Category Archives: LearnerMother

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*

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.


Learning to like flying

You know how when you have kids, you hope with every fibre of your being that they get all the good bits of you, and none of the mad fool crazy parts? Then you realise what that would actually involve, which is making sure your good bits are on display 24/7 and none of the mad fool crazy bits are allowed a look in, ever. And THEN you try it for a while, and realise that the effort involved in this facade is actually tipping you over the edge of the mad fool craziness in itself, so you just sort of settle for sugaring the bad bits and hoping for the best? With me so far?

Well. Turns out I’ve not sugared one element of mad fool craziness quite enough, and that is the fact that getting on a plane reduces me to a gibbering wreck. I’ve always hated flying, because it’s, well, FLYING and actually when you think about it, it’s kinda crazy NOT to be scared of being in a machine 20,000 feet in the air, with engines that may or may not fail, and if they do, it’s not like you can just pull in to the nearest layby is it? And you’re in the hands of a pilot that you don’t know from Adam, and who might have been drinking till 2am last night for all you know,  and even a model of sobriety might still suffer some weird and incapacitating event meaning that plane flying is NOT a feasible thing. And – again – it’s flying. WE’RE NOT MEANT TO DO THAT!

Given that I want to see people and go places, and somewhat inconsiderately not all those people and places are within the confines of England, Wales and Scotland, I do force myself to get on planes when necessary, using various strategies. Over the years, I’ve read fear-of-flying books, I’ve drunk to excess before and during, and I’ve even gone to the doctor for some lovely little tablets to knock me out, which in the event I didn’t take in case we had a crash landing and I was too out of it to get out of the plane and into a lifeboat.  According to the Husband this was ridiculous behaviour (and in the cold light of wordpress it does seem a little excessive) but I could not be persuaded, whereupon he said ‘Oh well, shame to waste them’, ordered a G and T, downed it along with my pills, and promptly passed out snoring for the rest of the flight, while I held on to my seat with white knuckles – all the way to Sri flipping Lanka. Including the pit stop on one of the Maldives which was basically all runway and no island so it looked like we were coming down in the (admittedly beautiful) ocean. Cheers.

These days, I usually take the route of refusing to think about the flying bit at all until I’m on the plane, by which point I know I couldn’t get off even if I wanted to. I then spend the entire flight doing a meerkat impression every time the bing bong goes off, trying to read the faces of the cabin crew for every possible sign of concern and impending disaster. By the time we land, my neck muscles are strained beyond all recognition and usually, so is my marriage. But hey, I’ve got from A to B, so as a strategy, it sort of works. What also works is having kids and therefore being too skint to get on a plane anyway, so none of this has been an issue before now.

Despite my mad fool craziness on this, I’d assumed that my kids would see flying as an adventure and something to be excited about, so I was pretty gobsmacked when my eldest announced a few weeks ago that there was no way he was getting on a plane, ever, and also confessed the night before the Husband and I went on our trip to Prague that he wasn’t worried about us being away, but he was worried that the plane would crash and he’d never see us again. He watches Newsround, so I know he’ll be aware of the recent events surrounding Malaysia Airlines, but I also know that this is almost certainly my fault, because he’s probably heard me blathering on about how much I hate getting on a plane.

I guess when you take into account all the potentially dire stuff that my kids will probably inherit from me whether I like it or not, a fear of flying is not the end of the world. But it is something that I’d like to nip in the bud sooner rather than later, especially as my eldest is already prone to worrying himself into the ground over nothing much at all (nope, no idea where he gets that from either). I figured the best thing to do is get him on a plane as soon as possible, so I have taken advantage of the fact that I have a lovely friend in Belfast with two kids the same age as my biggest two, and also capitalised on the fact that they have recently developed a fascination with all things Titanic, and booked a short visit to Belfast in November to visit the Titanic Experience. I’m really excited about this (except for the actual flying bit, obviously) and so are they, especially since (whisper it) they will have a day and a half off school for the trip.

Now I just have to perfect my ‘isn’t this FANTASTIC’ face for when we take off, and my ‘my, what an ADVENTURE’ face for when we hit a teeny bit of turbulence,  and my ‘I’m so COOL because this is NORMAL’ face every time the plane does that turning thing….and of course, my cool calm and collectedness will rub off on them and they’ll realise that flying is nothing to worry about.

Well, that, or they’ll be laughing so hysterically at my gurning efforts at happy, relaxed and non-crapping-myself-honest-guv faces that they’ll forget they’re on a plane at all! One or the other, we’ll see!