Have you been paid yet?

I listened to Sandi Toksvig on Desert Island Discs the other day. Stay with me.

If you haven’t heard it you must as she is basically sunshine and dynamite and currently changing the world for the better via the Women’s Equality Party.

The WEP point out that, due to the 20% gender pay gap, March is effectively the first month of the year that women are getting paid.

That’s right, you’re pretty much working for free in January and February compared to your male counterpart. A reason not to do Dry January if ever I heard one.

They have made this video and “…want women across the UK to show us (use #paydayparty)  how they’re ‘celebrating’ pay day this month – with 20% less to party with than their male colleagues.”

 

On Desert Island Discs Sandi told an anecdote about how, and I am paraphrasing, a news editor would ask a senior, experienced female journalist if she wanted to be Economics Editor. The woman would politely decline and say she ‘couldn’t possibly’ as she didn’t have the skills. So the editor would offer it to a man half her age with half the experience and he would accept it there and then and go and buy Economics for Dummies.

It reminded me of something that happened last summer.

I was working as Mrs Robinson with a senior creative director at an advertising agency. She was using me to hire a freelance mid-weight creative team for her. I found her a great male duo and she liked them, but when it came to the money chat it turned out that their rate was £50 more a day (each) than she was being paid herself.

They were good, but they weren’t AS good as her and, importantly, had 8 years less working experience.

I had previously spoken to them about their rate as it was high, probably £100 per day too high for their level, but they said they were consistently being paid that amount.

Why? 1. Because they asked for it 2. Because more often than not they got it. 3. They believed they were worth it. 4. Therefore their clients believed it too.

This isn’t a one off. Quite often when I recruit for permanent positions my male candidates are much more confident about talking about money, raising their salary expectations between roles and asking for what they want. Most of my female candidates are naturally more cautious, want to take my lead on what they should be on and don’t want to ‘push it’ incase they put the employers off. Of course I have candidates of both sexes that do the opposite but I would say this is 80/20 the case.

 

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The gender pay gap will be high on my agenda when Mrs Robinson fires up her engines later in the year, starting with open and frank discussions with clients and candidates. The UK is moving in the right direction but as WEP leader Sophie Walkers says, “It is frankly a bit of a joke that the gender pay gap of 20% persists, 45 years after the passing of the Equal Pay Act.”

In the meantime, here’s how I suggest we celebrate this month;

Buy only 4 out of 5 mates a drink when it’s your round.
Listen to The Spice Girls minus Posh. No offence Easy V.
Get your taxi to drop you off four fifths of the way home.

Sounds like a shit party.

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Perhaps we should all just work a 4 day week instead. Because in real terms that is what we’re being paid for.

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How are you celebrating yours?

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A Vide-Ode to Bedtime

Someone once said to me that their favourite times of day were nursery drop off and then nursery pick up.  I totally get it.

Bedtimes in our house are quite drawn out affairs that involve bath-time (when they stink), books, a Fairy Gary story (don’t ask) and a song.  I only have myself to blame  for the ridiculousness. But now it’s tradition and there are protests if the Fairy Gary is too short or if I don’t sing.  I am working on reducing this to just shutting the door on the screams.

So I bloody love it when they eventually both drop off. And my shoulders drop down about 3 inches.

You can hear a pin drop. And it’s golden …

And breathe.

And gin.

Mum-Bling 4: Making Mum Mates – It’s A Minefield Out There

I saw a girl in a cafe the other day and I liked the look of her.
She had cool eye-liner and a nice top.
We got talking and had things in common.
She was nice and we clicked.
It took everything I had not to ask her for her number. It was too soon.
But when she left, I wished I had.

No, this is not the start of a very bad One-Day type novel.

This happened to me last week. I am a happily married woman. I am not a predator or a repressed lesbian looking for an affair. Though I realise I sound like both.

I am just at a stage in life (late 30s, new baby, new ‘hood) where I am making new friends again and it is harder than I remember.

