Monthly Archives: February 2014

I am officially a Busy Person™

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I’m not entirely sure how this has happened. Somehow, in the last few months my life has gone from mellow take-it-as-it-comes to frenetic micro organising and go-getting. I am enjoying the ride but bloody hell I’m exhausted.

I am spread incredibly thin (thinly?) at the moment. Between work, family, selling the house and seeing friends, something has to give. I suppose it’s inevitable that some things take more of my attention at times, but it does make me sad that seeing my loved ones is the thing that slips down the priority list.

My sister had her beautiful baby over a week ago. I’ve seen her twice, both times briefly. My friends are lamenting my absence. I haven’t had a proper conversation with my mother for weeks. I seem to be living my life in snippets. I haven’t even posted properly on Mumsnet for ages (can you imagine? The horror).

My weekdays pass in a blur of work, kids, work, housework, and sleep. And then it’s the weekend. Last weekend was a social whirl with two organised meals out, both great fun but ‘extra’ to my usual circle of friends and family. So my loved ones have been sidelined again. And I feel so terribly guilty.

This weekend is no better. We have two lots of viewings, three per day, so the mornings will be spent cleaning and tidying. Then we have haircuts, opticians, passport photos and washing (MOUNTAINS of washing) to deal with. At some point I’d like to see my parents and siblings, and it would be great to see my friends. I need a Tardis, really, to find all the time I need.

I just can’t seem to fit everything in, and make everyone happy. I’m barely managing to hold it together with remembering where the Chums have to be at any given point in the day, The Boy has two early morning clubs and one after school, The Pie has weekly and fortnightly activities to go to, the Little Chum has been to different childcare or at home with Rob on different days for weeks now, with one thing and another, and my pore ol brain can’t cope with it all.

I know Rob’s at full tilt too, he leaves the house at stupid o’clock in the morning in order to be home in time for school pick up. Then he organises homework, music practice, dinner and child wrangling. We have something to do on every single week night: Cubs, Scouts, Wing Chung, guitar lessons…on those nights we flop down on the sofa together at 9.30pm and then one or other of us (often both) will start snoring and that’s the end of the evening. The Sky+ box is full of our shattered dreams in the shape of unwatched episodes of, well, everything.

Tonight should be a valued rest. Rob is gigging and I’m at home with a bottle of wine and a film, and OH MY GOD I am bored out of my skull. I’ve been at full pelt for so long that having downtime feels alien. How the hell did that happen? I used to be SO GOOD at doing nothing, in fact it was my greatest passion. I’ve morphed into a Busy Person and it doesn’t feel like me. So I’m spending time with my blog, which is something else I’ve been neglecting.

This was meant to be a bit more lighthearted than this but there we go. I am tired and grumpy and pulled in all directions. I need to rediscover my slothful mojo. And catch up with my real life. Maybe next weekend…

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Money, money, money.

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So, we cashed the endowment and paid off all of our debts.  Somewhat scarily (oh who am I kidding, TERRIFYINGLY) we were paying the equivalent of my whole month’s salary in various debt repayments (car loan, kitchen, credit cards) plus the endowment payment. Which of course means that now, alongside a nice five figure sum in the bank, we have basically an extra full time wage spare every month.

Which of course, I am going to spend on shiny new things and good times.

😉

Nah, not really. We are going to be INCREDIBLY GOOD AT SAVING from now on. We found a nice high (well, high for these days) savings account that we can put a monthly amount into, and have switched to a current account that pays 3% (whoo-hoo!) and cashback on bills. We really do feel in control for the first time in a while, and our money is now going to earn us more money, rather than us having expensive debts.

I have set up a nice new spreadsheet to show how our money grows. I can’t tell you how pleasing it was to input amounts that didn’t have a little minus sign next to them. As lovely as it was to watch our debts shrink every month, and we did find that a thrill, it is going to be overwhelmingly exciting to watch our savings increase. Oh yes. We know how to party in this house.

I know it sounds like we are flibbertigibbet fools with our cash, but we’re really not that bad. Honest. Well, ok, I am a bit spendy. But that’s all going to change. The debt we accumulated was all manageable and we were never in trouble with it, it was just annoying. Also, we were paying a not small amount into the endowment, which we have used as savings since we bought this house five years ago. It was originally linked to Rob’s first (interest only) mortgage, but we have always had ours as repayment, and overpaid as well. So really, I think we are financial GENIUSES.

I also think that, in much the same way as debt tends to accumulate more debt, savings will accumulate more savings. It’s the Law of Attraction, innit. Which I have always used to great effect in life. The happier and more positive I am, the better things go for me. Like attracts like. So I believe, absolutely whole-heartedly, it will work for gathering our untold riches.

