Wednesday, 24 May 2017

My 5 Favourite Things About Working For Myself

I have been working for myself for just over four years. I am a pregnancy and parenting writer and I create content for a lovely pregnancy website which focuses on empowering women to make informed choices. I love it and feel really proud that I've managed to find work that fits around my family. There are downsides to working for myself, for example, last week when my laptop broke I couldn't just call the IT department and get it fixed. Nope, I had to fork out bazillions of pounds for my new fancy laptop which I am now besotted with even though I definitely can't afford it. But, macbook-induced poverty aside, working for myself is pretty awesome. Here's why:

1. I can bring my baby to work
I don't work full days, in fact, I'm pretty sure I've lost the ability to do that. Over the past four years I have perfected the art of working during naps and after bedtime and I just don't think I could work any other way now. I first started working for myself when Ebony was a little over one. When she went down for her nap, I would scurry downstairs and open my laptop to start work. When she woke up, I usually tried to find something to distract her for five or ten minutes so I could finish what I was working on. It's not always easy to finish an article when there is a small child trying to whack your keyboard, but it's great to have the opportunity to try. 

2. I don't have to wear a uniform
I haven't had to wear a uniform since my terrible, terrible part-time job at a bingo hall when I was at uni. If I did have to wear a uniform, I would probably go for one of these bad boys from Engelbert Strauss, I am a big lover of all things yellow. I used to work in my pyjamas but now I have a school run to do so I am usually dressed like a fully functioning human being by the time I sit down to work. 

3. Nobody judges me for the mess
Back when I worked in offices, my desk was a health hazard. It was always stacked high with abandoned papers, forgotten to-do lists and empty bourbon biscuit wrappers (I love bourbons). It wasn't a nice sight and there was some definite judging going on. Whatevs. These days, I am  my only office mate and I am totally ok with the mess. Sometimes I even tidy up. Or, and this is the best, I just work in a room that isn't my office. Ah, freedom. 

4. I don't have to answer the phone
You know what would be great? If we all only used emails and text messages to communicate. Only psychopaths want to have phone conversations. I can talk to my friend and family on the phone but I have no desire to talk to anybody else. JUST EMAIL ME. Stop being weird. I don't want to speak to you on the phone. I want the conversation to happen via email so I can reply at will and control the conversation. Don't ring me. Ever. I wasn't allowed to say that to people before I worked for myself but now I totally can (not that I ever have because, luckily, most people I come into contact with seem to share my love of written communication). 

5. The flexibility
One of the bestest most amazing things about working for myself is the flexibility. I don't work full-time, I just work as and when I can. If I miss a day because Ebony was off school sick, that's fine. If I manage to squeeze in a couple of extra hours because Laurie took the girls out, great. If it's sunny and I want to skip work and soak up some rays, that's fine, too. I get to control it. I have the freedom to enjoy life whilst still earning a living doing something I love and I couldn't feel luckier. 

This is a collaborative post. 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Talking About The Bad Things That Happen

It's not easy to make sense of some of the things happening in the world right now. And by right now, I mean always. There is always something horrible and upsetting in the news. From equality to violence to terrorism, there is always something that is painful, upsetting or scary to read about it. I don't usually share those news stories with Ebony. She's too little, really, to make sense of a lot of those news. I can't make sense of them myself. I didn't tell her about the Westminster attack a couple of months ago, I wouldn't have known what to say. 

I talk to her about upsetting news stories sometimes. Not because they are in the news, but because they get stuck in my head and I feel it is my job to educate her. I have spoken to her about famine, about inequality, about climate change. I talk to her about the issues I feel are important and which I feel we have even just a little bit of power to do something about. I can talk to her about climate change because I can teach her things to do that can reduce her impact on the planet. I can talk to her about inequality because I want her to grow up and see for herself that things aren't fair and that we need to force change. But how can I tell her about horrible things we can't control? 

"Oh fucking hell, there's been a blast in Manchester." Those were the words out of Laurie's mouth at about quarter to eight this morning as we were all sitting in bed. Ebony was playing with her sister, but she paused when he said it.

"What's a blast?" She said to me. I guess I should be thankful she didn't ask what fucking meant and that she instead focused on the word blast. I shot Laurie an angry glare before realising that, actually, I would have to tell her about it this time. Kids at school would know about it, they would be talking about it in the playground. We don't live far from Manchester, it was possible that someone from her school could have been there last night. 

I answered her question. I told her that a blast was another way of saying a bomb had gone off, that somebody had let a bomb off to hurt people and the police were trying to work out why. She had questions, of course. She wanted to know if we knew anybody that lived there, if people had been hurt, if children had been hurt. She wanted to know who did it. She wanted to know why. I couldn't answer that one, but I did my best, explaining that sometimes people want to hurt other people. 

