Category Archives: Work

That’s My Daughter in the Water

When I got a promotion at work about a year ago it meant that I had to up my working days to 4 (plus a little more).  As a result and in order to make things work for our family, The Native arranged to go down to 4 working days.

Mondays are his Daddy/Daughter Day with The Duchess and to be honest, I never anticipated they would become what they now are.

He makes such an effort to take her out and do things with her.  It has genuinely become a time that he cherishes.  With my marathon of a maternity leave now only days away, we are both grieving losing that Monday because we know what it means to her and we both understand and see that it has really come to be something quite special for him, too.

Today they had a day out in Wells in Somerset.  They visited a tractor shop – as you do in the West Country – and then went on to the stunning Wells Cathedral.  Image

They trundled around the Cathedral, charming (at least in The Native’s account of things) the older visitors.  But the best bit of the day was walking around the moat.  The Native showed me this picture when I got home.  I love her mischievous face.  It tells a story.  And there is definitely a story there.  Image

“I told her that if she caught a pigeon, she could keep it.”

Thankfully she hasn’t yet inherited my insane fear of pigeons and seagulls (and I will argue that there is a VERY good reason to fear them).  She took the challenge seriously.  As a girl should.

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“But then she came across this freakishly over-confident pigeon.  The thing wouldn’t move and came right up to her.  She was reaching out to grab it and I had to scream, ‘DON’T TOUCH IT!'”

Hey.  He set the challenge.

Even when The Native “loses” his Mondays, long may Daddy/Daughter Days reign.

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Meals We Make: Simple Sausages and Roasted Vegetables

I am not a food blogger.  My knives are so blunt I would happily hand one over to The Duchess to do some digging in her sand table.  In fact, should Gordon Ramsay ever attempt to use my kitchen knives, he would skip his typical effing and blinding for the better option of stabbing me in a fit of blunt-knife-induced rage  That is, until he realized that their ineptitude also applies to weaponry.

I don’t flambé or reduce or whip up a succulent red wine jus.   I don’t stray too far away from a recipe and I DEFINITELY do not create my own.  Last time that happened, we had a dessert that resembled a poo and tasted like cinnamon flavoured dirt.

You see, what I am is a working mother to a toddler. The child has the hunger grumps by the time I get home, or as The Sister says, she is hangry. This is about survival, my friends.  It is the pre-dinner dance. We waltz around the kitchen with her little legs trying to match the pace and rhythm of mine.  I cook.  She claws at my legs.  I stir.  She shouts, “up.  Up.  UP.  UP!  UUUUUUUP!”  I sauté.  She sticks her head in between my knees.  And then we repeat this…..1, 2, 3…..1, 2, 3.  My goals are simple: 1) Prepare a meal without having my pants pulled down 2) Cook something that doesn’t look or taste like a poo.

Over the last few months The Native and I have done our best to create a list of meals that we have tried, prioritizing what is easy, what is cheap, and how long things take.   And yes, there was a spreadsheet involved.  What?!   That’s not complicated.  Like JUS wouldn’t?!    (I was DYING to throw that in there).

So, when I was in the hair salon recently, flicking through the September copy of Easy Living and saw this recipe, I thought…..ahem….easy.  (Perhaps the clue is in the name.)

Prep time: 10-15 minutes.  Apprxm 1 round with the toddler.

Difficulty: Really easy (living)

Cost: As cheap as a Lidl’s perfume, £5.50 – £6.70 ($8.50 – $10.60)

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 large sausages
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 red onions
  • 1 butternut squash
  • rosemary
  • olive oil

Pre-heat your oven to 200* (Gas Mark 6, 390*F).  De-seed and cut the red peppers into chunks.  Peel and de-seed the buttnernut squash and cut that bad boy into chunks, too (apprxm size – 1 inch).  I used about half of the squash and save the rest for another recipe.  Slice the red onions into eighths, because I’m not so keen on shoving whole quarters of red onion into my gob.  Are you?!

….Really?

……To each their own.

Place all of the vegetables in the bottom of the Pyrex dish you got as a wedding present.  Plop the sausages (for what else can you do with sausages but plop) on top, along with a few sprigs of rosemary.  We used Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Bramley Apple Pork Sausages.  The sweetness of the apple was really nice with the subtle sweetness of the vegetables.  If you can’t find sausages with apple in them (ahem: America), why not pull that spare apple out of your fridge, peel it and chuck it in.  I promise it will really add something!

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There she blows, ploppy sausages and all. Ready to go in the oven.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Pop that sucker into the oven for 40 minutes.  Take the dish out.  Turn the sausages and cook for another 5 minutes, if needed.   And voilà.  Your working-woman, Mum-of-a-toddler no-fuss, very-brief-pre-dinner-dance dish.

You can serve it with a toasted roll or on top of some mash.  Yes, pleeeeease.

Look up more recipes on Easy Living.

Children or Career?

I was in my final year at university and I was taking a Family Studies class.  With  my carefully crafted essay (read: I was printing it at 3.30pm, when it was due at 4pm), I made my way to the classroom on the ground floor, crossed the semi-circle of gathering students, and sat myself at a desk under the windows.  We had written our essays on traditional versus modern roles of males and females and were preparing to argue our points.  When you become a parent, who should work and how should they do it? Should anything of the traditional role be maintained?  How do we feel about fathers staying home with the children instead of mothers?

