Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Is There a Mama in the Office?

I've twice returned to work since having children, and it has become clear that my role within the teams I operate in has changed. My job description is identical (a legal requirement after all), but my team role [and I mean this in a quasi-Belbin manner] has altered.

Reports and statistics abound to tell us of the value that working mothers can bring to an organisation. We may be tarred with the brush of routinely legging it out of the office at 4.59 pm, and dialling into the office with spurious childcare issues, but we do have something to offer the office environment beyond the outside art that our children have created & that we pin to our cubicle walls. We're more efficient, more decisive and better negotiators than the pre-child versions of ourselves. And I believe that there are other more tangible ways that a "mama in the workplace" can contribute to her 9-4.59 environment. We may not set the world on fire with our stylish dressing, or enlightening conversation about recent yoga retreats, or even be able to recommend a decent restaurant (i.e. one without placemats that you can draw on), but we do offer something. Actually, three things:

We Have a Sense of Perspective
This sounds preachy I know, but parenthood entirely regrounds your perspective of what and what isn't important. And in the nicest way possible, important isn't about sales performance, the way a powerpoint presentation looks, or even whether your stock list is too high or too low. There have been occasions upon returning to the office when I've momentarily thought that I've accidentally stumbled into an immersive theatre that's showing a stage version of The Office. These are of course momentary; the good outweighs the bad, cringemaking moments, otherwise I'd have left.
But a true sense of perspective - the type that only comes from appreciating what actually is important; is important in an organisation. Especially when you work with young, ambitious people who will do anything for the company, and who get so upset when things don't go to plan, and who work so hard they make themselves ill. We know, we were once there too. Setting a positive, balanced example, and reminding the team, that yes, this is important - it pays our mortgage after all, but let's get it in perspective. It's only bloody cheese/shoes/animal food (delete or amend as appropriate).*

We are Super-Organised

We're like SUPER-organised
Image courtesy of snapcreativity.com
If you want a job done well, do it yourself. If you want a job done very well, give it to a mother. We do honestly come to work for a rest sometimes. A day to the beach involves more organisation and planning than a 2 week holiday used to, and don't even talk about the unpacking afterwards. So, give a project to a mama, and we'll lick it into shape in a flash. You WILL have to do what you are told, otherwise you may risk getting the scary stare, but this is a small price to pay for having something basically look after itself. You will consider this a miracle, given the woman who is managing this project looks on occasion as if she can barely manage to dress herself, but multi-tasking and prioritisation is what this lady does. Watch and Learn.

We are Almost Medically Qualified
This is used the most loose sense of course, but having spent inordinate amounts of times in hospitals, pharmacies, health centres and doctors surgeries, we have essentially absorbed 7 years of medical training by a strange form of mummy-osmosis. And in our spare time we read up on childhood illnesses and first aid so that we are super-prepared (see point above).
So, should you feel unwell in the office, come & see a mama. She'll tell you straight whether you need to pull yourself together (we've given birth you know, so don't weep about having a sore throat to us), or whether you need to go straight to hospital. As a young & frankly inept twenty-something, I was myself driven to the local A&E by our team mummy - I had glass in my foot, and thought it would sort itself out. She said not, and she was right. It took an x-ray and 2 doctors to remove the shard of glass. Lesson learnt.
We carry plasters, paracetamol, bandages, wet-wipes, calpol, teething powder and antihistamine cream in our bulging handbags whereever we go. You will be OK when there is a mama around. And even if she can't help you, she'll make you a cup of tea, and pass you a nice soft tissue for you to blow your bunged up nose onto.

I couldn't be sure how Belbin would classify this position within a team. It isn't about managing or facilitating. Sure, there's a lot of doing, but that's not unique to parenthood. It's a proof that a working mother has a true niche within the workplace - and that these hardworking, caring and on occasion chaotic workplace figures truly are an asset to any organisation. I'm sure that there are more examples of how having a mama in the workplace can enrich an organisation - share them with me, I'd love to hear your views!

