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We are blessed enough to be able to afford help, but we also live no where near support as we have both moved away from the countries that we were born in. Accepting that it’s okay to have help at home was an internal battle, as I was so used to doing everything myself. However, now I couldn’t do half of what I do without the support of my extended family in Switzerland and that is our au pair. When we first got an au pair it went terribly wrong and we learnt a lot. The learnings we have is what I wanted to share:
· Go via an agency. Going via an agency cost more but it meant all the paperwork was supported, and certificates, criminal record and background checks · Interview with real life situations. In the interview we asked what would you do when you wake up the kids in the morning to go to school, and they do not want to go? One hits you because they still do not want to go. This seems extreme and our kids are actually well behaved but it happened once. It surprising the amount of people that said I will be able to make them come, but could not explain how, all to often people under estimate toddlers. It shows their lack of experience. · What would you do if you had the kids for an afternoon? Again this shows their experience. One girl told us she would play basketball with them. Our kids were 1 and 3, I explored this with her and she had no experience with younger children. The most important thing for me was to have someone who loved being with younger children, as the happiness of my kids was paramount. · Check the motivation and flexibility of the person, but be open and transparent on expectations. Why do you want to be an au pair, babysitter or nanny? We gave an overview of a typical week, and what our expectations were. We could see the attitude and motivation of the person, for many people it was just the money and we knew that would not work out. Being and au-pair is not easy and the money is not high.
· Check the experience you want. What experience do you have that is applicable? The agency that we use employ qualified nurses and teachers form the Philippines. Next to the happiness of my kids is their safety and our kids benefit from having a qualified nurse which puts my mind at ease.
· Look after your au-pair and they will look after you. Our au-pair is part of our family and as such she looks after us as a family.
We finally booked our holiday but with no sun we are taking another break last minute. So this year I thought it was time to write a blog on affordable destinations, where you can travel on a budget but still have an amazing time.
Last year we blogged on this topic, but Spain is no longer number 1, and this year it’s Bulgaria. 2014 Post Office World Wide Holiday Costs Barometer provides the cost measurement. The cost per day includes: coffee, beer, soft drink, wine, water, sun cream, cigarettes (although you could give them up and spend it on something nice) and a 3 course meal for 2 adults.
The cost per day has gone up from 2013 from £36.14 a day to £43.26. That is in line with the overall inflation affecting us globally, but unfortunately people’s salaries not increasing at the same pace and in some cases declining. So getting the most for your money is even more important.
We are often so focused on the cost of the travel and hotel, it’s important to consider what we spend when we are there – The Total Cost.
- Bulgaria £43.26 a day
I can now see a trip to Sofia in the horizon given the value that it offers, and from reviews it has the geography, history, architecture and culture, which would make for a great break. Bulgaria moved form being 2013’s number 6 on the Holiday Cost Barometer to number 1.
- Turkey £54.11
Turkey has moved from the number 10 spot in 2013 to number 2 in 2014. There are of course the typical holiday resorts, but Turkey has many hidden treasures. The obvious is Istanbul. Turkey is one of the best cities I have visited, so much so that I have had to do it 3 times. The summer and winter clubs made the romantic weekend each time.
A not so known destination is the The Cappadocia region of turkey where you will find hotels carved in rocks, with rooms starting from 20 Euro’s.
3 and 4. Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca £54.88 and £55.18 respectively
I am not sure why Spain warrants a mention twice, but the Post Office has split these two regions. This year I visited Nerja again for a girls holiday with it’s beach, caves, old town and our cozy pool with the same old couple who have run the café for a life time. Palencia for a wedding and later this year a yoga retreat in Ibiza. The tapas and wine in Spain if you find a good place can really make the holiday.
- Portugal £56.44
Whether you want to go to the beach e.g. Algarve or you are interested in the history and culture it has a wealth of activities. For example, the estate of Initiation Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra in Portugal, music and parties in Lisbon or water sports.
- Cyprus £62.35
Cyprus has great weather, beaches, walks and sights such as Limassol, Kolossi Castle, Tombs of the Kings, Monastery of Apostolos Andreas and for the kids Ostrich Wonderland Theme Park.
- Greece Crete £66.47
Greece appears again twice: split between Crete and Corfu. I am not too sure if maps are being re-written here but the Post Office Barometer has given us a guide as to where to go in regards to value. One of my fondess memories of Greece as a whole is in Rhodes where I hired a bicycle and cycled everywhere. Greece is steeped in history so if you are planning a visit it offers great weather and beaches.
- Croatia £71.86
Croatia is a jewel in the crown and whether it be a city break or stay on the coast and visiting islands it gives a great welcome. There are many amazing restaurants to be found and places of natural beauty that can be discovered by foot. Dubovnik still has buildings dating back to 13th and 16th century and churches of national heritage. Wade Goddard captures the recent atrocities in the 90’s in a War Photo exhibition. On the coast islands like Korcula offer wine tasting trips and Bacvice with its beaches and water-sports. Great hikes can be found in Upper Velebit, Mala Paklenica and Velika Paklenica.
- USA Orlando £76.21
As a child many of my holidays were in the States to visit family we could not afford to go on holiday without visiting family, so we were fortunate to have a large family. It was not until I saved up my own money that I first stayed in a paid apartment with 2 other friends in Ibiza. As such I had the insiders view of the USA whether that would be visiting family and hanging out in Florida, Washington, Boston, New York Visiting the museums, art galleries and restaurants in each city. Staying in the Bronx and Brooklyn with cousins. In Orlando we visited the mall a lot with our teenage cousins. I must say that is not my kind of holiday now, because I like to discover new places, history, culture and people. However, the USA has so much to offer beyond Orlando with amazing natural geographic wonders.
10. Greece Corfu £77.34
Greece was also at number 7.
This year there has been no summer to speak of in Switzerland. Some one stole the sun! I'm heading to a yoga retreat in Ibiza in September and will hopefully find the yellow stuff, for those who are searching for a bit of sun in September here are 7 top locations.
Ibiza weather average 24 degrees
Tunisia weather average 25 degrees
Greek Islands weather average 24 degrees
Mauritius weather average 21 degrees
Koh Samui weather average 28 degrees
Madagascar weather average 18 degrees
South Africa weather average 20 degrees
Date night is one of those check in times with each other where there is no Broccoli being thrown on the floor, or the constant distractions but the pure focus is on each other. Whether it be dinner, a movie or both enjoy. Here are 6 possible great movies to catch this week.
The Hundred Foot Journey
Guardians of the Galaxy
I recently had a play date with another Mum, and she asked me a funny question “with the second child are you starting to feel like yourself?” I didn’t understand the question, as who else would I feel like? Of course I feel like me? I am now a Mum and that has brought a welcoming new side to me, but the lover, friend, sister, daughter, independent girl in her own right and yogi also define me, it’s as if I just have another angle to my personality.
The very next day I received an email due to some help and support I was giving to her, and part of that email described how that person’s Mum had 7 children all naturally and did an amazing job in raising all 7. Then it hit me, the full content of what she said and how she described it, she was trying to live up to her Mum, and trying to be defined by the role model that she had. Role models are great but we all have our own path, and ultimately we need to be ourselves and live life on our terms. My Mum is also amazing, and I often say if I could be half the Mum she was I would do a great job. That said my Mum has always said to go off and live my own life. That has led me to living in different countries, being the first to go to university in our family and going on to study a doctorate, making a positive impact on people lives in a number of professional fields, as well as launching my own business.
So here are the reasons why we must live our own lives:
- Giving birth to a lot of children is great (7 I would even suggest deserves a medal), but nowadays we get married or meet our partners a lot later. In fact we are even lucky if we get to meet our partner! The cost of living has increased which makes larger families not fit with our timing, finances and childcare due to support structures avaiable and women making a difference in the workplace.
