When a child makes food no-one is allowed to eat that food

Last week my son decided for part of his Home Learning project to make a castle out of a cake. A very tense hour was had while the Swiss rolls were decorated and stacked but late on Thursday night we had a castle ready to wow the class with. Problem is, my son wasn’t well enough for school the next day (probably suffering exhaustion from doing his homework for a change) and the cake sat on the kitchen side. I eyed it warily and suggested I drop it in for the Harvest Cake Sale. This was met with a resounding ‘no’. Later that morning the school texted saying there hadn’t been enough cakes dropped off for the cake sale and could parents please rustle up something by school pick up time. I went back to my son, explained the situation and hoped to be rid of the cake by 3:15. Instead I was sent away with a flea in my ear and the knowledge that this cake wasn’t going anywhere.

Friday night – boys go to their Dad’s and my son’s insistent the cake goes with him. Good riddance to it – I drop it to their Grandma, it’s now their problem, not mine. Or so I thought…. on Sunday I pick the boys up and the cake comes with my son. It’s starting to become like a security blanket for him…. something he never had during his infancy due to my propensity to lose things/leave them at friends’ houses. Not to worry though, I’ve picked the kids up from their Dad’s early as we’re off to a family party so we can take the cake there and finally be rid of it.

Wrong again, my boy refuses to take the cake out of the car. The upshot is, it’s now Thursday, the cake is a week old and is sitting, mouldering on the side like Miss Bloody Havisham’s wedding cake. Hopefully not for much longer though as I need the counter space (to make cakes people are allowed to eat) and I fear the cake will come to a tragic end. By accident of course. At least my son’s decided to get protective of a cake as it’s making me rethink teaching him how to cook and make a meal for the family once a week as I’m already imagining 5 very hungry people while my son avidly guards his cooked creation.

I am too old for theme parks

Fast forward 2 days from cakegate and I’m spending the day with another one of our children (gotta admit, am loving the 1-1 time with each of them). After making my step-daughter swear a solemn vow that she’ll never breathe a word of it to the boys, I took her to Chessington World of Adventures. I’m not sure whether I was doing it more for her or for me as I adore rollercoasters and Chessington is one of my favourite places. The day starts off well. We get there early, the queues aren’t too bad, we get to go on all the rides we want to, twice in some cases and we don’t have my youngest son with us, whinging that there’s too much walking and we can skip all the little rides. What’s more, the weather is perfect, sunny enough to dry our clothes after being on water rides, breezy enough to not be too hot and it’s not overcrowded. So far, the perfect day. After a few hours we head to the burger place on site for lunch (note to self, greasy burgers not such a good idea in a theme park) and then rush back to the rides.

The Chessington App is brilliant, it directs us to the rides, tells us queue times and seems to be accurate. All the rides we want to go on have sizeable queue times at this point and against my better judgement we head to the Black Buckaneer (basically a big ship that swings back and forth). I request a seat in the middle and remind myself to focus on one spot and should be fine. So far, so good until at the last minute we get moved further up the ‘ship’ so a lady and her children can go in the middle. I endure the ride, almost losing my lunch on the 4th swing and am very grateful to hit solid ground afterwards. If there’s anything this experience has taught me, it’s that I’d make a terrible pirate. That’s pretty much it for the rest of the day; the nausea was debilitating (the last time I felt that bad was when crippled with morning sickness), we managed 2 more rides before I had to go home for a lie down. 2 hours later my partner came home and had to make dinner for us all, of which I managed about 3 mouthfuls. After a full night’s sleep I felt better but still had waves of nausea the next day. I may have to face the fact that at aged 37 and a half I’m officially too old for theme parks. OR I could just avoid anything pirate themed from now on, as I discovered a new rollercoaster I like even more than the Vampire.

Working from home isn’t the easy option

For many, I’m living the dream. I get to work for myself, am always available for childcare and can work from my bed, in my pjs if I want to (I very rarely do this but it’s nice to have as an option). A lot of it is great. I am my own boss, I get to take Stitch to work with me (all good until he goes for the delivery drivers) and my overheads are low meaning I can pass the discount onto my clients.

