6 Things You Don’t Expect When Your Child Starts Primary School

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Two weeks ago my eldest daughter started primary school. It’s been a fairly fraught summer, we didn’t get into any of our 4 choice of primary schools and we lost our appeal. On top of that Alice’s birthday is at the end of August so she had only just turned 4 when we waved her off Big School. Despite these initial concerns, she seems to be settling in well. There are some things however that we did not expect from her starting school:

1) Tiredness – I was prepared for tiredness, especially being a summer born baby, but I was unprepared for just how much. Almost daily we have a complete melt down about 6.15pm. What starts with a bit of whinging, quickly escalates to full on tantrum followed by face down on the carpet howling and screaming. I have been putting her into bed earlier as she obviously needs and has even been asking for it. Someone advised me that the trick is to move everything including dinner and bed earlier. So I seem to now start dinner as soon as we get home especially if I dare attempt to get her in the bath!

2) Reality Dawns – The first few days of starting school were a definite novelty. They were short days, there was lots of new and exciting things to do and see. Now reality has hit that school is happening EVERY DAY! I get asked the same questions every morning “Do I have to go AGAIN?” “When is it the weekend?” and the incessant “But I don’t want to go.” Despite the protests she does thankfully seem to enjoy it once she’s there.

3) Missing Her! – It is only been 2 weeks, but I really miss having Alice around. My youngest daughter also regularly asks where she is. Alice used to go to pre-school but somehow this seems to be a leap up from that. I was used to having her around for a couple of days with me, so it’s bizarre and a little sad now. I’m sure we will get used to it, but at the moment, it feels strange and I find myself constantly wondering what she’s up to.

4) New Routine – All of us have had to adapt to a new routine and this is still something we are getting used to. We need to leave the house earlier and this results in a regimental routine with me shouting “Breakfast!” “Get Dressed!” “Teeth!” “Toilet!” and finally “Shoes!” and “Car!” at varying intervals between 7am and 8am. I feel like a sergeant major, but with little room for error in the morning, it can, and has already gone horribly wrong for example when Alice one day refused to put her shoes on or our youngest daughter wouldn’t get off the potty. Mornings suddenly feel a lot more stressful!

5) Odd Behaviour – Along with many other new mums, we are seeing some “challenging” behaviour when Alice gets home from school as she seems to suddenly transform into a stroppy teenager. Shouting and door slamming are becoming the norm especially when I ask her to do something. Another mum said she thinks this is because they are having to be “good” all day that they let rip when they get home! I was also amazed to discover that Alice had wet herself at school which hasn’t happened since she was 2!

6) You Have No Idea What They Get Up To – Despite asking on a regular basis “What did you do at school today?” I always seem to get a similar response “Not sure” or “Can’t Remember.” Little bits of information gradually drip through to me but they might involve the most random things like the process at dinner time or what colour coat another girl was wearing. It’s infuriating as I long to be a fly on the wall and know what on earth is going on, but all you can do is be patient and wait for them to open up. I’ve also found that more general questions provoke a response like “What did you enjoy doing?” or “What did your teacher say today?”

Starting primary school is a huge event for any child. There’s a big change to the daily routine as well as being in a new environment every day and meeting new people. It’s bound to be overwhelming and this is bound to translate into odd behaviour. It can be a bit of a shock to the system for the parents as well as the kids! I suppose the key is to keep going, give them some time and (hopefully) things will soon settle into a new routine for everyone.

Has your child recently started at primary school? How are they getting on? Please let me know if you’re experiencing any of the same behaviour, or do you have any other points to add to my list? I’d love to hear your comments!

THAT Beach Body Advertising Campaign Hits New York

Beach Ready

Many of you will have seen the uproar in the press about this controversial advertising campaign by Protein World promoting a dietary supplement, asking if Women are “Beach Body Ready.”

My first reaction on seeing this poster on the London Underground a few weeks ago was one of incredulity. As a marketer and woman I find this kind of advertising offensive, ridiculous and just plain lazy. I naively believed that advertising which focuses on women having perfect, glamorous bodies was a thing of the distant past.

