I'm bored of the working mum debate

31 October 2018

Dear friend,

It has been a time of huge change for us as a family. Big lad started his new secondary school and I took on an extra day at work. We have all been busy finding our new norm.

Working more wasn't a decision that I took lightly. I wanted to keep my caring responsibilities at home but I wanted to put more energy into a career I love and reap the financial benefits too. I struggled with the idea of working four days. In all honesty I worried that it signified a shift in my priorities. What effect would it have on our family? Would the boys cope? Would I?

Maybe because of this inner turmoil I noticed more press attention and read a number of blog posts championing the cause of stay at home mums. Most giving highly persuasive well-put arguments that were difficult to challenge. But many that left me with a sense of guilt or shame that I am still not quite getting it right!

Do you ever get the feeling that, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't? I'm bored of the working mum debate.



Let's not forget that women have fought to have more equality in the workplace. We proved that we are competent and capable of taking on the roles traditionally delegated to our fathers.  More women are working. Today, over 70% of women aged 16–64 are employed (53% in 1971) and the majority of mothers work (74.1%).

On the face of it we have made fantastic progress. But the UK has dropped from 9th to 26th place in terms of gender equality. It seems we haven't made a crack big enough in that glass ceiling yet and support for working women remains 'woefully inadequate' according to the King's College London.

I have friends who work full-time, part-time, work from home, are CEOs, stay at home mums, stay at home dads. I love and respect them all. Many women (and men) have made sacrifices for their families whether that was giving up careers, missing out on their child's first day at school, making financial sacrifices or not being home every night to tuck their kids into bed. Each and every one have made the choice that works best for them, their families, their unique set of circumstances.

The crux of the problem for me is, whilst I am able to slip into my dad's company brogues I haven't actually managed to give up my mum's responsibilities. As a teen of the 80's I was sold the idea that women could have it all (I could be the boss in the workplace and still smash it at home).  It has taken me 20 years to realise that to have it all I need help, whether that is flexible working hours, hiring an au pair, having a cleaner or relying on family.

Why are women still arguing amongst ourselves? Whilst we are debating who has made the right choice aren't we failing to get the point. It is a personal choice.

Let's stand together and talk about the issues that really matter and that will make a big difference to women; equality of pay, representation of women in top roles, affordability of child care, flexible working hourstax on sanitary products (tampon tax), higher cost of women's personal care products (the pink tax), zero hour contracts etc

Stop making working mums feel guilty. It is all about finding a balance that works for you. I don't know if this balance will work for us. But I know that I want the support of my sisters (not their judgement) whilst I work it out.





If you liked this then read more parenting posts...

My Sunday Photo

28 October 2018

This was her magic, she could still see the sunset even on the darkest days...⠀



10 super easy halloween costumes

25 October 2018

Dear friend,

Have you suddenly realised that Halloween is around the corner and you haven't sorted out a costume yet? There is no need to panic. I have had a good look around the web and on Pinterest and have found 10 super easy costume ideas for you. So look no further. I am sure there will be an idea here that your kids will love and that won't break the bank either. 

10 Super Easy Halloween Costumes 


1. Tutu Ghost: I love this cute design. Perfect for any tutu lovers out there. Turn your little one into a tutu ghost. Super pretty and fun.


2. Frankenstein: Don't throw out those clothes they've grown out of. Instead recycle into a brilliant outfit. All you need are some scissors and a few safety pins.



3. The Mummy: A halloween classic. I think my parents turned me into one on more than one occasion. Simply put white clothes underneath and raid the medicine cabinet for those bandages.


4. The Bat: Raid the kids dressing up box. Most of us have masks in. You can simply add the ears. Take a black t-shirt and leggings and use a black sack for the wings and hey presto a bat.


5. The Witch: This one may need a bit of sewing for you handy, mums and dads. I love the pocket detail on this and the real broom is easy to make with finds from s forest trip and some strong tape. Or just grab the black clothes and a black plastic bag for a cape and make a hat like my mum used to do!


