Such a good mum

Boys playing in woods
Photo Yvette Lamb

Sometimes, I’m such a good mum. In my head, in theory, I’m golden.
There can surely be no one better for this family of mine…

When I’m not distracted
When I’ve had time for me
When I’m not worn down, needing more sleep or tea

When I’m not trying to juggle
When we’re not running late
When they’re not nagging me for a biscuit or cake.

When they’re not playing up
When they do as I ask
When they put on their shoes
Without drama or sass

I am such a good mum at points of each day
Then I’m too quick to anger and it all slips away
My patience wears thin 
I break my own rules
More sugar, more screen time 
Same issues, old news.

When I lie down beside them and look back on the day
My failings and wrongs dance around where I lay
Though my kids seem content, though we often have fun
I’m not such a good mum when all’s said and done.

Yet when we run to the park
When we hug in the night
When we sing in the car
There is hope, there is light.

When I never give up, though I want to sometimes
When I try my hardest to show them how to be kind
Though I can’t fix their worries or make everything right
I’m there through the tears, through the trouble and fights.

I’m not who I thought and neither are they
Our shapes change and shift as we move through each day
I’m such a good mum, a bad mum, but always their mum
Wrong, right but trying, with each rise of the sun. 

An antidote to homeschooling (because wellbeing matters more)

Homeschooling advice during COVID-19 coronavirus school closures.
Image by www_slon_pics from Pixabay

I actually thought I would be ok when the schools closed. But I am not. Despite starting with pretty low expectations (I’ve learnt over the years that anything else tends to lead to disappointment and tears on both sides), it was still a shocker and harder than I could have imagined: 

  1. Getting up early to work wasn’t enough and staying up late to catch up wasn’t feasible. 
  2. The majority of independent activities ended up not being very independent at all. 
  3. I was interrupted about 1,045 times an hour with questions, snack requests, sibling fall-outs and, once, to be told what the inside of a brick looked like. 
  4. I was ill, only mildly, but enough to put us in self-isolation as per coronavirus guidelines so there really was no escape from the house… or each other.

Yet my children’s schools, which include secondary, primary and preschool, are not overwhelming us with the national curriculum. They’re trying to pitch the home learning at an achievable level and actively encourage downtime, other activities and doing what we need to do to survive. They’ve been brilliant, in what must be such a hugely tough and stressful time for them. How they’re juggling everything they are, from staying connected with kids to planning to caring for the kids they have in school–all during the coronavirus chaos–is beyond the comprehension of my tiny overloaded mind.

So this weekend, when I felt a gnawing ball of dread in my chest about the ‘school week’ ahead, I tried to work out where it was coming from. The actual school stuff wasn’t really a big part of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a huge and often impossible juggle around work, and I’m genuinely not equipped for secondary science or maths. I wasn’t when I was 13 and I’m certainly not now I’m 39. 

But here’s a simple fraction I did work out all by myself *pauses for applause*
My weird, gnawing ball of dread about home educating was:

  • ¼ managing the actual school work around work and other essential tasks.
  • ¼ the kids fighting (Have lost count of how many times I’ve yelled, ‘Just don’t even speak to each other then!’ in the last week.)
  • ½  My phone.

My phone..? What the..? How is that..? What’s that..? WhatsApp?? Hmmm. I see.

I already used my phone too much, as many of us do. Checking work email, answering messages when in the middle of something else, losing five minutes of my life scrolling unnecessarily instead of being productive or relaxing. We can probably all relate.

But since the COVID-19 outbreak has become so real in terms of how it’s impacting our lives, I’ve been on it so much more. As well as reading the news 100% more than I used to and making extra phone calls to my mum, my WhatsApp has practically exploded with:

  • New groups set-up between different friends.
  • Extra messages to/from existing groups.
  • Discussing school stuff on various WhatsApp mum groups with shared resources and ideas GALORE.
  • Community help messaging and information groups.

