Category Archives: Family

Getting towards a healthy work life balance…

I’m wary of breaking the spell by blogging it, but September has brought with it a new order in our life, and for the first time ever, I feel as if we may be on the way to achieving a work life balance that works for us all!

This is due in no small part to the fact that the children are finally all in the same place all day, every day. I did shed a tear when my littlest boy started Big School proper – and I still don’t like to think too much about how quickly time is marching on for all of us – but I can’t pretend I didn’t heave a sigh of relief as far as practicalities are concerned. No more juggling nursery/school pickups three times a day, no more extortionate wrap-around for the days when we couldn’t juggle, and no more guiltily trying to work at home in the afternoons with a bored pre-schooler who would much rather I was in the park with him.

Another new change in our routine which seems tiny on the face of it, but makes a HUGE difference to our family balance, is that the kids now go to a free breakfast club at school (thank you, Welsh Government). We drop them in at 8.10am which means on my work at home days, I can be at my desk for 9am sharp AND have had time for breakfast/getting the washing on/a quick tidy round beforehand. And getting to my desk for 9am, and working till 3pm, means that I get loads done so when the kids come out of school, I can actually be with them properly. The same applies for the Husband on his drop off days – getting into Rules of Play at 8.30am rather than 9.20am means a whole load of admin, internet sales etc can be sorted before opening time – which does take the pressure away at the other end of the day.

So home life feels like it has shifted to a more manageable pace. And in a highly unusual feat of moons colliding, I also feel as if I’m in a good place with work at the moment. This time last year I was just starting a new job, which I was unsure about for a number of reasons, not least the fact that I was out from 8am-6pm four days a week. I had a sense that I would be tipping the balance too far as far as my personal ability to be a half-reasonable mother  was concerned; and ability aside, I also want to enjoy my kids, and them to enjoy me, while we’re all young enough to do so!

I was right about four days not working out – but a year later and my role has happily morphed into 14 hours a week. Well, probably 17-18 in truth, but as I only need to be in the office two days a week it’s manageable.  I’ve also picked up some freelance work that is keeping me busy for another 10 or so hours, and of course there’s always a couple of hours on shop stuff that needs to be squeezed in – but here’s the thing – I can get all of that done while the kids are in school! Whoop! Working from home three days a week also really helps with planning the House Project , and I am hopeful that I might be able to squeeze in a teensy bit of blogging time too…

Weekends are another newish treat for Family Davis. Back in the days when we owned a coffee shop, the husband worked every Saturday and Sunday. It’s hard work being home alone with three kids all weekend – and sanity-saving play dates are harder to set up as most normal people are enjoying family time.  It also meant that if one of the kids did an activity, the other two had to come along whether they liked it or not – cue much fractiousness. Then we started Rules of Play and for a long time I worked  there on Saturdays (as well as the day job), while he worked Sundays in the coffee shop. Even after we sold the coffee shop, I carried on working Saturdays – it’s only in the relatively recent past that we have managed to drop all weekend shifts from our schedule, and boy has it made a difference! Weekends are now something we all look forward to, as opposed to a tag-team negotiation and competitive tiredness  arguments – you’ll know the score… ‘I’m exhausted, I’ve been working ALL WEEKEND’ ‘Yes, well at least at work you get to have lunch and coffee and go for a wee by yourself and GO FOR A BEER AFTERWARDS – you’ve practically been on HOLIDAY’ – and so on and so forth…

Yes. Life feels good at the moment. Here’s to a good work life balance, and long may it continue!

*awaits disaster of meteoric proportions to bugger it all up completely*

Prague and why we will be back soon…with the kids!

Prague…we very nearly didn’t get there, but we made it – just – and boy am I glad we did! We had a brilliant time, the birthday boy was well and truly taken by surprise, and we had a really lovely weekend of eating, drinking and making merry in truly brilliant company. Just what the doctor ordered, actually, so THANK YOU Czech friends for making it possible for me to be there – and equally to the UK contingent who took part in the childcare relay!

In the blur of the baby and toddler years, I had forgotten just how much I loved the Czech Republic. We used to visit a couple of times a year before we had kids and I am pretty sure we blithely assumed that we would carry on doing so; looking back, we did visit twice with our biggest boy, and then once after his sister had appeared. That final trip was hard work. One was getting over chickenpox and the other was just starting it; all I can remember was being exhausted and blurry and though we never actually made a decision to stop visiting, it just sort of disappeared off the agenda of what felt copable-with, especially after our third arrived. Luckily for us, our lovely Czech friends visited the UK in between times, so I guess I sort of didn’t really notice that we’d stopped going there, if that makes sense.

I’m so, so glad that I went, this time. Even after a gap of six and a half years, and having lost all (and I do mean – ALL!) of my basic Czech in the meantime, I still felt immediately at home when we stepped off of the plane, and even more so when we left the city the next day for our friend’s surprise party. A huge part of this was about slipping back into easy friendships – including reconnecting with some folk that we hadn’t seen since our wedding back in 2002 – plenty to catch up on!

But it was also about remembering how much I love the Czech countryside, and even more than that, the fact that the Czechs themselves are so good at enjoying the great outdoors, just as it is. I’m certainly guilty of overlooking that sometimes – when I’m trying to figure out how to entertain the kids, I’m always focussed on things to do, and places to visit, much more than simply just getting outdoors and exploring.  When we arrived at Hotel Kouty for the party, the first thing the Husband and I said to each other was ‘wow, the kids would LOVE it here’ – yet there was nothing but a lake, a forest, and a couple of climbing frames.  No overpriced ice cream and coffee joints; no ridiculously expensive pedalos, no rides, no amusements, no crazy golf, none of the stuff they clamour for just because it’s there. But we were right – they would have loved it, and we need to remember that a bit more, rather than always be looking for places with ‘stuff to do’.

