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.



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.





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!


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


Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

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