What's new?

posted on: Wednesday, 26 June 2013

That feeling or glimpse of summer when you're driving in your car and 'My Sharona' comes on the radio - instant flashback to being 18, generation X, post-University, watching 'Reality Bites' when Winona Ryder was so young and so cool.

Far too much outfit shopping - concluding that I like the order/delivery process almost as much as wearing the item itself. There's a lot of 'return to sender' happening in our house.

Blossoms in the garden.

The prospect of days and days ahead to clear the decks in my house. A yearning to remove half of our possessions; I have become encumbered by my own 'stuff'.

Missing my husband; he's working hard.

A return to circuit training; energy depletion after last week = my workout is hard!

Seersucker bed linen - which make me think of Danish childhood in my cousin's summer house.

photograph by sally gall
Wimbledon - one of the best and most soothing sports to have on in the background. Closely followed by golf.

Realising that actually, I do need another pair of white converse.

End of term plays. End of term sports days. End of term in general.

Dog walking at the beach as the fields really are way too full of pollen.

Getting ready to say goodbye to long-established colleagues and start new. From August onwards the term 'big blue' will come to mean the sky or the ocean and not this, as is has been for the last fifteen years.

photograph by sally gall

The week that was not...

posted on: Saturday, 22 June 2013

This week has to rank low on the good week scale. I got ill last weekend, took to my bed on Sunday and basically didn't emerge (other than for a handful of essential school runs, one of which was in my pyjamas) until yesterday. I can hardly recall a time when I was unwell for so long. It reminded me of childhood illnesses, when there is just no choice but to lie there, listless and bored and running a fever. I did read a book cover to cover in a day (sun-lounger style), watched episode after episode of trashy TV, watched Royal Ascot and shed a tear when the right horses won. I did more googling than I though humanly possible.  I tweeted, pinned and instagrammed. Along the way I got some pretty strange symptoms - swollen ankles and aches like I have not experienced for years. I literally felt like I have been steam-rollered. I write in past tense; but it's not entirely gone yet. I feel like I have to at least try to restart normal life again, albeit on shaky legs, or I will be done for.

via crush cul de sac
Now suddenly July is on the horizon, although the weather belies that fact, thoughts do turn to the approaching summer holidays. My children break up on the 5th, which seems like madness and will give them a full two months before returning to school in September. I always get school fatigue at this point in the year and long for them to finish and be free of the rigours of the final term. But then the stretch of holiday arrives and it is bittersweet as after the onslaught and discipline of school, they go into some sort of free-fall, where they don't know what to do with themselves and loll around the house restlessly. This is usually followed by a tirade from me on how I used to entertain myself all summer with nothing but my bicycle and a curlywurly bar...circa 1981.

I am starting to see that our choice, years back, to buy a farmhouse surrounded by fields was perhaps not as savvy for family life as it appeared. Although just a mile or so from town, we are isolated and both of my children will always need to be driven from our rural place to see friends or do anything. This is becoming increasingly hard for my 12 year old daughter, whose time with her friends is all-important. I can see that for years to come I will be a taxi for them, but also that I can't get frustrated with that fact; we choose a rural location for its beauty, when we had a toddler and baby on the way. Now they are grown (growing) I see how that choice worked then, and has different challenges now. However come next year we will start big development work on our house, we will be broadening it and making it more teenage-friendly in readiness for years to come. Very much looking forward to that.

via crush cul de sac
Thank you for all of your wonderful, life-asserting comments and emails about my choice to stop work. In my sickened state I re-read them and took comfort from them. So many of you expected this turn of events and could see that in the trajectory of me, it was timely and right. I think so too.

I am ready to do nothing for a few months once I stop working. I will revel in the fact. I want to wake up and have nowhere that I need to be. I can't tell you how liberating that will feel, after so many years of corporate meetings and calls that always start early and run all day. How is it that there is so much speaking required? I want the quiet.

via crush cul de sac

Signed, sealed, delivered and...stop.

posted on: Thursday, 13 June 2013

At University I studied English Literature and wrote my dissertation on feminism - specifically on Gothic writing and how, through that literary method, women could assert their voice against the patriarchal domination of society! OH MY GOD - what a useful topic! As I am sure you can imagine, my expertise in this area hasn't exactly had heavy usage in my life since I wrote that twelve thousand word thesis. I wasn't sure what feminism actually meant in real life - all I knew was this: there should be equality in everything, as why not? And I went about getting a career and a husband and a beautiful family (pretty much in that order).

Fast forward twenty years and here I am with all three  - and I have written many a time about my efforts to juggle these components of my life. The career waned, although it did have its heady moments in the last fifteen years in a large corporate. The marriage going strong; I love the man I married. The beautiful family - yep, I definitely have that. My luck overflows. But is there equality in everything? No! Of course not, and frankly I was mad to ever think there would be. I don't say this with negativity; I accept it and wish I had known this truth years ago. It would have saved me countless hours of internal dialogue with myself!

People ask: can women have it all? I could do whatever work I wanted to do, to earn money, to share the burdens of home life, to bring up my children in the way I wanted to, to acknowledge no boundaries to what I could achieve that were associated with my gender. Then over time these lofty aspirations whittled down into one thing: being a (very busy, very harried) working mother. My expectations of sharing the burden started to fade as frankly my husband had a job that was three times the size of mine and he rightly needed to focus on that. Someone had to hold it together at home.

