Tuesday, 19 January 2010

In which the year went back to normal

... whatever that is of course.

I've spent the day scrubbing, cleaning, changing beds, cooking, changing nappies and for a brief interlude, played a puzzle with my 2 year old and watched Chuggington with him. This is why I work part time. So that I can be the uber-housewife.


I work part time to spend time with my kids. So how come when ever anyone mentions the hushed word 'cleaner' does the rest of the population seem to go into judgemental overdrive? I might say also that the most vocal of these are the women who had their kids a looong time ago, and were able to give up work until they sent them off to school. Of course then some worked part time hours and the kids had to 'get on with it' while they scrubbed and cleaned.

Most families these days cannot afford to have a parent not working. Our mortgages and living costs don't allow it. I haven't bought clothes for myself in goodness knows how long, and forget about eating out; I've pulled in the belt at every opportunity in order to spend this time with them and so yes, I might have a spare 15 quid to now spend on a cleaner so that I can actually do the thing I work part time for. Raise my children.

Unfortunately I made the mistake of sharing this information and to say I was looked at like I was some degenerate is an understatement. The implication was clear. Can't I cope? I clearly am not a good enough mother that I simply cannot fit it all in.

I wonder if pressed whether these same mums would have liked to spend more pleasure time with thier kids? That if when they pick them up from school, they didnt have to change the beds, wash the floors and clean the kitchen and bathroom before putting the dinner on, whether they might have enjoyed it a teensy bit more?

Last week, one day after school I ignored the house. I walked straight past it and took the kids to the park where we played until it was too cold, then came home, I stuck in the dinner (which incidentally I had prepared earlier) and that was so nice.

Of course I paid for it later with having to do housework all evening rather than collapsing on the sofa and resting my poor pregnant body but hey ho.

So this is me. I want a cleaner, the question really being, how much do I really care about what people think of my mothering/wifely skills in order to get what I really wnat out of life?

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The change my life opportunity

I have a year of changes coming up and I find I am wandering aimlessly around the internet looking for that elusive magical opportunity that will immediately strike me as being possible and interesting enough to motivate me.

First major life change is having the baby. This brings the total to three. At the time she is born, I will have 3 under 5 years old and while we planned it to be so, it brings up certain challenges about childcare etc, life balance, why did we have children etc. We love being a family and so what we really want it to be able to spend more time with said family.

I also enjoy working. That is, I love interacting with people, the stimulation is necessary for my emotional wellbeing and stability. I don't rely on them for my happiness but I do rely on adult interaction for a well rounded sanity level to be maintained. So while I don't RELY on them, people make me happy (and sad, but thats another rambling for another posted blog).

So my other major change is the strong liklihood of being made redundant later this year. Around the time that my baby girl will be 6 months old in fact, when I'll be running out of maternity leave and money. At THAT point, I'll find out if I still have a job.

Perfect timing wouldn't you say?

I do also hope to qualify as a Breastfeeding Counsellor before the end of the year. The culmination of quite a few years work and I am so excited about getting going and doing what I set out on this journey to do. And it will give me a small income stream, but certainly not enough to support the family.

Hubby is a driving instructor and loves it. But there are days (weeks... months) when I long to have a regular income to the household as well as my own. Unfortunately I sometimes feel like I am taking the main responsibility for paying all the bills and whiel I do accept that finances are not his strong point, it does get a bit tiring sometimes. He works his watsits off for us, but the costs of running the business are actually around half of the turnover currently and I don't see a way of them improving. Petrol and running costs are crippling but he is a great instructor. It is so frustrating. He hates working in an office and to be fair, it doesnt really suit him, so what is the answer here?

Prayer is the OBVIOUS answer and we're working on it, but we are great believers in having the hand to the plough so to speak. We won't sit idle and wait to win the lottery (which incidentally you to be in to win so thats a non-starter for us anyway) so we work in hope (a verse in 1 Corinthians which escapes me now) and belief that we will prevail.

