing catch
  • watching telly (mainly Frozen, Shrek 2 and Bing)
  • having a bath
  • doing chores – helping to cook and stirring things is a particular favourite
  • having tea parties
  • having your own seat on the train
  • feeding the ducks
  • doing anything by yourself basically!

You definitely have your habits and know what you like, this is what happens on a typical day:

  • wake up and chat straight away, you always have something to say, nowadays it’s usually “Elsa, Anna?”, you could watch Frozen all day, mummy bans you in the morning but every evening you watch it. The morning is for Bing and Postman Pat, you used to love Bing more than anything, Elsa has taken over

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  • You then come running over to sit on my knee, the minute you notice I have started eating breakfast and basically proceed to eat as much as my breakfast as I will let you
  • When we leave for nursery, I have too force you into the buggy by bending your legs, EVERY SINGLE DAY
  • Your BFF is called Maya, you are both so happy to see each other every morning
  • EVERY SINGLE DAY you whine when I leave you at nursery but are then fine within a minute
  • EVERY SINGLE DAY you come running up to me when you see me in the evenings as if you hadn’t seen me for weeks, it’s the best part of my day, sometimes the best part of my week. You cheer me up, wipe away any work or life stress and make me happy EVERY SINGLE DAY
  • Nowadays, you insist on walking home in the evening, this is fine as long as you hold my hand…
  • To be honest you are quite easy in the evenings, as long as there is Elsa and milk everything is fine until it’s time to brush your teeth…

This is the bit where I get a bit less objective, here are some of the things you do that make you “you” and make me think that you will probably turn out to be quite clever…

  • You started smiling at 3 weeks old and haven’t stopped since!
  • You have taught yourself some of the words to the Frozen songs, here you are in action:
  • You never forget anything and remember the most random of things – for example a few months ago we went to a new pub one rainy Sunday  afternoon and you had apple juice. Over a week later, we went past that pub again and you started shouting “juice, juice!” outside the door, I don’t know how you recognized the front door, to this day you still ask for juice when we go by that pub…
  • We were folding washing recently and you remembered that a nightie I was folding belongs to “mamie”
  • You know how things are “supposed” to be – if anybody doesn’t take their coat off and walks past the hallway, you are very quick to remind them!
  • You know how to have a good time! You were recently dancing for ages in a local pub even though nobody else was!
  • You have compassion and empathy and it is very sweet and makes me proud. Talking of mamie, when she had to leave for the airport a few weeks ago, mummy was very sad and you saw this on my face, came over, gave me a hug and stroked my back, my heart skipped a beat. It was so sweet and probably the only thing that could have made me feel better.

I could go and on and on about you, all I want you to know is that I couldn’t love you more if I wanted to (and I am sure daddy feels the same), you’ve been one of the most challenging parts of my life so far because I want to do the right thing and sometimes that means not screaming or getting angry when you just will not do something you need to do – I had never realised how difficult it could be to deal with somebody that only weighs 12 kilos but is stronger than me in many ways!!! Stay the confident, funny, lovely girl that you are, I am already so proud. You are not only challenging but you are very fulfilling too, you were definitely missing from my life.

I also want you to know that even when mummy escapes, it’s not because I don’t want to be with you, it’s because I need to be with myself for a while and with other people and come back a happier mummy (the below pic is from the day I came back from Ibiza, 12 hours before mummy was dancing under a flight path and some of my makeup is still visible! You can also spot some of the grey hairs that have appeared since your birth…)

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What do I hope for you in the future?

First of all, I hope you get to travel and go to some of my favourite places in the world such as New York City, Ibiza and France . I hope you have great friends like I am lucky to have, I hope you get to live in different countries like I have but unlike me I really hope you do a job you are super passionate about like some of these ladies. Mummy has a great job but it’s not my dream job (that’s having a cooking programme on TV in case you’re wondering…), maybe you could be the first female President of the USA? I just want you to be HAPPY and have fun, lots of fun. As one of mummy’s good friends says “the first rule of fun is to have more fun” , which is very true.

Mummy loves you and will be there to guide up, dance with you, pick you up when you fall and high five you when you reach the dizzying heights that I know you are destined to reach. Carpe Diem Cheeks!

 

A Quick Note From The Four Seasons in Hampshire

Hello everyone!

A and I are staying at the Four Seasons in Hampshire this weekend and I just wanted to write a quick blog post about how life can change.

