Monday, September 21, 2009

If you want something done, ask a busy person

The weekend saw Yummy Mummy on an unusual social outing. A very good friend is getting married soon and I was drafted in to help organise and then attend her surprise hen night. It involved all the usual things, pole dancing, having a nice dinner and getting a bit tiddly, dressing her up in something wholly inappropriate. J is one of life's superachievers and so are most of her friends. I was surrounded by three women who had done an ultra marathon across Namibia recently, a couple who regularly go on missions to look after neglected Chinese children and a whole host of bankers, lawyers and super high-flying girls to boot. These are girls who think nothing of scaling a mountain in the morning, followed by a light brunch and windsurfing to Macau in the afternoon. Well, maybe I exagerate, but you get the idea.

My and the only other Mummy sat at one end of the table and talked about nappies and childcare and in-laws and work. We had a bit of a winge about all of them.

Then it came to all of us saying how we knew the hen and why we love her. All rather nice and cosy. What shocked me was what she said about me in return. She said that she thought I was amazing because she had no idea how she could be as organised and fit as much into my life as I do. She said that she sometimes found it a bit intimidating (in a nice way) that I could have such a good job, be married, row and train as hard as I do and be a good mother. I was about to differ on that last point when she said that she had watched me become a mother and, after a few bumps in the track, had held it all together so well and continue to do so. I did the only sensible thing, which was to protest a little and burst into tears.

Not enough people tell us Mums, working or full time mummies, that we do an incredible job in keeping it all together. So to my Mummy friends, well done ladies. What J said to me goes for us all too.

And if you want another example, then head here for another great example of a day in the life of a working Mummy.

Going potty

As Eve gallops towards her 2nd birthday, we have started to think about the dreaded potty training. I know of nobody who has said this is an easy exercise so I am not much looking forward to it. A few weeks ago Eve started to tell us when she had a poo. Progress, I thought, so I trotted off to buy a baby seat for our loo and a little step for her to stand on. I decided against a potty because we just don't have the space and she loves to copy Mummy and Daddy and so the loo seemed a sensible choice. I picked one with a bear on it but when it came home she screamed every time I tried to put it on the loo, to the extent of snatching it off and throwing it across the floor.

I tried another tack, I started using the damned thing myself when I went to the loo. It is not easy trying to have a wee on a seat ergonomically designed for a toddler, esepcially not with a bum my size, but I thought it was worth a try. However, each time I did this, accompanied with "Mummy is sitting on the bear bear toilet to have a poo" she would cry and try to push me off. I had largely given up as it being too early and too traumatic for us both, until fate gave me a helping hand today.

Eve was ill over the weekend. She had a high fever for a few days, the usual non-specific childhood stuff. She was fine in herself and it came down by Sunday lunchtime so we didn't worry too much. Except today she came out in the most miserable rash on her bottom, all bright red and looking a bit like a burn. I cursed the makers of her nappies, took it off and she ran around happily with no pants on. We made it clear, however, that if she needed a wee or a poo then she should ask. She did, twice. She insisted I put the bear seat on the loo and she happily sat on it. I read her a book, it was just too dull sitting there waiting for something to happen. Both times nothing did, but we flushed the loo and washed our hands anyway.

Once she did a wee on the floor, but then asked to be taken to the loo. Too little too late but at least she is getting the idea.

Then later she did a poo (mercifully the nappy was back on for that one) but asked again to go to the loo where I removed the nappy and wiped her bum.

So far so good. It will be a long way to go before we actually get anywhere near being able to coordinate asking and going, but at least she is no longer screaming every time we put her near the loo.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tell tale

I am really enjoying my motorbike. I am finally getting used to riding her (she is so sexy and cool that it must be female) and having a lot of fun. The Boy is occasionally allowed to ride her. He rides much better than I do, but it is MY bike (ah, the inner toddler comes out now) so I like him to ask when he uses it.

On Saturday I called Eve from Singapore airport just before I got on my flight home. The Boy had gone rowing. During the conversation the following occured:

YM - Has Daddy gone rowing?
Eve - Yey
YM - Did he go in the car?
Eve - No
YM - Did Daddy go in the car? (thinking I was just getting the default no response from Eve when she doesn't understand the question)
Eve - Daddy vroom
YM - Ah, did Daddy take Mummy's motorbike?
Eve - Mummy vroom, Daddy vroom
YM - Did you see Daddy take his motorbike helmet and jacket into the lift?
Eve - Daddy vroom

Daddy had not actually asked Yummy Mummy whether he could borrow my bike and had Eve not told on him then I would have been none the wiser. Atta girl!

Gushy one

I spent my lunchtime today sitting with an assortment of cuddly toys under a big tent (chairs and a sheet) with a mini tent (old baby playgym and Eve's blanket) beneath it. This was because Eve had grabbed my rucksack off the shelf and I came upon the bright idea of packing for a trip... to the tents. Eve was very diligent in her packing - kitchen utensils, a book, a ball to play with, her toy Percy train, a couple of cars and a mini-motorbike. We unpacked them in the tent and set up camp.

This led me to wonder at what point my daughter, in fact all children, just become to utterly cute that you never want them to change?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Looking forwards

Having spent the evening on Saturday justifying my decision to keep working, I find that today I get offered a great new job. It is internal at Gnome Bank where I currently work, two or three steps up from where I am now and I would be mad to turn it down.