Party Plan? I've done a few and despite having been there/done that, I still do think that the right opportunity is out there for the right person. It's just a case of matching them up with each other surely? So I'm off to keep tapping away. Right after CSI Miami. Woot!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Emotional blackmail

No-one can make you feel anything.

When I first heard that I was inclined to disagree, afterall I can think of a dozen instances off the top of my head where I was made to feel mad, glad, sad, angry etc. Then think a moment longer. Can anyone make me do anything I don't want to? Short of threatening my loved ones or holding a gun to my head, no-one can make me do a single thing that I don't want to do. No-one that is, except for myself of course. So it naturally follows that if I can't be made to do a thing, then I can't be made to feel a feeling.

So do I allow myself to feel things? Or is a feeling something which just happens to me without my control? And do I like that thought? Are my feelings just carrying on without my authority so to speak? Or do I have a decision in the direction my feelings take? If I initially feel angry about a situation, do I then have a choice to continue feeling that way or decide to feel something else. If I do decide to feel something else then am I a candidate for Psychotherapy and/or counselling for repressed feelings, or is the fact that I made a decision to not dwell on and be consumed by a feeling that disturbed me a reasonable way to deal with a situation?

Have you ever heard the term emotional blackmail? The people that use these tactics (and to some extent, I believe most of us have at some point) are trying to make you feel something in order to benefit themselves. It is invariably one of the feelings like guilt, compassion or fear.

I think sometimes people use the tactics so often and consistently in their lives that they don't realise they are doing it anymore. In fact they might even be surprised, annoyed or hurt at the implication that they are trying to force you into anything. They see what they are saying as reasonably argument and perhaps persuasion.

Unfortunately the person on the receiving. end of the emotional blackmail also has a responsibility in this. They may be allowing themselves to be manipulated in this way and so strengthen the perpetrators belief that their behaviour is acceptable.

Naturally I have a reason for all of these meandering thoughts but I suppose if I really knew how to deal with a person who is emotionally blackmailing me, then I wouldn't be posting my rambling thoughts on the internet. And so I feel frustration. And are they making me feel it? I know I am certainly giving into it a bit and allowing it to grow and probably a wee bit of anger thrown into the mix for good measure.

As a Christian my response should be immediate because of course it means that I don't have to internalise or repress anything. I can pray it away, give it up, believe that if I am behaving in a way that 'stands up in court' so to speak, then a resolution will come. And so that's all I can do. Talking to this person results in further attempts at emotional blackmail and I would come away with the negative feelings strengthened in myself and that in itself is pointless. I am not saying that my choice is to do nothing which would be against what I've already said, rather, I'm saying that I choose to give away my negative feelings and trust that it will be dealt with.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Snow Day

I was watching the news this evening and it mentioned the deep drifts in northern parts of England and the views were spectacular (as long as you don't spend too much time thinking about the incredible impact this weather is having on the UK) but what was really spectacular was this road which crossed a county border into Cumbria. The adjoining county council had a snow plough/blower vehicle and they took it up this winding lane toward an outlying village and then at the border turned around and went back. Leaving the road utterly blocked. Utterly bonkers.

So there are these examples of just how far the human race has come... nice... and then you see the stories of how neighbours are checking up on each other, communities turning out to clear roads and paths so that children can go to schools, sit exams etc. The difference being of course that the Snow plough guy is under orders from a Council watching its pennies.

Our local council says they'd love to get more grit for our roads but they'd have to put the council tax up. What about all the money they make (millions of pounds to be truthful) from traffic wardens? Couldn't some of that profit be put back into keeping our roads safe? No? Thought not. What about the companies the Council are contracting out to to tow away cars which have been abandoned at the road side when the snow has defeated them, and then charging the owners 100 quid to release them? Where is that money going and what kind of society are we in that we are taken advantage of so cruelly?

The buses stopped until this afternoon and with more snowfall expected overnight, they are expected to be suspended again tomorrow. How much would it have cost to invest in snow chains for the wheels so that the people we rely on to keep us ticking over can continue to do their jobs?

