New sofa = new rules

A few weeks ago I had one of those ‘I can’t live like this’ moments. These can be about anything – a spot that I’ve picked that won’t go away, the boys constantly pawing at me, some tech on a website not working properly, dinner needing to be cooked every night … the list goes on. The moment a few weeks ago was about the sofa. I bought it from DFS 5 years ago, it was ex-display, available for delivery the following week and started to fall apart 3 months after it was delivered. The cushions collapsed, zips broke, my youngest son painted one of the arms green and the dog had an ‘accident’ against it. I put up with (and cleaned the paint & dog pee off) it for years as the choice was between a new sofa and food….. food won. In a fit of pique (and trying to find something to do with the boys while the car was being MOT’d) at the end of the school holidays, my partner and I took the boys to DFS to choose a new sofa. We should probably take a moment here to have a minute’s silence in appreciation of the other people in DFS not losing their sh*t at 2 boisterous boys bouncing all over the furniture for 2 hours in DFS but you know what, they made a sale out of it so we all (kind of) won.

Last week our new sofa arrived, swiftly accompanied by a set of new rules. There is to be no eating on the sofa, no painting it any colour, no shoes around the sofa and in general, it is to be treated with respect at all times. My stepdaughter abides by these rules beautifully, as do her father and I. Any mother of boys knows that they tend to view furniture not as a beautiful style statement for their home, it’s more a receptacle to absorb their energy or be used as a fort for an energetic game.

The good news is that my biceps are getting a fantastic workout stopping the little one, mid dive, on his way to crashing onto the sofa and my brace position to catch him before he lands on it, is developing nicely. I seem to remember the same rules, brace position and bicep challenges from the early days with the old sofa. Fingers crossed the kids learn and abide the rules before this sofa starts to fall apart and I look forward to, one day, being able to relax on it without having to be on my guard when the kids are around.

Taking kids to Ikea is not for the faint hearted

Once the new sofa had arrived it highlighted how shabby a lot of the rest of the house is. With 3 kids and a blank weekend in front of us my partner and I thought a trip to Ikea would solve both, the shabby furniture and the ‘what shall we do with the kids all day?’ issue. In a way it did as getting to, from and around Ikea took almost all day, what felt like 10 years off my life and the remainder of my sanity. We arrived around lunchtime thinking food first, shopping later. Clearly the rest of south London had the same idea as the queues were phenomenal and even after lunch, the whole of Ikea was rammed. This did not make for a relaxing trip. Not that any trip with 5 of us all talking over each other, getting trapped in the displays (the little one) sulking and refusing to move from a bedroom display (the middle one), wanting one of everything that was pretty/displayed nicely (the oldest one) was ever going to be relaxing, but we tried.

Due to a combination of the above our estimated 90 minute trip to Ikea lasted nearly 5 hours then we had the joy of an hour long journey home and rebuilding the furniture the other end. Sensibly we left that until the next day meaning that our entire weekend was focused around the one trip, the children had been suitably entertained and the only person who had a meltdown in the entire process was me.

Sometimes I can be too blunt

Bluntness is something that runs in my family. It is something I’ve worked on relentlessly in my adult life particularly since hearing Elizabeth Gilbert talk in 2016 where she said: ‘people tell me they’re happy to look at my unfinished work and that they’ll be brutally honest…… why on earth would I let them do that? They’ve already told me they’re going to be brutal!’

Recently I was working with a new client who felt their website had lost its way and was no longer delivering the message they wanted to give out. As part of pitching for the work I offered them a website review. They agreed and said ‘don’t worry about sparing our feelings, we don’t feel attached to the website’. I took this literally, delivered a detailed website review praising what was done well and commenting on what could be improved/where there were broken links etc. It was only when we had a Skype chat, a couple of weeks following the review that the client started by saying: ‘thanks for the review and don’t worry, we didn’t take it personally’ that I realised perhaps I needed to sugar coat things a little more.

Everyday life gets busy and when trying to run a business, a household and a blended family, sometimes I feel there isn’t always time to say things as delicately as they could be said. My partner pointed this out the other day when he said ‘your bluntness can be very hurtful at times’. Point taken and something that occasionally I need reminding with. Whilst I’m not going to be dishonest and say something that isn’t true, I am going to consider ‘is this the nicest way I can say something?’ and ‘If I was on the other end of this sentence, how would I like to hear it?’ from now on.

When things get difficult, communicate

When we get bad news or are confronted with a difficult situation it’s easy to go into panic mode as a default. Panic means we look at the different tools we have instantly for surviving/getting out of the difficulty and and we don’t necessarily find the best answers. Very often we can rub people up the wrong way because we tend to see how the difficulty is affecting us and not consider everyone around us.

Yesterday was a panic day. I work during school hours, then again when the kids are in bed. One day a week the kids go to an after school club and I can arrange meetings that go past the handy for non-working parents, 3:15pm pick up time. I’d arranged to meet a client about a new website 35 minutes away from school, ensuring I had enough time to do the meeting and still be the attentive mother picking the kids up from activities. So far, so good. 2 hours before the meeting I received a text message from the school saying one of the clubs had been cancelled and my eldest son would need collecting at 3:15pm. Bugger. I immediately panicked. If I cancelled the meeting I would look flakey and it would look as though I wouldn’t prioritise the work coming in. If I didn’t cancel, my son would be abandoned at school with no solid plan. I’d already exhausted the list in my head of anyone I know who could pick him up. I briefly considered asking my partner to leave work then abandoned that idea as it would be much trickier for him to leave in the middle of his working day, than for me to come up with another plan.

Not knowing what to do and with the clock ticking I emailed the school, explained my quandary and asked them what they thought would be the best option for my son. 20 minutes later (they don’t hang about!) they emailed back apologising for the short notice for cancelling the club, offered to put him in a different after school activity and pretty much saved the day. I managed to go to the meeting, my son was not abandoned at the school gates and it reminded me of just how awesome the people running the school are. Lesson learned – don’t try and do everything myself, reach out, communicate (nicely) and let others help where they can.

Sometimes we all drop the ball

There seems to be a theme at the moment in my posts with feeling overwhelmed. A lot of it has to do with it being a busy time of year, we have a load of family birthdays, as well as 2 of our childrens. People start talking about Christmas, expecting us to make a commitment when there are so many things to consider and a whole host of work has come in that is all time sensitive.

Most of the time I’m good at juggling a busy schedule; work, parenting, relationship, life admin, but every now and then I drop the ball. Not always intentionally but the daily load becomes too much. Last night was one of those nights – too much running around during the day, dashing from meetings to school pick up, having family over for dinner, a load of work not completed and whilst trying to do it all at 9pm I got a migraine. My body had just had enough and I was forced to admit defeat.

This was a big deal for me. Despite my partner constantly telling me to, I never take my foot off the gas and I would rather stay up until 5am completing work that has a deadline, than extend the date or admit that I need help. I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t wake up, pulse racing, at 6am with the weight of my to-do list in my head but I started sorting it pretty quickly and accepted that it just hadn’t been possible to do everything in the ridiculously short space of time I had yesterday.

My 5 Things posts are always published by midnight on Thursday and yet it’s 9:40am on Friday and I’m still writing it. The world hasn’t ended because it’s being published late and I don’t feel I’ve let myself down by having to drop the ball. I’ve finally recognised that I can’t do everything and asking for help and looking after me isn’t a bad thing. I know it’s going to take a lot of practise but I’m going to work harder at prioritising from now on.