Friday, 15 November 2013

Celebrating Young Heroes

Last night I really enjoyed the opportunity to get properly dressed up: dust off my posh frock, polish my high heels and break out the Gok Wan shapewear!

The event? The Pride of Plymouth Awards at the Duke of Cornwall Hotel celebrating the difference that individuals and groups can make in their communities.

There were some truly amazing people who had been nominated for awards but those that will stick in my mind will, of course, be the Young Heroes - age 4 to 16. I think it was completely the right decision of the judges to make all the nominees winners - as how you would ever differentiate them - well who only knows!

It really reminded me not just how courageous children and young people can be, but how amazing and different they all are! It's not just that they do amazing things that are micro-versions of adult behaviour, but that they bring their own brand of courage and behaviour.

Respect!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Always a Mother

Is it the case that once you become a mother it becomes your absolute default position? You're a mother. Full stop. Period.

What set me wondering was reading two books, one immediately after the other, where there was a minor but significant character who was a mother, and in both books it was that character who sang to me, whose emotions I experienced, whose values mirrored my own. For whom I cried. 

Is this because I'm a mother? Did becoming a mother change who I am so fundamentally? Of course it did. But did it also blot out all else? 

Notions of identity fascinate me. I am a mother. Will that be the case for ever? What happens when my children move away and form their own lives? Will it still be my primary identity? Right now I feel it will be. It seems so immense so important. Is this normal? What is normal? (Ha!) 

How do other mothers feel?

Monday, 6 May 2013

Bank Holiday Weekend!


Happiness is sand in your shoes, the smell of fried fish mingled with sun-warmed skin and two sleepy heads in the back seats of the car

www.limetr.ee

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Fathers are happier when doing more housework

A study says...what???

Excuse me???

Fathers are really happier when doing more housework??

Is anyone genuinely happier when doing more housework??

Is this just me? Am I some sort of freak of nature for not enjoying doing the housework I have to do now, let alone more housework? I really can't imagine anyone feeling happier when doing more housework - the whole concept is a complete anathema to me. Not for nothing did someone buy me a fridge magnet with "My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance!"

But seriously, isn't it more likely that men and women, parent and non-parent, would actually like to be waited on hand-and-foot, to have meals cooked, washing up done, clothes washed, ironed and back in the drawer, house cleaned top to toe! No?

Ok, so I read a little further than the headline, once I'd got over the shock. That headline was expertly chosen as it certainly did lead me to read more - like I say - once I'd recovered from the shock.

The study was carried out by Lancaster University Management School on behalf of the charity Working Families. It looked at flexible working and the amount of housework carried out by mothers and fathers. The study makes the serious point that families have changed so that rarely is there only one working parent and that more flexible working for both parents would ease the burden on the family as a whole. Absolutely! I'm all for that. In my experience (including being one half of a male/female job-share partnership) flexible working generates loyal, dedicated, focused employees with excellent time management and organisational skills. But businesses and organisations still don't really seem to have grasped that yet.

The article then lost me again...apparently the best way to de-stress a father is for his partner to share the weight of the domestic burden! I still don't get it. Do these fathers think they'd be shouted at less if they did more housework and therefore less stressed? I still have yet to meet a housework-loving, stress-free mother or father!

Maybe I just need to get out more!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

2/5ths of Mother’s struggle to cope


This was an article published in “Children and Young People Now”, quoting the results of a questionnaire sent out by the NSPCC.

Why am I not surprised? That would certainly seem to be borne out by the research my fellow coach, Lisa, and I did with new mother’s we came across in coaching.

The NSPCC article talks about those mothers who are most deprived as they don’t access antenatal classes in the same proportions. But women who attend antenatal classes seem to focus mostly on issues around the birth – pain relief and the choices available to them in the maternity provision locally. Aside from information on breastfeeding, many women tend to shut off when the realities of life with a baby are presented to them antenatally.

I know, that was me! I remember them talking about women with new babies not finding the time to get showered and dressed until mid-afternoon! Huh? That wouldn’t be me – I’m really well organised and a high achiever! Well, of course, they were right. And I was shocked and depressed by it.

My children were (are!) much loved and much wanted, but even so, I remember thinking “why did no one tell me it would be like this?” Er…they did! I just didn’t want to listen.
So, what is that about? Why don’t we want to hear that?

