Category Archives: Lifestyle

Death_to_stock_photography_Wake_Up_2

Why I’m glad my children are bored.

If, like me you are looking forward to the easter holidays with a sense of dread,  you won’t be on your own. Anger

Scratching your head in frustration wondering, if, you are not going away, how you intend to keep your little horrors occupied for the two or three weeks they have off.

One of the nuances of 21st century parenting is this ideal that even if you are at home with your children it has to be time well spent rather than doing nothing with a capital N. 

So much so that children have forgotten the art of joyful playing.

Parenting has become very competitive and it feels like ‘the who did what with whom and when’ when comparing who did the most exciting things over the break.

I on the other hand advocate the complete opposite and that is to do NOTHING!

The last half-term went something like this.

This holiday was no different to the christmas break! I’m bored, what can I do now?

Can I watch that film again? Can you take me to bla bla…

Do you have a favourite child?The same statements but disguised with the vitriol words of a 12 year old: ‘Mum, I’m bored.’

I have one sixteen year old studying for AS exams and a 12 year old bored because his brother is occupied.

How can you possibly be bored? Look at what you have around you as I pointed out the PS4, television, books, drawing and sketching.

When I was your age I was never bored and we didn’t have the things you have or great children’s television during the holiday time.

‘I hate playing on the PSP by myself’, came back the response from my younger son.

‘Poor you’, I said ‘can’t you arrange for a friend to come around and play’, can’t be bothered, and besides my best friends have gone skiing.

Lucky them.

One of the things I have been guilty of as a mother is there has been a lot less ‘doing’ and more ‘vegging’.

I am doing my best to instil in my children the art of ‘vegging’ to be still like vegetables, in other words, to rest or sleep during the day, listen to music, pick up a book and read.

Why?

Because in this day of over parenting and over protectiveness of ourDo you have a favourite child? children we are almost made to feel guilty if we are not doing ‘something’ with them.

I was guilty of doing nothing, particularly when when they were young.

With various invites to pool parties, gymnastics and other activities, I was selective with the invitations because the prospect of sitting with mums talking about potty training, first words or what the little darlings had achieved that week filled me with boredom and horror.

Competitive parenting was not on my radar of expectations as a mother nor was traipsing around museums, parks or birthday parties just to keep them occupied and tantrum free.

They are now at the age where they come with us wherever we go with certain exceptions and I love it when they are with us. I feel it is payback for the lack of productive time I had with them when they were babies and toddlers.

My children were either in a baby jogger whilst I was running or at swimming pools and gyms rather than doing ‘something.’ And I have no regrets.

They got 100% of me then and the same now, but, when they were babies I spent my time in a state of workaholic frenzied insanity, the nursery took care of the day time whilst I loved and cooed with them at night time.

I do not feel under pressure now that they are older to organise and plan their days, they are old enough to think and do for themselves.

iStock_000016673127Small And I really believe they benefit from being bored.

Their school days are packed with learning then there is homework, which I hate and extracurricular afterschool activities.

By the time the holidays arrive I want them to be bored, it gives them time to slow down, breathe, rest and think.

I am not about to schedule a holiday rammed with a host of activities just to keep them from being bored or to prevent world war three from breaking out because they fight with each other.

My children have always known I have to work and they are proud of that so much so that my youngest said to me, Mum you’re so cool I’m glad you’re not like so and so.

Big compliments indeed.

I also believe I am teaching them a solid work ethic and that it is perfectly alright for women to work.

My children are my number one priority but not at the expense of everything else. If I get a phone call from the school nurse advising me that one of them has a fever my response is I will get there when I can.

Heartless, no. If they are ok and are being looked after I will get to school as soon as I’ve finished what I’m doing, if it’s not important I’ll collect them right away.DeathtoStock_Simplify10

My life does not revolve solely around my children I want and need them to be independent of me otherwise they will enter the world ill equipped if my parenting is too child centered.

Giving them too much attention  and constantly being on hand doesn’t foster self esteem, or the ability to think and play for themselves.

Instead, it creates narcissistic children who need constant adulation and attention and to be continually told just how good they are.

I want my children to develop into healthy adults capable of making choices and decisions without me.

I love my children but will not cater to their every whim just because they are bored.

Death_to_stock_photography_Wake_Up_8I encourage them to muck about, play outside, anything that allows them free time from structured school timetables and the pressure of homework.

Parenting has been turned into something that we should be doing rather than just simply being a parent.

There is nothing wrong with children ‘mucking about’ and having fun.