I came here the first time in May 2014 to celebrate mine and 2 of my best girlfriend’s birthdays. I announced I was pregnant that weekend. Next week my best friend is giving birth to her second child and this weekend I’m having a mother/daughter weekend away back here in this amazing hotel.

Neither of us had any idea what becoming a mum would be like that’s for sure. There is so much to write about on the topic but this evening as A ate spaghetti bolognese (risky business in a posh hotel I know), I sat next to her having a margarita because a day travelling and then discovering a hotel with a toddler is tiring and can be stressful. I simply had no idea when I was pregnant what it means to be “tired”, I also didn’t know how much I pleasure the following could bring:

– falling asleep next to your toddler on a great big bed

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-eating a massive lunch outside at the end of September with your toddler, who is on her best behaviour and saying “hello” to everyone

-coming up with the amazing plan to put the cot in the (big!) bathroom so you can eat room service and drink camomile tea in front of X Factor without worrying about waking her up!

A genius end to a lovely but long day!

 

 

Career Change and Happiness – The Inspirational Women of Walthamstow

A few months ago on the train on my way home, in a moment of “there must be more to life than this”, I posted the following on my local parents’ FB group: “OK parents, who LOVES their job and if so what do you do? Has anybody left a safe/well paid job to follow their passion/dreams and earn a lot less money? I’m sure there are some very happy inspirational local people out there! Parent related as a happy parent helps make a child hap-py! (In theory at least) Yes, it’s been one of those weeks…”
There were 93 comments to my post and even more “likes”, that’s when I realised that this was definitely a hot topic and I had to share it on my blog. Some people shared their career stories and some shared their dilemmas. Indeed the logistics of childcare (opening times, costs etc.), request for flexible working, the traditional office setup, financial pressures, stress etc make it hard for people (parents or not) to find a good work/life balance. Having children was definitely the overwhelming factor in promoting people to rethink their careers and the loss of earnings was definitely the biggest factor in preventing a career change. It’s also scary to leave a stable career and completely change direction, it takes courage and removing owns safety net is never easy but from what I’ve read with the support of friends, family and other organisations it can be done and nobody seems to regret it! Running campsites seems to be a common dream! What’s yours? I’m still to determine what mine is and I think that can be the problem, people aren’t always happy but are unsure what would make them happy…
There were so many amazing stories, so much courage, people following their dreams, people making it work, it was really inspiring. My motto is “carpe diem” and I don’t always follow it but these local women have and I hope you enjoy their comments and stories. So pour a glass of wine and settle in for one of my longest blog posts ever. Thank you to all the contributors! (I have only used the extra info sent directly for me to be used on this blog not the other comments).
I have tried to organise them into different sections:
• Teaching
• Charity/Helping Others
• Social media
• Creative
• Other

These were the follow up questions they kindly answered:
-what did you do before your big career change?
-what helped you take the big step? (A particular event, someone’s support etc)
-what do you do now and how does it make you happy?
-what was the hardest thing about changing careers?
-what would be your advice be to anybody unsure about making a big career change/following their dreams?
So let’s see who loves their job and who took the big step of changing careers!
Teaching:

Lots of people mentioned they loved their jobs as teachers, I don’t have any detailed stories but from primary school to university, it seems like teachers do it out of passion and therefore the right reason so seem to live their jobs even though it can be very stressful  and hard work from the comments I saw and from the teachers I know.

 

Charity/Helping Others:

J: “Before my career change I was doing admin and IT roles in various schools. The thing that changed my mind was after I had my daughter I got involved in a breastfeeding charity, and absolutely loved it, and decided I needed to do that for a living because it felt like it made a difference – seemed like midwifery was the means to the right end. I now manage a midwifery-led birth centre and absolutely adore it – it gives me a real sense of achievement and has restored my own confidence in my skills and self! Massively stressful because it’s a nursing job in the NHS but worth every moment. The hardest part was studying and worrying about money and getting poor support from my partner at the time, on top of being a mother, but I got there in the end! My biggest piece of advice would be explore every option. I didn’t know how I’d afford it before I spoke to UCAS – there are millions of pounds of unclaimed bursaries out there especially for minority groups – get everything you possibly can and go for it!”