It all comes from a good place and, alone, each group is helpful. But put together it’s completely overwhelming. I get a lot of the same links from different groups, a thousand showers of useful/inspiring/scary/depressing/panicky messages from people I barely know or don’t know at all, ranging from government updates and local opinions to admirable achievements in art, Lego and den building. 

It’s just too much. With bells on. (Or whatever alert you have for your notifications.)

So with this in mind, I’m sharing a few resounding NON-resources, which pivot away completely from prescribed learning and focus on wellbeing or good old reality.

There isn’t one helpful learning idea in sight. They won’t tell you how to make an Elmer out of a milk carton or list inventive ways to combine gardening with phonics. 

I’m not even collating this to be funny, although some of the following ‘resources’ undoubtedly are. I’m doing it because I think we need an antidote to the overwhelming mountain of advice and learning resources hitting us every which way. 

Have a read, take a breather and realise you don’t need to do more, you need to do less. 

First up, by Katie Kirby at Hurrah for Gin – hurrah for this brilliant and important message.

This one’s a little wordy but worth a full read if you have time (hahaha). Shared by a headteacher, from a headteacher, here’s a taster:

“…This is not homeschooling. This is an unprecedented emergency situation impacting on the whole world. Let’s keep perspective. Homeschooling is a choice, where you considered, you plan for it and you are your child’s school teacher in whatever form you choose. This is, at best, distance learning. In reality, it’s everyone trying to separate their bums from their elbows, because none of us know what we’re doing and what’s right and wrong here…”

If you haven’t watched this yet you totally should, and if you have already seen it you should watch it again as, 10 or so days in, you’re going to relate to it even more. ‘Let me just pull out my clarinet’ – wonderful.

Finally, while this isn’t specific to coronavirus and the school closures, it IS utterly relevant for now and also for the future. In fact, I might just make it my new life mantra. Thanks, the wise Emily Jane Clark.

If you want more ideas for learning, exercise or play, you can undoubtedly take your pick from the billions of options out there, but you don’t need to fill your days with supervised, structured or prescribed activities. In fact, I’d go as far as to say you shouldn’t.

Many of us still have to work, and if you’re not working, there’s so much other stuff to do and often other kids of different ages and needs to tend to. Most schools aren’t expecting us to recreate the classroom at home. If that were possible with minimal planning or training then teaching wouldn’t be the highly skilled profession it clearly is. 

The days are busy, the world is in turmoil and life is just, well, weird.

None of us will benefit additional pressures or to-dos. With the non-essentials, I’m now asking myself, ‘Who am I trying to please?’ And if it isn’t me or my family, or helping the world, I realise I’m getting it wrong.

But it’s ok, I know now I can stop, and so can you.

It’s a tough time, so just try to take care, of yourselves as well as the kids.

If you have any amazing homeschool non-resources to share, hit me up and I’ll add them.

I see you still

crowds of lego people, representing working mothers, fighting to be seen
Credit: Eak_kkk, Pixabay

In the shadows, masked behind the bright light of others
I see you still, 
your volume lowered 

Still around, still rushing from place to place,
still moving on to the next job, the next to-do

Catching your breath, drinking it all in

Under the chaotic mornings and the plate spinning, 
the early starts and the juggling of childcare and work and another school holiday. 
Behind the messy house and the hastily wiped faces 
and just visible beneath the race to get there on time, and leave, and get back

You’re still here, still you. Still trying to carve a path 
and not fall off the edge of the mountain 

You’re still running and playing, hugging and tucking in.
Retrieving lost toys, re-telling favourite stories, brushing little teeth, holding tiny hands. 
Watching, waiting, not wanting to miss a thing
and feeling all of the things when you inevitably do 

Beneath the calm exterior I see the bruises from splitting yourself a million different ways, 
the chances you’ve missed, the times you’ve felt you’ll never get this right
I see the tightrope, the balancing, the falls. 