When I’m waiting in the car park this Friday and overhear conversations about planned trips to Dubai, Florida or some far flung destination, I’ll be smug in the knowledge that I’ll be going home with my children to ‘be still like vegetables’ and I’m rather looking forward to it.

 

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Shopaholic? I just have to have it!

It’s no use I have to have it I said exasperated as I looked longingly at the new iPad Pro over the Christmas holidays.shopaholic

As luck would have it Mr M, my dearly beloved husband treated me to it for my birthday which was a big surprise.

What was the hesitancy in buying it myself?

I could have made the purchase through the business as a legitimate business expense after all I’m always taking notes at meetings and tend to use the iPad and stylus more than paper and pen.

iStock_000072924745_SmallI hesitated because I need time to justify, fester, think about it, dissect how and where I will use it, after all, it isn’t cheap.

 

Do I need it?

Do I want it?

Do I desire it?

Like most women we can justify a yes to all those questions.

I met a woman recently who, from last November has put herself on a spending ban.

That means spending no money on anything from takeaway coffee to holidays for one year.

This made me think long and hard and I had to face up to the fact that my spending habits are out of control and I am ashamed to admit I might just be a shopaholic.

If I stay away from the shops and I rarely go out “shopping” I’m okay.

But last Wednesday I took a day off and along with my husband met with friends who were over from Spain, I succumbed to the temptations that were in my path.

I’m going through a fitness update stage what I mean is I’ve thrown a load of old fitness wear out that has turned grey and decided to update it. 

Online shopping website on laptop screen with female hands typing
Online shopping website on laptop screen with female hands typing

I happened to fall into Sweaty Betty in Cambridge and ended up having to deduct two of the items of clothing I’d chosen because the bill would have been £355.00.

Are you kidding I said to the young woman who served me, that much for these few items?

Immediately I felt guilty, buyers remorse we call it in sales.

That point when the customer says yes to what it is you are selling and then immediately panics internally, wrestling with feelings of have I made the right decision, is it the right thing to do.

Whilst I felt justified in buying these items of clothing, did I really need to spend so much when I can buy fitness clothing for less than half of what I paid.

As we walked along the streets of Cambridge I analysed my purchases.

Why did I buy them?

I needed cheering up I thought to myself I’ve been unwell lately and unhappy.

Why am I feeling guilty?

Because in all honesty I could have bought similar items cheaper. I am definitely running out of storage space for all my stuff which implies I have and own too much stuff.

I invariably pay for things with my credit card and therefore always have a balance left to pay, again, I am buying stuff I really don’t need.

Does that make me a compulsive shopper?

Shopping, Shopping Bag, Women.

Although I rarely go out “shopping” I have to fess up to the fact that yes I must be. I like shopping online because it is so easy to hit that ‘order now’ button.

Compulsive shopping is a genuine addiction some might even say it is a direct consequence of the consumer driven capitalist society we live in.

I have to admit opening up a bag and examining the items gives me a buzz and it doesn’t matter whether I’ve ordered new sketch pads, drawing pencils, clothes or anything the thrill is not so much what is in the package or box, I know because I’ve ordered it.

It is the feeling you get when you actually go through the process of opening it, the contents are very much secondary, opening a box, package or plastic bag makes me feel excited and tense all at the same time.

A bit like having a sugar or adrenaline rush you get from exercising in other words ‘ a high’.

This is immediately followed by a feeling of ok, that’s it, it’s done, then disappointment almost like you were expecting it to be something remarkably different from what you ordered.

According to Ruth Engs at the University of Indiana some people get addicted to shopping because as they shop their brain releases endorphins and dopamine and this becomes addictive.

Chatting to the same woman who is on the spending ban, we admitted that when we see something we really want those thoughts take over your thinking you decide you want it and you simply cannot get that thought out of your head until you’ve bought it.

And then when you have it, there is a ‘let down’ phase, ok I now own XYZ what’s next?

Lurking in the mix is anxiety and insecurity both issues most of us subscribe to and shopping momentarily makes us feel better but it isn’t long lasting.

I am definitely going to start my shopping ban after pay day, wait a minute I’m being offered 10% discount if I buy online today at M & S I’m off byeeee…

 

Runner Start

Domestic Inequality RULES in our house? Wrong

This year has seen me orchestrate major domestic changes in my household. 

I woke up to the harsh reality that as wife, mother, counsellor and mentor I have unwittingly passed on to my boys the inequalities that exist between men and women. Is your daily commute killing you?