S
“1) I worked for an energy company in the City as a contracts negotiator
2) having my baby and wanting to be with him (part time wasn’t granted) whilst he was little helped me in taking the decision to change career
3)I have two businesses: I am a cloth nappy retailer and advisor (www.nappylove.co.uk) and a Hypnobirthing practitioner (www.hipmamahypnobirthing.com). With the first job I know every nappy I sell is about 300 less disposable nappies in a landfill. A real difference. And I know with teaching my antenatal course I make a difference in empowering women to get the right birth on the day.
4) the hardest thing was…letting go. Of the security of the payslip, the benefits, the perks etc. Once you get going, you just use that momentum
5) don’t be scared, you will need to be open to learn new skills but apart from that it’s exhilarating to be solely responsible for a business venture, whatever that is. Beats any day in the office”

C: 1. I was a PA in further education 2. There was a massive restructure and I realise I was happy anymore and wanted more 3. I’m a midwife now and so glad I made the change 4. Training and studying meant sacrificing time with friends and family and especially my daughter who was 5 when I started my training but for 5 she was incredibly understanding when mummy had to work and study 5. Do as much research as you can it’s a huge step and make sure you have the support of those around you as when the stressful times come you will need them for help, love and support…and wine lots of wine 😆😆 lol”

Creative/Social Media/Arts:

M: “Since graduating I’d been an Artist-in Residence, taught in art centres and made a few murals to commission for schools. I moved to London in ’97 and got sucked into a full-time Web Editor job (because the money was good and the team lovely and I felt like a teeny fish in a massive pond here so was scared t push the art) Getting RSI (from long hours on computer) was a blessing in a way. In ’99 I set up Artyface Community Art and it has been enormously satisfying, making public art and community murals (the one at Winns and also the ones opposite The Camel pub behind the Buddhist Centre Bethnal Green to name a few). Making, teaching, training other artists in clay and mosaics, involving parents and community, enabling teachers and children to try something new- and to transform blank walls for everyone to enjoy. It’s been hard work, current austerity cuts are biting all school budgets, but I am very proud of the past 17 years of hard work. I am also a single mum and sometimes I feel I am not doing anything well enough, but everyone feels like that don’t they, with small kids? Www.artyface.co.uk is our website and we work with primaries, secondaries and nurseries: around 4,000 participants a year. Sometimes I’d love to retire because I’m exhausted… But I can’t afford to and I do love what I do. ”

L:
“Q: what did you do before your big career change? A: marketing manager working a 9-5 in central London for a well-known British heritage brand.
Q: what helped you take the big step? (A particular event, someone’s support etc) A: a friend at work who I respected immensely was in a similar position to me; I wanted to work and quite liked my job but I struggled emotionally to leave my little boy at nursery every day 8-6. My partner and i both hated our work life balance and felt like we were on a constant work treadmill. My work friend quit to do Digital Mums and it gave me the confidence to make the change too.
Q: what do you do now and how does it make you happy? A: after graduating from Digital Mums last year we moved to Folkestone and I now have my own marketing and social media consultancy Stokes & Co. I work flexibly from home mostly, around my little boy’s child care. He even gets involved in my work-recently taking part in a photo shoot I had to arrange for a client. We are all so much happier as my work actually works for me and my family; and I’m passionate about marketing again.
Q: what was the hardest thing about changing careers? A: the fear of the unknown and leaving a solid well paid job that I probably could have had for life if I’d wanted. Also leaving behind the office dynamic; most days it’s just me, my laptop and radio for company.
Q: what would be your advice be to anybody unsure about making a big career change/following their dreams? A: have a plan and try and stick to it-imagine what would life look like in 2 years if you made the change (the ups and downs). And also take stock of your finances. We realised that moving out of London, my working from home and our childcare costs for a 3 year old meant we didn’t need my big full time London salary to have a good lifestyle”

Other:

C:
“1) What did you do before your big career change? I trained as a secondary school teacher. I started in a school teaching French and when I left, I was also teaching French in the local primary schools.
2) What helped you take a big step? Every school holidays, I used to be unhappy. I was working more than 50 hours a week and didn’t have the time to rest nor think about anything else than work. I liked it though! And every school holidays, I used to say “I cannot carry on, it’s too hard” and each time I was going back to work after the break, the ball was rolling again and I didn’t have a second left in my timetable to think about anything else than work. In 2013, I had a baby and stayed at home for a bit. I was super happy to go back to work to be honest, life at home with a small baby was not for me at all. I started working my usual 50 hours a week… However my life had changed: I had to get up several times during the night and I was tired during the day. To be able to do all my work, I had to work after putting my son to bed and at the weekend, both Saturdays and Sundays. I guess it was bound to happen: I had a nervous breakdown, I was in tears in the car on the way to school, in tears on the way back because I had a shitty day, miserable at home, not enjoying my little boy. So what made me take a big step? I was concerned about my health and I wanted a change of lifestyle. I wanted a job with more flexibility and that would be a 100 times less stressful.
3) What do you do now and how it makes you happy? I now work in the publishing industry. After quitting my teaching job, I did a MA in Publishing and I enjoyed studying again, taking more time for myself. I work in a small publishing company and for now (touch wood), I haven’t had to bring work at home.
4) What was the hardest thing about changing careers? It was realising that I wasn’t happy and that my son wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t. It was also very hard to leave something I loved. I was good at my job but I think I didn’t get the right support when I was going through a hard time.
5) What would be your advice to anybody unsure about making a big career change/following your dreams? I wouldn’t advise “go for it!”. I would advise to think about the different alternatives, research what can be done and how it can be done. You need to know what is going to come ahead (applying for more than 30 jobs without getting any interviews) and save money! Career changes are expensive!”
L:
“-what did you do before your big career change?
I actually stayed in the same industry of UX (user experience) & Product design because I love it! But I switched from being at Lead level full time, manging teams and projects to an Independent freelancer
-what helped you take the big step? (A particular event, someone’s support etc)
Having my first child and the realisation of wanting more work/life balance but I did not want loose the career status I worked so hard at achieving as well as not wanting a pay cut. I knew I was experienced enough to manage my own time and efficient enough to pick projects that fit my skill set, so I wouldn’t waste time on projects that weren’t for me just because I was working for someone
-what do you do now and how does it make you happy?
I’m an independent UX and Product designer. I work on digital or products or services, usually apps or web based apps. It makes me happy because I only pick projects that I know my skillset is right for. I also pick projects that challenge me in the direction I want to advance my career. I also make sure my projects are open to flexible working hours as long as I manage expectations of the job at hand. It’s all about clarity and communication
-what was the hardest thing about changing careers?
The hardest part is losing the respect that I got as a manager, but that’s ok. In UK titles are more significant in decision making then in other cultures. I just have to prove and back up my ideas with a little more effort. At home I have a young child, family and expecting a baby soon and managing all that is enough for now, when they’re grown I can go back to the status/career thing, but it really doesn’t appeal to me now
-what would be your advice be to anybody unsure about making a big career change/following their dreams?
Speak to others that share you same ambitions, join groups, and go with your gut. Never be afraid to ask what what you want.
Before the change I spoke with other freelancers, an employment solicitor friend, and potential businesses I planned to target for work.
One big lesson I learned was to sell yourself, skills and experience before discussion flexible working. Once they love you, flexible working is no big deal. But if you start a conversation off with the idea that uou want flexible working, that sticks with them before they dive deep into skillset. I learned that the hard way. This group was very inspiring to me, they are all about flexible working : http://www.aherdtorunwith.com/”

P:”-what did you do before your big career change?

I was head of HR and Operations for a Charity

-what helped you take the big step? (A particular event, someone’s support etc)

2 reasons – I was in a very busy roll which constantly fed into my home life on a daily basis (i.e calls, emails etc during family time) and also the nursery my kids were at narrowly missed being shut down due to it’s lack of care and neglect. That’s when I realised that I had to sacrifice something and it certsinly wasn’t going to be my kids

-what do you do now and how does it make you happy? I returned to the nail and beauty field which has always been my first love! And I still continue to do HR work but on a consultancy basis. Both roles allow me to work at my own pace and more importantly around the kids
-what was the hardest thing about changing careers?

Money! I was giving up a very well paid job and taking that initial leap into the unknown world of freelance and irregular pay

-what would be your advice be to anybody unsure about making a big career change/following their dreams?

