Pure of heart

homeless

It is often said that our children make the best teachers and this week I have learnt some valuable lessons.

Our eldest daughter started rehearsing this week for a pantomime she is appearing in over the festive period. Rehearsals are taking place in the studio above the theatre and so we have started daily trips into Leeds.

Our girls are not used to the city having really only been to Leeds to appear in their annual dance show. For them the city is an alien place full of new sights and smells, with intrigue around every corner. Yet the thing that always attracts their attention and leaves them talking for weeks afterwards is the homeless. They cannot understand why there are people without homes and without someone to care for them and they also cannot understand why people with means walk by.

This week was no different, so as H and I walked past a homeless man begging at the traffic lights and I clutched her hand a little tighter pulling her on, H stopped, stood still and very firmly pulled me back. “Mummy the gentleman is talking to you”. My heart was fearful. I didn’t see a man who was lost or lonely or in need, I saw a man who might be a threat to my child since I had no idea of his demons, assuming the worst and that he was haunted by addiction or by mental health problems.

However, I saw the goodness in H’s heart and knew I could not deny that purity and that charity, instinctive in her as child. I also don’t want to teach my children to be fearful. So taking H’s lead, I relaxed and let her guide me back the few steps towards him. Now I genuinely did not have any cash with me, but H had the bag of popcorn she was clutching as a treat and she handed it straight over, no hesitation.

Late that night as the lights of the city blurred in the raindrops on our car window, H quietly and persistently asked me questions about the homeless. Where do they sleep? Why don’t they sell things to make money? Why are the homeless? Where do they get food from? Why do all the many, many people in the city walk past them and ignore them?

I explained that people are scared and that sometimes, something so wrong and sad is hard for people to look at and deal with. I also told H how proud I was of her that evening and that she had taught me something. That mummy was wrong to be afraid and wrong to turn the other cheek, that I had learnt from H that evening.

The next day as we headed into the city, “Mummy how much do you have to pay to work for a company”. I was confused, but essentially, H had assumed that in order to get a job you had to pay for it. “No darling” and we then had a chat about interviews and skills needed. After a pause, “but Mummy if that’s it, why don’t homeless people have job interviews and get jobs…..”

Another lesson, as I thought about the assumptions immediately made with no named address, without the right clothes, without the right look. About the doors closing in faces which don’t fit and the deaf ears falling on stories with unhappy endings and unexpected twists and tribulations.

Yet the thing that left me most heartbroken was this: although 5 minutes earlier H had asked to get two packets of popcorn so that she could keep one for herself, this time as we approached the theatre, she pulled me to cross the road in the opposite direction to avoid someone sat huddled on the floor….

What had I done? I knew I had gone too far….in the dark of the night and in the comfort of our leather seats as we sped back towards our warm, soft home miles out of the city, nestled in the affluent safety of our village, in Yorkshire’s celebrated Golden Triangle, I had planted seeds of fear in a heart which had been so generous and so trusting just hours earlier.

When H had wanted to know why I was scared and why I thought a homeless man was a threat to my babies, I had talked to her about addiction and what it can do to you.

But as we marched through Leeds, both heads down yesterday and as I write this blog today, I am aware that I have focussed on the wrong things. I am aware that I have generalised, stereotyped and judged, all with great neglect and with a superiority I don’t deserve. I have chosen to ignore the human story and chosen instead to be led by fear.

I know as I write this, that the issues here are complicated and have many layers and many textures. I know that this article might offend in its simplicity. I know it’s not quite as easy as following the example shown by my 7 year old daughter, but how might it look if our charitable efforts were more than a donation, more than a pledge made on line or over the phone. How about if we also stopped to talk to someone, if we touched someone and recognised them? If we stopped judging and just acknowledged our own privilege and that a real person with a heart and with a story is standing before us?

