Tag Archives: kids

Life as a Role Model

Mum.  Wife.  Daughter.  Manager.  Colleague.  Friend.

Most of us have lots of titles.

I am starting to realise another one I hadn’t yet included.  Role Model.

My daughter has just turned three.  Yes, it’s a delightful age. We’re just starting to experience her increasing ability to express herself, her burgeoning personality and she’s making her own friends for the first time.

She’s also learning a lot about the world around her.  She’s decided she must be married to her friend Oliver because most of the other people in her life come in heterosexual couples.  (Sorry about that friends whose families come in different shapes and sizes – we must have you over more often!)

She’s also assumed that my last name is the same as my husbands because hers is. (Umm, nope.)

I am also being asked to share any clothes she’d like to wear to play Working.

Playing Working means picking up my handbag, putting one of her father’s ties around her shoulders, and putting on a pair of my shoes.  She then picks up her keys and heads to the front door.

This is life as Miss 3 knows it.

It’s also the age when you start to wonder what she’ll be good at later in life;   whether she’s clever, what her strengths are.  Her language and emotional intelligence seem good, so maybe she’ll be a psychologist.  She seems a tad clumsy, so probably won’t be a professional tennis player.

I’m not too concerned about any of these, but I do want her to have confidence, friends and to always feel that she is loved.

And I am starting to realise how important it is for me to be a good role model to help these things happen.

When I go to the gym in the morning, I’m showing her that exercise is  important to me.  That I value being healthy and it makes me feel good. (I still love a cuddle in bed on the non-gym mornings though!)

When I go to work, I am showing her that women can be mummies and have a job too.  When I take a work phone call outside work hours, as frustrating as it is for both of us, I am showing her that other people value me, that my advice and support is needed by others.

When I have coffee with a friend, I am showing her I’m an individual with my own needs and preferences, just like her.

When Daddy and I go out for an evening, I’m showing her that Daddy and I have a relationship that is not always about her.  We go to dinner as a family too, but each of us makes time for a relationship one on one.

Until recently, all of these things made me feel guilty and torn between my roles as Mum and Worker  – and Working Mum was all I could be.

Accepting my job as a Role Model has not only relieved my guilt about two roles, but has created a bit more space for Wife, Daughter and Friend as well.

Kirsten

Do you see your life as a series of different roles for you to play?

Do you feel torn between them?

Birthday party tips for working mums

I did not bake this cake. My friend Shehana who has more kids and a more demanding job than me did.

It turns out I can organise a party with punch for three year olds.

Miss Nearly Three turns Three this week and I’ve been panicking about her birthday party since she first shared the guest list with me… nine months ago.

As soon as she’d blown the candles out on Grandma’s cake last July, she started asking me what would happen for her birthday.  I said we could have some friends over and eat cake, if she wished.

We’ve discussed it Every Single Day since.

Each time it’s been somebody else’s birthday, we’ve counted the months/days/weeks until hers, and discussed our plans.  After day care there is always a new best friend to consider.  Mummy and Daddy have come on and off the guest list depending on the number of Time Outs issued.  But the need for cake has been a constant.

Somewhat naively, about a month ago, I sat down with Miss Nearly Three and the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake book.  I was inspired by my friend Shehana who posted the gorgeous work of art above on Facebook.  We had a lovely afternoon looking through cakes and working out which one we’d make for the big party.  And then I realised, I simply would not have time! I have not yet met a working mum with hours in her life for fabulously intricate baking.  Except Shehana, and I’m seriously thinking about defriending her on Facebook.

Fortunately, last week I read this great post from Mrs Woog at Kidspot, which helped me realise that many of the cool mums have learned to cut corners.

So here’s what worked for me.

Invitations

I did send out invitations, but since none of the kids can read, and I did it so late I had to text everyone anyway, I wondered why I didn’t just invite everyone by SMS?  Cheaper than a stamp, they have all the details ready to hand and a reply SMS means the RSVP is done too.

Food

This is a vexed issue.  Too much sugar and you’re the bad mum who rotted all the other kids’ teeth.  Not enough, and you’ve broken the kids’ hearts.  We opted for a fruit plate upon arrival, some store bought mini-muffins and a round of coffees for the parents, help yourself juice for everyone and a sausage sizzle.