And the answer may be, yes of course women can have it all. If they work hard enough (harder than the men?!) and are lucky enough. But there is a cost. It's a choice and when I look at younger women, searching for their big three of career, husband and family I wish I could whisper in their ear 'choose wisely and think ahead.' As no matter how smart I thought I was having it all, I didn't grasp that there were unseen consequences. Being the pioneering working mother would mean I would miss crucial moments of my children's upbringing. Tiredness from work would result in snappiness and lack of patience when at home. Relationships were strained. Life seemed a chore. Sleep eluded me in favour of 'to do' lists. Competing against contemporaries at work, who did not have the home commitments that I did, would eventually become a futile and soul-destroying exercise. Trying to have it all and be it all would represent a labour of love that in the end did not make me happy.

And so, with all of this in mind,  I have decided to leave my job! A working mother no more! I leave in August!

The idea of being a stay at home mother is synonymous with opting out of the working world; deliberately and meaningfully. It means accepting the routines of daily life. It means taking full and total responsibility for all tasks associated with house, food, laundry, social life planning, school, homework, sports clubs and so on. It means being there. It means there is not the excuse, 'I'm working' to explain absences or tiredness or forgotten birthdays or delinquency in writing timely thank you cards. This and so many other things...

So this is new to me - although I had a taste of it, as many of you have commented - didn't I seem so very happy when I was not working?! It's taken me a very long time to reach this decision, meandering round and round it but now it's a decision made, done, signed and sealed, I feel it's the right thing (although I am a little heavy-hearted).

I went for a walk earlier with the pup - round the fields as ever - and I thought how lovely it was to be in the air after a day spent at my laptop, talking on the telephone; working. It's all started to make a different kind of sense and I am sure the future will bring good things.

Becoming a Pinterest 'wisdom' board...

posted on: Wednesday, 12 June 2013

My friend Simone has written poignantly on her blog about her struggles to guide her 12 year old daughter through the myriad of challenges she faces. Being 12 in modern society is tricky; not young, yet not grown. Simone and I exchanged texts of our experiences as our daughters are the same age. She mentioned today that she felt like she was a 'walking Pinterest wisdom board' which made me laugh out loud (or lol if we are using 12 year old speak).

...the gist of my exam lecture...
I wonder how it can be that I have so quickly morphed from cool, young yummy mummy with toddlers to an occasionally world-weary parent, trying to dispense advice to my daughter as she rolls her eyes and responds with language that frankly has me reaching for the 'urban dictionary'. I find myself reminding my daughter that we are young (dare I say 'hip'?) parents - I had her in my mid twenties; unlike so many of my peers who established careers first, I married and procreated young. I have consistently been the youngest at the school gates. But the fact is: pointing out to your kids that you are 'down with the kids' kinda defeats the object. My upbringing of John Hughes films somehow doesn't seem to cut the mustard now.

...so wanted to be Molly Ringwald when I was 12...
My daughter leads a charmed young life and indeed after the work she did to accepted get into her school, I am delighted that she has so readily found her place. But I found myself lecturing her on taking her exams seriously and making the most of her opportunities and half way through got this distinct feeling that I was getting it all wrong. My need to make sure she understands every bit of wisdom I ever learnt sometimes over arches my need to let her find her own way. It's hard and I figure it's going to get harder...

The possibilities that lie before both of my children can take my breath away, although I have a sneaking feeling that it's going to be tough for them to find jobs and buy houses when they are older, I do feel real optimism for them. It's that optimism that drives my husband and I to work hard to give them the chances that perhaps we didn't have (although in reality we both led charmed lives too so I mustn't paint the picture that it was otherwise). I am conscious that my need to get it 'right' but I am realising that there is no right; it's not like when they were babies and there was a correct range of developmental milestones. Crawling by a year, walking by two, however many ounces of milk in the bottle. Now it's all new and it takes a whole different type of parenting, one that I am learning! Any advice? Oh and my Pinterest wisdom board is here ;-)

...why can't life always be like this?!

Off the wagon...

posted on: Monday, 10 June 2013

I've fallen off the wagon; the yoga wagon, the mindfulness wagon, the sleeping well/eating well, feeling on top of things wagon! Instead I feel I am running...no, wait, sprinting...as fast as I can at the moment. That wagon is in the distance somewhere beckoning me on. I'll get there; this is a short-term thing but for now, I find this is where I am.

via bippity boppity boo
A weekend spent in a typical early summer swirl of Britishness. A summer fete (complete with fly-by from a WWII spitfire), gardening (my husband's endless lawn mowing has become a family joke). Hanging laundry on the line and marvelling that it actually dries. I've confirmed I am a heat-lover; I have been in denial all this time, saying that I love the seasonal changes here. But actually all I really want is warm - even better - hot.

Unusually we found ourselves without children on Saturday daytime and so we went for lunch and talked about the future. I love lunches like that; they remind me of pre-children times when we used to map things out. Now the map feels like its more complete, but we realise we still have plans and dreams and views on happen-chance, in case it ever arises.

Meanwhile the sprinting starts Monday morning when I wake following a restless night and know there are a million and one things to do this week. Logistical challenges; pick-ups and drop-offs at times that seem to conspire - there is only one me and two of them! My work carries on at corporate pace - they wait for no one.

I read this (shared from a friend's facebook) and tears poured down my face this morning, closely followed by guilt that I should hate this busy-ness, the sprinting, as what it amounts to is my family life. The people affected by Sandy Hook have had their family lives blown apart forever and reading about them is humbling and more thought-provoking that I was prepared for on a cloudy Monday morning. The lesson: always take time and be grateful. Make the most of every day.

And in more moments of frippery I shop on line (maxi dresses, lace dresses, more dresses?) and schedule appointments and try to build in social engagements for us all that will enrich and engage. We are in the bubble and the bubble is good. Steer your way...

via bippity boppity boo