It’s All Change On The Western Front

It’s been a weird 6 months, I appear to have been in mega ‘declutter your life’ mode.  You would have thought that giving birth to little dimples, and curly headed boy going to primary school would have been enough really, plus getting really sick.  But I appear to have been on a mission.

Maybe it’s because now I have two kids, there really isn’t any space for anything that is irrelevant or takes up time/space I can’t afford?  Did anyone else find a similar thing happened to them after having a second child?

I’m also much more aware of my age (41), and am having no problem in remembering to eat healthily or take vitamins and minerals that I probably wouldn’t have been reliable about beforehand.  I realised that if I’m to see my grandchildren, then some serious work needs to be done to get it into working order.  Perhaps it’s a big reality check that happens in your forties?

Or is it because it’s my ‘saturn return’ in astrological terms or ‘mid-life crisis’ in psychobabble terms?  My lovely astrologer (seriously, if you ever wanted to try it, he’s a lovely guy, brilliant value, very good at it and it doesn’t matter where you live) did say that it was hitting me this year.

I’ve found a wonderful woman locally who will take all the stuff  you just haven’t managed to get round to selling on ebay and do it for you (if you near St Albans and want her name, feel free to leave a comment below).  Although she takes a fee, I reckon that she makes more on the sale anyway, so it’s well worth it.  She took a car load, plus sold a bike and a dog kennel that got picked up from our home.  Then even better was the discovery of freegle (used to be called freecyle), which is a yahoo group where you can offer ANYTHING for free and within 24hrs it’s gone; FANTASTIC!

We had a flood from the shower, so downstairs is going to be refloored (we have holes in the floor from the dog scratching) and the walls painted in industrial child proof stuff!  So the house is getting a make over too.

I even in a fit of madness went from this, to this (plus yesterday I had all the grey dyed out!):

Meanwhile big northern hairy hubby is also at it, with a sudden fitness regime and a success at losing weight that he hasn’t had in 10yrs.  I think that we would both admit that our relationship needs a bit of polishing after all these years (21, how scary!), so there is change afoot there too.

The biggest change came as I decided what to do about my work.  I found it increasingly hard to work out how things would work with the second baby.  Now that I’m just focussing on Mums and am just overseeing my more general therapy business, it was easier, but also I realised that coordinating our schedules was almost impossible.  Plus for Mums I really needed to be able to provide incredible value for service for a really affordable price, but without making it pointless me working.  I was seriously considering just giving up work.  After all, I could be a stay at home mum (SAHM), and in the time I would normally work, I could get fit, look fab, and then when the kids leave school I’ll be about 60, so pretty much ready to retire.  There would be a hell of a lot less juggling to do.  But there would of course be the downside that I lose my sparkle when I don’t work at all, so I might look better, but I wouldn’t be much fun.

By the way, you might not know what I actually do?  I’ve updated by about page and background, just incase you are interested as to where I came from, and what my qualifications are.  But basically, I’m not a parenting coach.  I call myself a ‘mummy whisperer’, because I’m just here to help the mum to be clear on who they are, become more contented, get more sparkle in their lives, and create a strong family with less conflict and stress.  (There’s lots more information on this blog about the ‘fun creation equation‘ and my services, plus on my main site).

Then out of the blue I found my solution!  It’s so exciting, I’ve kept quiet about it all summer, because I wanted to show you what it would look like before I mentioned it.  I’ve found a way, that I can provide help for Mums ANYWHERE, at ANY TIME of the day, 24×7, ANY DAY of the week, for ANY LENGTH of time.  Plus the amount of stuff I’ve put in the package is well worth about £7000, but I can sell it from £379, with the option to pay by paypal/credit card over 3 months, so it is really affordable.  Plus, it will be there for the Mums FOREVER, to reuse over and over again, for that one price.  Plus, for anyone who can’t afford it initially, I’ve got a FREE INTRODUCTION, and will be adding a £27 product to help people sort out their finances.  It’s way better than just 1to1’s because all the information is there to be referred back to at any time, and better than workshops, because no one can slip through the cracks and pretend that they understand. (Please forgive me for the shouting in capitals, but I’ve been keeping quiet about this all summer, so I’m kind of over-excited!!).

