This Is 38

I celebrated my birthday last week – actually celebrated it, and had a blast doing it! I rounded up all the usual suspects and hosted a fondue at my house.

We were too busy catching up and chatting and drinking wine and beer to be fussed about eating as soon as the fondue was ready, so the cheese began to set in the pot and we had to “fix” it, so it wasn’t quite perfect. But it was delicious and I wasn’t the tiniest bit anxious about anything. I ate until I couldn’t anymore, and drank cherry cocktails out of pretty cocktail glasses, and danced to 80s music as if no-one was watching.

Much about this birthday has been significant for me, for various reasons – one of which is the fact that this is the age my father was when he died. I’m not sure why, exactly. It’s not that I’m especially emotional about it, or anxious about my own mortality.

Another “big thing” about this birthday is, I suppose, its proximity to the next big number (round it off by two more short years and I’m there) – and there’s some serious planning to do for that one because it’s going to be epic!

But what has really stood out for me at the close of this last little jaunt around the sun is how changed I feel.

I’ve made many changes over the past few months, most of which I think are pretty much invisible to all but those who know me especially well. But I feel those changes and I feel how different I am from the woman, wife and mother I was just a year ago.

I didn’t do a “2017 Review” post at the end of last year; I had intended to but found myself rather busy living and being present in my own life and having no time to spare. 2017 Was also a particularly rough year for me, emotionally. I didn’t  catch the sads the way I have around September in most previous years, but I struggled with some big and deeply personal issues throughout the year. I questioned my identity, my quality of life, my personal values, my parenting capacity and just about everything else in between, and I’m still not sure how much of that I want to put out there.

However, it was also a year of tremendous change, as I have said. I quit my job, cut off my hair and started on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment that has taken me into and out of myself in ways I cannot describe with mere words.  It has changed my general outlook, a number of my tastes and preferences, my inner dialogue and my capacity for human empathy. It has changed my approach to work and its problems and to raising my family. It has given me a glimpse of what I have the potential to be and I could not be more excited about the future.

This is 38, and I will never be the same again.




Catch up

Last night, a friend and I met up with a former colleague from Dubai, who’s currently visiting South Africa on business. I got home at 2:00 this morning. It was so good to reconnect with old friends and feel a little bit like a person again, rather than a mom. People have more fun than moms, you know. And bikers have more fun than people. But we won’t go there just right now…

Anyway, we met up and enjoyed some cocktails and beer and a very late night burger, which was delicious. And we talked about all kinds of grown-up things, like education and learning and the study of literature in a hypertextual world. Things I used to be deeply engaged in before my whole life became all about five other people.

It was wonderful!

My brain misfired every so often, trying to plough through the fog of misuse that settles when you spend 80% of your time in the company of a pre-schooler, and still it was marvellous.

Apart from that little detour, not much out of the ordinary has happened around these parts this last while, so I’m going to follow Angel’s lead and post some random photos from my phone.

Mud party
What little boys do when Mom’s not home
Chris Riddell, 2015 - 2017 Children's Laureate, explaining the negotiation with "Edna Mode" in the publisher's "Making Books Beautiful Department" to his fans at Exclusive Books in Melrose Arch.
Chris Riddell, 2015 – 2017 Children’s Laureate, explaining the negotiation with “Edna Mode” in the publisher’s “Making Books Beautiful Department” to his fans at Exclusive Books in Melrose Arch.
James playing on the building site at Sci Bono.
James playing on the building site at Sci Bono.
Samuel Johnson snapped at the beginning of a big yawn. Looks like she's mouthing off something cheeky, doesn't she?
Samuel Johnson snapped at the beginning of a big yawn. Looks like she’s mouthing off something cheeky, doesn’t she?

Oh, also – I’m job hunting at the moment. There are one or two possibilities I’m very excited about but I’ll tell you all more when I know where things are headed. Wish me luck!



Like (to be) a boss

This morning, I read Stacey’s latest post over at Living Lionheart and immediately went to comment. But my comment started growing pretty long, pretty quickly, so I decided to blog it instead.