- Giving birth naturally is great, but as a mother who has had one C-section and one natural birth, just having your child out alive and safe is the blessing. Between 1990 and 2013, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by almost 50% (WHO Fact sheet N°348). Nowadays fewer women in the West die in childbirth and more children survive, so if you have to have a C-section this does not make you less of a mother.
- We live more global lives now; it can be highly likely that we are not anywhere near grandparents or a support structure. The total number of international migrants has risen from approximately 150 million in 2000 to 214 million today. Migrants represent roughly 3 percent of the world’s population; grouped into a single nation, it would be the world’s fifth-most-populous country (source AT Kearney 2010). This can make motherhood harder, because due to relocation we are away from family who sit on the other side of the country or even world.
- We fought for women to have an education, and as such women continue onto further education outnumbering men in the West. Women in developed regions such as the United States and Europe are likely, because of higher qualifications, to become the primary breadwinners within the next two to three decades. In 2009, women earned 58 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 60 percent of master’s degrees awarded by U.S. colleges, and 59 per- cent of degrees awarded in the European Union. In the 27-nation EU, in the 25-to-34 age group, 34 percent of women have university degrees compared to 26 percent of men. A clear trend has emerged of higher female achievement in education. This trend has meant that women are on a different timeframe as mothers in previous generations (source AT Kearney 2010). I am not saying it I better or worse just different. The phase of life at which we become mothers is no longer weighted in the 20s but our 30s. We have a different outlook on life, and different experiences.
- We fought for equal rights in the workplace; women have such intellectual power with the ability to make a difference across industries and job sectors. Women now make up 15 percent of directors of Fortune 500 companies, yet only 2 percent of Fortune 500 and 5 percent of FTSE 100 CEOs are female (source AT Kearney 2010). If women want to have the opportunity to continue in the workplace it makes us different to the motherhood of previous generations.
- Facts that will shape the Global Business Environment AT Kearny 2010
- WHO Factsheet N°348
I've been eating clean for over a year now and what surprises me is the amount of people that ask me for recipes. Here are my top 5 go to's in addition to me just using my own head for inspiration, which makes up recipes all the time.
1. Danielle Walkers 'Against All Grains' changed my take on clean living with the possibility to enjoy baking with my kids, and still be able to eat it and the most amazing bread http://againstallgrain.com as well as my breakfast with banana and nut porridge, and home made granola.
2. Ottelenghi is not strictly an eating clean chef, but so many of his recipes fit the mould. https://www.ottolenghi.co.uk the flavours in his food, and use of spices means that you do not need the sugar.
3. Madeleine Shaw has such a balanced attitude to food, and health she is a girl after my own heart http://madeleineshaw.com
4. Luke and Scott Clean Living has super tasty and more innovative breakfasts and savoury dishes http://lukeandscott.com/about/
5. The Green Kitchen again not strictly Paleo but so many healthy plant based recipes and a great variation on cauliflower pizza. http://www.greenkitchenstories.com my own variation that I made up in my head sweet potato pizza is also good.
There are four things that I focus on in life: my health (physical, mental and spiritually), my family, my brain (I need a challenge) and my friends. I am fast approaching 36 and in the last week I have spent so much time on the phone or Skype with my friends who are in different continents and countries, and arranged a girl’s night for those friends I have made in my new home country.
As time has gone on I have found that friendships die, change and grow. All of those evolutions are okay it is no judgment on them or me, it is what it is for that time. It contributed a little to me as a person.
I have no friends left from school. Networks yes, but real friendships no. I am still in contact with people on different social networks, but looking back at school I did not connect with the friends around me. It was out of necessity, due to being bullied I found people to have fun with but not truly connect. I started at a university with one 'so called' friend right from nursery who sat at the table in halls (shared accommodation) and arranged with everyone but me to go out, and alienated me. I left that university in the first semester. That was a defining moment for me, where it looked like I gave in, but I didn’t. I decided to go to a different university, study and be me. People either liked me for who I was or I moved on emotionally. I had no thirst to be popular or even accepted. I was going to treat people with kindness regardless but not invest energy where it was not positive back. In that period I lost touch with that group of friends from school and formed my adult mind.
Since the 1st university. I graduated with a BA in Marketing and HR, and went on to post graduate education two masters and currently a doctorate. In that period I made the friends that have been with me through life. Those friends I can pick up with whenever I am back in the UK. They Skype and we fly all over the world to see each other. Our situations have changed over the last 17 years (my 2 oldest friends that I worked at a shoe store with). Some of us are married, have a family, moved countries and continents, but the key thing that has allowed us to change together has been empathy to understand each other’s situation. Where I have seen things break down in friendships, is because that person didn’t understand the other. They didn’t appreciate the others truth. That means that there can be two perspectives in life we all have different circumstances to deal with and lenses that we apply to look at a situation. Sometimes we have to be mature enough to agree to disagree, because everyone has to choose their own path. I see some conflict between 2 sets of friends where there is now a partner in their life they want to spend time with them. In the other situation one would make a different decision that the other, but the truth is we don't live the other persons life. Everyone has to make their own decisions. In my situation now that there are kids there is limited time to regularly get together; in fact the whole quantum time paradigm is reinvented when kids come into the equation! With my good friends I have put myself into their shoes, and tried to get them to understand mine; and they understand. We make quality time together. There is always the promise that when they really need just call. This has stood me in good stead through the life changes so far!
Empathy has been the basis for growth of the friendships that I cherish and want to keep, as well as time. My good friends will always invite me even though I am not in the country, and leave it to me whether I can make it. I am always considered and involved, the friends that I have grown with have a global mind-set, so have grown with me and my development living and working abroad. Most of my friends I met through my masters and yoga, so perhaps the connection that we have is the mental and spiritual challenge. The good friends that I have in Switzerland make quality time once or twice a quarter at least to meet up, as most weekends are absorbed with family time and date nights. This year again I have an extended girls weekend. It amazes me how 6 friends can still be so close after all these years. My five closest friends are Godparents to my children so they are so interconnected to our lives that they grow with us. In July I spend a whole 4 days together catching up and bonding with my friends. The time investment is something that I cherish, and can be difficult to make with two kids under 2 years old. However, it is precious. As my Mum always said if you can count 5 good friends on one hand you are lucky. I would say that I am blessed.
The importance of time for the people and things that we love is what has driven me to start whatiifihadapa. The impact that I can make by giving people more time back in their day is going to be powerful for health, family, mind and friendships.
Friendships - Let them die if they become negative, learn to change with them and provide them with empathy and time to grow.
In the last 3 weeks my family has been affected by two bouts of chicken pox. The first it was possible to base myself from home. The second it was not, so thankfully my sister flew over to help. That help led me to this article on extended families.
WHATIFPA is about how to make people's lives more effective giving them more time in their day to be a healthier and happier you. In the journey to get there it is interesting to look at different cultural mindsets that could make the ‘to do’s’ in life easier.
The Extended Family Trends
The extended help of a family member is a feature in many cultures: Asia, Africa, Europe and the US. In the US, extended families have been increasing because of different socio-economic pressures. As of 2008, a record 49 million Americans, or 16.1% of the total U.S. population, lived in a family household that contained at least two adult generations or a grandparent and at least one other generation, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data. This is a trend reversal from the post war era where the impetus was to get out of the family home. The American public in 1940 had a quarter of the population in one abode; by 1980, this changed to 12%. Of the 49 million Americans living in a multi-generational family household, 47% live in a household made up of two adult generations of the same family (with the youngest adult at least 25 years of age); another 47% live in a household with three or more generations of family members; and 6% are in a “skipped” generation household made up of a grandparent and grandchild, but no parent. Factors for these changes include: economy, median age of marriage, immigration, social changes shaped by the baby boom. The social and economic ties appear to have become more prevalent and driven the rise of the extended family.
So what are the Financial and Social Ties?
Recently the US has seen an increase of extended families in order to alleviate increased financial pressure due to the recession. In 2009 more than 1:5 households were multi-generational with the return migration of 25-34 years olds (Pew Research).
