Thinking Out Loud

To #ad or not to #ad

If you’re a fellow mum blog lurker on the gram, you can’t fail to have picked up on a recent anti-ad mood. I’m not an influencer. Not by a long shot. No siree. Not in the blogosphere, on any social media platform or even in real life (I can barely influence my own kids to eat vegetables). My relentless “Easter things to do” recommendations are exactly that, they’re ideas and suggestions. Some I’ve tried out with my own kids in the past and some just sounded incredibly cool and I wanted to tell more people about them. No one has paid me to mention their place or promote their thing. No #sponsored #gifted or #ad here.

That said, I’m not anti-ad. A gal’s gotta eat. I blog, insta, tweet and facebook in between work and mothering and the rest of my life. It still takes up a heck of a lot of time. My following is miniscule (but ever so appreciated, thanks for coming). I’m typing into the ether, ranting in a vacuum most of the time.

From comments on social media and chatting with real life mates I’ve picked up a sense of frustration with influencers, with mum bloggers who’ve built up a “I’m just like you”, “we’re all just muddling along together”, “yay for Mums” type of vibe. Then it turns a little sour, a tad ingenuous when they’ll go on a fancy holiday, go to a swanky restaurant or wear something and you’re foolish enough to click through to the company and then you do a little sick in your mouth at the cost. Jealousy is an ugly little beast but sometimes I just can’t help it. I feel out of depth, poor, worthless and a bit like I’m still at school where it felt that it mattered to be cool (which I wasn’t) and popular (which I wasn’t).

It’s made me question why I’m even bothering with this. Why me? What have I got to say that some other mum isn’t already sharing online? Does the world really need another white, straight, female, English language parent blogger? Nope. I might come across as confident in real life but I assure you that nearly every waking hour I am wallowing in self-doubt. I’ve not started this to make money. I’ve not started this to be popular. I’m doing this, in the words of Billie Piper, “because I want to, because I want to”.

So good luck to the others, the behemothers (see what I did there?) and monetising moms. I follow a massive range of them, some for their clothes, some for the giggles, some for the campaigns, some for a mix of all three. I’m just using the approach I apply to the rest of my life, making it up as I go along. Some people feel a weird fandom ownership over the most followed and well known mum bloggers and intagrammers. They’re just playing the game like all of us. Maybe they’re better resourced or ahead of the game but so what. Just do you. There’s room for all of us and if only 5 people read this (OK, that’s optimistic and I’m definitely related to at least one of you if there are 5) then that’s fine too. Oh and if anyone wants to give me any free stuff I’m definitely not too principled to consider the offer!

Thinking Out Loud

International Women’s Day 2018

It’s International Women’s Day and trawling through Twitter I was reminded about why I took a Twitter break last year. The negativity. The arsewipes asking when International Men’s Day is because that’s real equality innit? Hmm.

I’m late in the day adding my voice to the melee because I’ve been busy doing what I do. Trying to adult. Juggling two jobs, life admin, school trip permission slips and all the rest. Not quite getting there but still trying. Thankfully my track record with children and dogs is better than houseplants. (My cheese plant is terminal I fear – any tips?!) The 3 human males in my house are fed, showered and sleeping. The 2 canine males are snoozing by my side.

I’ve been fortunate to work with strong women, I live close to my sister, mum and grandma, I’ve got awesome female friends who inspire me with their range of careers and achievements. I’ve somehow muddled my way through motherhood with a job (or two). I can see how the world has changed through the generations. That said, I still remember the struggle I had about a decade ago to get working hours that fitted my life.

2018’s IWD is riding in on a wave of high profile activism. Time’s Up. #MeToo got me thinking about moments in my life that were just out of f***ing order, in my teens alone there was the flasher at a gig, the gropers in an alley in the middle of the day, the sleazes in clubs.

Privileged, successful Hollywood superstars sticking to black for their expensive, sophisticated awards ceremony outfits feels so far removed from my life of leggings. I’ve not bought an item of clothing for myself since the end of November. But that doesn’t mean that things shouldn’t change. For all women.

