What if…?

What if…?

When dreaming of what your children are going to be when they grow up do you ever find yourself wondering what if? What if I applied myself properly in university and ended up a visionary in my field? What if I didn’t listen to my mother and went to work in London at 21 rather than wait until 28? What if I decided to do what I want to do which could potentially crash and burn but will ultimately give me more time at home?

So many questions that fill your head during a clear 5 minutes. I think that all the guilt that you experience trying to split yourself into a million pieces to keep everyone happy often leads you do ponder the questions that have never given you a satisfactory answer in the past. I think one of my lessons from too many ‘what ifs’ is to let my children be who they want to be and do what they want to do (within reason – reality tv star or underground crime are not things I can get on board with). The one thing I will say to them is embrace love when you find it but do not let it dictate your dreams and ambitions. Too many boys and men have been the road block to ambition and I spent too many years in my twenties trying to convince the boyfriend of the moment with my dreams of running away and living the story book life. I think what causes you to think of these things in a melancholy haze is that you are no longer free to chase these dreams without consequences. There are people to think about, commitments to be honoured and whereas when we were younger we didn’t need a safety net now we need a safety net for the safety net.

In all honesty I no longer want to strive to be the business woman who has a closer relationship with the PC at work than her own family, I want to make jam and bunting, write beautiful stories and make bread and calorific cakes but in reality bills need to be paid and in order to live in both worlds time needs to be stretched. I’d love to take Evie away and see the world and explore new cultures and history but the constraints of work and life make this a segmented pipe dream. Time cannot be reversed but going forward my tales of chasing boys and making them the be-all to my romantic idealistic notion of growing up will serve to be reminders to Evie that there needs to be a balance in the world. Too much adulation and hanging on every word the pretty boy says is less time researching ways to make a difference in the world. Unless of course the pretty boy is the one to make history with and a whole new set of what ifs are created.

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Babies are the new glass ceiling

There seems to be a perception (outside of female CEOs with a crèche built into their office like an en suite bathroom) that you cannot balance motherhood with a demanding career. As a woman who has worked hard to establish myself in work I found it difficult to comprehend that the moment I had a baby I was no longer deemed good enough to do a complex job. Now the main reason behind this is that we still live in an age where the male species (even those with children) think that mothers will be spend their day obsessed by the well being of their child, counting down the minutes until home time or running out of the office early because they can’t bear to be apart from their pride and joy a minute more. Now this does happen in real life with a small minority of women but it seems to be enough to tar us all with the same brush.

Word in the office is that children can hinder your career – a woman’s not a man’s but there doesn’t seem to be a logical explanation why. As it stands I only work 4 days a week because it is cheaper for me to stay at home rather than pay the crèche for an extra day, however, when I have mentioned that I am going for promotion (whilst working part time) I have been met with an interesting view from male colleagues who think that it is nigh on impossible to do a “real” job in 4 days. Because if you work part time the work you carry out is deemed to be ‘not as important’ as a full time man’s job but it does give you more time to do other jobs such as hovering, shopping and dusting. I was floored when those words were uttered because he was being serious. Women can be multi skilled across home and in certain parts of business but are not capable of being multi skilled at the top levels working less than 37 hours a week.

There is enough guilt placed on mothers who want to spend time with their children but have worked hard to build a career and don’t want to lose their skills without being told that the decision to have it both has been taken out of your hands by someone who thinks they know better. It is a known fact that mothers are the best at multi skilling, can organize tasks weeks in advance and don’t drop the ball when things come out of left field because if we were to fail at the million things that we have to contend with on a daily basis the world would cease to exist.

Save the date

In nine weeks time my baby girl turns one and I can’t help but think that someone has stood on my metaphorical sky+ remote and hit fast forward by mistake. I think all parents go through a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ first three months because you are so overwhelmed with emotion, shock and the number of intruders (I mean visitors) that you glide through the days in a baby brain haze. As soon as you snap out of that you realise that you only have three months left before the juggling act of babies, business and life really kicks in. So you try to cram everything in so you can create the ideal visage of the ‘have it all’ mummy to tell your work colleagues when conversation runs dry in the office. After the nine month mark you feel settled, and dare I say it, in control. So what I don’t understand is why after the ten month mark do people start asking you when you are thinking about having another baby?

In the past week I have had people come on to me to find out when I have put a ‘save the date’ card in my diary to try for the next one. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t really go more than two years between children because I will find it a struggle, I’ve been told that if I do it now I can go back to my career before I get too old (I’m 31!!!) and the best one, if I do it now at least I can draw a line under it and get my life back before it’s too late. Who knew that people were so interested in my contribution to the world’s population?!