The sausage sizzle was not my idea, but when we attended a birthday party for Miss Nearly Three’s friend Oliver last weekend it appeared to us as genius. Our local Woolies had packs of 24 sausages for less than $10. Plenty of food, something adults and kids love and by slicing the bread into triangle halves there was no need for plates.  Dishes done.

Numbers

Tips to remember in determining numbers for your toddler party.

  • DO NOT invite every small child mentioned in conversation over the previous nine months.  You do not need two dozen toddlers in your home.
  • DO NOT invite all of your adult friends with kids. You won’t get time to chat to them anyway, and kids in groups usually prefer ones close to them in age.  Others get left out or ignored.  Best see those friends one on one, like when you and your friends are having coffee and watching your differently-aged kids use a playground together.
  • DO NOT, under any circumstances, believe your child when she says that someone is her best friend.  This will change many times in the next few years, and almost immediately after you’ve finalised a guest list.
  • Reinforce the good decisions.  Remember to invite the parents you like and the kids you know your kid has enjoyed hanging with on several previous occasions.  Talk about how exciting it will be to see them constantly.
  • Above all, the rule about inviting the number of kids equal to your kids age seemed appropriate.  So we doubled it.

Toys

The most important thing we’ve learned, from previous hosting experience, is to PUT AWAY THE PUZZLES!  You will spend the next three weeks finding pieces wedged into your backside when you sit down to watch Grey’s Anatomy.  You know I speak from experience on this one.

So we left out a few larger toys but put all the good stuff in the backyard.  This worked on all the kids except for poor Sebastian, who remembered our paltry collection of Matchbox cars from a visit last December and spent the whole three hours looking for them.

Cake

I’m pretty sure that this was the highlight of Miss Nearly Three’s life so far. Even better than the zoo.  Even better than the time she convinced me to put the car window down so she could yell out when I’m at 80ks an hour, “You’ll never find my shoes now, ha ha ha!”  Yep, even better than that.

And it was all due to…. Michel’s Patisserie.

This is not the actual cake. There are only two pieces left of ours.

I realised a constant theme in the ever changing requests for cake was chocolate, so we went to Michel’s, flicked through the pictures and made a selection. Princesses of course. Only one day’s notice needed. The downside was that the one we wanted wasn’t available online as promised, so I needed some help to get to the shop.  Annoying for working mums Michels!  More expensive than homemade, but hours and  hours of my life bought back.  The kids loved it.

Last night, as I was patting a ridiculously over-tired little girl off to to sleep, she threw her arms around me and said, “Mummy thank you for my party.  It was the best party ever.”

Mission accomplished.

Working mums think dads get a raw deal

According to a survey of 365 working parents in the UK, almost two thirds of working mums think men are discriminated against with regard to flexible working arrangements.

According to a Workingmums.co.uk survey for International Women’s Day,  65% felt men were not given a fair hearing over flexible working.

The survey also found that;

  • 43% felt they did over 75% of the domestic chores and childcare.
  • Around 40% of working mums had taken a step back in their career since having children.
  • Only 29% had progressed in their career.
  • The rest had stayed at the same level

Women were concerned about the lack of flexible new jobs. A third felt trapped in the job they went on maternity leave from because they could not find a new job which gave them the work life balance they needed. A massive 89% had considered working for themselves to get a better work life balance, although 43% said they couldn’t afford to.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the union movement is currently conducting an independent inquiry into insecure work in Australia.

The inquiry website tells us that;

The last two decades in Australia has seen a dramatic decline in permanent work, and corresponding growth of insecure forms of employment, such as casual, contract work and labour hire.

The full extend and impact of this shift on workers, their families and the Australian community has never been formally investigated.

The inquiry will report its findings to the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress in 2012, along with recommendations on measures that can be taken to address any problems that are identified.

Do you think dads miss out due to inflexible working arrangements?

Has having children affected your career?

What would you like to see the inquiry recommend?

You can read submissions to the inquiry and see what others are suggesting here.

Great Australian based website Careermums has great information on how to have the ‘flexibility conversation’ with a new employer here.

Lucy Howes tells how she became a convert to tutoring

English: School children doing exams inside a ...

Image via Wikipedia

There’s no zealot like a convert, which is why I’ve been singing the praises of my son’s new tutoring school all day.

I used to be dead against coaching colleges, which drill kids in things like the Opportunity Class and Selective Schools exams. I used to think bright children would get there themselves, and that it was deeply unfair to ‘train’ a child how to study to a test in order to get into an elite school.