*ok, this is more relevant to industry and consumer goods vs public service & healthcare roles, but a real world sense of perspective is important in every workplace.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

An Untold Story

This is a story that I haven't told many people. And it would seem that I'm not alone. According to a recent survey by Mumsnet, only 23% of women that suffer a miscarriage tell their friends.
Whyever not?

My story isn't recent. I have two boisterous little boys with more vim & vigour than I care to mention. And I'm more lucky than I care to mention.
My first pregnancy was a complete surprise. I discovered I was pregnant on my 30th birthday; traditionally a day of champagne & celebration. Initially I wasn't too impressed if I am honest. I had plans ... I'd intended to travel to South America, climb another rung of the career ladder, live abroad, build up my collection of shoes a little more. And here I was with an unplanned pregnancy. My husband was less taken aback than I was - delighted in fact, and before we knew it, we'd put our little flat on the market in anticipation of a 3 bed semi, had stocked up on pregnancy books, and I had started furtively flicking through babycentre.co.uk on my lunchbreak. Baby was due on the 8th May; a month heavy with family birthdays already. We told our parents, but kept it quiet from everyone else ... just in case. Our mothers were excited beyond belief and started talking about the cardigans they were going to knit. But, I wasn't going to let this pregnancy hold me back. I kept up my gym sessions, went on a cycling holiday; I didn't want to be one of "those" pregnant women who were too frightened to do anything, to precious to put themselves out.

Then one Friday afternoon at work, I found that I was bleeding a little. I convinced myself it was nothing. A slight ache started in my lower abdomen. "Nothing" I told myself. This went on & off all weekend, the ache increasing, the bleeding getting heavier. My husband convinced me to go to the doctors, by now, I was upset. This wasn't part of the plan, this baby had surprised us, but he/she was part of the family now. The doctor was sympathetic, but could do no more than refer me to hospital for a scan - which I eventually had 2 days later. I had 2 days of limbo at work; an aching stomach,  hormonal turmoil, and the agony of just not knowing.
My eventual scan came, doctors were unable to detect a heartbeat, but couldn't be sure I wasn't having an ectopic pregnancy, and so referred me for blood tests & a further scan. I had very little information about what to expect, and bleakly filled my head with chatroom horror stories from the internet. A full 10 days after I first started bleeding, it was confirmed that I had lost my pregnancy.

But it didn't stop there. In my head, a miscarriage was a dramatic affair. Much like my perceptions of birth before having children, my perception of miscarriage was created only by what I had seen in the movies. Screaming, fainting women, blood gushing in biblical quantities. Not so. This was a slow and agonising loss - taking 8 weeks in all.

I lost weight, my body returned to "normal", and I was able to take part in the high-impact aerobics that I resented missing out on so much at the start of my pregnancy.  The 8th May came & went, my husband & I shedding a private tear at the sad insignificance of the date in our lives.

And I told very few people. Those that I did tell didn't really know what to say. I didn't know anyone that had had a miscarriage, and neither it seemed did anyone else. I felt isolated and empty.
Then, my step-mother in law asked how I was doing, one weekend when she was visiting.
"It's shit isn't it?" she said. "I had several and it's terrible".
It wasn't a lot, but those few words broke through my isolation, and helped me realise that I wasn't the only person to go through this.

So why do we keep so quiet? Is it because of the western culture of keeping an early pregnancy under wraps "in case something happens"? or because we're too sad to tell of something that to us seems so private?  But to keep our tales of miscarriage silent somehow invalidates the loss that we go through.
I'm fortunate. I had only one miscarriage, and I now have two healthy sons. But there wasn't a day that I didn't go through during either of my pregnancies thinking that everything would be fine.

We need to normalise miscarriages. If we have food poisoning, the flu, mental illness, we tell people. I'm not suggesting we flaunt them. Not by any means. The loss of a pregnancy should be a dignified and private affair. But we need to be open and frank. And this can only help to contribute to the likely success of initiatives such as the Mumsnet Miscarriage Care Bill.

The Mumsnet Miscarriage Care Bill is requesting 5 things
1. Supportive Staff
2. Access to Scanning
3. Appropriate Treatment Spaces
4. Good Information & Effective Treatment
5. Joined up Care

You can learn much more here, as well as tweet the politicians that can do something about implementing this bill.

