16 May 2016

Siblings May 2016

I took these pictures a couple of weeks ago when the weather turned cold again, and after we had spent most of the day in-doors because it had been raining. But then it stopped, and we took the opportunity to get out of the house and get some fresh air and release a bit of energy (well, the kiddies, not me – I didn't need to release energy; I could have happily just sat down with a hot cuppa, hehe!).

They usually do their own thing at the playground, Becky going off on the more advanced things, and Alex usually honing in on the slide and the swing. But this time Becky insisted on staying with Alex, and they first played ball together and then they were chasing each other up and down the slide before Becky asked me to place Alex on her lap and slide down with him. Alex loved it and was giggling all the way, and I love how cute and happy they look in these images. 

Becky has been giving Alex a lot of attention over the past month, trying to teach him words and drawing pictures with him, which is really sweet. The other day we had a couple of Becky’s friends over and they obviously wanted to play on their own in Becky’s room, but Alex was desperate to join them. He just wanted to be part of their little group; maybe just because he figured that this was quite exciting, or because he wanted to be like the “big” kids, but you could tell that he just didn't want to miss out just because he is the baby brother.
In the end Becky let him come up, too, and luckily the other girls, one in particular, became quite besotted with him, and they ended up all playing with Alex and making him laugh, with Becky being the proud sister and showing off that Alex was “my baby brother”.
They are such a little unit, it makes me so happy. I don’t know whether this mutual love is here to stay or whether they will have their moments of ups and downs and sibling rivalry and quarrels, which I’m half expecting, but for the time being, for now, I’m embracing the harmony and enjoying every single minute.


11 May 2016

Introducing pocket money

We recently took the decision to start giving Becky pocket money. It was a bit of an ad hoc decision and not something we had deliberated for very long, but she is five years old now, and somehow it just felt right at the time.

It came after John took Becky shopping one day and gave her £5 to spend on whatever she wanted in the store. Obviously Becky went straight for the Monster High dolls – her current favourites. John pointed out, however, that the one she was after cost almost £15, so was not in her price range. Becky considered this and swiftly moved on to one of the kids' magazines, which, usually priced at around £4 (pretty hefty, I find!), were in her price range. She then began doing the maths: if she bought one of the magazines, she'd have just over one pound left.

John explained that if she didn't buy the magazine though, but saved the money, she could start putting it in her money box (which we randomly put coins in as and when we have some spare) and soon save up to then buy her desired Monster High doll. This seemed to make sense to Becky and satisfied her, and she decided to save the money.

They came back from their shopping trip and Becky told me excitedly about the fact that she would put the fiver in her money box and save to buy herself a Monster High doll. It was then that we decided to give her regular pocket money of £1 a week, which we have now been doing for the past month or so.

And we’re really pleased that we are, for several reasons:

- To facilitate and support her maths and encourage her to count in real life terms and apply what she learns at school in a proper shopping environment, which helps her to make sense of it.

- To reward and encourage good behaviour; equally, she can lose all or part of her weekly pocket money allowance if she doesn’t uphold certain things we have agreed upon, like not tidying her room, or not listening when repeatedly prompted (this hasn’t happened yet, and is probably only a last resort, but still, it’s there as a sort of deal/ agreement between us and her).

- It teaches her the value of money and that everything material in this world has a price - and that you don’t always get stuff handed on a plate, but sometimes have to wait / save / work for it. Hopefully this will instill an appreciation for the things she has and acquires in the future.

So far, it’s going well and every Friday she is really excited to get her pound (sometimes a little bit more when she receives a special award from school, as she did last Friday, or has been or done something extra special). She loves counting her money, and by all accounts is well on her way to earning her first Monster High doll herself! 

* Linking up to Lets Talk Mommy and #ShareWithMe

8 May 2016

5 May 2016

My April 2016

How is it already the 5th of May? And I still haven’t posted my April summary – ooops. I’ll therefore cut to the chase; here we go:

1.      We went to Germany at the start of the month during half term and visited family & friends. It was lovely and relaxing, as my Mum pretty much takes over and tirelessly looks after her grandkids. I guess she makes the most of having them, as it’s obviously not as regular as it would be if we were next door, and it’s nice for me, as I can do what I never have the chance to do – sit down with a hot cup of coffee and read a book. (Or watch trashy German TV *red face*).

2.       My Mum looking after Alex and Becky a lot also meant that I could have some one-on-one time with each of them, while my Mum entertained the other. Again, quite a luxury, as normally I have to split my time between them to do each of them justice.

3.      We (well, when I say “we”, I really mean mainly John, though I have helped here and there) started digging up our garden ready for a new lawn and patio. John’s been working really hard on it every day, but it’s such a big job, it won’t be for a while yet until it’s actually ready and we can sit down with an al fresco G&T and enjoy our new outdoor space. The garden has been dominating our conversations and free time, with both physically labouring away at it as well as planning what it will look like.

4.      Plenty of visits to the park with the little ones. You can’t beat a nice trip out, even if it’s just to the local playground.

5.       A nice stroll with friends along the waterfront. It was a very cold day, but the sea-breeze did us some good - until that is, Becky fell over on her scooter …

6.       …which leads me to picture six. She smashed her lip open. It bled so badly, that the day ended with an unwelcome trip to A&E and lots and lots of tears. Luckily the injury was internal, i.e. mostly contained in Becky’s mouth and lip, though the swelling was really bad. I’m happy to report that my little girl is now back to her beautiful, gorgeous self again, thank God!


