Thursday, 20 October 2011

It's all nothing and that's all

My head is exploding because my mind is going around in endless circles.

I am a mother of two preschoolers. My husband works out of town and the commute is long. I love to spend time with my children. I love work too, because it gives me space and time to create, to plan, to deliver, to think and reflect. I'm a better mother if I work some part of the week. I have patience and enthusiasm for my children every day I spend with them.

In an ideal world, I would like to work 3 full days. Alas, this world isn't ideal. There are many fabulous jobs kicking around this week, and for this week only, jobs that appeal to what I'm passionate about.

All of these jobs are full time, involve unsociable hours and a lot of travel. Informal discussions about flexible working hours or job share have led to nothing. These kind of jobs are for people who can focus their whole attention on the job, who do not have to comply with hours offered by childcare providers (or who have granny living next door? Or a nanny? Not sure. Maybe people without kids?). I want each of these jobs. I really do.

So here it is, the weighing scales that is my brain. Redundancy, unemployment, downshifting stay at home mum with some fabulous business plan ideas that may or may not be viable on the one hand. Full time working mum under constant stress in very fullfilling job with a cleaner at home and kids in full time childcare on the other hand.

It's not a choice I ever dreamt of having to make. It's not one I like. Above all, it's difficult to ensure the choice is not led by fear of unscertainty, but by what I truly want my life to look like. And to be honest, neither option appeals too much for all the weighing up I do.

So this is what women's lib and equal opportunities looks like. Opportunities are equal as long as you deliver the same long working week, unsociable hours in the same high pressured job as your childless colleague. I'm 40, and I'm not sure if I've got the energy for this, as highly motivated, enthusiastic, and determined I may be. Seems it's between all or nothing, just that it's not quite clear what "all" and "nothing" are in this equation. Or is it all nothing and that's all?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Last Straw

Dear Blog. I've neglected you recently, I know. I wish I could promise improvement but alas, life is full of surprises and there's not enough time to take note of them all.
  • there are puddles of water in the kitchen and it appears they may have been there for a while considering the expansion of the kitchen units (ok, Mr Cartside, I admit, it was water)
  • there are endless changes in the likelihood of what my working future may look like (and I'm losing track)
  • there is a baby who's teething so bad that she screams day and night (FFS, what IS it about those darn teeth?)
  • there is a photobook to be made and tons of photos to be edited (why oh why did we take that many photos? Are we mad????)
  • there are two adult size cardigans to be knit and that unfinished jumper size 6 months? Well, that baby is 13 months now. Hubby's birthday has been and gone as well and he's still cardiganless.
  • there are about 20 jobs that I'd like to apply for and not enough time in the day to do so (they are all full time and I still don't know at which point in an application process the question around flexible working hours and job share is best asked)
  • there are more adventurous ideas in my head demanding to be explored yet no space and time to do so because ...
  • there's also a rather demanding job that still needs to be done even if it may only be for another two months.
I am not far off losing my mind ever so slightly. I've most definitely reached the point of "mummy can't do that!". Now can some plumbing hero please fix my kitchen?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Wrapped up Bitterness

There's so much confusion in my head that blogging isn't working anymore. I wrote a long long post and wasn't sure if I should publish it. It was bitter. It was my perspective on what is happening at the moment and my unhappiness about it. I showed it to Mr Cartside and his feedback got me thinking. Not that I necessarily agreed with all his views, the thinking process was important and having this really different perspective that challenged mine not just superficially but deep down.

So the post will remain unpublished, but I'll keep it, my own record of how I felt at this time, on one day. Because truth be told every day is different. There are those where I'm elated at the prospect of redundancy and being able to spend more time with the kids, watch them grow, not having to leave this baby of mine at the nursery (4 year old loves nursery so I don't feel quite so bad). Being able to impart things to them that are important to me. Or elated by the possibilities of this challenge, of all the things I could focus my energy on.

Then the days where I don't think I'm made for that, where I so just want a job.

In between the soul searching of why I actually want to work. Is it the money and status that it brings? Is it for my peace of mind because I'm doing something good? Is it because I enjoy work or the adult company? What do I do it for and what is it that I actually want? Do I really want, need to work or is it just something that I tell myself because of an ongoing reaction against the world view of my mother (who was a stay at home mum and who believed that a woman's place was at the kitchen sink and in church and wasn't she right in some ways because at least she didn't have as many balls to juggle as I do?).

I've considered self employment. I've considered applying for posts that I see coming up. I've considered voluntary redundancy and full time employment for the same employer in a new role. Can I make my mind up? The theory is crystal clear - I'd like a work life balance that works. I want a job that I can feel passionate about. I'm not sure how I would feel not bringing any money into the house so that is something to bring into the equation, but I also know that this is my own problem that I need to get clear about.

One day I'm sure I want scenario A. The next day I want scenario B and the third day I'm sure scenario C is the way to go. Day 4 and none of these scenarios seems likely to happen and I feel like sticking my head in the sand. Too many variables, too many uncertainties.

