Wednesday, 30 September 2015

What keeps you up at night?

what keeps you up at night?

* This post is sponsored by Durex. 
The other day, I got asked the question, 'What keeps you up at night?' It was from a money guy, who wanted me to suggest that I lay awake worrying about the family's finances, so that he could sign me up for insurance. I gave him a glib, non-committal answer, but on the inside I was thinking, 'there’s no insurance for what keeps me up at night, buddy.'

You know what gets me tossing and turning? The thought that one day my children will become teenagers. Our cute, funny and needy little creatures, turning into young adults, walking around with their own opinions, making their own choices and thinking they're right about everything. Which is all great in theory. It's the whole point of being parents: we’re raising children to become adults who can do all these things. 

But but but… teenagers

But in all honesty, teenagers terrify me, and the teen years we have in our future fill me with dread. I worry that when my kids grow up, they'll no longer be small and adorable. Instead they'll be moody, grunty, full-of-angst teens. They won't worship the ground I walk on anymore, they’ll think I’m embarrassing and want me to be more like their friends' mums. They’ll say things like ‘You don’t understand, mum!’ and fling themselves about dramatically. We’ll have arguments, we’ll miscommunicate, we’ll butt heads. I'm being pessimistic, I know. It's just that I feel like I’m a good authority on how tough teenagers can be because I was such a god-awful one myself. Yeah yeah, I know that we all say that, but seriously, I was AWFUL. Ask my mum. I’m preparing myself for the worst when my kids are older. As mum reminds me often enough, I might be in for some payback. 

And we think toddlers are tough

It's funny really, because we talk about the difficulties of having small kids now. A day with a toddler can be like a battlefield. We call these the hard-work years, but when I think of my kids as teenagers, I start to sweat. Because they’ll be all the things that make the toddler years tough - emotional, defiant and determined - only they’ll be teenagers. And teenagers don’t tend to hang around our ankles so much – they want to go out and meet their friends, go to parties, and experiment with sex. At least when they’re small, we can still control where they go and what they do. Even if they do something naughty, it’s more along the lines of drawing on the walls or unravelling the toilet roll. When they’re teenagers, they can do anything they want when we’re not watching: drive too fast, drink underage, have unprotected sex. Eek.

How do we prepare them?

So I lie awake at night thinking about what we can put in place as they get older, to protect them during the teen years. Is it all about having good role models? Activities that encourage confidence and self-esteem building? Maths tutors? Quality time? Family support? Strict curfews? Relaxed discipline? Social media policing? Lectures about contraceptionI don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t worry so much. Maybe I should be thinking more about how to prepare myself for the teen years, rather than them. Got any advice?

I know one thing for sure: thinking about all this teenagey stuff makes changing nappies and chaotic meal times seem like a walk in the park. You won't catch me complaining about the toddler years this week. Bring me all the nappies and crazy mornings!

Do you worry about the teen years too? What were you like as a teenager? Have you got a teenager yourself? Please reassure me!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Have you got a Little Friend?

A few years ago, I had a doctor’s appointment and took Mr B along with me, who was four at the time. We headed into the consulting room and he sat contentedly next to me, swinging his legs and waiting to see what would happen next. The doctor looked at us and remarked, ‘Oh look, you’ve got a Little Friend. I love that age.’
I realised that she was spot on. He was my Little Friend: happy to go anywhere with me and find interest in even the most mundane errands. He was at that age where I could finally rely on him to behave a certain way: less of the toilet emergencies and more of the interested questions and cute conversation. He was a pleasure to have tag along. 
Cut to last weekend:  I was eager to get out and run some boring but necessary errands on Saturday morning, so I  sneakily got myself ready in the bathroom, hoping to duck out while Mr Laney looked after the kids. My plan was to head out early, get petrol, get coffee and buy fruit, ready for the birthday party we were going to that afternoon. I estimated that doing this on my own would be a simple and straightforward 40-minute endeavour: pure efficiency, and no one would even know I was gone. God I love those errands.
However, being a wily minx, Miss P tracked me down in the bathroom and questioned where I was going. I faltered slightly and braced myself, knowing she could smell weakness.
‘I’m just popping out very quickly!’ I said, desperately
‘Please can I come mummy, please?’
‘Darling we’ll be going to a party when I get back, you can stay here and pick what you want to wear!’ I put on my most optimistic, excited face, but I knew what was coming.
‘Please can I come mummy, please oh please?!’ Her little face crumpled and she started to cry, clasping her hands together, giving it the begging position. I don’t know where she learnt this, but it’s very effective.
I tried a couple more persuasions before caving pathetically. Who I am to say no to a begging three year old?
So we made a deal: she had to let me pick her outfit and dress her without any fuss and we had to do it fast. She nodded tearfully and away we went. We scurried out the door together, Miss P practically skipping with excitement, holding her little bag. And as the morning progressed, I noticed with relief that everything went smoothly. She didn’t cry or ask for things and there were no toilet emergencies because she’d gone before we left. 