I can now see why so many single women over a certain age get frustrated when they are constantly asked about their desire to procreate – it must be like a Bridget Jones film just without the humour because babies are a sensitive subject. It’s not as if women can go on Tesco Direct and order one but you swear listening to most people (who feel it’s their duty to give you the facts) that it is that easy to bring another into the world. I have just about caught up on sleep from the first six months of Peppa Pig at three in the morning, how about letting me get my brain back in gear before I throw myself into the nocturnal wonderland of a newborn again.

I feel that between house hunting, planning Evie’s first birthday, Christmas, work and breathing that I need to draw up an 18 month project plan and present it to him with big red circles marking the days that I want him to be free. Oh, and he needs a rather large pay rise because bringing up two children under the age of three won’t be cheap especially as I am putting my career on hold to raise a future Queen and world leader.

Off to join the Circus

If I packed my bag and ran away, I could quite easily join the Circus today.

Since becoming a parent I can categorically state that my number 1 skill has become juggling. My day starts with my daily briefing in the sanctuary that I call the shower – it is the only 15 minutes that I have to myself in the entire day. This session consists of planning the baby’s bag/outfit/food for the day, my lunch/outfit/diary/social engagements, the house jobs that need to be done, the things my parents have asked me to do, birthdays that may or may not be coming up but I have a voucher code for half price personalized cards that is expiring this week and a million things that could be happening in the next few days or I’d possibly dreamed of and my brain is trying to fit it into my diary. All this and trying to remember if I had put conditioner on my hair and if I had washed my face!!

From the daily briefing session I then have to put my plans into action. Obstacle 1, he hasn’t sterilized the bottles so I have to do this whilst putting lunches together – mine now consists of humous and rice cakes because it is the quickest thing to grab. On a side note, this new found lack of time and air for lunch has resulted in a 7lb weight loss so I can’t complain too much.

Next is attempting to put boiling water in bottles that make molten lava seem cool, keeping one eye on the time and making up the milk for breakfast. Then the favorite part of the day, putting my make up on whilst feeding the baby breakfast, breaking every two sips so we can play ‘beep beep’. All this is going on and he sleeps soundly next to me. This morning after throwing everything into the boot of the car and racing into crèche I looked at myself in the mirror in the work’s car park to find that I had not blended all my highlighter in and I had white streaks like a warrior embedded into my face because I had covered it with powder and bronzer. This is what happens when you spend all morning shouting “put it down”, “don’t take your nappy off”, “stop taking the mirror off mammy” whilst the demonic sound of snoring acts as a backing track, and to top it off all this is done in the dark because the light bothers them. I’m sure those lyrics would give me a number one in the Mammy and Daddy’s chart top 40. I could give the Bing Bong song a run for its money.

By the time I get to work I have already packed in a day’s worth of negotiating, pandering to the needs of people who can’t think for themselves and juggling numerous tasks. And then I get to do it all again for another 8 hours…all with my skirt on back to front!!

The Curse of the Mummy Tummy

There are many things that worry new mothers – health and safety of the baby, childcare and money worries, but there is one that shakes the majority of women to the core…the one that involves exposing parts of your body that spent nine months being plumped up to the point where the Pilsbury Dough Boy thought he was a bread stick in comparison!!

Yes fellow yummy mummies, the sun has got his hat on and he’s coming out to play. Unfortunately that implies that we have to indulge his sunny imposition and expose arms, legs and possibly mummy tummies that have been quite happily lounging under layers of jumpers, cardies and coats.

I have tried my best to shift the last of the baby weight but since Evie was 6 weeks old my weight has stubbornly bounced around and I can’t seem to lose the last 7 pounds. I shunned the car for the six months I was off on maternity leave opting to walk everywhere which involved numerous hills that could easily put me in pole position for the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge, I’ve been going to the gym at least once a week (albeit to catch up on gossip whilst casually strolling on the treadmill), tried the 5:2 diet (and failed…then cried), tried boot camp (I am not designed to bunny hop up a rain soaked hill) and I still have a belly that doubles up as a shelf to sit Evie on when I carry her! My other issue is my arms. Whereas once upon a time I could rock a vest top, after having a baby the only thing I rock is sleeves. I am seriously considering dragging the muumuu out of the wardrobe and parading around in that – at least I know it fits and will possibly have some sort of slimming effect on ‘the tyre’.

However, my biggest problem in the battle of the belly is my sister. The woman who had a baby the day before me and before I could present my first born to the world slipped back in to her size 6 skinny jeans!! I have a pair of skinny jeans that sneer at me from the top shelf and create what can only be described as an extra thick sausage effect with my thighs and a muffin top that Mary Berry would struggle to create. That is not to say that I own a pair of skinny jeans that when worn with a long length top make me look the size it says on the tag and not someone who has squeezed into something from Baby Gap!

