A friend in need is a friend in deed -Deeds not words

pexels-photo-710743.jpeg

I was at a meeting today,  with 2 other women and we were discussing and talking about people with Autism and how best to support them.  During the conversation it inevitably came up, not only about their potential and abilities, but also their rights.  ‘Rights’ are a thing many of us take for granted or indeed shout about, if we feel are being violated.  We use our voice, we march, we demonstrate one way or another, usually without fear, to exercise our right to ‘freedom of speech’ and to get things done.

A person with an intellectual disability, often, may not have that voice to exercise their  right to ‘freedom of speech’.  Some may not even know or be aware of their rights, and therefore need someone to ‘stand up for them’ and be their voice.  Again, we can do this without fear of repercussions.   It may take a long fight to ultimately get whatever it is we are seeking for the ‘person’, and  we may not get what we want for them at all, but we can try, and we can fight, and we can shout and be heard, even if it falls on deaf ears.

Today is the 100 year anniversary of the suffragettes victory in allowing women in Britain  the right to vote.  There were, however, conditions in that the women must be over the age of 30 to vote and well educated.  Women were not however, treated equally to men and didn’t enjoy the same rights across the board.    Thankfully, a lot has changed in that 100 years.  We have more equal voting laws, we have better discriminatory laws. Here in Ireland, we were the first country, in the world, to legalise  same sex marriage.    We don’t send women and children to the work houses.  Women, whether married or not can now work.  Up until 1973 in Ireland, married women were not allowed to work!  Children have more opportunities to go to third level education, regardless of social class or status.  Yes we certainly have come a long way since Emmeline Pankhurst chained herself to the railings, seeking rights for women, or since Emily Davison, threw herself under the Kings horse for the cause.  Emily was certainly dedicated to Pankhurst’s motto of ‘Deeds not Words’ and ultimately gave her life.

This is the the only thing that remains true, 100 years on and perhaps 1,000 years on is that  motto,  ‘Deeds not words’.  The old adage of ‘Actions speak louder than words’, whether it is a friend in need or a person who does not or cannot use their voice, don’t we have a duty advocate and demonstrate on their behalf?   By doing good deeds for the greater good, by standing by and standing up for our rights, for our fellow man, woman and child, we are honouring and continuing what those suffragettes started.  Don’t we owe it to them, to ourselves and to those who cannot speak for themselves, the right to enjoy the same rights of their fellow human being?  Like British rail, we have come along way, but still have a way to go.

I salute the bravery and tenacity of the suffragettes and I feel angry at what they had to suffer and endure in their world 100 years ago.  I thank God that I didn’t live in that world.  I shall raise a glass tonight to those women, for daring to do ‘deeds’ for all women so that they may enjoy, not just the right to vote, but for equal rights across the board.  It is now our generation of women and men who must continue to do ‘deeds’ in order to fight for the rights of any person unable to fight for their own.

Let’s not  forget  vera twomey, our own ‘suffragette’ seeking the right for her child to receive medical cannabis to improve her quality of life.  To make a difference, it starts with one voice…….. make your voice count.

Happy 100 year anniversary!

 

All in a days work?

The 9 to 5 or the 24/7 ? when do we really clock off? When is it time for a new direction?

 

 

pexels-photo-220147.jpeg

I never really knew what I wanted to ‘be’ when I left school and in my day, girls were really just geared to be secretaries or housewives.  There is nothing wrong with either and I have indeed, been both.  All I knew, way back then, is that I wanted to be ‘something’ and I wanted the ‘something’ to make me feel good about what I was doing, and to do what I was ‘doing’ well.

I left school at 16 because I was offered a job in an office.  I  and another girl, were recommended by our school principal, to a local plumbing contractor, as  ‘good candidates’ for the position.   After our interviews, I was offered the job and took it with both hands.  I hadn’t even had my exam results (Inter-Cert) so I figured, I must be good, as he offered me the job on my merit, rather than my qualifications.  This, indeed, made me feel good.  The year was 1981 and lots of people left school at 16 to go to work.  It wasn’t really a big deal.