6: The Spider: A classic. I remember my brother being a spider one year. Get out the old tights and stuff them, you can sew to attach or use safety pins. The goggly eyes on the hat make this even cuter.


7. The Spider web: I would be tempted to cut up my old table cloth to make this! All you need is some black wool, fabric glue and a spider. Simply and effective!


8. The Zombie: One for the bigger kids (even my 12 year old finds this cool). Have an old school shirt handy? Then rough it up and add some fake blood and a bit of face paint or mummy's make up and you're ready to go!


9. The skeleton: black clothes and white tape. What could be easier?


10. The Monster: Crafty mums get creative with an old hoodie and those stickers sitting in the cupboard.



Happy Halloween!



How to raise bilingual children

24 October 2018

Dear friend,

Raising your children to be bilingual seems to be quite the 'in' thing to do at the moment. I have read many articles championing the benefits of being bilingual and there has been research stating that being bilingual can help to ward off dementia but raising bilingual children wasn't a lifestyle choice for us it was a natural progression.

I am English, my husband is Dutch and we live in Holland. My son was born only one year after I moved to Holland and whilst I imagined I would be fluent in Dutch, the reality was I could order a sandwich and say thank you and that was it.

The choice was clear, I would speak English and my husband Dutch. But was it that simple? Yes & No!




I was lucky because working in an international school gave me a great bank of practical knowledge and experience and I badgered colleagues for help and advice and read books they recommended like Colin Baker's: A Parents' and Teachers' guide to Bilingualism and Steiner: 7 steps to raising a Bilingual child.

My Tips for Raising Bilingual Children:


1. Have a plan
Have you heard people say; "Kids are like sponges and they soak up language." It is a Myth. Yes given the right tools and when exposed to language from an early age children will grow up and acquire family languages but this can not be taken for granted. Our plan was One Parent One language but hubby and I have always spoken English together.  We have chosen to continue speaking English at home as it is the minority language for our boys so by speaking it together it increases their daily exposure.

2. Do your research
Family members and friends may want to give you their advice or opinion. We have had people tell us we are confusing our kids, they will mix up their languages and that we are making it harder for them or they'll have a speech delay.  Do your research, know the answers. Nod and smile.  Most of the time these people mean well but don't actually know what they are talking about. 

3. Be consistent
Don't make it easy for your children to switch from the minority language to the majority language. Our oldest son is autistic and he keeps us right! He will ask why are you talking dutch to me? He needs the consistency and has told me I don't sound like mummy when I speak Dutch.



4. Take Time
To learn a language you need time and how much exposure time is up for debate with some researchers saying you need 30% exposure time to become bilingual. For me it depends on your definition of bilingual. Pre school the boys were exposed to more English as they spent most of their time with me. Since beginning school we have had to think about exposure more, English has definitely become the minority. The boys have switched to speaking more Dutch together.

5. Think about Resources
Have lots of resources in the minority language. Our home is full of English books (probably more than Dutch) we have UK television , music and video games. We regularly Skype with UK family and friends. When the boys were younger I took them to an international play group and we spend time with English speaking friends. We go back to the UK for holidays. Language camps can also be a great idea.

6. Be tenacious
You may be given bad advice from 'experts' stick to your guns.
When my son was diagnosed as autistic we were told to bring him up as a monolingual. We ignored the advice. Special needs children can be bilingual, the language problems they have in one language will appear in the other but that won't stop them! I believe being bilingual has improved my sons understanding of the world as he has two frames of reference.



7. There is no wrong language
Sometimes my boys speak to me in Dutch. I never make a big deal of this. There is no wrong language in our house. But I am just consistent in my answer. I continue in english.

8. Don't mix language confusion with code switching.
My boys sometimes pinch a word from one language to use when speaking another as it just fits better.  The best example of this is the Dutch word "gezellig" a word that has no direct translation but encompasses Dutch culture (think Hygge). It is not because they are confused it is because the word fits better!