Brighton & Hove City Council - How about gritting/salting the bus lanes on the A259? Now there would be a novel idea.

Having watched an Ambulance jack-knifing across a road this morning, why cant someone think of the lives at risk and get the snow chains, studs or whatever is needed to ensure that if you do have a heart attack, you don't die in a crash on the way to the hospital.

My son has now missed most of his first week back at school and he is only 4 years old and he is climbing up the walls with boredom, but what about all the young people coming back expecting to sit exams, being told that they now have to wait until June to sit them. How hard could it be to reschedule them for a couple of weeks time?!

Why is Britain so rubbish at this? How come other countries manage perfectly well? Very little industry lost, work continues, transport is fine. Countries like Canada are literally laughing at us because we cannot cope with 20cm of snow. They have 4 months of snow per year in some parts, more in others and do they lose 4 months of work? I suspect not.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Thinking Pink

Today I found out that baby number 3 is a girl. I have two boys already and I was convinced that this one would join the blue club. Or perhaps I convinced myself that because I secretly did want a daughter. So it would seem that I am possibly not destined for a house full of testosterone for the rest of my life (of course the ultrasound technician might be wrong yet!) and I was happy before but now I have another kind of happy to add to it. I lay on that bed/gurney and when it came to it, all I really wanted to see was a beating heart and all the parts in the right places, doing the right thing.

We saw the brain inside the skull, the perfectly formed spine, the four cavities of the heart, pumping away quickly. Two wiggly legs and hands bashfully hiding her face. She flicked a switch and we saw the flow of blood in the cord, that was amazing. Watching life literally flowing through her. A round tummy with a 'full' bladder and the technician told us that all her 'inner bits' like intestines etc looked normal. She is curled up in a little ball, as if in protest over the cold snowy weather outside and I feel a sudden connection because I'd quite like to protest too. Checking her gender seems vaguely intrusive and it takes her a while to give up the secret and we ask the technician to check again before she finishes as she is confident that that this baby is, indeed, a pink one.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

New Years Resolutions - A short story for you...

Clare bit her pencil and she read back her list of New Years Resolutions. The usual suspects appeared, as expected, year after year, flowing unprovoked from her pencil tip and of course year after year, here she was, writing the same list again.

She broke off to get herself a cuppa and stood staring out of the kitchen window. On this clear Saturday morning there was a slight mist and a glaze of frost on the grass, transforming the garden into a sparkly winter wonderland. Of course the garden was on the list again, ‘keep garden tidy’ was up there with ‘buy a composter’. Like it was every year, no surprise there then.

Likewise, ‘eat less biscuits’, ‘keep on top of housework’, ‘stop biting nails’, ‘do more arty things with the kids’. The latter had actually made a valiant attempt at sticking power, the potato prints and homemade cards lasting well into March but even that had trailed off into leaving them to it with the posterpaints, albeit with a brief foray into toilet tube rockets in October.

Clare sighed. This was not going very well, at this rate she would talk herself out of writing them entirely and that was surely not the point. People make new years resolutions all the time, well once a year anyway and the tradition apparently continues so there must be something in it.
Also where would the stop smoking and the weightloss clubs be without the annual resolutions she mused, mentally adding another one to her own list, with a little dotty line leading from ‘eat less biscuits’.

Chewing a nail thoughtfully, Clare sat back at the table, picking up her pencil once again and wrote carefully in the squashed space between ‘New Years Resolutions’ and ‘stop biting nails’; ‘keep New Years Resolutions’, and sat back, staring at the line.

Now, she thought, I have overstepped the line. I have well and truly set myself up for failure and there’s not a chance of lasting past February with any of them, nevermind flying to the moon on a cardboard rocket in October. She added ‘try to’ at the beginning of the sentence and stared at it again. Yes, that seemed a little more forgiving.

She sat for a while longer looking at the list, then in an attempt to clear her head, got up from the table and got started on the housework, starting in the lounge where there was a carpet of building bricks and pony figurines, intermingled with a couple of empty breakfast bowls, abandoned as the culprits raced out the door with Clares sister who had promised them Ice skating this morning and Clare had been too pleased to get a couple of hours to herself to bother insisting they tidy the place before they left.