I found the job quite lonely and even boring sometimes as it was just me in the office, while the boss and his apprentice were out fulfilling contracts.  I was there to answer the phone, type any letters and send out the invoices.  I was even sent to his accountants to learn about v.a.t and all other essentials needed to do the profit and loss accounts.   This wasn’t quite the idea of ‘being something’ that I had envisaged, but I had a sense of pride and took pride in my work.  I also left home and rented a bedsit nearby, so I could easily get to work.  My parents lived 7 miles from the town and our village didn’t have such a thing as a bus service.  I had no option but to move into town to get to my job.

Since that first job, I have had many many jobs both in Ireland and in the UK.  I can honestly say I have ‘drifted’ into most of them.  I first got involved in legal office work (law firm)  when I went  back to live in England, the place of my birth and home until I was 14).  I was 19 years old at this stage, and my best friend, from my childhood, got me a 2 week stint as an audio typist in the firm that she was working in.  Another secretary was going on her annual 2 week holidays and my dear friend recommended me to cover her leave.  I was terrified but excited too.  I had never done audio typing before, but it was work and I needed the money.   I lasted the two weeks and was given a good recommendation by the Solicitor that I worked for.   That was my first taste of working in a law firm and I really enjoyed it.  Years later I went on to not only work as a legal secretary but also to study and practice law.

As an adult, I have  studied a lot and changed direction a lot!  The thing is, I always need to ‘do something’.  In order to ‘fill me up’ I need to feel that I ‘am worth something’.  I need to feel that what ‘I do’ means ‘something’.  I’m not the sort of person that can just go to work and say ‘that will do’.  I have to make sure, whatever it is, that I have done my best at it, because, it matters. Right?  There has to be a value, for ourselves and for the task in hand.  It has to matter, to someone, to something, to us?

Having said that, all that we value comes at a cost and we must determine, at what cost is what we do, worth it?  Whether it be leaving our children with a childminder, to go to work so that we can put that food on the table  or take them away for a holiday.    Some people work so hard and such long hours that  ultimately it could cost them their marriage, quality free time or their mental health.  Recently in the media, what cost had actors and actresses have to pay to get to where they wanted to be?  How many other people in every other profession or industry had a high price to pay, for a days work.   In their working relationships how easy is it to Relay, Shun, Ship what we do and what we don’t want?  Of course, some of these scenarios are quite extreme, but not unlikely or unheard of.

Four years ago I was studying (yet again) for a degree, working part-time in my daughters pre-school and working part time in my salon.  I  was also (and still am) work ing 24/7 as a housewife and mother to my two remaining children at home (my foster children), and when the need arose, looked after my grand children.  Some days I would wake up, with a start, and think ‘where should I be today, the school, the salon, complete the assignment or mind one of the children’.  It was a full on busy, busy time and I was always chasing my tail.  I wasn’t now enjoying any of it and didn’t feel the value in it. I began to feel ‘that will do’ when I did something, and ‘that will do’ attitude began to  make me feel bad, so what else could I do, but change direction. I completed the degree and God knows how but, passed with flying colours.

I finally decided  to take a complete ‘year off’  from working (apart from in the home) and gave myself permission to ‘just be’ a housewife and mother.  I needed to readjust and re evaluate what it was I wanted to do.  Sure I have a new degree, but I need a job to fit in with the family, and in a social care line of work, that would be a challenge as  my other half works shifts, so that had to be factored in.  So for the last 3 years I have worked as a volunteer  twice a week in a charity shop (along side my 24/7 job).  I have been at my (grown up) children’s beck and call and my parents’ beck and call, when needed to step in and help with grandchildren/lifts/hospital appointments etc etc.

What this often translates to is ‘drop what you had planned your service is required’.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my children, grand children and parents.  I love my life (most of the time)  and I have a certain amount of freedom and flexibility in my life.   There are times though, when being the ‘beck and call girl’ is just too much.  The hours are not defined,  the structure of the day changes, the plans go out of the window and the unwanted feelings of guilt and sometimes resentment can be a burden and a heavy weight to carry.