It was...straightforward. And kind of pleasant. 
Then it hit me. Miss P had become my Little Friend:  perfectly content to follow me around, find fun and interest in whatever we do, and able to converse with me like a miniature adult, only with much more cute-factor. In fact, it was like walking around with my biggest fan.  It didn’t matter what we did because she was out with me and that was the best thing ever in her book. 

So next time I want to get errands done, I'll be taking along my Little Friend. Not only was it a lovely way to spend time with her, but she got us a couple of free biscuits at the cafe while we waited for my coffee. This Little Friend comes with perks. I highly recommend you get one.

Do you dread taking the kids out when you've got stuff to do?? Have you got a Little Friend? Or a younger one still in training? Does yours help you get free stuff??With Some Grace

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

This one's for all the working mums

for the working mums

It's no big revelation that working mums find it tough to balance the needs of their families with the needs of their jobs. Dealing with the limitations of childcare and the demands of school, together with wanting to give our best at work, can be an emotional and relentless battle.

None of this is new to working mums and it shouldn't be surprising to employers either.

But bosses, this might surprise you: on the surface, we might look like we're holding it together, but deep down, we worry about the job we're doing at work. All the time. We worry that we're not doing a good enough job. We worry that the sleep deprivation from home has compromised our skills at work. We worry about rumours in the office, about being seen as not pulling our weight. We worry that you want much more from us than we can give.
In fact, one of the hardest things us working mums face is the perceived lack of support from our employers, which gets in the way of us making a positive contribution to our jobs. And it really doesn’t need to be this way. To help you out, here’s a few simple things that you can do for your working mums. Trust us: spend a bit of time on this stuff and you’ll reap the benefits in terms of morale, productivity, and loyalty.

Ask us how we're going
Four little words, that's all it takes to check-in with us: 'How are you coping?', or 'How are the kids?' Yes, we're professional and we know there's work to do.  But do we have to pretend our kids don't exist? Being a mum doesn't stop when we get to work - they tend to linger on our minds. It's called 'RESPONSIBILITY'. Asking us how we're going with it all shows that our circumstances matter to you, and that means everything to us.

Accept our limitations
We've spent hours figuring out what we can give to you work-wise that maintains some sort of balance with the other job we have, the one they call Motherhood. To make both jobs work logistically and emotionally, we've let you know the deal. Whether it's part-time hours or working from home, we've told you what we need to keep those plates spinning. Please don't ask us to stay late for a meeting when you know we've got kids to pick up from day-care. Ditto for those overnight trips or working extra hours from home. Don't highlight our limitations - support them.

Part-time is part-time
While we're on the subject of working extra hours, we're really grateful for the offer of part-time work on our return from maternity leave, which keeps the Holy Grail of work/life balance within our reach. But please don't squeeze the workload of a full-time role into the three days we come to work. Seriously, did you think we wouldn't notice? Feeling like we're not pulling our weight and can't get on top of our work is an unfair and unnecessary burden.

Understand what's involved
Getting up in the morning after a night of torturous, broken sleep is one thing. But getting the kids ready and packed for a day at childcare/school, making ourselves presentable for work and getting to places on time makes for a morning of chaos and stress, no matter how organised we are. For some of us, separating from our child is a new and painful experience, which takes some getting used to. You demonstrating some sensitivity around this stuff will go a long way in helping us get on top of it.

Know that you're getting a great package
Mums returning to work offer a superior and diverse set of skills thanks to the steep learning curve that comes with motherhood.  Consider this: as mums, we deal with demanding, recalcitrant and needy little people all day long. To manage this we need superior skills in communication, time-management and negotiation. So instead of us being a burden to the team, consider that we actually have lots to offer. Oh, and we are desperate for a bit of peace and quiet, so if you're after co-operative diligence, you've got it - we wouldn't want it any other way.

Help us feed our babies
Look, pumping milk isn't our idea of fun. But we sort of have a child to feed, and this doesn't go away just because we're at work. In fact, it might be the only way we feel connected to our baby when we're separated from them. Your support around this means a lot. But please don't ask us to pump milk in the toilet. The lunch-room won't do, either.  No, we're not a hassle - we're pretty freaking amazing, actually. Can you feed your kids with your own body?

Give us feedback
Especially the kind that says we're doing a great job. We need to hear this. Approval from you and knowing you're happy with what we're doing gives us a kick in our step and makes us feel valuable. But hey, if you have concerns, we need to hear that too. If there's better ways to make this work, we're all for it. Just don't let us get wind of them through rumours and bad energy in the office. Be upfront with us, and be honest - we can take it.
Whether we're at work by choice or through necessity, we mums just want to do a good job and feel like our contribution at work is valued. Returning to work after having babies shouldn't make us a burden. In fact, it makes us pretty amazing: amazing for creating little humans in the first place, and even more amazing for wanting to contribute to the workforce as well as raise our babies.

If anything, we should be revered for our choices. But we don't want any fuss. Just a few supportive gestures on your part is all we ask. 

Are you a working mum? How have you found it? Managed to find the illusive work/life balance? Got any horror back-to-work stories? There's a few going round!

* This post was originally published on Kidspot