We got dressed, we read her school reading books and we sat down to eat breakfast. Then she brought it up again. She said people would probably be feeling sad about it today. That even if they didn't know the people who got hurt they would still feel sad because it was a sad thing to happen and it's not nice when people get hurt. And that even if the person who did it got hurt that was still sad because nobody ever deserved to be hurt. And then we cleaned our teeth, we put our shoes on and we walked to school. 

Monday, 22 May 2017

7 Family Kitchen Essentials

‘Family kitchen’ is just a polite way of saying ‘messy kitchen’, or is it in my house, anyway. There are always letters from school cluttering up the side, abandoned hair bobbles and clips (the few that actually return home) on the breakfast bar and dirty cups and plates that have been dumped on the worktop. It is a lived in kitchen. Like, really lived in. Sometimes, it’s clean and sparkly and lovely but most of the time, it’s lived in. I thought I would write a post sharing some of the things I consider to be family kitchen essentials. They’re the things I think make life easier or prettier in a family kitchen. I’ve left out the obvious like wooden wine racks to store All The Wine you need to devour at bedtime.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

5 Ways To Encourage A Love Of Space

The idea of space is somewhat terrifying, nothing makes me feel more insignificant than looking up at a star full of skies and realising just how small I am. I am scared of the deepness of the sea, but space is a whole other kettle of fish. It’s just so big. Too big. So big I can’t even begin to comprehend it. But, I want to encourage Ebony to enjoy science and so I’ve been thinking of ways we can learn more about space together. I don’t want her to be one of the many girls who, by the time they leave primary school, have already given up all hope of ever conquering maths or science. I don’t want her to be limited by her gender. I don’t want her to conform to society’s view that science is for boys.

So, I have been plotting ways to get her enthralled in science. She loves learning about how the human body works, she’s fascinated by animals and she really likes ‘making potions’ (these are, almost always, 99% my fancy conditioner). Here are a few of the ways I am, or wish I was, trying to get her into space (har har har):

Friday, 12 May 2017

The Broken Bed

Every so often, something happens which reaffirms to me that I am not exactly killing it at this whole adulting thing. It might be the frantic search for matching school socks approximately five minutes after we need to leave the house every morning (even writing this won't motivate me to seek out socks in advance of tomorrow's pre-school panic) or the fact that we sometimes have to go and buy ingredients for dinner at dinner time because I forgot to organise it in advance. 

Some days, I get the big one off to school on time, whisk the little one home for a nap and then have a productive two hours writing away on my laptop and other days I can't find my hairbrush. Being the adult and being expected to keep family life running smoothly isn't easy and sometimes I find myself failing. 

Take Ebony's bed, for example. Ebony finally got her own room when we moved into this house. She was two and a half years old when we finally transitioned her out of our room (although could somebody let her know this because she doesn't seem to have taken the hint very well). We decorated her room. We painted the walls white, we dug out brightly coloued toys to add a splash of colour and my parents bought her a bed. We didn't go for solid oak bedroom furniture which, in hindsight, perhaps we should have. Instead, we chose a white wooden bed, simple, pretty, perfect. It looked beautiful in her bedroom (bedroom tour here). Or it did until it got broken. 

You see, the problem with young children is that they love to jump on the bed. On all beds. They jump high and far and with enthusiasm. No matter how many times I asked her not to jump on the bed, I would still hear the familiar creak of the springs giving way under her weight as she leapt around the room. Three weeks ago, she had a friend to play. They went upstairs, as they often do, keen to explore the toys hidden upstairs. I was making dinner in the kitchen, the baby balanced in the crook of my arm whilst I cut vegetables one-handed, so I didn't hear the bouncing of the springs. I didn't hear the telltale creak of the floorboards under the bed or the almighty snap when the bed collapsed under the weight of two excited little girls drunk on the freedom of a playdate. 

The next morning, Laurie noticed that her bed was a little more diagonal than it used to be. A snapped slat and some broken screws seemed to be to blame. My dad came round, the man who can fix absolutely anything (just ask Ebony - 'you can try, mummy, but when it doesn't work, we can ask papa and he will fix it') with a bit of wood glue and a few spare screws. The two of them disappeared upstairs to fix the bed and appeared triumphant an hour later. It was fixed apart from the slat. That was all we needed to do, replace the slat. That was three weeks ago. Ebony is upstairs now fast asleep on her mattress on the floor because we haven't replaced the slat. Laurie tried, he claims, but Homebase didn't have the right part. I haven't even done that. If I think back to my own childhood, there is no way my dad would have left me sleeping on the floor for three weeks. He would have replaced that slat straight away, he probably had a garage full of spare slats just in case such a problem ever arose. But poor Ebony, with me and Laurie for parents, she has to sleep on the floor. 

This is a collaborative post. 


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