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A Mother’s Work Meme

8 Apr

I saw this post on Mummy Pink Wellies and thought I’d weigh in. Here goes…

A Mother’s Work Meme

Rules:
Please post the rules
Answer the questions in as much or as little detail as suits you
Leave a comment on mother.wife.me so we can keep track of the meme
Tag 3 people and link to them on your blog
Let them know you tagged them
Tweet loudly about taking part (well ok, that isn’t a rule, but how about if we start a hashtag – #amothersworkmeme)

Questions:
1.  Did you work before becoming a mum?
2.  What is your current situation?
3.  Freestyle – got your own point you’d like to get across on this issue? Here’s your chance…

And, most importantly…. you’re tagged!! If you read this and agree or disagree, please join in.

1. I was a chartered certified accountant. I had been in the process of starting up my own one-woman practice, but had fallen into the lucky situation of having one client who provided enough work to keep me busy full-time. When they found they could no longer use me, I looked into going back to employed work, but when I fell pregnant, I realised that I didn’t want to use child care full-time. My dad needed some help with customer services and product research in his company, and offered to provide me with enough hours to keep me busy while I built my business.

I struggled immensely to find clients, due to my complete inexperience in that side of the business, and began to work full-time with Dad, particularly after two key staff members left in February last year.

2. Working with Dad fit really well into our lives – I could answer queries while hooked up to a breast pump in the middle of the night, and despite my fear of the “boss’s daughter” tag, I started to feel like I was really contributing to and becoming a valuable member of the company. I’m still a bit embarrassed when I tell people that I work for my dad, but I feel that spurs me on to work harder to prove myself.

I work about 30 hours per week. Barnaby is at nursery for eleven hours per week and naps for about three to four hours per day. I can also work in the evenings and more at weekends when Patrick is home to help. I realise that I will need to cut this down as and when Barnaby needs less sleep and moves around more!

3. Katherine makes a great point about the “what do you do all day?” comments. I keep a timesheet, because I’m weird like that, and I regularly do a 50 hour week including work, housework, feeding, changing, reading to Barnaby, walking the dog and attending baby-specific classes and appointments. I am sure that plenty of mothers attend more classes and toddler groups than I do, and absolutely certainly do more housework. The only way people have time to watch Jeremy Kyle and Loose Women is if they’re as rubbish as I am at housework, or if they’re not spending much face-to-face time with their children.

For me, there are two big bugbears in the world of mothers and work.

One is that we need to acknowledge that, for most careers, taking a year or more out is going to slow us down. We need to research and make our choices; recognise the real-life implications and stand up for ourselves if we genuinely feel that an injustice has taken place. If I tried to return to accountancy, having missed out on a year’s practical experience and ongoing professional development, I would have to accept a frozen/lower salary until I had proven that I caught up. That’s not a Four Yorkshiremen statement, that just seems fair to me.

Excellent childcare is available from a very early age, so it’s not essential to take full maternity leave, unless being the main provider of childcare to your child is something you want and choose to do. Unfortunately, there are all sorts of mean-spirited people out there in the mummy blog world who have written about how wrong, uncaring and unnatural mothers who send their children to nursery are, and the damage they’re doing to their children, completely disregarding that, throughout history, childcare has been a communal activity. It takes a village to raise a child, after all. To imply that a child can only be raised well if the mother is the main childcare provider during the working week is not only insulting to working mothers, but to the loving and dedicated childcare workers who provide the service.

The second point is that we need to bring more flexible working into the system. Many jobs can be done from home, or with flexible hours, but it just doesn’t happen – especially in lower-paid roles. Too many bosses seem paranoid that their staff will not work unless properly supervised, but that seems like crazy logic to me. Why hire somebody you cannot trust? Why not work toward improving company loyalty? We need to move towards a working world in which parents and non-parents have equal opportunities to achieve a work/life balance.

I’m afraid I’ll have to break a rule, as I honestly don’t know who to tag, but if you’re reading this, then please consider yourself tagged! I’d be interested to hear opinions of parents and non-parents alike.