It’s not just the homeless…if I see images of crowds and crowds of refugees, or images of starving children, I am ashamed to say, I am the person who will turn off the TV. I cannot bear to look on the pain and the suffering; I hide away from the immensity of the problem and from the heartache. I allow myself to be de-sensitised, justifying it on the basis there is just so much pain on the news, I have seen too many deaths, too many wars, too much famine. Yet I have a friend whose wife, a doctor, every year gives up time with her family and young children to travel to work with those in need – using her holiday and her own resources to do so. What if we were all just a little bit more like that?

My mission for the next couple of weeks is to stop the fear I have sown in my daughters head….yet even as I type that I know my actions will be measured, I can feel my fear calling. I need to take a step up myself and choose love not fear.

Kerry

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Ps thank you to Pinterest for the image

 

Match fit

Match fit.jpg

This is a blog for those returning to work after a period of absence. This is a blog for when you feel frustrated and fearful and wonder if you still have it in you.

This last two weeks at work has been positive and encouraging in many respects, I have signed a new contract with the law firm I work with, I had my first coaching session to help me on the blog, I have done some really interesting legal work, I have the beginnings of a new online venture and have kicked off discussions with potential partners and yet…..well, the actual work bit, has on the whole been a little bit dissatisfying.

That old foe of the ‘balance being slightly wrong’ has reappeared on the horizon and has been inching ever closer.

Less than a year ago, this would have been my signal to retreat, to take cover in the barracks of our love worn home and to declare I wasn’t ready. But not today. This time I want to make it work and I need to find a way. I’m loving what I am doing and want to protect my new ambition and new energy. This time I am prepared for battle and I am ready for the fight, advancing on two fronts.

The first thing standing in my way, is my reluctance to be that super mum, that epitome of organisation. I like our relaxed way of life, I like that I have (almost) always cooked the children meals fresh and homemade that day, I like the slow time around the chaos of running from one activity to the other. I don’t particularly want to become a military operation, a smooth running machine scheduled and prepped with Sandhurst precision. I don’t want to spend my spare hours, meal prepping, filling my freezer, packing snack boxes and school bags ahead…even when I know in my heart that it would make the balance so much easier to manage.

So I ask, what is the source of my resistance? Why do I continue to ignore the many working mum hacks tried and tested to make our days run that bit smoother? It is a question I have been asking myself a lot this week and I can only conclude that it is symbolic. I have to acknowledge that my reluctance to become more organised, more efficient, is simply a reluctance to take that final step away from my old life. Being a stay at home mum comes with its own challenges but the one thing you do have is the luxury of time (it’s all relative!) and by adopting a new stricter, timetabled approach it feels like I am putting on a new badge, officially recognising me as a working mum, which is a role I have spent a long time shying away from; a role I denied ever wanting. Yet here I am, in the new phase of our family life and I have to own up that I am enjoying it. Which means that if I don’t want the daily grind to chip away at the emergence of Kerry not just mum, then I am going to have to face the reality and pick up the tried and tested tools of the many women who have already walked this path!

The second front on which I need to advance, is the realisation I am just not up to speed! Working around drop off and pick up means my working days are short and yet if I am completely honest one of the reasons that I am working so many evenings is that it still takes me a long time just to get in the zone. I would no longer call it procrastination, I genuinely want to knuckle down but just moving my head from mummy to lawyer/writer is taking so much more effort than I want it to. Then there has been a loan agreement this last week that I have literally being wrestling with and it has been winning! I have felt so disappointed in myself and so cross – it’s not even been that complicated or long – it’s something I would have done in a couple of hours once upon a time, yet it has taken me days. Why? What’s wrong with me – I know this stuff, I know I do, but ugh!!! It’s making me tense just thinking about it!

I discussed it with my wonderful colleague and supporter and the words were, “you are just not match fit”. Words which (I am sorry G) were a bit of a blow….even though I know they were kindly meant. But again, there is such a difference to my reaction, as I do not feel defeated. With every step forward my resilience is growing and after the initial hurt, I have actually found comfort in the words, “I am just not match fit”. Is every champion immediately medal worthy simply on deciding that’s what they want? Of course not! They have to fight, push, train and determine their way to peak performance.

