All posts by caroline

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Holiday madness, exhaustion and long summer holidays

The fact that I am calling this blog post holiday madness is indicative of the crazy world we live. Holidays should be a time for rest, relaxation and fun.holiday madness

I’m in the exhaustion zone you know the one I mean.

That bit between the school finishing line and all the things that need to be done before holiday starts.

Prize giving, a de-stressing evening for mums who’ve just been through GCSEs (with their kids of course) sports days, kids reviews with teachers.

Another school year and the overwhelming feeling of relief, anxiety, fear and then what follows is the post school analysis.

Was it a good year or bad year? Wait for the end of term reports…

As working mums we juggle two calendars – January to December and the school year September to July. Managing the two can be quite frenetic.

Stress - business woman running lateI’m done using my filofax and an academic diary, it got way too confusing plus how many diaries do you really need to carry in your handbag and I use google calendar as well!

I use my good old filofax with everything in it and my google calendar.

As I write this I have no time for reflection yet on the school year too tired for that but I am left wanting.

What I mean is a side of the fact I lost the first two months of this year following a heel operation which resulted in a cast and then ski boot, which meant I couldn’t get around.

DeathtoStock_EnergyandSerenity4As a result this school year by anyone’s standards didn’t just vanish it has vaporised.

At a recent customer meeting we were talking about a job that we were both convinced had been done in 2014, thumbing through my iPad it turned out to be 2013.

‘Huh’ we both said at once because it felt only yesterday that we had been discussing that very print job.

How quickly time passes.

Another summer holiday and it is the one holiday period where I Escape and be freelike to think I can come up for air, look around me and appreciate there is another world that does not solely revolve around children’s’ school runs and activities.

It is also a time of the year where I aim to slow down be more reflective and consider where I am and what I’ve accomplished.

You might be thinking isn’t that something you would do at the end or start of a new year?

Maybe, but as the summer holidays stretch before me I like to take that time to really watch my children, sit down and join in with their conversation, listen to their laughter, play and have some fun with them.

I remember my childhood, a holiday was simple, uncomplicated with no fuss. No school, more play which meant more fun.

DeathtoStock_Medium10The problem with the summer holiday is that it can end up being a one big to do list, something I’m very good at writing down and then being bitterly disappointed when I achieve zero.

Here’s the list I have planned for when we are away:-

  • Aim to read three books in 3 weeks (that’s the duration of the time we are away) I’m almost at the end of week 2 and how many of those books do you think I’ve read?
  • I must make sure I get up early every day and train in the gym, walk or swim – I’ve been pretty good about this one I must say
  • Early nights – only one so far when the weather is sunny and hot how can you go to bed early?
  • Aim to do a sketch each day – I’m trying to follow Danny Gregory’s book –  a sketch before breakfast – I’ve achieved two so far

I know some parents dread the long summer holidays but I must be the exception to the rule.

I look forward to them firstly because it means getting off the treadmill of the everyday routine but more importantly it is time to be quiet and reflective and allow children to be ‘bored’ and relaxed because they too have had a busy school year and need to rest.

I set too high expectations for myself and then if this isn’t painful enough I add the following to my list of holiday expectations:-

Relaxation VS Stress

  1. I must enjoy, relax and make the best of the summer holiday
  2. I must aim to make sure that the summer holidays are special for my husband and boys
  3. I must enjoy the holidays at all costs

With all these expectations and ideals ‘holiday madness’ is becoming a reality.

The idea of a holiday is just that a ‘holiday’ not a time to be setting a load of aims and objectives which then become a set of obligations that you feel compelled to fulfil only to be bitterly disappointed when you fail.

The prospect of giving up holidays and working seems a far more rewarding prospect than the thought of physically taking yourself on holiday.

Will the world really stop turning if I don’t meet my expectations?

The most important thing is to make time for yourself and to do more of what you want to do instead of trying to meet a handful of obligations which turn out to be stressful.

So what if books don’t get read or you don’t send postcards which end up arriving two weeks after you are back in the UK.

I’m going to keep things simple by avoiding holiday madness, I will try and enjoy myself by spending time with my family and not feel guilty just because I failed to read three books!

 

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What it really means to be a working mother

Recently I’ve been contemplating life without work, what would it feel like to wake knowing I only have the school run to negotiate, how cool that would be.

working mothers

There would be no income, that’s a bit of a downer but the thought of dropping the kids into school and then wallowing in my duvet would be a nice thought.

Waking up in the morning worry free –  a nice feeling, after all no matter how much you kid yourself you don’t worry about things – you do.

And no matter how hard you try to push stuff that worries you to the back of your mind it’s always there.

At times I feel like I am co-existing in a time warp, stumbling from one day to the next trying to hold it together. God forbid my cleaning lady retires, my whole house of cards will definitely come tumbling down.

You see my working life is a fine balance – more like a juggling act.

GCSE’s have dominated our household for the first time and I considered a ‘TAXI’ sign for the top of my car and adding a duvet and pillow for the back seat given I’ve spent more time in this vehicle than anywhere else.

‘As soon as the exam is over I need to be collected so I can get back home and study for the next exam’, my son says nonchalantly.

Like I have nothing better to do with my time, ‘I do have a day job’ I tell my son.

I know it’s important to do what you can for your kids when they are right in the middle of important public exams and I’m one of the lucky ones I can leave work to collect them and then work from home.

These last few weeks have all been about the exams but I realise that this treadmill I call life has nothing to do with work but rather kids.

work life balance and wellbeing

When they are babies they are cute and cuddly and you love, adore and dote on them jump forward 15-16 years and they are bumbling teenagers with grotty tempers and raging hormones and you are just the over worked, stressed, under paid parent doing the running around.

A eureka moment, I’m not actually stressed about work, I realise that I’m stressed because of kids.

