On: Working Around The Kids

working-around

Recently, an experienced career lady emailed me and asked for my advice on how to ‘work around the kids’.

I’m no expert. Having been fully self employed for little over six months, I’m definitely a newbie. But if I can help any woman who is at the employment crossroads due to their family commitments, then I’m happy to share my experiences so far.

When to work

Everyone has a different family dynamic, but for me, my sole aim is to avoid childcare before and after school. I have no nearby family to help me in that way, so it’s either work ‘school hours’, or find a full time job at Senior level and pay two lots of childcare.

My core hours are two days a week, 9:30-2:30pm plus one evening, and I get away from my screen for at least 30 minutes each sitting. Being disciplined with work time comes easily, when there’s childcare costs attached to it. Suddenly you become really productive when you know you’d otherwise be paying someone cash per hour, for you to sit there faffing around.

Yup, childcare. There’s a difference between ‘working around your kids’ and ‘working around your kids’. Makes no sense until you try, but things like the ‘Working Moms’ propaganda we see splattered everywhere, are a complete fallacy.

working_mum

I can’t send an email without my toddler son smacking the keys on my macbook. It’s been to Apple hospital because he hit the trackpad with a block and cracked it. Lesson learned. And he’s a kid – he wouldn’t thank me for trying to work whilst managing him too. So whether you have a childminder, family member or nursery, figure out how much you want to work and how much it will cost you, versus your hourly rate…

Your Hourly Rate

Naturally, this will vary massively between industries. I’m not the main earner in my house, but I worked out that by my youngest not doing the full time nursery thing and me working on my old salary, I’m ‘saving’ a significant chunk a month by not giving so much to a childcare setting and me being at home instead, which leads me to…

Self Care

I completely underestimated how mentally consuming self employment is. I have become a lousy wife. I can’t remember when I last watched TV (apart from GBBO. Got to have GBBO). But it’s VERY easy to forget that the extra money you don’t pay out in care to go to work somewhere? Well that should hopefully go some way towards reminding you of the financial value you are providing to the house. Never forget your financial and emotional worth. In your working hours at home, don’t:

Become your other halves’ secretary
Clean the house

But do:

Have a lunch break. You are at work. You are entitled to treat lunch just as others do.
Create your environment. Put your music on. I burn my Lampe Berger that my husband can’t stand to be around, but I love. Or I listen to a podcast, do 10 mins of a language.
Look after your taxes! Which leads me on to…

Taxes and Incoming/Outgoings

Even if you think you’ll earn under your personal allowance, make sure you set aside 20% of what you bill out for. Set up a different account for tax alone (an ISA might be a good idea) and get into the habit of whipping away a chunk each time you get paid. Label outgoings clearly on your statement too. Get advice from a trustworthy accountant and decide how much help you’ll need (I am prepared to get lots of help, especially in these early years).

What can I add to the list to help my contact? I’d love it if you could please leave a comment with your tips for working around the kids!

Continue Reading

On: Struggles With Personal Blogging

on the hill

Since blogging began, it has helped both established and aspiring creatives to find a platform, so they can engage with their audience and deliver the content of their dreams.

It’s a double-edged sword. Blogging has allowed many excellent writers to surface and gather the following that they deserve. There is also a lot of mediocre ‘churn’ that typically comes with a social form of publishing

I have a hypersensitive ‘churn gland’, to the point that I struggle to maintain any type of personal blog. I much prefer writing about things far less removed from the inner workings of my own life. I’ll explain why:

I’m fairly ‘boring’

I don’t mean to shoot myself down – I’m happier than ever these days. But I’m not the sort who gets up to super-exciting things. If I’m not working, I’m looking after my two kids, aged 1 and 4. I’d make an awful Mummy Blogger (see below for the ‘I’d Make an Awful Mummy Blogger’ section). I don’t get to go to lots of launches of things these days and less and less do I want to write about them anyway; unless it’s somewhere fun or independent that makes more of a story than ‘I was invited along to town’s new Bella Pasta and I ate some pasta’.

I take crap photos

Sadly, I’m not a photographer and I find as much joy these days in looking at perfectly arranged vases of tulips next to an avocado, as I do trying to take them. Personal tales require they type of photos that I just can’t take very well; usually because I have a child threatening to do a poo, or one batting my yoghurt-smeared phone out of my hand. I like royalty free professional pics, and the rare, uninterrupted time with my SLR on auto, that kind of does it all for me.

I’d make an awful mummy blogger

Yes, I’m always with kids, but I am definitely no parenting expert. And so I do not profess to be one. Some bloggers do a fantastic job of making parenting look so stylish and breezy, others do well writing about how hard it is (and have a realistic take on parental booze consumption). Others now blog full time and have fantastic, shiny hair not full of sweets and sick. I love my kids, we live together, eat together and do loads of stuff together, but I don’t have that ability to write myself as a funny, fashionable or sagely mum.