This financial reasoning is not new. “Without public debate or fanfare, large numbers of Americans enacted their own anti-poverty program in the depths of the Great Recession: They moved in with relatives. This helped fuel the largest increase in the number of Americans living in multi-generational households in modern history,” say Rakesh Kochhar and D’Vera Cohn, authors of ‘Fighting Poverty in a Bad Economy Americans Move in with Relatives.’ In other cultures: Hopi Indians of North America, Trobriand Islanders off eastern New Guinea, some tribes in Central Africa there is the matrilineal system where inheritance is passed on through the mothers lineage. This provides a society where women have a structure for property and politics. In parts of Nigeria there is the polygynous family system where families including many wives live as one unit or compound. In these cultures there are rules that govern the sharing of resources and food. There is a group think where every individual is seen to benefit the group, and the sum is greater than its parts. The saying 1 +1 = 3.
Within that group Pew Research identified parents of young children — stressed, over-extended and sleep-deprived parents who may have confused children and resistant spouses in tow.
Although extended families can bring balance, it is not without its challenges the Washington Post interviewed extended families who impacted by the loss of personal space. Coping mechanisms included: “Get up and out in the a.m. to feel productive and a ‘part of the world.’ Join a job search group, exercise with people (not just solo runs) and use evening private time to enforce some family autonomy. These tips worked for me, I stayed fit and got extra rest as a benefit. It helped, it really helped” Washington Post 2011.
Social Development for Adults and Children
Some of the benefits are the shared labour, socialization of children, and support for the elderly. At one point it was believed that extended family structures were the barrier to economic growth. The social side was examined from a western perspective that women were likely to marry earlier, and have more children which hindered social modernization. However, now we see the reverse trend in the West to overcome social and economic challenges (Castillo, Wiesblat, and Villeral 1968). The policies, politics and the education system in the West have influenced individualism over collectivism. If you refer to Hofstede’s 1984 work on cultural differences and the recent work in the GLOBE study across 62 countries, this collectivism versus individualism is a key distinction between the east and west. In the UK during the Thatcher years the policies drove a more individualistic attitude. These may have driven the value changes in direct opposition to extended family life since they emphasize individualism over collectivism (Parsons and Bales 1955). Despite this view extended family households remained prominent in Taiwan (Stokes; Leclere; and Yeu 1987), Japan (Morgan and Kiyosi 1983), India (Ram and Wong 1994), China (Tsui 1989), In Africa, studies have shown a positive impact on modernization (Silverstein 1984). In the West we see a reverse trend that realizes the benefits under the social and economic conditions that we face. Research in the US also proposes the benefits on younger relative’s education attendance and academic achievements Department of Economics Working Paper 2006 and Jaeger, Mads Meier 2013. Social utility is seen as a benefit, because the individuals have an opportunity to gain multiple perspectives from different generations that give an insight of alternative choice Manski (2004).
Learning from Experience
Whilst my family lives in a different country too our parents and siblings, whenever Grandma (of glamma as she likes to be called), Papa or Aunty and Uncle are around I cannot deny the huge leaps forward the children take, and the social benefits felt in the family. This probe into a possible alternative life due to an episode of the chicken pox, perhaps provides a possible solution to some that would consider living as an extended family.
Castillo, g. t.; wiesblat, a. m.; and villareal, f. r. (1968)."the concept of the nuclear and extended family." international journal of comparative sociology 9:1–40.
DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMICS WORKING PAPER 2006 http://ase.tufts.edu/econ/papers/200610.pdf
Hofstede, G. (1984). Culture’s consequences: International differences in work-related values. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Jaeger, Mads Meier (2013) Feb 6. The Extended Family and Children's Educational Success American Sociological Review 77(6): 903-922
Manski, Charles. 2004. “Social Learning from Private Experiences: The Dynamics of the Selection Problem.” Review of Economic Studies 71: 443-458.
Morgan, S. P., and Hirosima, K. (1983). "The Persistence of Extended Family Residence in Japan: Anachronism or Alternative Strategy?" American Sociological Review 48:269–281.
Parsons, T. and Bales, R. F. (1955). Family Socialization and Interaction Process. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
Pew Research Report The Return of the Multi-Generational Family
Pew Research report ‘Fighting Poverty in a Bad Economy Americans Move in with Relatives http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/10/03/fighting-poverty-in-a-bad-economy-americans-move-in-with-relatives/" t "_blank
Ram, M., and Wong, R. (1994). "Covariates of Household Extension in Rural India: Change Over Time." Journal of Marriage and the Family 56:853–864.
Robert J. House (Editor), Paul J. (John) Hanges (Editor), Mansour Javidan (Editor), Peter W. Dorfman (Editor), Vipin Gupta (Editor). Culture, leadership, and organizations: the GLOBE study of 62 societies (1st ed.). SAGE Publications. 29 April 2004. ISBN 978-0-7619-2401-2
Silverstein, S. B. (1984). "Igbo Kinship and Modern Entrepreneurial Organization: The Transportation
Stokes, C. S.; LeClere, F. B.; and Yeu, S. H. (1987). "Household Extension and Reproductive Behavior in Taiwan." Journal of Biosocial Science 19:273–282.
Tsui, M. (1989). "Changes in Chinese Urban Family Structure." Journal of Marriage and the Family 51:737–747.
The Washington Post (Oct. 4th 2011) . Pew Research Center says more extended families living together to survive financial gloom
To start I originally only came to Switzerland for a year. I then met my now husband, and we have since had two beautiful children. To say it has been a journey is an understatement. The percentage of women in management is in the bottom 10 globally. The figures went down from 22% of females in senior management in 2012 to 14% in 2013, (Grant Thornton International Business Report 2013).
My initial role was a contract for 1 year. As a management consultant this was a great opportunity to work on something that I loved, and actually live abroad, assimilate into a culture instead of flying out to a client every Monday. I did not factor meeting ‘love,’ so at that point I needed to find a role that extended past the 1 year assignment. My initial client extended my contract, and as a highly qualified and experienced female finding work was not foreseen to be a problem, but then I was faced with issues that I did not anticipate. I was a foreigner and a woman.
For some women research by George Washington University on Gender Equality and Employment this has had a negative effect on their career:
- With the birth of my daughter my career was over. There are no part-time jobs for highly qualified women.
- Since the birth of the children I work part-time…this naturally has an effect on career development. You cannot have an equally responsible position.
The CV Sift
A Swiss CV should have a photo, date of birth and personal information otherwise you are unlikely to get sifted. These are recommendations, and then if you do stick to this guidance you may find your CV in the pile that says ‘child bearing age ’or ‘face doesn’t fit.’ I remember sending my CV to one company after a friend referred me, they said they loved my experience but I had not attached a photo. As soon as I attached a photo, I was no longer a fit.
The first time I got asked about whether I was planning a family, I was shocked. I now do not have enough fingers and toes to count this question. On a subsequent job search after my first child the new question was whether I could work and have kids.
Research by George Washington University on Gender Equality and Employment in the US and Switzerland shares other women’s experiences:
- At job interviews, I was often asked the following question: on your CV, we found that you have three children. Can you imagine being able to accept a 100 percent [full-time] job?
- Question in an interview: “[You] have children. Can you perform the requirements of this place at all?”
- At every job interview I was asked, “And how you do it with the kids?” I doubt that [a] man must disclose this. I often have to justify why I work 100
So I did eventually manage to move jobs twice with 12 years’ experience, 1 degree, 2 masters and a doctorate in progress. I had to take a lower job, and pay for a company that hired me for my attitude, personality; mind-set and they saw what my skills could bring. For that it sounds strange, but I am grateful. I know they get more out of it, but I have balance. I do wonder how many other women have to make this compromise and have so much untapped talent that they are underemployed, and how much more productive the economy would be if there was a different mind-set on females in the workplace.