4 May 2016

The Work / Mum Balance

Ok, I’ll be honest and hold my hands up here when I say: I think I suffer from FOMO. The Fear Of Missing Out. Not in a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses kinda way. For a long time now I have accepted that there will always be people who are more successful, richer, prettier, thinner or have a better (social) life than me - or at least are much better at portraying *bluffing* this on their Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Pinterest and other social media platforms than I am. Whatever. 

No, I have FOMO when it comes to my kids. I fear that I am missing out on elements of my kids' lives because I'm a working Mummy.  A full time working Mummy. The issue isn’t per se with the fact that I work, and that I work full time. The decision to do so has been carefully considered by both John and I, and it’s honestly with the best interest of our family in mind – aside from the fact that I love my job and it’s a big part of who I am. So I refuse to feel guilty about that, and I stand fully behind this decision. So far, so good.

But of course no decision in life is ever without “side effects” or impact on other elements of one’s being, and lately I have started to notice these a little bit more. It’s an undeniable fact that if you work full time, you have less time to spend with your kids than a stay at home Mum, or even someone working part time. Again, that’s a given, and I would like to think that the time we do have, we spend consciously and make the most of. Quality over quantity, if you will.

One of the “side effects”, however, is that I have much fewer (almost no) opportunities to partake in parent activities at Becky’s school. Now, this wouldn’t bother me, if it didn’t bother Becky. But it does. And herein lies the crux of the matter. This is where the Mummy guilt creeps in.

It's only really become apparent to me since Becky started school. I have to admit, I was naive and didn't fully appreciate what this would involve. In my head, she'd go to school 9am to 3.15pm and then to after-school-club, and that would be it. What I didn't realise though is how much onus is being placed on the involvement of the parents in their children's school life, and how tricky it is to juggle this when you work full time (and don't get me started on all the term holidays!).

Maybe it's just Becky's school, but nearly every week there are meetings or activities or things going on that require / invite parents to attend school. Information sessions, play mornings, behavioural advice sessions, PTFA meetings, parents reading afternoons, parents gatherings this or other, not to mention things like special assemblies etc. 

Since Becky started school, I have barely managed to go to a handful of events, having had to prioritise how essential they are and how compatible they are with my work commitments. There has been a literacy and phonics meeting, showing parents how phonics are taught at school and how they can support this at home, the nativity play (which brought tears to my eyes, it was so lovely!), a couple of parents evenings (luckily outside of work hours) and the other week I managed to attend a math's information meeting.

That’s it.

I’ve not been able to attend any other sessions, and in all honesty, most I’m not even bothered about and am perfectly ok with missing. But – and this is a big “but”: Becky is starting to notice my absence, and it’s bothering her. And that makes me feel bad.

The other week parents were invited to a play morning, and as I was on deadline (and John was tied up at work, too), I had to explain to Becky that lots of Mummies and Daddies would be coming into school, but that Mummy and Daddy couldn't make it on this occasion, because we had to work. Instantly Becky went into meltdown, crying her eyes out and giving me the “but I will be the only one whose Mummy won’t be there!” treatment.

Of course I know this isn’t true, because I know that a few other Mums are in the same boat as me and can’t attend many things either. However, nothing pulls at your heart strings more than the feeling that you're letting your child down! It’s awful, and this is the kind of guilt that gets me.

Or there was the Easter assembly a few weeks back. Again, I couldn't attend, because it was on a morning and I was away with work (and frankly, I kind of under estimated that the Easter assembly would be a big deal). But it was, for Becky at least, and she still keeps bringing it up, visibly upset and still thinking about it, that "Mummy was the only one who didn't come".

On the flip side, when I managed to come to the maths meeting and subsequently was able to sit in on a teaching sessions with Becky, she couldn't have been more excited to see me. She kept coming over to me to hug me and kiss me, and kept waving and smiling at me. It meant so much to her, bless her. And there it was again, right there, the Mummy guilt that I can't do it more often. 

But how do you manage? I only have limited holidays per year, and it's difficult enough as it is to stretch them over the whole year and all the term holidays that the kids have. And I don't want to take the p*** at work either, taking random hours here or there while my colleagues without kids do their regular day's work.

It’s such a fine balance to strike, and I increasingly feel like I don't have it. That I don't have a Work / Mum balance. And I'm not sure how to get it. Whether that’s even possible.

I've never felt guilty about being a working Mum - as I said, I refuse to. I see a lot of good in being a working mother. I can be a role model to my children, teaching them about dedication, commitment, values and that you have to work to achieve things and have things. My own Mum has always had a career, and I don’t feel like it has damaged me in any way; to the contrary, I grew up always knowing that I wanted to be successful and have a good career, too. And obviously my salary constitutes a big chunk of our family income and lifestyle, so this is no small detail. 

But on those days, when you're the "only" Mum who can't attend a school event or other, it does give you the wobbles. Whether the choices you made are the right ones (I do know that they are, in my rational moments). Whether you're a good Mum. Whether you’re good enough.

Sometimes I’m really strong about this, and take comfort from the fact that the working Mummies I know are all great women who are doing their best, and have made the same choices for the same, very good reasons. And we are all in the same boat, doing our best. And that’s all we can do, isn’t it? Doing our best.

But some days, I think about what it would be like to be able to pick up Becky from school, rather than after-school-club, to be able to go home with her at leisure and chat about the day, take her to ballet or swimming or play dates and not have to compact everything into an intense weekend.

Juggling a career and children was and is never going to be easy, but I don’t think I realised just how tricky it can be, especially whilst they are so little and now that Alex is also in the picture, with yet again, very different needs.

Hopefully, as Becky moves up to Year 1 in September, there won't be as many parent things going on – and I’ll manage to find that elusive Work / Mum Balance, or at least edge closer to it, whatever "it" may be.

* Linking up to Lets Talk Mommy and the #ShareWithMe blog hop. 
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