‘So what on earth is it?’, I hear you ask (hopefully?!).  It’s using a product called **jigsawbox, funnily enough created by another Mum who must have been in the same situation as me.  It means that I can put my workbooks or workshops online into packages.  When you login, there will be different modules, inside of which will be videos, audios, and text explaining that particular subject.  Then to help you learn it properly there are exercises for you to fill out.  But the best bit is, when you press [send to coach], I can then add my own feedback, so we can interact online.  There will also be the option for free webinars, or to add 15min skype chats or longer 1to1 sessions for some Mums who need more assistance (for example, if there are relationship issues, PND, or past abusive relationships).

Now I haven’t done a video to show you properly yet, but I will do, so keep a look out for it.  But in the meantime, you can get a free introduction to this fab system, plus start to have a look at your own identity and how your family is working at the moment, by signing up for free email list (see RHS).  I’d love to know what you think, so please do leave comments below.

So how come has all this come about?  Well, it might sound a bit tree hugging, but I’m sure there is a vibe of change in the air.  I was too late to get involved in *** Josie’s (a well known mummy bloggerwriting workshop about change last week, but there seems to be a lot of it about.  It’s the jewish new year, and schools always start at this time of the year, so maybe we are all programmed to be thinking about it around now.  There are days when it feels exciting, and others when it feels very scary, and almost like I’m grieving for something being over.  I cried buckets on the last night of big brother, and when curly headed boy started school, but in a way they were just opportunities for a few tears to do with something deeper.  As my mentor says ‘the greatest transformation happens at the border of order and chaos’, i.e. nothing gets changed without some discomfort!  So onwards and upwards, one step at a time, is my motto at the moment.

Is life changing for you too, or is it just those of us in the mid-life crisis?

** I am now an affiliate of jigsawbox as well; of course, because I think it is fab, I want to share it with other coaches/therapist/trainers out there.  If you decide you like it after hearing from me, feel free to email me for more info, and I’d really appreciate you using my affiliate link.  I haven’t found anything else that even matches it a little, it has been going for over a year, so the kinks have been sorted out, and there is tonnes of support.

*** Josie is one of the 3 mummy bloggers who recently went to bangladesh with Save the Children, and have started a Press for Change campaign to push Nick Clegg to commit to making the huge rates of child mortality in third world countries a thing of the past.

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Staycation vs Vacation vs Crazy Gap Year

This summer we opted for a ‘staycation’ with curly headed boy (4.5yrs) and little dimples (6 months).  For ages I had perused all sorts of vacation options, but there were three problems:

  • I was shattered and really wanted bigtime pampering and five star service (for that read price!)
  • Little Dimples was just turning 6 months, so just about to start weaning and changing on a daily basis, so we had no idea what she would really want, plus really hot (like greece) wouldn’t be ideal with a little baby, and she screams in the car, so the UK wasn’t an option either.
  • Little Dimples had just decided to develop a bit of separation anxiety, or preference for who she liked to be left with, so a creche might not work.

So we opted for a ‘staycation’.  I did miss the automatic relaxation I get from the sound of the sea, with a bit of warmth, and laughing children in the background.  But we had someone to look after Little Dimples, and Curly Headed Boy went to camp a few days, so we had a bit of time together to chat, plus get a couple of massages each.  It made me realise that it would be more sensible to take care of my body regularly, rather than wait for holiday time, so I’ve kept up the massages/reflexology since then which is helping with the general exhaustion and breastfeeding.

We had some great adventures as a family too, and found that going into London really suited both the kids, even if it was just to meet up with friends.  The science museum is a must if you haven’t taken your kids.  It’s free (but I recommend taking refreshments, because big-time rip off!), and the kids section is so much fun.  Curly Headed Boy keeps ‘doing science’ when he finds reflections since our visit.  We are definitely going to go back in the next month or so to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs again.  There’s a splash park in St Albans, which I’d been meaning to go to for years, and we are members at a local children’s farm.

There was one big disaster when the morning that we were off to see ‘The Lion King’ I asked big hairy northern hubby to check if pushchairs were allowed, only to find that under 3’s were not allowed.  Seriously, it’s a Disney show!  Before people start leaving comments saying how they hate being interrupted by kids at shows like that, let me point out that I’m not daft.  Curly Headed Boy loves shows and would definitely have the stamina for it, and he has read the book, bet you haven’t recently!  Little Dimples might have needed a break, but being a matinee it was perfectly timed for her nap.  We couldn’t go because Curly didn’t want to leave his sister behind, and I couldn’t leave her for that long as I’m still breast feeding.  So learn from my lesson.  It might be disney, but many shows in london are not actually for young kids.  I was very tempted to give my tickets to 3 smelly tramps, but couldn’t find any, and sadly couldn’t find anyone else either, which was a big shame.