As women, we are taught to fulfil certain roles and expectations, it is almost inherent in our genes to be the carers and nurturers of our children.

This domestic inequality starts from the moment we are taught.

This so called domestic inequality and gender bias  is passed on to us by the generations of mothers that have gone before us because they believed they too were doing the right thing.

I took on the mantle of motherhood because I wanted too but it didn’t mean that I should put up with domestic inequality in my household.

My gender predisposes me to fulfil the female role and all that that entails.

I am a challenged feminist, I like the door to be held open by a man because it is a polite courtesy, but I do the same if I’m leading a man .

I’ve come to realise that as a mother I’ve fallen into the trap of enabling our boys and doing too much for them without teaching them to do it for themselves this is turn has meant they’ve learnt to do chores that are typical of the male whilst living with the acceptance that mum does all the other stuff.

In a sense I’m responsible for domestic inequality in my own household.

Runner StartGermaine Greer fought to break down stereotypical values of women – getting married, having children and fulfilling what is expected of them.

Sheryl Sandberg in her book “Lean In” discusses the on-going inequalities that exist in the workplace, the differences in pay, women having to choose between being a wife, mother and having a career; but we’ve already heard this before and nothing has changed.

The realisation that I could be behind such misogyny and single handedly treat my children differently just because they are boys and not girls, not teaching or showing them how to do so called female tasks made me stop dead in my tracks.

All this was bought on eighteen months ago when Mr M pointed out that I do far too much for them and by doing so I am letting them get away with not doing stuff that we might associate as the women’s job, ‘mum does it all for them’.

Scratching my head I looked at my husband quizzically and said ‘but that’s my job isn’t it, to love, feed and nurture them just as a lioness tends to her cubs.

No he said, YOU just do far too much they won’t be independent or Portrait of boyrespect and appreciate women unless we teach them that they are just as capable and able to do everything a woman does around the home and more.

We had an interesting if, somewhat animated discussion, I of course disagreed with him entirely but later I thought about what he said, I didn’t like it but I had to agree that maybe he had a point.

I genuinely believe that I am doing the right thing and that I am following a long line of women before me who have done exactly the same thing raising their children in the same way they were bought up without thinking if it could or should be done differently.

Is it time to change things?

I believe that women are as much to blame for the gender inequality gap as men are.

We don the domestic goddess hat, from making beds, tidying up the mess left behind, cooking and provide taxi services on the pretext that they are too busy, they have too much homework to do, it’s too dangerous to let them travel on their own and so forth.

I recall the demarcation between my chores and my brothers being distinctly male and female.

My parents were differentiating between what chores were suitable for me and my brother and I never questioned why I got the cleaning type chores and he got to mow the lawn as an example.

Gender inequality existed, it may of been done unwittingly and without malice but the fact remains it existed in our house.

We were definitely bought up according to gender, my brother two years younger than me on turning sixteen was allowed to stay out longer than I had been allowed to do at the same age.

Inequality absolutely the assumption being that as a girl it was unsafe for me to stay out later than my brother?

I assumed that it was my job to learn how to prepare the dinner, strip and remake the family beds and tidy up whilst my brother would learn to mend a puncture, clean shoes and do the manly duties as part of his learning.

None of this is wrong in principle other than we should have both been taught to do each other’s tasks and not differentiate between what is a male and female task.

Whilst Sheryl Sandberg addresses the male/female inequalities, she still doesn’t offer any concrete evidence as to how we can change this imbalance, no anecdotes or magic words and whilst this has all been said before I honestly believe that it starts with women, daughters, wives and mothers.

We need to take responsibility for how we raise children and make sure they are taught the importance of equality, for me that means raising them equally and teaching boys the same things a girl would learn and vice versa.

Male dominance, which is what it feels like, will only change if we teach boys that women are just as capable as fulfilling the same tasks and roles as boys/men and that gender shouldn’t have a bearing.

What is the point I’m trying to make?

Over the last year things have changed significantly.

Both my boys can cook to a reasonable standard, they prepare dinner for us all when they have time and they also help around the kitchen and see no need to differentiate between our various household chores.

The proviso is that school work always comes first.

They strip and change their beds, hoover, yes you read it hoover and dust their rooms.

They iron their shirts if they need it in a hurry and don’t want to wait for me to iron it for them and they no longer assume “it’s a mum job”.

My eldest said to me it’s good you are teaching us this stuff mum, after all if I get married who is to say that I won’t be the one staying at home raising kids whilst my wife makes mega bucks and why should I expect her to do women’s stuff when I’m just as capable of doing it too.