The Child Care
Prior to the 20 week scan of my first child I was asked by a friend had I booked a Krippe (kindergarden / nursery) space. I laughed and said I haven’t even had my 20 week scan yet. She said people book a year in advance. I did my calculation and the last time I checked a pregnancy was 40 weeks, but yes the spaces are so limited in Switzerland, availability of childcare is an issue. I didn’t want my child to just go anywhere. I wanted her to be happy, in the end I found a space which meant that I had an additional hours commute before going to work.
I learnt from experience that a parent in Switzerland needs to be prepared. During the pregnancy of our second child, we decided to plan for the kindergarten times of 9.30 – 11.30 and school lunch times of 2 hours at home. Yes that’s right the concept of a packed lunch is an enigma. We bought a large house so that we that we can have an au-pair. We have no family nearby so it is essential In addition my work has a flexible attitude to working from home culture which is not that common.
In reality not everyone can afford these options, so it would seem the social and societal structure hinders a woman’s choice in working.
Research by George Washington University on Gender Equality and Employment in the US and Switzerland shares other women’s experiences:
- Childcare is expensive, restricted in respect of available places. A 12-week school vacation vs. a 5 week work vacation is unrealistic for working families, unless better vacation programs are provided. School hours are also complicated. Part-time or reduced % [of work] to accommodate school timetables is not granted easily, and not for management positions.
- Privately organized [care] means that a full-time nanny must be present. These costs are not now tax deductible by the state. I have always seen this as a clear disadvantage for women with children.
- Worst discrimination factor is the cost of external [child] support….Means that working with children is not worthwhile.
The 1 day parental leave a father gets off work is barely worth a mention.
In my first week, I was told I was paid less because I was a woman, and why do women not negotiate more. I had negotiated very well in previous roles, but there was a blanked ‘no negotiation’ from the person that was astoundingly uttering these words to me over dinner. I did follow with my boss on this conversation!
I also have a close friend, who was offered a board position on a prominent Swiss company, but the pay was less than a man; she resigned. Many of these organisations pay lip service to diversity and I see them as members of associations that externally promote diversity.
Legally, in 1981, the Swiss Federal Constitution incorporated the notion of equal work for equal pay, and the first equal wage and opportunity law came into effect in Switzerland in 1996, concerning remuneration and promotion. The law states that “employers may not pay unequal wages to men and women who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment.” Despite the legal framework for equality, women continue to earn less than men in Switzerland. In 2010 the female median wage was about 81% of the male median wage in the private sector, with women representing about 45% of the working population.2
- [I] was a financial manager for big corporation for 15 years until 2009, lots of satisfaction, high [ranking] on the career level, never got a company car and earned a few thousand less than man in same position.
- My boss told me during a salary negotiation that I would get more if I were a man.
- While working in government, I knew that my colleague had a salary higher than mine…. we were hired at the same time, had the same training and same specifications. I also had the feeling of not being [offered] another job because
- I was a woman, had to work with men (police). I had higher skills and better training than the man who took the job.
If you are married with children in Switzerland you are taxed more. Yes that’s right. The tax system encourages the woman to stay at home too.
I have no other phrase to use but ‘the shun’ because in Switzerland you are shunned if you work full time with kids. The ‘why do you work’ questions, and the distasteful tone that rings when people say ‘you work!!!,’ can at points become overwhelming.
I appreciate every mother who chooses to work (stay) at home with their kids, to work for a company part time or full time. All can be challenging and rewarding. I use the phrase work at home instead of stay at home because for anyone who has ever done it you will know it is the hardest work you have ever done. Ultimately it is about women having choice. The frank reality is that the political, societal, cultural and employment frameworks as they currently are in Switzerland negates female choice.
Other countries have their challenges, but with females only winning the right to vote in the 70's the issues are certainly polarized, and challenge what needs to change.
This year I will launch WHATIFPA and the real difference to women will start on a global level.
I had a surprise Skype call from my sister yesterday. It was a surprise one because it was the 3rd of the day where she asked me whether there was anyone she could speak to in my network about doing a degree in psychology.
My sister went to drama school, and is one of the smartest people I know. She chose not to go down the classic education route, and our family have never pushed her post her A ‘Levels. What is interesting about her timing is I know she wants kids. We are the same age (twins), and as soon as I gave birth she was ready to also be a Mum emotionally, but there were some financial barriers.
I of course wanted to understand what she wanted to do, why and have connected her with the right people so she can really formulate if it is the right step for her. In this process she said that I had inspired her with my doctorate. So this blog is to give some helpful advice for those people considering embarking on studying with motherhood. Indeed there may even be some fathers out there too.
Before I go any further – Yes it’s hard work!
1. Assess if it’s right for you and your family?
• Ask yourself what you want to do and why you want to do it? In that process challenge yourself really why, and are there other ways to get there? An academic qualification may not be the only way to achieve your goal. Then if it is what you want, are you willing to give up your time when the children go to bed? Are you willing to give up some of your time with your partner? Is it worth it? Dependent on your answer it may be that it is not the right time.
• Are you passionate about it? If you are not - do not do it. Life is too short to waste time on eh things that we are not passionate about.
• Do you have a routine that would enable you to study?
• Do you have structured sleep times that you can guarantee regularly time to study?
• Do you know on the whole your kids sleep well? So that you have energy to focus.
• Do you have regular travel times on public transport that facilitate regular reading and or study time? Or do you have any other time that is not being utilised?
If the answer is yes to the first two points, then you can organise the time resources necessary. The final bullet is a bonus. It may not be how other students might work, but 2-3 hours a night adds up to 14 – 21 hours a week.
• Investigate what possible courses are available that provide different options: location near home, online, opportunity to defer, mixture of assignments and exam, the languages you can take it in, past students outcomes/ successes (call the course supervisor or dean), resources and cost. Analyse and prioritise the option/s to discuss with your support framework.
• Ask the same questions about sacrifice to your family: partner and kids, and are they willing to support you? It has to be a joint decision because if not the times when you need to have your head down to get an assignment finished and are unavailable could lead to resentment.
• Is there anything that you can add to support you? Can grandparents help? Can you afford outside help: a babysitter, au pair or nanny? Think these things through because there is a lot of time involved.
• It may not be cheap! There can be scholarships available but be realistic because parenthood is also not cheap. Research funds and make a budget plan accordingly.
If you that you are willing to make the sacrifice, identified that there is a routine that would facilitate study and support. Then move on to the next stage ‘Design’
2. Design in a way of working that will make you successful?
• Pick the physical or virtual location to study that makes sense to you. I choose to study in the city that I now reside. I sometimes travel with my job, so as a family it would be an extra burden to go away to university weekends. There are 11 compact weekends in total, but each one I am home for breakfast, and to spend time with my family in the evening. A work colleague suggested going to Copenhagen to study, but what was more important to me was limiting the impact on my family. Secondly, a doctorate is not marked as traditional exams or coursework. Essentially your body of work has to be accepted by the experts, so in this context the place became irrelevant. This may not be true for all qualifications, but it is something to take into account.
• Go through and request the timetable for the course that you decided on. Put all the assignment dates in your diary, and make a plan ahead of time that allows you to meet the deadlines. Strangely, 1 single man has dropped out the doctorate and 2 people have been late with assignments out of 9 people. I am not aware of their full circumstances, but what works for me is the scheduling of completion in advance. I cannot afford to wait until the last minute. I have to dedicate time to it regularly; no excuses.
• If you haven’t already you will need a dedicated machine just for you and your study, and I highly recommend an Ipad with a kindle app, or kindle. The ability to read anywhere and everywhere that you have a free moment means that you can maximise your research and analysis time, boosting your productivity.
Use Your Network
• Mummies are the most powerful and resourceful network. We all make choices and I know Mummies who are blissfully raising their children that were lawyers, copy writers, teachers, HR Directors, CEO’s and the list goes on. Reach out for help. I needed someone to proof read my research proposal. I stopped counting after 8 people stepped forward. The value they added was colossal, because they provided a second pair of eye’s to: grammar, clarity and even built on the process.
