The Work-Life Balancing Act – How To Keep Your Head Above Water

Gone are the days of families supported by one salary. The cost of living means this is not a feasible option for most.

Plus, the primary caregivers (women mostly) in many cases, want to work, in some capacity, as I do. We want to contribute financially, learn, develop and achieve in our own right.

My husband works full time and myself 4 days a week. Many of you will know from experience, getting to the end of each week equates to the same level of organisation necessary for a basic military operation. Our week requires getting four different people to four different places, on time, five days a week, each accompanied by a bag of appropriate accessories. Missing a drop-off window will have a knock-on effect on all the subsequent and any mixing up of accessories could lead to significant upset or embarrassment for any party. The stakes are high….

Whatever your week looks like, it’s a tough gig but it’s not impossible to succeed (99% of the time anyway) without going insane. Here are a few things I’ve figured out over the last few years:

Be organised. Obvious, but this is a daily struggle for me!

  • Get bags, shoes, coats, and lunches ready the night before.
  • Know what your morning implementation plan is, who’s doing what?
  • Food plan and shop online. I can’t stress enough what a difference this makes.
  • If you can afford it, get a cleaner. I can’t afford it yet but when I can, I will. It’s one of my biggest weekly stresses.
  • Don’t do everything yourself – if you have people to help then use them; a partner, parents, in-laws. Be specific on when and how they can help.
  • Don’t take on too many extra things – It will only add to the strain of your busy week. I have been guilty of this. You don’t need it.

Take that ‘me time’ at work. Make sure you take a lunch break; read a book, get some fresh air or talk to your friends. Be an expert in something else for a bit, be ‘you you’ for a while, rather than ‘parent you’.

My Family

But then leave it behind; ensure there is clear separation between work and family time, this is difficult with today’s technology, but don’t miss one of those lovely ordinary moments because you were checking your email.

Have a couple of things for yourself – It’s OK you know. Make one of them exercise, it will boost your energy levels and relieve stress, don’t underestimate its value. This year I am also learning some Spanish (via the duolingo app). It just takes 20 minutes here and there and I love it.

If you have a partner on this journey, then be kind to each other; whenever it’s possible my husband and I have a weekend lay in, him on a Saturday and myself on a Sunday. It’s a life-saver some weeks.

This is a tough juggling act for sure and if you do feel under constant strain then it’s probably time to tweak something. Otherwise, you’ll have the odd week when you feel like you haven’t done anything well, but don’t give yourself too much of a hard time, you’re probably doing a much better job than you imagine.

 

Published in association with Raring2Go Worthing

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We Have Been Your Equal…

There’s a lot to be said on Sexual Equality, a subject I am no expert in but as International Women’s Day (8th March) came and went I was drawn to thinking about this and what the future might hold.

By 4-years-old our children have decided that there are colours, clothes and jobs for girls and different colours, clothes and jobs for boys. I have tried to explain to my daughter that this is not the case and there are just colours, clothes and jobs and she and her friends can wear and do whatever they want to when they grow up.

Gender stereotyping can be a battle; one I feel I have already lost. But does my daughter’s love for Disney Princesses mean that she is not going to want to, or be able to do a job in science, technology or engineering when she’s older? I’m not sure it does.

But I do worry about her future because gender stereotyping has had/is having serious consequences. I don’t want her to grow up thinking there are certain options that are not relevant to her just because she’s a girl?

If we want to see change, want to make a difference, the most significant thing we can do right now is talk openly to our children (yes our boys as well as our girls), anyone believing that sexual equality is a female only challenge, is demonstrating the problem right there. Shifting a long-held perception on any subject takes time and this change will not be brought to the fore by us but by our children. And like any other revolution, it must start somewhere. It must start with us, now.

There is a way to go, battles still to fight. Young women are still being sexualised, objectified and ridiculed for not looking a certain way. At the same time, older women are criticised for growing old ‘ungracefully’ There’s the pay gap, lack of flexible working, gender parity in business, domestic violence and sexual violence. Things that all need to be addressed in all walks of society, by the media, and by our governments.