Since then I’m even more chuffed we stayed at home, because having gone through the whole rite of passage of curly headed boy starting school, I’ve got very different opinions on what I would like to do for holidays with the kids.  Watching ‘My family’s crazy gap year’, I had a huge realisation.  I was incredibly lucky as a young baby and child to travel to africa every year, and go to lots of places in europe as a young girl, and colorado as an adult.  There are tonnes of amazing places in this world that I never got to go to as I didn’t have a gap year.  I’d love to make sure that over the next few years I can share my children’s first experiences of some of these places, and set them off on a path where they remember to look for the magical places on offer.

So that’s my plan.  Take care of myself during the year a bit more, so that I don’t need the huge relaxation of a holiday (not sure it’s possible with young kids anyway), and make a big long list of places that we can go as a family.  They don’t have to be posh or far away or an amazonian rain forest (like the TV show), it’s about giving them a richness of experience.

So here’s the beginnings of my list:

  1. A Festival: I’ve never done a festival and the other day read about camp bestival, which sounds fab!  It’s certainly the only way that big northern hubby is getting me in a tent.
  2. Lake District: Dare I admit I’ve never been there, I’m more of a devon & cornwall girl!
  3. Isle of Wight & Jersey: as above
  4. Lapland: I know it can be a bit rubbish, but if we get a good trip it’s meant to be amazing (in a few years when little dimples is 3/4).
  5. Colorado: Definitely need to take them there, I LOVE this place.  I might be a rubbish snowboarder, but you can pretend to be quite cool when sitting on your bum looking at the mountains.
  6. Africa: specifically zimbabwe when it is safer and when the kids are older, so I’m less worried about giving them malaria pills.  I’d LOVE to do an elephant safari oneday if it was one where I could be sure the elephants were well cared for.
  7. Aura Borealis : This is for big hairy northern husband ;o)

So can you help me with ideas to fill up my list?  Where have you been?  Did you take the family?  Feel free to link to your blogs if you’ve blogged about it (sorry I’ve not learnt how to do a mcklinky thingy yet).

Feel free to promote your holidays or your company, but beware: if they are boring, bog standard and have not an ounce of ‘experience’ in them, then they wont get shown ;o)  For instance, a mummy friend of mine just stayed in devon at a farm, which sounded brilliant, and amazing value: something like that is definitely a ‘yes’, and I’d love to know about it.  But your villa on whatever costa, however nice, doesn’t fit the bill for what I’m interested in today, unless you are also teaching curly headed boy to become ‘Avatar’ (he’s seen the cartoons, not the film ‘the last airbender’), have some great tree hugging stuff for me, a pool for little dimples, and a mountain for big hairy northern husband to climb.

Another Question: Why Feel Guilty About Needing Some Help

You might have guessed, that my theme this week is questions!  Plus, my blogs have changed a little, as I used to blog when I had resolved a problem of mine, or for someone else’s situation.  Whereas now I’m blogging in the midst of a problem.  I’d be interested to know what you think about the change, as the blogs develop!

My question today is ‘Howcome do I feel guilty, that I really could do with some help for the last 2 hours of the day before the kids go to bed?’.

These hours tend to consist of the baby deciding she would like to be permanently held (but not in a sling, obviously, because that would be too easy!), whilst the generally well behaved 4yr old, gets tired and cranky, thus losing all ability to think rationally.  Recently, the dogs have helped out with a weeks worth of puking, and now the odd pee incident, for no apparent reason.  My husband’s job suddenly changed the day after the baby was born, and he now doesn’t get home at the time he used to, which means he can’t even help with the juggling a windy screamy baby, whilst reading a story and putting a bedtime nappy on the 4yr old.  So the task of cooking a quick meal, feeding the dogs, tidying the house, putting the washing away, and getting everyone ready for bed, has become a new form of very noisy torture ;o)

So howcome, do I feel guilty, when I realise that I could do with some help?  I didn’t feel guilty about getting a cleaner, because I could feel I deserved one as I was working.  I didn’t feel guilty about her being expensive, because otherwise I had to clean after the cleaner went, which kind of defeated the object.  I didn’t feel guilty about buying myself some clothes.  But for some reason, there is a tinge of guilt that suggests that I ‘should be able to cope’, especially as I’m a born coper!