If we carry on spending at the same rate as we always have, we will be able to save the equivalent of a new family car in a year. If we cut back on spending (which is of course the idea) we will  be able to almost double that. It’s very exciting, but also slightly terrifying. It’s quite a lot of pressure. But hey, I THRIVE on pressure and have always worked best when I’m in the middle of something a bit scary. I like to test my own boundaries and abilities.

So, I’m blogging about this as a way of setting it in stone. This is my challenge to myself. I’ve thrown down the gauntlet. I know that if I read this post back this time next year and I’ve failed to save the way I’m planning to it will be soul destroying. So, of course, I will do everything in my power to avoid that feeling. This is how I roll, people.

Wish me luck. And keep me away from the sales….

On the subject of Wifework.

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Something that has always fascinated me is the concept of ‘Wifework’. I know it’s quite a buzzword lately, and it’s a topic that’s very relevant in this house at the moment. I was thinking about it earlier as I was blitzing the kitchen.

As I’m sure you already know, Wifework is a term for all the shitwork that tends to fall to the woman of the house in a heterosexual relationship. Not just the shopping, cooking and cleaning, but the thinking and organising and generally being everyone’s PA and life coach. It’s also to do with the fact that some (most?) women put more into the marriage, emotionally: boosting their husbands’ egos; enabling their careers; protecting the illusion of equality, but I don’t think that has ever applied to us. So, this is really just about the ‘keeping the house and family clean and fed and organised’ part.

It’s a Patriarchal phenomenon and it seems to happen in almost every household. Over the last few years Rob and I have worked pretty hard to buck this trend, as it has always been important to us to be equal, but ultimately until very recently we failed miserably at it. I did the bulk of, well, everything (we rationalised this as being because I was here more) including the invisible jobs, and Rob’s role was more supportive than proactive. It fell to me to do the thinking and organising, which I have always found the most stressful part of running the house.

Those of you who know me will know that I am no domestic goddess. I know my way around a kitchen, yes, but I’m pretty dreadful at knowing what’s in my cupboards or cleaning the tops of them. My technique for washing clothes is waiting until the basket overflows and then doing as many loads as possible in a day. And then the dry folded washing lives on my bed for a few days, is plonked on the floor at night and then gets folded back out onto the bed again every morning in a pitiful show of good intentions unrealised.

About six months ago though we had a complete turnaround in lifestyle. I now leave the house at 8am and come back at 6pm. Rob has an earlier start meaning he gets home in time for school pick up. Which means the bulk of the ‘Wifework’ now actually falls to him, or at least in theory. Because he’s around more.

It wasn’t an immediate handing over of the reins, but I think we are climbing out of the readjustment period now. Rob does all the food shopping and has a much better grip on our cupboard stocks than I ever did. He meal plans (and sticks to it) and cooks amazing dinners from scratch. He does most of the washing, which involves him thinking ahead to what we need and actually washing it. No more panicking over school uniforms on a Sunday night. It’s a revolutionary way of doing things. He organises homework and music practice and clubs and gymnastics, and does all the baths and bedtimes.

We aren’t quite there with the tidying, but it’s no worse than it’s ever been. And we do blitz it all at the weekend which keeps us ticking over. We now have a notepad on the fridge for a shopping list, and a calendar filled in with dates and appointments. We haven’t run out of loo roll or washing powder for months.

It’s not perfect here but actually my husband does a far better job with the housework than I ever did. And I feel relieved and unburdened that it’s not just my responsibility any more.

But do you know what else I feel? Guilt. Isn’t that bizarre? I feel guilty because he now does ‘more’ around the house than me. It seems that the concept of ‘doing it all’ is so ingrained in my psyche that it pains me to hand the reins over. And the really stupid thing is that I still do a whole heap of thinking and organising. I deal with all the finances for example, and any admin-y stuff. I’m still the only one who ever cleans the bathroom or properly cleans the kitchen. Any decluttering has to be organised by me, although Rob will happily pitch in and put stuff where I ask him to. He really isn’t doing it all, in fact we think we have as close to a 50/50 split as possible, but still my brain chunters at me that I need to pull my weight more because, well, Poor Rob.

Other people’s perceptions don’t help, either. My mother still asks, often, how Rob is coping with doing all the cooking, or if he’s alright at home with the Chums. My occasional lighthearted announcement at work that I’m off home because my dinner is ready is ALWAYS met with a raised eyebrow and mock horror. We get teased and ribbed for ‘swapping roles’. Or I am reminded by well meaning friends how very very lucky I am.

I just can’t win. And I think the same is true for many women. We either do it all and feel resentful, or we shoulder the feelings of guilt and failure for not doing everything. So, as I can’t win, I will aim for a peaceful acceptance. We may never live in perfect domestic harmony but what we do works for us. I need to stop thinking that my husband makes a better wife than I do and start accepting that we are two adults raising a family together. And then maybe, finally, I can enjoy not doing all the Wifework on my own.