Gimmicky language maketh me cringe

And there’s a lot to be had out there. Perhaps it’s a competitive thing; scared of not being exciting enough, so there’s this tendency to exclamate, swear loads, use slang. I can’t get on board with it.

I probably sound like the dullest blogger on the planet. You could probably say that is true. I’m just an old-fashioned defender of the published word and I take my hat off to those who really care about it too.

Continue Reading

On: Being What you Teach

This post is dedicated to the class of lovely people, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the last five weeks.

With bags full of creativity, they have attended my ‘Blogging for Beginners’ class of an evening in Harrogate. Imagine if they had a blog tutor, who had to stand there and admit that had all but given up on their own blog?

Ahem… *hides face*.

I felt almost as guilty as admitting to my actual Lindor consumption (it’s bad), or my odd crush on Steve Buscemi. The class has made me reflect on where my head’s been at for the last six months. The answer is quite clearly that I’ve been everywhere else apart from in my own creative space.

So what’s been with the hold up on N&S? I can fortunately say that freelancing and teaching has kept me really busy, so much so that I’ve had no time at all to commit to ‘free’ writing. But in reality I have to face the fact that it was my blog in the first place, that got me my first bits of work and consequently got me to where I am today.

And for that I am grateful, and so very proud of my first class back after maternity leave. They’ve put up with me so well and so I hope to see them all again one day for some further workshops.

Continue Reading

The Joys of Glamping

IMG_20160531_202524298_HDR

The idea of camping is often far nicer than the reality. Hurrah for Gin nailed it for me this week with her take on it all:

camping-1
credit: Hurrah for Gin

So this is why I booked a glamping trip up in Berwick-upon-Tweed earlier this month. The ‘wigwams’ at our holiday park Pot-a-Doodle-Do are dotted around a field like tents, but have the pleasant perks of a fridge, electric and a heater… and no swearing husband also trying to erect a tent and occupy two kids under five.

I started to have a bit of a wobble in the car, an hour or so into our journey up the A1. The sky grew darker and my tentative glances at BBC weather kind of made me wish I’d forgotten my phone. The traffic was awful and we started to bicker about anything we could think of (including half a Co-op cheese and ham sandwich).

It was therefore massively pleasing that when we got to the glamping site , we found that our wigwam was much bigger than I anticipated. Somebody had also left just over £1 in the electricity meter, handy for getting warm whilst we unpacked.

Having read a few reviews, we decided to travel with the bare minimum in terms of food, knowing that there were nearby supermarkets and takeaways. The local chippy was spot on and we sat outside, determined to enjoy our campfire and stop our food from taking off sideways in the North Sea winds.

The benches within the wigwam fold out to make one large bed (King Size, I reckon), plus a single. There are thick mats to go on top, making a spongey, latexy mattress. Definitely take sheets. We were warm, borderline tropical; so much so that in the end, baby actually slept in a nappy on top of the duvet.

There was a shower block and a kitchen on site. Communal cooking doesn’t come naturally to British families — we’re all just so damn awkward — but we got through it and even managed a bit of small talk whilst making a pasta lunch the next day. We braved the wind and went to the beautiful local beach (my ice cream flew off the cone and landed in my hair, baby laughed). Later on however, the wind died down, the sun came out and our eldest fled from us for most of the evening to hang around with his new mate from the wigwam next door. We toasted marshmallows and we swigged cheap prosecco from plastic flutes.

The following morning I woke up, with a fully charged phone and no grass stuck to my face. Refreshed. I felt a twinge of regret that we were packing up and heading to Edinburgh (where the weather turned out to be fantastic and our flat was great). For £24 per person, per night, glamping isn’t much less than a basic hotel room, but it did offer us the element of adventure and the wild outdoors that we hoped for. All of course within a safe walk of an ASDA and a flushing loo.

IMG_20160531_182338026

IMG_20160531_202524298_HDR

File_002 (3)

Pot A Doodle Do – Activity Centre, Berwick upon Tweed – Borewell, Scremerston, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, UK, TD15 2RJ

 

 

 

Continue Reading

Bluebells in Nidderdale

DSC_0593

Driving along the Summerbridge/Pateley Bridge road today, people were parked in lay-bys, simply agog at the carpets of bluebells just metres from the road.

Pictures don’t really do the scene justice. It was around 5pm, just as the shadows started to grow long.

If blogs could give off a smell (I’ll stick that on the Kickstarter list), this one would would be very garlicky. The wild garlic plants had flowered in their thousands; prettywhite blooms that would look brilliant in a foragers salad. Might leave that one to the experts though.

DSC_0593

Continue Reading