Tag Archives: Work-life Balance. Parents

DeathtoStock_Clementine2

Why ‘superwoman’ doesn’t exist.

My week did not go to plan.

As it was half term week, I had it all mapped out, concert Monday night with my boys, Tuesday train in the gym, Wednesday draw and write all mapped out.

Did I get any of it done?

NO, and not because I am incapable of organising but everything went out of kilter.

Realising I am a self confessed control freak and because I hadn’t planned as I should have done nothing got done.

By the end of week I felt frustrated at not having accomplished anything.

So what.

The thing is I can not relax, kick back my heels and watch television without a nagging voice in my brain that says things like, the dryer needs unloading, you need to finish reading that book, phone your mother, email that customer.

I use violent tactics with my family the moment I see socks and pants strewn across my landing and threaten to leave the laundry until it becomes a mountain for all the thanks I get.

Businesswoman relaxing doing yoga at officeAnd, there is always work to be done even if I take a back seat for a few days from the business it doesn’t happen.

I cannot go through a day without a list of things that need to get done it is not in my psyche.

I am incapable of ‘letting go’ of the mundane tasks and allowing myself to chill out instead.

This morning was a classic example we have a two drawer dishwasher the upper had been on wash cycle and the lower was empty.

I came down to a sink full of dirty pots and plates cue ‘me going mental’ but as the kids were still sleeping I stomped around the kitchen bitching, and moaning, why hadn’t anyone bothered to check to see if the lower drawer was empty?

What I should have done is left the whole damn lot and gone back to bed but instead I emptied the top drawer and loaded the lower draw.

What was I thinking?

Am I actually enjoying my life or, am I inflicting a harsh regime on myself that can’t ever be achieved?iStock_000010338713Small

It is a need to achieve, not in the success kind of way but the desire to feel like I’ve accomplished something at the end of the day, to justify my existence.

It doesn’t matter if it is cleaning, exercising, working or writing, I need to climb into bed knowing I’ve completed something worthwhile.

What I should do is relax, enjoy life a bit more and let things go occasionally, which, would be far more beneficial than trying to do it all.

A man’s response is to tell us to learn the art of delegation rather than screaming at the family when there are two bags of ironing at the bottom of the stairs; instead of climbing over them, take them upstairs.

A woman’s response: ‘isn’t it obvious what needs to be done, do I really need to write it in great big letters?’

In 2001, I set up my business, post baby 1999, then, I started and completed a business degree, I grew the business to just over  £750,000 in less than three years and then had a second baby in 2003.

I look back and wonder how I managed it all?

Women have greater opportunities than our grandmothers ever had – career, educational and spousal choices some of which is causing women more angst, frustration and fear that maybe they aren’t achieving all they had hoped.

Death_to_stock_photography_Wake_Up_9Feminism has enabled women to achieve and believe that anything is possible with so much choice this makes us feel like we have to do and try everything it’s become exhausting.

I feel guilty if I sit down for five minutes and inevitably it boils down to the work-life balance which in my experience doesn’t exist at all.

Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz in her book ‘Superwoman Syndrome’ first published in 1984 talks about the role of the western woman who works hard to manage multiple roles – worker, mother, wife, homemaker, volunteer and student.

With today’s hectic lifestyle I am one of many women caught up in the superwoman syndrome who are constantly striving to accomplish everything possible whilst not looking after themselves.

Trying to make time for ourselves only serves to make us feel more guilt ridden because we are not making better use of our time.

Self worth is measured by productivity and time; if we aren’t making the best use of our time we feel failures, at least I do, because things aren’t finished.

This adds to the syndrome by making us feel more stressed consequently losing out on the true joys of life.

Do men complain they have too much to do or put themselves through the rigours of self criticism the way we do?

I think not, no, they can watch that game of football, go to the pub and not feel guilty that the lawn hasn’t been mowed or the spare bedroom that was promised to be painted two months ago is still unfinished.DeathtoStock_Clementine2

Women carry the burden of expectation by setting impossibly high standards.

By demanding equality and feminism we’ve pushed ourselves to to the point of feeling guilt and failure if we don’t quite measure up to societal pressure that is the perfect woman.