If a woman works hard and does well why shouldn’t she be rewarded with a higher salary than that of a man and why should men feel threatened if a woman clearly does the job better.

Wise words from a young man!

Progress, maybe? I want both my boys to understand that as women we are at least as good if not better than men and should be treated equally whether it’s in the boardroom or the dining room there should be no lines drawn.

What do you think?

 

to do lists

Why I’m done with To DO lists

That’s it the last straw I’m done with to do lists.

Take shopping online.  

My husband use to love to do the weekly food shop (unbelievable, I know) now he does it all online.to do lists

The problem is that it now involves me sitting with him and selecting what we want,  before I could just give him a list and tell him to get on with it.

He would go on Friday after taking the kids to school get his coffee and maybe some breakfast followed by the weekly shopping and it was lovely.

Now the food list has to be done no later than Wednesday to make sure we hit the delivery schedule for Friday morning and frankly I can’t be doing with thinking about food after a day at the office and a round of evening meals.

I like to keep a shopping list as I go and write things down as they come to me or when I remember to check in the cupboard to see what items we need.

What’s the difference says Mr M all you need to do is to order it instead of writing it down?

to do listsI’m asked or rather ordered to interact with the shopping order and then my mind goes completely blank, I lose interest by the time we get to toiletries and I sit there fidgeting.

This then involves opening the various cupboards aimlessly trying to work out what we really need.

Last week consisted of twelve pots of Waitrose jam that happened to be on special offer, nothing to do with me and probably enough toilet rolls to fill an entire school.

What went wrong? Well it’s easy. When Mr M does the shopping online he does tend to get a bit carried away, sometimes hitting the quantity button 2-3 times.

Last week we almost ended up with 5KG of fish that’s enough to feed a restaurant until I pointed this out to him.

‘Please just go and do the shopping the normal way like you use to do’, I plead with him.

‘No, I don’t have the time’ comes back the response, ‘but what did you use to do before online shopping then?

With all this extra time what are you filling this so called void with now?’

I hate the fact that my shopping is scheduled for delivery on Friday’s between 8-9 I can’t even think about facing the unpacking of the weekly shop let alone be friendly with Mr Chatty delivery man.

Having to plan what we are going to eat the following week is a horrendous experience for me as the weekly shop.

‘I never seem to get what I want’ I exclaim ‘that’s because you can’t be bothered to get involved with the shopping order like I keep asking you too!’

A-ha is that what you call get involved, is this your attempt at doing something ‘together’ I say because I bemoaned the other night that we never do anything ‘together’ anymore.

Shopping online wasn’t what I had in mind.

‘The reason you don’t get what you want is because you don’t add to the list’ he tells me, but it’s not the same as actually going to the shops, up and down the aisles and seeing items that remind you, oh, I need that or yes, I’ve run out of that.

Online shopping is designed for those who suffer with memory loss you remember what you need and then as soon as you go online you forget what it was you wanted.

Which leads me very nicely back to to lists.

I’ve read the ‘Get things done’ books, how to manage your life in three simple steps, how to have it all?to do lists

In fact as we speak I’m reading “Getting things done. How to achieve stress free productivity” by David Allen the guru of all gurus in learning how to really get things done and not started, half finished or seems like a good idea but never gets off the ground. 

I’ve had it on the kindle app and never got around to reading it.
Which just proves my point about not getting things done.

For some reason I decided to start reading it whilst waiting for the kids at school the other day.

All my half hearted attempts at trying to create more time to do more of what I want to do.

And then I had one of those a-ha moments, I stopped in my tracks and thought this is it, this is the absolute last time I am going to be controlled by other people’s actions, by time, the kids, the school run or anything.

I didn’t want to start another school term or school year for that matter having that sheer panic feeling in the pit of my stomach because I feel I never get things done to use Allen’s words.

When I took a closer look at some of the outstanding things to do it was laughable some of them went back as far as 2013?

I read some of the tasks out loud it was so insanely daft that it didn’t justify being on the to do list after all.

Allen says that if you have all these ideas, tasks, worries floating around in your head they stress and wear you down, we can only remember two or three things at once which along with all the other stuff just means our conscious mind is at bursting point, feeling distracted worried and anxious with mental overload.

By committing these actions into some kind of system or onto paper he says we then need to take action otherwise they stay there in your head festering or on that bit of paper and nothing gets done.to do lists

I took a closer look at the three sets of to do lists – personal, work and projects and shredded the lot.