However, it was a horribly difficult decision. The job I have now is with a nice team and a lovely boss. I get to work pretty flexibly and from home whenever I can. I seem to be doing rather well at it. But it isn't the new job and the amazing career move that new one is going to be.

Yes, it was a really, really difficult decision to come to. I will no longer be able to work from home, well, sometimes but it will be the exception rather than the regular pattern I have now. This means that every day of every week I will leave my baby at 8am and not get back until after 6pm. I have no idea how I will feel about this. In reality, I have not been working from home much recently because I have been so busy and have been travelling lots (which the new job won't require me to do as much, if at all) but the option and flexibility was always there and it won't be with the new job. I'll have a team to manage and be expected to be in the office.

I keep telling myself that Eve will be off to nursery soon anyway so there won't be as much point in working from home then. Except I will be there when she comes home two days a week, which would be very precious. Yes, it has been a horrible decision and one I feel very selfish over.

In the end the choice was clear. I am lucky and financially I don't need to work, I work because I enjoy it and the money does come in handy, but I could give up and we could still pay the mortgage. At the moment I am spending time apart from Eve for a job that is OK but not stellar and isn't really going anywhere. This is partly why I've not become reconciled with the whole working Mum thing, I kept asking myself why I was doing it. If I am going to give up time with Eve then I would rather it be for something I love, that is enhancing my career, that I feel adds a huge amount of value to my life. When I thought about it like that the choice became a very easy one. Over time I may even be able to get more flexibility again. After all, I did with my former two jobs and someone has to blaze the trail.

If it doesn't work out? Well I can always give up work. At least I will be actively making the choice having given it a really good try.

As two wise women have told me, you make the choice and make it clearly and for the right reasons. My reasons feel right and I can always do something completely different if it all goes wrong. But I may yet come to regret my last post about trailing spouses.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Revelations on a boat trip

After a pretty hideous week at work, including flying back to Hong Kong on a Saturday morning and thereby missing the three great loves of my life, Eve, rowing and riding the new motorbike, I found myself at a fortieth birthday party on Saturday night. Yummy Mummy doesn't get out as much as she used to so the prospect of free flowing booze while trundling around Hong Kong on a boat was all rather appealing. It also served to give me a reminder about the existence of professional trailing spouses.

I've not had much exposure to them lately, we've been here so long now that most of our friends are pretty "local" in attitude. I had rather forgotten the trailing spouse brigade.

The one thing that really struck me, as usual, is how little I have to actually say to these women. I had thought that now I have a child we would have more in common. Sadly not. After the initial "How are the children? Which school are they at?" comments, my life is so completely different from theirs that we simply have nothing at all in common to talk about. In the past this would usually mean that I would end up talking to the husbands about banking, but now I have a child they too treat me differently. For the first time since I came to Hong Kong I really felt like I was being judged for the choice I have made to stay at work. A number of husbands asked me why I decided to go back to work, one even flinched when I (quite honestly) said I thought I would go a bit potty on my own at home all day. I found myself having to justify my choice to keep working - I love my job, it is a good role model for my daughter, I have an excellent work-life balance in my job, blah blah blah. I started to feel quite upset as I soaked up the disapproving looks and comments.

Then, as we got off the boat, something happened that made me feel a lot better. One lady's husband was staying on the boat a bit longer to party whereas she was getting off the boat early with us. I turned to her and commented that one could tell who would be getting up with the children early tomorrow, to which she said "Oh no, I have two helpers so I won't need to get up tomorrow at all". Hmm, so you've not actually stopped working to look after your children then.

Friday, September 4, 2009


I was with Eve walking past the high-end luxury brand shops today (on the way to the Star Ferry to go to a museum). In one window was a horrible fur handbag, Eve looked, pointed and said "cat". Well, precisely.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The mother(s) I want to be

As I was running last night, having put Eve to bed, I realised that much of what I think a good mother should be has been shaped by some of the really excellent role models I have had the privilege to meet. This is a mixed blessing, it is probably the source of so much of my working mother guilt that I have had few really excellent high flying working mother role models, but they have also shown me the type of mother I want to be. My own mother reads this so I won't describe her, she knows she has been a fantastic role model and I consider the strength of our relationship into adulthood (I was not an easy child and am no easier to deal with as an adult!) testimony to her skill and patience. However, as I was running the mother of one of my ex boyfriends popped into my mind.

D, my ex, was lovely. Kind, gentle, adored me. It was destined to fail, even though he had a motorbike! He was one of 4 brothers and his mother, M, had always wanted a girl but never had one. They lived in a glorious old farmhouse in a village just a little too far from a mainline rail station to be considered London commuter belt. His family were very religious, I met D at a Christian summer camp, but by no means stiffling or judgmental in their faith. M had made it her mission to bring up her children surrounded by as much love as possible. Even though her sons were often quite errant in their ways, the one I dated especially so, she always met everything with complete and unconditional love. This wasn't to mean there wasn't any discipline, there was, but it was metered out with such fairness and kindness that it just seemed to be more effective somehow. She met any news, good or bad, with a big hug and kind words. I adored her and she really liked me. When I was accepted at Oxford to read theology I think she may have been as proud as my own parents.

There was no expectation of achievement but just a desire for each child to be happy.

If I can give Eve half the feeling of support, love and sense of infinite possibility for happiness that she conveyed to her children then I will consider it a job well done.