Thanks x

Sunday, 25 May 2014

A Grumpy Person's Guide to Better Emails

Image courtesy of Ambro, www.freedigitalphotos.net

A blessing? Or a curse? Somewhere in-between I'm sure, but emails are an unavoidable part of business life. They speed things up, make communicating to multiple parties simple, save massive paper trails, and mean that we don't have to to rely upon royal mail and (shock horror) actually talking to each other.
But was ever a communication more misused? And ever likely to cause more misunderstanding and internal rage as the email? Well, possibly - but let's not go into instant messaging, that's another subject altogether.

So how to make this medium less irritating, and more helpful? There are business guides galore that tell us how to do this, but here are my top five suggestions for low irritation emails

1. Quit the Informality. Smiley faces, kisses, street talk - come on. If I wouldn't give you a kiss when I see you, then I certainly don't want a kiss from you at the bottom of your email. And smilies do not make a message more friendly, they make it more annoying. And especially don't use them when trying to make light of bad news, it will not do you any favours. None, whatsoever. And as for "amazeballs", "coolio", "my bad" - this is an office, not the green room for a BBC 3 gameshow. Not acceptable!

2. But Don't be Mean. Manners cost nothing. I worked with someone once who would send one line emails "Sales results for product X - tell me what is driving this". He was far too senior for me to do anything other than respond, but I don't ever recall feeling much fondness for him. A "please", a "thank you", a "could you..." all go a long way to oiling the wheels of office relationships, so don't scrimp on the niceties.

3. Use the Enter Button. Paragraphs help to chunk down information & make it easier to read. A block of sold text just causes snowblindness and will slow your reader down. Careful punctuation, spacing and paragraphing will help you make your point, "manage" your reader, and get your point across. Surely worth a few additional keystrokes.

4. If it's Worth Saying ... then don't abbreviate. Thx, Pls, BR (best regards), comms, obvs (see point one), sure, some abbreviations are standard within business - three letter acronyms abound, but others are just needless. I get that some of this is cultural - I worked with lots of Aussies for a while, who routinely refer to each other by initials only, but otherwise make the effort to use the full word. In any case, you can just end up confusing the poor soul that is reading your email. Which leads nicely onto the next point ...

5. Use the Phone or your legs. The personal touch will nearly always result in a better outcome. An email may seem like the faster/clearer/less controversial route, but who hasn't been involved in a hugely confusing email chain that goes on and on? Frustration rises, time drags, everyone is in utter confusion. And then you finally pick up the phone to the other party in this email saga, and everything is made clear in about 30 seconds. I'm a shocker at this, I'll admit. I'm conflict-averse to the core, and this coupled with a packed schedule contrives to always make the email seem like the easier option. Suffice to say, it's not.

Re-reading this, I recognise that I sound like a grumpy old woman. Which I probably am. But what do you think? What are your email bugbears or suggestions for a simple cyber life? Please let me know, I'm sure I could improve ...

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Towers, tunnels and ...

The weather report for the weekend was bad. Very bad. So when we awoke to shining sun, hubby & I were overtaken by a Blyton-esque urge to seize the day and take the children on an adventure. He plotted a location & directions, and I packed a wicker hamper (true) with sandwiches, cream buns and lashings of ginger ale (not quite true).

After a drive through beautiful english countryside; glowing verdantly through spring's showers and sunshine, we arrived at our destination - Arundel Castle. And what a beautiful location for a beautiful day. It is actually a smashing place for a day out with kids. With baby was in the backpack, and big lad running ahead we climbed stairs a-plenty, explored tunnels & turrets and oohed and aahed at the views and distant shoreline. The heads of much revered cows (not a mistype) lowed down on us and caught the eye of the baby, whilst mannequins of medievel prisoners in the dungeons intrigued the big lad.

A regal highchair

We stopped for a mid-tour cuppa and some delicious cake, with baby looking particularly regal in his throne-style high chair.

