Thoughts on Women Returning to Work after children: PART 1

I’ve spoken to women who worry about whether they will be taken seriously as they return to work- or who, already back working, feel they aren’t.  There’s a sense that colleagues will or do think that now they are a mum, they won’t have their eye on the ball.  Yes, with many of us motherhood comes first.  What’s really more important – the life of a small child or that a report is presented 100% perfectly?

But my thought is – how much did you consider how seriously you were taken BEFORE you had children.  Having children is a wake up call in many ways.  If it’s making you think about how seriously you’re taken at work, and in other environments that matter to you – great.

It might even be worth sitting down and thinking back, and having a reality check.  Perhaps things were brilliant back then before you got up the duff, but maybe they weren’t.

Now is the time to not only regain yourself, but reposition yourself exactly where you should have always been.

Jumping on Castles

When we had a new washing machine delivered I kept the box.  Perfect for a new playhouse for the misses 20 months and 3-and-a-very-important-¾.
I didn’t want a playhouse advertising a manufacturer of white goods though, so that night when the misses were snug in their beds I set to work dismantling the thing and turning it inside out.  Not as simple a job as I’d imagined, when I discovered that the cardboard wasn’t that of a regular supermarket box (funnily enough) but high-grade reinforced triple layer cardboard. 
Following the job of dismantling, it became swiftly apparent that my trusty glue gun wasn’t going to do the job of sticking all this high-grade box stock back together. Some kind of industrial strength hot rubber glue type of thing was required. Which I didn’t have at 9.30 on a Saturday night.  Thank god for extra-wide clear packing tape. It might not be beautiful but it’s certainly effective.
A couple of hours later we had a tall house with a pitched roof, with skylight (the manufacturer’s input, not mine – a happy chance), tall arched doors and a round window. 
When miss 3 ¾ saw it the next morning she gasped “It’s a PALACE”.  Instant payback for my two hours’ labour!
It was the day of our mid-winter party and while the husband got the bbq going (New Zealand mid-winter can be quite nice, on a good day) I sorted out the house, removing precious and delicate toys from the playroom and giving the Palace pride of place in the girls’ bedroom.
It was an hour or so into the party when a little boy came up to me to report that ‘someone is jumping on the wendy house’.  I rushed to the scene to find at least two little boys hurling themselves at my Palace. It was looking decidedly less ‘palace’ like and more ‘ruined castle’.  One door was off and the whole structure was on its side in a sorry, squashed-looking state.
“Out!” I ordered, “Everyone out, now, no one plays in here any more.” I didn’t even take the time to identify who was doing the jumping or who the ringleader might be.  Two hours I spent, with loving care…
I hope I’m bringing my girls up to respect others’ property – whatever it may be.  I believe I am.  ‘Boys will be boys’ gives a child, an adolescent or an adult male an excuse for ignorance.  Of course children make mistakes – it’s all part of the learning process. But there is a high proportion of parents who allow their male children to behave in a destructive, disruptive way, unfettered, unchecked and undisciplined, because, they say, “Boys will be boys.”  Boys will also be wife beaters, child abusers, brawlers, depressives and suicides.  Much more so, in this country especially, than girls.
Doing something about this negative trend begins when they are born.  Letting them know that they are expected to be sensitive – with regard to the belongings of others, the feelings of others, and consequently with regard to themselves.  Teaching our children these things contributes to their sense of belonging, of community and of connection.  It’s the foundation of strength and a sense of self.  If we don’t allow them this, we’re jumping on their own castles before they’ve even been built.

Chain Reaction

Wow. It’s amazing how a little dabble into the real world has rings emanating out and back again.  After effectively retreating from the world for three years while focussing wholeheartedly on motherhood, then becoming overwhelmed by a desperate need to reconnect with myself, I’m appreciating elements of ‘normal’ life in a whole new way.

I’ve undertaken a path of coaching to guide me through this process of change and transition.  I’ve been reassured that there isn’t a mother out there who doesn’t feel she’s lost herself in some way.  The question is – who do we hope to find? Perhaps the answer is to put hope aside and just look and see who pops up. By drilling down to our core values, skills, true desires, we could be surprised by who we’ve slyly turned into.

My husband suggested I network furiously in the hopes of securing a good acting job – though it’s something I have wanted, it’s not for me now.  Dashing out at the crack of dawn to get to hair and make-up, the prospect of long hours, during which someone else does all the caring for my two young children – it just doesn’t appeal at this moment in my life.

As mothers we lose ourselves, and many of us are filled with a huge need to find ourselves again.  But being open to the fact that we have changed and that the destination may be a surprise, or even a shock, is as important as embarking on the journey.

Recipe: Spring Cleaning for Coffee-Lovers

This is fool-proof.  Or perhaps only for fools…

You will need

–  One stovetop espresso (For a medium-sized kitchen, a jug serving around 4 people should do the trick)

– A supply or your favourite blend of coffee (a fairly expensive one, freshly ground, has the best all-round effect)

– Two to four hours

Method

Remove the filter plate – we won’t be needing that baby for this recipe.

Prime jug with water and coffee, screw shut.