And whilst it’s easy to feel disheartened I want to for this moment, focus on what we have, instead of what we don’t have and what we have achieved, instead of what we still have left to do. The disrespectful noises coming from the USA to me are like a rallying cry, I can hear drums in the distance; The girls are coming

Superhero

But I am no man-hater, far from it. I feel lucky to have been surrounded by wonderful men all my life, men who have offered love, respect, and support. Something I know not every woman can say. These men; our fathers, partners, brothers, friends, and sons, have made a difference though and will continue to do so. Because they all represent a small piece of the puzzle of equality, it’s a big puzzle, it’s going to take a lot of perseverance to finish, and at this point, there are some pieces missing (we should probably look under the sofa). But it’s starting to take shape, it’s starting to vaguely resemble the picture on the box.

Because from my corner of the world, I tell you, I have seen great things from Womankind, as have the men that have stood next to us, as our allies, they bear witness, they have seen that:

We have been strong.
We have been fearless.
And we have been brave.

We have fallen like them.
We have been in pain like them.
And we have cried like them.

Yet we are not equal?

Our bodies and minds have been broken by carrying and bringing children into the world.
But we have survived.

We have picked them up when they’ve been down.
We have cradled them.
And we have told them that everything will be ok.

We have paid our way.
We have voted and marched.
And we have had a voice.

Yet we are not equal?

We have felt undervalued.
We have felt unappreciated.
But we have carried on.

We have made sacrifices.
We have put our careers on hold and taken jobs we are over qualified for.
And we have stayed in unfulfilling roles because it’s the right thing to do for our families.

Yes, we have needed their help and yes we have needed their strength.
But they have also needed ours.

No, we have not been perfect and we don’t deserve anything we haven’t worked for.
But we do deserve the chance and the opportunity to show we can.
Because our rights are not a competition.

To Mankind; We are different to you in many ways but it doesn’t make us unequal.

We may not have half the top jobs, yet, and we may not earn half the big money but we have in so many other ways been your equal. We should not be judged on job titles, money, status and physical strength alone. These are not the only things that define us and should not be a basis on which to conclude that women are somehow inferior to men.

Because, let’s not forget that men and women will stand here together, side by side, until the end of time. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. We all have our own personal contribution to make.

With this I am hopeful that as our empowered and educated children go out into the world, the future they create will be one where they can feel confident in their ability to do any role and where people are defined by their skills and not their gender. Where women are paid equally and recognised for their contribution, as 50% of the world’s population quite rightly should be.
  
   

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Apologies, Aspirations, And the Small Matter of Making the World a Better Place…

I’m late. I’m always late.

The 2017 goal setting party started bloody ages ago and I’m just rocking up now. Looking dishevelled, with no gift and no real excuse.

Whereas everyone else arrived on time (or early), wearing a well thought out outfit, furnishing this new year with a lovely bunch of flowers and a slightly smug look on their face. Dammit!!

I’ve never been into goal setting, not as a proper exercise anyway. But this year I wanted to put a bit more thought into it. And here’s why:

Last time out, I wrote this…

Oi 2017 – Our Children Are Watching. And No, It’s Not OK. I was and still am, upset & disillusioned by the current state of things in the world. A world my children will stride out into with less & less of my protection as each year passes.

I can’t change the world on my own but I can have an impact on my own little corner of it. So that’s where I’m going to start. I want to feel like I’m doing some worthwhile things that will benefit others, not just me or my immediate family. I want to lead by example, I want to try and spread some positively. Which for me can be difficult. I’m such a ‘glass half empty person’, sometimes, so this is taking me right out of comfort zone.

I’ve put some goals together for 2017.

Some personal ones and some family ones but then also a few focusing on other things that I can do myself (with little resource or spare time) as part of my one-woman mission to make the world a better place. Because you can’t moan about something if you’re not prepared to take any action to change the situation.

Being out of my comfort zone is exactly what I need right now, so here goes.

Here’s a snapshot of what I hope to achieve:

2017 GoalsNone of these are revolutionary, I know that. For some of them, the only real challenge will be finding the time.

Personal Goals
Reading & going to a gig – I know, big deal, right? But the sad fact is I haven’t properly read a whole book or seen any live music since my daughter was born almost 5 years ago. These are two things I love and that I need to make time for.

