In advertising only 3% of Creative Directors are female. The number of those that are Mums is far far less. I don’t have a stat but its definitely on the shit side of depressing.Imagine my joy when I met Sue Higgs. A fan of leopard print (good start) a CD and a Mum to teenagers. And really funny with it. She was a ray of light and living a proof that being a Mum and a Creative was possible.
I’m so deeply focused on surviving this stage of parenting/jugglign that I hadn’t stopped to think about what is to come; what it might be like when they are TEENAGERS!! Here Sue gives us a glimpse into our future:
I was lucky to work with the lovely Clemmie for a few months at Grey before she left for exciting pastures new, good luck you’ll smash it!! But in our short time together, I’d come in in the morning usually with a moan/ gripe/anecdote about something my children had done. I say children. I mean teens two girls 17 and 15, a boy of 12.
I think I was more prepared for the baby than the teen, holy mother, one minute you’re making sand castles and pureeing veg the next you’re advising them not to drink white wine and stick to a spirit. So I’m slightly ahead most of yous.
I’m also a single mum, who works full time as a creative director so it’s all pretty full on in our house … *emoji scream face.
Here’s where I got to…
Starting on a good bit, you can leave the house without looking as if you’re going on holiday for 2 weeks, and without having to book a babysitter. That is a lovely big change.
I’ve learned to understand what it must be like to be a PA to a celebrity. Could you just order me this?, Oo I need this.. tomorrow? Has my xx come? Have you booked my y? I really need a new xx etc etc
Teens are selfish and don’t do stuff unless they’ve done it. “I didn’t leave that towel, it wasn’t my mug…” So it’s more like living with flatmates than kids. I’ve tried spreadsheets, withholding pocket money and screaming at the top of my voice about not being a servant. Not cracked this yet. It’s all normal and part of their development allegedly. Gin helps.
Teens bankrupt you. Its all about the uber. If I’d had 1p for every time I’ve been asked to put money in their account for an uber I’d have at least £200. Then there’s the festivals. The clothes. Someone at school will always get more pocket money than them.
I really turned have into my mum, “ You can’t go out wearing that! ‘’There’s barely enough fabric in that top for me to blow my nose on let alone cover your body” “Take a coat” “Don’t loose anything”, “ Be back by 11”, “This music is just noise etc ” Repeat ad finitum.
They look at photos of you when you were young and say stuff like “you used to be so pretty”. Used.
When they all go to a party, and there’s always a party or “ gathering”, they all drink bottles of Sprite, it’s 95% vodka.
The words “ literally” and “ basically’ are the cornerstones of every sentence.
The years of diligently Anabel Karmelling, pureeing and vegetable hiding have transmogrified into Nando lust.
You can’t buy clothes for a teen. I stopped when they girls were about 12. It will be wrong. They looked at my last offering as if I was handing them a suit made of hair.
Peng. Buff. Henge. Streak. Just some of the words I hear and ask “What the hey are you’re going on about? ” “Oh mum they reply, they probably didn’t have those words in your day, was everything in black and white? ”Cue me walking off muttering some four letter words of my own.
In the teen years, I think you really find out what kind of a person you are. How did I get so shouty/strict/moral/relaxed etc
Having said all this I wouldn’t swap it for the world. I think parenting is a bunch of phases thrown together and we’re all just muddling our way through trying not to f*** it up!!
The biggest clue that I may be doing ok came one day when my eldest was recounting a tale of another mum’s “ terribly strict” treatment of her friend, which concluded in her saying:
I’ve made a few references to 2016 being a shitty year. The universal reasons hardly need mentioning: politics going tits up. The loss of so many amazing creatives. And of course Bake Off.
But for my family and I we also went through a proper deep dark financial crisis.
I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time. Until now it’s felt too recent and raw. However the fact we have made it into a new calendar year means it feels ok to share…
Financial crisis affects EVERYTHING.
To be clear, by financial crisis I mean my husband had a business that was in far far more debt than I had realised.
I felt like a mug. How didn’t I know? I knew a bit of it. But maybe I just closed my ears to the grim reality.
I had a 2-year-old and a new baby too. So that some-what distracts you.
I don’t want to go into details but we were firmly up shit creek without a paddle. Loans. Credit cards. Debts with most of our family. 5 figure kinda debt.
As I said being in financial crisis effects EVERYTHING.