Then onwards to the gardens. We were welcomed by crowds of jewel-coloured tulips in full bloom, clustered in giant terracota pots. Spectacular fountains and pools brought to mind the formal gardens of Italy. Both boys peered into the fountains, amazed at the water shooting forth from the mouths of stone dogs and exotic looking fish. They ran / toddled around the grass maze and pelted through the vegetable garden where gardeners were at work planting out the summer's produce for use in the restaurant. We then picked our way through the dramatic landscape of the stumpery - an almost prehistoric landscape of upturned tree-stumps, and across to the spectacle of Oberon's Palace - shells  painstakingly laid out on the inner walls of the small wooden structure, with a golden crown spinning magically on a jet of sparkling water. Magical to us as adults, mindblowing for the smaller people.

A picnic later, we climb into the car & head off home.
"That was nice", says big lad.
"Yes" we say. "It was, wasn't it? What did you like the best? The castle? The cake? The fountains?". He thinks. His little eyes starting to look heavy with sleep - the amount of climbing & running he did has knocked him for six.
"Ummm ..."
"I liked climbing all the steps", I say encouragingly.
"Ummmm. The toilets. I liked the toilets the best"
"???". I look at hubby in confusion & amazement.
"Well, they were quite nice" he says.

So, there you have it. Castles, cake and fairytale gardens are all very nice. But if you really want to impress a three year old boy, then take him to a toilet somewhere other than home. A very nice toilet for sure. But a toilet nonetheless.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Job for Life. Interested?

I've recently been involved in a few assessment centres - as an assessor I hasten to add. For the uninitiated, these are a series of tests that organisations put candidates through in order to assess their suitability for employment. More than just an interview, these tests assess a range on interpersonal and technical skills, such as ability to negotiate, to analyse data and how well one presents.
This got me thinking; I certainly wasn't interviewed or assessed before becoming a parent, and yet parenthood demands (in business-speak) "performance against a broad range of competencies", some of which I'm fairly sure I would have failed at if tested prior to birth. So. for fun, and reflection, here is a rundown on some of the top parenting requirements.

Ability to plan & prioritise.
This goes without saying, especially when multiple children (and a husband?) are involved. Leaving the house to go to the park, nursery, shops, in fact going anywhere is a planning feat compared only to going on holiday or a Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award expedition prior to having children. Check kids are clean. Coats on. Shoes on. Keys? Damn it's raining. Pull out wellies & waterproofs. Check water for baby, emergency raisins & breadsticks. Where are the nappies? Grrr; no wet-wipes - find wet-wipes. Mobile phone. Handbag. Keys?  Triple check keys? Get into car. Bugger; I still have my slippers on.
I am not the most organised person, I admit. But I know far worse. It is a miracle we ever get anywhere at all, let alone turn up on time.
But let's consider the following as a serious prioritisation exercise. Take one child crying for food/TV/the iPad, the other needs the potty NOW or has done a mega nappy filler and the cat is miaowing to go outside. Then add a ringing phone, or someone at the door. Oh, and you desperately need the loo too. It makes a crammed inbox seem like a (pre-kids) walk in the park.

Innovation / Creative Thinking.
I'd always thought that I would be able to pull this one out of the bag. I enjoy creative pursuits, and envisaged rainy afternoons creating charming objets d'art from egg boxes and pipe cleaners. But it seems not. My kids are never impressed with my adaptations of boxes into police cars ("but the wheels don't go round" they lament) and my drawings are dismissed with "no, that's not the right one. I want it like that". 
But, creativity has many outlets. My fussy eating 3 year old won't touch cauliflower, but will happily eat "snowy trees", and getting into the bath is almost an endurance event, unless "mummy alligator" is on the loose, in which case they jump into the bath in a jiffy. Parents 1, kids nil *high five*.

Pre-kids, I took the view that I would NOT negotiate. It was the NATO stance on terrorism, and I looked down on those parents I heard pleading with their offspring to do x, y, or z.
Oh, the naievity. The number of stories at bedtime, number of stickers for good behaviour, even the how many shoes to wear when we leave the house(?). Everything, it seems is up for negotiation. I'd assumed that this would start at the age of about 15, with the expected "be back at 10" , "no, 11.00" "no, 10.15" and the eventual return at 10.55. I'm not even sure how to play this. I don't want to be a walkover for sure, but also want allow a certain spirit to develop. But maybe not that much ...