The reaction in London was instant: hundreds of thousands of people protested on Twitter. Over 70,000 people signed a petition to get the posters removed which eventually proved successful but not before many of them were vandalised with alternative messages such as “Stop Guilt Tripping Women!” “Love Your Body” and “F*ck Off”.

New York

Now, just this week, the same poster campaign has arrived in New York. The brand’s marketing executive has proclaimed:

“It’s a big middle finger to everybody who bothered to sign that stupid petition in the UK.”

This reaction just absolutely amazes me. The comment tops off a murky campaign, selling in my opinion a dodgy product, with staff reacting bizarrely.

Reversing the Trend for Real Women

With recent advertising campaigns by the likes of Dove beauty and clothing company Simply Be, it felt like we were making great strides in being able to celebrate that we are all unique, we all have imperfect bodies but who cares!  So that’s why the advertising campaign by Protein World feels like a complete reverse in this trend and is so thoroughly depressing.

Real women are not stick thin with huge boobs. Real women have cellulite, wobbly tummies, stretch marks and flabby bottoms. Our bodies, including all of our imperfections tell a story about who we are and where we’ve come from, whether they are stretch marks from pregnancy, scars from an operation, birthmarks we are born with or meaningful tattoos. Real women have not been air brushed to an inch of their life and are being plastered all over London and New York as a form of something that we should aspire to. Why should we be made to feel that this is our main aim in life?

Who Doesn’t Feel Bikini Nervous?

Most women feel nervous about going on a beach holiday in the equivalent of what is really just bra and knickers. When else do we ever get so near naked in front of so many other people? Just 2 months ago, I went abroad with my family and remember having the same nervous thought of stripping off most of my clothing in full view of the beach to show bits of my pale, nowhere near “Beach Body Ready” body.

This poster campaign is irresponsible because it is tapping into those niggling insecurities that all of us have. The difference is that I would never look at using a “supplement” to replace a meal, but a 16 year old girl who is far less confident about her body might. How many women would this advertising campaign affect negatively? Many may have seen these posters and felt despondent about their own bodies but how many would have felt driven to do something drastic like stop eating?

As a mum to two small girls, I’m grateful that they are still young enough to not be affected by this campaign, or to have seen the uproar on social media. But if I was a mum to teenagers, I’d be worried, fuming and also signing that petition.

No Such Thing as Bad PR?

Protein World has garnered so much coverage albeit mostly negative publicity that I have wondered if all of this controversy has been deliberately set up. There’s no such thing as bad publicity – right? But I’m not so sure that I’d want my business to be surrounded by such bad feeling or bad opinion about its product.

Something seems so inherently wrong when a company can manage to piss off so many of its key target audience and then strike fear and anxiety as a way of making a sale from the rest of its target market.

The reaction of the marketing executive about the London campaign was bad enough, but apparently the CEO  has devoted much of his time and energy into retweeting his supposed supporters with tweets such as “I don’t care if he believes what he says, pissing so many feminists off at one go is brilliant.”  How nice.

What Next?

The world will be watching for New York’s reaction. I only hope they are as loud, outspoken and so united in their vehement disapproval as London. Maybe only then will Protein World and their delightful staff realise that they may just have to change their approach.

Do you think this is all a storm over nothing? Believe it’s a huge PR stunt or do agree that it was right to have this advertising campaign banned from the London Underground? I’d love to know your views, please leave a comment below.

Busy Busy Bee

Busy Bees in Work and Social Life

I’ve just looked at my calendar today and realised that I don’t have a free weekend spare now until the middle of August! How can it be possible that I have something booked in every weekend for practically a quarter of the year? It feels ridiculous, but yet somehow fairly easy to achieve when you consider there’s always friends and family to see, holidays, kids’ parties and two milestone birthdays in the next few months ahead of us.

I know some people like having a busy social life, but I’m not a fan of always having something planned and my husband absolutely hates it; you begin to almost feel like you’re constrained by the diary and can’t do anything spontaneous.