And I blame the media, celebrities and high profile women for making us believe that we can all achieve greatness, we can’t, not all of us are built and made for greatness and yet somehow we end up feeling bad about ourselves.

Women are continually having to prove how good they really are and in the time I have been on this planet that has never changed and, as for women’s equality?

We are still so far removed from ever being equal with our male counterparts that it will probably be another century before women can really stand up and be counted.

Women make the world turn and without us where would men really be?

When they finally see that, only then will equality come to pass but that is down to education.

If we teach our children that women are as great as men from an early age we can hopefully impart equality and change society’s thinking but it’s going to be a long job.

As Alicia Keys so eloquently sings in her song ‘Superwoman”

Everywhere I’m turning,

Nothing seems complete

I stand up and I’m searching

For the better part of me

I hang my head from sorrow

State of humanity

I wear it on my shoulder

Gotta find the strength in me.

©Alicia Keys

 

What I've learnt since reaching my 50s

Just being Mum

It is another school week and the start of the final school term as we begin the countdown to the summer holidays.A life less fulfilled

Time appears to be the common thread that runs through the blogs I write.

My eldest, shortly to be eighteen will, with everything crossed, head to University in October.

My eldest step son and his wife are expecting their first baby in October.

It is ironic that as one leaves to start a new chapter as a grown up a new life will be born into the world and the growing up process starts over.

The time we get to spend with our children seems so short.

Zero to eighteen gone in an instant, a flash before your eyes, from baby onesies to torn and skinny jeans.

Good old days, nostalgia what does it mean to you?I am anxious and excited at the anticipated arrival of a newborn into our family.

As a fifty plus parent I feel like I’m starting over, but this time, it isn’t my baby and I can hand him or her back at the end of the day.

I am older, wiser and have had greater life experiences.

The lessons I’ve learnt are plentiful and I have much to pass on and share with my step daughter but I will not give out advice unless asked.

I have learnt that as a woman and a mother shelling out advice whether asked for or not is destined to failure.

Celia, a very good friend of mine told me this; ‘the best advice I can give you, is don’t give any advice, that way you can’t be blamed for the fall out if it goes wrong’.

But what if your children ask for help or advice, that is different she says,’ because if they are asking it’s because they either need genuine help and are prepared to listen, if they then choose not to follow it then it can’t come back and bite you’.

Wise words that I have followed except when it comes to my own children whom I can’t help but tell rather than advise what they should do.

I do tell my boys is to listen to their Mother embracing her little girl before leaving to workinstincts; that gut feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when they are pondering over a decision.

As a mum you learn as you go along not really registering the importance of what you are learning until out pops this information when you least expect it.

You become very good at talking to yourself; you can often find me in a store toilet muttering to myself reminders not to forget certain things. Other fellow mothers nod their heads and empathise, we are comrade in arms.

Motherhood definitely has some kind of biological effect on our brains, you can remember all the school activities for the week or term for that matter but as soon as you step into Tesco you forget the very thing you came in for.

It is a fact of life that being an experienced and older mother means you end up sitting on a plane with an infant screaming its face off only for the poor twenty plus mother to look at you beseechingly to take her child and have it sat on your lap for the rest of flight.

Am I really the holy baby shrine capable of soothing this crying baby?

Miraculously the wailing stops and everyone on the plane sighs with relief, the poor mother orders another gin and tonic, thank you, she says relieved.

Motherhood miraculously gives you a handful of wisdom way beyond your years, capable of solving all problems it seems, including climate change.

In reality we are all making it up as we go along and who determines what makes a great mother?

What I've learnt since reaching my 50s

With books, websites and online forums depicting the perfect family, career and children, we can easily feel that we must be bad mothers because we don’t have a glamorous hair do or primed manicured nails, ‘super mom’ more like ‘poor mom’.

And because you failed to to make it to that football match because the train got stuck at Watford or you missed the school play at 4:30pm due to your meeting running overtime, you’re in big trouble.

Any missed event goes down in the book of no shows, and children very rarely forget it.

Parental judgement is one of the worst afflictions of being a parent, what to wear on your feet let alone body can mean the difference between being seen as cool and relevant by your thirteen year old or a fuddy duddy boring mother.

So, not a lot of pressure being a mother then?