One of the reasons that my stress levels are exasperated is because I don’t have a Mum to complain to daily in order to let off steam (this is my fantasy of what a Mum would be willing to put up with!), and there isn’t any family locally to help out.  All the Mums nearby are of course very supportive, but also going through the same thing, or just escaped the same problem.  The difference is, that I don’t have the carrot of a regular potential visit from a Mum, who would put a duvet on me and take away my responsibilities for an hour (again another TOTAL fantasy, as loads of people don’t have Mums or Mums with duvets).

Now the importance of the question, is because when you ask it, you can face it and see it’s basically daft, whereas before it was an internal niggle that wasn’t getting me anywhere.  What’s the worst thing that could happen?

Well, people will find out that I’m not perfect, and that my only solution was to bring in an extra pair of hands.  That’s not so bad.  After all, I’m luckily not selling myself as a perfect Mum, so it shouldn’t put people off.

Potentially, people could dislike me because they don’t like to be reminded of their fallibility.  This is very likely, and could affect friendships and work.  However, in life, there are always going to be as many people liking you as disliking you, so it will be balanced out.

Some people will criticise me for having the money to be able to do it, and throw at me the fact that they don’t have family, or a partner, and they can manage.  But in fact what I’m doing is swapping my cleaner (that I didn’t feel guilty about), for more hours with a mother’s help, so ironically it would be purely how I was spending my money that was the issue.  Plus this way, I’m going to be helping out another local mother/grandmother financially, which is I think a very sensible way to spend my money.  However, they would be right, because I’m not great at these last 2hrs of the day.  I LOVE being a Mum, but notice that I do also work part-time because I couldn’t be a full-time mum.  If I was advising me, I would remind myself that we are all great at some things, and not so great at others and that there is a reason that I work part-time.

Some people might criticise me and ask how can I help other mums with my blog and business, if the only solution I could find to this problem, was to pay for help?  Which would be a valid comment too.  But, it wasn’t the only solution.  Actually, I’ve been tackling this issue for 9 weeks now, bit by little bit.  I’ve helped the 4yr old with his insecurities, and added in a star chart, which is really helping him.  I’ve taken the baby to a chiropractor to reduce the screaming in the car and enable her to sit comfortably in a bouncy chair.  I’ve changed my priorities, so that there is as little as possible to do in the evening.  There have been lots of little steps.  In fact last night, I interviewed someone for the job, and the house seemed calm, so I wondered ‘maybe I don’t really need help?’.  But just as she walked out the door I discovered the dog pee in a corner, realised I hadn’t emptied the tumble dryer, was shouted at for not playing by the 4yr old, the baby woke up and screamed, then the internet shopping arrived late, and I still had dinner to cook, a 4yr old to get to bed, and then a sick husband walked through the door!

So what I need to do is remind myself that I’m a great Mum in my own way, and my little boy would prefer I spend the money on someone to be an extra pair of hands, so that I can give myself totally to the job of being the best that I’m able to be.  Meanwhile, I got an email today from a master practitioner of the methodology that trained in, asking for help with finishing a self-session.  It’s made me feel great to be asked, and in no way have I judged her.  In fact it made me realise, that I could then swap a session with her, and pay the mother’s help to cover me, in that way making me even more fun for my son to have around.

If you are feeling guilty today, try these questions out too, because they might make you feel better …

  • What are you feeling guilty for doing/not doing?
  • Why do you feel guilty for it, is there really reason to feel guilty about it when you look at it?
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen: face the fear and guilt, it might not be so bad.
  • How could you and your family gain or benefit from it?
  • If you are judging yourself for being rubbish at something, what are you great at, and why does it suit your family that you are the way you are.

Thanks for listening, it helps to sort my squashy brain out when I write it all down! I’m also not going to feel guilty about the fact that I’m going to eat a chocolate bar now, because since I ate one yesterday my milk has been back on form ;o)

What Will Cause The Most ‘Pain’ If Not Done By The End Of Today?