So that’s what I am going to do and I am going to enjoy it.

It’s all in the attitude – I would have felt absolutely beaten this time last year but with a new approach, I am taking pleasure in those moments when knowledge long forgotten pops up and allows me to make meaningful contributions. I am taking pride in rediscovering old methods and processes. I am starting to believe in myself and trust that yes, I still have the skills that will get me back to my very best, so long as I keep going.

And as I write this blog, I am reminded of two things:

  1. I have written before about Kate Northrup’s idea of a fertile void – the idea that we need time to lay fallow and if that happens, the ideas, creativity and entrepreneurial seeds which grow, will come back bigger and better, stronger because of the years passed and the rest;
  2. About Jo Pavey – the British athlete who ran her personal best at the age of 40, 8 months after giving birth to her second child. I heard her once on the radio and in her words, she just needed to get out of her own way….She just had to believe and practice with that belief.

So here I am, warming up, exercising my old brain muscles, accepting I am a working mum, putting our systems in place and getting myself and our family match fit. I have a long way to go, but this time I am going to stay the course! Bring it on!

Kerry

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ps – thanks to Pinterest for the image

Slow down

slow down.jpg

The importance of time at home with nothing to do

Well that’s the second week after half term done and the lazy mornings and long slow days on the beach already feel a distant memory. That’s 10 weeks since the end of the summer holidays and the simple pleasures of just being, of spending time as a family with no-where to go and no timetable to stick to, feel imagined and out of reach.

Not for the first time I find myself sharing nostalgic sighs with other mums longing for the next school holiday, so we can pause again and share time, just time, with our children and families.

Time when we strip things back to basics, when we look inwards, shunning company to renew and regenerate. Complete in our own family units, tight and strong together. Absolutely ourselves and absolutely enough.

So once again I find myself wondering why is it that we allow our lives to become so hectic? Why do we insist on ramming our schedules so full of activities, clubs, play dates, piano lessons, coffees, nights out, extra swimming lessons, when all that we really long for is down time together at home?

Even the thought of our full weeks towards Christmas leave me exhausted and already counting the days down to the last day of school. And I know I am not alone, as we all plot and plan our holidays, for half term, for Easter, for May, for summer. Each of us wishing our time away.

And I wonder too about the impact on our children. What lessons does it teach them? What about the importance of play, of time with siblings, of time to be bored? It cannot be without reason that most Sundays our children only want to stay home and have no desire for a fun day out. They need time in their nest, time to rest.

Yet we all defend our crazy timetables on the basis that the children want to do everything – they want to do ballet, gymnastics, tennis, swimming, history club, football, piano, flute, beavers and of course if they then ask to do horse riding, who are we to deny them?!

But who is the grown up in the relationship?! Isn’t it our job to defend the importance of rest and allow our children to experience the peace and joy of being and quietude? If we teach them that it is normal to always be busy, over-stretched, over stimulated even at the precious ages of 4, 6 and 7, then what sense of perverted normality will this foster in their lives as young adults and their ideas of success and achievement? When there is a growing unease at the pressures of the education system with its merciless testing and benchmarking of our infants and its effect on their mental health, why do we not recognise that we might be adding to the pressure on them with our own desire to give them everything? In a world where wellness, yoga and meditation are the buzz words of our years, how are we neglecting to pass these messages and their motivations to our children?

There is an increasing awareness that we as a race are on the path to burnout and a growing desire that we all learn to thrive and not just strive. Let’s not let our children get to breaking point before we share the lessons we have learnt. We need to strip it back to basics for our children too. Their needs are simple – love, time and care. Yes, they need other things too but not at the expense of quality time together. When your small child insists on climbing into bed with you at night, it’s because they miss you not because they are trying to annoy you. When your children won’t get ready to go to the park, it’s because they just want one day where they don’t get dressed and when they can spend time with their things.