Never Enough Time

Many of us are now busier than ever. Busy juggling work, children, the daily commute, school pick-ups and drop offs not to mention the inane household chores, time really does become the most precious of commodities. Yes, it’s important to stay in touch with friends and catch up with the family, but I really do believe that sometimes it’s just as important to stop, take stock and breathe. Time to just chill out, think and do whatever it is that YOU want to do.

Too many of us are concerned about trying to please other people or minimise offending others, so we rush around chaotically trying to do everything to please other people, to fit everything in and often neglect ourselves.

Work

It’s not just family and social life that this all applies too, but work too. I know people who always seem to be absolutely manic. As a freelancer, I’m fortunate enough right now to be busy but not swamped, but I know other freelancers who are fraught, trying to juggle their life around work because they don’t want to turn projects down. Like our social lives, it’s just as important to take stock and look at the situation. I wrote recently about how I’ve just gained the confidence to turn work down that I don’t think is of value either financially or in terms of the type of work I want to focus on. Whatever the nature of your work, whether it’s full time, part time or freelancing, I think it’s always really worthwhile to stop every now and then and look at what we’re doing. Are there some projects or some bits of work that can be delegated to someone else or delayed or abandoned all together? All too often we run around like headless chickens being busy that sometimes a bit of time out to re-assess can really help us get back on track and be more productive.

Be a Little Selfish

It’s important to every now and then, be a little bit selfish. Think about what you want to do. That and learn to say no to people more often. The other thing that I need to do more often is to plan free weekends into the diary. Free from making commitments, free from seeing other people and free to do what we as a family want to do. I used to work with a girl who every couple of months would plan with her husband to have a weekend spent “pulling up the drawbridge”, they wouldn’t go out and no one else would come in, and they would spend that weekend how they pleased together.

We’re all busy, but I hope this post at least makes you stop and think awhile. As John Lennon said “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

Are you a busy bee?  Do you like having lots to do and being on the go? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

School, Admissions, Appeal and Upset

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Last week parents across the UK woke up early in a state of nerves and anticipation to find out where their little darlings will be starting primary school in September. At 5.30am, we were among them. I’ll be honest. I was 95% certain that our daughter would be going to the local catchment school 0.3 miles away. But no, we were astounded to discover that we didn’t get any of our 4 choices. I’ve read in the paper today that apparently this only happens to 2.5% of parents, so I guess we are one of the unlucky ones. To say I was shocked was an understatement. It took a while for the complete dismay and disappointment to register before I dissolved into tears. We have been allocated to a school which I’ve barely heard of and never even given a passing thought to which is almost 2 miles away.

I spent the rest of the day in a complete daze. I spoke to some friends, most of whom were pleased with their places, but a few have been left as distraught as me.

How Could This Happen?

A week on from discovering the news and I still can’t understand how this has happened. Apparently this year has had a high sibling rate. The school gives preference to children with older siblings who are already at the school before then taking children on a distance basis using a straight line calculation for how close homes are to school. This bizarre calculation means that children who, on a walking basis, actually live further away from us have managed to secure a place despite the fact they will probably still need to drive to the school gate. A new housing estate has been built last year and yet no provision has been given for accommodating those extra children into already oversubscribed schools.

So when I read in the paper today that the head of “Commissioning Education” at our local County Council is “delighted with the result” and “…how this demonstrates a further investment in creating additional primary school places…” I practically threw the paper across the room. A year ago it would have been inconceivable for someone in walking distance to not get into their local school. Government and local councils need to wake up to the fact that they cannot continue to build new homes at such a speed without building the infrastructure and support that is desperately needed to go with it.

I suppose we are incredibly unlucky, but it doesn’t do anything to make the anger, sadness or stress subside. Since when did the entire process become so difficult and so distressing to parents? In October last year we were told to visit schools and make choices for the following year. But what is the point of that if you don’t get allocated to any of those choices?

Not What We Envisaged

Your child’s start in education is supposed to be exciting, daunting and scary. It’s THE big step and a huge milestone in their life as well as for you as a parent. It’s a vision that I’ve had in my mind for a while; we even bought the house thinking that the local school was on the doorstep. As an August baby, I know my daughter will be emotional, I know she will find the transition hard, but I envisaged being there to support her along with the friends and peers that she knows already. The vision has changed somewhat in my mind already. If we don’t get into our preferred school via the waiting list or appeal, we will have to be excited and jolly for her, but inside I’ll be livid and upset on her behalf that she will be going to a school in a strange place, miles away where she won’t know anyone.

