Jaynehowarth’s Weblog

Journalist and writer

Archive for September 2009

Please accept my apologies for being a bad mother

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Surveys. Don’t you love them? One week there is a scientific piece of research that tells us a glass of red wine three times a week is good for the heart.

Fast forward a fortnight and there is a contradictory “evidence”: drinking three glasses of red wine a week can increase incidences of “certain types of” cancer.

I do try to take them with a pinch of salt (not too much, because I don’t want a stroke. Perhaps I should take them with a pinch of low sodium substitute), but there are occasions when, in the name of science, anthropology or just sheer mischief making that studies make me want to scream (primal scream therapy is alleged to help with emotional problems).

This week – for there are these pieces of research popping up weekly – is the “news” that working mothers are breeding obese, TV-addicted children who never eat fruit and vegetables.

According to research carried out by Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Institute of Child Health, University College London full-time working mothers were bringing up the unhealthiest children in the country.

This was followed by women who work part-time. Women who stayed at home had the healthiest children were “stay at home” mothers.

The figures in the report appear to be impressive in that the researchers involved 12,000 children born between 2000 and 2002 who were part of the Millennium Cohort Study.

Mothers were questioned about their working hours, their children’s food intake activity and exercise levels, as well as how much TV they watched or computer access they had.

The findings? Children of working mothers were more likely to have fizzy drinks, eat fewer portions of fruit and vegetables  and watch more TV – and do less exercise.

It is this kind of “research” that just makes me fume. Surely it is parenting skills – not whether or not the mother works – that makes a difference.

Women do not usually have the luxury of choice when it comes to returning to work – most have to work to help pay the mortgage/rent, the bills and put food on the table (whether that’s a bag of chips or a full Sunday lunch).

If they do have the choice and they decide to stay at home – that is fine. It is also fine for a woman to go to work.

Yes, we might feel torn in two when leaving the children when we put on the working suit and leave the vomit-stained jumper at home, but that doesn’t mean we forget what vegetables look like.

Bringing up children has nothing to do with whether or not a woman goes out to work. Basic parenting is a learned skill, but we need vegetables and fruit, too. That doesn’t go out of the window when we go to work.

Most of us have the knowledge, but probably need a bit of support when it comes to time management skills. What we don’t need is castigation and snide finger-pointing.

I know this research came out yesterday – but I didn’t have chance to blog about it then. I was busy being a bad mother: out working ALL day (yes –  from 9.30am until 5pm).

I could have written this yesterday evening, but I’m afraid I was too busy making my family a vegetable and wholewheat pasta bake (making my own tomato sauce, thank you), collecting son from his Beavers group and tidying the kitchen before falling into bed at 10pm.

So, please accept my humblest apologies for being a bad mother.

Written by CommonPeople

September 30, 2009 at 7:44 am

How sweet it is …

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Sometimes the simplest ideas are the sweetest.

I tweet a lot, as the poor 790 or so poor souls who follow me know.

As a freelance writer, Twitter helps me feel as if I am part of a large, open-plan office with a myriad trades and professions, all working harmoniously (and sometimes, not so harmoniously).

Remote workers are only too aware that home-working can feel isolating – and it’s always your turn to get the coffee.

But online sites such as Twitter have helped to break the monotony of a long day in front of the home computer. It is possible to have 140 character conversations, have a laugh, answer questions and read interesting snippets.

It has also given birth to some marvellous “eureka!” moments – the Twitpanto last Christmas engendered a feeling of camaraderie, while Twitter Titters, a book of comic writing, raised money for Comic Relief.

But it has been a few Twit chats over the past few weeks that have resulted in a rather sweet idea.

It turns out many of us a rather partial to a bit of cake. It doesn’t matter if it is apple, toffee or banana (although chocolate does seem to be a favourite), we love to talk about it.

So much so, that a throwaway comment of “we should have Twit reviews of cake shops and cafes” has led to a new blogsite – a 140 character comment about tea and cakes.

Set up by @mmmmmmcake, I think this is the kind of simple idea that will take off. It is something that people enjoy, because it is fun, it is slightly distracting from the mundane goings-on at work and it is cake.

It is hard to explain to non-Twitter users what tweeting is all about: some look blankly as you make valiant efforts to describe the goings-on; others are keen to try.

A year ago today, I thought I’d give it a try. It took a few weeks, months even, to begin to understand what it was all about.