3. Do it in a way that makes you successful.
• Check in with your family how it is working and if there anything that would help each other? Overall my family is so proud of me. There have been times where we have had to make sure that we both get a break.
• The good thing about studying later on in life is actually I am no longer an anal perfectionist. I work hard at it and do many drafts, but there is a point where I say ‘that assignment’ will have to be enough as I want to play with my son and daughter.
• If you are doing a thesis make sure the topic is what you are passionate about. My topic is how to develop talent in children. When I was on maternity leave with my second child I was so engrossed in the subject that I would sit down to research, and then before I knew it, it was time to pick up my daughter from kindergarten.
4. Be clear what success looks like, and it is not what you think!
• Be clear that this does not define you. It may help you to get to a goal but success does not come in the form of a job title, or degree. How you live, experience life and the difference you make to the people you meet is success. It could be as simple as you need a mental challenge, or you want to make a difference in a certain field. So if this helps you in how you live and experience your life then go for it.
After our second child we also moved house to a new area and lost our trusted babysitter. There was also a period of adjustment to be able to look after two children. The re-initiation of nappies, bottle feeding and weaning with time for ourselves after the kids went to bed at eight. It would have been all too easy to just carry on in that direction.
I decided to get help and that meant that we could bring back a permanent date night, and what a difference it made. It has given us the opportunity to reconnect regularly, with the ability for it to either be just the two of us, or meet and reconnect with friends. Of course we connect on a daily basis, but the depth of connection is different when you are focused on the kids asking them about their day at kindergarten, weaning our second child which involves 40% of the food being dropped on the floor, playing puzzles, bath time and bed. By the time parent time arrives at 20.00pm we cuddle up and chill. Friday nights is different we have the energy to debate topics like when we were dating from politics, religion, economics, the arts to social issues. We have the chance to laugh and joke from an adult perspective. We have the chance to understand how each other’s lives are going, and help and adjust for each other. We also get to do the things we love eating out, the cinema and being with friends.
While this may only be a few hours a week to some, the date night is what ensures our world fits together.
My biggest recommendation is to make time to reconnect.
EBook: 58 Tips For a Balance
80 % of working women and 72% of working men said that they, their neighbours or their friends face hardships when managing work, family and personal responsibilities (National Partnership in November 2012). 88% of people say they have difficulty juggling work and life (AON Consulting). First we break down those key ‘life’ tasks further to better understand solutions to balance.
What do we mean when we say work-life balance, we continually treat the equation like a seesaw and hence it can be hard to at least have some stability. The more bases that we understand the more stable our life can become. The more we recognize the richness of people’s lives, the more realistic we can be.
The illusion of work life balance is false. We need to balance: self, partner, family, mental fulfilment, physical fulfilment and financial requirements; and they do not necessarily have equal weight. Work may be part of psychological, physical and financial requirements. These financial requirements are not about earning ex amount of $, but to be able to pay the bills. It may be for some that psychologically a high salary is important to them.
Personal ‘Me’ ‘Me’ ‘Me’
Being a parent does not mean that all the things that happened before are completely gone. Yes time is a precious resource, but you still exist as a person. Not only do you need to look after your physical health but also there still needs to be some personal time. If you do not have your health you have nothing, you cannot be there for your partner or your children. One of the challenges that people face is the constant struggle in the household just to grab enough time for themselves, their hobby or just to get some down time. “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” John Rohn 2003. More balance could be some ‘me’ time.
20 hours plus a week is spent on housework (Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends 2013), it seems that we have increasing bureaucratic obligations. Americans alone spent 8.8 billion hours completing government forms (White House Office of Management and Budget, 2010 figures)! Some tasks are already outsourced, but one solution would be that many more tasks could be automated to provide more balance to the household.
Work – driven by physical, financial and psychological requirements
Work is about the employer, employee and community. The community and government need to start to address the flexible requirements of its citizens in the workplace. In some countries there is no protection or promotion of flexible working. Policies could encourage companies to offer more flexible solutions which could have add on benefits, for example, reduction of CO2 admissions due to reduced commuter, and reduced congestion pressure on our transport networks. There is of course the need to address how to motivate and manage virtual teams. This is where the role of employers comes in. There needs to be a change of mind-set of employers to understand what opportunities a flexible workforce could bring and to be able to have a culture of productivity and trust; as opposed to physical presence. Some employers are already there my first job after graduating over 10 years ago was working flexibly, but this is not every employer.
Family and Partner
Every family and relationship is different and the constant judgment on different family solutions goes from frustrating to boring, because each family has to have the solution that works for them. If they do want to work then government and society should play a role in policies that give access to affordable childcare. The family day can be pressured at points with the school or kindergarten run, where work can play an important part to help to achieve balance. The quality of time with the family can be impacted by personal and administration needs. Yet this forth quadrant is often where people want to spend their time. 70% of working fathers and working mothers report they don’t have enough time for their children (Family Matters Survey; The National Partnership for Women & Families, 1998).
If we keep on thinking of work-life balance as a two factor equation we may never address the real challenges of family life.
Tips for Addressing the Multi Factor Equation
1. Put yourself first.
• If you are not breathing you can’t be there for the one’s you love. Question: What’s the most important thing in life? The answer is ‘Me.’ This may sound like an arrogant answer, but it is true. If you do not have your health you can’t be there for your partner, children, do your job or whatever else is important to you. It is so easy to go back into a cycle that disturbs the balance, but before you do, ask yourself that question. Continue on a positive cycle that brings what you define as balance.
2. Get up early to make more time in the day for you and others.
• I’m up at 5am. I arranged that I would get in early with my boss, which means that if there are no calls with the US, or anything urgent creeps up I am finished at 14.45. I do believe in flexibility and that cuts both ways. The majority of the time I am home just gone 4pm. This gives me the bandwidth to be productive at work, optimize on any personal responsibilities and enjoy life. Harvard biologist Christoph Randler discovered in 2009 that early risers are more proactive. They were more likely to agree with statements like “I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself” and “I feel in charge of making things happen.”
3. Keep a Little You.
• Have you time built into your week whether that be an hour of yoga, writing or running. I have other friends that still keep up their interests and or talents: writing, running, yoga and even find a channel to change careers.
4. Have time built in for your relationship. One night a week make time for you and your partner to go to dinner, the cinema or watch a movie at home.
• Keep one evening for yourself and your relationship. Date night is Friday, and just before going out I have Pilates which is my treat to myself. Plus my second child really left his mark ‘I was here.’ My core strength I can work on, the marks are permanent and I actually love. My kids are every part of me, and I know I am blessed to have them. That precious ‘me’ time, and then date night with the man I love so much completes the happy, healthy, emotionally balanced and physically fit me.
5. Say connected meet up and talk with friends and family.
• Connections are what bind us. The ability to talk and connect with friends and family on multiple channels is amazing. Don’t forget good old face to face, but that may not always be possible if you live in a different country. So Skype dates and social networks can help to support our psychological needs.
6. Eat healthy it will not only prevent illness, but give you energy.
• There are three factors to health nutrition, mind and body. The awareness of nutrition and the benefits of what we put into our body is important, so that we eat to live. http://whatifpa.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/top-5-energy-foods-to-max-my-day/
7. Practice healthy so mediate or do yoga to keep a healthy and strong mind.
• I pretty much practice yoga every day. I have done so ever since I caught dysentery at a Hotel in Edinburgh. Yes, dysentery I thought it was a disease from the times of Charles Dickens but this was in 2003. Ashtanga yoga was my way to get my strength back, from that I grew the practice in breadth and depth to Bikram, Hatha, Kundalini and Vinyasa Flow and eventually teaching; which I love. The health benefits have been enormous. The focus, self-awareness and energy I have every day multiplies every area of my life. I vary my practice dependent on the day and time as a busy working mother of 2. If I have only 8 minutes there are 4 exercises I do to oxygenate my body, wake up my bones and get the blood to my brain.