Legal Appeal

Launching a school appeal is tough. I’ve been quoted various statistics but the bottom line is that very few people win. Preparing for the case is in itself like having a full-time job. The amount of research and reading I’ve done in just this past week is unbelievable. It’s completely consuming and I’m only now just managing to control it so that schools, appeals and the admissions process doesn’t dominate my every waking thought. The appeal document has to challenge in a legal way using certain legal criteria set out by the council. Ultimately it can’t just be an emotional heart-felt letter imploring for common sense to prevail. The stress of having to cope with this on our own with no real advice from anyone in authority is incredible. In just this week alone, I can already feel it affecting my health and causing a strain with my husband. All of this with just a 20 day deadline in which to lodge the appeal.

What Next?

Tomorrow will be interesting. We find out where we are on the waiting list for all 4 of our preferred schools. That may give me some hope or it could be just as disappointing as receiving news as last week. It’s almost too much to bear. After that, we continue to build a case for appeal. Continue to read, research and hope to find some loopholes on which to challenge this strange decision.

If I make it to September with a good outcome it will be a miracle.

Have you been affected by the schools application this year? Did you not get into your chosen school or were you, like me one of the 2.5% of parents that didn’t get any of their 4 choices? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

Family Holiday, Memory Maker

Family Holiday

This time tomorrow I will be off on a flight to Lanzarote! I can’t wait for a bit of sunshine and a break from the usual routine. This holiday is unusual because there will be 14 of us. Yes you did read that right – 14! My mum and dad are very kindly treating my 2 sisters and I plus all of our respective families to a week in the sun.

People’s reactions to the trip tend to fall into one of two categories: laughter or horror. Many can’t understand why on earth I’d travel abroad with my entire immediate family complete with 6 small children aged 5 or under. Yes, I guess there is a potential for arguments and yes, I hope we can all have a fabulous time and manage to return back to the UK still talking.

Of course with so many children mostly of toddler age, it is hardly going to be a quiet affair. There will probably be at least 1 child having a meltdown about something at any one given time.

So Why?

So why on earth are we doing this? Other than the sunshine, I truly believe this holiday will be a real memory maker for my 3 year old daughter. For one thing she’s never been on an aeroplane before. I can’t wait to see how she’s going to react to being up in the air. Secondly she absolutely adores her 4 cousins, 2 of whom are older or younger than her by just a few weeks. These 3 girls always get on well together but they’ve never been with each other for longer than a morning or afternoon. So to be spending a full week in each other’s company is going to be really exciting for them. No doubt they’ll be the odd spat, but I really believe that this holiday will cement an already beautiful friendship. At 3, I’m hoping that this holiday will be a strong memory that my eldest daughter will treasure forever.

My 21 month old daughter will probably not remember this trip, but she will undoubtedly love spending time with all of her favourite people. If the weather is kind, our water baby will also love the outdoor pool that we have at our villa.

I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with the kids but also the adults too. It will be great to catch up properly with my sisters, their husbands, my parents and my own husband too! Sometimes everyday life churns on so quickly that you don’t get the real chance to sit, take stock, relax and talk properly.

I’ll report back in a week or so and let you know all about our family holiday.

Never Knowingly Undersold

Don't undervalue yourself as a freelancer

About a week ago, I lost out on a fair sized freelancing job because I undersold myself.  I was talking to a prospective client on the phone and when the subject of my costs came up, I gave an approximate figure. There was a silence from the other end. This I’ve come to learn is the first rule of valuing yourself: Hold firm! Don’t fill the silence! But as the seconds ticked on, I felt the need to impress and show my efficiency so I uttered the fateful words “Of course, I may even be able to do the work in less time and therefore my price would be X.”