And then I had a son enter primary school, and I watched as he spent the vast amount of school time trying to stay out of trouble. I watched as his class sizes swelled from a perfectly manageable 16 in kindergarten, to 30 by year four. And I wondered how my child could score highly in the year 3 Naplan test, but bring home a report card so woeful six months later that you would not think it was describing the same child.

And I realized that with two other kids (one a baby), and a career, a cat, a household to run, and a husband, I could not help him enough at home. I was allowing him to do badly in class, based on my own ideological beliefs.

When I went back to work after my third baby last year, I started juggling the dreaded triple pick-up.

My kids – two in primary school, and one in daycare – are in three different locations after 4pm. So even though I leave work at a very reasonable hour, by the time we get home it’s nudging 6pm, and there’s dinner to cook, and baths to supervise, and pajamas to find, and bags to unpack, and squashed pears to throw out, and lunchboxes to decontaminate.

But homework, especially for an older primary school child, requires parental input. I’ve heard this at five consecutive school information nights for five consecutive years. But how do you provide sufficient homework input when you’re trying to put the baby to bed and it’s already 8pm, and your son is wailing that ‘none of this makes any sense!’ and frankly, all you want is a glass of wine and to watch some mindless television?

The truth is, I am a terrible teacher, so it’s just as well I am a passable lawyer. I can’t remember anything from primary school. I’m hard pressed spotting a collective noun in a word-web, and by now, my son’s maths homework greatly exceeds my own mathematical ability. My ability to explain the proper use of past particles is also severely limited, and my claim that “I know them when I see it” is apparently both annoying and unhelpful.

The answer, I have discovered, is to find the best coaching school you can, and get your tiger mother on. The idea of Saturday school – almost five hours of it – was so utterly repugnant to my son that he sulked for a week. I had to practically drag him into the classroom.

But by the time my husband picked him up, he bounced out like the Energizer Bunny. He’d loved it. He’d made a friend. He’d learnt about the NSW parliament, and scored 24 out of 24 for a comprehension test, and gotten a sticker, which he assured me was “pretty dorky”, but I could tell he was secretly thrilled.

And then today, when we sat down to do his revision, he flew through the work. He didn’t need my help. He told me that for the first time, he understood it. The teacher, who only had four other kids to teach, had ‘properly’ explained it to him what a homonym was, and he’d gotten it (which was lucky, because I had to look it up on my Iphone, pretending to check an email).

And I couldn’t be more thrilled. To see my son excited by schoolwork, and engaged in his learning, feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. The cost, although not cheap, is no more than any other extra-curricula activity, and the school was full of kids just like mine.

In the Year of the Tiger, embracing my inner Tiger Mother has been the best decision I’ve made yet. And, in the end, it was one of the easiest. Not least of all, I’m very hopeful it may buy me a little more wine-drinking and television-watching time.

Do you worry about whether you should get you children a tutor?

Does homework put pressure on your day?

How do you manage school work in your family?

Lucy Howes is a working mum of three children aged ten, six and twenty months, who also somehow manages a career as a lawyer.

Kidspot has a lot of information on what to look for in a tutor and how to make a decision about whether your child needs a tutor here

Working from home

I’m lucky enough to work from home one day a week.

It really takes the pressure off when I need a handyman to stop by the house, collecting something from our local post office or doing a load of washing in my lunch hour.  I also use what is normally my travel time to make it to the gym.  This all makes me terribly productive while Miss Nearly Three plays in the sandpit at day care down the road and without an afternoon commute, we have an extra hour in the evenings together.

On the odd occasion when I’ve tried to work from home with Miss Nearly Three in the house, it has been an unmitigated disaster. I can’t speak on the phone without a demanding toddler interrupting me. I feel unprofessional and am constantly apologising to colleagues for the background noise.  I know I am less efficient and feel guilty that I am using work time so unproductively.  I then try and rectify this by working into the evening, and through lunchtimes to make up the time, but it is a vicious, unhappy cycle.

If I focus on the work and bribe Miss Nearly Three with extra episodes of Peppa Pig just to be quiet, then my ‘Mummy self’ feels awful because I’ve just plonked her in front of TV and turned her into a zombie.   It often seems like a no win situation.