This is a reminder to myself as much as a plea to you. I’m as guilty as anyone at signing the girls up to one thing too many. Though I do increasingly ask myself if it is too much, too soon. What do they have to grow into, to look forward to if they do everything now? And what does it say of our lives if the end of holidays wreaks such heartbreak? Instead of living for another day I want us and the children to love the here and now and nothing lights up our hearts and our souls quite as much as time together.

Kerry

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ps thank you to Pinterest for the image.

pps in the interests of being open and honest, my eldest is about to do a Christmas season doing pantomime over a 5 week run. I’m am not sure yet whether the benefits will outweigh the inevitable craziness it will bring. I’ll let you know.

 

A year after 40

41 first

A year ago, I woke at 4.30 am, heart pounding, staring into the dark wondering how on earth I was 40, feeling every day of those years and fearful that I had not made the most of my time. I also felt disabled by the lack of any real plan or focus, let down by my failing ambition and tortured by a desire to do ‘something’ which would not identify itself. I genuinely felt that I had achieved nothing and had no idea what to do next. Of course, this unease had been growing over time but the morning of my 40th birthday threw a real focus on those feelings and meant I could no longer hide from them. When I tearfully declared it the worst day of my life, it was not for dramatic effect. I meant it.

I swore to myself that I would not feel that way on my 41st birthday. No more excuses, no more hiding from the difficult questions, it was time for action. I had no idea what that meant but I knew I had to do something.

And so my 41st birthday is here and how does it feel? I am relieved to say, it feels amazing. I went to bed last night looking forward to the morning and woke up with the excitement of a small child. Not because of the presents or my special day – today I am working and have turned down coffee with friends – but because I am so pleased and proud to say that I finally feel like I have a plan and that I am moving in the right direction. Not just that, it’s a plan which lights me up and which just feels right. Other than marrying my wonderful husband and holding my gorgeous girls in my arms, I really cannot remember the last time I felt like this and it feels so good!

I am not making 6 figures a year with perfectly manicured nails and a row of perfectly straight bright white teeth, I am not clean eating, I’m not doing yoga in exotic locations or posting amazing and inspiring pictures on Instagram. But that is ok. Actually, it’s more than ok; it’s incredible. I am at long last on my way!

I have worked really hard this last year to find a way of working and a way of fulfilling my itch to do ‘something’ and it has paid off. I’ve been reading personal development books, watching videos on you tube, considering my values and my inner desires – things and words that literally used to make me cringe. Cringe, why? Because I was afraid. Afraid to ask myself what it was that I really wanted because then I would be responsible for whether or not I had it. Because once I identified my dreams, I had only myself to look to. I and only I, am responsible for myself, my here and now and my future. No one else is going to fix things for me or give me what I crave, only I can do that.

I don’t have it all figured out and it is early days but at long last I seem to have found a way to make being a lawyer work for me. I have found my spiritual legal home and am working with some inspiring and like-minded people. Yet I am still working from home, dropping the kids off at school and picking them up. Yes, I am working some evenings but that is a choice and I am enjoying the work.

I have not posted on this blog for a while but that creativity and that new way of thinking which has filled my heart has not gone and today I had my first call with a success coach I have signed up with to hold me accountable to grow and develop the blog. To help me finalise a plan for it that satisfies my creative urge and delivers value to the people who read it.

So today, I can say I am a multi-passionate entrepreneur who is creating the life she desires. Wow. I cannot tell you how far away that felt one year ago!

I have no doubt that there will be stumbling blocks along the way. Equally, it has not been plain sailing to get to this point – I have tried various things that have not worked and I have even let people down too (which will always sit uncomfortably with me). I still don’t know exactly where I want to be in another 12 months but I do know where I don’t want to be and what doesn’t work for me and sometimes that’s half the battle. But the most important lesson that I have learnt is the importance of action. I have taken only baby steps forwards (and back) but they all add up and I am in a very different place to a year ago and I am delighted by it! I read somewhere that the only difference between those who succeed and those that don’t, is that successful people take persistent action. So today, I can congratulate myself on feeling successful, simply because I am moving.