Go for it! It’s scary but if you don’t take a chance you’ll never know! We only get one go at life and it’s way to short to have regrets. I always told myself thst if it didn’t work out I could always work checkouts”

N:”1. A technology project manager in Investment banking

2 Taking a sabbatical year to travel to help me look at my options from a distance and get some perspective. Also I decided to do it slowly and retrain whilst my job remained the same

3 I am a career and business coach and I absolutely love it because it has real purpose (investment banking is a joke!), I predominantly help people take control of their careers or businesses and be happier. I also love running my own business – the challenge of being the accounts clerk, the marketing manager, CEO, digital person and actually do the job is amazing – I have learnt (and continue to learn) so much more about businesses and customers than I ever learn’t in 15 years in IT. I also love the flexibility that running your own business brings and the piece de resistence is the low stress lifestyle 🙂

4. Hardest thing was to truly believe in myself that I was capable of having a viable business that I could live off and dare to dream it was possible to still make a living without the long hours and stress.

5 Advice I would give is – try and make sure its the right choice of new career (over half my clients are working on “the decision what to do with the rest of my life” as they are concerned about making the wrong one) It is good to be cautious but don’t let that stop you taking the plunge. Speak to people who are doing that career/business already to find out more about it and what it’s like to work in that environment. Save money to help fund you through the transition (it’s easy to give up when money becomes a bit tight). Have a plan and know where you are on that plan at all times – it keeps you focused along the way. Have strategies for helping you through doubt (a friend you can call, something visual to focus you, whatever works for you) and find others who are going through a similar process so you can help support each other. Developing a network in the area you are moving into early is very important to your future success and if you can find a mentor all the better. A coach will also support you through the process and keep you on track, deal with fears and doubts, check the job/business is viable and meets your criteria/values and is right for your skills. I truly believe at the end of the day we only get one life and why spending 50 years of that doing something that we don’t love or that makes us unhappy.”

Inspiring right???? I have nothing to add, I am in awe of all these women. Go forth and be happy!

Please share your story if you have taken the plunge too and made a big career change or if you simply LOVE your job!

Bravissimo To The Rescue Of My Post-Breastfeeding Boobs

My boobs used to my “thing”, one my “USPs” if you will but then I got pregnant, had a baby and lost weight. I’ll never know if this was due to breastfeeding for 19  months or the stress of being a new mum, probably a combination of both!

Anyway, things are not the same anymore, I guessed what size I am now but it just wasn’t good enough, I needed professional help so I jumped on the tube to Oxford Circus to go to the best place I know medium- big boobs(they cater for D cup upwards), Bravissimo to get fitted for some new bras.

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A good fitting bra is like well shaped eyebrows, it can change and improve things A LOT! I had an appointment for a fitting but you can just walk in, I actually turned up an hour early like an idiot but that was no bother at all and the lovely Jessica was assigned to me. The fitting area is in the basement and has a lovely waiting area:

I explained that I was looking for an everyday bra and one for “going out out” and low cut tops. They don’t use measuring tapes at Bravissimo, they basically have a good look at you and at the bra you come in wearing. What’s important to remember that Jess pointed out to me was that 90% of the support comes from the band and most women wear a bra that is too wide, it shouldn’t be uncomfortable but you should be able to get more than 2 fingers into the back of it. Here is a great video that clearly explains what good fitting bra should feel and look like: http://www.bravissimo.com/perfectfit/fitting-video/#

They have a lot more tips here and here.

We then tried on different styles as like with clothes some shapes are going to suit you better than others, it’s not just a size thing. Here’s how you know if the bra is fitting properly:

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Jess asked me if I minded if she stayed in the (rather large) changing room whilst I tried bras on or if I preferred her to leave, I was not bothered about her staying at all. Plenty of room in there and I’m not prudish with things like that.

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I probably tried on about 10 different bras. She went upstairs to get me some tops to try them on (they also sell clothes via the Pepperberry brand) and settled for this one for everyday and this one (that I would never have picked because it was a soft cup) for more revealing tops…I also really liked this one but they didn’t have my size so I will probably order it soon.

I’ve worn the first one a few times and love it! Perfect shape and comfortable! I have gone down 2 to 3 back sizes and a few cups sizes since being pregnant so ladies you really need to get fitted! I bet lots of you think you are a 34-36 C, I bet you’re more like 32D!

Have you worn the same bra size for over a year? Does the back of your bra ride up? Do the straps fall off? Do your boobs pop out at the front? Are you pregnant or have you recently had a baby? Then get yourself down to Bravissimo!

Thank you Jess for helping me find some great new bras that fit properly and make  me feel more confident. I can now embrace my smaller boobs!