Friday, October 5, 2012

Mary Poppins

One of the fears of working mothers everywhere is the quality of childcare that one is getting.  Of course nobody will ever look after your child the way that you would (admitting that sometimes someone may even do it better), but you want someone who raises your child in roughly the same way you do with roughly the same values.

H, our nanny / housekeeper, has been brilliant.  She is one of these people who "does" babies, in fact in a way that I do not.  She has been great with Eve as a toddler, and Eve's social skills, language and reading and writing are all a little ahead of her peers.  However, Eve started school 2 months ago and all has not been well since.

Eve went to school a cute little girl and came back after her first week with an attitude, opinions and quite clearly has got very used to playground antics to get her own way.  Over the past few weeks it has been clear that H is struggling with our bright and manipulative daughter.  There were a few warning signs that I spotted a while ago - I found out Eve had watched the whole of the Lion King DVD on a weekday and when I challenged H as to why she said that Eve wouldn't let her switch it off.  We have also noticed that Eve has a complete melt down when the Boy or I say no to anything.  However, after a few hours with us and the usual boundaries she is an angel again.  I have tried working with H to discuss the issue, bought her creative things to do with Eve, structured their days.  However, H just doesn't have it in her to discipline Eve and set boundaries the way I need her to so something has to be done.

One option is replacing H.  However, she is great in every other respect and we are thinking of expanding the family and having someone I trust with a new baby will be very important.  Another option is me giving up work, but when I say this the Boy goes white as a sheet.  The money I bring in is useful but he also suspects I would get very bored at home.  So, the final option is getting a professional nanny for Eve.

So I spoke to a nanny agency a few friends have used today.  It seems my options are limited.  Part time childcare in HK doesn't really exist so we have to hire a full time nanny.  I have no issue with this, and H positively bounced with happiness when I told her - she knows she has been struggling and would be keen to learn from a professional.  However, when I worked out what we would end up paying for a full time nanny, a housekeeper (H), school fees at Eve's ridiculously expensive international school and the extras for swimming, ballet, gymnastics classes - suddenly half my salary disappears on child-related costs.  This, alone, is reason for me to give some serious thought to whether we press ahead.

Any ideas more than welcome!

PS.  to prepare Eve for getting a nanny we watched Mary Poppins at the weekend and then Eve wrote down her list of criteria today.  Top two were "can fly" and "can do magic".  I did tell the nanny agency these were Eve's main requirements!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

You know you're old when...

At 5.30am you decide to do yoga and listen to Classic FM rather than go to boot camp.

(in my defence, this came after my last huge week of training before my race in Hawaii and I could barely move - another sign of age, muscles ache and tighten and get sore the more you punish them).

Friday, September 7, 2012

School Mums

I've been rather quiet, deliberately, about Eve's progression into "proper" primary school.  The options for schooling in HK basically fall into two categories 1) local schools - taught almost entirely in Cantonese and 2) hugely oversubscribed international schools to whom you mortgage your life and your soul in order to get a place.  Of the 450 pupils who applied for 80 places at one international school, Eve was one of the lucky few who got in.  I'd like to think it was down to her innate excellence but it may have helped that the teacher who interviewed her goes to our church (so Eve was completely at ease with her during the interview) and me knowing a Governor of the school probably didn't hurt either.  You do what it takes, however much you believe you shouldn't have to!

Eve, of course, trotted off to school on the school bus on the first day with no problem at all and has settled right in.  I, however, have not.

As I have mentioned before, expat women in HK who have children tend not to work.  International schools have clearly taken this as a given for all Mums and every single school related event is in the middle of the work day.  I had taken 3 days off before Eve even started school (parents welcome picnic, orientation morning, first introductory day).  When one of the other Mums organised both a coffee morning and a playdate for the kids within the first week I completely lost the plot and told Mark that he had to take time off for the playdate - it helped that I was on a business trip and not even in the country.  To his credit he took the morning off.  Other than getting lost and having nothing in common with any of the Mums (welcome to my world darling - just because I share their gender I don't share much else), he had a fine time and his overall assessment was that they were "wearing a lot of make-up, all rather high maintenance".  Still, being part of Eve's school community is important to me and I was feeling lonely and, yes, guilty, about not being able to get involved.