They are hard bloody work and it doesn’t stop when they become teenagers.

More time running around, never a moment to sit down. A late pick up from school at 8PM; a cricket match at 9:00am no wonder I’m knackered all the time.

What do non working mums do? It’s hard enough fitting all this in as a stay at home mum but fitting in work as well?

working mothers

In fact work very definitely fits around school life and not the other way around, unfortunately.

Type into google ‘working mothers’ and there is a myriad of ideas to help the working mothers of today:-

How to balance your work/life schedule? You can’t

How to fit sex into a busy work schedule? Plan 2 years in advance by that time he’ll have forgotten.

How to make time for yourself without feeling guilty – Pleeeeease, working mothers always feel guilty whom ever they are and whatever they do.

Working mothers risk damaging their children’s prospects – just make us feel even worse than we do already why don’t you?

Can women really have it all? – If I hear that phrase again I’d probably kill the person who says it, the answer is NO we can’t!

The case for working mothers – DO we really need one…

The pros and cons of being a working mother – that’s a new one on me!

The best companies to work for as a working mother – None they all want your 110% commitment, they use cute advertising to induce working mothers.

Kids benefit from a working mum – that’s because we don’t spend 24/7 with the little buggers.

And so it goes

What is it like for me?

When I established Digital Print Management fifteen years ago I had a son under eighteen months and he came everywhere with me.

The office, on appointments when I needed to visit customers.

I wanted to break that mould and take my son with me after all, I’m a mother why should I hide him away just because I had a meeting to attend too.

Back then business was fun and a lot easier. I wanted to do my own thing so I could be with my children more and take the time out to see those school concerts and sports days.

And I’m proud to say I’ve only ever missed two events, one due to sickness the other because of a train delay. Ninety per cent of the time I drive them to school, pick them up and drop them around to their extra activities.

But it has been a different level of sacrifice and at times I’ve cursed the office.

It is a half-term break and I am working from home but the office is like a vortex it sucks you in and spits you out at the end of the day.

Before you know it, that trip you’d scheduled is abandoned, in mutual agreement, but that time you had committed to spend with your kids vanishes into thin air.

It’s all in the planning, I know, but when something unexpected crops up you can’t tell the customer can you wait until morning I’m on the way out with the kids.

The downside of running your own business is there is very little ‘me time’. It is impossible to to justify time away from the office when it is your business.

Ridiculous really because what’s complicated about booking an afternoon out in your diary, thousands who work for companies do but when it’s your business it isn’t always that easy and you end up playing catchup for the rest of the week.

Trying to get 8-9 hours of work into 6-7 hours won’t go so it feels like you never really empty your plate by the end of the day.

I have learned to be less hard on myself and not to go into panic mode if something isn’t finished on time. The other thing I’ve learn’t is not to put so much pressure on myself to get things done. No one will die if that task doesn’t get finished on time.

Prioritising has become an essential part of planning and now I try and go with the flow of things. Just when I think I’m on top of everything, some other issue comes along that needs to be sorted.

I know I’m not the only woman that feels like there is a permanent vice like grip in the pit of the stomach, the ‘I’m sure I’ve forgotten something’ moment when things seem to be going too smoothly are commonplace.

Friends who know me suggest that I would be lost if that’s the right word without work, I don’t think so it’s just that thing you do because of necessity rather than choice.

I’m still trying to find that balance between calm and stress, there are days when I could pack my bags and walk but instead I get my head down and carry on.

 

Mother and daughter

When I sound like my Mother

I’m going through a bad phase when things come out of my mouth often without thinking and when that happens my brain says OMG, I sound just like my mother. Anger

I always promised myself that this would never happen, that I would not become the reincarnation of my mother and probably my much loved and missed grandmother.

But, ‘they’ say it runs in families so therefore I have only my mother to blame for sounding like my mother.

I find myself in situations repeating the same catch phrases I heard my mother say and it makes me die with embarrassment.

Shopping with my eldest son recently who was looking to update his wardrobe with the clothes vouchers he’d been given for christmas, I found myself saying to him ‘why would you want to wear that‘, or, that’s completely impractical’.

CRAP! I’ve just said something my mother would have said!

When I buy things I inadvertently say out loud you can’t get the same quality as you use to, it’s not the same as it was when I was fifteen.

I moan at bad customer service, ‘it just isn’t like it use to be, I wish the person on the end of the phone could actually speak english, or how long does it take to get served,’ are all part of the long repertoire of catch phrases and comments that my mum had stashed in her verbal armoury.

Ahhh I check myself in the mirror and note to my my slowly growing horror I am actually metamorphosing into my mother.

There I said it, scary but true.

I’ve even got the same ‘roman nose’ and the fine lines that run down either side of my protrusio,  a feature that has been passed along the female generations.

family father mother daughte dispute reproach silhouetteI can’t seem to stop myself because when I say something that reminds me of my mum, the look on my face is one of shame, because I can recall those exact same words that were said to me when I was my children’s age.

I sound like my mother.

Whilst I know my mum only had the very best of intentions and my interests at heart, I felt I couldn’t comfortably express or be myself for fear of her disapproval.

Disco night on a Friday, I’m fifteen and I have chosen an outfit that I believe will seek her approval. After having left the house I sneak back into the garage to get out my grungy army dungarees, big fluffy jumper and Dr Martens boots.

That and my mod badges running up and down my parkka you’d be forgiven trying to figure out if I was punk or mod.

But if my mother had seen me dressed like this her indignation and scorn would have reverberated in my mind and still haunts me now.

I can picture her face when my friend came with her mum to pick me up as we headed off to the disco at the local sea scout community centre.

I waited until the last possible minute before slowly coming downstairs desperate to avoid her cutting comments but I failed and there she stared at me as I headed toward the door to exit as fast as I could, I can recall her saying ‘is that what they are wearing now!’