I see you rise up, again 
ready, again

I see the grit, the dedication, the loyalty. 
I see all of the times you give more when really you just want to rest for a minute. 
I see you play another game, sing another song, meet another deadline, answer another email 

I see you working the hardest you’ve ever worked, 
juggling the most you’ve ever juggled. 
Feeling the pressure on your shoulders but also the sun on your back
as you stumble and skip through these hazy, crazy days; 
through the weeks and months and years that slip by so fast

You’re still here, still doing this, still in view

I see your fears and your doubts and your pride,
the strength, worries and bliss 
and all you carry with you through your everyday:
the tiredness, the tears, the hot, happy mess of your heart

I see you smashing it
I see so many women just like you.

Your greatness, it shines so bright, beneath the surface of each wave

Based in Nottingham, I work as a freelance copywriter with marketing agencies and businesses across the UK. More working mum talk over on my Facebook page, Write Like a Mother. 

#workingparents #motherhood #worklifebalance #workingmum #gohomeontime #flexappeal #poemsaboutwork 

mothers business

Women, mothers, and all that business

During my first year in business, I tried stupidly hard to never let motherhood impact on my work. I would win this motherhood juggle, this struggle. Ignoring the exhaustion, over-compensating for small-person illnesses and working every spare moment I could to juggle the demands of family and self-employment.

It couldn’t continue, though. I was feeling the burn, dropping plates left, right and centre and always, always coming last on my to-do list.

The motherhood juggle

Crying tears of frustration as I somewhat manically rocked my infant son back to sleep, praying for another hour to complete a near-deadline project was not how I wanted to live.

How had I got here? And how could I find my way back?

It had started like it had for many mums or mums-to-be. I was freelancing before our second child was born and had given notice to all but my two regular clients, deciding I could manage some work while the baby napped. Maybe it would even be good to have some time away from the intensities of a newborn, whom I’d secretly always thought of as more hard work than heavenly. (Give me some giggles and positive feedback, baby, then I’ll start enjoying you.)

And ultimately, I had considered the reality of shutting up shop completely: about my future – about my way back in.

mothers in business

So, while barely scraping five broken hours of sleep each night, I trudged on with the days, saying yes all of the times I should have said no. I refused to acknowledge the tight knot in my chest with the ping of each email notification; carrying stress around with me, just like I carried my baby.

And when I eventually stopped – it’s a sweet story involving losing my phone and having the best day ever without it and with my children, I learned something.

I didn’t need to have it all, or do it all, or constantly struggle. It is completely normal for motherhood and work to overlap, I just needed to be honest about my current reality – both to others and myself.

I’m proud to be a woman, and of the irrevocable changes motherhood has brought about. I have been wholly altered – why was I hiding from this inevitable truth?

We should be able to be honest about every part of parenthood, both the triumphs and the challenges. In a time where flexible working and gender pay gaps are rightly newsworthy, we need to be open about the realities of work and parenting in order to find solutions. We need to not dismiss practical circumstances as weaknesses and feel no shame for wanting flexibility or reduced hours.

Once I stopped apologising for being a mother and acknowledged all the positives I offer to the businesses I work with, it became apparent they welcomed working differently: they recognised my strengths and fresh approach. I was open about having priorities other than work – and nothing bad happened.

I don’t work Fridays, and I don’t want to. I value the time away from my laptop, and enjoy the balance. I treasure the unhurried walk to school and heading to the park after pick-up. And I love the trip to toddler music group before curling up on the sofa with picture books – just being, just enjoying motherhood.

It’s my time to build a different kind of tower, using different blocks to strengthen a different foundation.

Life is made up of more parts than business, it shouldn’t have to be a choice of career or time with children, and a healthy working relationship is always two-way.

So, my fellow women and fellow mothers. I have this to say :

Shoot for the stars, should you wish – this world is equally yours. Just remember you don’t have to be superhuman to shine.