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Exactly*

18 Nov

I discovered a blog today, and I just had to share this one paragraph in particular of sheer awesomeness…

 

“Perhaps some people feel that those standing as candidates to represent us are only a limited selection, that everyone’s centered around a general acceptance of the way the world should be?  Well, that seems to be the guiding principle behind the Occupy protests, but within a democratic system, the proper way to secure change is to stand for election and get a popular mandate. Otherwise you are also just unelected, unrepresentative self-appointed people who believe you are right.”

 

*borrowing from A Practical Wedding 😉

Mashtastic

19 Sep

Every once in a while, The Daily Mash gets it so spectacularly spot-on that they deserve an entire blog post devoted to their awesomeness.

Here, I give you their comment on the travellers’ site being evicted today… http://t.co/Vo44cKij

Boobies and Low Pay

17 Sep

I’ve been quiet for a while, and I am yet to write all sorts of exciting things about my new little man, but I have to get this off my chest. Badum-tsh. As a former wannabe-actuary, I am being driven slowly insane by the bad stats that are bandied around by “feminists” regarding the gender pay gap. “Women are paid less than men! That is just so unfair!”, they bleat, seeming to miss entirely the complexity of the issue. These are the factors that I think need to be considered before we start being outraged at simply comparing the average woman’s salary with the average man’s.

1. Are we comparing like with like, part 1.

According to the BBC, one in five women in the UK will not have children. We can therefore reasonably assume that four in five will have at least one child. According to Payroll World, the average length of maternity leave taken is nine months. According to this study, female junior executives are paid marginally more than their male counterparts.

Employing logic, this really looks like women are paid just as well as men, up until the point that they elect to take a nine-month career break. However you dress it up, there is no way that it can be considered fair that two identical candidates, one of whom has worked only ten days in nine months and the other who has worked the whole time, should be paid the same amount.

2. Are we comparing like with like, Part 2

Equality in the household is still developing. The majority of senior staff in any given company will have started their careers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the majority of women were expected to remain in the home. It doesn’t matter that the feminist movement was booming then – we, as intelligent human beings, know that attitudes take a long time to filter down. I don’t even feel that my own generation will have an equal split of men and women even considering going into the same industries, but it is certainly improving. We cannot place full weight on the statistics when we are still dealing with the remnants of inequalities of the past.

3. Type of work

Culturally-speaking, women appear more frequently in caring and creative professions, and those that involve less-marketable skill, while men feature more in managerial roles, or professions that involve physical strength or ongoing training. While I agree that there is still the stinky attitude that certain things are “women’s work”, there are plenty of valid reasons why such roles would be paid less that aren’t anything to do with misogyny. Demand and supply is a key reason – examples from nursing and childcare to hair and beauty are often kept low because they need to be affordable to many people in order for the industries to have any success. Cleaning and office administration work require a more readily-available skill set, and so will be lower-paid as there are more people vying for the same role. I’m not saying for a second that this is a good thing, but trying to pretend that it’s not the case is unhelpful.

Once we get past the reasons why the blind statements of the statistics bother me so much, we need to consider what’s actually useful. Whingeing about patriarchal society and glass ceilings is utterly pointless, and just makes the feminist position laughable. Enforcing quotas of women in certain roles is an ugly situation that will cause nothing but resentment and damage to the feminist cause. Breaking down the barriers themselves is what’s important, so here’s my “if I ruled the world” list, equal pay edition.

1. Increased flexibility in the workplace

Regardless of gender and parental status, working hours and locations need to be more flexible, insofar as the job itself allows. The number one argument I hear against this seems to relate to trust, but to employ someone whom you think will slack off if left to their own devices seems like pretty foolish business practice in the first place. Obviously some roles and industries require people to be in a certain place at a certain time, but building in whatever flexibility available is essential.

2. Equal sabbatical opportunities

Time off spent doing something productive is exceptionally valuable to human development, and potentially to an employer as well. The idea of opening up the opportunity to everyone to have periods of up to a year off with a guaranteed job at the end is not as far-fetched as you might think. This is exactly what was offered during the height of the recession to staff at large accountancy firms. It certainly makes sense in business terms, and would certainly make things fairer for those who cannot or chose not to have children.