If I follow the age old rule of 9 months on, 9 months off that gives me exactly 5 weeks to drop a dress size. Easy I hear you skinny minnies shout…the issue is if all has failed, how exactly do I accomplish this simple task?

Where does the time go??

Next Monday my little bear is 5 months old and that shocking realisation set off the countdown clock to go back to work – 5 weeks and 4 days left!!  It has amazed me how fast the time has gone and how quick she has grown up, before I know it I’ll have another birthday to ignore, she will turn one and Christmas will be upon us (3 months Monday is the impending birthday, 7 months Monday bear turns 1 and 9 months Monday is Christmas – all the good things happen on the 25th of the month).

In the past 5 months since I had bear and had a break from work I expected to be blogging daily (weekly at a push) and to be almost finished with my first novel.  I can now honestly say that I was very delusional prior to childbirth and these days I pat myself on the back if I can hoover the house, wash all the dishes, sterilise bottles, get myself showered and dressed and get bear out of her jammies.  If I can get us out of the house and actually get somewhere before one in the afternoon I swear it is like a miracle.

As I write this blog the bear has woken from her slumber and is having a full blown conversation with herself whilst repeatedly hitting herself in the face with her dummy trying to get it in her mouth.  I am positive that minutes ago she was a tiny bundle who didn’t have a voice and I fear next time I look at her she will be a three foot monster demanding the latest crap Toys R Us are pushing during tea time adverts!!

So with 5 weeks to go I am now in full panic mode and trying to cram in as much bonding, weaning and memories as possible because the thought of missing out on so much is too hard to think about.  I know I’m not the first mother to return to work and hand over the baby to grandparents and child minders but it still sticks in the back of my throat that unless the man earns enough to cover your wage or you are incredibly wealthy there is no other option but to return to work (I hope this changes when I have mini me 2).

On a plus note, the bear just sat up on her own for the first time without toppling over :o)

When I grow up I want to be…

…Queen of the world.

That was my answer at 4 years old and suffice to say I have not yet achieved my ultimate goal by the age of 30, but never say never!!

I recently blasted the world of Twitter and Facebook to find out what words of wisdom you will give your children to guide them through life. From appreciating what they have to retaining their individuality and independence to learning to budget and seeing the world, questioning your teachers to living out your dreams, the parents who responded are developing a positive future generation. One of my favourite responses was treat all women like princesses (because it shows that I raised my sons properly).

On the topic of princesses (and princes) one of my biggest tips that I will pass on to my children is to love someone like they show us to in fairy tales. We live in a society where break ups and multiple marriages are the norm, where children can be subjected to the latest “friend” without the parent batting an eyelid and this culture that we are creating makes me sad to think that love – genuine love – could become obsolete.

There is no better feeling in the world than that overwhelming feeling of being in love. The intensity of the butterflies colliding in one’s stomach, the fleeting glances that warm you up from your toes to the end of your fingers, those stolen kisses that last minutes but feel like time has stopped especially for you to savour the moment. Now I’m not naive nor delusional, and I am fully aware that with love comes heartbreak (in one form or another) from the first argument to the break up, but both love and heartbreak are inevitable in life and helps structure your character. Having been through the sort of love that took my breath away and resulted in the most crushing pain I thought I could imagine (first love) I come equipped to pass on my knowledge to my daughter when that inevitable day arises, and I am proof, as are the majority of adults, that you can get through it because there is something waiting for us on the other side.

There is something quite comforting knowing that in 16 years time I will be in a position to share my experiences with Evie and hopefully be seen as someone she can confide in (as opposed to me being seen as ‘out dated’ and in the dramatic world of teenage girls someone who could never understand the intensity of her feelings – that was me once upon a time!!)

The other big one I want her to grasp with both hands (as with any other children I may have) is to dream big and go for it without fear of thinking they’re not good enough. I remember when I graduated I wanted to go to London and be a TV presenter (it could’ve been me on the sofa with Phil) but I was told to be realistic and I ended up in the Civil Service, so when the chance came up 18 months ago to become an International Trade Policy Advisor for the UK (ok not as stylish but outlooks change as you get older) I took a huge risk (I was not qualified in the slightest) and it paid off. Proof that if you want something enough you can make it yours. So if any of my children tell me at the tender age of 4 that they too want to rule the world who am I to get in their way?? I’ll be armed ready with the tools to help them (my special designer ‘I rule the world’ heels are tucked away ready for their debut on the world stage…)

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