Stupidly, I’d gone lower when the client was in fact expecting a higher price! The client in this case was fortunately completely honest and told me the price he would usually look to pay. It’s perhaps no coincidence that I didn’t win that work. By undervaluing myself I probably didn’t install much confidence that I could do the job to a decent standard. Luckily for me, he has taken me on for another project.

Turning Work Down

On a similar note, I was recently offered two regular freelancing jobs. Both blog writing for two very different clients. I thought long and hard about them before turning them both down. Why? Because it would have been a fair amount of work, commitment and in one of the cases – research into a subject matter that I didn’t know about, for not very much pay. If it was a one off job, I probably would have done it, but I didn’t want to be tied into work that takes up a lot of time for when other projects hopefully start to come in.

It’s all about getting the balance right and this is yet another tricky element of the freelancing world; weighing up whether you can afford to take on the work or afford to turn it down. There’s a risk of not knowing what’s around the next corner, but I believe you’ve got to give yourself a certain value. You’ve got to place a value on yourself and your time.

A Life Lesson

Surely the principle of valuing yourself isn’t just a rule for freelancing, but life in general too? Whether you’re thinking about finding a new full-time job, or even when meeting a new friend, a new partner or buying a new house. The notion still applies even if we aren’t fully aware of it. How much do we want this? How much time and effort are we prepared to put in with it? What will you get from it in the long term? How much do you value yourself?

The Moral of The Story

There are several lessons and I’m still getting to grips with them:

  • Know your self-worth. In terms of freelancing this means having a clear understanding in your head of your rate of pay. Whether it’s an hourly, daily or project rate.
  • There is probably more to a project than meets the eye. A brief chat with a client on the phone will only convey so much. Once you get going with a task there is likely to be more work to do such as research, admin and meetings. You need to think about these extra tasks before committing yourself and a price to a client.
  •  Think about the long term and what you want. A regular freelancing gig may initially seem great, but if it’s not paying well it may later become a burden and a cross to bear.

What do you think? Freelancers do you agree with me? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!

A Dedication to All Mums for Mother’s Day

Mother's Day     Being a mum is hard work. Whether you’re a brand new mum who is still finding her feet with the joys of sleep deprivation, a worn out mum who is dealing with a feisty toddler or a mum worrying about her grown up children.

Whatever the situation and however old your children are, there always seems something to worry about. Worry about whether your kids are OK and worry about whether you’re doing the right thing too. It’s exhausting!

In honour of Mother’s Day, I dedicate this post to you, lovely mums. I know so many different mums who are all facing different situations and all facing a battle of some sort. I’ve identified 6 types of mum and I know at least 2 mums from each group. Read on to see if you can recognise yourself in here, because this is especially for you:

The New Mum: Possibly a first time mum or a new mum who is also struggling to cope with entertaining an older sibling. The lack of sleep is a shock to the system as are the demands of feeding and trying to figure out general routines. Mums who have their second or subsequent new baby face a shock because they’re trying to figure out how on earth they can satisfy the demands of a screaming baby, but placate their feisty toddler too – tricky!

The Full Time Working Mum: I know several full time working mums who are all getting up at the crack of dawn to drop their kids off at nursery before doing an often long commute to get into the office. They must feel like they’ve done a day’s work before sitting at their desk. And then running for the train on the way home, praying for no delays in order to pick up their kids and start the bedtime routine. They have my greatest respect, I really don’t know how they do it.

The Incomplete Mum: These mums have lost a child too soon. They will never be the same again. Despite getting up and putting on a brave face every day, a piece of them is missing. I can’t even begin to imagine how they must feel, they are true heroes.

The Juggling Work & Juggling Kids Mum: Whether they are working part time, freelancing or working from home, these mums struggle to fit in work and kids. They’re cramming every spare child free moment with trying to sort out work. Whilst the kids are in child care they are working, when the kids are in front of the TV they are answering emails. All too often they feel like they aren’t doing anything to the best of their ability; work and parenting feels like half measures and they often wish they could do both a bit better.

