Thursday 15 December 2016

Returning to work after being a long term stay at home parent.

The time has finally come.  After over 7 years of being a stay at home Mum to my two boys, I'm looking for work.  Ethan has been in full time school since 2013 and Felix started preschool this September.  He's only there for 15 hours a week, so not full time, but it's a few hours.  For the last 7 and a half years we've lived off one income.  Actually, that's not entirely accurate, I did receive maternity pay for the first 9 months of Ethan's life (6 months at full pay, 3 months at the SMP rate).  Anyway, for the best part of 7 years we've lived off one income.  During those 7 years, Pete's pay has increased, his jobs have changed and we went from being a family of two to four.  However, whilst his pay has increased, our living costs have increased and the actual cost of living itself has increased, especially in the last year.  We make do.  Pete earns a good wage but it is truly stretched covering the four of us and all the expenses life bring.  We could certainly do with a bit more money coming in.

It isn't just about money though.  After 7 years of full time parenting, I'd quite like to do something else.  I'd like to leave the house with a purpose.  I'd like to feel like I was contributing financially.  I'd like the boys to see me not "just" as "Mum".  I'm not berating anyone who stays at home to look after their children full time.  If I did, that'd be to berate myself!  I just know that I'm starting to feel a bit.. I'm not sure.. Bored?  Crazy?  Like I'm getting cabin fever.

Back in 2009 as a new SAHM
I feel apprehensive about returning to work.  What am I going to do?  I don't really want to go back to an office job anyone could do.  Ideally I'd like to do something I'd enjoy.  I looked into freelance copywriting.  The positives for something like this are that I could work from home, I could choose my own hours, I could work as little or as much as I like.  I wouldn't need any new qualifications.  I like the idea of writing work.  The negatives are that I wouldn't have colleagues or make new friends.  I wouldn't have to leave home so wouldn't get that feeling of "getting out" and also, like with blogging, there's the risk that you're never really "away" from work.  It would be unpredictable so my earnings and the amount of work would fluctuate.  My initial investigations haven't brought up any available work in any case.. I put together a new CV and contacted a heap of digital agencies and copywriting agencies.  I got a few "we'll put you on file" responses and two "get back in touch in January, we're crazy right now" and mostly I got ignored.  A bit disheartening but it's a funny time of year to be job hunting.

I've been looking at jobs online.  So far very few things have been suitable.  There are quite a few jobs around with terrible hours with awful pay.  Luckily I'm not in the position where I have to take anything.  I have to be realistic though.  Whatever I take on has to work around family life.  My husband works long hours and his job requires him to travel quite a bit at the moment.  I am still primarily needed at home.  His job comes first.  I've inquired about leafleting.  Not very exciting and certainly no chance of new colleagues and friends but it would be great exercise and definitely flexible!  But, the guy never returned my call.  I applied for a job in a local bakery but heard nothing.  It was all looking a bit hopeless..  But then two weeks ago my friend heard about a job at the school she works in.  An "Art Technician".  Something right up my street, a roll supporting the art department.  I knew I could do it but beyond that, it'd be varied, interesting, I'd have colleagues, a workplace, it paid well and, most importantly, it was part time and very flexible, and, drum roll.... TERM TIME ONLY! Quite possibly the perfect job!  I applied and two days later received a phone call to ask if I'd like to come in for interview the following week.  Would I??!! Oh yes!

So.. Last week I attended my first job interview in 12 years.  After being out of work for over 7 years.  It was a little bit daunting, but I decided that it would be a learning experience and maybe even a bit of fun at the same time.  I didn't want to assume the job was mine but equally, I wanted to be positive.  The interview itself was a good experience.  I got there 10 minutes early (that's a big deal for me, I'm terminally late) and, after a few minutes, I relaxed and it felt reassuringly familiar.  A work environment, the usual interview questions.  I must admit a couple of the questions were tricky but I was able to answer them and (I think) quite well.  It was good to think I can still do this kind of thing!   After the interview I was on quite a high.  They told me they would be making their decision that afternoon so I knew I didn't have long to wait.  I hopped in my car, retrieved Felix from my parents house (they were looking after him whilst I was at the interview) and drove to pick Ethan up from school.  Back to normality.  At five past three, as I walked into the school playground, my mobile rang.  Seeing the local landline number I answered straight away.  It was the school I'd had the interview with.  I could tell as soon as the lady returned my "Hello!" that she was phoning to let me know I hadn't got the job.  Of course it was a let down.  I asked why and was told that there wasn't anything I'd done wrong, that one of the other candidates simply had experience of working in a school before and I didn't.  That I shouldn't feel bad and to keep applying.  It did make me feel a little sad but it would have been amazingly easy if I'd walked into a job such as that so quickly.  When I told my friend who'd told me about the job that I hadn't got it, she said to me "Do you know how many people applied for the job?" "Not a clue!" I said "I assume not that many seeing as they took my application form even though the closing date had officially passed!".   "Over 60 people applied" my friend said "and 5 were interviewed, including you.  You did well, you shouldn't feel bad!".  It did bolster me a little, hearing that.  Perhaps I'm not totally unemployable.