9. Think Long Term
Despite working in an international (English speaking) school, we sent our children to a Dutch language school. We did this because we thought long term.  We plan on staying in the Netherlands for the rest of their school life so wanted their educational language to be Dutch.

10. Be proud!
Tell your children how proud you are of them. Be enthusiastic!
Hubby and I are really proud of our boys. We love it when people comment or ask questions (polite ones of course). . The big lad wants to learn Spanish next.




This is a revised post...



My Sunday Photo

21 October 2018

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows


Enjoyed this post? See more My Sunday Photo posts here...

A Glimpse into our Autism: Jealous?

17 October 2018

Dear Friend,

Yesterday she asked me:
Are you jealous?
The implication was that I was jealous of her 'normal' child.

This shocked me to the core.
I am not envious. I don't wish that my son was like hers.

My family mean everything to me. I love my boys unconditionally and I do not compare them with anyone else. They are simply and beautifully unique!




Perhaps this is more about narcissism than jealousy? Facebook is full of proud parents boasting of their children's achievements, the internet provides a huge platform for our self gratification.

I admit that I tend to avoid Social Media at report time, when the status updates can be an uncomfortable reminder of my own child's difference. But I am not jealous of another child's success!

I know that everyone faces challenges, regardless of what their Facebook profile shows
We all show what we want the world to see.

To covert what someone else has you must first be disappointed with what you have.

How could I ever be disappointed with my boy? Our successes may be different but they are every bit as significant and maybe even more hard fought.

My sons amazing strength of character, belief and tenacity make me immensely proud every single day.


Jealous does have a different connotation. It can also mean fiercely protective of one's rights or possessions.



As the mum of a special needs child I do feel jealous when:
  • My children are excluded
  • Parents assume their 'normal' children are 'superior'
  • People lack patience or understanding

Yesterday she asked me:
Are you jealous?

Why should I be?

I do  not consider your child to be 'better' than mine?

Autistic doesn't mean less.

A glimpse into autism is a series of short letters that explore the impact autism has on our family on a day to day basis. Disclaimer:  this is our experience not all autistic people are the same. 



This is a revised post.

My Sunday Photo

14 October 2018

If History were told in the form of stories it would never be forgotten...

Helmsley castle

Check out more My Sunday Photo posts here...

Growing pains

10 October 2018

Dear friends,
do you ever look at your children and think, Oh my goodness, where is the time going? I do. I have a major conflict of interests. Stuck between wanting to freeze time to keep my boys 'little' and being excited about the things they are yet to achieve. This poem is my response to the unforgivable habit of growing up. 

Growing Pains

I need your help! 
I am experiencing terrible growing pains,
It only seems like two sleepless nights ago 
That you were tiny babies, 
Looking up at me with wonder in your eyes. 
I was your world...

I am sorry,
I did not always appreciate these days.
The multiple, minute, repetitive moments that filled them
Made it sometimes
Feel like forever.

I am sorry,
Sometimes I felt lonely,
I was afraid that I was getting it wrong,
I wasted time waiting for the next milestone to come
And I wasted energy comparing your path with others.

But most of all I am sorry that
I didn't realise how with each milestone
You were moving further
And further
Away from me...



I wish with ever fibre of my being 
That I could experience one more time how...

Your tiny, soft foot fit in the palm of my hand.
I could carry you in one arm (resting you on my hip)
Your first words were spat out with pride and determination.
You pulled funny faces as you experimented with new foods.
Your warm body curled into me in bed with your feet flat against my side. 
You only covered your excited face during games of Hide and seek.
You squealed go faster during bike rides to the duck pond.
Holding your tiny hand in mine made me feel safe.
I had to rush my shower because you needed me.
My pockets were always full of your special finds. 
Going to the toilet became a group outing.
Your little face appeared at the window as I left for work.




I failed...
In the business of our lives,
To spot the tell tale signs that
Things were changing.
In my blinkered
Rush to get life done,
I missed the signs that
You were outgrowing me.

