Monday, 26 October 2015

My love-hate relationship with being a working mum

Balancing my baby and her nursery bag with one arm, schlepping my teacher's briefcase with the other. Add a bag of groceries here and there, and this would be my early experience of being a working parent. And don't forget the sore back, and the nagging heartache when I would leave my baby with a childminder...mixed in with a frequent sense of relief, of being able to breathe, relax, when I was not having to care for my baby. Compared to taking care of her, work would seem like a walk in the park.

I've been pursuing my career since my daughter was three months old, and she's now two years old and at times, I still feel guilty for being a working mum. I look around at all the French mums and dads dropping their babies off at the crèche on their way to work, and I think: why do I feel so guilty when everyone thinks it's normal to be a working parent? Anyway, here are five things I remind myself of when I feel guilty:

1. Would a man feel guilty?

The funny thing is, despite the fact that they tend to spend more time with their children than men, women still feel more guilty than their partners.

2. I'm a role model for my daughter

I want Momo to grow up with a working mum so that she can see that it's completely normal for women to pursue their career. My mother was a stay-at-home mum, so that's all I've ever known, and it might be why I struggle so much now. My partner's mum had a brilliant career and that was completely normal for him. And he never felt like there was anything wrong with that. He still got a lot of quality time with both of his parents, and they are very close.

3. Being a part of the professional community is good for my mental health

I felt my identity change a lot when I became a mother. For a while, I was really confused. At first, my love for my daughter was so big it seemed to eclipse everyone and everything else. Then I realised that all the other parts of who I had been were still there, but that from now on, they would have to coexist with my role as a mother. Now, I am used to being a mum and I can see that being a mum is just a part of who I am. I am also woman who loves her partner, who enjoys her friendships, her hobbies, AND her work.
My work has always been important to me. I don't want to give up that part of me, because it's part of who I am and I enjoy it, and it helps me stay sane. And I don't need to give up that part of myself in order to be a good mum. Noone would dream of asking a man to give up his career for his children.

4. It's good for my marriage

Men tend to be the main breadwinners, but what we often forget is that it's not an easy role. It's a lot of weight on their shoulders and it also potentially means that they don't get to spend enough time with their children. By going out to work, I can help ensure that my husband doesn't need to carry a disproportionate amount of financial responsibility for our family. It also ensures my financial independence, so that I don't end up in a situation where I can't leave our relationship for financial reasons.

5. My daughter seems happy

And, last but not least, my daughter seemed to enjoy being with her childminder and the three other kids there. She still has a special relationship with one of her former playmates. Now she's in kindergarten and she enjoys it so much she doesn't want to leave when I come and pick her up.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Introducting Belly Button Photography

Today, I shall finally make that announcement I said I'd make with pink cupcakes. So here goes my very special surprise! My new venture, Belly Button Photography.

Over the last year, a lot has been changing around here. I told you I quit my lecturing job, but you really have no idea what's been going on since then, have you... so let's remedy that! So, I quit my lecturing job in order to have more time to prepare my research project on women and sexual abuse in Paraguay. But things never turn out the way you expect them to, do they? Anyway, after working on this heart and soul for a few months, unfortunately I had to abandon that idea - at least for the foreseeable future. It's a shame, because I really feel that this is such an important subject. But who knows what the future will bring?

Anyway, with this project on hold, and my teaching commitments reduced to a minimum, I ended up having lots of time to do something fun. So I started a photography course last autumn and then treated myself to a professional portrait photography class. I was really just going to go there for fun - unlike most of the other participants who were already working as photographers. We took turns taking pictures of two models, both women. One of them actually specialises in artistic BDSM, and I can honestly tell you that taking pictures of her was tough tough tough. She was alluring, dominant, always in control. Perfect for a dominatrix, more difficult when you're trying to sneak behind that wall protecting her inner self.

I was luckier with fashion model, M. She had this knack for changing from super sad, to cheeky, to happy, in the blink of an eye. So I ended up being able to capture some of her deeper emotions. When we all sat down and showed our best pictures, our teacher was really happy with mine and that made me exceedingly proud of myself and it made me realise that I could actually do this! I could actually be a photographer. Everyone was saying how sensitive I was to these women's feelings. How I'd managed to get them to open up and capture real, natural feelings of sadness and joy where many had found it very hard to capture anything other than fake smiles. One of the participants said I seem to have a special connection with women, and I should really keep doing what I'm doing.

So I took their advice and I kept going, because I could, seen as I just so happened to have this unexpected, huge amount of time on my hands:) I started training full time until I got to that point where I felt happy enough with the quality of my pictures. This is when I set up Belly Button Photography.

So why the pink cupcakes? Because my logo is pink, duh!:)

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Surviving the Riviera floods

So! I had a surprise planned for you this week. But then everything changed when the French Riviera was hit by a massive storm and subsequent severe floods everywhere. You may wonder what a picture of Momo and pink cupcakes has got to do with anything. I'll get to that.

Anyway, my family and I were lucky as we just about managed to stop the water from coming in through our front door, but so many people lost everything. It's heartbreaking to see all the destruction around us. I drove past the golf course thinking:

"boy oh boy, where are all the rich people in this area going to play golf from now on?"

Seriously though, parts of my village are devastated, people have died, there are trees strewn across formerly immaculate lawns, there is mud everywhere. We are all tired and sad.

One would think now that the Côte d'Azur has lost its superficial prettiness, its profound ugliness would be overwhelming.

I fear that would most certainly be the case, if it weren't for the great spirit of solidarity surrounding us at this time. I mean, I had never MET most of the other families living in my building.

I saw so many faces I'd never seen before as we were all working together to divert the floods out of our hallway and into the garage (yay! Screw those Porsches and Four-by-Fours!). We actually talked to each other. Don't worry, give it a week or two and it'll all go back to normal and we'll avoid all human contact and spend our evenings online or watching telly again...reducing all human contact to an angry honk or two during rush hour.

Come to think of it, people aren't even honking anymore. It's bizarre, everyone's so subdued. This really doesn't feel like the Côte d'Azur I used to love and hate so much!

Have I ever mentioned I hate this place? Which brings me to the surprise I said I had for you this week. But with everything that's been going on, I'm afraid you'll have to wait a little longer until my surprise will be revealed...Shame though. I was going to announce it with these pink cupcakes. But they were given to families in need instead. And to Momo of course.

Sorry guys!

Bye for now,


PS Don't worry about the palm trees. Even a meteor coming in at 60,000mph couldn't uproot those fuckers.