Saturday, 30 January 2010

At the cafe

I'm having lunch with my daughter.
She picks up a salad leaf.
"I love salad" she announces. I listen up in surprise, so far she has refused to ever eat it.
She puts it into her mouth, chews a bit, and takes it out again.
"I like it nicht. It's too blatty."

(Note: "Blatt" is the German word for "leaf".)

Thursday, 28 January 2010

How flexible are flexible working hours for parents really?

One of the most laudable initiatives to encourage a work - life balance that suits parents is that of flexible working hours. In theory at least. When I got pregnant, I had just changed to a new, permanent post. Part (and I stress part!) of the attraction of the new post which made me change jobs while pregnant and willingly relinquish the right to additional maternity leave was the greater job security (for once not an annually funded job in the voluntary sector) and the knowledge that a bigger organisation might be able to accommodate flexible working hours.

Upon my return, I reduced my hours to a four day week, which was hard at first but now suits me perfectly. Well, I sometimes wonder if a 3 day working week would be closer to perfection but on the whole, I'm happy with the arrangement.

Then there was a massive restructure of the organisation, one that got rid of my job. So for a while I was looking for a new job, while still hoping that there would be a different job for me in the new structure (which there was). When I was applying for jobs it became crystal clear that flexible working hours are fabulous if you are already in a job when you have a baby. However, if you want to change to a new job, things aren't so rosy. It's down to two options: you either take a well paid full time job, or a badly paid part time job. As to the badly paid part time job, they aren't just badly paid because you'll only work 2 1/2 days a week. Even the pro rata equivalent is significantly lower than a comparable full time job. My idea to land a full time job and then ask for job share or a four day week were illusionary at best. While I was confident that this was an option, the first post interview indication that I was hoping to do a 4 day week was greeted with great surprise and maybe was the reason why I didn't get the job.

Effectively, flexible working hours are only an option if you are already in a job (and your employer is kind). For those looking for employment, particularly those who have kids first and then look at a career, the outlook is dire. Underpaid part time jobs, sessional work or minimum wage are the price you pay for trying to spend some quality time with your children while still being economically active.

Effectively, because most people looking for flexible working hours are mothers (but clearly all fathers looking for flexible working hours are as affected by this), this situation leads to unequal pay for working mothers.

The root of the problem, in my view is that we are still entrenched in a 9-5 work pattern where flexibility is undesirable, although it may in fact be more efficient (for my part, I'm sure I work more intensely in the 4 days that I've got and that my employer is getting a good deal out of me). Maybe a bit of awareness raising around this issue might not be a bad thing, or an encouragement or even legal obligation for employers to offer any desired working hours set-up for new recruits, including one that would enable single parents to work from 9.30-2.30, i.e. during school hours.

It would be one step in the right direction towards enabling mothers to take up suitable and appropriately paid employment.

What about you? Are you on flexible working hours? What has been your experience? Have you changed jobs looking for flexible working hours? Did you have to accept a lower salary? I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Of birds and buttons (Review)

I'm not having my best time blogging at the moment. Partly it's due to a rather busy time at work, I'm shattered in the evening and just about manage to read blogs, not to write anything. There's a few posts waiting, such as one that's waiting for two buttons to be sewn on a dress, just that I can't remember where I put the beautiful buttons I'd bought for it.

So in the absence of my usual witty self (ahem), how about a long over due review? Ah go on, you must be up for it, haven't done one in a long time!

Well, the Cartside home has been sent the most recent instalment of 3rd & Bird DVDs, A very squooky Christmas. Don't worry, it's not all christmassy and the DVD is definitely full of stuff that's all good for the non Christmas time, i.e. most of the year. To be fair, we didn't manage to watch it before Christmas (or if we did, I wasn't party) and Cubling was rather pleased to get a Christmas story even after we'd cleared away all (ok, most) of the Christmas decoration and defered Christmas book back to cupboards.

3rd and Bird rocks. Or rather, tweets and sqooks. Cubling loves it, she sings along, interacts when she sees it, loves the poster that came it and is generally a big fan. She's not 3 yet, so not even the target age which I believe is more like 3-5 years. 3rd and Bird, in case you don't know, is a community of birds, who all live on the same tree, their neighbourhood. They help each other out where they can and generally are a very happy, picture perfect community of birds. And who wouldn't like to live in such a lovely environment? So the birds teach us about how to help each other, how to achieve things together if on your own it doesn't quite work, and I don't cease to be amazed at how a simple children's programme actually explains something we're trying to do at work much more eloquently.

The images are beautiful, colourful yet not too simplistic. And there's lots and lots of singalong songs. Cubling hums, sings and dances, she loves music and that definitely also attracts her to 3rd & Bird.

The DVD has 90 minutes worth of stories and extras, and most episodes aren't seasonal. It's a definite thumbs up and I'm sure it's going to last us until next Christmas so that the sqooky Christmas gets another instalment too. Don't forget to check out 3rd & Bird's webpage, where the image is taken from.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Bilingual Carnival Time

Just a short note to point you towards this month's blogging carnival on raising bilingual children, which this time can be found over at Bilingual Readers. If you're interested in contributing to or hosting future bilingualism carnivals, please head over here. There are great post to be read at the bilingual carnival, so enjoy while I'm being a bit thin on the ground with posts.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

when on holiday...