In the scheme of things my dress sense was really tame and boring I didn’t have a need or want to be boho or hippy chic, rock or punk I just had my way of dressing.Mother and daughter

But often during my teenage years it was her way or no way.

Looking back I realise that her comments weren’t malicious, it was her way of expressing disapproval.

I have, since becoming a mother forced myself to behave differently with my own children which is challenging to say the least especially when my eleven year old co-ordinates some very interesting and colourful combinations of clothing.

At which point I find myself saying very gently not sure that orange really goes too well with maroon, go and have a look in the mirror and see what you think?

As parents I believe it is our job to encourage self-expression in our children, why shouldn’t they feel comfortable in their own skin and choice of clothes, without being put down or being made to feel small.

But, as daughters of mothers who were perhaps less than approving the effort to seek parental approval was hard work and the sense of failure at times was  difficult to bear and I am certain I do not want to pass on this trait to my children.

If you do that again, I’ll tell your father when he comes home!

 

 

the best things in life are free

The best things in life are free – well almost.

Recently I told Mr M that we need to cut back on spending by that I mean we need to cut back on our weekly food bill which appears to have got out of control.

Items like Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, clotted cream, posh yogurts, nice meat cuts all need to be shelved until further notice whilst we adapt to the ‘essential range’ which is cheaper. The best things in life are free

Business is tough so we need to set a weekly budget and as Mr M happens to have a rather large credit card bill, phew, I had to lay down the law.

Certain ‘luxuries’ are going to have to go by the wayside.

We have our own separate bank accounts and have done since we’ve been together, as Mr M said ‘I can’t trust you with my bank account and your compulsion to handbags’ still rings in my ears’, sorry, what was that you said?

Given that it is YOU that has the credit card bill not I?

Examining our suitcases at the weekend made me realise that not only do we need a new set, more expense and up in smoke goes the weekly budget but the amount of freebies Mr M collects.

In his case I found lotions and potions representing seven years of holiday travel.

There was the trip to Paris, just the two of us and a load of free Bulgari creams and soaps that he took from a very nice hotel we had the good fortune to stay in.

Then the free slippers that came with the short break we had in Germany at christmas time.

There was a shower hat, not sure when he might use that but you never know, toothpaste, combs, shoe polishes, mini grooming kits, mini sewing kits, plastic bags that you put your dirty laundry into when you stay in a hotel.

There were hotel flannels, mini towels, biscuits, coffee and tea sachets line them all up and it looked like a who’s who of european destinations.

the best things in life are freeAt the end of this discovery there was a nice tidy hoard of stuff, enough products albeit out of date to set up a small table at our local car boot sale.

Mr M is a freebie junkie, he can’t help himself, if it isn’t nailed down it’s free, which means it’s fair game.

A supermarket trip that we rarely do together is fraught with deception, having spotted the lady giving our free cheese testers at the cheese counter.

Mr M excuses himself to go and have a look at ‘stuff’ as an excuse to hover next to the cheese lady and sample bits of cheese until he has devoured the lot.

Wondering why my beloved is taking so long I spot him sheepishly heading toward the next aisle in search of cover from the now rather angry cheese lady.

I can’t believe it I say when I finally catch up with him, slightly red in the face because of his covert exploits.Anger

He then heads toward the free wine tasting, the supermarket are doing the ‘supermarket special wine offer of the month’ and he wants to see if it’s any good.

Then I stop myself, who am I kidding? I have never paid full price for anything in my life, bar holiday flights but even then I’ve been known to stalk a well known flight company daily to check prices because guess what they change between morning and night I can testify to that.

From bargain handbags, shoes, dresses, food, wine, Pizza Express vouchers, six months for the price of three, I’m there.

Why are there ‘outlet stores’?

For people like me who have a complete and anal fear of paying full price for anything.

If I purchase a handbag, boots or shoes, my response is ‘I got it in the sale, or, it was 30% off a bargain, they were practically giving them away, it was too much of a good thing not to buy.

I want it cheap and if possible I want it free or pay the minimum I can get away with.

I find myself asking ‘do you take the student NUS card?’ for any purchase I make even if I shave 10% off the bill.

I love discount, I love free, I can’t help myself.iStock_000013524456Small

It must be in the blood because older generations of my family do the same.

My father is the worst he will collect hemp made bags full of leaflets, brochures, any old junk because ‘it might come in useful one day’.

Discounting is all well and good until you find yourself having to pay full price for a meal or an article of clothing.

How much did you say that was, I shout, aghast, you’re kidding, for that!

The best things in life are free – well almost!

 

 

african businesswoman sitting in office

Sex in the city – dressing for work

You are a professional woman, you have worked hard to get into the  company or job role you really wanted and you like to wear short skirts and plunging necklines.

What does that say about you as a woman? women and dress

Many of us can be forgiven for thinking that she is using her sex appeal to get noticed or, she’s challenging the establishment by being anti-conservative in her dress or, simply that is her fashion statement.

A recent study undertaken by Karen Pine Psychology Professor at the University of Hertfordshire shows that women who wear provocative clothing at work are more likely to be seen as incompetent than those that dress conservatively by other females.

The study sought to examine how minor changes to female office clothing affect the attitude and judgements of competency by other UK females.

Of the 144 participants aged between 18-59, 90 were employed in a range of roles from nursery assistant, teacher, HR Manager and personal assistant; the other 54 were female students.

Participants were asked to rate images of faceless females using six criteria; intelligence, confidence, trustworthiness, responsibility, authority and organisation.

The dress style was conservative but altered slightly by skirt length and the number of buttons unfastened on a blouse.

I asked Karen what was the point of the research:

‘we have carried out research previously that showed how first impressions created by clothing can be very powerful and we wanted to explore the consequences of this particularly for women in the workplace’.

What can women learn from this research?