Taking the bowls back into the kitchen, she picked up the debris of Daves breakfast from the dining room, again, abandoned as he too rushed out the door to an emergency gas leak job. Almost too late, she avoided stumbling over his trainers in the middle of the floor, then scooped up a towel from the chairr, noting the dust bunnies hovering at the side of the bookshelves on the laminate flooring.

She put the dishes in the sink, returned to her list and wrote ‘get family to agree to tidy up rota’ and immediately scrubbed it out, laughing silently to herself and wrote on the next line ‘hire cleaner’. Allowing herself to laugh out loud to that one, she again put a line through it and wrote instead ‘photograph all flying pigs’, threw the pencil on the table and went off around the house collecting up the laundry, returning a few minutes later to the kitchen, separating it into piles with a martyred air.

The first load safely installed on its wash cycle, Clare once more sat down and looked at her page of Resolutions. She scored a line though the flying pigs comment and wrote on the next line ‘join pottery class’. Pleased with that one, she leant over to the biscuit barrel and scooped out a custard cream, and promptly dropped it again, guiltily glancing at the 2nd resolution regarding biscuits on the list.

She reached for another piece of paper and wrote ‘Shopping List’ at the top and the first item was ‘low fat biscuits’. Returning to the resolutions page, she scrubbed out ‘biscuits’ and replaced it with ‘fatty foods’. She then added ‘download fat free family friendly recipes online’ and drew a line from it to the previously written ‘join weightloss club’.

After starting the shopping list with ‘low fat biscuits’ it seemed rude not to continue and once the list was more or less complete, Clare added a new line to the Resolutions page; ‘do online food shopping in order to limit impulse buying’. She then hurriedly added ‘spend less time on the computer’, wincing as she remembered playing Solitaire for hours on end one evening while Dave was out on a job and the latest TV talent show had ended so there was nothing on the box to watch.

Looking up at the clock, she realized that the children would be home soon and the peace would be shattered, closely followed by Dave, the whirlwind who had passed his energy onto his offspring. Where has the time gone she thought, and added ‘be more organized - make more time’ to the list of resolutions, squeezing it in at the bottom, squashing it up so the word ‘time’ was hardly visible

She surveyed her handiwork, which now looked more like a spider diagram than a list. All these things vying for attention. Offshoots flying off in different directions, creating a chaotic image of a life needing resolutions to restore order. Glancing at the clock, she picked up a new sheet of paper, wrote one word on it then made a couple of phone calls and made lunch ready for when her family returned.

That evening, Clare sat in the lounge with Dave after putting two very tired children to bed; freshly made toilet-roll robot and rabbit in pride of place on the mantlepiece. Looking up from the footie on the telly, Dave said “few messages on the phone for you, Lovely Landscapes and Carols Cleaning Services, both confirming appointments for Monday and a weird one from Potty about Pots, saying they have space on Thursdays, hope that means more to you than me”, and promptly turned back to his match.

Reaching for a chocolate chip cookie, Clare thought of the new sheet of paper stuck on her fridge, one word in the middle of it, nearly three hours in the making really, replacing the spidery list, now crumpled in a ball in the waste paper basket. It’s what it all boils down to really. The only thing that is important, and her only New Years Resolution this year was to make it happen. TIME.

Office mundanity

If I'd said it once, I've thought it a million more times. I am so fed up of this. My job is a shadow of its former self. I used to proudly say that I was an Housing Officer. It gave me a sense that I was helping in a real way and though some might argue the job hasn't changed all that much, it really has.

Now I am an 'Income Co-Ordinator'. How rubbish does that sound? In the merger, a dozen or so of my colleagues lost their jobs and by some miracle I managed to hold onto mine and ended up with this specialised role. They split the job down the middle. The Income side deals with the rent. Everything else, read here, the interesting, peoply, touchy feely side went to the 'Neighbourhood Co-Ordinator'. You may well ask why I didn't go for that job instead but hours are longer and you cover such a wide geographic that at the end of a working day, I might be 70 miles from home and thats no good when I have children to pick up on time.