The Stay at Home Mum:  Teacher, carer, entertainer, nurse; the list goes on for the role of the full time mum. Some days can be rewarding, fun and memorable. The bad days can be exhausting, mind-numbing, out of control and damn right horrible. Dealing with tantrums, sickness, general bad behaviour and not talking to another adult for 12 hours can be excruciating. I know plenty of mums who on occasion have cried, screamed and felt like walking out and never coming back.

The Empty Nest Mum: Having devoted most of their life to their children, these mums are suddenly facing having more time on their hands. Whether the kids are all now at school, university or left home, these mums may feel at a bit of a loss … or they might be dancing round the kitchen looking forward to their new-found freedom. Either way, it’s a sudden lifestyle change that can be as daunting as it might be exhilarating. After so many years, what to do next?

Whatever type of mum you are, it can be tough. Everyone’s struggling with every day issues and problems that can be very small and minor or huge and life changing.

Whatever your situation, I hope you all manage to take a bit of time to relax and enjoy Mother’s Day, because you all deserve it, you’re doing a wonderful job!  Xx

Make Time for You and Break The Routine

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Whether you’re dealing with the rat race of a commute into work or you’re stuck at home with a screaming toddler who’s having a melt-down about the wrong type of cheese in a sandwich, life can seem like a constant re-run with a dire outlook if there’s no break from the routine.

It could just be the endless winter days, but just lately I feel like I’ve been living a constant re-run of Groundhog Day. By day I’m doing my best to occupy my two toddlers and stop them from fighting over the most ridiculous things (like who should get out of the bath first), whilst trying my best to fit in work, cooking and the general mundane chores during nap time and the evenings.

The Break

Then last week there was a sudden break in the pattern. Three things broke up my drudgery!

  1. I was invited out to dinner on a Monday no less by some other mums I know. It was only a cheap and cheerful dinner, but it was good to get out of the house without kids and talk to some other adults.
  2.  My husband has recently re-joined a gym. And for a trial period, I have been granted a 3 month pass to use the facilities. I’m not really a gym person, but there is a fantastic swimming pool. So on Thursday I took myself off for an evening swim. It was virtually empty, the lighting was low and for half an hour, I completely lost myself swimming my way up and down that pool. It was heaven not only to be finally doing some form of exercise again, but to be on my own, lost in my own thoughts.
  3.  At the weekend we visited the in-laws. My sister-in-law insisted on taking me to the local pub for some pre-dinner drinks leaving the men and grandparents to deal with the troublesome bath and bedtime. It felt naughty to be sneaking out the front door at 6pm to go the pub but why not?! We had a much needed catch up which we never seem to do when running around trying to sort out the kids.

So 3 things in the space of one week broke up my pattern of drudgery. Plus, it’s the end of February and I can see a glimpse of spring on the horizon. Things are looking up.

Crush the Routine

The point is everyone needs a break from the norm of some sort. Whether it’s going for a long walk, getting your hair cut or going out for lunch, everyone needs time for themselves to re-charge and re-focus.

I can remember one of my old bosses at work telling us that it was important to break the routine in order to keep the brain ticking over. He used to take a different route into work several times a week. I can see his point. With no break from the drudgery, life can threaten to become all-consuming and you can even begin to resent it.

I don’t know if my gym pass will last longer than 3 moths, but whilst I have it, I intend to swim at least one evening a week in that lovely pool and make sure I get some more time to myself.

What about you? Do you think it’s important to make time for yourself? How do you do it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Why is “Flexible Working” Still So Inflexible?

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We live in a digital age, apparently. We have technology available at our finger-tips, supposedly. Why is it then that many businesses still can’t use this technology to allow their employees a better work / life balance?

According to a recent survey, a whopping 80% of employees say they would be happier with more flexible working options. Better work flexibility means greater happiness and more productivity for business. And yet why are we still not getting this quite right? Why is it that the majority of working people I know are still plodding through a 9 to 5 hour day for 5 days a week chained to their office desk?

My Ultimatum

Four years ago, I had a job that I loved in London. I went on maternity leave and was hoping to go back. I asked to return on a part-time basis but that wasn’t deemed possible. So then I asked if I could work from home but apparently that wouldn’t work with the systems in place. Eventually, I was told that I either had to return in a full-time capacity or not at all. And so I made the difficult decision to leave. I couldn’t face working full-time with a heavy commute, and leaving a young baby for so long.

