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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

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?!