In offices up and down the country there will be the ‘woman’ whose wonderful sense of style and dress sense, the co-ordinated handbags and shoes leave us feeling somewhat frumpy and bewildered in her Armani wake.

african businesswoman sitting in officeThink Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada and Ann Hathaway’s student preppy dress style when she turns up the first day to work as P.A. to Miranda. ( a la Streep)

Watching that film makes me wish I had the budget and the wardrobe to match.

Can dress really have an effect on how we view people?

Are we really that fickle to presume that because a receptionist wears a low neckline she must be flirty?

Can what we wear impact our career prospects and how we are received by both men and women in the workplace?

According to Pine that is exactly what it does, first impressions really do count and can make a difference in how we engage and respond with that person.

No woman wants to admit that they are jealous of another woman, or, that they are intimidated by a co-worker who is super efficient and has the perfect manicure without a hair out of place because we are already working hard to make sure that we are taken seriously.

Can wearing a shorter skirt and a lower neckline imply that we don’t take our own job seriously enough to dress the part or is our inner self wanting to express what and who we are by the way we dress.

The research by Pine suggests that actually what we wear really does count and fundamentally has an impact on the way we are perceived.

Professionally I am very conscious of what I wear particularly if I am meeting with women, I find myself dressing down because I worry that what I wear might be seen as too dressy or expensive.

People then view you as ‘who does she think she is?’

We are what we wear?

There is an argument that suggests that what we wear determines how we see that person, the assumptions we make about what ‘she’ wears, her style and what her life must be outside of work is based on little more than the Prada handbags and matching shoes she so lovingly co-ordinates to wear to the office.

We no longer see that co-worker or customer as a person or a woman but as competition rather than taking a long look at ourselves and making changes that can enhance our attributes for the better.

We compare ourselves to work associates, actresses and pop stars and what to be like them?

Often our style is better than we think and comparing ourselves diminishes what we really do have going for us.

The phrase ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ has a real truth about it.

How you look at work is essential to make lasting impressions but the actual work you do is far more important than how you are graded by what you wear.

In which case the research done by the University of Hertfordshire holds water, what we wear does have an effect on our competency and how we are perceived by work colleagues.

What do you think?

Are you bothered about what people think of your business dress?

Does it really matter how we look at work?

Is our competency on the job more important than business dress?

 

 

teenage sex

Teenage sex and the forgotton boy

Sex, three letters and the mere mention of the word makes people teen sexvery coy, blush or hurriedly change the subject.

Unsurprisingly it always ends up being one of the main topics of our conversation at my friends termly meet up for lunch.

Teenage sex.

Should I let my daughter, nineteen and at University sleep in the same room as her newly acquired boyfriend?

What age are teens losing their virginity?

Should we let our offspring share their ‘bedroom’ and bed for that matter with their boyfriend/girlfriend when they are only seventeen?

Is teenage sex that bad? There are worse things happening in the world?

Seventeen – yikes I hadn’t even thought about it at that age, call me a late developer or late starter for that matter, nope I was way too interested in other stuff and one blonde haired blue eyed boy that I was hopelessly in love with but teenage sex, no way, didn’t even cross my mind.

I know at that age some of my friends were doing it or experimenting I should say and took great delight in sharing all the details with me, like I was ‘Aunty’.

Whilst sex was a regular topic of conversation with my friends from 15-16 and upwards it didn’t matter if you admitted you were still a virgin there wasn’t this taboo, you weren’t ostracised and hung out to dry just because you hadn’t lost your virginity.

I’m holding out for someone special said one friend, what happens if you meet him when you’re 32 said another?

teenage sexThere is never a dull moment when I meet with friends and the ‘teenage sex’ conversation’ comes up.

Two of us have boys, my other friends have girls, they want to get our perspective and try and understand what boys are thinking when it comes to girls.

Teenagers are more promiscuous than we were? A bit of a generalisation I said, not every single teenager from thirteen and upwards is having sex.

Most young people under the age of 16 will have an interest in sex and sexual relationships. Sexual exploration and experimentation are a normal part of childhood development.

The age of consent to any form of sexual activity is 16 for both men and women. The age of consent is the same regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of a person and whether the sexual activity is between people of the same or different gender.

It is an offence for anyone to have any sexual activity with a person under the age of 16. However, Home Office guidance is clear that there is no intention to prosecute teenagers under the age of 16 where both mutually agree and where they are of a similar age.

It is an offence for a person aged 18 or over to have any sexual activity with a person under the age of 18 if the older person holds a position of trust (for example a teacher or social worker) as such sexual activity is an abuse of the position of trust.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 provides specific legal protection for children aged 12 and under who cannot legally give their consent to any form of sexual activity. There is a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for rape, assault by penetration, and causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Are teenagers becoming sexually active younger? 

The obvious answer is yes, but is it because we hear so much about teenage sex?

They see sex everywhere – on TV, in magazines, online, then there is peer pressure add to that pop stars flaunting what god gave them proving that sex does sell.

It is more accessible than when we were kids. Teenagers know so much more than we ever did but that’s because it is easier to access and view information. Therefore comparing the past with the present is impossible.

teen sexKids learn about sex in their personal development and sex education program, ‘orrible and yuk’ were the descriptive words used by my eleven year old recently.

Biologically factual but with no reference to abstinence.

And, if you don’t learn at school and your parents don’t tell you, friends will.

Sexting is considered a normal part of sexual development akin to the fumble and kiss behind the bike sheds – I’m not saying I agree with ‘sexting being normalised’ but there is an argument that suggests teens have been brought up in a social, online world and sending images could be viewed as part of their sexual development and almost a form of courtship.

It is similar in the way we may of passed on secret love notes to the boy/girl we fancied in school or scribbled a note in their exercise book, they use sexting, the difference is, it is online, invasive and has a darker side particularly if an image goes viral.

