Let’s hear it for the boys

 

As a mother of two boys ( now young men) I am becoming increasingly concerned about the current ‘girl power’ trend which seems to involve a lot of men-bashing.

My son’s school has recently published exam results which show a significant gap between the boys and girls’ grades (in favour of the girls). If this had been the other way around, there would have been a big fuss and parents would have been informed about what action the school would take to improve the girls’ grades. Yet there has been no mention of the underperformance of the boys.

I have just picked up Glamour Magazine which proudly declares on the front cover that the issue is ‘100% Made By Women’. Can you imagine if a Men’s magazine had made this claim for men? There would be an outcry. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am delighted that women are achieving more and feeling confident, after all I am one, but this doesn’t have to be at the expense of our boys and men. Men- bashing is sexist too and we really shouldn’t indulge in it. Men can be sensitive and thoughtful, but they often don’t display this in an obvious way like women. Think of the firemen ( mostly men) who had to deal with the recent Grenfell fire in London. Their faces were contorted with the horror of the situation, but they carried on for hour after hour. This shows men at their best.

I understand that there are many cultures and countries who still put men on a pedestal, where there is a long way to go before women are treated equally. But this bears no comparison to how we operate in the UK, Europe or the US and we do not need to undermine men to be successful. Their failure does not fuel our success. It is not acceptable to exclude men, or for boys to perform worse than girls in exams, or for women to behave arrogantly. For a happy society men need to be recognised for their qualities and for the important role that they play. Boys must be brought up to respect women and treat them equally, but the reverse it true too. So let’s celebrate all our young people, boys and girls, and not replace sexism with more sexism.

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The end of an era

This September thousands of parents are seeing their children leave for University, and I am one of them. After 18 years of my children being at the centre of my world, my eldest has left home. I have such mixed feelings about this and I haven’t decided how to deal with it yet. On the one hand I miss his presence around the house ( he is a ball of energy and fun), on the other this is such an exciting time for him, a whole new adventure and the start of his adult life, and he is loving it. It is right that he has left home and is learning lots of new things. So I have no right to be sad -but I am. A little. So I am going to allow myself a little self-indulgent wallowing, for a limited time, and then I shall dust myself down, organise my ideas, enjoy time with my husband and youngest son, and start some new adventures of my own. The greatest gift we can give our children is to be happy, have our own life and let them live theirs. I am working on it!

In pursuit of youth

Nora Ephron (American writer and filmmaker, sadly deceased and most famous for writing ‘When Harry Met Sally’) wrote some really enjoyable essays on being a woman and ageing. If you haven’t read them I recommend getting a copy of ‘I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman’. These essays made me smile as they eloquently described some of the struggles and frustrations we all face as we age. The disappointment of looking at our sagging faces in the mirror and not quite believing the ageing process.

To cheer myself up I regularly remind myself, and anyone who will listen, that I am the same age as Kylie Minogue. This gives me some hope that if I put in some effort I could look much much better (although I do not have access to a team of stylists and make up artists….not yet anyhow).

I am reminded of the Nora Ephron book as I take delivery of my latest order of products from Healthspan which I am hoping will propel me backwards into youth. I am a bit of a supplement junkie, always searching for the product that will give me a boost of vitality and beauty.

This time I am trying Soy Isoflavones to replace some of my rapidly declining oestrogen (or estrogen to my lovely readers from the US). I was also hoping for great things from a tube of ‘Instant Skin Perfector’ which is enriched with phytoestrogens and is slightly tinted.

Can’t really comment on the Soy Isoflavones yet, but I am quite pleased with the cream. The effect is very subtle ( I put some on half my face and asked my husband to tell me which half… which he got right. He is a very patient man!) It makes my skin tone more consistent and minimises pores, but does not cover the skin. A good base for make up.

If I feel guilty about treating myself I remind myself of Nora Ephron who always bought her favourite, extravagant lemon bath oil (Dr Hauschka) because..well why shouldn’t she?

Big Life Tune-Up: Part 3

Future plans for income and location

When I started to think about my vision for future income and location, I realised that I have been through this process many times over the years. I have bought dozens of books, done brainstorming exercises and made vision boards. It has all been quite good fun and inspiring at the time, yet here I still am- pretty much in the same place as I was this time last year ( and the year before). It occurs to me that this is what happens to most people. We buy a new journal and a nice pen and write down everything we want and then put it away in a drawer and get on with the washing up. What makes the difference between the small number of people who make change happen and the vast majority of us who don’t get beyond the ideas stage? Well, perhaps it is the same thing that happens when we buy a new diet book ( but don’t actually change what we eat), or set New Year’s resolutions but don’t make any changes to our modus operandi.

Humans are creatures of habit. We get stuck in a routine. Having new ideas is the easy part – actually changing what we do on a daily basis is much tougher. So if I want to make significant changes in my life that lead to different outcomes (I do), then I need to form different habits. My ideas must be anchored to a specific action plan, with clear daily steps that lead me in a new direction. What is absent from most self- help books is a measurable method. Specific steps to take with tracking and accountability. I am convinced that this is the missing ingredient that has kept me stuck for all these years and has helped to keep the market in self-help and diet books so buoyant. So, using my experience of business planning, I am now building a process which will help to create new habits and hold me to account. Ideas without a plan are just dreams and the time has come to take intentional steps towards a planned future.

Bramblex

The Big Life Tune-Up: My Career 2.2

 

Well this really has been a week full of insights. Having given a lot of thought to my career, I recognise that I have been stuck in a comfortable rut for years and I have made a bold decision. I am under-stretched and not growing in my career. I should have challenged myself and moved out of my comfort zone many years ago, but I did not. So now I need to put myself under some pressure, otherwise I will have even greater regrets this time next year.