You feel sick every morning hoping that the bailiffs won’t come knocking (7 am is their usual call time).
You feel sick every time you return from being away for the weekend. How many dreaded brown envelopes will there be? How much more money will need to be ‘magiced’ from thin air
You feel sick every time you go out and have to split a bill.
“Oh it’s only a fiver different. Doesn’t matter!” Exclaims someone.
Of course a fiver doesn’t matter when life is normal. But when you are spiralling into debt that fiver makes ALL the difference. It’s a weeks worth of breakfasts.
You feel sick when your kid asks “Mummy have we got any money today?”
Those screaming fits in the supermarket over a Paw Patrol magazine? A whole lot worse when you know you couldn’t treat them, even if you wanted to.
You realise how reliant we are on consumerism for a ‘pick me up’: that new top after a big meeting. Dinner out to mark a milestone. Even a coffee to break-up the monotony of being stuck with the kids all day.
Not being able to have these things makes you resentful to all those that do.
It makes you feel like a failure.
To be financially screwed feels really shameful. And impossible to talk about.
It often comes with a lack of sympathy: “you can always sell the house.”
Of course we would have sold our house. But when you walls are caving in. When you are: worried about feeding your kid (and your dog), trapped in you job and unsure about whether your marriage can weather the storm, the thought of losing one anchor, one bit of security; the thought of losing your home…. it’s too much to bare.
BUT of course what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Financial crisis has taught me to be frugal. To make that food shop last. To walk wherever you can. To search for bargains.
To be grateful to those who were there when we needed them most. Not just the ones who lent us cash. But to the mates who hung out with us during those 52 weeks, even though we were no fun.
We are determined to pay every penny of it back.
Money does not make the world go round. But not having it sure as hell makes it feel turned upside down.
I ‘get’ that talking money is awkward for us Brits. That’s not a good enough excuse.
Making it the elephant in the room throws up gigantic size problems.
We need to have the guts to be honest when we are strapped for cash rather than max-out the credit card for the sake of saving face.
We must ask to be paid what we are worth.
And most of all, we must be courageous enough to say to the ones we love “there’s something I need to tell you..”
Aside from the ongoing guilt every time I buy a treat.
And disbelif that it happened to us.
And the slightly shakiness that stays with you after any trauma.
I still feel fortunate.
Financial security is something I have taken for granted.
That monthly pay-check. That bottle of wine bought without thinking. That person who’ll lend you a 100 quid when you need it.
They are luxuries. Ones I now savour and appreciate.
And to those burdened with money worries, sometimes for life. Those forced to put their kids to bed with an empty stomach, who do not have people on-side to help and advise, who are born with the odds stacked against them. That person on the bus or at the play-ground. I see you. I empathise with you and I respect you for struggling on.
Today is a big day for Caroline of Masters of Many. While most of are facing the usual Monday morning mayhem. Her and her family are off travelling around the world.
Here Caroline shares her thoughts about the exciting adventure:
A few months ago we made the decision to travel as a family with our (then to be) six month old baby, starting with New Zealand, Australia and all through Asia, with a view to working out where we might want to live along the way. Or, to travel as long as we can make money and freelancing last, or our son Otis needs to be in some kind of structured education (in our view about 7 years old).
It’s been a big decision (one that was very much pushed by me initially), and as any new mother knows, life at this point of motherhood is filled with contradictions, emotional curve balls, and a whole lot of motherly guilt.
It strikes me that any big decisions in life, at least those that are worthwhile, are accompanied by these back and forth swings, ones that threaten you teeter away from that definitive ‘Yes, lets do it’ to a ‘but’…and ‘what if’…until the big dream is ultimately put back in the drawer. We’ve pushed ourselves passed all the ‘what if’s’, but I thought that my emotional swings back and forth might be useful for others trying to do the same, so here’s the full list of all of the rational and not so rational thoughts I’ve had over the last few months:
I feel proud of us as a family. That we’re striking out to do something that many have said we are ‘brave’ to even contemplate.
Followed swiftly by wondering if we’re actually bloody selfish, is travelling round the world more about us than Otis? Is that so wrong if the answer is yes?
I’m wildly excited about the new places we’re going to see, particularly the far flung, more unusual ones like Burma.
Which is then accompanied by some frantic Googling, as to which diseases Otis might be exposed to, and booking of appointments with travel health professionals to make sure we’ve got our bases covered.