In ‘ye olden days’, i.e. 2 months ago before the arrival of ‘little pink’, my second child, I used to ask myself what might seem a slightly dark question when sorting out my plan for work/life balance.  I would think about being elderly and sitting on my death bed, looking back over my life.  ‘What would I regret not doing?’.  Would I miss doing that piece of admin, writing that document, working with that client, or playing with my son.  In some cases, I really wanted to write, or the client session was going to be really interesting and couldn’t be at another time.  But in other cases, the sun would be out and it was definitely time to make a memory and go and have a picnic.

This would really help me to be clear on what I wanted to achieve, and how I wanted to do it.  I’m not the type to go pushing ahead with my business, and put the kids last.  It’s not wrong, it’s just not me, and most of all kids just want us to be ourselves.  I’m also not the type to not have another string to my bow; that is, I’d be a rubbish stay at home mum!

But now my life has changed, and is much more practical and much more short term.  My question is ‘What will cause me the most pain if I don’t get it done by the end of today?’.  It helps me with the juggling act (which frankly I’m not doing well at), because ‘little pink’ could wake up at any moment and then demand attention for the rest of the day.

Today, I needed the washing dry, but I also needed to write, just quickly, so that I felt that feeling I love for a moment.  I’ve also made myself a long glass of squash and got some snacks ready, as I’m conscious that her milk demands are increasing.  Which also means sod any thought of a diet for another week!

If I get a chance I’ll phone the two mates who left me a voicemail or text.  Max is at nursery today, so I might even get a chance to interview a ‘Mother’s help’, but most of all I need a little peace and quiet after the easter holidays, when I made a couple of fatal mistakes; I’ll blog about them later in the week, but they are all about feeling unappreciated because you do a pile of stuff ‘for’ people and forgot to work out your compensation package ;o)

A great question, can be worth it’s weight in gold.  What questions help you?

Have You Remembered To Ask Yourself?

When in the midst of attempting to make a decision or solve a problem there are a number of things that we often do:

  1. Worry & Panic!
  2. Ask Friends for advice
  3. Ask So called Specialists/Guru’s for advice
  4. Research ideas in books or the internet

But something we often forget to do is ask ourselves!  Do you know what, we are quite wise really, and one of the reasons why it is often a good idea to ask yourself, is because you are really the only person who knows you, your situation and the surrounding issues intimately.  I love a bit of brainstorming in order to sort the facts in my brain.  But ultimately, actually remembering to ask myself what I would say to me if I was a friend/client in the same situation is the beginnings of discovering a solution.

The wisest people balance learning from both outside sources and themselves.  Only listening to your own counsel would mean that you will happily ignore any concepts that are a little uncomfortable for you.  Plus there is no way that anyone can know every possible fact or option!  But only listening to other people, means that you are disempowering yourself and not believing in yourself.  So what you are looking for is a little bit of both as an ideal balance.

Now sometimes I know we literally can’t hear ourselves think, because of all the brain noise in our heads. If that is your current problem, have a quick look through my blogs, because the whole reason for the ‘Mummy whisperer’ is to help you clear all that noise, and I may have blogged already on your current issue, or something similar.  Meanwhile, find a pragmatic (grounded, down to earth & practical) friend, who will help you get a reality check on your fears and guilts.  I’d recommend avoiding the sympathetic ones, because although we need a little bit of support sometimes, it doesn’t tend to actually get us out of the pit we dug ourselves.

Or is it because you can’t see an option which works for you and your family?  Then quite likely you are in one of those situations where more time is needed, because you just don’t have all the necessary information yet.  Check out my blogs about decision making, because they may help you on how to identify the missing information.

So, what would you tell yourself today if you had a chance to chat to yourself?

If I was talking to myself today (whilst awaiting the arrival of No2), I would say:

– Have a cuppa and a cake, whilst enjoying watch some more back issues of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’.  But remember to drink lots of water as well.

– Don’t worry about all the well meaning ‘has she arrived yet’ messages – that doesn’t translate to ‘FFS don’t you know your own body well enough to know whether she is coming or not’!

– She just wants to make an grand entrance, plus after all the noise at that chaos/mayhem called a 4yr old’s soft play party at the weekend, she probably thought she was safer staying inside for a bit longer ;o)

– If your instinct is to stay in, be quiet and be a hermit for a while, then go for it; This is probably the last time you will have a baby in your tummy again or a chance to rest for about 4yrs, so try to make the most of it.

