Good enough...a pensive post

posted on: Thursday, 29 April 2010

How do we decide when anything is good enough? This largely female pursuit of wondering ' I good enough?' fascinates me. It applies to every inch of my life and I ponder when exactly did it become a conscious decision? At what point did I insert that feeling that I could have done better?

I observe my daughter doing her homework and she does exactly what is required; no more, no less. I say '...why don't you explore that extra topic or why don't you draw another picture or read another page, do another sum?' She looks at me as if I am nuts and says ' doesn't say I have to do more, so why would I?' Good point. What is it in me that I always think the more I do, the better?

A good enough mother? Well, don't get me started...a dose of working-mother guilt, those very rare occasions where I find myself shouting at the Boos, times when I would rather be doing something else than making train tracks/plaiting Barbie's hair and my mind wanders and I think - shouldn't I be more committed and content to just play with them all the time?

A good enough wife? Ten years of marriage and it's all very good (we got the love), but at times I think, do I listen enough? Do I blame or force my own agenda? Do I make enough time for him?

At work, because I do a job where I am very experienced in a very niche field, I know, most of the time that I am good enough. But that feeling, in a corporate world, is a temporary luxury. Tomorrow I might not be good enough...they like to call it 'raising the bar'.

I went to the doctors yesterday as I have tonsillitis - boohoo its just not my week! I get this once a year, like clockwork. It's a little reminder that I am running too fast. The doctor said I must try to slow down. I said that's difficult, my life runs on rails and the pace is fast. She said derail, try harder! So I have to try harder at that too!

Even blogging. At what point do we press the 'publish' button in the knowledge that it is good enough? I post it, then go back and look at it, tweak it, re-post it and worse of all when it posts by accident because I pressed 'enter' too soon! Heaven forbid! Something went out into the internet ether and it was not good enough! I am stickler for spelling and grammar, which comes from my time in publishing where if there was a mistake, it was so my problem. So I confess I spent a good few hours agonizing about apostrophes in the word 'Boo'. Yep, really. Is it Boo's, Boos, Boos'...I think I need some booze...

I think that is why I am enjoying blogging so much, because ultimately it gives me validation. When people comment they are saying, in a round-about way, 'you are good enough!' and I like that :-)


posted on: Tuesday, 27 April 2010

My Mum has exquisite taste. In her house there are always posies of pretty flowers picked from her garden on the mantle. She always has piles of magazines just haphazardly left in whicker baskets, soft throws draped just so. It always looks elegant, homely, stylish. It was the same in her mother's house. Always something interesting and quirky to see...

I so love my Mum. Its not Mother's Day or anything...but sometimes there is a need for an unprompted show of mother-love. I realise I am blessed to have such a good relationship with her. I can honestly say she is amongst my absolute best of friends. We see each other every couple of days, she is my right-hand-(wo)man with my children. I could not be the mother I am without my mother.

Whilst we are very close, we are not demonstrably so. But she means so much to me, every day I am thankful for her, even if I don't show it enough. The grace with which she raised my brother and I, on her own, in circumstances that were far from easy, is awe-inspiring. She is and has always been the strongest woman I know. She can make everything alright. She can tell just from the first words I utter on the telephone if I am OK or not.

Even if I propose something that is slightly unhinged - she still supports me, knowing that I will work my way through it, if its right or if its wrong. She has that uncanny mother quality, that now, even though I am 36 years old, its still as if I were a child.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis and her daughter...

Dinner parties...

posted on: Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Dinner parties. A slightly middle-aged pursuit, I always thought. When my husband and I first lived together, I recall having dinner parties which felt entirely like playing grown-ups. We even bought a fondue set, which now strikes me as a bizarre dinner to serve; here is plate of raw meat, cook it yourself. Or to take the Alpine variety; have cheese and bread as your main course.

I couldn't resist a 'Mad Men' image...

Over the years though, dinner parties have become the primary source of weekend entertainment. Without us even noticing. We go out to restaurants for dinner, we go out for a drink, sometimes someone has a party or better still, my all time favourite: a wedding. But on the whole, its dinner parties where we catch up with friends.