• I always say Yoga gets me at breathing. This controlled breathing exercise increases your lung capacity delivering oxygen to your organs, and hence revitalising your body in the morning. It’s also a good exercise before an important meeting or presentation.
Arda Chandrasana Padahastasana
• This posture not only gives quick energy, but also when done right works your stomach, bum, hips, thighs and spine.
• I include this posture because it balances out your hormones, which can impact your balance all day. I believe it is also why I fell pregnant so quickly!
• The stretch in this posture is great for your neck; shoulders, lymph glands and blood flow to the brain.
• In India yoga was not necessarily a series, but postures to address different conditions. A regular practice is of course the best scenario, once you know your practice, body and postures then you can break postures down into their benefits. This compartmentalisation allows you to do a few postures that give you just what you need when you need it, when you are short of time. Of course consult your doctor with any new form of exercise, and then look for a class in your local area, or online, so you are instructed on how to do the postures correctly. One I find useful is https://tonysanchezyoga.com/
8. If you can afford it outsource.
• If you can afford it get help. With my first child I did it alone, now 2 kids are in the mix, we have no other family to pull on and there is a longer commute. A second pair of hands to take the kids to and from nursery is a god send.
9. Loose the guilt on getting help to make your life easier, if you need to get a cleaner or au-pair. If you have one and you feel guilty stop.
10. Stop comparing your life with others just live life in your own shoes.
• Don’t compare there will always be someone better, or worse there are over 7bn people on the planet. You’ll just get stuck.
11. Be grateful. Remind yourself daily of what you are grateful for.
• Experiments have shown that gratitude plays a part in happiness http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHv6vTKD6lg
12. Learn to let go of unrealistic and unnecessary standards.
• Don’t beat yourself up if things are not perfect, the house isn’t clean or you don’t look immaculate. Ask yourself did anyone die? Is everyone healthy? A friend recently told me they felt like a rubbish Mum, she had done everything for her child when she was sick. The thing she was judging herself on was the house was a mess, she hadn’t got dressed and she could have given her child more water. By the way she had given her child Calpol and water. These standards that people put in place are sometimes a ridiculous. I ask her the two questions and clearly everything was okay, and she realised they were unnecessary standards.
13. Ask yourself what makes you happy, and start to look at your life through that lens. How can I do more of that in my job, or outside of work?
• Those people that work in what they are passionate about, or have enough time to be able to do and fund what they are passionate about are happier. The CAFOD and Tearfund poll on what makes people happy showed having an interesting job was important for 92% of Britons. There are a number of factors that determine happiness, and every person will have their own unique mix. The important thing is to enrich any areas where there are deficiencies.
14. Ask yourself if I were to die tomorrow what would I wish I would have done and go do it.
• These are lessons from the dying. http://whatifpa.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/what-if-we-had-our-time-all-over-again/
15. Stop spending time with people that zap your energy.
• Have honest vested friendships. True friends will put their friend’s happiness first, even if it affects their friendship. If a friendship constantly drains you – walk away.
16. Spend time with people that give you energy.
17. Spend time with the people that count
18. When you travel use time efficiently, so think about commuting by public transport to be able to work on the train, and or have down time.
• If you have children and the childcare is in the direction of public transport to get to work; take it! The amount of productive time that can be gained on public transport catching up on to do’s, or even just being able to read a book gives you time back. I’m half way through my doctorate so the train time adds up to a lot of research time. The walking you do also all accumulates to a much healthier you.
19. Put focus on the things that move your life to where you want to be
• Focus on the things that matter. The things that need to be done, that matter and that you can move. Don’t get stuck on the small and trivial.
20. Prioritise focus on what needs to be done, do those first and don’t get bogged down with unnecessary time wasting activities.
21. Automate activities where possible, for example, direct debit.
22. Have one family calendar viewable by all, it makes organising life easier.
23. Order food shopping online so as not to spend precious weekends in the supermarket.
24. Order gifts online so that they are wrapped and sent for you with often no or very little additional cost.
25. Have your 5 friends that you can count on one hand (if you’re lucky) that you can go to if you need help, support or just to bounce ideas off.
26. Be open to saying yes where you would have said no previously and see the changes.
27. Know your threshold and when you need to say “no.” At the same time as number ‘26’,
• We can only attend so many social events and do so many favours. If you live as a family a co-ordination of the calendar is best done together, so the family doesn’t feel warn out trying to keep up with life. If you start saying “no” then you start to get the space to enjoy life.
28. Cook quick and easy recipes that take no more than 15 minutes.
• It’s not necessary to be a cooking goddess, but the ability to pull together a nutritious meal in 15 minutes is useful and with cook books like Jamie’s 15 minute meals; rather easy. It keeps the family healthy, and understanding food means that there is less food to waste, as well as saving money. The left overs can be reused into a left over pie or lunch, slightly old fruit can be chucked into a smoothie or crumble, and fish can be gutted and scraped to make fish cakes from scratch for an economical but nutritious meal.
29. Make extra food for dinner that is then your lunch.
30. Take your lunch to work its quicker, tastier, healthier, easier and cheaper.
• Take your lunch in. When did packed lunch start to become uncool? I am so glad in my new office everyone brings lunch in, it’s healthier cheaper and easy as I get to use up my leftovers from dinner. Of course there is the preparation time of 1 to 10 minutes the night before dependent on what I make, and if I use what I made for dinner.
31. Organise your cupboards so you can easily get to things.
32. Organise and file papers away. Have an in and out tray so you easily know what to do with it.
• You may do a periodic file, but it is useful just to have a in, out and action tray in the hallway of office that is the step before filing, so you know if there is anything to be done.
33. Register to have no junk mail.
• We say we care about the environment but this is just such a simple thing. I chuck so many brochures, terms and condition changes in the recycling. 100 million trees are destroyed a year for junk mail. Sometimes I have to really question whether we are serious about the environment. Companies should have electronic as the norm, and that would save 100 million + trees http://www.41pounds.org/impact/ You can deregister with junk mail services online for your country, put a no junk mail sticker on your mailbox and ask to your service providers e.g. banks and utilities not to send you promotions.
34. Go for electronic statements and billing. This is different from Junk Mail as it is content you need. The paperwork that accumulates can be humungous. When I periodically sort out the paper there is a volcano of paper spewed out of a crater, which had been inactive for 500 years! I have requested online statement etc., but I still seem to end up with so much paper. What if companies were banned from sending paper, everything is electronic by default and people have to request if they REALLY want paper. If for some odd reason in the 21st century they don’t have an email address then post is fine. Can you imagine how much paper would be saved? You can ask your service providers to go electronic.
35. Take a job which you love, and not necessarily the highest paid.
• Money is not everything and if you can still live and be happy in the long run the balance is felt.
36. Don’t live in the past or future live in the present.
• If you over think past mistakes and events you can get stuck. There is the ability to reflect and learn from the past but then to move on. If you over think the future you can miss what you need to do in the present, it becomes wishful thinking. Yes think about what you want, and have a goal but stay in the present about what you have to do right now and here to meet that goal.
37. Reach out to mentors, people that inspire and take you to a higher level.
• Inspiration can support psychological balance, it is possible to also challenge our view of the world, and how we can learn from others.
38. Find networks of people that inspire you.
• There are so many networks of people with similar interests, causes or mind-sets. This sharing of interests and problems provides a better psychological balance.
39. Dress easily and with minimal effort.
• I purchase good quality easy things that I can throw on in 2 minutes. No iron dresses in the week and skinny jeans at the weekend. I still make an effort, but I spend 15-30 minutes in total to get out the door.
40. Avoid addictive substances.
• Some substances falsely boost energy, but actually create highs, and subsequent lows. Too much tea, too much coffee and too much sugar. You notice I said too much, because it is about balance.