TV is BAD, no TV is GOOD, which is it?

Many Mums stop their children from watching any TV, and feel very good about themselves for it.  Is that the ‘right’ choice – NOPE.

Others have the TV on all the time – is that the right choice – NOPE.

Actually, I’m just being controversial, because I don’t believe in ‘mistakes’, so I don’t think that either parent is ‘wrong’.  I just think that many are probably unaware of the potential downsides to both options.  Therefore the option of moderate, monitored TV watching appears to be wise to me; take advantage of the Pros to TV, but avoid some of the cons and vice versa.

The first group of Mums will quote scientific research which suggests that children who watch a lot of TV will grow up to be obese TV addicts.  Which is totally a possibility, but there are some other factors which have been ignored in the statistics, like family health, food, job choice, genes etc.

They will wonder, what could possibly be the upside to watching TV?  Well, I’m mainly focussing on baby-toddler TV, but there are some huge advantages.  They are highly educational, Max can speak in spanish and chinese now.  No big deal you will say, until I also caught him talking in persian with the kids at nursery – it’s created a habit in him to be open to other languages.  He knows what a ‘tapier’ is, which I totally wouldn’t have known about at his age.  I can easily suggest that tooth brushing is cool because sportacus does it, and he definitely associates ‘energy’ with apples.  It gives him a way of bonding with children he meets at the park, or in his new nursery, as ‘spiderman’ (we have the old 1970’s cartoons) is like a universal language for boys.  The thing about TV is that it is colourful and in 3D and can teach things in a way, that I would never think of doing (or even remember to do).  Plus, just like his Dad, he loves films, and disney has a totally magic feel to it, which is lovely.

He didn’t watch much under 2yrs old, because he wasn’t very interested.  I think that about 18 months he discovered ‘Baby einstein’ and ‘In the Night Garden’.  Many parents worry terribly about the success that is INTG because it is a bit odd!  But in my investigations of it, I did discover that there are some very sensible and philosophical ideals behind it.

I do use it as a ‘baby sitter’, because that way I don’t have to put Max into full-time nursery, but can do the odd bit of urgent work.  Plus, when you have a house full of tired toddlers in the ‘witching hour’, with a pile of tired Mummies to boot, it does mean that we can have 30 mins for a cuppa and a natter – very important for retaining sanity!  Who knows, some of our TV watching kids could grow up to be film producers or TV show creators.

One disadvantage to not watching TV is that for some children it will create a ‘void’ in their life, which they will go overboard on later on.  You’ve all heard the stories about children of very strict parents who become party animals later on?  Well, my parents decided that saturday morning TV was a definite No, No, so I wasn’t allowed to watch it.  Apart from meaning that I couldn’t join in with social conversations at school, it also meant that I spent huge amounts of my 20’s and 30’s watching saturday morning TV in bed.  We all need to rebel somehow, but some of us delay the rebellion a bit!

Hows about the Mums that ‘over-use’ it?  Well first off, what would be considered ‘over-use’?  I reckon that if Max will always choose a bike ride, or park visit over the TV, then he’s still in the ‘healthy usage’ range.  But I am aware of the fact that as he gets older, it gets a little trickier.  At the moment he only watches stations with no adverts, but it wont be long before he understands how many other channels there are!  Then, I suspect I will need to bring in some boundaries for him about his watching.  I know of a parent of teenage kids who watches things like the discovery/biography channel with their kids and then has a discussion afterwards.  Maybe in the ‘olden days’ that would have been done with a book, but it’s very sociable to be sitting together watching it.

So whats the answer?  There are up & downsides to everything.  My bias is towards a well thought through and considered plan of action.  If when considering your family circumstances you decide to be totally against or totally for TV, fair enough; because by having thought through the strategy you will be able to counteract the downsides of your choice.

The only thing I would therefore warn about is to not think through the strategy and just self-righteously criticise others with different opinions.  I can pretty much promise you that this will go wrong, in that you will be surprised and caught unawares by some of the consequences.

Right, thanks to Justin from cbeebies for giving me a chance to write this post, now we are off to make pancakes!