If kids are told not to do something, that just makes them want to push the boundaries even more.

My eldest son tells me that teenage sex amongst his peers is common, is that just showmanship or boys being boys?

My girlfriend recounted a funny conversation she had with her son and his friend on the way home from school.

They were talking about how having sex first is far more important than starting a relationship  with a person that way if the sex is no good you move on.

teenage sex

How can you be good at sex as a teenager?

Sex is the most natural thing between two consenting adults and can be a very beautiful experience if you are in love, but let’s be honest it takes practice.

I’m bringing up my boys up to respect women and to appreciate the differences between love and sex.

But, I’m not that naive to think that if they are going to ‘do it’, they will, but it is my job, our job as parents to point out the perils of having sex with different partners.

My twenty-four year old step son came to me when he was seventeen and told me that his girlfriend was on the pill, that was his way of saying we are having sex.

Following a long conversation about starting sexual relationships young, I pointed out that by the time he is thirty he could potentially have had eight different partners assuming the average relationship lasted a year.

I pointed to my then gorgeous three year old, as he toddled into his bedroom where we were talking, my stepson reflected on what I hoped were my words of wisdom.

I suggested that if they weren’t careful and didn’t use protection they might end up with a little bundle before they’ve even had time to enjoy the rest of their teenage years.

Now, what was I saying about my misspent youth…

 

Is your daily commute killing you?

Is your daily commute killing you?

A little extreme? Maybe

Too many hours travelling to and from your place of work will Is your daily commute killing you?eventually take its toll on you, your family and your work life!

It’s hardly groundbreaking news.

Watch the way people drive on the motorways and on the train commute to London and you can see how tired and fed up most people seem to be.

iStock_000017748204Small

The economic climate has resulted in many of us commuting even farther to work due to changes in employment or seeking better opportunities.

For twenty years I regularly commuted to my place of work often fifty-sixty miles each way,  on the road for four hours plus assuming there was no motorway chaos or accidents!

In my job as a sales representative, I managed to accumulate 49,000 business miles that’s a little under 1,000 miles a week in one year.

That paled into insignificance to other work colleagues some of whom were travelling in excess of 60,000+ a year.

There was a competition to see who could accumulate the most number of business miles because our fuel cards were running an incentive, swapping road-miles for air miles.

At the time I was newly divorced and so there was no direct impact on anyone but me.

No wonder I was tired, cranky and single I didn’t have time for relationships let a lone time to socialise.

My backside started to turn square sitting in the car for so long. Often my only relaxation time was my daily run, either very early or late at night.

Not surprising then that I was and still am a big advocate of working from home, or teleworking.

Three vital tools a salesperson needed in those days was a phone, a writing pad and a desk or table.

Is your daily commute killing you?

I simply could not understand why my employers were reluctant to let us work from home.

I worked so hard to prove and convince my sales bosses that this surely was a more cost effective and productive way of working, I even did a presentation to justify the cost benefits.

In the early 90’s my idea of working from home was 1-2 days a week, with a day at the office and 1-2 days out visiting customers and prospective clients.

It appeared to be a workable solution and it had the potential to deliver a more productive and less tired sales consultant.

Sadly, my employers were resistant! Surely proof of staying at home was PRODUCTIVITY = RESULTS = SALES = SAVINGS = no more excessive fuel and mobile phone bills.

Many years later when I established Digital Print Management, my commute to the office is typically a fifteen mile trip and fits in with my boys schooling, my home and personal life, all of which are reasonably well balanced.

Many of our customers have adopted a more laid back approach to their employees working from home and oftentimes I talk with customers who themselves are also working from home.

Employers are slowly waking up to the benefits of mobile working but, it is a slow change marked with cultural antipathy.

Attitudes are shifting and it is becoming the accepted norm. Wherever it is physically possible, a job should allow flexibility and freedom to work from the home and office.

Mobile devices, smartphones and tablets provide the flexibility and accessibility to achieve this.

One company I worked for in the city absolutely insisted that I checked in to the office daily prior to going out cold calling and visiting clients, in spite of the travelling I did into London daily.

It felt like a sprint to get to the office on time before then dashing out again to my first call.Is your daily commute killing you?

No matter how hard I tried I could not convince the manager that working this way was tiring and ineffective.

Evidently me showing my face at the beginning of the day was the reassurance he needed to know that yes, I was really working.

It didn’t occur to him that if I wanted to I could have slipped off any afternoon to Oxford Street to go shopping.

Work should be viewed as an activity and not a destination or location that one has to trawl through traffic to get too.

In the last five years there has been a radical shift in attitudes to the home working model between January-March 2014 there were 4.2 million of us working from home or 13.9% of the workforce, 25.9 million who were non-home workers.

7% of non-home workers were self employed compared with 63% of home workers. 34% of home workers were employees of an organisation. (Source: ONS)

Accessing emails, connecting to company data on the go have revolutionised the way we work, engaging with customers remotely, on social media, email, skype or google hangouts is an accepted standard of working.

With technology making our lives easier and stress free from the daily commute surprisingly large companies like Yahoo back in 2013 turned the teleworking policy on its heels and insisted that employees should work at the office location because it stimulates ideas, decisions and insights often in the hallway or in the cafeteria.

Organisations have streamlined integration of business applications into the mobile world through cloud computing providing a greater level of functionality and security in mobile platforms for remote working.

Working from home has made portable devices indispensable.

Does working from home have it’s downside?

Aside of the commute, working from home can leave us disconnected from work colleagues and in some instances it could be days before you talk to someone face to face.

But working from home affords you the opportunity to think, something you can’t do effectively in a busy office, time to plan, to be creative and the most important part is it gives us the chance to collect the children from school or be there to welcome them home!

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Mollycoddling parents. Are we really too protective of our kids?