Family Goals
I’m excited about these. My daughter can’t get her head around going to another country, so if we make it to France for a camping trip this summer then that will be a great experience for her. And growing some veggies in the garden is such a fun thing to do with kids, plus we are determined this time after last year’s failure!

Other Goals
Many of you will have done some of these, or perhaps do them regularly? Like giving blood for example. I can’t fathom why I haven’t done that before?

I love running, it’s my thing, so I’m going to do one of my events for a charity this year. And my daughter is keen to clean up the old toys and give them away. Two easy no-brainer ideas right there.

These are small things.

I know that, but just imagine if every adult in the UK (or even half that) picked a couple of things to do this year that benefited others? What a huge difference that could make, don’t you think?

“I’m hoping I can inspire a few people, then perhaps they could inspire a friend, who inspires a friend, then hey presto! We’ve started a revolution……”

Kindness Cost You Nothing. So give it away frivolously...

What is everyone else doing this year?

I’d love to hear about other things you’re doing with your families or an interesting personal challenge. And especially ideas for helping others. Please leave me a comment.

I’ve written these down and shared them simply because I want to be held accountable. I want to be able to look back at this year and say ‘yeah I did those things’, I tried to make a difference. I tried to teach my kids some worthwhile values.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not perfect.

And I don’t believe that thinking this way makes me better than you but what it does make me is human. I think we should all take a little time to think about what that means these days. The person standing next to you in the street, that you don’t know, is similar to you in almost every way. And all the small nuances that make them different are all the bits that make them interesting, that help them to tell their own story. You will most likely have much more in common with them than you imagine. So let’s be kind to each other.

Before you go, please take a moment to watch this, it’s quite brilliant. It’s a TV commercial but the sentiment regarding humanity is so relevant right now.

TV 2 | All That We Share
TV 2 | All That We Share

Right, I’m off, need to get busy if I’m going to get all of this done! First stop is a goal just for me – Brighton Half Marathon, Sunday 26th Feb.

RUN MUMMY RUN….

 

  
  

 
 

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Oi 2017 – Our Children Are Watching. And No, It’s Not OK.

I’m upset with The World.

I’ve been upset with the world since the middle of 2016. Yes, this does stem from the whole Brexit/Trump drama but this is NOT about politics. I understand that change is unfolding as a result of established democratic processes. And I also understand that people in positions of enormous power have difficult decisions to make and that there will always be a group of people somewhere, that disagree with them. This is not about any of the complex issues related to either of those two events, it’s much more basic, it’s a reflection on the pre-event build-up and the post-event fallout, this is about humanity.

For me, the last 6 months have been a seemingly never-ending showcase of everything that’s bad about the human race.

“The open promotion of intolerance, racism and sexism has made me feel sick”.

In democratic societies, everyone (of a certain age) is entitled to vote, they are entitled to an opinion and debate is healthy, but, this culture of brutally attacking people over social media whilst hiding behind a computer screen is abhorrent.

The media have so much to answer for, flooding all channels with dangerous & divisive headlines that will sell a paper or get a click. These messages then land directly into the hands of young people, in their Facebook feeds.

When did this all suddenly become ok? It’s 2017, not 1940.

What is Humanity anyway?

Towards the end of 2016 I really struggled to get past how utterly depressing all of this was, it made me fear for my childrens’ future. The fact that basic human kindness seems to have been forgotten?

Humanity

I am just one person, what can I possibly do?

I am one small person, but I am also a parent and this is an important factor because it means I’m now going to go all Lioness on you, because, THIS SITUATION IS NOT OK.

I cannot stop words coming out of the mouth of people like Donald Trump or it being broadcast across the world but I can arm my children with the best defence possible, which is knowledge & education. I will simply not allow them to believe that it’s ok to act like this towards other human beings.

As a lioness, a parent, an uncle, an aunt, a guardian or an educator…

We can help our young people to understand and value:
Kindness.
Compassion.
Tolerance.
Generosity.
The importance of telling the truth.
How to get your point across intelligently.
The art of disagreeing gracefully.

And we can make sure that they know:
It’s OK to be competitive.
It’s OK to have an opinion.
It’s OK to disagree with people.
It’s even OK, on occasion, to fight back. But remind them, it often takes more courage to walk away.
And, that they simply will not get on with everyone they meet, which is OK too.