I look, from time to time, for paid work, only part time, to fit in with the family and the other half’s shifts. It’s that constant need again, to ‘be something’, something other than the ‘beck and call girl’. The trouble with being the ‘beck and call girl’ is that feeling of being  viewed as someone who ‘doesn’t work’.  Charity work is not a ‘proper job, you don’t even get paid’ sort of scenario!  If I did get a ‘proper job’ what would they all do then?  They would of course survive and they too would find a new direction – no one is indispensable and at the end of the day, its all in a days work!

 

 

Leaving the Baby!

When its time to go back to work!

pexels-photo-246804.jpeg

Someone I know is returning to work today after being on maternity leave for 9 months.  It is her first child and what a beautiful child she is.  The funny thing is when I read her post about returning to work, my tummy lurched and my heart went out to her.  The first 9 months, spent intensely with your baby, knowing its every move, its every need and its every likes and dislikes.  Even before that, the initial 9 months carrying the child, the bond you have  and the protection you feel for it is intense.

My tummy lurched because it brought back memories of the first day I had to return to work after I had my first child.  In those days we had 4 months maternity leave.  I remember the days leading up to having to ‘leave her’.  Finding a suitable minder.  Meeting the minder and checking out everything I could about her and the service she provided.  I kept looking at my baby, the child I knew everything about, and I couldn’t help but think, that when the day finally came, she would hate me for leaving her.  This made me feel sick, it made me feel sad, it made me feel guilty, it made me hate myself, just a little bit too.

I remember trying to be extra cheerful that morning after very little sleep, as per usual, because she was not a good sleeper anyway, and of course the level of trepidation I was feeling prevented a peaceful slumber!

She loved being in the car, and all the way to the childminders I felt like I was leading her into a false sense of security.  A car ride usually meant shopping or visiting friends and family.  This car ride was leading her into the hands of a perfect stranger (even though I did introduce them prior to this dreaded day).  Not only was I driving her there, I was going to be leaving her there, until her daddy collected her, when he finished work.

I suppose we were lucky in one sense in that I was returning to work on a part time basis in the afternoons.  He on the other hand was working the early shift 6.00 a.m. until 2.00 p.m.  This meant my child would have a total of 2 hours per day with the minder.  That,  for me was 2 hours of torture!

Next to tears, before we arrived, I kept thinking about when she was born and for her daddy, life continued as normal, in that, he still had to go to work, to ‘provide’.  However, he had the luxury of knowing she was a home with me, being well cared for and looked after.    He was used to this ‘going to work’ scenario.  This was a whole new ball game for me.  This new Relay shun ship was filled with all sorts of emotions…. none of it was good!  Yes I could impart all the relevant information to the child minder, her likes, dislikes, nap time, colic, screaming fits, due to colic, tiny naps, due to colic, infacol in the bag, due to colic.  I could not, however, shun my increasing feelings of anxiety and guilt, the nearer I got to her house.  Knowing I had to actually, really leave her there.

Walking up the path, I could barely speak, looking down at my precious bundle in the car seat, and her smiling up at me, not realising she was being tricked and what a bad mummy I was for tricking her!  It was not nanny’s house, or our friends house, this was the ‘Torture House’.   I was startled out of my guilty trance, at the door opening and  the woman greeting us with a very warm welcome, assuring me that everything was going to be just fine.  She could obviously sense my dread.    Again I reiterated all the instructions on how to care for a child.  How to care for my child!  She is different to all the others, she has colic you see!  Do you know how to deal with colic?

Oh my God how am I going to leave and get back in the car and then go to work.   Not the job I had left to go on maternity leave.  Oh no, that had gone into receivership whilst I was on said leave.  This was a new job.  Brand spanking new.  I was the new receptionist.  The FIRST person to greet the clients.  The person to answer the phone.   No pressure!