Now that I've survived my first two days back at work after a full month off (how did that happen and where did the month go?), it's surely high time to share some of my favourite moments of our holiday. I know, I'm a real grouch to complain about our involuntary extended stay, so just to set the balance right: we did have a lovely time, the weather was generally perfect and I truly managed to catch up on about 3 years of sleep deprivation. There were nights where I slept 11 hours. Bliss (then the cough started and I slept about 3 hours a night in 50 instalments, at least that's what it felt like, but nevermind).

There were real special moments, for example when Cubling declared "I love Opa!", whom we visited every day. Sometimes even in time for a beautifully cheesy sunset view from his balcony:Lots of time was spent on the beach because Cubling also declared "I love Strand!":

And she was clearly also fascinated by the sea, which she called river for almost the entire two weeks. Yes, we live near rivers, but this is the sea (can you hear me singing the Waterboys tune?). There were endless chases with waves and mostly, Cubling won. Just sometimes she didn't and the tears were the size of crocodiles.
I think the photo above might be her enchanting the sea. There was lots of quality daddy time, who was a great builder of big holes and what better can there be than building big holes and then...
of course, jumping in!
Of course, you can also draw in the wet volcanic sand. Buses for examples, while singing "the wheels on the bus"; such lovely symmetry between father and daughter:

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Support for Haitians

While on Lanzarote, we had TV. Skynews and CNN to be precise and all there was during our last days was the devastation of the earthquake that hit Haiti so close to the capital. The TV was on and off, the pictures were so horrible I could only watch with a distance, and the images were so many and awful that I actually didn't want to see them all but couldn't not watch either. Because really, the fact that an earthquake of that magnitude hit so close to the capital of a very poor country speaks enough. You don't need images to imagine what this means in reality.

Once again, natural disaster has hit the poorest. So the need is dire. I urge you to find out a bit more about Haiti - it's a country with an amazing spirit, a country that can pride itself with a revolt of slaves that overturned the colonial powers. Of course it's also a history of continued meddling by external nations and I don't think anyone will have summarised it as succinctly and forcefully as Clairwil in this post.

It makes me all the angrier that this earthquake struck in a country and hit people who really and truly have been hit enough by so many adverse forces that have kept a spirited people in an awful situation as it was.

We can't rewrite history, but the bottom line is that livelihoods have been destroyed, people have lost loved ones and are confronted with hunger, lack of water, disease to make a horrendous situation worse. I'm not one who tries to imagine what life is like for the survivors, because the suffering is beyond imagination. You've seen the reports and images, what more can I add to this?

There are many ways that you, yes you, can help. Some Mummy Bloggers have set up a Just Giving page for Shelter Boxes to be sent to Haiti. I like the idea that the boxes give families the tools to somehow support themselves in this crisis situation and don't forget the needs of children by adding a few crayons to the survival kit. However, I also think that the DEC is good at coordinating experienced charities in emergencies, including Save the Children who are part of DEC. So you can donate to DEC and they'll distribute the money as they see fit, or to a charity of your choice such as Save the Children if you're particularly concerned about helping children and their families in this emergency. It's up to you which route you find preferrable but please, reach out to the people who really and truly haven't deserved this and need your help and donate as much as you feel able to.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Literally Stranded

Well, if you follow me on Twitter or are a Facebook friend, you´ll already know. Thanks to the cold spell in the UK we are literally stranded in Lanzarote. Which is kind of weird, it being all hot and sunny, it´s hard to imagine that the reason for our extended and involuntary second week here is in fact snow and ice in Scotland.

As this is also a very busy time at work indeed, I´ve got a feeling that even on our return, which hopefully will be very soon, blogging will have to step back just a little bit. I´m amazed that I actually managed a fortnight away from this screen. What I miss most is that I wasn´t able to keep up with my favourite blogs, except for a couple which I just have to read. Reassuring that I´m not addicted to blogging just yet.

What I miss most is that I never brought my knitting needles, I didn´t think I´d need them for a week´s holiday, now it´s two weeks and the one book I brought is read and all the other books I can find bore me endlessly. It´s a funny old world, I love to travel, I love Spain, but in spite of having been brought up in a family where beach holidays were an annual event (well, from when I was seven or so), I never liked them, and still don´t. I´ve always been one who enjoyed discovering new places as a backpack tourist, or staying in new cities until I knew them like the palm of my hand. Even as a child, the annual trip to the Spanish seaside always felt long, boring and a bit pointless.

So we trail between beach, pool, restaurant, cafe, another beach, another cafe, my dad´s appartment and ours, endlessly, in a different and not exactly inspiring routine. Cubling enjoys this beyond words, and there´s joy to be had from her sense of wonder. She draws on wet sand, digs holes, asks neverending questions of why where what, chases waves and splashes in the "wee pool". It´s a delight to watch her. At the same time, all I want just now is to cuddle up at home, get the heating on and a proper cup of tea from my favourite mug, and enjoy a few rows of knitting, a few lines of blogging, and getting my teeth into the very challenging piece of work that lies ahead of me.

Yet still, I´m willing to enjoy this unforseen and unwanted time in a special place as much as I can. And I can´t wait to share some of the best moments with you once the going rate for internet access is less forbidding and I can upload some of the photos I took.



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