41. Take a lunch break.
• You need a break to revitalise, exercise and connect with people. Research shows that taking breaks allows you to stay focused and be more productive. Brief and rare mental 'breaks' keep you focused: Deactivation and reactivation of task goals preempt vigilance decrements Ariga, Atsunori and Lleras, Alejandro, March 2011.
42. Work as a unit, think about the tasks as one unit, and work together as a family.
• The old adage 1 + 1 = 2 applies to any kind of team work and that includes the family. If balance is just considered a 2 factor equation on 1 dimension i.e. you it will never be achieved. Who are the important people around you, your partner, or your children? How does the team work together to achieve balance?
43. Get rid of your chair.
• I got rid of my office chair for two reasons. On maternity leave I had been using my gym ball, and on return to the office I noticed my back hurt. I brought my gym ball in to the office, which is great for my spine and even better my core, giving it a workout all day.
44. Exercise at lunch time.
• Exercise at lunch time. I have a Nike Fuel band so as well as the walking involved in getting to work in the morning, I either practice yoga or run a minimum of 3 times a week. Because I make my lunch, there is no need to take an hour in the canteen. I make sure I still socialize with my colleagues, so as not to cut myself off from the networking that happens in the lunch time. The health of the mind is essential and practices like mediation can support its maintenance. What research shows is that there can be a misconception in the effect of the quantity of fitness to health. In is not the quantity but the quality. Wang and Wong 2011 studied the relationship between leisure satisfaction and well-being and happiness. They found that it was not the quantity but quality of the leisure time, and how it is used has a positive relationship to happiness.
45. If you want something start today. Break it down step by step into manageable bits about what needs to be done.
• If you really want it, go get it starting today. No what if’s, or buts, what are the barriers and start to break them down. “It always seems impossible until it's done.” Nelson Mandela
46. What do I need to do differently to get a chance of having what I really want?
• Break the cycle. I loathed the people that judged me because I was working all the time because it was not that easy to meet the right man. At the time I was in Switzerland flying in and flying out the entire time still acting as a consultant. I had taken an independent assignment, so I decided after the business trip to make a conscious effort to not fly back to London, but to integrate into Switzerland. Think about what could change your circumstances. It may be you want to achieve something else, but changing your routine, or putting boundaries in place can bring about change. I went from flying back to practicing and teaching Yoga with my Swiss colleagues and now friends, captaining a Netball team, going out to different groups entrepreneurs, and social where I met so many new and likeminded people. As a consultant networking is normal, but we are never in one place really long enough. 2 months into my assignment I went to an event alone, I could not find the group and asked a man where it was. We talked the whole night and never looked up until we realized the whole bar was empty. That man is now my husband and father to my 2 children.
47. Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
• Treat others as you would like to be treated. There is such a thing as karma! More importantly life is so much better when we surround ourselves with kindness, acts of help and gratitude.
48. Take the hassle out of Xmas. This deserves a lot more detail given the occasion.
• Limit your Xmas gift list to those you really want to give to, and can afford to. I give to my immediate family, and best friends. Friends and family are not based on you giving or how much you give. With a lot of my friends it is just beautiful to just catch up on Skype, or for dinner or a drink rather than a gift. A lot of my friends now live in different countries and even continents.
• Define a budget. I still give to my best friends but it is often small. It can vary e.g. Stilla lip gloss, but definitely something I know they will use.
• Ask for wish lists early. It is easier to get people what they would love for Xmas. If you ask for a list it always contains big and small budget items. You can then budget for enough money being there, purchase early and look out for offers.
• Order presents online. If you physically go shopping you have to deal with crowded shops. Online the postage and packaging is often included. The cost of posting can be extortionate, especially internationally. Note some online sites only allow you to set a delivery date so far into the future. Gifts can still be personal online photo books, or items they have said they really want. There are amazing sites http://www.notonthehighstreet.com http://www.etsy.com, and I can find anything on Amazon.
• Don’t do too much travelling. Previously we travelled to Denmark for the 24th and then England for the 25th. Luckily they celebrate Xmas on different days. Our first Xmas in Switzerland last year was so relaxing.
• Cards this is often tradition but should not be obligatory. My sister hand makes and sends cards and that’s great. I have broken away from the tradition and I just catch up with my friends on email, skype of social networks to say happy Xmas. If I get time, then I will get a few cards and send them, but I do not put myself under any pressure to do so.
• Cook your favourite meal. I grew up having so many different dishes at Xmas. Xmas was all about food, but not Turkey. Keep the Xmas dinner manageable and to what you love, maybe experiment with some fresh and innovative takes on a recipe. There are so many food recipe sources for inspiration. http://www.pinterest.com/whatifihadapa/what-if-i-had-a-pa-healthy-food-for-my-family/
49. Change how you look at life.
• A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’ The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed. ‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—-your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favourite passions—-and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else—-the small stuff. ‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn. Take care of the golf balls first—-the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand. One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend (source unknown).
50. Move and express yourself with intent. Visualize your life and move that way to bring about the changes that you want.
51. Put the family in the forefront of the decision.
• Whether a person is working or not and running a family, there are always those decisions that need to be made. Every household is different, and the key is it has to work for the household. Think win-win does not necessarily come into it. It may not be possible for both people to progress in their career. One person may have to take a step back as the other takes a step forward to make sure that the overall family balance is a happy one.
52. Understand who you are and be self-aware.
• I have seen myself evolve with different experiences, environments and people. There were certainly some seeds of my character planted by my parents, but as life has changed difficult decisions have defined me. Sometimes those have been simple decisions e.g. I can’t let that happen. We are faced with these decisions regularly, and many people do the right thing.
• THE RIGHT THING. The movie that best symbolises this type of decision to me is the true story of ‘Michael Oher’ in The Blind Side. A woman who took a young boy from off the street and which changed both their lives.
• NO BEST WAY. My sister’s keeper is a predicament where there is no right decision. Do I donate my bone marrow to save my sisters life, or do I say no to let my sister live her life.
• WHO AM I? These decisions get to the crux of people defining Who Am I? The Pursuit of Happyness is such a film where regardless of the challenges integrity is important. Will Smith reminds me of my dad “don’t ever let somebody tell you you can’t do something” and “if you want something go get it period”
• WHO ARE WE? Who am I is just a cellular level question, and we act in an organism. Who are we is more complex, as we are affected by the actions of others. We have different agenda’s and pressures. A community can be divided or come together in the definition of who are we. The “I” and “We” are connected. A person may have to stand up for what they believe in, and influence a community to take action. This kind of decision can be seen in ‘Erin Brockovich’s’ true story.
• WHO IS THE COMPANY/COUNTRY? Finally multiple communities can make up an organisation or country. A person may need to affect decisions by influencing members, and that can be done directly or indirectly. A person would need to think through the impact of actions, key players and also stay true to what defines them. The Last King of Scotland is an extreme example of how a doctor reflected on his morals and saw ‘Idi Amen’ for who he really was, took personal accountability and put his life in danger in the process.
• These movies are just to illustrate the type of decisions we make. At these critical points in life it is important to remember who you are, what you stand for as a community and who the company or organisation is. Many of them are true stories, and show just how much a defining moment can have on other people’s lives. This self-awareness brings about psychological balance.
53. Go for what you want no fear.
My daughter goes for what she wants and succeeds with no fear. For example, she was at a wedding (2 years old) and wanted cake that the top table had. It was quite simple she saw people she liked on the top table, as well as a huge piece of chocolate cake. The actual input involved to get it was not over thought. She did not use up her energy over analysing a process; she just went for it. I see lots of people overthinking instead of going for it, which doubles the energy required. Granted some thought and information is needed on important decisions but often your gut is the ultimate decision maker.
54. Redefine Success
• The music. If we define success as how far we make it up the corporate ladder or financial there is no balance. I have friends that are on burn out, but the perception of success is skewed. Redefine what success means for you in order to find balance.