I think many people can fix their career by making some changes within their existing organisation or moving into a similar role elsewhere. In my case, I have come to realise that neither of these options will deliver what I am looking for (a real challenge, sense of achievement and greater earning potential). I have also concluded that re-training for a different career will not work for me at this stage. It will take too long and ultimately will not deliver the lifestyle I am seeking. The conclusion is that I need to develop a business rather than a career.

Within the next five years my aim is to be doing work that is part-time and location-independent, freeing up time for travel with my lovely husband and lots of reading. Life is short and I have made the bold decision to only pursue opportunities that inspire me and have the potential to deliver the outcomes I am aiming for.

My intention is to phase out all my teaching and tutoring within the next two years. I plan to go part time by July 2018, which will mean handing in my notice on March 23rd 2018. It will not be easy, but this decision has really given me a clear focus on what I will and will not spend my time on. I will devote time everyday to fine-tuning ideas for future products and mastering the new digital skills needed. Time spent on anything else that does not support my future intentions, will be kept to an absolute minimum. I will be the Princess of Productivity and have just taken delivery of my marvellous Productivity Planner from Intelligent Change (intelligentchange.com).

Now I have committed, I must deliver and not waste another second. Exciting times – big change is afoot!

Bramblex

 

The Big Life Tune-Up part 2.1

So just as a reminder, here are the bits I am tuning up:-

1. Looks and style

2. Career

3. Income and location

4. Health & Fitness

Next up…my career. Wow, this is a can of worms! This is such a big topic that I am just going to start with what is good and bad about my current situation.

The good things about my career…

1. I work with ( mostly) nice people.
I am a specialist teacher so I spend a lot of time with children, which suits me in many ways.

2. I work in a lovely environment. Two different schools, both in historic buildings with stunning grounds.

3. The school day fits around my son’s, so I can drop him at school and pick him up.

4. I get the school holidays off

So far, so perfect….however, here are the bad bits

1. There are no prospects of being promoted or increasing my income ( which has pretty much flat-lined for the last few years). I have accepted this whilst my children have been at school as the price I pay for something that fits around them. However, my eldest is now 18 and off to university and the younger one is nearly 16. I have now spent 18 years in a comfortable but essentially dead-end job and it is time for a shake-up.

2. I am not being challenged or learning much that is new. I do not feel satisfied or valued and it feels like I am taking the easy option.

3. I need to ( and want to ) earn a lot more money. My costs have increased year on year whilst my salary hasn’t. In addition my costs are about to go up again to fund my son’s living expenses whilst he is at university. Apart from that, if I had remained in my previous career then I would be earning more than double my current salary. Does that hurt? Yes. Was it my choice? Yes. Does that mean that I have to stay where I am with no earning ambition? No! But this is not going to be easy. I make no apologies for wanting to earn a lot more (even though I am British). I am fed up with people thinking that there is something worthy about accepting a salary that you are not happy with and does not recognise years of experience. Us women are particularly good at that…hence the gender pay gap.

4. It is really important to me to I feel like I am on a successful path and that I do something new. I am soon to become an empty-nester and I do not want this to feel like the end of the line, but rather a new beginning..the re-invention of me!

So I know what I want…a much better income, more of a challenge and to feel successful. But achieving that seems a huge mountain to climb ( and I am not even quite sure which mountain I should be climbing). Somehow find a way to progress in my current sector (education), move to a new sector with re-training or start my own business?

Further thoughts and decisions coming soon…good luck to everyone who is re-inventing themselves. It is hard work, but exciting too.

Bramble xx

The Big Life Tune-Up: Part 1

 

Although I am a new and inexperienced blogger, I just wanted to say how much I am enjoying it and thanks to anyone who is reading. I still find it amazing that someone on the other side of the world can read my random ramblings! However far apart we live, we all share the same problems and experiences.
So in preparation for my eldest son leaving home to go to university, I have decided to tune-up my life in four key categories:

1. My looks and style
2. My career
3. Future plans for income and location
4. Fitness and health

So here is my progress so far on Part 1. Firstly, I have severely edited my wardrobe using the Project 333 philosophy. The idea is that you choose 33 items ( excluding underwear and nightwear), but including accessories. These 33 items are swapped/reviewed every three months. Everything else is sent to charity shops or packed up and put away. This has definitely simplified my life. There are fewer clothes to consider each day which I find refreshing. It is a joy to have an uncluttered wardrobe. In addition, I have set some rules for myself that each day I must: put make-up on ( only the fresh-face of youth can get away with no make-up); wear some jewellery or a scarf ( I tend to not bother with accessories) and do something with my hair ( it is a stranger to the hairdryer). I am getting there, but finding it hard to accept that I must spend more than 5 minutes getting ready. I am a very impatient person! Also, I will need to give some thought to how to avoid middle-aged blandness when choosing new clothes in the future. It is quite a challenge,  but there are some great blogs out there full of ideas for a stylish midlife. I love to be inspired by Alyson Walsh’s ‘That’s Not My Age’ and many others.

The optician also stands to benefit from my style edit as I am going to attempt to ditch the glasses and get used to contact lenses once again. I have never managed to crack the “glamorous with glasses” look, rather I look sensible and boring. However, if the contact lenses give me blood-shot eyes then I will at least look as if I lead a more interesting life. Still not sure how to create an overall ‘look’. Is 49 too old for Punk?

 

Tune Up part 2 coming soon……