We’ve now had a centenary of women’s suffrage in the UK and Ireland. Yes, we’ve got a female Prime Minister but a “record high” number of female MPs were elected in the 2017 General Election. That’s still only 32% of all MPs. In early February only a quarter of the Cabinet were female. How’s that right when we make up (just over) half of the population? As Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women says “healthy societies have a mix of voices”. We need more varied voices in power. We need to raise our children to be ambitious, to never expect less of someone because of their gender and to not let the twitter arsewipes drag them down.

pregnant woman
Thinking Out Loud

Nine Months In (my womb) Nine Months Out (to work)

Another vintage blog post, this one from March 2013, in which I bemoan returning to work before my youngest turns one.

Having never been one for the ‘live to work not work to live’ mantra it will come as no surprise to learn that I was hardly cockahoop about returning to work following maternity leave.

While I’m sure some women delight in the chance to spend ten hours of their day commuting and in paid employ with no chance of being asked to wipe any bottoms (let’s assume I’m talking about office work before I hear the cries of “well, I’ll have you know that I wipe bottoms for a living and I’m BLOODY GOOD AT IT”) there are also some women who balk at the suggestion that they should have to work at all. “But who will bring up my children?”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not sitting on the proverbial fence here. I would far rather be caring for my children. Physically, emotionally and practically AT THIS STAGE in their lives it would be the most sensible situation. My youngest is 10 months old. I have been and still am breastfeeding him. On the plus side, when I am not in his company, my breasts magically grow to impressive proportions. On the down side this means that I must pump my milk out in a random tiny room. I am not and never have been a militant member of the breastapo. It’s free. I’m not one for making bottle feeders feel rubbish or defensive about themselves. Let’s not dwell.

So, physically my breasts are still in the ‘we are the mammaries of a mammal with an infant so we will produce milk’ zone and when I am with my amazing baby I am in the ‘I want to feed my baby for free’ zone. But the world of work says “you have done your time woman, put down the baby and get back to your desk.”

On the emotional side of things I don’t think I sound like a crazy banshee saying “I love my children”. I carried both of them inside me. INSIDE MY BODY. (It is still weird. You were once INSIDE someone. Not a random person, granted. But I digress.) We created these little people to be involved in their ever changing lives, and when they’re less than a year old they change more quickly than they ever will again. I don’t want to miss that. Maybe I can miss a bit if it makes me feel sane and worthwhile but sometimes work makes me feel a bit bonkers and pointless.

I work in an industry where I enable other people to LIVE THEIR DREAM. I never said “when I grow up I want to be a Participation Officer”. I didn’t know what one of those was. Most people still don’t. Which is embarrassing, deflating and devaluing. Wait. I must shake the You Should Have Done Teaching imp from my shoulder. “You would’ve been on thirty grand a year by now, imagine that, it’s the same as you earn as a couple now”. Shut up and bugger off Teaching Imp.

Maybe if I LOVED my job I’d feel differently but, quite frankly, I don’t. It’s a means to an end and the end is money. And I don’t earn much. Let’s just say I’m not paying back my student loan yet. I would like to love my job. I need to win some bread, sing for my supper and provide a positive, productive role model for my children. Just not yet. At ten months old neither son asked why mummy was a lazy Jezza Vile watching housewife while daddy worked his arse of at the docks. I can readjust that patriarchal rubbish when they’re both in school.

On a practical level, working is a logistical nightmare/challenge. My four year old and 10 monther have different schedules and needs. Granted, they’re not very complex at the moment and I’m lucky to have grandparent help for two days, more than that and I feel that I’m taking the mickey. They’ve done their time.