Accepting the fact that as mothers we can’t in actual fact have it all, home, career and children, some things have gotta give and perfect parenting and motherhood is one of them.

There are always the reminders of the failures of being a mum even though you do your best to give your children time, love and your all.

Sometimes you just have to accept that perfection is unachievable but being a loving, caring and giving mum is more important than anything else.

And when my thirteen year old old tells me he loves me because, “well, you’re just mum” it is  the most wonderful feeling in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter and Pen

How often do you call your parents?

The last few weeks have been challenging and frustrating to say the least, anxiety ridden and almost always caused by family issues and whilst I was thinking about all that had come to pass it gave me the idea for this blog post.call your parents

I am at odds with my parents and it feels like it has been this way for as long as I can remember. Since leaving home over 30 years ago it seems that distance has sought to worsen an already deteriorating relationship.

Having children appeared to regain some of the lost love and kindness but even that has been short lived.

I am speaking german and they in swahili, neither party appears to understand what the other is really saying and I have to ask does the fact that we live so far way affect the relationship?

Living a long way from your parents makes the familiar drop in for a cup of tea and chat non existent, a phone call doesn’t provide the same physical connection you get when you talk to someone face to face.

In the same way an email can be misconstrued so can a telephone call. Yet when in the company of my parents we are unable to communicate in a meaningful and loving way.

Miscommunication is usually over something so trivial but the fallout is often followed by pain and distress.

How often should you have contact with your parents?

One of the most perplexing dilemmas of the modern day parent is how often should you call, visit or even write to your parents?  

If you are fortunate enough to live nearby then you find yourself in the enviable position of never having to face this conundrum unless you are alienated from them due to a specific set of circumstances or, because you choose not to have any contact.

Much press attention has been given to this prickly subject with modern parents citing they are simply too busy to either visit or call their parents.

The silver haired generation might find this at odds with the accessibility afforded by modern technology.

It is easier than ever to connect anytime and from anywhere in the world but this doesn’t mean our parents share the same interest in using technology in the same way we use it.

There is a genuine perception that the digital age conveniently expects adult children should regularly contact parents.

The fact that the parent knows that the child is easily contactable only serves to create the expectation of regular and prompt communication.

It is an irony that the revolution in communications has only served to stress an already overworked overstretched working generation who quite simply find it difficult to squeeze in quality time with their children let alone find five minutes to pick up the phone to speak with parents.

call your parentsCall your parents

My parents live in the midlands and my ideal time to call them is on the school run between 7:30am and 8:00am.

This provides the perfect opportunity for me and my children to have a quick catch up.

But this is fraught with anxiety because my parents aren’t early risers and usually aren’t up much before 9am.

By the time the school day is over and the after school activities finished with, home time is anytime between 6:00pm and 7:00pm.

Evenings are taken up with the usual duties delegated to most working mothers, preparing the evening meal, household chores, preparing for the next day and catching up on any last minute work tasks before it starts all over again.

If, like me you are always on the go the prospect of trying to find time to make that call could mean that it is well after 9pm, and by then I want to be tucked up in bed reading the daily news or watching television.

When is the ideal time to give your parents a call?

Retirees quickly forget how busy the working day is especially where teenagers are concerned.

I try to call my parents every friday morning but I have to admit keeping to this schedule isn’t easy.

By the end of the week I am usually tired and cranky and the thought of making a call to parents with joie de vivre whilst making the conversation engaging and cheerful is challenging to say the least especially when all I want to do is lie down and make it through to the first Gin and Tonic at approximately 6:30pm.

But it cuts both ways they are just as busy and if I do call and I catch them in, my mother might be on the way out to her pilates class whilst my father is off to play bowls.

Sometimes it feels that it is always me picking up the phone and I have at times deliberately not called just to see if they will make the effort to call me.Upset young woman and senior mother having bad argue indoor

The longest I have gone without speaking to my parents is two weeks at which point I get the obligatory reminder text from my mother “are you alright?”

Why not pick up the phone if you want to talk?

Do we have to wage a silent competition over how many times who has called whom and when?

As a teenager, I recollect my father calling my grand-father every sunday evening always 7pm on the dot.