It’s not like school. All lumped in together and, via a few painful years of writing notes, walking around the school field arms linked with that day’s BFF, train track braces and bad perms, your group is defined. I still have those mates, the stalwarts who have seen me flower from young Boris Becker to, well, middle aged Boris only with tinted brows and lashes.

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It’s not like uni or my early twenties either. Those glorious hedonistic years where we lived in each other’s pockets very happily. Sharing dreams, houses, clothes, secrets, fags* (*Mum please read that as library books), money, no money. We had limited responsibility and unlimited energy. We started careers and moved cities, taking the party with us. That bunch are etched on my heart forever. Geography keeps us apart, Whatsapp keeps us together.

It’s different for some reason.

And it’s not like; we’re all Mums so we must be friends because we’ve all got birth in common. That’s like saying all celebrities are friends because they have being famous in common. You wouldn’t see Beyonce hanging out with Susan Boyle just because they can hold a tune. Or Beyonce and Rhi-Rhi for that matter, but that’s a whole other story.

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There is no shortage of places to scout for potential mum-mates either;

Toddler Groups – A place to make a mess not in your own home and have tea served by a friendly old lady who asks you how you are. Try not to cry.

Soft Play – A chance to catch a fungal skin infection whilst drinking crap coffee and trying to sneak a look at Facebook whilst squeezing yourself down a dark tube that smells like sick.

Cafes – Places full of other mums with babes in prams getting a caffeine fix. Pram hood up = don’t talk to me, it’s asleep and this is my time, bitches.

A variety of music/ movement/ singing classes where you get very used to doing the Hokey-Cokey in a room full of strangers, before noon and without any alcohol. Sometimes you start to believe that the Hokey-Cokey is what it’s all about.

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One 360 degree sweep around these places and you know whether any of these ladies are going to be your BFF. Don’t get me wrong, I have had many lovely chats with many lovely ladies but you just know. WE just know.

So when you do meet one that matches your mental (in both senses) criteria, how on earth are you supposed to make them realise what a perfect match you are without handcuffing them to you and saying;

“Look how similar we are, you’re wearing converse too. You used to work in London? So did I. When did you move back here? Do you miss it? No – me neither. Yeah, wine, I LOVE wine ha ha. I’m a lightweight now though, not like the old days ha ha ha. You called her Olivia? That is such a lovely name. It was on our list too, actually, but she looked like a Grace so we went with that. No way! My 2nd is 10 months too. Much easier second time round isn’t it? Way more relaxed. Yes I loved Breaking Bad, did you watch Homeland too? Ha ha ha. Aren’t we really laughing loads like old friends? Ha Ha. Yes I am a REAL laugh. Your husband has a beard and works in London. Dan? That’s too funny mine’s called Dom ha ha ha. We should so get them together. WE should get together.”

Wait, what?

I am a peacock. Dancing around showing my wares, my bottom drawer, my dowry.

It’s like speed dating in stained clothes with no make-up and instant-coffee breath.

She is never going to love you. You are too needy. Children are needy enough. Need off, weirdo.

If one person on their own is hard, try penetrating a whole NCT group. Not like that, though I am sure a sex-starved Dad has thought about it.

NCT groups are like war veterans. They have been through a life-changing experience together. They could spot each other’s nipples in a police line up.
They stick together in public. Sure, you can enter the circle and chat for a bit, but move away to pick up a toy for your little one and the drawbridge is pulled up and you are there, waving from the moat.

I have even heard of people being properly spurned by someone they thought they were getting on well with. A friend-of-a-friend asked a woman for her number and she flatly refused to give it. Ouch. Atleast give a wrong digit and save the poor woman the humiliation. Mean Girl.

The magnificent Sharon Horgan nails the feeling in the close-to-the-bone and eye-watering episode of Catastrophe (Episode 2, Season 2) where she turns semi-stalker on a Mum she wants to be-friend. Watch the whole series if you can find the time. It totally wins.

Looking into this a bit, it is actually a thing.

Author Marla Paul has written a book called the Friendship Crisis which says that after you hit 30 self-discovery gives way to self-knowledge.

This makes total sense as, instead of forging friendships through new and shared experience like you do in your teens and twenties, it means the older we get the pickier we become about who we spend our time with and what we do with it.