3. Social expectations

When Ed Miliband’s son was born last year, the ridiculous notion that “real men don’t take paternity leave” was debated on Radio 4. I’ve already mentioned the types of jobs that men and women tend to lean towards, and that’s something else that needs to be changed. The way to do that is not through the aforementioned complaining and foot-stomping, nor is it by quotas, but, at the risk of sounding twee, by open dialogue amongst men and women, and by helping people become confident and knowledgeable enough to go after what they want from an early age – whether it’s a man who wants to be the primary caregiver or a woman who wants to manage the England football team through their next World Cup victory.

In conclusion, the way to level the playing field is to identify the actual issues, and level the playing field.

Tina Fey – Feminist Icon? It’s A Matter of Taste

1 Apr

This article popped up on my twitter feed a few days ago, retweeted by the lovely ladies at Stuff Mom Never Told You. The book that I think the writer is trying to promote is not something that I would have rushed to buy anyway, but Katie Roiphe has only succeeded in further putting me off Tina Fey’s work.

She refers to a comment from what she bizarrely describes as an “anonymous (and possibly fictional) crackpot”, stating “[I]n my opinion Tina Fey completely ruined SNL. The only reason she is celebrated is because she’s a woman and an outspoken liberal. She has not a single funny bone in her body.”

Why the commenter is believed to be fictional and/or a crackpot are both mysteries to me. Roiphe’s notion that someone who does not enjoy Fey’s brand of humour simply must be either imaginary or insane is completely at odds with the next quote she chooses to use, stating that it’s arrogant to assume that just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean that it’s not good.

Let’s take a step back to the real world. Criticising anything relating to taste is always going to be a tricky area. My husband and the rest of the world hail John Lennon as a genius, and Cirque du Soleil is immensely popular; I genuinely believe that LOVE will be played in hell. I can wax lyrical about the excellent and thoughtful writing in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; my Dad would berate me for the “trash TV” I was watching.

We are inherently lazy, and our response is generally “I like therefore good” or “I dislike therefore bad”. If we met the subject of our criticism in person, we’d probably either lie, or say “it’s not really my thing”. The internet allows us to dispense with niceties and just be as mean to each other as we like. Rather than acknowledge these facts, Fey chose to build the biggest straw person she could muster and turn it into a bad feminist rant:

“Huzzah for the Truth Teller! Women in this country have been over-celebrated for too long. Just last night there was a story on my local news about a ‘missing girl’ … and I thought, “What is this, the News for Chicks?” Then there was some story about Hillary Clinton flying to some country because she’s secretary of state. Why do we keep talking about these dumdums? We are a society that constantly celebrates no one but women and it must stop!”

Wait a minute, what? Let me reread the comment. Did he say anything that would suggest he thought women’s issues were irrelevant, or that women shouldn’t feature in mainstream media or be celebrated? Um, nope. “Responding to a situation with humor”, as Roiphe puts it, can be an effective tool. This is not that – this is schoolyard bully tactics; this is the scene in Mean Girls (see what I did there?) when Cady, accused of considering herself pretty, is stumped and thinking “that’s just not what I said”.

When my sister first learnt about racism at school, she was about 9 or 10. She came home, fixated upon how being a racist would be the worst possible thing in the world, and determined never to be one. Every single non-white woman on TV or in magazines would be “so beautiful”, even if she occasionally noticed one who, well, wasn’t. This example is cute and silly and harmless, but you don’t have to look far to see the “I’m not bigoted, see!” behaviour and positive discrimination around us today.

From the constant need to refer to “female director” Kathryn Bigelow (look! A woman! Directing!), to the South African rugby team that has to be completely reshuffled if there’s an injury, it’s here and in both legal form and social norms. Obama will always be the first “black” president, and many people who criticise him are quickly denounced as racist.

The idea that Fey, as a woman, has been adopted by “I’m not sexist, see!” types is not one that’s far-fetched. Her inoffensive attractiveness endear her to those who find Chelsea Handler too sexy and crude, or Rosie O’Donnell too fat and angry. Men can use liking her as a great pulling technique – it’s the comedian equivalent of picking Miranda as your favourite Sex and the City girl.