But we can also help them to understand that:
It’s NOT OK to disrespect someone because of the colour of their skin.
It’s NOT OK to abuse someone because of their race or gender.
It’s NOT OK to make assumptions about someone because of a God you think they might believe in.
It’s NOT OK to dislike someone purely because their appearance doesn’t fit with your own idea of ‘image’.
And, that anonymously abusing people online is an act of pure cowardice.

The majority will probably be nodding along with me? This is common sense, right? And you’re probably annoyed I bothered saying it? This is just ‘bringing your child up as a decent human being’, isn’t it? But I did want to vocalise this as I feel so passionate about it. Most of us can only realistically impact our own little corner of the world, but let’s do it and do it well.

Kindness costs nothing.

I can hear the voices –

“Yeah Michelle, let’s all just be really nice to each other. That’ll fix everything!”

Well no, it won’t and I’m not perfect, but, I feel like it’s OK to openly encourage kindness. And I also feel like it’s OK to suggest that we could all probably do more in this area to enhance our own lives and the lives of others. Kindness costs us nothing after all!

I, of course, know there is so much good in the world, despite what I’ve said and it’s also full of truly wonderful people. So let’s end on a high here.

This is David Tennant, (who I adore), from last week’s Last Leg on Channel 4, telling us, in a reassuring voice, that:

“Everything will be OK”.
“But it’s up to us to make it ok and just generally try not to be dicks.

David Tennant

So perfectly and eloquently put.

Here’s to 2017. The year of humanity and kindness.
 
 

 
 

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Father Christmas Needs A Wee!

“Father Christmas needs a wee, he’s been drinking drinks since half past three”.

As many of you will know, you don’t need to say a lot more to a four-year-old to make them chuckle. This had their attention straight off, as did the hip-hop entrance of Father Christmas onto the stage for this adaptation of the popular Nicholas Allan children’s book – Father Christmas Needs A Wee!

Here we meet Elfie, the Chief Elf, she is charged with helping Father Christmas ‘FC’ (her abbreviation) get everything ready to deliver Christmas presents to the world’s children. He’s a little disorganised shall I say and slightly distracted…by everything! So Elfie is there to help him focus on the task-in-hand, it’s a big job and the delivery window is short, it requires expertise on a ‘magical’ level.

After telling FC she doesn’t want a repeat of last year, in the same sort of tone I speak to my 4-year-old about shouting, jumping & sharing, Elfie and FC are set to go. (*Last year he ate and drank every tasty treat left out for him so before they had finished he really really needed a wee!).

Father_Second_Image.png

They work hard together all night, singing & dancing their way through each present drop-off. But FC can’t help himself and each time Elfie turns her back he tucks into the treats & drinks, including ‘Mincey P’ mince pies10 cups of tea at No.10. And so inevitably it happens again, before the night is through Father Christmas needs a wee! His efforts to ‘go’ are foiled by small children waking up and guard dogs on the loose.

In fact, he is so distracted by needing a wee (I mean who wouldn’t be?), he actually forgets to leave the presents behind! 

“What with all these drinks in mind, I forgot to leave the presents behind”.

Can he rescue the day by dropping off the presents in time and make it home before having an embarrassing accident?

There’s singing, counting, clapping, cheering and a lot of wiggling. This is the perfect build up to Christmas with its pantomime feel & audience participation. The songs are creative, funny and wonderfully silly, which I applaud. If you can’t be silly at Christmas, when can you be?

My favourite part (yes, at 37 years of age) was this little ditty.

“You’ve got to wiggle. Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, cross your legs and then you’ve got to Jiggle. This is the song that stops you needing a wee”.

I am still singing it a whole 24 hours later and will most likely at some point in the near future get to test out this theory. Let’s hope it actually works!

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Tot Rockin’ Beats

What Are You Doing On New Year’s Eve?

To be honest I’ve always hated N.Y.E. When you’re young you ‘have to’ go out but everywhere is twice as expensive, you can’t travel far as transport is twice as expensive and you’re normally too pissed on over-priced cocktails to make it to midnight anyway.

Then when you have kids you ‘have to’ stay in, nobody wants to babysit for you and anyway, your children haven’t mastered the delicate art of laying in in the morning, so you’re normally too tired to make it to midnight.