Choosing Schools, School Assessments and Potential Rejections

So this is a blog very close to my heart at the moment, having just been through an incredibly stressful 2 weeks, with a few more to go!  So I can vouch for the exercises I am going to take you through, as I totally had to use them myself to clear the ‘brain noise’ out ;o)

First some background information.  Our original plan was to go for a state primary where we live, however, a baby boom means that we will not be able to get into any of our preferred schools, and the only option is not an option, if you know what I mean.  So the first thing we had to get our heads around was paying for school for a 4yr old.  Ironically, having paid for nursery over the past couple of years, so that I could work, it’s pretty much the same fees, so financially it isn’t such a stretch, until you look at their whole school life – ouch!  Plus of course there is another baby on the way, which at most will get us a 10% discount, heh ho!

Now around us, the good news is, that there are tonnes of private schools.  However, mistake number one on my part was to not understand the ‘game’ that is played between them all and the parents, plus to get pregnant and potentially have a baby arriving in Feb at one of the most crucial ‘game playing’ times!  So I had a look at all the schools, ruled out some immediately, then visited a few, and ended with a short list of ONE.  I assumed everyone picked their favourite school, and that on the assessment the school would see what all his nursery teachers have seen, and obviously want him – MISTAKE NUMBER ONE, oops ;o)  What actually happens, is Mums apply to loads of places, then get offered and keep the place, just incase they don’t get their preferred option a few months later (all the schools offer over a period of 6 months).  Plus, some apply to nursery, change their mind and then ‘defer’ the place until reception year.  So they have automatically got themselves a place, without any of this scary assessment stuff!

So if you are looking at choosing a school for your child, or are in the middle of assessments, then this blog is for you, with lots of hints and tips about how to deal with it.  For all of these, you could do with a notebook or a spreadsheet; there is a magic in writing stuff down, which gets it out of your head and into a manageable format.  So right from the start, get organised (even if you aren’t generally an organised type about these sorts of things!).

Step 1 – What would you ideally like?

So what are your key and secondary wishes for a school?  This is down to your values, and you aren’t ‘wrong’ in any of your choices, it’s just important to know.  Some Mums around me are most keen on the academics, others sport.  I’m looking for my son to love it, get the option to try lots of things, have lunch (some are packed), and swim from early on.  Academics are important, but not above ’roundedness’, because he is a fan of sport AND art AND reading.  Keep track of this list and compare to your assumptions below.  Plus, remember what your child would like.  My son is very sociable, loves telling stories, needs a lot of space around him and likes to go outside every day, so this is important for me to factor into the decision.

Step 2 – Keep a List of Your Assumptions

As you investigate your options, make sure that you list your assumptions.  You may have to come back and adjust some of these later!  Mine were mainly, that I would prefer Co-ed, that Steiner education was too risky as we might move before my son was taught to read at 7.  But sneaking in there were a lot of assumptions about the scary nature of the Mums at some of the schools!  Now this is where there was an important clash with my Sons values, as I had ruled out several schools, that in the recent months we have met the potential children for, and he adores them.  My current situation is going back through all of my assumptions and deciding which ones are ‘real reasons’ for ignoring a school.  I was just trying to simplify the decision, but now I’m going to broaden my horizons.

Step 3 – Pros and Cons List

For each school start writing the Pro’s and Con’s for each.  Now there is an important DIFFERENCE to how you have done this before.  This time, you are aiming to get as many Pro’s as Con’s for each school.  If you have more of either, then you do not have a balanced viewpoint of the school and something is going to catch you by surprise.  Plus you are looking for the same total number for each school.  If one has less, then there are lots of things that you don’t know about them.

I absolutely promise you that there ARE as many Pro’s as there are Con’s for each school.  By doing this, you will see each school clearly.  If your decision is still hazy, then you haven’t found all the pro’s and con’s yet.

The mistake I made, was not to continue with the list as I got more information – so look on it as an ongoing project.  Where you have unequal lists, move onto the next step.

Step 4 – Unknowns List

As you make assumptions and list pro’s and con’s, you will realise that there are things that you don’t know about each school.  Keep a list of these, and then you can start to fill in the blanks.