And, according to a NYT article, Sociologists in the 1950s said that the following are crucial to making close friends:
• Proximity
• Repeated, unplanned interactions
• A setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.

So, factoring in being more picky PLUS the time needed for your children, school runs, jobs, running a home, life-admin, sleeping, your partner, yourself, the mates you already-have-and-don’t-actually –get-to-see due to their partner, children, jobs … no wonder there isn’t the time left for repeated, unplanned interactions with a total stranger you like the look of.

But worry not, I have come up with a solution and I think we need to get digital, digital.

We’ve all got single mates on Tinder and Grind-r, finding folk they like the look of nearby for a bit of Netflix and Chill.

Well now it’s your chance to get in on the online action with my dazzling new app,    MUTH-R.*

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Fed up of seeing all those laughing faces across the crowded church hall?

Want to talk to a mum just like you about pilates and piles over a bottle of pinot?

Well now you can.

Just upload your profile to Muth-R and swipe right until you see The One.

Proximity. Check. Find someone near you.
Repeated unplanned interactions. Check. Message each other willy nilly.
A setting to let your guard down. Check. It’s the internet, the ultimate place to be free.

Now remember to date safe, ladies.

And by that I mean remember your hand sanitiser if you’re meeting at the soft play.

*You saw it here first, Google.

#Mumbag – Number 2

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My friend volunteered a picture of the contents of her #MumBag and I jumped at the chance to look inside.  She is ridiculously organised so I was expecting very little.  I am pleased to report that her bag is jammed full and that she could double up as a Boots concession.

Owner: Lu

Age: 38

From: London

Children: 3 year old boy, 4 month old girl.

Fact about Lu: She loves to diarise in a real paper diary. She uses tippex (I know! It still exists – who knew?) and has been known to buy a new diary part way through the year if it gets too messy.

Number of items in her bag: 45

 

My top 5 items in her #MumBag:

  1. EIGHT pens. All pretty colours, probably some sort of code for diarising.
  2. THE diary. It’s a quite a big one this year.
  3. 2 x pairs of sunnies. Plus an over-sized pair of comedy yellow frames.
  4. 2 x balloons.  Always need a balloon.  Versatile entertainment.
  5. A tiny turtle. I can’t tell from the picture if it’s real or not.  Maybe that’s a new thing, a pet turtle in your bag. I hope so.

 

Can I see inside your #Mumbag?

 

 

 

1st #MumBossOfTheMonth – Hannah Padden of The Glitterbox

The big idea behind this blog is to create a place where I can champion all the brilliant #MumBosses I know. Women doing their own thing since having kids and making it work. I’d like it to be a place where people come to find out about amazing women. Maybe even a place where people can connect for business, for friendship or for inspiration.

I think it is fitting for my oldest and dearest friend Han Padden to be my first ever #MumBossOfTheMonth as seeing her achieve so much with a young family was my main inspiration when setting up my company, Mrs Robinson Recruitment.

St. Albans-based Han started her face painting business, The Glitterbox, when her youngest daughter was 18 months old and I have stood in awe in the sidelines and watched her and it flourish through her hard work, dedication and most of all her vision to create something special.

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When people think of face-painters they think of kids painted as tigers at birthday parties. But she has shown that you can be way more creative and beautiful than that … as well as doing very stylish tigers when the need arises, of course.

She has also invented a ‘walkabout’ kit (In action here). She can click on her custom-made belt and roam around events painting as she goes. It is a lighter and more inclusive approach that her clients love. It especially suits grown-up events. And it avoids long queues of party goers missing out on the fun.

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The Walkabout Kit and Han’s on-brand nails

Within 3 months of starting up she had secured the London 2012 Olympics as her client and was the ONLY official face-painter at the whole of The Games. This is always the fact I spout when I am talking about her as I think it speaks volumes. Not only the painting skills required but her personality and approach. She has to be artist, new biz and logistics. People are often creative or organised – she has an uncanny knack for both as well as being REALLY nice.