The current government has paid lip service to the notion that women are entitled to a year off from work after giving birth. Well I’ve got news for you Dave, those last three months of unpaid maternity leave do not and cannot work for most families’ finances in the current economic mess. Better maternity packages come higher up the ladder and in better paid industries, widening the gap between the women at the top and those struggling at the bottom. Statutory Maternity Pay, while utterly amazing compared to the seventies and America, is, to be blunt, rubbish. Forward thinking companies and those who give a monkeys arse about retaining staff have varying maternity policies better than SMP. Not where I work.

Babies aren’t expensive. Your income dropping from £355 per week to more like £117 (rough figures for my salary in 2008 when I had my first son) is what hits you hard. The Camerons’ annual income is approximately one thousand times more than that of my household. ONE THOUSAND! Out of touch with the needs of most families with young children? Probably.

 

Carved Halloween Pumpkin
Thinking Out Loud

March of the Mummies

Today, at noon on Halloween in six cities around the UK the March of the Mummies made a stand against pregnancy and maternity discrimination. If you follow Pregnant Then Screwed you’ll know all about it. If you don’t, go find @PregnantScrewed on twitter. Sadly, I couldn’t make it in person because of work but it got me thinking of my own experiences.

I’m not preggers or on mat leave nor do I intend to be so ever again but I do remember the stress and frustration first time around when I met with inflexibility to my requests for reduced hours. I broke through the barrier eventually with a presentation (the idiot’s guide to job sharing) and some much appreciated support from my maternity cover (who is still doing ace things for women in the workplace).

Second time around I got wound up enough to write a blog post so in the spirit of raising mummies from the dead, I’ve resurrected a couple of blog posts from my first foray into the blogosphere as Moody Mum in 2013:

Trapped Part Time Workers

Nine Months In (my womb) Nine Months Out (to work) – in which I bemoan returning to work before my youngest turns one

If you want more information on what the March of the Mummies was for and why it’s important, head over to marchofthemummies.com.

Thinking Out Loud

Trapped Part Time Workers

(This blog post was originally written in July 2013. Thankfully I’m now in a much better place with my career but I’ll save that for another time.)

Today the Guardian published an article entitled “Part-time workers ‘trapped’ in jobs with no chance of promotion”. The article focuses on professionals and despite it seemingly assuming that all part time workers are office based it did speak to the frustrated part-time worker in me.

I work in the arts as an officer in a participation/education/creative learning/whatever-the-deuce-we’re-calling-it-this-week department. A potted history: I returned to work three days a week after my first maternity leave as part of a job share. Eventually I stopped job sharing and instead had a full time assistant. I returned after my second maternity leave to a situation where I have no job share and no assistant but am still working a three day week. Have I received a pay rise to acknowledge the fact that I’m delivering a full time position on part time hours? Hahaha! This is the arts darling, we do it for love.

I have tried finding other work. The part time opportunities that get advertised on the Arts Council Wales jobs list are short term, not well paid (which is saying something coming from me) or not in my area of expertise. I don’t want to jump from this particular frying pan into a fire that could only last 9 months and leave me in a worse situation than my current poorly paid stagnant career. This is what makes me feel trapped. There is nowhere to move in the organisation and no way to move out of it.

I know of at least three skilled and experienced female arts professionals who worked for well known arts organisations who were forced into leaving their roles through the utter inflexibility of their employers. I know another who was made redundant and is now struggling to find part time, relevant work. It’s such a waste of talent. Three of them are unemployed and the other is working in another sector. All have children under the age of 5. They are incredibly jaded, having been spat out and spat on by a sector that too many people see as people friendly and passionate.

In the final throws of my degree, with the big wide world looming, I did consider (and was approached with a recommendation that I pursue) training to be an actor. But then I thought about what was important in my life and my dream of a house, partner, children, dog and car was incongruous with the nomadic, penniless actor I could see myself becoming. So I went for a ‘proper job’ (full time, permanent) but in the arts. Now, at thirty years old I am content that I have achieved my big life goals but my career and pitiful income is a niggling little pain in my derrière. Maybe I should have followed my heart rather than my head back in 2004.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2013/jul/08/part-time-workers-trapped-jobs?INTCMP=SRCH