I also no longer measure success by how much I earn, or by how big my house is, but by living a life that feels purposeful and in line with the things most important to me. In so doing I have given myself permission to be ambitious again and I have the beginnings of a long-term plan and a vision of what our future will be.

So, if you feel stuck in a rut, if you don’t know what next, if you feel there must be something different for you out there, all you need to do is make a start. Read a book, write something down, do something you wouldn’t normally do, try something you are terrified by. Then do it again and then some more. It’s amazing the cumulative effect of all those little things and I promise you, that even just consistently showing up for yourself, looking into your heart and asking yourself, what do I really want, will make all the difference – be patient and trust in you.

Kerry

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Thank you to Pinterest for the image.

 

That nagging feeling

nagging feeling

So, it turns out that I am not alone: 40 and with a sense that I ought to be doing more, doing something. A feeling that I have not achieved all that I am capable of. But coupled with a big question mark – what the hell is it that I want to do? What is ‘the thing’?! Which means that today, I have been thinking about that nagging feeling itself and what really causes it. If we don’t know what else it is that we desire or what else it is that we want to do, why do we feel dissatisfied in the first place?

Are we really missing something from our lives, is our happiness really incomplete, or is our understanding of achievement shaped by an inability to let go of what we think other people expect? Such that we cannot shake that sense of “I am 40, I ought to have land, drive a flashy Mercedes, go on exotic holidays and wear designer clothes”, when actually, if you look deep inside, you love your home even if it doesn’t have a play room or a cinema room; you love camping and hate the idea of sitting on a beach in the Maldives with nothing to do, and jeans are just jeans….

We are externally conditioned to always compare ourselves to others; we are eternally tempted to want bigger and better. Congratulations and admiration are so easily tinged with green – a feeling of jealousy and sometimes even resentment that you won’t admit but which speaks to you anyway.

Yet isn’t this just part of the human nature; isn’t this what sets man apart from beast? The will to survive, to succeed. That ability to advance, that yearning to question and develop. Were it not for the human instinct to strive, we would not enjoy the quality of life afforded to us today.

And if that’s the case, does that mean we are programmed never to be wholly content? Are we programmed to always be wanting more? Is that sense that we ought to be a better version of ourselves and achieve more, simply a biological reaction rather than something real and meaningful?

Do I really want to be a writer or is it just a label I have given to my human instinct to always strive, because again, as a natural consequence of my human being, I hate the unknown; I need to explain everything?

If I really want to be a writer why have I not taken more meaningful action? Why do I allow things to distract me and get in the way?

Or is this whole conversation in itself, just a very convoluted way of inventing another excuse not to take action?!

My conclusion today is that the nagging feeling which many of us share is real and needs listening to. It must be whispering to you every day for a reason. But the hardest thing for us to understand, is what it is calling us to do and that is because of the reasons above. It is astonishing that it is so difficult to hear what our hearts really want. The noise generated by comparing ourselves to friends and colleagues (by thinking we ought to live up to expectations defined by others and not by our own wants or loves), drowns out what we most desire. And because it is so challenging to find our way, we continue to ignore and neglect that calling.

I have been consciously wrestling with this for almost 2 years and I am still struggling to define my true aspirations, but I am so glad that I started listening to my nagging feeling. I am so glad I started to explore the reasons why I felt uneasy. Asking the questions themselves and peeling back the years of experience, disappointments, judgments and expectations is uncomfortable; equally the steps I am taking towards my future puts me in situations I sometimes want to run from. However, I would rather be doing something than arrive at 50 and regret my inaction and another 10 years of drift.

Kerry

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ps thanks to Pinterest for the image

On ambition

ambition 3

If I asked you what you wanted to be when you were little, what would your answer be? If I asked you, what kind of one of those you wanted to be, what would you say? An astronaut – the best…a dancer – world class, a racing driver – the fastest, a scientist – leading the field. I want to be ok, fair to middling, average said no child ever.