55. Take Lessons from a 90 Year Old
56. De-Clutter your life
• I am reading a lot currently on mindfulness. It interests me, but intrigues me as there is never just a one size fits all. For some people it may be best to focus on one thing and do it well, for others it may be two or three. My number is five if I ever take on more than five it does not work. My five are: Husband, Children, Work whatifpa, Learning (Doctorate) and Yoga. Sometimes people do amazing things multi-tasking. This may be an unpopular thought in the current trend of mindfulness. However, just look at the true story of Erin Brockovich she took on a Goliath of a lawsuit. Yes she went through challenges as she was stretched between her children, her partner and her career; but what a difference she made!
• I had to remove other things from my life because they over zapped my energy. So sit down and write a list of everything that you do, and include things like your friends or your husband if you are married; after all they are important. Then think about what is really important to you. Whatever is not important drop it. It is not a failure to lose it, and in fact can turn into a positive. When I dropped being Netball captain I had done my turn for 2 years, and moving on left space for another person to breathe their ideas and more energy into what is now a flourishing club. Refine your list until you have what you feel is balance.
57. Know, create and reinforce your boundaries.
• Create a mind-set, to support you in making decisions. I had a request for an interview on a Saturday recently! The answer was no without thinking. My husband is home for dinner and bath time each night, and leaves even when there is someone who wants another 5 minutes. Our mind-sets have changed and are aligned. Family time is sacred and a no go.
58. Understand how you function.
• Contrary to the ‘mindful’ movement. I do multiple things at a time and excel. My brain works optimally on 5 things at once. Find your optimal level at which you function, reduce or even increase with what works for you. You are an individual so find your own technique. For some people it may be 1 thing at a time (my husband), and for others more. If you become non-productive and or can’t focus you know that you are under or over loaded.
1. Aon Consulting's America@Work (2000) Study
2. Ariga, Atsunori and Lleras, Alejandro, March 2011, ‘Brief and rare mental “breaks” keep you focused: Deactivation and reactivation of task goals preempt vigilance decrements,’ Cognition, Volume 118, Issue 3,
3. Family Matters Survey; The National Partnership for Women & Families, 1998
9. John Rohn, March 2003, ‘The Art of Exceptional Living,’ Simon & Schuster Audio/Nightingale-Conant; Abridged edition
10. National Partnership Survey in November 2012
11. Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends 2013
12. Randler, Christoph; 9 Dec 2009, ‘Proactive People Are Morning People’ Journal Applied Social Psychology, Vol.39, Issue 12
13. Regina Brett, January 2012, ‘Be the Miracle: 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible’ Grand Central Publishing
14. Wang, Miao and Wong, Man Chiu, Sunny, April 2011, ‘Leisure and happiness in the United States: evidence from survey data’, Applied Economic Letter, Vol.18, Issue 18
15. Ware, Bronnie,2012, The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, Hays House Inc
16. White House Office of Management and Budget, 2010
Part of balance is to have the financial stability to be able to pay living costs and put money aside for a good pension. Unless a person inherited a lot of money, won the lottery or became a self-made millionaire then there is a necessity to work. It can be you just really want to work, and I understand that. However, we are better when we stimulate what we are passionate about. For some long-term happiness here are some tips to find the right role and focus:
• Find your passion. Speak to friends, your partner and have an internal conversation to identify what and where you are really great at and what honestly you suck at. Do not limit this to things that you do on a job, but also in life.
• Identify scope for passion. Speak to friends, and brainstorm on how it is possible to work in this environment. One of my strengths is working in innovative environments so that defined the types of firms that I would apply to or create myself. It may not be possible to work in every passion let’s be realistic. However, then it is important have a job which allows time for that passion. I have a friend that negotiated his contract so he could take time off to go diving each year. Myself, I teach yoga twice a month and practice regularly finishing.
• Identify your boundaries. Don’t equate success in career as success in life. You may still need to define your boundaries so as not to repeat mistakes of the past. Be strong enough to negotiate what will work for you. I negotiated to take a lower salary, but a job where I could get into work early and finish early in order to be there for play, dinner, bath, reading and quality time with my husband. It helped to define success in my eyes. In 20 years’ time I am certain I will not look back and say wow I was the Director of XY and Z. I will hopefully be able to look at my family and the impact of the time I invested in them, and of the difference I made to them, friends and society.
• Prepare. I won’t put too much emphasis on the logistics, because the purpose of this blog is not to cover basics. Prepare customised to each role a covering letter, CV, examples that can be given at interview where you have made a difference on the skills or aptitude written in the job advert and or conversation with the hiring manager.
• Find the network. Meet the people in your network that can enable you to get into that passion or environment, and I don’t mean surfing on Linkedin. Linkedin is a tool at best to analyse the market, your network and opportunities. To actually meet your network will bring results. Explain your goals of looking at this next move, what benefits you would bring (this should be easy as you are communicating your passion), get there feedback and ask how they could support you? Do they know of the right contact (if they are not the right contact themselves)? Before you say I can’t just approach people, the worst thing that can happen is they do not know of a way to help, and you are back where you began. The best thing that can happen is that you have more contacts that support your goal, and you are at the front of mind in your network for new opportunities. The same thing applies if you see a role that fits your passion pick the phone up and speak to a contact you have in the company, or the manager who posted the role. Your passion will come across in your communications, and you will have a higher chance of being interviewed.
• Stay healthy in mind-set. It can be all consuming searching for the right role in an economic crisis. It is important to stay healthy so don’t let it consume you. Yes apply energy and focus, but set yourself time limits in which you search for a job in a day. Then spend time on other things that enrich your life. Balance is still needed in your life even if you are searching for a new role, so give time to yourself for physical and relationship health.
• Set a time line. Set a realistic time line where you aim for your goal.
• Be flexible in approach after your timeline. Think about alternative roots to fulfil your passion, and in fact you may have many passions. Before you say there is no plan B. that’s great. However, in reality sometime other routes have to be realised to be successful and I would ask have you ever been in this position? It may be in the context you are in it is not possible to stay in your current career. How this change is managed in your mind can be critical. Be prepared to look at training in a different field, changing location, learning a new language and even launching your own company. Each requires a different mentality and capability, but what is important is the flexibility in approach.
I was watching the UK news and a series of interviews about parents who were going into debt to give their children a £100 gift list for Xmas. As a young mother of 2 now living outside the UK it made me question how did we get here? People were concerned at the various high interest credit that is now available, and while 'yes' it is disturbing, there should be just as much concern about the mind-set.
I now live in Switzerland. On the 5th December Santa comes with clementine’s, chocolates and nuts. At my office people tell me what they are doing for Xmas, and the majority are not giving presents but just spending time together as a family.
It reminded me of my Christmas' as a child. My parents during the strikes at Rover (a car plant in Oxford) had little money. My Mum used to go to the butcher and ask for the bones for the dogs. We had no dogs! My mum cooked soups, and I can never remember a day being hungry. She was and is a genius in the kitchen, and she taught me how to make something out of nothing. At that point we had to move into a flat, and we had no beds. My parents took the money that people were giving us for Xmas and bought us beds. On Xmas day after a comfortable sleep in our beds there were 2 pillow cases full of clementines and nuts from Santa (we didn’t have stocking my Mum used old pillow cases). I opened them excited with my sister, Mum and Dad.
We had an amazing day of fun playing games, and dinner. I can honestly say it is a positive memory. I grew up with no expectations of big things but the mentality to cut your cloth accordingly. This Xmas I am grateful for the roof over our heads, a healthy family and amazing friends. As a young family we find ourselves having to budget as childcare costs and bills eat up all of my salary. we are not poor, we just save and budget for presents. The main emphasis has been on the family and food. We have 6 people flying, in and 2 extra joining us. I spent the good part of a day comparing food prices online, but finally got it all in budget.
These are important values I want to pass on to my children, and I am grateful to my mother for bringing me up the way she did, and giving me that Xmas with clementine’s. It was the best present ever, as it has shaped who I am.