And I had a group of supportive new mother’s from my antenatal classes and locally that I could bond with a share experiences. But actually none of us really wanted to articulate out loud how hard it was. So we all kept schtum and pretended to ourselves and others that everything was fine. Why, for goodness sake…?

I know in our small nuclear family society that we don’t often get the opportunity to observe what new motherhood (parenthood actually – let’s not forget the partners in this) is really like. I know having supported women planning to breastfeed, that rarely has a mother-to-be seen a baby being breastfed close up in order to have learnt something about how it works.

So how do we help and support those mother’s-to-be to really understand what life with a small baby will be like?  The NSPCC in this article, calls on government to fund more extensive support services for babies and their families, particularly the most vulnerable “We appreciate times are tough financially but failing to provide vital support to new mums is a false economy. Babies are the most vulnerable members of our society… Damage done at this stage of their lives can prevent them reaching their full potential, which also has a knock-on effect on society as a whole.”

And, as Lisa and I have experienced in coaching women, it has a knock-on effect on the women too – their self-esteem and identity. 

So, government aside, what can we do?

Sunday, 3 June 2012

It’s Women’s Fault


I knew as soon as I picked up the article this was a blog (rant!) waiting to happen…

So, now it’s women’s fault that they aren’t better represented at the top of industry (according to a female vice-president at BT, allegedly). Nothing to do with centuries (or millennia) of discrimination and being considered inferior being counterbalanced by only forty years of equality legislation then?

But why be surprised? Everything else is our fault, isn’t it!

There is this constant sense of guilt with almost every mother – every woman I work with– about our lifestyles and the choices that we make.

You get pilloried if you’re a working Mum as “research shows” (that wonderful catch all phrase which makes no account of the quality or funder of the research) that children fare best with quality care at home.

You get pilloried if you’re a stay-at-home Mum as “research shows” that women who stay at home are more likely to be depressed and depressed mothers are storing up problems for the wellbeing of their children…

Now if you work part-time you can feel doubly guilty!

Women who choose not to have children…are variously labelled as “selfish” and subject to all sorts of unpleasant stereotypes instead of celebrated for making an informed choice about their life.

Single mothers come in for a whole load more derision. Interestingly I was comparing notes with a working single Dad one day at a conference. He explained how he got lots of praise for managing to work and bring up two children – people were admiring and sympathetic and he was considered a bit of a hero. Hmmm!

So now it’s our fault we’re not better represented at the top of industry too.

It really made me laugh when the article quoted that there is now free childcare for children over 2, as if that’s no barrier for women working. Er…for two and a half hours a day? I remember that when my children started nursery at school. By the time I’d said goodbye, travelled home, sorted the post and done the basics of sorting the house out, it was time to set back out on the journey to pick them up again. Not sure how many employers at the top of the working ladder would be open to employing someone available for an hour a day.

It will require a major structural shift in the way we perceive work, childcare, flexible working, how girls and boys are educated about work, the responsibility for unpaid work at home etc etc etc before women genuinely are equally represented and paid in the workforce. That’s going to take time, but it’s right we do so.

Bold steps are needed.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The View from Outside


Sometimes what you really need to get a problem in your head sorted is a bit of space. Some distance from the problem. Metaphorically or literally?

I’ve always found that standing back and examining an issue objectively has really helped me. Talking over an issue with a good friend has often enabled me to get the degree of objectivity that I need. To be able to put myself in someone else’s shoes and look back at my issue.

But literal distance I also believe really helps.

A week or so ago, I took a coach journey a couple of hours away to a different city. I had quite a few issues whirring round in my head at the time that I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere with. So, using a coaching technique I suggest to others, rather than letting it dominate my thoughts during that week, I planned to set aside the time on the coach journey to mull it over and have some “worrying” time then – and got on with life.

The day dawned, a relaxed start. I had a (worked related) book to read, some music and a movie on my (new)iPhone – and that knotty problem to worry over.

But I didn’t even think about it. I just listened to some music and watched the world go by. Changing scenery. A different cityscape. Oh yes, and I dozed some (hopefully not dribbling and snoring!).

I met a friend, did some shopping, had a lovely lunch.

Leaving the time to go back to unwind that problem.

But miraculously it had gone! It seemed totally clear and obvious what I needed to do.

And I hadn’t spent any time worrying about it!

What is it that a different view, a place away from the normal, a challenge to our normal routine does to our brain? It felt like my re-set button had been pressed and all was back to normal.

Good excuse for some more trips away I think!

What about you? Does this work for you? Are there times you can remember this happening?