But I can't fail to notice it now... 
It hits me right between the eyes, every time I look at your long legs.
It weighs me down, when I try to lift you up.
It cuts deep, every-time I offer my hand and you decline.
It makes my tummy flip, when you refuse face painting or dressing up.
It saddens my soul, when there's no-one at the window to wave goodbye.
It cripples my confidence when you utter the words; 'Oh Mum, embarrassing."
It fills me with sadness, when you have nothing to tell me.
It says I told you so, every-time you dash out of the door without a kiss!




Now it is me who is looking at you
With eyes filled with wonder,
Who wants to ask you all the questions,
Who wants to follow you
And snuggle at your side.

Please cut mummy some slack,
Give me that occasional squeeze,
Tell me about your day,
Let me call you my baby,
Hold my hand.

Know that you will always be my world
Even when I'm no longer yours!





This is a revised post.

Pockets reference - you must read the post by occupation mother. 


My Sunday Photo

7 October 2018

The only way to be sure of catching a train is to miss the one before it.




A Glimpse into our autism: High Functioning

3 October 2018

Dear friend,

Our big lad recently started secondary school and has also made the shift from mainstream to special school. It gave me a great sense of peace over the summer holidays to know that he would be moving into an environment that is set up to understand and support children with autism. But then...

Do you think they will find him 'too normal' at this school?
He is not what I expected at all. He's really good isn't he? He is really friendly and communicative.
Yes but he is different than the 'others' you can't tell by looking at him.
I thought he was really high functioning.

To hear this from people we know and some we love shocked me.


Big lad doing a Fortnite dance on the summit of Roseberry Topping.

Our son has always been lost in this no-man's land between being 'too good' for specialist support and 'not good enough' for mainstream.

High functioning children with autism are often left out of the support scenario because there is not enough funding. We are used to fighting for the help that he needs. By moving into the special school system I hoped that the fight would become easier.

People like the linearity of a scale, we like to put things in boxes or to see where they fit and make comparisons.

Verbal, articulate people with autism are often placed at the top of the scale and labelled as high functioning whereas Non verbal people with autism are often placed at the bottom and labelled low functioning.

But...

Autistic people can not be put neatly into a box or applied to a scale because autism is a spectrum disorder.

To use labels like 'normal' or 'high functioning' is not helpful to us because it belittles the difficulties that my son faces every single day. People assume that he won't need many or any accommodations because he is high functioning or looks or acts normal.

Functioning labels are not an accurate representation of the help that an autistic person needs.

High Functions does not mean, doesn't need any help!







A glimpse into autism is a series of short letters that explore the impact autism has on our family on a day to day basis. Disclaimer:  this is our experience not all autistic people are the same. 

#PointShoot October

2 October 2018

Do you love making photos of your family? Do you like to record the everyday memories you are making? Then #PointShoot could be the linky for you. Come and share your photo story posts with me. 

You can share days out snaps or a fun, special, or touching moment from your week. It can be one photo (including Instagram posts) or a series of shots with words or without.



This month's featured post comes from Renovation Bay-Bee



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Photo Diary September

1 October 2018

Dear Friend,

I love capturing the ordinary moments and special times with my camera, looking at our life through a lens gives me a clearer focus. Here I take a look back at some of my favourite moments from the month. 

 Now over to my photo diary... Happy days!



  • New haircuts. Little man was very pleased with his new lightning bolt design
  • Big lad enjoying a Haring at the market in Leiden
  • Cycling into the city with my boys
  • Sunday morning walks at the beach
  • Watching my boys enjoying being together and splashing in the sea
  • A walk in the forest. It was full of fallen acorns
  • Little man found a huge stick!
  • We spent ages listening to acorns dropping into the lake


  • A day out in Haarlem
  • Discovering tiny doorways
  • Finding beautiful hidden streets
  • A great view from the top of Hudson Bay
  • An afternoon at the Rijksmuseum
  • Discovering stunning architecture
  • Seeing famous artworks up close
  • An evening function in a cafe on the beach & a beautiful sunset  

See more Photography posts...

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