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She has also covered weddings, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, hen parties, football matches at Wembley, landmark adult birthday parties, corporate events including Disney, Kodak for Glow Innovation, Tesco F&F Clothing, Channel 4 through Hattie and Flora, Waterstones, St Albans Film Festival, A-List footballers private parties, a whole host of children’s parties personally and through her partnerships with Wish Upon a Party, Twizzle Parties, Dazzle & Fizz and Sharky & George, plus Camden’s Koko nightclub as well as having the Secret Garden Party and Wilderness festivals for Elissa Gold Events on the schedule for this summer.

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Last week she had 12 painters under The Glitterbox banner at the Imagine festival at London’s Southbank for the second year running – painting London’s kids as they congregated at Festival Hall for some half-term entertainment. She is un-stoppable.

All this and with 2 young children.

What made you start The Glitterbox when you did?
After I’d had my second daughter, I was looking for both an income and a creative outlet. Being my own boss was the key thing.
I had some creative skills (Art and Design Foundation as well as post-grad certificate in drawing from St. Martin’s) and I could see my girls’ response to the painting.
Friends in entertainment companies told me that the work was there and that it would be a viable business.
So I went for it. I just practiced at home on the quiet and then a friend booked me on a high end event which was a total baptism of fire.
There I met one of the best painters in London (Rachel Tweddell). I quickly saw the gulf in skills and kit between us so I had to professionalise. We kept in touch, she trained me and that’s how it all began.

Would you/ could you have done it pre-kids?
I could have done the artistic side but not the business side to the standard that is needed. All my previous roles in film PR, account management and relationship brokering have given me the business grounding to make it way more than a glorified hobby.

What do you enjoy most being a business owner?
So much.
The main thing is that I love the client management first and foremost. I really enjoy finding and retaining the clients – looking at what they want, decoding the event, working to their brief and working out what they need.
I have enjoyed the evolution of it being just me to building a crack team. I also love that I have created at an artistic career in a social environment where I can champion other people’s skills rather than competing.

What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?
Be generous with your knowledge. Not just sharing your own but being good at listening to what other people are doing.
This means not being blinkered just to your own industry. Look at other business products, see where you might fit in to the broader picture of any business that crosses your path.
Be low effort and low maintenance to your clients. Not being a pain goes a long way.
And don’t be put off by competition. Be confident in yourself and your abilities.

What advice would you give a #Mumboss starting their own business?
Decide how much time and energy you want to spend on your family and your business and keep the balance in check.
Again, don’t let competition put you off just because you have been out of work.
If you do have a passion for something specific, look into it.
You will need patience, strategy, intuition, trust and listening skills. Much like being a mum.
Pay people promptly. Even if I haven’t been paid I make sure I do this. It definitely comes back to me in return.

What is the best thing about being your own boss?
So many things it’s overwhelming but mainly being present at the school gates.
Being able to design my working life to suit my own interests.

What would you tell your younger self about where you are now?
Don’t worry that you can’t be all things to all people and
If you don’t have passion for something or someone else’s something – it doesn’t mean you don’t have passion.

What do you consider your greatest achievement so far with The Glitterbox?
Growing a great, trustworthy and talented team. Socially, professionally, and artistic, they are very polished.
Having great relationships with clients who book events that I want to work on.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Pushing through from being a one-woman band to having a team of painters.          Learning how to trust others representing me (luckily my team are a very trustworthy bunch) and letting them use their own initiative.                                                                                    I had to shape the business to meet demand and this has been a rite of passage for me.
Also the balance with family; I am doing this for them and for the work life balance. It takes work to maintain that you are doing it to facilitate that life.

Any plans for the future you can tease us with?
My walkabout team is rapidly expanding. There are only a select few painters that can work that way so it is an exciting time. I also have new trainees developing glitter work, feathers, jewels and metallic leaf for our high glamour events. Plus having a Glitterbox presence at The Secret Garden Party and Wilderness festivals is a step in another really fun direction.