I sat listening to my cohorts and I mostly agreed.  Why should both not be able to work?  Why should both not be able to chase their ambitions?  Why should women be expected to hold their spatulas instead of their briefcases, don their aprons instead of their business suits?

But then I started to think back to discussions that had taken place over the course of the last few weeks when we had been talking about children, rebellion, and why they behave as they do.  I collected my insight and opened my mouth before my good reason had a chance to stop me:

If we say that, we cannot complain about how our children behave.  We cannot expect to chase our ambitions and dreams first and to be parents second, to work in an office in place of spending that time investing in, nurturing and caring for our children and then act surprised when they won’t listen to us.  

I held my breath as silence filled the room.  It’s not what my paper said, but common sense was screaming that we can’t blame a teacher, a peer, the neighbours or TV for the way our children behave or treat us.  We will either cling to the primary role we are given in this life to lead them or someone else will lead them instead.

Cherie Blair (Tony Blair’s wife for those of you not from the UK) was recently criticized for publicly challenging the attitude of “Yummy Mummies” who stay at home to raise children instead of working.    I haven’t read the transcript of the event, but I do know that the press will always gun for a reaction.  Having read the article, I think this provides a decent summary:

“One of the things that worries me now is you see young women who say: ‘I look at the sacrifices that women have made and I think why do I need to bother, why can’t I just marry a rich husband and retire?’ and you think how can they even imagine that is the way to fulfil yourself, how dangerous it is.  

And yes, I agree.  Partly.

I agree that if your view is to marry rich, then your view is distorted.  Businesses fail.  Economies shrink.  Companies cut back.  We know that.  Marry because you long to commit your life to loving that person, not because you think this partnership will enable you to retire and rear children.

What I don’t agree with is the implication, should you be fortunate enough to be given the option, that if you feel your greatest fulfilment will be found in being a stay-at-home-parent to your children, that this is less worthy than being professionally ambitious.  What is more ambitious than leading your children?  What is more challenging than pouring your life into another human?  It will be the most disciplined, hand-wringing, heart-warming, gut-wrenching, rewarding work you do.  And choosing to do it is hard.   I often wrestle with my professional ambitions, ambitions that would certainly require me to be full-time employed, and my personal desire to be with my daughter.  I am positive that most parents wrestle with the same and we  might come to different conclusions based on our circumstances.  But I know that I am not setting a bad example for my daughter by choosing her.   I am not just telling her that I think she is important.  It is a way for me to show her that she is and I honestly believe she will be better for it.

And here is the other thing:

Even good men could have an accident or die and you’re left holding the baby.”

It is foolish to need someone.  It requires humility.  It requires reliance.  It requires trust.  And last time I checked, people are not permanent.  They will let you down.  They will leave, in one way or another.  They will also affirm you, support you, hold you, and they will absolutely fill your life to brimming.   I could make a list of what-ifs about our lives, about what would happen to me, as a wife, mother, and expat, if my husband died and I was left with a part-time charity sector job that would barely pay the rent.  I could spend my life building my professional house, in case my husband’s crumbles, but we don’t make decisions from fear.  Neither do we make decisions assuming that each member’s self-sufficiency is at the core of what is best for our family.

Our family has holistic needs in the way that individuals have them.  If I were to argue that I needed to pursue my career ambitions to be happy, but it overlooked the needs of my family, I’m not setting an example for my child, I’m being selfish.  We make decisions that account for all of our family members in the hope that spiritually, relationally, financially, emotionally, and mentally we will be the ones to lead our children.  And respectfully, Ms Blair, that might just mean putting my ambitions to the side for now.

Work it Mama

Given my recent proclamation about how I felt okay about going back to work, I’m sure that what I’m about to say makes me sound like a woman who is too easily swayed, a woman lacking conviction, but this week has been tough.  Tiring.  Worrying.  Frustrating.  Tough.

Last week, we all sailed through my return to work without so much as a bump in the road – okay, maybe negligible speed bumps.  We were tired and The Duchess started to get her first tooth, but there were no tears and no anxiety.  In fact, when I dropped The Duchess off to the in-laws, her lip didn’t so much as wobble.  I’m still trying to decide whether I’m going to take that personally or not.

But the weekend brought clingy behaviour and I wondered whether this was all going to be as easy as I first assumed.   Continue reading

216

216.

I mentioned that while on maternity leave I haven’t been counting.  I’ve instead been living in the Zone of Timelessness and soaking up the fact that the main responsibility I had for 11 months was to be with my daughter.

But now it’s over.  This week I return to work.

And honestly, I’m okay.

The irony is that one of the reasons I’m okay is because of counting.  216. Continue reading

In Time

I’ve spent a lot of my life counting days.  In school it was the days to Christmas break when I would get to see my extended family and eat myself ill on my aunt’s peanut butter pie or the countdown to the 2.5 month summer holiday, where the heat would lead me to laze around someone else’s pool (American Resident Rule  #1776: always make sure you are friends with someone with a pool).  As I got older and summer breaks sadly became a thing of the past, it was simple, the days until the weekend, the days until my next paycheck, the days until that holiday that I really needed – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.  We spend a lot of our lives counting away days. Continue reading