Bang, I was hit over the head metaphorically speaking when I realised that I am simply doing too much for my kids.

Mollycoddling parents, I believe that is what we are referred to as. Group Of Elementary School Pupils Running In Playground

Am I really molly-coddling my children, am I stifling their childhood?

Or, am I an ordinary working mother who cares about how her children end up?

I am sick to death of the media  bombarding us with images of our children growing up in an unsafe country.

At every corner there is a peadophile or some extremist waiting to prey on our children and hurt them.

What has happened to good old fashioned parenting skills and mother instincts.

why I fear for my children's future

I remember as a child going off after breakfast with my friends to the park, this involved crossing a seriously busy road on my bike, then riding what probably seemed like five miles but what was probably only two and half miles to play in the park.

There was no rubber matting under the climbing frames, swings at best were marginally safe and as for stranger danger, yes we knew not to talk to strangers or take sweets, because it was on the television and it was the last thing our parents would remind us of as we left the house.

My mother particularly taught me to use my instincts, if it doesn’t look or feel right it probably isn’t.

I remember walking through the park to get into town, catching two

role models for teenagers

buses to get to the gym club on a friday night and cycle to the recreation centre to meet with friends on Disco night.

It is the 21st century and my children have less independence than I had and yet they have more than I ever had at their age and I find myself asking what is different, what has changed?

I drive my children to school, simple really I work in the same town as the school they attend, if I sent them on the bus which would make for a less stressful start to the day but it will cost me twice as much as it does now.

DeathtoStock_NotStock6When my eldest son now fifteen asks if he can go into town with his friends, it becomes an interrogation about where is he going, who he is going with, how long will he be there for.

He understands and respects our need to know that he will be safe and yet it feels like we are taking away his freedom.

The only thing that is driving that concern is the fear that he might be stabbed or mugged all for an iPhone.

Is the media to blame for this shift in the way we are so protective of our children or is it simply that we know more because of the news and the power of social media.

I do feel that they don’t have the childhood that I had, we had.

The school day is long, there are extra curricular activities that they want to do, then homework with little or no time for play.

When holidays arrive understandably they want to be on the playstation or watch films on the television and relax.

When I was fifteen I spent two evenings a week at my gymnastics club, every saturday afternoon and alternate sunday mornings and I still had time to watch television in the evenings after homework and I remember after training on saturday getting home for 6PM to watch the Bionic Man and the inevitable Bionic Woman.

We seemed to have endless amounts of time.

I watch two young children endlessly busy with homework, coursework and GCSE’s and wonder was it like this when I was their age?

Parenting is not rocket science and often it is a mixture of making it up as you go along with good old fashioned inner instincts.

Do I then fit into the category of being over-protective or is this the treadmill of life?

I know I don’t overprotect or smother my children, they simply have no choice but to rely on me to get them to and from school.

And as our town centre requires a fourteen mile journey to get there they rely on us to take and collect them when they meet up with friends.

As a parent we are dominated by the fear factor.

Are they ok, is it safe.

These weren’t the questions that my parents asked when I travelled on public transport.

Does this lack of independence mean that not just my children but ‘our children’ will be unable to cope when they are older, unable to buy a train ticket, understand a bus timetable, book a taxi on the phone?

Whilst I freely admit that I encourage my children to play the sports or do the hobbies they love I haven’t orchestrated this for my benefit.

I want them to be busy, it keeps them interested, gives them some independence, they learn new things and hopefully they have fun.

A good friend of ours related the tales of his eldest daughter who went off to University in September. For the first two-three weeks, his wife was making twice weekly trips with food and clean laundry.

‘You’ve spoiled her’, yes, he said. We’ve done nothing to promote independence, Julie has done everything for her, made her bed, cooked, ironed, given her lifts to friends.

When she left she was ill equipped for what university life had to throw at her, sharing with people she’d never met, unable to cook proper food, no organisation in her daily life, plan the food shopping list, when to change the bed, wash clothes and so on.

Initially she felt bereft and insecure and at one point considered moving to a University closer to home.

All because she had not been disciplined or had prepared for entry into the world.

When I mentioned that over the last few months we’ve been making an effort to teach the boys basic cooking like pasta with meat sauce, how to cook and english breakfast and prepare simple meals, how to iron a shirt or pair of jeans it was met with ‘I wish we’d done that’.

It was a decision my husband came to when he said I was cosseting them too much, but that’s ‘what mothers do’, I said.

You are are a mollycoddling parent, how I hate that word. In my view I thought I was doing the right thing but I thought about what I did when I was eleven and fifteen respectively and the realisation dawned on me.

At the time I wasn’t pleased to be accused of being a mollycoddling parent but deep down I knew that if continued I would not be helping them prepare for entry into adulthood.

Good parenting isn’t just about making sure they come top in english it’s about teaching them the mundane, everyday life skills. If we don’t show them or teach them how are they going to be ready for the real world.

Many young people just expect success will be easy, only to crumble and fall apart when they crash at the first obstacle?

How do we encourage independence when the world appears so unsafe and unwieldy?

Fear is the dominant emotion – the fear of something happening to them and consequently children are being denied the chance to learn on their own, to work things out and to take responsibility for their own actions.

I don’t have the answers but I do know that we have lost the confidence to trust ourselves as parents and to trust our children that they are actually more aware than we probably give them credit for.

 

 

 

Make things happen

What happened to your new years resolutions?

How are your new years resolutions shaping up?

Did you start with all those good intentions?

It is the start of March and let me guess you’re feeling disheartened Make things happen and disenchanted.

Nine weeks in to a new year and there’s already a sense of resignation.

Relief that January and February is over thank god and there’s only ten months before it starts all over.

Those new years resolutions you made with the best of intentions at the beginning of the year are now beginning to flag.