If you want to get in touch with Han:
hannah@theglitterbox.co.uk
http://www.theglitterbox.co.uk
https://www.facebook.com/theglitterboxfacepainting/
Instagram @thegltrbox

Mum-bling 3: You Can Feed A Baby From One Tit And Other Stories

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I saw these cute Letters to My Future Self in Waterstones today and it made me really think about what I would write to myself 4 years ago when I was about to give birth and become a parent for the first time.

Here are my top 5. Number 6 is the best.

1. Get a Doula. They are not a midwife (though mine was for 20 years – check out the wonder of Pat Wood), they are a birth partner and they have your back in every sense.

First time round I had 3 midwives over the 36 hours in hospital, and the one that was there for the money shot I locked horns with and just didn’t like. It made for some unpleasant interactions and negativity when I was feeling particularly vulnerable. (Think being told “What do you know?” when you have your legs akimbo in DVT socks in stirrups. Nice.)

Yes they do cost money (I have heard between £450 and £1500 depending on experience/ area) but as you can get cots, prams, highchairs EVERYTHING second hand on local Facebook groups for some real bargains, do that and spend what you save on a Doula. SO worth it – for the consistency of having them with you the whole time, the support before and after the birth and the positivity that all brings to the equation. JUST DOU IT!

2. Don’t be made miserable by trying to stick to regimes that are impossible from books written by people who make their fortunes from your inexperience and insecurity.

Some people love them. I happen not to.

First time round I read Gina Ford and the Baby Whisperer for some guidance and I had a miserable first year.

I spent way too many hours trying to get my baby to sleep, moving 5cm away from her each time she went down until I was on the moon when, looking back, she probably wasn’t tired.

I was wound so tight and felt like I was a bad mother and so rubbish at my mum job. It’s 2pm, why is she not asleep like the book says?

It was painful. I was miserable. My friend told me that her Dad took all the books away and chucked them out. I thought that was so extreme. But now I totally see his point. I have not referred to anything this time, followed my gut and my baby’s cues and I am such a happy Mum this time.

Happy mum = happy baby.

I realise this is easy to say second time round with the wonder of hindsight and experience. A nice normalising book that didn’t make me feel like a weirdo is Your Baby Week by Week.

3. You can breast feed a baby from one tit.

With my first baby I just couldn’t get feeding from my left boob to work. It was mega painful, she was always starving and crying 10 mins later.

After 3 weeks my nipple was a split, open sore (TMI?) and every time I went to feed from it, my toes curled and my eyes cried.

There were a few reasons for this – bad latch, mild tongue-tie, funny flat nipple – a perfect storm in my ZZ-cup. But it was fine on the right side.

No one could advise me on what to do. After days of me anxiously questioning everything, wanting to give up,  a woman said to me, “If you have twins they have one breast each.”

So I thought Fuck It, I’ll give it a go. I closed down my left boob in 2 days, hand expressing just a teaspoon of milk. I continued to feed my daughter for 13 months just from the right one. And she thrived.

So when my son was born I was anxious about the pain and I decided from the start to just go with the right. Health Visitors were all disapproving and said I really “must try” using my left but I went with my gut and didn’t bother. My boy is a thriving WHOPPER. In your face, doubters.

4. Be kind to yourself. You have birthed a baby.

Whether you pushed it out or had a c-section this is a HUGE deal. It will affect your body and your mind. So give yourself time to heal, accept help, ask for help when you need it.

Feeling unhappy all the time is not a good place to be and it needn’t be so. Post-Natal Depression is still a bit of a taboo and it shouldn’t be, it is so common. I didn’t even realize I had it until it lifted, but the signs were there when I think back. Speak to someone, a doctor, a friend. Check in with your partner and see how they think you are.

It is hard not to compare yourself to other Mums and there’s always going to be a rosy-cheeked goddess who seems to be sleeping 12 hours a night finding it all really easy. They are not. They are crying in to the washing up, wiping bums and being narky with their other half too. They are just good at personal PR. Don’t buy it.

5. Sleep/ Life/ Sex/ Your Mind/ Your Fanny will eventually go back to normal. Well maybe not normal, whatever that is, but nicely recognisable. Just give it time.

6. The best piece of advice is not to take anyone’s advice. You have it in you.