Reading that post, it hit me that my life is in a state of nowhere-ness. I’m a stay at home mom but not a housewife.  I’m a business owner but not a boss. I.e., I sometimes employ people on a casual basis but  I don’t have any full time employees to manage. This works for me right now because I’m utterly RUBBISH at handing over a project and overseeing or delegating until it’s done. But at some point I’m going to have to have full time help and I’m going to have to let people own the jobs I employ them to do.

Stacey talks in her post about second guessing her choices and actions a lot. All The Time, in fact. And I think that’s something we all tend to do, regardless of our position in life. We always wonder whether we’re doing the right thing, whether there might not have been a better/faster/easier way of getting to where we want to be or whether we even want the right things for us, right?

And that’s not even taking into account the parenting stuff!

Life took a couple of unexpected turns a few years ago, including retrenchment from a very lucrative job; two more babies, five years after the first two and various other big and small changes over time. In the process,  I’ve kind of left behind the media/writing industry (although I’ll still be the guy who runs those aspects of my business for the foreseeable future) and find myself in the chemical manufacturing industry instead. Where I am now,  I’m not out there pitching to potential clients for new business or having to have frequent meetings with clients. When I meet with people these days, it’s in safety boots, hard hats and reflective vests because, more often than not, I’m meeting them on a construction/roofing site. It’s a far cry from the conference rooms, hotel lobbies, overseas trips and company-bought lunches of my old PR days…

As a woman  in an industry still very much dominated by males and where the shift to online presence is at least a decade behind that in most other industries, I’ve been tempted (often) to ask Stacey for a job. For serious. Because, on top of having to ignore gender prejudice and leering eyes, there’s nothing that’ll make you second guess yourself more than taking the plunge and starting up a business in an entirely new sector!

Now, as for my family, here’s where I get to raise my hand in answer to Stacey’s question about husbands who have child-related notes in their calendars. David is very involved with our kids and makes the time to attend cricket matches, play chess, read stories etc. He makes their school lunches and drops them off at school every day and, until Jack started primary school this year, used to pick up the two littler guys every afternoon. Now, it’s only James he still picks up in the afternoons on his way home but he still pretty much handles everything related to James’ school. I do all the stuff at the primary school, because it’s less than a kilometer from our house and my job is way more flexible, because I’m the boss.

So I can’t say on the parenting front that I’m missing too much of my kids’ lives. I’m lucky enough that my situation allows me to be there for most of what’s going on. I can attend sports days, pick them up from school, supervise homework, etc.

But what it means is that my productivity suffers.  I need to be getting more done, faster. And a lot of the slack comes from a lack of the focus, organisation and confidence that Stacey speaks of.  But a lot of it also comes from having to drop what I’m doing because the kids’ needs come first.

For the moment, what this means is that my work life consists of mornings only. Because once the kids are home from school, there’s no way I’m getting any work done. That’s not to say that I don’t get distracted by other things. Right now, for instance, I’m supposed to be catching up on my accounting. (Yes, the same accounting I was supposed to catch up on two weeks ago.) And it’s been ages since I’ve touched my business website. And I seem to have lost the plot in terms of keeping up with my filing and keeping my desk uncluttered… You get the picture.

Of course, I’m getting better at avoiding temptations and having cut out social media has been the single best move I’ve made in terms of increasing productivity, ever. And I find that the more productive I am, the more motivated I am to get more done. Sometimes, the time it takes to see the rewards is a bit long and I get tripped up again, feeling like I’m getting nowhere. But then I’ll get another big enquiry out of the blue or my day will run that much more smoothly, because I’ve been doing what I’m supposed to, keeping track of things with lists and stuff, and I’m raring to go again. As my business expands, I’ll have to slowly get into the habit of being consistently productive.  The nice part of it being the way it is, is that it allows me to grow and develop routines and strategies over time, rather than having to manage in crisis/cope mode all the time. I get to ease into it and master things in my own time.  Which, in theory means that one day, I’ll be running my life like a boss.