That is because we are programmed to see the new year as a new start, a new beginning both personally, professionally and emotionally, and we feel compelled to start a new year with goals, plans and resolutions.

This year I drew a mind map in different colours of all the things I wanted to achieve in 2015.

When I looked back at 2014 guess what they were the same goals I had set for myself.

All I had done was carry them over into the new year.

But then I took a closer look and realised that they are all work and business related rather than specific goals, there was nothing that I had set for me personally.

Time to PlanWhen I look back on 2014 I actually got a lot done. I started and finished an art journal which included sketches, a diary of my thoughts, and daily inspirational quotes to help me focus and keep motivated.

It may not be up there with Picasso but it’s a start. I completed my womens freelance journalism course and got a distinction so that was an achievement.

But I genuinely believed that I had not accomplished anything of real value in 2014.

I’ve been on too many courses in my working life that always end with the SMART acronym and for those of you that don’t know or always forget like I do it stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.

The top 2% of the world’s most successful people are successful because they set goals that are written down, goals they refer to daily and are ingrained in their psyche, they work to achieve them in the timescales they set for themselves.

Without having a written set of goals how can we expect to achieve them?

Brian Manley, a leading expert in goal setting states that this is the Empty asphalt road towards cloud and signs symbolizing success acore requirement to ensure we reach our goals.

In other words having a written set of affirmations, goals, resolutions whatever you want to call them is key to ensuring success.

I thought I had done that in 2014 but couldn’t honestly put a tick against many of the tasks or goals I’d set myself and decided that maybe I had been unrealistic in what I wanted to get done in a time frame that really didn’t suit my goals.

And then the realisation dawned on me that I had set myself a whole load of work tasks to finish and no real long term resolutions or goals for example retire in five years, buy a house in Portugal, aim to work a four day week, improve my basic italian.

One of the biggest resolutions I hear talked about is ‘I must go to the gym more, or I need to exercise’.

We’ve been so programmed to think that we should or must be making changes because we believe it is the right thing to do that we don’t actually stop and think why we are making them.

Making a list of all the things we want to achieve and then establishing why we want to do it, encourages us to stick with the plan. But most of us start out with the best of intentions only to fail at the first hurdle or be discouraged by a latent comment.

Most of our resolutions tend to be habits and this makes it difficult for us to change, the old adage, you can’t change a habit of a lifetime rings true.

If our resolutions are merely habits then we are likely to fail because we have no real reason to change; if there is no reason to believe in changing then nothing happens.

If one of your goals is to lose weight than the real question is why?

It should go beyond because you want to look better, fitter, healthier often there is a more deeper personal reason why weight is an issue and not just because of wanting a better body for the beach this year.

iStock_000017646689SmallI also think that by setting so many objectives ends up in defeat and so I’ve decided to stick with one main goal for 2015, it is a personal goal.

I am making more time to sketch and paint, the reason I want to do this is because I want to develop my creativity and I’m doing it because I enjoy it.

Here are my top tips that have helped me start 2015 better than 2014

  1. Start with the end in mind taken from Stephen Covey but it works. I imagine a finish line before I actually start so if I’m working on a project I think about what I’m going to do when I’ve completed it. It might be a small thing like watch the next episode of Scandal.
  2. Don’t look at the whole year and decide that by December you want to be or have done, break this down into chunks of time and aim for smaller timescales; by the end of March I want to be, or have done, that way it doesn’t seem so big and impossible. As you know I’ve had a heel operation and I can not even think about any type of heavy impact exercise or running until maybe June/July so rather than focussing on hoping I can start running then, I’ve decided to set a goal for each week. This week I started swimming, my heel was painful but it felt great to be doing something, next week I’m aiming to try and walk on the treadmill, the week after to be able to walk properly rather than shuffle my left foot. Each milestone is like a breakthrough.
  3. Decide on one or two goals only, then ask yourself why do I want to do this? Is it because you love it or because you are having to do it, if it is the latter and it is work related it maybe you have no choice in which case focus and get it done quickly. If it is personal ask yourself what will it mean if you don’t achieve that goal and how will you feel when you do reach that goal.
  4. Make sure you have your goals written down in your filofax, on a sticky note next to your computer, on the fridge, in your diary ~ doodle them as pictures or take photos and stick them wear you can see them as a reminder and when you start to recognise those signs of giving up look at them again to remind yourself I’m doing this because.
  5. This final tip I’ve only just tried, it isn’t my own idea but I found it on Pinterest. Write a letter to yourself ~ list 3 things that worked for you last year ~ list 3 things that didn’t work for you last year ~ write about all the best things that happened last year ~ the worst parts of last year ~ your hopes, wishes, dreams for 2015 ~ what one goal you will focus on for 2015.
  6. Then make it happen.

Let ‘s compare how well we do this time next year!

 

 

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Social media and teenagers?

We all think we know everything there is to know about social iStock_000022436179Smallmedia after all, most of us spend some time either on facebook, twitter, instagram or a combination of some or more of the social networks. 

Many parents are concerned about social media and teenagers, how to manage what their teens are doing when they are on social media.

It’s hard enough being a parent in 2015 and then factor in the allure of social media and the need for always being connected and no wonder we fret over the safety of our children.

I have friends who have absolutely no interest in social media whatsoever and others who spend a large part of their day posting updates whether it is for personal or business use.

DeathtoStock_Medium6I am also a parent that worries about the impact of technology on our children and what the long term effects are.

With all this pressure of wanting to do the right thing and living in a constant state of fear for our childrens safety, it would be easier to turn your back, pretend that social media is no big deal and assume that our children are safe.

The fact of the matter is, social media is a big black gaping hole and if you are not careful it’s very easy to fall into it without understanding the good and the bad.

As a parent of two I do remind my boys about the implications of posting an emotional outburst on Facebook; for every action there is a consequence, I have tried to drill this into them as part of their upbringing.