Inspiration came after the coffee morning and playdate emails.  When I got them I was relatively polite and apologised for working full time and said my husband would try to come.  Another Mum was far less polite and said that as she worked full time and asked whether they could arrange something she could actually attend.  Another Mum just replied, simply saying "I work, sorry".  Taking the bull by the horns I emailed them both and asked if they fancied lunch in Central where we all work.  So, next Tuesday, we are off for our first working Mum's lunch.  There is no working Mum's association at the school so I think I could have just found myself a new committee to organise...

Monday, August 20, 2012

I'm back

It's been a very long time since I updated this. This has been, in part, because the Gnome bank has been keeping me busy and has stopped access to blogs at work (so no lunchtime updates) and also because as Eve gets bigger things change less frequently. Also, I have more Mummy friends as my friends here in HK and in the UK catch up and become Mummys themselves. I have more people to let of steam to or share those lovely little moments with. However, reading back, I realise what a great log this is of Eve's childhood. In addition to the photos and videos, having a written account of how I am feeling, how I feel about Eve, is very precious. For me even if nobody else reads it and maybe for her one day when she becomes a Mum. So, I'm back.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Small victory

I am not a big fan of posh gyms. Ever since the rather scary BodyPump with Brad experience, I have only used the one near the office for my twice weekly ergo sessions. I joined it, at vast expense, seven years ago and have never got my moneys worth from it. I am also a member of two other private members clubs that have gyms and the University sports centre near where we live. With an ergo in my flat and lots of great trails nearby to run on I have lots of choices so rarely visit my wildly expensive Central gym anymore. As a result I have been contemplating cancelling my membership

For the first time in over a month I went to the gym at lunchtime today. The ergo has a lovely view of HK harbour, in fact it probably has one of the best views in the world from a rowing machine, and as I was pulling away I wondered whether it was worth paying the ridiculous monthly fees just to be able to pop in from time to time.

Then I went to shower and change and managed to lose my locker key. A nice cleaning lady helped me get my stuff out with the spare key, which I returned to the front desk as I left. It's the first time I have ever lost a locker key in any gym so I was rather surprised to be told I would have to pay $150 to replace it (that's HK dollars, so about eleven quid in British money). I pay ten times that as my monthly fee and have been a loyal member for seven years, I politely pointed out, surely they could waive it. The poor guy behind the desk looked very apologetic but told me that was the rule and he couldn't give me my membership card back until I handed over the cash. So, I told him to cancel my membership (which he did with very little protest) and I flounced out leaving him with my membership card still in hand. I would like it noted that I didn't pay the $150 either.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I have a whole bunch of friends who have either just had babies, are pregnant or are thinking of getting pregnant. This includes a friend who once scathingly said when we were both child-less career girls "What's the big deal about being pregnant? Any dumb animal can do it!". Quite a few of my friends who pregnant at similar times to me are now onto number two. My friends with children now almost outnumber my friends without. It seems that I have got to an age when the biological clock, if someone has one, has well and truly sounded the alarm, been put onto snooze a few times, and now refuses to go off.

In some ways, as one of the forerunners amongst my friends, it is nice to be asked about babies, what they do. My best friend is just realising, 4 weeks after gorgeous baby A arrived into her life, that babies don't sleep that much, tend to cry a bit and that it is perfectly OK to call her the "devil child" after a sustained period of days with no sleep. Another friend has realised that you probably shouldn't do a sea change race in an outrigger when you are 6 months pregnant (although as I recall I did try it). It's nice to have so many new members of the Mummy club and, for possibly the first time since I had Eve, I don't feel as lonely as a Mummy.

As for me? I confess, all these babies and friends with babies is making me think. I always said I would consider another when a) Eve was at pre-school b) my career was back on track c) I was fit again and winning races. All boxes are now ticked. Added to that there won't be much of a bonus for the next year or two at the Gnome bank. Perhaps I may be getting broody again myself...

Banking games

I was in the lift up to work yesterday standing next to a grown woman in a smart suit playing a Smurfs game on her iphone. She got off at the investment bank trading floor. Weird.