It still makes me quite cross now. Why should this have to be the case? Why in this digital age can’t there be more working from home? Why can’t there be more flexi-time? Why can’t there be more job-sharing or part-time work?

A Question of Trust

I can only assume that it is because of a question of trust. If technology can make us all work faster, smarter and in any location, the reason most businesses don’t employ flexible working practices is because they are suspicious of what might be going on if they can’t keep a beady eye on their employees. Perhaps organisations think that if they can’t see their employees grappling with an excel spread sheet they may instead be at home with their feet up or putting the washing on dancing round the kitchen to Uptown Funk?

Their Loss?

I passionately believe that many businesses are losing out in not offering flexible working patterns. My talented sister used to work at a well-known children’s publisher, she quit her job along with 5 other senior, well-regarded women in one year because they would not allow any of them to work a 4 day week in the office and 1 day at home. This to me seems ludicrous. Surely it would be more beneficial for the organisation to try and accommodate these women than to go through the painful procedure of recruiting, training and replacing the staff who all had valuable years’ experience?

When I started writing this post I was mostly thinking about mums and how there should be more flexibility for working mothers. But really, why can’t there just be more flexibility for workers full-stop? Why can’t organisations trust their work-force to get the job done in whatever time suits them best? If employees are happy they will be more productive. Better productivity equals better profit. Output should be measured on achievements, not on how many hours are being clocked up at the office desk.

I’d love to know what you think. Are you a parent who would like the opportunity to have more flexible working hours? Would you be more productive if you could work from home more often? Or do you disagree with me entirely?!

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly World of Freelancing

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I knew when I started freelance writing that there would be some good and bad points. Some of these have become clearer to me over the past few months and let’s just say I was completely unprepared for the ugly!

The Good

  • I couldn’t contemplate going back to my full-time job along with a heavy commute after the birth of my first daughter, so flexibility for me is the main “good” point about freelancing. I can work my hours completely around my children. I can (and often do) work many evenings just so that I can enjoy the benefits of looking after my children whilst working too.
  •  There is no commuting for me anymore. I can work at whatever time I choose and wherever I like (usually my kitchen table).
  • I love the fact that I work for myself. Whatever I put in, I get out. All the money I earn is completely down to me. I’m no longer lining the pockets for a boss because I am the boss!

The Bad

  • The biggest ‘bad’ of freelancing has to be not knowing what the next project will be and where the next payment is coming from. It can be rewarding working for yourself, but it also takes hard work and dedication in finding the next project. I had no idea when I started out about the amount of time I would need to spend on promoting myself. As well as setting up a website and pushing myself on social media, I generally need to be persistent and get into people’s faces. If I’m not working, I’m knocking on doors and quite often getting turned away. Finding work is in itself hard work.
  •  As a freelancer, you never switch off. If I had a full or even part-time job I would work my set hours, come home and cook dinner for my family. Now I find that if I’m not actually working, then I’m thinking about working. And if I’m not thinking about working, I’m thinking about how I can promote myself more in order to get more work.

The Ugly

  • Lo and behold there have been some occasions when the work and the children cross paths. And it isn’t pretty. This usually happens when I have to speak on the phone. I was once talking to a new client when my eldest daughter decided this was the moment to have a melt-down about needing to “do a poo right now!” The client calmly said “I can tell this isn’t a good time, shall I call back?” Which he luckily did but not before I’d beaten myself up about appearing unprofessional and losing a potential client.

Then there was the time when my youngest daughter woke up unusually early from her nap whilst I was on a scheduled conference call and proceeded to scream the house down until I’d brought her downstairs… You just don’t get this kind of thing in the office.

For me, the ‘good’ of freelancing still outweighs the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’. What do you think? If you’re a freelancer have you encountered any more good, bad or ugly factors that I haven’t mentioned? If you’re a working parent does freelancing have any appeal or would you rather stick to a regular paid job with regular hours? I’d love to hear from you.