This was what was asked of me and my colleagues last week by success coach Michael Finnigan. And it is such a clever way to set your soul on fire. If you ask yourself this every morning, it really is great motivation.

What if you are not the best?

Of course, it begs the question about what happens to us such that large numbers are content to settle for second place and are just muddling through.

That said, the idea that we should all strive to be the fastest, the brightest, the best sits uncomfortably with me.

In my blog, ‘Enough is Not Enough’ (https://kerrytalks.com/2017/06/10/enough-is-not-enough), I explored the notion of mediocrity and how I was fed up of being made to feel inferior, just because I was not the best sales person, the person striving for a bigger and better house, a faster car….Am I mediocre because I choose what I have, until lately, called a small life?

Equally, we are not all as talented as each other – we cannot all be the best footballer, the best lawyer, the best teacher.

Does this mean we are failing? That we are betraying our childhood aspirations? That we have forgotten how to be ambitious?

How do you define success?

For me, success need not be defined by what level of management or promotion you attain, and not by the material trappings of wealth you acquire, it’s about the value of the decisions you make. Indeed it’s about whether or not you make any decisions at all.

As someone who is now 40 I have carried with me a growing sense of unease over the last couple of years, years in which I had all the love I could have ever hoped for with three beautiful children. But the point was, for the first time, I had no goals, no aims, I was just drifting. I had fallen into the humdrum and was sleepwalking through life.

This doesn’t mean I want to leave it all behind and set off on a path of career driven wild ambition, nor does it mean I am going out and buying an inappropriate sports car. What it means is that I have decided to live my life with purpose and on purpose. I am choosing what is important to me, making commitments to what defines me, to what I consider my core values and I am looking to live with joy and with an appreciation of all that I have.

It is not enough to say, for example, I want to be the best mum I can and a role model to the girls. If that’s what lights you up, take action, design and consciously decide what that means to you. Then act, move, take steps to do that to the best of your ability. This doesn’t mean that you need to bake cakes every day, sew your children’s clothes or become amazing at craft activities, it just means you have to do what is true to you with heart.

Keep moving forward

Sometimes it’s not easy to know what you want, sometimes you might feel trapped by where you are. But it’s about setting your intentions and moving towards something. Heck, even the fact that you are thinking about what next, might be an improvement on where you were. Certainly, that is true for me.

What I am trying to say is that 18 months ago, the questions asked of me by Michael Finnigan would have made me feel miserable. Like an abject failure. I have not become a dancer, a famous choreographer, I have not yet travelled the world and have not yet written a book. I am not the best at everything I do. But today, I am excited by the questions, they motivate me.

Not because I am the best mum in the world. However, I am thinking really hard about what that means to me and about how I might be the best version of the real me and it has opened up my world. This means I am now self-employed, working flexibly on my own terms. I would never have imagined that to be possible. This means that I have started this blog and discovered a whole new level of joy and purpose. This means I am reading extensively and am consciously choosing the behaviour and life we model for three beautiful young girls. It doesn’t mean I have to be a multi-millionaire and world famous. It just means I need to make the most of who I am in a way that makes us all happy.

Please don’t think for one minute I have it all figured out and that I am now living this perfect life. I still scream at the kids, I still drink too much red wine, I still faff about the house and waste time, I am overweight and don’t exercise enough, I don’t have a robust client base…but I am working on it and the fact that I have new drive and new purpose has significantly altered my happiness. Since Michael’s words last week, I have identified this as ambition and it is invigorating. Go find yours!

Kerry

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Ps thanks to Pinterest for the images.

Pps thank you to @MichaelFinnigan for an amazing talk and inspiration

 

 

The importance of staying whole

Keeping whole

On Wednesday night I attended a black-tie dinner in one of Oxford’s prestigious colleges and had the company of a semi-retired management consultant. In his 60s and having worked and travelled extensively all over the world, it took less than 10 minutes for him to share with me his divorce and impart words of wisdom to keep my marriage alive.