I wonder where he will take his first steps, and think about all of the new foods that he’s going to taste when we wean him off breast feeding.
And then have a brief moment of wondering if we’re insane to think he’s going to be one of those kids who actually is open minded about food, and doesn’t only accept Ella’s Kitchen fruit tubes.
I am constantly aware of just how lucky we are to contemplate having this time together as a family, with no commute, and no compromises.
And then I think about the fact that Ben and I might not have a moment to ourselves for at least a year. And how the hell we’ll manage things like sex with a baby in the same room as us all the time.
I long for Otis to grow up in a world where he runs, climbs and surfs, rather than spending hours in front of a screen and hope we’ll find that life for him.
And then I add a reminder to the to do list to load up an iPad with kids stuff to get us through the 24 hour flight to New Zealand.
I get excited about the idea that he is going to learn about colours, sounds, even maths and history, from the real world around him, rather than measured by an SAT test that bears no resemblance to real life.
And then have a little panic that he’s not registered in any nurseries or schools or anything, so if we do end up coming back, we might be a little bit screwed on that front…
I think a lot about the fact that Otis is going to meet people from all walks of life, and ultimately have an understanding of different worlds (particularly less privileged) to his own.
And then I think about all of the people we are temporarily removing from his life. Friends with kids the same age that he might have been friends with. Our huge, loving families, filled with cousins who can’t wait to see him on each visit. And Grandparents who are clearly overjoyed that he’s around.
The last one is the biggie. We’ve made sure they’ve had far more time with him than might have been the day to day reality if we were staying. And they love him to death. And we recognise that we are breaking their hearts by taking him away. And that’s tough.
But then I think about the fact that the one thing I hope for Otis is that he chases adventure in life, and what makes him happy. And doesn’t feel like he has to stay living near us, that we’ll be his family wherever he chooses to be. And that our parents brought us up to think like that, and they should be proud for continuing to let us spread our wings.
I wonder what it will feel like when Otis grows up and does just that. I already recognise it will be bloody hard, but to be honest, getting him off to a start that inspires him to break the rules, to live life with gut instinct and being happy being his only guide puts every fear above to rest.
I have just re-read my list of resolutions for 2016. I am happy to report I achieved more of them than I expected. Not all of them. That would be mental.
Here’s what I am going to try and focus on in 2017:
A wise woman (that’s you Zoe Blaskey) reminded me of the importance of focusing on how things feel on the inside rather than how they look on the outside. It totally resonated with me.
Less being cross about the mess. More focusing on how happy it makes the boys to make it.
Earlier in 2016 I was obsessed with moving out of London. One way and another we didn’t end up going it (mortgage, jobs, indecision). Instead, we’ve promised to spend one weekend a month in the countryside. A chance to get our fix of fresh air and space.
Give the house some TLC. Now we are staying its time to paint the walls, maybe replace the carpet. And ideally figure out how to make our v limited storage work better for us.
Support small businesses. It’s a habit I’ve started in the run up to Christmas and want to continue into the new year.
Get some professional snaps of me and the boys. I got some lovely ones of me on my own (like the one at the top by Emily Gray Photography), but want to capture my rabble too.
Stay off the sad step (bathroom scales) but maintain my healthy friendship with tape measure.
Go on a 2 week holiday. Our trip to Thailand was all kinds of spectacular. Much of that was because we were away for so long. Determined to do the same this year.
More quality time with these two.
Sayonara sugar. I’ve got an inkling knocking it on the head will do my waistline and mood a favour.
Avoid cheap undies. Having recently tried Rigby and Peller bras, I’ve vowed I will never go back.
Invest in my skin. After all I’ve got to wear it for the rest of my life.
Date night. Still manages to fall by the wayside.
Stop being tight. As some will know. 2016 have seen us come through financial crisis (am currently writing a blog post about it, which should be out in a week or two). It was pretty bleak. But it’s also hard to learn to enjoy being comfortable again. Got to stop feeling guilty after every purchase.
Culture. Theatre. Lectures. Art. I want more of all of it.
Watch some films Ben wants. I like documentary or rom com. He likes action. I’m going to relent and let him choose occasionally because I’m a nice wife.
Yes Ben Telford, I have agreed to let you pick which film…
Get blog posts up on time. I’ve written a posting schedule and everything. From now on there should be a new list every single Monday.
Polish my shoes. Radical or what?