Because you show up, you work hard and you’re good. At both of your jobs.

making brand message stick

Why your brand message should be simple to be sticky

It’s very tempting when you have a captive audience – or even when you don’t, to throw every single thing you have at convincing them of your greatness. We’ve all done it: at job interviews, on dates, when selling our house or bike or car. Look at how well I do this! See how this sparkles! Watch when I press this button! (I’ve never used the button line on a date, obviously.)

In business, we’re aware of the miniscule amount of time there is to impress with our brand message, the teeny 7.5 second window we have to convince a potential client that our product or service is the right one for them. And so we overdo it. We cram. We stuff our adverts and flyers and emails full of benefits and solutions and far too many options.

The result of this? Diluting our key message, overwhelming our buyer, decision paralysis – and no sale.

Oh no! Darn, blast, and blow it! We were only trying to showcase our stuff! Jeez Louise…

I completely empathise with the temptation to use your chosen platform – be it landing page, email, home page or advert, to shout out every awesome thing your brand stands for. After all, you have built something totally amazing, right? People won’t know about it if you don’t tell them. If a tree falls in an empty forest, does it still make a sound? Etc. etc.

The issue isn’t the promotion of your brand message itself, that’s non-negotiable in its importance. The trick, however, is to use the space or platform you have to deliver your brand’s core message without other distractions polluting the stage and dialling down the importance of what you want people to know.

Shall we look at an example? (In my head, you’re saying yes. Or at least giving a curt nod.)

Bliss Manor Hotel & Spa are running a time-sensitive special offer. Book a one night stay between March and May by the end of the month, and receive subsequent nights at 50% discount. Pretty cool, huh? And definitely worth shouting about.They have an email list of 827 and a Facebook following of 4.2K. Around 38% of their email list signed-up following a day spa or individual treatment with them, and their Facebook audience is 44% local and 56% national.

What should the basic shape of their email and social media post include?

 

  1. Details of the 50% offer, highlighting its time-sensitive nature with a PS code offering 20% off spa day passes for those not interested in overnight stays.*
  2. Details of the 50% offer, with links of activities to do in the area.
  3. Just details of the offer and its time sensitive nature.
  4. I no longer actually care – I kind of just want to book a spa break

While it is tempting to cover all bases via option one in order to catch those high percentage day-trippers, what this is more likely to do is dilute the original, and most important brand message to potential customers. For starters – and to prove I’m not just being awkward – you’d need to pick one headline or email subject anyway, so the people not interested in booking a room probably aren’t going to open it / read the Facebook post anyway, let alone get to the the PS. And those that might be interested in staying an extra night at half-price are going to automatically downgrade this oh-so-special offer in their head to one that ‘Probably happens all the time because they clearly never charge full-price – not even for day passes.’

It doesn’t mean there’ll be no take-up.

But it means the power of the message will be significantly weakened…

…and if it casts any doubts at all in people’s minds about the value of what they are reading, they need no excuse not to click through to the close.

You may be wondering how I can get in any sort of sweat between two and three, and I will say that some of this comes down to the design of the email, which holds its own in terms of impact. But putting that aside, while it isn’t a terrible idea to offer further reason to make a booking, the offer – or core – of the message and its call to action must be central, so why risk distracting your reader when you only have so long to hold their attention?

In this particular scenario I absolutely would choose option C: clear, bold, and simple – so there is no confusion about what the offer is, how special it is, and what action you need to take to get hold of something so valuable. I’d then send a chaser email one week later with a reminder of: the offer, the deadline, the CTA, plus a few carefully selected ideas of the wonderful things you can do during your stay at Bliss Spa Manor.

You have a lot to say about your business – I totally get that. But just remember your potential customers only have so much time and attention to spare. Choose your brand message wisely, keep it succinct, and they might just listen.

*Of course, if you use email segmentation you won’t even need to worry about cheeky PS dilemmas to reach your whole list, because you can contact different customers with different, tailored offers. But that’s another story for another post. Next time maybe?

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