The relief I felt was amazing I knew that I could then start again in the right frame of mind.

I took a plain sheet of paper and thought of all the things that needed doing and in no particular order from personal stuff, things I really wanted to do, work tasks, random thoughts and ideas were written down on the blank piece of paper.

When I finished the list I then went back through it and actioned each one.

This took me all of one day to complete most of these tasks were simple, like getting my filing up to date, updating our CRM, responding to emails that weren’t urgent but were important, to things like clean the bottom of my shoe cupboard which I’ve now added to my google calendar on a set date so it gets done.

I felt so much better that by the end of Thursday, the stress had gone and I felt like I’d really achieved something.

Anything new that comes in I think about what needs to be done with it and then deal with it so it’s off my desk or email whereas before I would just jump on it and react I now think more calmly – what needs to be done with this and is it important?

Sometimes you need to slow down to go faster.

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I feel calmer since the start of term and more in control I’m finding fifteen minutes a day to do some sketching, doodling and drawing and I don’t feel panicky if I leave the office and things haven’t been done.

And something amazing happened I’m actually getting more things done, I’m still trying to figure that one out.

I’m not sure how long this is going to last but, I’ll keep you posted.

 

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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.

 

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?

 

 

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!

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!

 

 

Baby butt

The confessions of a naked mum

I had an interesting conversation recently with a friend.Chest of a young woman

We were talking about how quickly the kids are growing up and how we both wished we could hold those tiny bundles in our arms again.

Then, the subject turned to puberty and she happened to say;

‘I haven’t seen my son naked since he was 7 years old.’

Aghast, I looked at her and said but how do you know if everything is all ok ‘down there?’

I see both my sons naked all the time, coming out of the shower, on the loo, sneaking  downstairs both hands in the biscuit tin and getting dressed in the morning.

There is nothing more natural than them seeing me naked too, granted I am not an exhibionist nor will you see me parading in front of the car cleaner or stripping off running free spirited into the sea.

I’m not ashamed to say that ‘nakedness rules in our house.’

Following that conversation with my friend, I asked my 15 year old son what he thought about seeing me naked and how he felt about me seeing him.

He was quick to retort: “Mum it just doesn’t bother me, so what if I see you butt naked it doesn’t really register that my mum’s naked. I dont see what the big deal is.”

Baby butt

I thought about my childhood, shared with a younger brother and I wondered if ‘nakedness’ has anything to do with mixed siblings in the household?

I do remember that from about 13-14 years I wanted privacy and I didn’t walk around in the nude especially not in front of my father.

Likewise, he extended the same courtesy to me. He would never barge into my bedroom or bathroom without knocking first.

There was seemingly an unwritten rule that said you are a teenager so going naked is probably not the right thing to do.

I freely admit that whilst I can sunbathe topless in front of strangers and friends I could never show my  top half to my own father, even though he is one half of me.

Do you go naked in front of your children?

My upbringing has fostered a good sense of self worth and yet this is a contradiction because when I look at my body it is with a reluctant acceptance of ageing.

I do not recall my mother promoting a good or bad body image, a body is a body and that was it.

As a gymnast I trained as hard as I could and my body was fit and strong but there were constant reminders from coaches about the importance of weight.

I remember on one occasion a coach saying to me how strong I was and that I was short and stumpy, a perfect gymnastic physique.

In my head I wanted to be tall, lean and skinny and so his comments cut me like a knife.

Not only were they way off base but he single handedly made me foster an unrealistic body image of myself that has stayed with me.

All I could see was a blob in front of the mirror.

In reality I had a fantastic physique and recently when my god-mother showed photos of me when I was 14, it came as a surprise that I wasn’t the blob I had become so familiar with in the mirror.

But I had spent the last 30+ years of my life convinced that I was.

How a few inapproriate words can change the perception of your own body image!

I believe that might be why I’ve never made any rules about the boys being naked or made them feel uncomfortable.

Nudity is healthy and very natural and growing up unashamed of being seen naked with all your bodily imperfections raises uninhibited children who have a realistic body image.

When I researched the idea for this post opinions made by people, posted on forums, blogs and articles all had a view on nudity ranging from it being perverted to being ‘au naturale’.

I am sure that at some point my sons will cover up and will lock the bathroom door for feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed.

Likewise, they may ask me to do the same, but until then I see no need to close the door whilst I undress or cover up when I walk along the upstairs landing to put my clothes in the linen basket.

As far as I’m concerned they will make that decision, not me.

What do you think?