Quick to learn & adapt to new information.
I hadn't realised just how well I'd delivered against this one, until I had some (child-free) girlfriends visit. Big lad was desperate to play with them, and so we settled down to play a Thomas the Tank Engine version of Snakes & Ladders. (Rock and Roll eh?). The kids were amazed at the fact that here were some grown-ups who did not know who Percy, James and Edward were. My friends were amazed at the fact that I did. So we had a very confused 15 minutes of moving coloured trains around a board. And it's not just tank engines. I now appreciate that "diggers" is a generic term for large construction vehicles. There are excavators, bulldozers (with & without caterpillars), Bobcats ... and that is only digging at the surface.

Communication Skills.
"Plain" english? Presentation writing? Presenting skills? Email etiquette? How about teaching a language? Understanding toddler-ese? Clearly (and calmly) informing basic requirements in the face of heightened emotion (i.e. a tantrum)? Or getting someone to actually listen to what you are saying (I find the sporadic use of the word "cake" helps quite a lot).
I now consider myself something of a polyglot - and that's more than my rusty German, holiday Italian and very basic Latin. Work-speak, soothing/shouty/calm mummy-speak and everything in between. No wonder there are days when I completely forget the names of people I have known for years ...

But more than all of the above, and heaven knows I could have gone on with many many more examples - there are things that no employer ever seeks, but just happen.
Patience, selflessness and love. These just happen, and only in the most serious and unusual cases do they not.
This is what defines us as parents, what softens the hard edges and makes you a different person to the person you were pre-babies. So even if you can't leave the house on time, and remember to pack spare clothes & wetwipes or if you are incapable of creating a fort out of cereal boxes who cares? Your most important employer won't fire you - this is a job for life.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Back with a Bang

So, after much anticipation and contemplation I back am in the working world.

In many ways it feels as if I never left; as if my maternity leave were nothing more than a slightly peculiar dream. Halcyon days with a never-ending summer and a copious flow of coffee & playdates. Ha, how your memory plays tricks on you.
The day before my return, was possibly the worst experience of sundaynight-itis I've experienced. But then of course it would be, wouldn't it? However, I'm back in the rhythm of it now for sure, and finding ways to make every moment of the weekend count - moping around is certainly not allowed on a Sunday!

What's new? What's the same? I thought a more fun way to review my return would be the classic good, bad, and (downright) ugly. And therefore, with a western theme-tune in my mind I will begin...

The Good.
The kids are all right. Well, of course they are, and I don't ever think that it was a genuine fear of mind that they wouldn't be. Hugo seems to have barely noticed the fact that he is back at nursery full time, and George has taken to life at nursery with gusto. As any mother will appreciate, I was the one in tears as I left the nursery on the first morning. George likes to pretend he's upset on occasion, but I know he loves the soft play, the painting, the food and is a very happy lad.
Those canteen meals. Yes, I am generally having them at my desk. But seriously, a made to order prawn & avocado baguette is still something I consider tantamount to manna from heaven. There's no washing up, no sticky hands trying to steal it, what's not to like?
Using my head. Nothing grand you understand, but it is refreshing and revitalising to feel as if I am using my brain. In the same way that I feel good when I've done some exercise or stretched out tired muscles, I can feel myself coming to life as a consequence of sparking my mind into gear in way that simply didn't happen when I was scraping weaning vegetables off the floor.
The wonderful camaraderie of working parents. I'd forgotten about this. From the HR director, who saw me getting my first cup of coffee and asked how the lads were and how I was feeling (cue an embarrassing weep; well, it was my first hour back at work), to the working mums and dads who sympathise at the struggle to leave the house on time. I'm part of a new clique. Not the cool, out every night, Jaegerbomb clique (in fact, I'm not sure I was ever in that gang), but the gang that gets that your tiredness is a consequence of having been up three times in the night, and gets that your extreme focus and lack of banter is not because you have no time for the banter (on the contrary), but because you want to make the most of every moment you are not at work. It's a change, and a change I like.