This is partly the reason I love my days in the office. They allow me to wear nice clothes, have adult conversation and get the more engaging part of my work done.  Unfortunately, not every job can be done from home and even when they can, not every boss is supportive.

Workingmother.com has listed 15 surprising work from home jobs.  It even claims a chef and a CEO can work from home.  I’m a bit skeptical about the practicality of this and think maybe they are giving us false hope.  I also think ‘face time’ is important in lots of jobs as it helps build team work and shared understanding of what needs to be done, I think it makes me understand my organization better and learn more about the work of others.  Even if I am not working directly with many of my colleagues, the casual chats in the kitchen help me get better at promoting our work, which is a handy benefit in PR!

Do you work from home?  What do you think works about it?  What doesn’t work? Do you think employers get ripped off?  Any suggestions to help me be more productive?

Some weeks need a health warning

By Friday, I’m usually exhausted.  This week, I may have set a new record.  Things that have made me tired this week include:

Miss Nearly Three learning new ways to ‘push the boundaries’.  

Yes, I realise this is developmental.  I get that she’s learning how to be a person. I *know* that three year olds can be even worse than two year olds and four year olds are a Whole Other Story.  I understand she’s testing me and it’s-just-a-stage-and-she-will-get-over-it.

But, please, can her latest methods *not* involve unspeakable acts with poo??

Mums will know the kind of thing I’m talking about. Those who are not will already think I’ve overshared.

Being a single mum for three nights.                                                         I have several single mum friends and they are all awesome.  After three nights without my husband to tell me that it’s-just-a-stage-and-she-will-get-over-it and “Woah, exactly how much medicinal chocolate do you really *need* there??”, I conclude my single mum friends are even more awesome than I had originally thought.

Worrying about other people
I visited a friend in a cardio ward yesterday.  She’s the kind of friend who came to my house when I was having a single mum week with a tiny baby, cooked me roast beef, did the dishes and left really early so I could get a good night’s sleep.  Yesterday, I turned up with grapes. It didn’t really feel like enough.
Another friend lost his mum this week, and I’m off to the funeral this afternoon. Hugs are all I can think of.
Work is crazy
I realised this morning than when all my headspace is used up thinking of new strategies to overcome the latest it’s-just-a-stage-and-she-will-get-over-it period, I forget all of the work stuff I need to do.  And comes back at 4am.*
The list gets intimidatingly long, and I start making lists of “If I don’t get these three things done the world will end, and everything else can wait til next week.”  At 4am.
Things that will help this weekend include:
1. Reading Mrs Woog.  She always makes me laugh and sometimes makes me cry.
2. Some sunshine and exercise – scheduled for tomorrow morning.
3. A nice bedtime story at 7:30 which will help me forget certain unspeakable acts and remember how great being a mum can be.
4. A glass of wine, scheduled for 7:45pm.
Have a great weekend!
Kirsten
*This post drafted at 4am as a work avoidance technique!

Childcare benefit – creating a society ‘dependent’ on handouts. Apparently.

Today in the Financial Review, Liberal MP Jamie Briggs has claimed that childcare support from the government creates a cycle of dependency.

Is he kidding? Let’s hope so.

The article isn’t online so I can’t provide a link but here are some choice quotes.

What comes with these big spending Labor Governments is a society that is more and more dependent on government handouts. Take, for example, childcare.

This cycle of dependency is reinforced by policies that make it harder and harder to get off the government teat.

Mr Briggs goes on to express concern about the changes the government is making to childcare and the potential increase in costs as a result of improvements in staff qualifications and staff to child ratios.

Strangely, the thing that irks me most is that he refers to quality childcare in inverted commas.

“Quality” child care

Umm, it’s not a joke, or a made up thing. It’s something most mums (and dads) want for their kids.

I can think of a few other areas of govenrment expenditure that might also create dependency.  Like a certain politician’s salary? It’s all about which government spending is worth it. Mmm

 Childcare support helps mums get back into the workforce – contributing to family income and rebuilding their careers.  Quality childcare (not “quality” childcare) helps kids learn and play well while their mums (and/or dads) are at work.

There are mixed views about the government’s changes to childcare. I’ve penned a view of mine below. Share your views here.   Or you can let Jamie know on Twitter (@BriggsJamie)

UPDATE 5pm: The full article still isn’t available on the newspaper’s website but it is on Mr Briggs’ webpage at jamiebriggs.com.au