Do my pelvic floors. It’d be nice to know I could go on a trampoline if I want to.
Visit the dentist again. I’ve faced the fear and got that dreaded root canal. Imagine how smug i can feel if I actually go for regularly check-ups?
Have boundaries. It’s not easy to say no or put my little family first, but it is always worth it.
Don’t mix my drinks. Seriously? When.Will.I.Learn.
I met Emma at a Stand up for Cancer & Selfish Mother event, where she talked about her incredible story.
She is a Mum of four, three of which are triplets, blogger and cancer survivor.
It’s fairly mind blowing, but what struck me most about Emma was just how much I liked her: her take on stuff, her sense of humour. Basically she’s just the sort of person I’d like to spend a night drinking too much red wine with.
Here Emma explains why Cancer is ‘The Gift that Keeps Giving.’:
Okay so bear with me. I’m going through a good patch, a more positive phase where life feels kinder than before and as a result counting my blessings comes a little more easily. It feels like a good exercise to list the positives of what is potentially a rather dire situation so here goes – my list of the positive aspects of life with cancer as a mum of four.
After coming agonisingly close to the magical five year all clear, it really is rather galling to find myself back at hospital on a regular basis after the cancer I had thought had gone forever resurfaced. Even though I’m currently back in remission, doing well and not enduring the misery that is chemotherapy just being back in ‘the system’ makes me grumpy and irritable and angry as hell. But, as I sit in my chair in the chemo ward dunking a bourbon biscuit into a cup of tea there’s always a moment, however brief where I catch myself and say a silent thank you.
Thank you to the NHS for the incredible treatment that flows into my port and through my startled veins.
Thank you to my weary body for continuing to respond so well to what my oncologist rather depressingly calls ‘maintenance’ treatment.
And thank you to my four beautiful babies who couldn’t give a stuff that I’m having treatment again and just want to know why I’m not letting them have Nutella on toast for breakfast every. single. day.
Having cancer has shown me that random acts of kindness are everywhere. That there are more good people in the world by far, than bad. Homemade chicken pies, laundry washed and kids taken care of, spa day vouchers and endless cake. When I was first diagnosed all those years ago I was shown more love and care than I could handle. And definitely more deliveries of homemade lasagne. The kids still love lasagne, which is handy as I’m pretty sure there are still several dishes of it shoved somewhere in the back of the freezer.
Sometimes I catch myself breaking into a run, zooming up the stairs to chase a wayward six year old or catch our minx like puppy to wrestle a marble from her mouth. I catch myself doing entirely normal things, mum things, life things – and it feels amazing. Every day that I feel well and strong is a good, good day and I wouldn’t dare take that for granted now.
On the other hand, any day that I feel run down, a bit glandy, maybe I’ve got an ulcer or even a flipping ingrowing toenail – any physical thing that crops up however randomly and unconnected to boobs, well.. I just crumble. I crash and burn convinced that death is near. Catastrophizing has become my thing and it does me no favours whatsoever. It’s a hard one to shake. Not much fun for those around me either. Happy days.
Cancer hasn’t made me a better mum. It’s probably made me a worse one because when the fear takes hold it makes it harder for me to love them in the way they deserve. So great is my fear of leaving them behind that, on some level, I push them away. Just when I should be gathering them up in my arms and smelling their skin and savouring each second I just want to be alone. Completely alone. I sometimes worry that this has affected the way I bonded with the triplets. I often feel consumed with guilt that I’ve spent all of their short lives gripped by the fear of early death and of them growing up without their mum. I’ve never had the luxury of being able to take our future as a family for granted. I don’t take any of it for granted. It’s quite exhausting to live with that level of fear. As if parenting triplets isn’t exhausting enough. Jeez.
Er..this isn’t a very positive aspect of life with cancer. Sorry. Its a very honest one though.
Let’s end this list on a high.
Cancer has given me a ridiculous appreciation of the mundane.
Having cancer meant I was chosen to be the subject of one of Peter Andre’s Sixty Minute Makeovers. This led me to my wonderful husband. My handyman hero.
Cancer has led me to people, situations, and insights that I might never have known. My life feels incredibly rich these days and beautifully boring. It goes without saying that I’d love to be able to shake off the constant fear. I’d love to confidently cast my net five, ten years into the future without my stomach twisting and my head spinning with a million what if’s…that’s a luxury I’ll probably never be afforded. But, in the meantime, there’s my kids to kiss, a husband to spoon and a body that, right now, is proving to be a very good friend indeed.