Ensure persons and animals abiding in your house have exited the area and stay well away.

Pop the pot on the stove, turn on the heat and leave the room.  Go to the other end of the house, or into the garden and get stuck into something.  Forget about that coffee pot – it’s all good, it really is.

When you hear a sudden loud noise rather like a cat hissing ferociously, only somewhat more alarming,  return immediately to the kitchen. You’ll know the recipe has done its work.  There will be no getting away from the fact.  Trust me.

If you’ve done things right you’ll find that a genuine Stovetop Espresso Explosion has occurred, resulting in a blast zone of coffee that will cover an enclosed kitchen fairly extensively. For an open plan kitchen, like mine, you’ll have a good hit to the kitchen area with extended blast reaching your living and dining areas.  In my house the open kitchen sits slap bang between a living area and a dining area.  I was fortunate enough to have coffee blast reaching from the fireplace at one end to the French doors at the other.

Ensure you now SWITCH OFF the heat under the coffee pot.

Stand back and take in the majesty of the explosion.  Note the beautifully even dispersal of ground coffee across ceiling, walls, lamps, floors and soft furnishings.

The great thing about this recipe is that it’s not just liquid coffee covering the interior of your room(s), it’s coffee grains too, and they will have found their way into every nook and cranny.  And you have the added bonus of a wonderful coffee aroma throughout your home, which will last for days.

Now you have absolutely no choice but to get stuck into that pesky Spring cleaning job you put off two years ago.

DO NOT attack soft furnishings with a damp cloth.   Run a bucket of warm soapy water, and clean any white or light coloured painted surfaces first, in particular walls and ceilings – unless you’ve been longing for the coffee splattered look, of course.  (Let’s hope my landlady has been, since I didn’t clean the ceiling for two hours….)  When the coffee has dried, vacuum carpets, soft furnishings etc, then wipe as necessary.

It may feel counter-intuitive, but feel free (once the pot is cool), to disassemble, clean and re-prime your espresso pot.  This time please ensure that you INSERT THE FILTER PLATE.  Since you’re in the room cleaning, there’s no danger you’ll forget the pot.  And by the time the coffee’s ready – boy are you going to need it.

ENJOY!

Fearing the fear and doing it anyway

I had this plan, this dream really, that when I turned 40 I’d throw a great party somewhere with a stage, and I’d surprise everyone by singing at my own do, with a live band.

Thing is, I’m terrified of singing in public.  No, that’s not the right way to describe it.  It’s not terror, it’s more that much as I want to do it, much as I know I have a decent voice and what not, my body refuses to allow sound to escape when there are people watching.  My throat constricts, my heart – for all it feels like – stops in my chest and the best I can manage is a strangled squeak.  Caught singing in the shower in a backpackers years ago a travelling companion even marvelled at my voice.  ‘Amazing’ was, I think, the word she used.  A little bragging required here to boost my flagging confidence.

I kept my little dream a secret for some time, frightened to utter it, frightened that if I did I might somehow commit to actually doing it.  Plan A was to find myself a musician or two and make a wee group.  At the time the dream was festering, we lived out in the countryside and had a small baby plus toddler, and I couldn’t work out how I could find good people to gather about me to make it come true. Given the husband plays the old guitar a little, I finally suggested it to him.  Plan B.  I’ll sing, I told him, and you play the guitar.  Hmmm.

I may not have mentioned yet, though undoubtedly I’ll do so again, that my husband rather likes the sound of his own voice, and somewhat adores it when other people listen.  And if he can find an excuse to show off in some way – he’ll take it.  Bless him.  Curse him.

“I know,” he says, when I reveal my little plan, “I’ll go on stage first and start singing with the guitar, and you come on afterwards.”

“Er, no,” say I, “I’m the one doing the singing – you’re just playing the guitar,”

“No, no,” he says, “I’ll be like the warm up act and then you come on and wow everyone.”

“Hmm, no,” say I again, “That’s you stealing the limelight actually….”

Exit Plan B.

Then a few months later I found that the proverbial cat had been thrown among the proverbial pigeons of our marriage and frankly dealing with that, amidst selling our home of eight plus years, moving house and re-locating two small children into new day care arrangements plus two needy cats, was more than I could get my spinning head around.

I have, however, found a singing teacher a stone’s throw from our new rented home.  Hooray!  With a little folk club hidden neatly away in the neighbourhood a new plan is brewing.  I’ve had a few lessons, done not-enough practice in between.  This teacher is making me readdress the entire way I sing!  While it’s intellectually stimulating and really quite fascinating (who knew that the larynx flips forward and backwards and that you can consciously close off the nasal cavity using your soft palette?) it’s hard bloody work.  Meanwhile I’ve taken a part in a play, which is frankly more necessary.  Singing solo is all very well but it’s, well, solo, solitary, a tad lonely even.  New reality, new location, old friends far away = need for group activity to keep insanity at bay.

So here I am, just over 40 and the singing dream still waiting, waiting.  Maybe through this play I might meet some musicians.  Maybe maybe.  I know… I really do – this will always be a ‘waiting maybe’ if I don’t take the bull by the horns.  I’ll sort it, I really really will.  Once this play is over…