So, you know what that means, don’t you? It’s a birthday. And what do birthdays mean? Cake. Once I find some, you might find a review.

In the meantime, have a look at the cake blogs at http://bit.ly/Cwk2Z

Written by CommonPeople

September 26, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Posted in cake, Jayne's posts, News/opinion

Tagged with , ,

How flexible is your employer?

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Flexible working is one of the most important considerations when seeking employment, a new survey has found.

The annual WorkingMum.co.uk survey revealed that family-friendly employers were key when it came finding suitable employment.

A total of 1,677 women were surveyed on the jobs site and 85 per cent said that offering flexible hours for full-time working was important.

Part-time hours and making provision when a school/home emergency cropped up was another important aspect cited by working mothers when it came to making the right career choice.

Only 31 per cent said they perceived extended maternity pay as a “family friendly” option.

The survey coincides with the launch of its Top Employers platform http://bit.ly/1aYeCV which highlights those firms who have family-friendly policies.

Forty five per cent of the women questioned for WorkingMums said they had considered launching their own businesses as a way of countering the problems they have met from unsupportive employers or to attain the flexibility the needed.

The survey showed that there was a drop in the number of mums working full-time (24 per cent), while 60 per cent said they worked part-time.

It was also suggested that many women had taken lower paid, less challenging work since returning from maternity leave because 53 per cent of respondents said they were earning less pro rata now than before they children.

More than half – 54 per cent – said they would accept a less well paid job in return for flexibility.

Gillian Nissim, founder of WorkingMums.co.uk, said: “This year’s survey shows that flexible working is top of working mums’ agenda and will not go away.

“It is the key issue that employers must grapple with if they want to retain the kind of skills offered by working mums. Many of our candidates have over 15 years’ experience in their career fields and a significant number have management experience.

“The recession has not reduced the urgency of this issue for working parents and employers who want to be prepared for the eventual upturn in the economy would do well to listen to their voices rather than risk losing them to more forward-thinking rivals.”

I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

Written by CommonPeople

September 17, 2009 at 10:53 am

Secondary school “choices” – Hobson’s Choice, more like

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When I first became a mum, I knew the small print said something about “always worrying” about your offspring.
I try to tell myself that I shouldn’t worry about things – especially if things are out of my control – but I’m not terribly good at taking my own advice.

I worried about which nursery my children should go to; I tossed and turned at night when I sent off the application forms for primary school.

Six years on from the infant school concern, I am now vexed with another BIG WORRY: it is selection time for secondary school.

Now, the authority area in which I live is not exactly blessed with schools that are knocking on The Times Top 100 league table’s door for entry.

There are some schools – as there are in every authority – that I would only allow my daughter to attend “over my dead body”.

There is a grammar school, for which an entrance exam has to be taken. This is fine. It is a gamble because there are more than 800 children sitting the exam for 96 places.

Our nearest school is an Academy, which has a good reputation. Children must sit an exam, but the selection procedure – something to do with banding, catchments, non-catchments and the alignment of Pisces with Jupiter – is so complicated that no-one actually understands it (including the local authority).

My daughter’s primary school is a feeder school for a secondary that also has a fairly good reputation. This pleased me and my friends greatly when we discovered this new relationship – at least we had a chance of getting our children into a half-decent school.

Not so.

For, we learned, there are ten primary schools in the “feeder umbrella” and ours is the furthest away of all of them. If every Year 6 child from those feeder schools applied, there wouldn’t be enough places to accommodate them all. Once distance is taken into consideration, 90 per cent of us at our primary school would be out of the running.

Five schools have to be chosen and they must be put in order of preference. There are not five schools in my borough that I could, hand on heart, say I would be happy to let my child attend.

The grammar, which she says she would like to try for, must come first on the list. But if there is no place available, we have our “fall-back” Academy. But – even if she meets the criteria – putting that school second jeopardises our chances of a place because most of the places are taken up by those who have placed it first on their preference form.

The alleged feeder school has already said that if you put it below second you have very little chance of getting in because it is over-subscribed.

The whole thing is overwhelming. It is frightening. I don’t like it.

The forms have to be submitted by October 23. We find out where she will go on March 1. That’s four months of no sleep. OK – that’s also in the small print…

Written by CommonPeople

September 16, 2009 at 3:53 pm