The Bad.
The dark. Of course this a temporary issue, but not something I'm any happier with on this basis. Leaving the house in the dark, returning in the dark. Yuck. My babies look at me as if I've gone mad as I bundle them into the car. The first day back after Christmas was a particular highlight, with pouring rain to add to the delight of the pitch black (we have no street lights on my road). "Is it in the night?" asked a confused toddler as we drove to nursery. "No, just very early in the morning darling..."
Costa? More like costcutter. At least that's my reaction to those uninterrupted cups of coffee that I was looking forward to. I've clearly been spoilt with the maternity leave coffee culture, and raised my standard. The office coffee tastes like it's been burnt and mixed up with a bit of Bisto for good measure. I now reserve my coffee drinking for those days when the kids have been up at least twice in the night. Tea and herbal infusions otherwise. Probably better for me anyway ...
Business-speak. Eeek, it makes you wince when you hear it afresh. But after mere days I was using it again. In my defence, I did inwardly shudder as I heard myself say it. But it's a survival mechanism.  You use the language to fit in and show you are competent; that you "get" it. And before you know it, you are KPI-ing and KOL-ing and stakeholdering just like everyone else. Nothing to be proud of, but I don't think it's killed anyone so far.

The Ugly.
The work. Now, this isn't meant to make me sound work-shy, which I'm not. It's the volume of the work that is the issue, rather than the fact that I have to do it. Pre-Christmas, all was fine. Nice even. Getting up to speed with things and catching up with colleagues and agency contacts. Post-Christmas it hit me like a rock. A large rock. Campaigns to develop, training courses to attend, products to launch. Heck! It's created the sort of needless, purposeless stress that I'd forgotten about. And the tight shoulders and furrowed brow to match.
Always on. As I write this, I can see a pile of ironing so large that it needs mountaineers to scale it, and a raft of "thank you" notes still awaiting Christmas "thank you" message to be written on them. My eyebrows need to be plucked and my toenails need repainting and ... let's not go any further. The truth is, that after spending every other night of the week working, ironing or just doing "stuff", I used to refuse to do anything other than relax or pamper on a Saturday evening. That rule looks set to break, unless I'm happy to be up until 1am every other night of the week. It certainly makes me wonder how the parent in single parent families cope. I think back with envy to life pre-children, when I would consider a cancelled work-out class a failure of work-life balance. Now, my measure of balance is happy children and happy parents. I think we are there. Even if I'm dog-tired as a result.

But you know what? I'm still here. OK, if I had my way I would be living a charmed (non-employed) life as a with my boys and hubby. The type of life that only inherited wealth seems to permit. And the children would never misbehave, the washing, ironing and cleaning would get done without my input and the kids would gratefully eat everything that I put in front of them. I'm thinking Downton Abbey meets the Waltons. But, life isn't like that. For the tiredness and pointless stress that this current work-life "balance" incurs, I know that a "real" life at home without work would mean the stress of misbehaving children, more food on the floor than I could cope with and the dog-tired physical exhaustion that only comes after a day of looking after two small boys on your own. Not to mention less money in the bank.
Nothing is perfect; we just have to make our choices and make the best of what we choose. Suck it and see, some may say. Having said that though, I think I will be picking up a few Euromillions tickets next Friday ... who knows, a little windfall could just the thing.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Does This Make Me Crazy?

I used to consider myself a fairly "together" person. The odd birthday card was sent a day late, but generally I paid bills on time, remembered people's names and got through life in an organised fashion. As with all things however, I did not appreciate this golden era for what it was at the time.
Then I had a baby.
Somehow, this biological process mangled my brain. Baby number two came along, and with this the remaining part of my functioning mind flew out of the window.
Clearly, I am at least in part compos mentis. The children get fed, go to bed on time and (normally) have clean clothes to wear. I also am able to create this blog post for instance. But, the smallest and surely simplest things seem to defy me nowadays. Here are a few examples ...