It started almost imperceptibly when we had babies. We were not free to go out, so taking the baby, in a carry-cot was a way to rejoin the human race, to feel social, without having to commit to going to  public place - what if the baby cries?! When I was pregnant with Boo 1 we stayed in Boston with friends and went to a restaurant there called 'Olives'. There was a couple at the next table who had a newborn and when it stirred and murmured, the mother very discreetly got the infant out of the car seat that she had placed at her feet. She proceeded to breastfeed it effortlessly and quietly, concealing it under a cashmere pashmina. I remember turning to my husband and saying '...this is how it will be, we will be just like we are now, but with a scrumptious, tiny addition'. Ummmm? Not quite!

We have some great friends with whom we can be utterly ourselves, so a dinner with them is easy, happy, non-stressful. We book one in every month or so just to keep ourselves sane. But we now also enter the time of proper, grown-up (as we are no longer playing at it; this is for real), get-your-best-china-out dinner parties. This can even involve tactical invitations to couples who will mix and match. And so it is. My husband cooks, he is the trophy chef; he does the dinner party cooking and I flit around making the house look pretty and topping up drinks. Being an effortless hostess is a gift, I am not sure I have it. Some of my friends can entertain for twelve or fourteen without a hitch, for me its not quite that easy.

When I do it though, I enjoy it and wonder why I don't do it more...not least because we put on our best front, the house looks its best and we all scrub up for a social show.

Working mother...

posted on: Monday, 19 April 2010

The lovely Natalia Vodianova and her son.

For the first time for a very long time, last week I had a week off work and we did not go anywhere. We had a 'staycation' or a 'home-a-day'. We did try to get a last-minute trip away; we wanted to get some sun in Florida, but could not find a flight out of the UK when we checked about a month ago. Even if we had found a flight we would have been going nowhere due to the volcanic ash! Strange how it goes...

So no work for a week. I was a full time Mummy for a week. Different kind of work. It was lovely. In more of the best laid plans my husband had the week off too so we were going to gad around together with the children, trips out and family time. As it happened he got an attack of Gout; he gets this periodically. I know, its the affliction of kings from the Middle Ages, but in reality its ridiculously painful and completely debilitating. So he was laid up. Oh to have a crystal ball to have seen those two things coming!

The funny thing about not working was how easily the corporate life just slipped out of mind, without a trace. The ease with which I morphed into Mummy-life surprised me and has made me wonder - why do I work? Or let me re-phrase: why do I work so hard at working? Of course there is financial necessity (handbags don't come for free) but on a wider point, was the joy of this release from work something I should consider more deeply?

I have always been a working mother, part time, but always working. I love my job, but in the same breath, the logistics of working and being a Mummy can be crippling and exhausting. I do genuinely wonder if the head space that it all occupies could be better used?

My working has always been tied up with lots of other stuff, like the fact that when I am alone too much I think too much, I like being good at my job, I get a 'shopping fund', I don't instead of working, by default, spend all my time cleaning my house (you know I would...), it usually 'works' for us as a family. I can balance it.

If I didn't work what would life be like? Its a big unknown for me and - truthfully - probably a hypothetical. But this last week has been thought-provoking, for sure. In true piscean fashion - I am undecided. This is likely just be a little waver...but the thing is, I have remembered that it is a choice.

Meanwhile on the topic of motherhood, I found out from a commenter that I have been nominated for a national blog award - The MADs (The Mummy and Daddy Blog Awards)! How novel, I have no idea who nominated me, but I am up for 'best new blog' and 'best looking blog'! I have never been nominated for the best looking anything...its quite exciting... :-)


Body image...

posted on: Thursday, 15 April 2010

Body image - this feels like its a controversial topic amongst women. For me, I have a good one, pretty much. I have been lucky most of my life to be fairly slim...svelte...slender...whatever the word to describe comfortable in my skin, able to wear the clothes I like, no major fluctuations in weight. I have a pretty healthy relationship with food. I love it; my day revolves around it, I have nothing but good feelings for good food. I associate food with health. I eat well, I am well. The weight issue is an I absolutely admit: I am lucky.