We don’t get SNL here, or if we do, I haven’t been able to find it on any of the channels I have. The best we can hope for is finding random bits of sketches on YouTube. The Sarah Palin sketch was reasonable, but Mama Grizzly herself really deserves most of the credit for providing the material. The Lonely Island sketches are hilarious, but are nothing to do with Fey, and if taken with a truckload of salt, some of the celebrity appearances can be amusing.

I had the misfortune of watching Baby Mama on a plane, having heard wonderful things about Fey’s work. She cannot be blamed for the writing, but the decision to indulge such a lacklustre project, in which all female characters are either humourless shrews or amoral dimwits, was not that of a comic genius.

I honestly thought that Mean Girls was written by a man – someone who had a few memories of how girls behaved when he was in high school and s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d it out into a screenplay. He might have consulted a sister or distant cousin, but the gaps between the insightful moments are too wide. And, speaking of too wide, the promotion of the myth that tampon and vagina size are related is not the work of a feminist, but an ill-informed, irresponsible moron who has probably caused half a generation of girls to have to change their tampon after every lesson for fear of someone judging their tampon choices. Casting La Lohan and the magnetic, charming and captivating Rachel McAdams together would guarantee box office success even if they were reading a legal document out loud.

30 Rock just hasn’t been successful here. It might just be that a lot of the in-jokes about regional accents and SNL itself don’t translate well across the pond, but we manage to understand and enjoy the majority of American sit-coms that are shown here. I have given it a go, but found the humour brash and clumsy, relying heavily on one-dimensional caricatures of race and gender. A confused Tina Fey stands at the centre, dealing with stereotypical older women’s issues – watchable, but not exactly trailblazing.

So, let’s appreciate Tina Fey for who she is – a comedian and writer. Not the new Germaine Greer, who, incidentally, is an extremely funny lady.

2010

3 Feb

Inspired by the lovely Livy, I have decided to complete this little quiz for 2010!

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?

Got married; bought a puppy; visited California. An eventful year!

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I can’t remember making any! I think we were just so smug at not having to pledge to quit smoking, because we had done so in 2009. I am definitely making them for 2011. There’s much to do!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My neighbour, who has become a good friend, gave birth just before Christmas. Mostly people just fell pregnant, so 2011 will be the year of the baby.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, thankfully. There have been too many in recent years.

5. What countries did you visit?

UK and US. We weren’t travelling due to wedding and honeymoon saving, so that was 11 months without a break! Painful…

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

Job satisfaction. A well-behaved puppy.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

7 August, our wedding day.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Bringing home the perfect puppy. Signing off the practising certificate and enabling job freedom. Ack, it’s hard to count getting married and falling pregnant as an achievement. We make such a huge thing of it, and most people do it, so it’s relatively mundane!

9. What was your biggest failure?

Lack of pre-wedding weight loss. Lack of post-conception weight gain. My body is fighting me!

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nope! I had plenty in 2009.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Meg

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Amazing friends who made me feel so loved – Ciara, Elly, Manuela, and baby sister Ellie. My husband, who never fails to surprise me with his awesomeness.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and anyone else who encourages hatred or seeks to restrict the rights of others. Parents who laugh when their children bully others. People who twist their religion to use it as a weapon of hate and judgement. Anyone who will burn a book they have never read.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Honeymoon, then wedding.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Getting married. Getting Meg. Getting pregnant.

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?

One Night in Bangkok.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

(a) happier or sadder? happier

(b) thinner or fatter? same

(c) richer or poorer? poorer

Whoa. That was a life lesson, wasn’t it?

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Working, travelling

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Stressing, spending, drinking

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At Dad’s with the family.

21. Did you fall in love in 2010?

Yes, with my beautiful pup.

22. What was your favourite TV programme?

I couldn’t pick one. Buffy will always remain my desert island DVD!

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No. Hating people is far too tiring.

24. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Taylor Swift. I joined the party very late.

25. What did you want and get?

A lovely wedding, and a fun honeymoon. Meg.

26. What did you want and not get?

People to put aside their differences and share in the excitement.

27. What was your favorite film of this year?

I have actually seen so few films this year. Alice in Wonderland was a bitter disappointment due to the unspeakably weak story, Alice’s complete lack of character, and their bizarre idea to completely ignore the Opium Wars in her amazing plans. I’ll have to go with Toy Story 3, because it was funny and sweet and made me cry.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I went to work, then drove to Milton Keynes for my hen weekend. I was 28.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Exercising financial restraint.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

I’m sorry, what? I gave up magazines for Lent a few years back. Life is significantly better without them.