So here I am. Collecting rent. It gets even better than that, since becoming an 'IC', they have further specialised me into shared ownership owing to my experience earlier in the company. So I basically deal with the people who part own the property and would quite like to forget that they are attached to a Housing Association at all. The scheme is great, really it is. If you have an aching need to get onto the housing market/ladder then go for it but if i can give one small bit of advice? Please remember that although you rent part of your property, you will have none of the benefits of a renter. The association will not repair your leaky taps or pipes, fix your fences, redecorate the external areas. You will pay 100% of the service charge even if you only own 20% of your property. Just think carefully about it. Don't get into any form of home ownership without the capacity to save money. As in a savings account. I wish someone told me that last bit before I bought my first flat but hey-ho. The mortgage company certainly won't.

So I spend my days talking to people who wished I didn't exist, about money they can't afford to repay as they inevitably have missed rent as that is the only reason I would talk to them. Or they bog off to different countries and don't tell me so I get confused phonecalls from the subletters.

How many times have I heard about redundancy, job losses, marital crisis, cut backs etc, and still had to ask for the rent money. I am not heartless! People, I am just doing my job. You may say I am lucky to have a job but it feels so soul-less now. I am driven (forcefully and not by myself either) by targets set by goodness knows who. If there is no money, then I can't get it! Why don't they understand this?

And then at the moment the company is going through huge changes. Changes which will ultimately see the company coming out at the top of its field, providing better services and saving oodles of money as they're going to make loads of us redundant and my job role is squarely in the middle of that bunch of redundancies. As my job is largely at a desk and over the phone, they are going to centralise it. And I am just not centra enough it would seem.

So this is me. Pregnant. Frustrated beyond belief with my soul-less job. About to be made redundant. I should be pleased surely but I have to tell you, the prospect of no income and a new baby is less than appealing.

And its snowing.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Perfect Paula I may not be...

Much has been said about Perfect Paula and Manic Martha, but what about the person in between? For example, me? I’m not totally chaotic but I do suffer from periodic time leakage, the days just seem to slip by while my house gets no cleaner, the children don’t really get a ‘proper’ piece of me and as for the husband, well, that kind of nonsense will just have to wait for a day when I don’t collapse into bed unconscious before my head even reaches the pillow.

But then there are those rare beatific days when I wake up and without really even seeming to have a plan, the day goes by at a sensible rate. I play with the little ones, get the recycling done, do the online shop and manage to have an adult conversation when husband gets home. No one is late, the lunches are made, dinner is passable (I did say I wasn’t quite Perfect Paula remember) and there’s more than enough time for a little nonsense after an evening of a bath and book.

What I long for though is a little consistency. And I don’t mean one day Paula, the next day Martha either.

So to this end I recently read a book designed to help poor old Martha turn into Paula. Basically it says keep a diary, a log of tasks to be done and to actually spend time thinking about when I want them done. Inspired, I went straight out and bought a Filofax. I also bought an extra diary section. I already live by my diary as I am self employed however my second diary is to keep my homemaking log as I have affectionately called it.

A few days ago I wrote out absolutely everything I need to do in and to this house to get it how I want it, and to get it running exactly how I want it to run. My next job is going to be going down this list of jobs and detailing exactly how I am going to get these tasks done. So ‘Clear downstairs cupboard’ will turn into a list something like ‘sort through all coats and shoes, do box for charity, sweep out murky corners, be ruthless’. That sort of thing. I didn’t say I have done this yet but I like to think that I’ve made a start. To be truthful, I’m not sure I want to be Perfect Paula, for one thing, my husband would probably have a heart attack and that is not the desired outcome here. It’s not to say that I am happy in my chaos, as actually generally I am frequently pretty hacked off with it, just that as I said before, I want to find a happy medium.