It all feels too much like hard work for me, with little reward.

So, has Dan Flanagan found the solution to this age-old problem, with the quite brilliantly name ‘Tot Rockin Beats’ event? A big N.Y.E party in the afternoon (4pm – 7pm) that everyone can come to; you, the kids, the babysitter, the next-door-neighbour, the dog and your Gran (*maybe don’t quote me on the dog thing?).

This isn’t the first instalment of this brave adventure, I have been invited to two others in 2016 but unfortunately couldn’t make it to either. You know that feeling when you couldn’t make it to the party and then everyone’s talking about it the next day? Yeah, that.

So I now have my Tot Rockin Beats tickets for N.Y.E and based on the huge success of the last two, I feel like the 16-year-old who finally has a ticket to the party of the year. I should say ‘whoop’ or something like that shouldn’t I? Oh and furiously boast about it on Facebook and SnapChat (though, at 37, I don’t have any idea what that actually is?)

So what does my first N.Y.E out in 7 years have in store for me?

  • At the Worthing Assembly Hall, with 1000 other people – #1in1000
  • Dancing to classic 80’s & 90’s tunes played by real DJ’s (Yes!).
  • Karaoke with Dave Benson Philips. (Legend!).
  • Soft Play. (Apparently it’s not sweaty or smelly, hurray!).
  • Authentic Sicilian food, ice cream, face painting, art and Jive dancing.
  • Welcoming in the New Year at 6pm (no painstaking ordeal to stay awake until Midnight).
  • And a bar……praise the Lord….there is a bar people.

Something for everyone, no?

We’ll be home by 8pm and the kids will be knackered – everyone wins.

I’m most looking forward to dancing ‘like no one’s watching’ with my daughter and getting away with being very silly under the guise of being an ‘active’ parent.

I’m taking my husband & our two children, my sister, my niece and nephew. We are all really excited about going ‘Out-out’ on N.Y.E for the first time in years! And then when I fall asleep at 11.56pm I won’t feel so bad about not welcoming in 2017, as I’ll already have done it, in style, surrounded by (nearly) everyone I love the most in the world.

Come and join us –  Tot Rockin Beats N.Y.E > 

Tickets are £15 for adults, £10 for children, £5.00 for OAP’s with under 3’s free of charge and available from the box office on 01903 206 206 or from Worthingtheatres.co.uk

Alfie White Space Explorer

Round the planets, round the rocket and round the fire. What’s in the rocket ship? So so so off we go! Is what my daughter sings to me when I tell her we are going to see a show about a Space Explorer. I think that means she’s excited?

On arrival we are transported to 1967, the era of the big Space Race. Not important to a 4-year-old, it could have been set in any period of time but to the more advanced in age, this makes sense.

We meet Alfie White, a young boy obsessed with space. Alfie lives with his grandma, in a flat on the 8th floor and is scared of alien invasion. His dad mysteriously disappeared 2 years ago and he’s a bit of a loner. His classmates don’t really share his love for space and all this makes him quite naturally a bit sad. But, he gets by.

What starts with a tall tale gone wrong, turns into a wonderful space-inspired adventure to find Alfie’s dad. And ends up with him actually finding much more; new friendships, a love of singing, dancing & Jazz music and a rekindled relationship with his grandma.

Alfie’s co-pilot for this mission is Meg Harris (the most beautiful girl at school), she ignites a longing in him to find out what happened to his father, so together they set off to look for clues to his whereabouts.

Alfie White Space Explorer

We are whizzed, whirred and rocketed through the story. Spurred on by an old photograph found in Alfie’s grandma’s bedroom, of the mysterious Eddie Dark, who Meg recognises as a Jazz musician. Our pair then land their spaceship at the Jazz club to find important information, they then zoom off (AKA take the bus) to a record shop for more investigation.

The show is incredibly engaging, heartfelt and funny.

The two actors fill the space so well, the dialogue and constant movement are fast-paced and full of energy, holding the attention of my daughter throughout. There really is no time for little minds to wander off, as they do sometimes.

After finding out who his father really is, Alfie is much happier at home and at school. He sings, he dances, he has real friends and is finally comfortable in his own space.

Mission Control: “Thank you for a lovely afternoon”. “Over and out”

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