This gentleman is wildly successful and yet his pain was palpable. He was very matter of fact but his story was full of regret and also shock. As he neared the point in his career when he was ready to return to London and to slow things down, he looked forward to a more relaxed life, enjoying simple pleasures with his wonderful wife who he adored. She had borne him their fabulous daughter and had followed him all over the world, sacrificing her career to care for them both. Yet when that time arrived, she asked for a divorce. He hadn’t realised, but over their 40 years, she felt he had never really been there – always consumed in his career. She felt like they were strangers. He also feels that during the time his wife put herself last and their family first, a quiet resentment grew and the target of that resentment became him.

There had been no falling out, no anger, no heated confrontations; just a slow and steady erosion of the ties that had bound them: they had lost one another since neither of them was recognisable as the two individuals that first joined hands. The heart-breaking thing is that there is still love – the couple, though now divorced, meet at least once a week for dinner. My romantic heart hopes this is not the end of their love story….

In the meantime, my new friend urged me to think deeply about his story.

My new friend looked me straight in the eyes and stated the importance of keeping yourself whole. Each of us needs to protect ourselves; to future-proof ourselves for when the kids leave home and for when your focus is forced inwards; to future-proof ourselves for a time when there is no noise to distract you and no-one else is calling on your time. Who will you be then? Will you be so lost that you do not recognise yourself? Sometimes, I think that is already my problem as I face 40 and move out of the preschool years.

For my new friend, it was the same clichéd story: he wished he had been able to lift his chin up and that he had remembered to step firmly off the treadmill and be wholly present in his family life. It is not enough to be physically there – you must discipline yourself to quiet those thoughts which lead you back to business and learn to really feel the joy of your family. But more than that, he had neglected the man who had first met his wife; he had been so consumed with his career that even in times of leisure he talked of little else. What was it that had first made his wife laugh? What had kept them talking into the early hours? Certainly not his latest sales win!

But mainly, my new friend was looking at me. I was open and honest about returning to work and finding it hard. He wanted me to keep going, to find a way to forge a new path that returned me in part, to the woman I had been before children.

As parents, it is so easy to put yourself at the bottom of the list: there is always a reason to neglect yourself, there is always a job that needs doing, always a child wanting you to stay home. Certainly, I find it really tough – blimey, I no longer get any crackling from a roast pork dinner and my favourite chicken wings are long gone! All symptomatic of the many other sacrifices.

I hear time and time again the importance of looking after oneself, making time to exercise, be with friends, go on date nights and yet the watery blue eyes of a stranger, an ordinary man sat next to me at dinner have really got to me.

I’m not saying every stay at home mum needs to go to work, but I am urging those mums and dads out there who don’t carve out time and a ‘thing’ for themselves as individuals, to make sure they do. For their own sakes and each other’s.

I would hate the girls to leave home and to find myself floundering and I certainly don’t want to feel resentment towards them or towards Dan. I know those whisperings would come unintentionally, and without apportioning any responsibility – I am in charge of my own decisions, but I also know that some things are hard to un-hear, even if it is only your own thoughts.

In many ways I learnt nothing new, but to know that something dear was lost after so long and so many sacrifices and at so late an age, well, it scared me. I have often heard the analogy of being on a plane – you must put on your own oxygen mask before you can help your child. But in everyday life it’s easy to ride the turbulence without oxygen, but if you imagine that plane journey over years, it is easier to imagine the extent of the damage done. So, another nudge: another reason, I need to push on and re-establish my career. I know I need something and yet that tug, that feeling I am abandoning the girls just will not yield. Yet I need to remind myself of the importance of my own needs. I can and will be more than just a mother. I also need to give Dan more freedom to be more than the man who protects and provides for us. I’m good at saying go to the pub etc (though I know he (not so) secretly uses me as an excuse!); I am less good at saying, go to the football, visit your old friends, take the day. Just be you.

In the meantime, thank you to my new friend for being so searingly honest and open. I will be forever grateful.

Kerry

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Ps thanks to Pinterest for the image.