I think I have come closer to what the best two options would be for me. But it's one of those Day 4s. And I think I'll just crawl into a corner with a hot chocolate and knit a bit tonight and transform bitterness, uncertainty and disappointment into stitches to keep us warm this winter.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Theatre people are weird...

Remember I'm trying to get rid of all that baby gear? Well, bit by bit I can see some floorspace again, though the massive bag I had meant to pass on to a friend is still sitting there as inconveniently, the baby arrived on time. And I thought first babies are always late...

Some items are listed on Gumtree and Netmums, you know, those things that have some sort of resell value. For example, there's this Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper Mini which we thought would be a good idea for those early days. It was great as a storage space and admittedly, Snowflake didn't spend much time in it. Considering that these Co-sleepers retail new for £200, and that this one is used but still perfectly functional, and I bought new mattress and lots of bedding for it, you'd forgive that I think I could sell it on rather than pass it on.

So then, I rejoiced when I had a reply in my inbox. It was a bit odd though, not a prospective mum looking for it but some theatre person looking for a prop. Hm, I'm funny that way but I'd rather give it to someone who'll use it for a baby rather than a play, but I'm not against culture and do have a soft spot for some good theatre so I keep an open mind. I read on. It says something about an actress wanting to sit on it. Ahem. Why? (thunk I) Would it support her weight? (asked she)

Baffled I respond that in all honesty, I don't think it would being designed for a BABY for up to 6 months. That I'd suspect it would probably support a maximum weight of 10-15kg. (I was spot on by the way, maximum weight is 30 lbs) But please do check the specifications in case I'm wrong (you know, like, google it? Read between the lines: I just wanna sell it and don't fancy researching if an actress can sit on it). Not much time passes and I get a reply back:
"The actress in question is about 8/9st, Is there anyone about her size there you could ask to try get on it to see how it reacts to the weight.  Also if you manage to get someone on it can you send me a few pictures so I can see how it reacts to the weight and also get a better idea as to the size of the item."
You what? You mean I should try and source an anorexic person (ok maybe an older child) to sit it on MY PRECIOUS Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper Mini and watch how it collapses under the weight, possibly on top of my baby, while taking a photo of it which I then, after having paid damages to the injured child in question, send to the theatre person? That'll really help me sell my beloved co-sleeper.

Hello? I don't think so. Feel free to do your own risk assessment. Sorry. I guess I'll keep my Co-sleeper for the moment. (Shakes head in utter disbelief)

Monday, 3 October 2011

Giveaway: Kids Cook the World

The other day, ok, it may have been the other month, I was delighted to be asked to review "Kids Cook the World" - a cook book for kids, with recipes from across the world. I was delighted because I'm always on the lookout for a few additions to my limited list of recipes (I'm not very creative when it comes to cooking) and while I have enough cook books that are sitting unused in my cupboard, this one is a bit different.

For one, the recipes are simple so that kids can cook. That's a nice thought, even nicer because it also makes it easier for me (I don't have much patience for overly complicated recipes with ingredients lists the length of a page). Lots of pictures make the book attractive and easy to follow.

With each recipe comes some information on the country it comes from - not too much, just enough to be an introduction and to captivate a child's imagination.
The cook book is published by Solidarity Sports and raises money for their community work in projects that give young people living in disadvantaged communities in London key life skills. It's a great and positive way to raise funds for this work. The countries where the recipes come from reflect the countries the young people involved in Solidarity Sports come from, and the book encourages curiosity for these countries among the children using the book.

If there's one thing I don't like so much it's the format - A4 is a bit big for my small kitchen, and I generally prefer spiral bound cook books because they just work better in the kitchen. But other than that, it's a colourful celebration of cultures and food and will encourage healthy and varied eating habits.

Kids Cook the World (£9.99) is just published by New Internationalist and Solidarity Sports. Order online at You can also buy it through the Amnesty International online shop.

And to celebrate the launch, I have a copy available for one lucky reader! Simply leave a comment to enter and tweet this post for an additional entry (please include @cartside so I can keep track). And for another chance to win a copy, why not head over to my other blog, Nature Kids where I'll be giving away a second copy on Sunday. Competition is open to UK residents only and will close on Sunday at midnight. Good luck!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

and when it gets really bad - keep calm and knit

When the nerves are raw, the mind full of worry, there's one thing that is forever soothing and grounding.

Cubling needed a new hat for the winter. Urgently as she's back at the forest kindergarten. I knew it had to be an ear flap hat, I wanted to do some fair isle just because I hadn't done it in a while. So I found myself the Norwegian Star Ear Flap hat. But as I prefer to knit from top to bottom, I merged it with with the Thorpe pattern. I guessed the length of the hat, which meant it's a bit generous but other than that... I like. So I guess it's a Norwegian Thorpe.

Little Miss Cheekychops of course refused to get her picture taken, or to even wear it. This is the only photo I got, which neither shows the earflaps nor my pride, the crocheted border particularly well. Yes, I crocheted this and it doesn't even look as if I don't actually know how to crochet.

The yarn hails from a Föhr sheep - it's hand spun and hand dyed, and I love the colour scheme, which I often get wrong, but I think this one works. There's still a good bit of yarn left, definitely enough for another hat, maybe even two.



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