What’s not so great is working from home can mean setting myself impossible deadlines, thinking I can get them done purely because I don’t lose time commuting to and from work. Often after dinner and putting the kids to bed I’ll pull out my laptop and continue working (as you can imagine, my partner is thrilled on the nights I do this).

The other problem with working from home is that I’m seen as available to my friends who either work from home themselves, don’t work or are having a few days off. With only 6 disturbance free hours in which to work each day, it can be really difficult balancing friends wanting to meet up and not feeling stressed by how much time it takes out of my working day. I have a loose system of ‘if we can work alongside each other then pull up a chair and let’s spend the day working alongside each other’. If I haven’t seen someone for ages (6 months or so) I’ll make the time to meet them for a couple of hours and am always glad I did. If it’s someone I see regularly then I feel horrible for constantly cancelling their offers (seems to be the more regularly I see them, the more often they ask to get together).

I think all this is because when you work for yourself people think you’re lucky because you don’t have a boss. They don’t see the hidden pressures of working for yourself; being responsible for the whole running of the show, if you’re ill, work grinds to a halt and there are expensive, time demanding things to deal with that as an employee, you don’t have to consider. For example business insurance and filing company tax returns. Whilst not having a boss to answer to is great, it’s taken me a long time to realise that the toughest boss I’ve ever worked for is me. 

People often disregard the importance of their own stories

In a bid to be prepared for next years’ project, Five Minutes With…, I’ve now done 6 interviews with people who have interesting careers/have made unusual choices/have maximised on negative experiences to ensure positive has come from it. The common theme running through all of them is that no-one considers their story/experience/actions to be unusual or special.

This week I grabbed a coffee with Paul, someone who had been recommended to me to interview as his story is less usual than for his generation of the ‘Dad is the breadwinner, Mum (sometimes) stays at home and dads are very rarely creative’ model.

One of the first things Paul said was that he didn’t really think he was the right candidate for an interview because nothing he did was particularly interesting or bucking the trend. I said let’s chat anyway…. turns out Paul was a programmer who decided life in the city wasn’t for him. He opened a cafe, closed it a few years later, chose to be a stay at home Dad and creates the most amazing costumes for his kids and turns his hand to literally everything. I loved how Paul doesn’t see roles or hobbies as gendered and enjoys knitting, sewing, painting and considers there is no problem which doesn’t have a solution. This has extended to making a backpack for his dog! (there’s a bit more to that story – you can read about it when I publish his interview).

We tend to look at our lives and stories as normal and nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe sometimes we should take a step back and appreciate all that we’re achieving. Even if it doesn’t feel like a big deal to us. 

Confidence is easier said than done

Sometimes the people who we presume have a lot of confidence feel the opposite. What we show the outside world isn’t an accurate portrayal of what’s going on, on the inside. I’ve had many times in my life where I’ve suffered massively with confidence issues and can still be caught unawares at times. Anything can be the cause of it; being unprepared for something work related, meeting someone I consider to be much more successful than me and the popular one for many, being put on the spot.

There have been a few incidences in the past few weeks which have really made a difference to my confidence. One was going to the networking event last month where I had no idea that I was going to have to stand up and do a 1 minute pitch about This Demanding Life. I felt woefully unprepared and worried that I hadn’t done my work justice. Afterwards someone on my table gave me a note saying I came across as confident and she’d feel confident working with me.

Over the last few months I’ve been pitching for a website which I wanted more than any other website I’ve ever worked on. Everything about this company appealed to me; the social enterprise side of it, investment in peoples’ futures and the people who founded and head up the company are awesome. It took a lot of months of phone calls, Skype calls and emails to get the website and one of the first things they said to me when we agreed it was ‘we feel confident working with you’.

This week I’ve spent a lot of time with someone on LinkedIn who is (or should be) a guru of LinkedIn and all things marketing. He’s been in the game a lot longer than I have, is well respected  and has a strong, engaged following. He asked my advice on something and I sent a long, rambling reply with an apology for the rambling. He’s since said that my advice was valuable, he’s followed it and he’s really grateful I took the time to send it.

While I know confident experiences wear off and there will still be times I feel incredibly nervous pitching for work, asking people for interviews etc. I’m hoping these 3 confidence boosts in quick succession will last long enough for me to gain confidence consistently.