I squeezed her tightly in my arms. Kissed her a million times, and like any good villan, handed over the precious goods.  I could hear the screams as I was walking down the path, then realised, that was in fact me screaming.  My baby was cooing and blowing raspberries, whilst the childminder, sweetly smiling and reassuring me ‘Everything will be just fine.  Please don’t worry’.  Easy for her to say!

By the time I arrived at my job, not a trace of make up was left on my face from all the crying and wiping away the tears.  Double checking in the mirror to make sure I didn’t have any sign of panda eyes, I proceeded to enter the building, trying to pull myself together, but looked anything BUT professional, with a big red blotchy face!

I was greeted by another girl on reception (older than me, married with children).  She gave me a knowing look of ‘been there, it, done it, got the T shirt!  She took me under her wing and, in between my sobbing, showed me how to use the switchboard.  Luckily for me  (and the company) she was to be with me all day and for the first week, to train me in.  It was  the worst I had EVER felt in my life, that first day.  I felt like I had just shipped and dumped the most precious thing in the world, for what,  the route of all evil – money!

I hated the fact that we needed for me to work too, but the reality is we did need the money to pay the bills.  The other reality is, I actually would NOT have been satisfied to be ‘a full time stay at home mother’.  In that moment, that is all I wanted, but the more she went to the childminder, happy to go and and happy to ‘play’ and interact with the other babies and toddlers, the happier I settled into work.   We both achieved a good work/life balance.

So to all you young mothers, out there, at whatever stage of maternity leave you are on, feeling the trepidation, the guilt and all the other associated feelings, you are not alone, but trust me, and trust yourself in your selection of childcare, all will be fine.  They will be fine.  YOU will be fine!

 

 

Work/Colleagues

pexels-photo-420233.jpegFixing my hair, as I walk across the car park, wiggling my neat pencil skirt down and shimmying off any remnants of ‘knackared mother approaching’, I burst through the main door of the building as if i’m about to sing ‘the hills are alive with the sound of music.

‘Good morning Mandy, I beam, as I pass by the receptionist, noting how fabulous she looks and smells.  No trace of baby fumes emitting from her.  She being a young, single, stunning glamour puss!

Whisking past the pool of secretaries, nodding politely as I go, i head to my desk.  It’s an open plan office where I work.  The building is almost circular, like a gold fish bowl in appearance.  Legal Eagles on the outer rim by the windows and secretaries in the middle, near the lift and toilets.  I take my seat, by the ‘window’ and chat to my rather dashing colleague,  who has just passed his uni exam and and doing his Articles with us.  Nice bit of eye candy for a 30 something married mother of 3 feeling like she has been ran over by a bus most days.

I didn’t used to ‘sit by the window’.  Oh no, I was one of the girls by the lift and the toilets, busily typing away and being a secretary too.  I started as a temp and was to be there for 3 days which then turned into 3 weeks and finally 3 years.  My ‘boss’ was great.  We got on like a house on fire.  Well me being an Aries and him being a red head, it was inevitable really – both fiery!

I was so nervous when I first met him.  Oh I had plenty of experience being a secretary, I had done it B.C (before children).  I was nervous because he looked, how can I put it, a bit weird actually.  he was tall and thin, some might say gangly, and when he spoke his arms would flail, all over the place.  I had to duck out of the way a few times for fear of being knocked over.  He mumbled he was working on a big custody battle and had to have all the paperwork ready for the brief by end of day, so could I stay late!

Well, that was going to go down well with the hubby, first day at work and I am working late.  Good job it’s his day off today and not costing me a fortune paying a childminder.   So, I am running around like a headless chicken that got lost and is trying to find its way home.  I try to get to grips with the fact that three other secretaries are sending their typing to the one SHARED  photocopier in the building.   I go to retrieve my documents only to find they are not there.   No paper, the machine is empty and I have no clue where the stationary cupboard is to refill it.  Panicking that he is going to think I am incompetent and slow, I hurry back to the other girls for some guidance as to where I might find the paper, knowing I am irritating the hell out of  them as its probably the 100th time I have interrupted them today, what with it being my first day and I don’t have a clue where everything is.  I am after all, just a secretary not bloody Mystic Meg!