Step 5 – What to do in the case of rejections

So I have been refused jobs and all sorts of opportunities and generally been quite pragmatic about it.  But it is a totally different even when your son gets refused!  One Mum is terribly upset that her daughter was rejected from a school, even though she wouldn’t have picked that school!  The other Mum, still has assessments to go, but is panicing, because the first school have only offered a waiting list.  I’m ‘lucky’ in that my son has been offered a ‘waiting list’ (long) for one school and reserve list (short, but they over offer) for another.   However, I may not get the results until Feb, which is when babyno2 is due, so there is a big handful of hormonal worry going on ;o)

So if you are upset over the rejection, here are some ideas for tackling it, because the upset and brain noise associated with it, will drain you and get in the way of you making a plan as to what to do from now on.  I’m going to list some potential reasons why you might be upset and how to tackle it.  Even if you have a different situation, you will probably be able to get a clue from these examples, if not, feel free to contact me.

a) You are upset over the ‘rejection’.

This is a sign that you are really sensitive about the times that you have ‘rejected’ your child.  Now we ALL ‘reject’ them at some point, but you are feeling really guilty about it.  When I say ‘reject’, I mean things like when disciplining them, you stick to your guns, even though they are upset.  Or when you have to leave them for nursery or to so something important and have to ignore their cries.  Or when you are over tired and just can’t face any more.  There are loads of different times that we might have done it.

If this is how you feel, then there are 2 things that I would like you to look at.

How the ‘rejection’ from the school helps, benefits or works for your child?  For example, are there other children you are not keen on going there?  Is it very strict?  Is it a long way away?  Is there something missing from it?  What’s important to them, that the school doesn’t have?  What’s important to your family that the school doesn’t have?

How has it helped your child when you have so say ‘rejected’ them.  Ok, so they were upset at the time.  But, did they gain independence, learn that you would come back, or broaden their horizons about who they could turn to?  Why is that important in the long run for them?  What would happen if you didn’t do it?  Might they end up spoilt, clingy, or lacking in confidence?

b) You are upset because it didn’t work out straight away, even though you know there will probably be somewhere for them.

My ‘brain noise’ was.  ‘It would just be so much easier if rather than being put on a waiting list, he had been given a space immediately’.  So I had to keep thinking, ‘Why is it for the best that he didn’t get a place straight away’.  It took me some time.  Hubby mentioned that it had got him more involved in the whole decision, which started me off, and then I got a key insight.  I realised that it gave me more time to rethink my own decision, and to investigate a couple of options that I hadn’t looked at beforehand.  Otherwise I would have to hand over £500-£1000 to keep a spot, and then find out later that there was an option that would work better for Max.

c) You are worried that there will be no-where for your child.

So you need to double check this assumption.  Has anyone ever not got into a school?  Nope, even in my case, I could still send my son to the state school.  For me, this would mean taking more responsibility for teaching him, doing sport and consistently reminding him that swearing and inappropriate behaviour will not be allowed.  For you, it might mean a longer journey.  But there is an option, and you might then get a chance to get into the school of your choice later.  It’s not over until it’s over!  Go back over your assumptions, have you ignored a location or type of school?  If this happened, it would be time for me to look up the M25 potentially, or into town.  All the private schools near me, will have spaces in Feb, because the most academic school doesn’t offer until then.  Then there will be spaces in April, when some will give up their places because they did get the state school of their choice.

Write down whats the worst thing that could happen?  Face the fear, rather than keep letting it rattle around in your head.  At the very worst I could home educate, move, go to church or change religion (we have a lot of religious state schools in out area).  Even when you think there are no more options, I bet there are some.

By the way, if your child has some very specific problems which might get in the way, like aspergers, or a physical challenge, then you might need a great deal more assistance than just this blog.  But it will hopefully start you off.  It’s key to talk to people who have been in the same situation as you, and find out how they tackled it – so get on that internet and find the support groups with the info!  Feel free to get in touch.

Step 6 – Still Overwhelmed?

If you still feel terribly upset about the whole process, then you are probably over-tired and need a bit of time-out.  Get a friend round for a cuppa or a glass of wine, and ask them to help you brainstorm for some outside ideas.  Focus on some sleep (epsom salts in the bath helps), healthy food, fresh air and taking care of yourself.  Decide that you are going to put this ‘school issue’ into a box for a week, and literally not open the lid.  Each time it crops up, put it back in the box.  You need a rest, and after a good rest, things will not seem so bad and you will be able to cope better.

Let me know if this post has been helpful at all, and how you have experienced this whole school assessment process.