I was also reminded how refreshing the Czech approach to parenting is, something I had noticed and hoped to emulate before I had kids myself – but, swept away with all the advice and rules and self flagellation that appears from nowhere the minute you pop one out, I had completely forgotten about. While we were over there, most of our friends’ kids (aged between 5 and 12) were away at camp, where they stayed for 12 days or so, doing all sorts of outdoor activities, with no parental contact whatsoever. My initial reaction was – 12 days? How would my kids manage without me for 12 days? They’d miss me terribly! Who would make sure they were taking their asthma puffs, cleaning their teeth properly, wearing respectable pants? However it gradually dawned on me that this was more about me and my anxieties, and the fact that I’d miss them terribly, rather than about how they would actually cope.  Which would probably be pretty well, particularly if they were with their siblings and friends, and if it was simply what everyone did every year. I’m not quite ready to send them off to camp just yet, but I am reminded that I should try and distinguish between what is good for them, and what feels comfortable to me, and not get the two things mixed up.

It also dawned on us while we were away that while a trip abroad with kids who were say 6, 4 and 18 months felt like something we didn’t even want to consider, travelling when they are 9, 7 and 4½ is a whole different ball game, and perhaps it’s time to get back on the horse, so to speak! All the more since while we’ve been spawning, so has everyone else, and there are plenty of other children for them to play with while we get to have some quality time with our chums.

So, all in all a successful trip, and one we are hoping to repeat in the not-too-distant future, this time en famille! To Be Continued!

My daughter and her ‘too round’ tummy

I knew it would happen, one day. Perhaps naively, I wasn’t expecting it for another few years. I remember it sweeping through my peer group at secondary school, when we were 14 or so, and I remember how ill one of my fellow pupils became as a result, unable to pull away as the rest of us did. I know that as a girl, my daughter runs a higher risk than her brothers of this becoming an issue. But I also knew – or thought I did – that as she has only just turned seven, I had a little while before I needed to worry.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

‘Mum, if I do lots of ex-tra-cise, will my tummy get smaller?’

‘What? Your tummy is fine as it is! Why on earth would you want it to be smaller?’

‘Well, it’s just that it looks a bit too round. You know. I’d like it not to stick out so much. So, should I do lots of ex-tra-cise? Or maybe just eat less?’

What the WHAT? Did I hear that right? It seems that I did. In fact she has actually broached this subject before, but in such a roundabout and convoluted way that I had managed to convince myself that I had misunderstood her meaning, and the conversation had turned to other things.

I’m gobsmacked. Though I am certainly guilty of passing on some of my own issues to my kids, weight loss and body shape has never featured highly on my worry list. I never, ever turn down food, or buy diet options. I am a member of a gym, and I run semi-regularly, but exercise for me is about keeping my mental health on track more than anything else. We don’t have a pair of scales in the house, not even because I think we shouldn’t, but because it wouldn’t occur to me to buy them!

I’m not unaware of the external influences surrounding her. The Weight Watchers ad that she saw in the cinema – before a screening of Moshi Monsters FFS. The fact that every time we go into a newsagent she can’t help but see magazine covers screaming out that some celeb or other has *shock* cellulite, or the latest way to a happy, healthy, THIN, you, is just inside these pages. The women she sees on TV – even on the kids’ channels – are all on the skinny side of healthy. She hears adults in her wider family talking about weight loss, she probably hears kids in the playground use the word ‘fat’ as an insult.

But I’d made the mistake of assuming that without any validation of all this tripe from us, she would disregard it. Big mistake. BIG mistake. I had completely underestimated just how pervasive the messages are. I mean, on an intellectual level, I know it. I’m aware of the cynicism which drives the ‘health’ food industry. I’m aware that women and their bodies are seen as public property, to be picked over and criticised in the drive to sell ever more magazines.  I’m aware of the media mis-representation of women and their shape. I know that the chance of me switching on the TV and seeing a woman larger than size 10 is pretty small. Even smaller if I’m hoping to see a woman larger than size 10 in a positive, aspirational role, as opposed to a downtrodden character in some soap or other.

I know all this, and yet I have ignored it. And worse, I have assumed that my daughter will be able to ignore it too, even though her childhood is surrounded by exponentially more of this shit than mine was, back in the in the days of only 3 TV channels, black and white newspapers and no internet.

It makes me absolutely furious that, short of locking her in a room for ever, I cannot protect her from any of this. I can hope that she follows my example of ignoring it all, I can say all the right things, I can give off the right messages, but it’s a tiny drop of sanity in seven seas of madness. And more to the point, I’m furious that I should have to protect her in the first place! Maternal instinct is supposed to kick in to save our young from real threats – presumably back in the day it came in useful when faced with a marauding woolly mammoth – imagine the reaction explaining this to our ancestral mothers now…

‘Right. So let me get this straight. WE gave birth in caves, foraged for food, killed animals with our bare hands, fought off predators, to rear our kids. YOU get to rear yours in a nice warm house, with no man-eating wild animals hanging around, and you don’t even need to catch your own food. WE worried about starvation. YOU are worrying about your daughter worrying about whether she is thin enough. PROGRESS, huh?’

How they would laugh. Because put like that, it sounds laughable. And you know what, it SHOULD be laughable. But the truth is, it’s not. It’s really not funny at all. It’s not funny when a seven year old pokes herself in the tummy because she thinks it is too round.

Not. Funny. At. All.