I would hear my father lamenting after the call, grumbling that his dad was forgetful and annoyed that he had made the effort to call him in spite of the fact it was by way of mutual agreement.

University life seemed so much easier, sunday nights were invariably the call home to parents night, with a 50p in my pocket and only 3 booths in an accommodation block of girls only it wasn’t uncommon to be waiting upwards of an hour to make that proprietary call home.

The duration of the call was dictated by the number of minutes a 50p piece provided and back in the 80’s that was a lot of talk time.

That would be it for another week, no pressure, just a quick catch up with handwritten letters thrown in when the time allowed.

In spite of hand written assignments, there were no laptops or PC’s back then and most nights spent out in the student bar or at local hot spots there was time to write home to parents.

What has happened to the art of writing letters?

Those of you reading this will snigger at the prospect of physically making the time to sit down and write about what has been going on in your life, after all, when do any of us have the time to breath?

Who has the time to write a letter or a note?

The art of letter writing appears to have been relegated to the past.

When was the last time you wrote a postcard from your holiday destination?

Texting and whatsapping is for the generation of now it is quick easy and efficient and describes that moment as you see it in the here and now.

Letter and PenHow many times did you send postcards to family and friends when you were on holiday only to arrive back home before the postcards were delivered?

And on one occasion I remember six months later?

My mother has kept the letters I wrote during my college days and the subsequent years when I left home.

Nostalgia, maybe, it was a time when our relationship was close without the pressure of age, family and distance thrown in.

I wrote beautiful letters, my mother remarked recently maybe that’s where my love for writing developed from many years later?

Why should hand writing be saved for the once a year obligatory christmas cards with a few hastily written words for friends and family who live far away and who the customary christmas card is a prerequisite to show that we are thinking of them at this most special time of the year.

Words speak volumes and a letter can say more in its use of words and imagination than a phone call ever can.

How many times have my parents called me and caught me at the wrong time? A recent  sunday morning and my mobile phone rings at 9:30am I had just fallen back to sleep again after a poor night.

Not my father’s fault he couldn’t have known but my tone of voice and sharp response was unkind and unwarranted.

Writing a letter enables you to sit down and make time, be creative and think about what you want to write and share.

A letter can be short and sweet or long and deliberate, it can be creative include photos, a poem, a cutting from a magazine but that letter can be saved and read again and again, a phone call will be forgotten a few days later or at worse leave you feeling bewildered or hurt.

A picture is worth a thousand words, in the same way a letter can evoke pictures for the person reading it, you can express feelings and sentiments more easily with words.

Words give you permission to open up and show your emotion whether it is about a situation that has happened to you, describing the moment when your child said their first words or your son or daughter being recognised by the school for their valuable contribution.

It requires time and creativity, thoughtfulness and imagination.

Who remembers having pen pals?

I had three that I wrote to who lived in countries so far away that my imagination created exotic faraway places, what was their home and country like, where did they go to school, what did they study and where did they go for their holidays?

Waiting for the next letter to arrive was exciting.

Sweet and full of innocence as we embarked on this written journey of words.

When you read a great book it invites you into the plot, the story grips you, the plot twisting and turning and your imagination running a mock trying to work out the ending.

If the plot is brilliant the book envelops you, you become one of the characters, absorbed by its twists and turns.

A handwritten letter, a hurriedly scribbled note expressing thanks and I’m thinking of you, will sit on your window sill or mantelpiece as a reminder, a phone call can’t be seen nor can it be heard by anyone else other than by the recipient.

It can’t be shared in the same way a letter can.

Words can express the emotions of the letter writer, what they are thinking, what they saw and how they felt.

They cannot be misinterpreted unless written with innuendo and maliciousness and are read with joy and wonder by the recipient.

A letter shows that the sender has thought about the recipient, made time to write to them by sharing the bits and pieces of their lives.

With the pressure of everyday working life, taking a few chosen moments to write a letter to family, friends or a lost love can be calming in our instant always on digital world.

I am going to write a handwritten letter to my parents hopefully this will move my parents to see things differently without passing judgement and being misunderstood.

The next time you find yourself with a few moments to spare write that little note and tell someone how much you love them or what you have been doing, make someone happy.

Drop me a line and let me know how you get on?