31. What kept you sane?

My boy.

32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I know I’ll never have a chance with  him, but NPH gives me butterflies. Charlie Hunnam, until I realised that he was the annoying one in Green Street.

33. What political issue stirred you the most?

Welfare dependency. Nobody should be undernourished, homeless, in danger, idle or without adequate healthcare. I believe that is the responsibility of the taxpayer. Anything beyond that is 100% the responsibility of the individual or charities.

34. Who did you miss?

Grandad. He would have been so excited to add “Great” to his title officially.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010:

Little yellow dogs are good luck charms.

Please feel free to post again and let me know so I can come and read!

It Feels Like Sunday

2 Nov

Well, it kind of does. Patrick has been off work for two days, as he has an exam tomorrow and is revising/watching Dexter with me. Over the weekend, I went to Newcastle for a fun weekend with my baby sister, who goes to university in the city. It is so crazy the idea that she has a city that is all hers, and that she shows me around! I absolutely fell in love and would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants an affordable weekend away, or a trip to Europe on a budget.

I went on a nice almost-four-mile walk this afternoon, scaring myself silly because I managed to venture into the woods where it promptly got very dark. I convinced myself that every shadow of a tree or crack of a twig was some kind of axe murderer coming to get me. It was a really fun route, though, and I’ll definitely give it another try earlier in the day!

While walking, I listened to a radio documentary about a city called Maywood in California. The city had got to such a state of disaster, financially-speaking, that they had to sack all of their staff and contract out the work. One of the reasons why things had got so bad was the fact that they were reliant mostly upon sales and property tax for revenue, while the majority of their inhabitants were domestic staff or builders of Mexican origin, seriously feeling the hit of the recession. It was a desperately sad situation – there was no way for them to increase revenue because the local residents just didn’t have it to give. It made me feel terrible for the children who grew up in the area – what hope would they have for the future? How would they break the cycle that they were born into, by no fault of their own?

It made me think of the occasional resentment felt by the South towards some areas of the North, and of Scotland, for the feeling that we are down here generating revenue that is spent by the government up there. One of the people interviewed for the documentary expressed that the only possible ways out of their situation were to open a casino, like a nearby town had; or to obtain funds at state level, obtained through taxes. I think we can safely guess which would be the favoured option at the moment, and an increase in taxes to help a city where half the population was born outside the US isn’t likely to be it.

If we’re meant to look at these situations and thank our stars that it’s not us, then I thank them twofold. I’m grateful that my parents are the hardest-working people I know, and I’m grateful to live in a country where, had I been born to a different family, it needn’t have set out my path in the way that it appears to in some. Of course, we can all find examples of those who rose from extremely humble beginnings to excellence anywhere in the world, but for many places, they are truly exceptional. Here, unless there’s a massive clerical cock-up, you will have a roof over your head, a meal in your belly and medical treatment.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you feel that your area provides equal opportunities, no matter what your background? Do you think that it should, or is improved opportunity something we leave as a legacy for our children?

In other news… I got a positive pregnancy test result yesterday morning. We’re so delighted, but I must confess that I’m nervous as hell – every second that I don’t feel sick, I’m convinced it’s because there’s something wrong again. The terribly sad news about Lily Allen has meant that miscarriage has been a big news topic today. I can’t imagine what the poor girl is going through, and it makes me grateful as anything that my own miscarriage was comparatively straightforward. Fingers and toes are firmly crossed for a successful pregnancy this time.

I’ll leave you with a pretty picture of some exceptional artwork of mine (if you’re on a slow connection, please don’t wait for it to load; it’s not actually good). I’ve been checking out this HDR malarkey on the iPhone and I’m not convinced – it has a real tendency to flatten pictures. I’ll let you be the judge.

Please bear in mind that I have no formal training in politics beyond a big crush on the boy who represented Conservatives in our school debate club, so if I have missed/misunderstood something, please be gentle with me. These are musings, opinions and observations, not statements.

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