When I had my firstborn I gained over 4 stones (56 lbs) in weight. I was young and to be honest, a little arrogant back then. I thought that I would always be slim no matter what. I genuinely thought that my body was not capable of putting on fat. Yet in those days and weeks after the birth, the realisation dawned - that I had gone post-pregnancy from a UK size 10 to a size 16. None of my clothes had a hope of fitting. I felt like my old body was gone forever and I would, forevermore, look like I had been 'dipped' in extra weight. I know, I know, a size 16 is not a bad size. I have much love for plus size models, I am not saying that size 16 is see what I mean? Controversial. I don't want to suggest anything negative...what I am saying is that the movement from slim to not so slim was such a shock to my system. For me it was very hard to come to terms with. I had never dieted. I had never thought about what I ate. I had never exercised (see previous post on why I run...). cut a long story short, I spent 6 months ruefully lamenting my lost body. That early baby stage was not exactly my happiest, I struggled with adapting to motherhood, I was just 26, most of my friends were still working on careers and finding husbands. I was working on breast feeding and washing baby clothes. Then out the blue, I contracted Salmonella food poisoning and was soooo sick. The weight dropped off in a week or two as I was just so ill! I guess from a body image perspective I was given a reprieve. I returned to some semblance of my old body and that has stayed, give or take, until today.

I do look at my daughter though and wonder what body image messages she is getting from me. I try never to talk about food/fad diets/weight in a way that will make her question the beauty of her body. I just want her to sail through life (what mother doesn't?) thinking of her body as a fantastic tool that she had been given, a gift, to do stuff from body image issues.

Me and my Cousins...

posted on: Thursday, 8 April 2010

'Hip Hip Hurrah! Artists' Party, Skagen' by Danish painter Peder Severin Kroyer (1851-1909)

This weekend we go to Copenhagen for a big family party. My Uncle is turning 60 so the family are gathering to celebrate the occasion. My mother is Danish; I am half Danish. Denmark is in my blood despite never having lived there and (rather shamefully) not being able to speak the language. This resulted in much gesturing and sign-language between my Mormor (Grandma) and I, who lived til she was 94.

I have not been back to Denmark for 5 years. I owe my absence to having children! They do make travel can I say? Cumbersome.

So we have a big family there - I have 10 cousins and a handful of second cousins with whom I grew up. Every family holiday was spent there in pure, clean, Scandinavian loveliness, we had quite simply, the best time. My parents split when I was 8 so my Danish family provided the thread that kept that fabric of familyness together for me.

Back then all my Danish cousins looked something like this...

...or this...

My family live on the outskirts of Copenhagen, my aunt and uncle's house sits on a lake where they can canoe in summer and skate in winter. Everything in Denmark, from my recollection as a child, is beautiful and calm. Everything has been designed as a 'thing of beauty' - fit for its life purpose.

My cousins and I; we climbed trees together as children, we got drunk together as teenagers and as adults, sadly its tailed off abit as we were all reproducing! There are now, as well as the first generation cousins, 8 new babies for me to meet!

This is the Danish Royal family - how chilled out do they look? I mean can you see our Queen Elizabeth sitting on the steps to Buckingham Palace with her grandchildren frolicking in front?

The weather will still be cold in Copenhagen - but it will be a breath of spring air nevertheless to see my family again...


posted on: Thursday, 1 April 2010

I like the 60s. I know, its odd, I wasn't there, but I have a fascination with it as an era. In 1963 my parents got married, and ask anyone who was alive then the question: 'where were you when Kennedy was shot?' and most will recall in minute detail.

One of my favourite ever books is 'Couples' by John Updike, which is set in 1963. I have read this book over and over; this book I love. The subject matter however is dark, its about adultery in suburban New England. Its such an intimate view of a listless marriage, its almost painful to read at times but the way he writes, the accuracy of human emotion, is well...its amazing.

This image appeared in Vogue in 1963...and the Vogue cover below it...what is with that headscarf? And that is some 'do' underneath...

Under Parasols at the Beach photographed by Louise Dahl-Wolfe- Vogue 1963

I have a first edition of the book...I saw it in an antique book shop, just there alone on a shelf - I could not believe my luck!

Here is John Updike, who died in 2009. He was a genius...

Christine Keeler in 1963 when the Profumo scandal iconic image with the Arne Jacobsen chair...

Lewis Morley Portrait of Christine Keeler 1963

John F Kennedy in another iconic White House picture...he was assassinated in November 1963.

JFK painting by Aaron Shikler

Jackie Kennedy looking radiant...

'Mad Men' is set in 1963...the styling on that programme is a dream. The dresses! These shots appeared in Vanity Fair and capture completely the sentiment of John Updike's 'Couples' novel..

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