‘Have you got those documents yet’ he asks, peeping his head into the office, whilst looking at his watch and giving me a look as if to say I probably wont last the contracted 3 days the temp agency had promised me.  He kept tut tutting, going this way and that way, checking his watch, scratching his head, muttering God knows what to himself, making me feel more and more anxious.  I thought at one stage brown bear was going to come out, you know, like Mr Bean’s bear.  That is who my boss reminded me of, dear old Mr Bean!

Could I actually feel any worse? Could I feel any lower.  Didn’t he realise, the sacrifice, torment and guilt I was going through at leaving my 9 month old twins to be there.  How many times had I stopped myself from crying just thinking about them, especially when my boobs were throbbing and I had to just ignore and smile through the pain.  I felt like a highland cow at milking time, full and ready to burst!  I was a professional, I was not a defeatist, I wouldn’t five up or give in to it, even though every fibre of my being was aching to be home with my babies, cuddling them, kissing them, being thrown up on by them, feeding them.  The sacrifice I made, turning up  ALL CLEAN, shit, vomit and food stain free, to be given THAT  look.  How dare he!

To add insult to injury, when I FINALLY had all the paper work typed up and retrieved from the now, full of paper printer, it was time to get all that shit collated together.  The usual place would of course be a nice tidy desk.  There was no room on mine, it had a typewriter (electric)(posh) on it and all other manner of stuff a secretary needs on her desk.  His desk, no correction, his office had the look of, shall we say, that it had been burgled –  papers, files, ring binders EVERYWHERE.  The only available space that I could utilise was the floor.  So there I was , on my knees, in his burgled office, in a nice neat pencil skirt, boobs throbbing and slightly worried there would be wet patches any minute, due to leakage.  Conscious and worried my stocking tops would be exposed every time I leaned over to drop a document in the correct pile of rather lengthy rows of paperwork. How very lady like indeed!

The look on my husband’s face was priceless, when I explained my rather hectic first day.  He particularly raised an eyebrow and my being on the floor with my boss, after everyone else had left the building.  Still it’s a bit more exciting than looking after buttons in the control room!….

 

 

Family Life

pexels-photo-116151.jpegMamma,  Papa and Baby Bears….. a story something like this…..

Papa bear goes to work while mamma bear stays at home to produce and take care of wonderful little children.  She will clean the house, cook the dinner and have hubby’s slippers ready for him coming home from work, display children to him in all their glory and cuteness before putting them to bed and cuddling up with him on the sofa in blissful harmony.  Right…….   No?

Let me take you to a time when I had 3 small children, a husband, a full time job and a college course to boot!  A typical morning might look like this…..

Get up at 7.00 a.m. (having just got to bed at 5.00 a.m. to see to the babies (yes I had twins).  They were in the height of teething and papa bear is at work on the night shift.  Blindly walking across the landing into the bathroom to pee in peace before babies require my attention again.   The THREE minutes quality time in the bathroom is bliss, but must also wash and brush teeth quickly and quietly before the mad house comes alive.

Creeping back to the bedroom to find suitable clothes for work at the office.  Halfway through buttoning fresh crisp white blouse the screaming begins.  Running towards the now louder and louder wailing, I retrieve both babies and offer my shoulder to lean on and cry on whilst shouting across the landing for eldest child to ‘please get up and hurry up or we will be late’!

Painting a smile on my face and gently talking and reassuring babies, one on each hip now as I carefully negotiate the stairs.  Plonk each baby into a high chair assuring them breakfast will be ready in 2 ticks, shouting again up the stairs to eldest child to hurry up and come down for breakfast.

Cereal bowls out and mascara to hand I manage to keep one eye on the milk heating in the pot whilst also dressing the other eye with said mascara.  Who said I couldn’t multi task.   Distracted by a loud scream where one baby had decided to lean over and pull the hair from her sisters head, and sent her into a hysterical scream that would put even the banshee to shame.  Running over to comfort one child whilst chastising the other, the wonderful hissing sound of boiling milk was spilling  over the beautifully clean cooker – oh shit!