At least once a month I come back with posts I’ve read on the DeathtoStock_Medium10internet about teenagers falling foul, befriended by undesirables or suspended from school because of some ‘harmless’ messaging between two pupils over a teacher they disliked.

Whilst I can point out the pitfalls of social media I can’t always protect them so I try to share my knowledge and show them how I use social media in the hope that they do understand and use it carefully and wisely.

This is not a ‘how to post’ but rather an insight into how I’ve worked with my boys who are 15 and 11 years and what I’ve tried to do to ensure their safety on the internet and social media.

iStock_000017041643SmallWhen I found out that my eldest son had set up his facebook account at the tender age of 12 to say I was unimpressed would be way off the mark.

His response was ‘I will be thirteen in five months.’

But that’s not the point.

Facebook’s algorithms enable them to display adverts and messages suitable for the age of the user so in my case, adverts that are relevant to me according to gender, likes, age and background will pop up as adverts.

This information is obtained once you’ve consented to setting up your account.  From that information facebook know your age, background, your likes and this in turn creates a profile of you which can then be used by facebook to display advertisements.

After I had discovered why my son had gone ahead and violated the terms of facebook’s age of consent, I asked him why he did it?

Apologetically he explained that his friends had accounts and he didn’t want to miss out.

It was also FOMO the fear of missing out and I’ve talked about that here.

The downside of him being on facebook at that age was that he wasn’t emotionally mature to deal with often harmless but pointed comments, there were times when he was upset because someone had poked fun at him or had uninvited him to a party – the usual stuff that besets hormonally charged teenagers.

After a six month period where I had to enforce a time restriction, the allure factor waned and he spent less time and reserved his updates and online time for the weekend.

That was three years ago and now he uses it fairly infrequently. At the time he succumbed to massive peer pressure and felt the need to be part of the crowd.

Having the knowledge made me less fearful than if I had no idea of how it all works. When I chat about what I’ve been doing on social media, or posts I find interesting I share them with my boys.

My feeling is that knowledge is power so if I can share as much with them they will reciprocate. I also want them to feel that they can come to me if they get into trouble unwittingly through a rogue comment or being tagged.

Teenagers are fearful if they are caught doing something wrong and the natural thing is not to tell parents because they feel shame, they worry about having their phones or tablets confiscated so it’s easier to keep quiet.

We are all busy parents and if you know they are safe indoors interacting with friends online it’s the easy option to leave them without really understanding what they might be doing.

Social media communication conceptNew technologies have always created fears because we don’t understand what the benefits are and it is easier to deride social media as something bad and not look for the positives.

But like any kind of parenting, moderation is a good example for children, if they see you staring at the phone or tablet then they are brought up thinking this is the norm. If they never see you reading a newspaper or a book how can they be expected or encouraged to do the same?

I have put together my list of handy tips that I think have helped with my children when it comes to social media:-

  1. Invite them to show you what games they are playing and play a game with them so you understand how it works even if it is mind blowingly dull or involves shooting people it is an opportunity to understand, connect and share your thoughts without them feeling you are invading their privacy. The same for social media get them to show you what they are doing and if you are also on social media share with them what you do as well.
  2. Ask them to show YOU things that you might not know. I learnt something about instagram the other day that I genuinely didn’t know. It’s a great way of saying that you are interested in what they are doing.
  3. Speak to them about ‘porn’. It’s the dreaded word in the english dictionary but we can’t brush it aside. Before they go online, explain they might see nasty images or graphic content that way you are helping them understand why you might be worried for them.
  4. Set time limits – I’m a big advocate of this and I have been known to remove a phone or tablet for a week if I feel one of them is putting instagram or facebook before homework. I suggest to them that if they want to go online they do it when they’ve finished homework and I agree with them a time limit of no more than 30 minutes, I then set a timer on my iphone so it reminds me to then make sure that they’ve stuck to the time limit.
  5. Who should they be friends with? I tell my children that being ‘friends’ only with friends is probably the best way to start. I network a lot and connect with people on Linkedin but I dont ‘friend’ them on facebook, they are not friends and so why would I? It’s the same for them, if in doubt I ask them how do you know this person, have you met them and are you likely to go out with each other in the future if the answer is no then don’t connect. Unless there is a good reason too. An example of this can be a person you don’t know liking a photo on instagram and then inviting you join their group on facebook or google plus. Your teenager might find themselves in an undesirable or unsuitable group.
  6. Ask to follow them or ‘friend’ them. There is a tendency to think that children don’t want us to know what they are doing, what they share and who they are doing it with but it doesn’t mean they want privacy from you. My boys regularly text their grand-parents in fact they taught them how to text.  If they are in school they can’t make calls. Seven out of ten people have parents as friends on facebook so why not just ask them, if they say no explain why you want to be connected with them, if they say no again then respect their wishes.
  7. Teach them the consequences if they post illegal or illicit content – once it’s posted it can’t be deleted or retrieved. Help them  understand that this might come back on them later in life when they are looking for a job, it will help them think before they write.
  8. Bullying is a no ono. It’s tempting for your child if they are being bullied at school to use social media as a means of getting back at the bully, don’t. Firstly they can unfriend or unfollow and secondly you can inform the school to get something done about it.
  9. Never say bad things about teachers or anyone for that matter – as tempting as it is, if they are having a bad time with a teacher or they’ve been told off, it is very tempting to share how you feel about that teacher with friends. Don’t let them.
  10. Finally teach them the positives of social media staying in touch with friends that move away, learning and sharing ideas and that it can a really fun and great way to be connected with people.

There is more that can be added to the list and I also know that you can do all or some of the above and they will still act hastily but at least by talking with them and understanding what they are doing it alleviates some of the worry of what they could be doing whilst you’re downstairs having that coffee or glass of wine.