Well. That was last week.  This week.  I'm no further on.  I've not seen any jobs advertised that are suitable.  Pete is still very much feeling the pressure of being the sole breadwinner.  "You should apply for JSA" my Mum says "Don't apply for JSA" says Dad "It's the last thing you should do.  Your Mum would say that but she's never experienced what it's like going to the job centre.".  They both have a point.  Is money becoming tight?  Yes.  Am I officially job seeking?  Yes.  But I've never applied for JSA before.  Somehow it doesn't seem right.  And do I really want to be reporting to the job centre every week, having some action plan drawn up?  Having to apply for things that really aren't suitable?  I'll talk to Pete about it, but probably not.

It's 10 Days until Christmas Day now.  Things in the world of work are winding down.  It's an odd time of year to be job hunting.  We're manic with Christmas stuff.   Presents to wrap.  Activities at school and preschool.  Card writing.  Trying to meet with people.  Next week I have both boys with me all week, school & preschool finishing this week. Realistically, the job hunt has to go on hold until the new year.  My plan of action will be contacting those copywriting folks again, phoning them, making myself known to them!  Scouring the job sites.  Tweaking that CV.  2017 will be the year of work!  How exciting.. I think!  Watch this space....

My two boys in 2016

Friday 9 December 2016

Christmas jumpers.. of course!

I couldn't really write a fashion piece at this time of year and not mention the old Christmas Jumper, could I? How long is it since they've been back in fashion now?  Seems it's been quite a while.  I know it was ironic to start with but I think it's gone beyond that now, and to be honest, I think we should just admit that most of us just love the chance to fling on some cheesy chic.  Am I right?

We do love a Christmas jumper in our house.  Pete only had one, which I bought him a few years ago, and he lamented recently that he liked the look of a geeky one he'd seen online (a Street Fighter one if you wanted to know!) but it was over £25 and he just couldn't justify it.  Well, it got me thinking.  Why not get him one for Christmas but give it to him early so we could all "enjoy" it well before the big day.  So I did.  And I think he was extremely happy to find it waiting for him after a long day at work one day.  He's hardly taken it off since!!

Christmas Jumpers, Christmas clothes, mini rodini, Scandi
Christmas jumpers for all!

Christmas Jumpers, Christmas clothes, mini rodini, Scandi

I have quite a few Christmas jumpers, t-shirts and dresses myself.  Even tights.  The boys really have heaps of stuff though.  They both have an actual "Christmas section" in their wardrobes.  I love seeing them wear the clothes each year.  I do add to them each year too and of course, they grow out of things.  Though I have to say that we have quite a bit of Smafolk and DUNS Christmas wear and it just goes on and on.  Ethan has a beautiful Smafolk top he's been wearing for 4 Christmases now.

Christmas Jumpers, Christmas clothes, mini rodini, Scandi

I don't think many of us don't go in for festive wear these days, but just in case, I'll post the question.  Do you go in for the cheesy clothes fest or do you avoid it like the plague and stay classy?

Me - Merry Christmas Robin t shirt - Cath Kidston (very old).
         Elf t shirt - Tee Fury (I think - sorry!)
         Gingerbread people dress - DUNS - Funky Little People
Pete - Streetfighter Christmas jumper - Amazon
Ethan - Mini Rodini Christmas print top - KyNa Boutique
Felix - Reindeer Print Christmas jumper - Sainsburys  

Linking up with gorgeous Hannah today.  Congrats on the Insta 10K lady! XX

Thursday 8 December 2016

Does it matter?

This last year or so, I've really lost my blogging mojo.  My entire online mojo really.  I've not blogged as much, I've not been feeling much like writing and when I have, I've not been too sure what to write.  Or I've felt that I've just churned something out and it's not really been worth it.. I've let the social media side of things drop.  I struggle to keep up with it.  I find myself wondering how other parent bloggers manage it.  How?  How are you on twitter and Instagram and Facebook so much and still attending to your children?  I'm not criticising at all, I'm genuinely curious - is there something I'm missing or is it that my children are just very demanding of my time and energy?