Sleepy 5 year old saunters into the kitchen, hair looking like she is trying out out a new rastafarian dread lock look, because it is so matted, due to her having  inherited her fathers extremely fine hair.  ‘I’m too tired to go to school today mummy, can I just go back to bed’?    Noooooo, now start getting dressed or mummy will be late for work!

Finally manage to complete making cereal, give cooker a quick wipe and a promise for a clean later.  Tell number 1 child to eat up her breakfast while I try to quickly shovel the gooey baby porridge into the delightful twins, using the usual coaxing method of the flying aeroplane and choo choo train trick, here it comes, open wide!  Though there is a smile on my face and my eyes are wide with glee and excitement for the benefit of my beautiful babies, my mind is screaming ‘JUST EAT THE FUCKING PORRIDGE, OR I’M GOING TO BE LATE’, deep breath and smile!

At Last, I hear a key in the door.  Himself is home to rescue me from ‘mummy duties’ so that I can get myself ready and de-dread lock  number 1 child , drop her at school before heading to do a FULL DAY’S work at the office.

‘WHAT a NIGHT’ he grunts as he comes into the kitchen, looking for some sympathy, well he has come to the wrong house!  He looks fresher than any daisy I have ever seen.  I suspect he had a lovely little snooze for himself whilst sitting in the control room.  Minding all those BUTTONS.  How easy is that, looking after some BUTTONS.  Sure they control the furnaces, but they only go off if the furnace gets too hot or too cool.   I mean, that probably doesn’t happen very often, if the other guys are doing their jobs right. Right? Sure that’s all there is to it.  Alarm goes off and he has to get off nice big comfy chair, and goes to press a button, before heading back to comfy chair, throw feet up on the desk and  nod off again, until the next time.  While here I am, up all night, pacing the floor with two screaming babies, searching for the calpol, bonjella, teething rings and anything else I can think of , including , singing, rocking and even crying myself, to try comfort them in their HOURS of need and pain.

Just as I am finally ready, having had to change my outfit, due to a child malfunction – puking their gooey baby porridge over me, because papa bear had retired to the living room.  Finally, the child minder arrives in the nick of time, and this is of great comfort to me, reassured that my darling babies will in fact have adult supervision before I go to work, as my darling husband is peacefully snoring his head off on the sofa, mouth open catching flies.

 

Its only 8.40 a.m. and I already feel like I have done half a days work and ran the relay race, before even getting to work.  I drop number 1 child at the school gate, give her a kiss and a hurried, ‘have a nice day’ before speeding off towards the bypass.  Quick glance in the mirror to check all is well, only to notice one eye has NOT in fact been ‘dressed’ and is MASCARA FREE.  Kill me now!

 

Every step you take

Last weekend I attended a a writing retreat #inspireme18. It had been organised by 3 very dedicated and talented authors, namely Carmel Harrington, Hazel Gaynor and Catherine Ryan Howard. I also met some other wonderful women attending the retreat. Since last week, us like minded women have stayed in touch (set up a social media group) and are there to support each other each step along the way. Isn’t that great. 20 practical strangers, spend a week-end together, with a common interest and have now formed our own little tribe.
The great thing about beginning something new, is you don’t know what shape it is going to take, until you take that first step.
It can be scary to start something new, meet someone new, do something new, but whatever it is, with whomever it is, whenever it is, it is some sort of relationship and it will have an impact. . Some, we will want to Relay – information, a message, an opinion. Some we will want to Shun – ignore, avoid, abstain. Some we will want to ship – export, forward, drop. Every day with every action we make a decision on everything and everyone we are faced with. We decide what we are going to ‘do’ in that relay shun ship relationship scenario. Get up early and go to the gym, or just roll over for another hours sleep. Walk to work or take the car. Make dinner or get a takeaway. You get my drift. Choices every day. Here’s to new beginnings and making good choices….. Now where is the chocolate

pexels-photo-65562.jpeg