We recently got back from two blissful weeks in Thailand with the boys who are nearly 2 and 3.5. Although my husband and I have fortunate enough to do tons of travelling I felt unusually nervous about taking the boys half way across the world.
Probably because we actually spent a month in Thailand when Bertie was 7 weeks old and it was disastrous . He was our first kid, so at 7 weeks postpartum our whole world had been turned upside down. Forget schlepping across the globe, we should stayed in the baby bubble. NOT heading to a drastically different time zone, where you have to put your new unfamiliar body in a bikini and have very little support from friends/family.
ANYWAY, we were determined to make this trip different.
Here’s what we learned:
Book night flights. One way an another they WILL fall asleep and every hour that they are out for the count is a bonus.
Take ALL the snacks. We flew Thai Airways, because it was the quickest journey time. But the child’s meals they were a bit beyond their palette (apart from the chocolate bars that came with every single meal. Include breakfast).
Hungry kids + being trapped in a confined space = terrible combo. Bertie ate 5 bags of crisps on our journey back. I am not proud of it. But needs must.
You do not need jumpers. Or any kind of warm clothes. It’s hard to get your head round when you are in Blighty. It’s warm there constantly. Heaven.
Once a day suncream. I converted to P20 after my GP recommended it to me before I went off on my gap year. Not having to worry about reapplication is such a bonus.
Minimal footwear. Mine didn’t wear anything on the feet for the entire trip.
Travel buggy. Pavements are few and far between. The ones that exist are thin. We had a pair of these Babyzen YoYo‘s. They are mega.
Little Hot Dog Watson hats. They look cool but are actually super clever. The fabric keeps their heads at the right temperature and is imbedded with insect repellent.
Roll on insect repellent. Mine ended up enjoying putting it on. Result.
Take a small amount of toys. We took Duplo, story books and superheros. That seemed to do it. Takes up valuable suitcase space, but also increases the odds of you actually being able to read by the pool.
In terms of food we found plenty they would eat: Massaman curry, chicken satay, fish cakes (’round fish fingers’), the delicious deep-fried fish.
And who doesn’t like the amazing fruit/fruit shakes and BANANA PANCAKES?! They alone are worth the 13 hour flight.
Plus there’s always chips.
We also did a ‘big shop’ in a supermarket (rather than being ripped off at the 7/11). Where we got the necessities: Nappies, wipes, Weetabix, Milk and Babybel.
Yes the foodie traveller in me died alittle. But sometimes you’ve gotta do what makes your life easier.
What else?! Mine loved the beach and the pool. But they also couldn’t believe how much the rules got bent:
Being allowed in a Tuk-Tuk!
Mummy actually going in the sea. (Most previous holidays have been in the UK, I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a fair weather swimmer).
Or getting to go out AFTER DARK.
Jet lag on the way out is a bonus. We settled into a happy 9-9 sleep schedule.
Thai’s LOVE kids. Welcome in all restaurants. Frequently get given a free banana or ice lolly. Often when you are trying to negotiate them eating a vegetable. But still.
And your wallet will love Thailand. Though the flights to get there can be pricey, the cost of living is SO cheap. Lunches for 4 generally came in at £8 mark and dinner around about £15.
And laundry is cheap. So be sure to do yourself a massive favour and come home with a suitcase of clean clothes..
Because jetlag on the way back is a bitch. Know that it’s just ‘part of it’. They say it’s a day for every hour time difference. Realistically it took a week to feel normal.
Don’t be tempted to eek out the last day of holiday. Give yourself at least one day back at home to get your head in gear before work/school/nursery.
More than anything just bloody DO IT. The climate, the food, the beaches, the being far away from the usual madness of normal life. For me its one my happiest places on earth.
As someone who likes travelling it made my heart fill with joy to hear the boys speaking Thai. Expanding their horizons. Seeing how adaptable they are. Totally un-phased by having their pale skin and fair hair admired wherever we went.
Two weeks as just ‘us’ felt like a dream. A chance to reconnect. Have fun as a family and a reminder that without the stresses and strains of ordinary life we do still get on as a couple (phew!).
It such a cliché but we really did make memories that will last forever and suntans that might make it through the most vitamin D deprived months of the year.