Certainly, there is something in that last point.  Felix started at preschool this September and one of the things the staff there have said to me over and over again is, how do I manage with Felix?  I've been asked countless times, "What can you do to get Felix to sit still for longer than one minute?  Does he ever sit still?"..  I have to tell them, truthfully, nothing really makes Felix sit down.  About the only thing would be his bottle of milk and I know, I KNOW that ideally a three year old should not be drinking milk from a bottle, but it is the only time I can be sure (mostly) that he'll stay in one place.  He's been the same since the moment he was born.  On the go.  All of the time.  He never wants to stop.  I'm sure it's one of the reasons he's always leaving it beyond the last minute to get to the loo despite being out of daytime nappies since his 2nd birthday.  I'll never forget the day he rolled over for the first time.  He was 3 days old.  Yes.  You read that correctly, 3 DAYS old.  He needed a nappy changing and I'd placed him on the changing mat on the floor.  I didn't have something to hand, wipes probably, so I asked Ethan to keep an eye on him and I left the room to get them.  As I left the room, Ethan piped up "Will he be ok on the floor?" and I answered "Yes! He's 3 days old he can't go anywhere!".  You know what I found when I came back in, don't you.  He had been on his back when I left and he was on his front when I came in.  With his head and neck fully lifted.  He was able to hold his head from birth too.  There's no way Ethan moved him.  He was still sat in the same placed glued to the ipad.  He'd not moved, that much was clear (and Ethan avoids contact with his brother at all costs, even from birth, but that's another story...).  Felix did the same the following day and I got photographic evidence.  Anyway, it's by the by, the point is, he's a fidget bum and always has been.  What I'm trying to illustrate here is that there is no doubt Felix is a high energy tired and I do think that after 7 years of being a stay at home Mum and 3.5 years of being a Mum to Felix I am rather worn down and demotivated.

Back in 2012 my blog was doing quite well for itself.  My readership was growing, I had a good growing following on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  I got comments on almost all my blog posts, not just the ones that were added to linkys.  I held two of my own linkys each week one of which was really quite successful.  I was nominated for quite a few blog awards and shortlisted for a couple.. But I would say that after the birth of Felix in 2013 it all tailed off.  I found it hard to get to get back into, I was shattered.  And in those few months my readership fell away and other blogs sprung up left, right and centre.  Some of those blogs are deservedly huge now, like Hannah of Make, Do and Push.  Her blog is doing amazingly and I know she works very very hard at it.  So it is very deserved.

All of this leaves me in this weird place now.  Sometimes I feel sad about my blog.  Like I've let it die.  Other times I don't care and think life would be easier if I'd just let it die totally and get on with living in the "real" world.  I feel like I've let myself down though.  I feel, like I do with many things in my life, like I've given up on it.  Like I'm just not quite good enough and really, what's the point?  I don't know.  I've had friends and some readers tell me my writing is good.  My photos on Instagram are good.  But I don't know.  Is it just an over-saturated market?  Should I just gracefully bow out?  I'm just not sure......

Friday 2 December 2016

The Christmas Pudding Noggin

Earlier this year, the supermarket in the centre of our town closed down.  When this happened, speculation was rife was to what would take it's place.  A large unit like that, the costs would be high, it'd have to be something similar.  I was quietly hopeful, like some others, that we might get a Waitrose (hehe) but no.  Eventually the rumor mill was full of "It's going to be a B&M store".  I was most dismayed.  In the late Spring this was proven to be true and from then it was full steam ahead at the empty store, a whole heap of orange and blue started to appear.

I wouldn't say I planned to boycott the store but I was rather hopeful I'd never become a regular customer.  You can tell where this is going, can't you.... Well.  For a couple of months I honestly didn't go in.  Then a friend went in and was impressed so I was intrigued.  I really needed to buy a kids birthday present for a birthday one afternoon at short notice and very few places were open, my son wanted to go in and look there for the gift.  I told myself, it's OK.  We're only going in to look for one present.  It's not like I WANT to go in.  From then on it's been a slippery slope.  Don't get me wrong, I still very much prefer to shop elsewhere if I can, but they do stock some tempting items.  American sweets for one thing.  That's probably most of what I buy in there actually.  They stock a gorgeous stout that I can't find anywhere else.  They've been great for Paw Patrol crap toys that Felix lusts after.  I do stick to local small retailers but I don't make a point of avoiding it anymore.  Which is just as well and really brings me around to the point of this blog post.

This week it turned really bloody freezing.  Felix and I were in town, he'd ridden in on his bike.  We were due to go on to his gymnastics class but despite my best efforts to layer him up before leaving the house to keep him warm, he was crying with the cold.  There aren't really any kids clothing shops in town save from rifling through the charity rails.  Which is fine unless you are dragging said child with you, already moaning from cold.  I knew that B&M had hats, scarves, gloves and Christmas jumpers.  I knew that the silliness of a Christmas jumper might tempt Felix to put it on and keep him a little warmer.  In the end we managed to get a rather cute penguin jumper, a neck warmer and a very fetching hat which looks like a Christmas pudding.  This hat has been an absolute Godsend.  Felix doesn't really tolerate hats at all but since getting this one he constantly wants his "pudding hat" on.  And the amount of compliments and attention he attracts in it!  So cute.

In an ideal world I would buy only second hand or very ecological, ethical organic clothing.. but unfortunately this is the real world and for me, I'm afraid it does mean sometimes slightly deviating against my preferences.  But at least I have a happy warm child... and he does look damn cute in that hat!

Linking up with Hannah for Funky Kid Friday today.