I must hold the record for the number of unpaid visits to carparks. Not intentionally you see, I just simply forget to pay and display. Somehow, walking 30 metres across a carpark and putting 80p in the machine is beyond my ability to remember. I generally don't realise until quite a way into my shopping trip / chore / lunchdate and then have to bolt down the high street to said carpark and pay for parking. I have had only one ticket - which frankly is nothing short of miraculous - and a number of close shaves with approaching traffic wardens as I get to the carpark. My highstreet bolts are amusing in themselves, and legging down the road with pushchair, shopping bags and handbag is a feat of sporting prowess that I am getting quite good at. Baby George is becoming quite a speed freak, loving the wind in his face. I am wishing I'd actually made it to those Zumba classes, because then I wouldn't be quite so puffed out.

A similar, yet to date more costly problem is that of leaving shops without taking the goods I have paid for. It could almost be considered a reverse shoplifting problem. The supermarket, greengrocers, Boots ... The greengrocer kindly yells out "yer forgot yer nanas" at which I shuffle back in an embarrassed fashion and collect my fruit.
If it's a good day, then I realise before I get home. I do a U-turn and collect the abandoned purchases, On a bad day, I may not realise for several days. "I'm sure I bought loo roll, why do we have none left?" I ask myself before sending hubby out on a mercy dash for a pack of overpriced Andrex from the local garage.

Oh, how we used to laugh at my mother. With four children and a pet dog, the potential for amusing mix-ups was endless. That poor dog was always getting its hopes up as my mum shouted out a variety of names before getting to the name of choice (strangely always the last one on the list). "Kirsty, Lizzie, Rosie [the dog] ...YOU!" she'd shout and we'd all chuckle at the amusingness of it all.
But now I do it.
Having only two children, you'd think that this wouldn't happen, but it does. "No Hugo! Stop that" I chastise. Hugo looks up from the traintracks he is innocently playing with. A look of puzzlement on his little face. Meanwhile George is trying to eat the catfood / climb the curtains / suck the windows. "Sorry Hugo, Mummy got the wrong name ..."
When other children visit the potential for confusion increases even more. At a loss of getting the correct name or sometimes even gender, I find myself using generic terms of endearment far more than I would like. "Come along sausage / poppet / you little monkey". And to think I used to get mad at old men that called me "darling" or "pet". Now I'm in their shoes.

There are other things of course. The classic of going into a room or cupboard and entirely forgetting the initial purpose. It took me three trips to the same cupboard at the weekend before I remembered to get the flour I needed for the apple crumble.
And how about conversations? The number of complete brainblocks, when I can't remember words or people's names (how embarrassing!) are frequent. Who knows how I will cope when I'm back in the workforce.

I know however that I am not the only one. "I used to be able to hold normal conversations" a friend confessed. "Now I forget to ask how people are, don't finish sentences and forget entire words". It seems that motherhood does more to us than stretchmarks and a spongy tummy.

So how to cope with this? I can't accept that this will be the state of my mind forever. Could it get worse? I hope not. It would cost me a fortune in parking tickets and forgotten loo roll for one.
So, self-help has to be the way forward. After much consideration, the top three is as follows:

1. Writing things down. On post it notes, backs of envelopes, perhaps I'll invest in a notepad. By my bed, in the kitchen, by the telly. If I write down the things I need to do, instead of trying to keep them all in my head, then perhaps I will clear enough space to allow my brain to remember the small stuff. 
2. I probably need to stop trying to do as much. Easier said than done, but I am sure that if I were to cut down on some of the less important things on my personal to-do list (do I really need to dust the kitchen blind for instance?) then I would have more space in my head for the nuts & bolts of everyday life.
3. Take some time, just for me. Exhaustion would be far too strong a term for what all this is probably a symptom of. But, to have a little me-time (to use a hackneyed phrase) would surely help relax my mind and tune out for a small amount of time. Theory being that this then gives me a little more clarity. So, some exercise would probably be in order. Perhaps if I'm feeling flush then a manicure or facial. Or even just a Saturday afternoon bath with a good book whilst daddy takes the boys to the swings.

Let's see how it goes, any other suggestions I'll gladly take them!