To Be or not to be at the school gate: 10 tips for busy working mums

The other day I overheard a mother at the school gate thanking another for inviting her son to a play date. I must admit that up till then I have been quite content being a working mum but that got me thinking. Was my son missing out on things because I’m not able to form relationships with other mums at the school gate?

When my son started pre-school, my first instinct was to try and be the perfect mum; doing the school run and rushing off to a meeting immediately after and rushing back to pick him. That was much more stressful that starting a new business.

The reality is I have a business to run that is just over 18 months old. It requires time to nurture and grow it. On the other hand I have a young family with a four year old and a two year old. Whilst I’m realistic and know I can’t have it all, I also don’t want to miss out on being a part of my children’s lives because of work.

So in a bid to gain some sort of control, I have adopted the following measures to help me keep my sanity and balance working life and the school gate.
1. Explore Alternatives
When my son started pre-school I used to drop him off every morning but the mad-rush was simply unhealthy. Fortunately I have a friend whose son attends the same school and made arrangements for her to do the morning school run for me. This allows me to start my day earlier and come home earlier (more days than less) to be with my family.
2. Your Child is Number One
Having delegated the role of the school run, it’s very important that my son doesn’t feel abandoned or that he’s missing out on something. So our walk to the bus-stop is all about whatever he wants to chat about and when he gets on the bus I make sure he sees me waving until I’m out of sight. Apparently this makes his friend jealous as he also wants someone to bid him farewell at the bus stop. Mission accomplished.
3. Make Friends
It seems obvious but it helps to know one or two people who will keep you abreast of anything you might have missed and who you can also call from time to time to ask when show ‘n’ tell is or when International day is, etc. I was mortified once to find out that I wasn’t aware it was Spanish day and everyone in school was to wear yellow or red. Although he wasn’t the only one in uniform all fingers are crossed that there won’t be any emotional scars as a result.
4. School Bag
Following on from my Spanish day fiasco I now check his bag every night, MYSELF. I don’t pick up my son from school so I don’t get the school notes at the gate. So it’s imperative that I check his bag daily for newsletters, notes, birthday invitations, etc.
5. Join the PTA
I know this sounds crazy as it could mean more work but if you plan things well you can volunteer to do something that doesn’t require you to attend long meetings. No matter how small it is getting involved always helps. You may not be able to bake for the bake sale but you could certainly buy a cake or two to contribute.
6. After School Club
After school clubs are a brilliant help as they give a day or so each week where you have an extra hour or more before he’s home from school. A day or two a week enables you to get work done without feeling guilty about not being there for him.
7. School Gate Time
If you are able to, set aside a least one day a week or every other week to start work an hour or so later. It’ll give you a chance to take your child to school as well as the opportunity to interact with some parents in the morning instead of rushing off to work. This allows me to repay the favour of doing the morning run to my friend.
8. Bed Time
As much as is physically possible, be there for bed-time. Read a story or sing songs. The key is to spend some quality time and bond with your child on a regular basis.
9. Party Time
Try and attend some of the parties your child is invited to. It’s an excellent way to meet other parents and see some of the children your child talks incessantly about. You can also take turns with other parents to take a couple of children to the parties which means you can rest on the weekend when it’s another parent’s turn.
10. Play Date
From time to time, invite your child’s friend(s) over for a play date. It helps to create a larger pool of friends you will know at the school gate and more importantly your child is not left out.

*This is a post I wrote ages ago for Women Unlimited. As I’m embarking on a new business, I’ve found it helpful to revisit some of my previous business posts and will be sharing the rest as time goes by.

Mind Your Homonyms

I’m definitely getting old because I keep getting irritated with the poor use of the English language on social media, at work – everywhere really. I’m not talking about grammar, that’s a bit more difficult – granted. I am referring to the use of the wrong word. For example:

There vs their
We are vs were
Wear vs were or we’re
Two vs to or too
Here vs hear
Right vs write
Counsel vs Council (this one was new to me)

I could go on and on. It’s really really getting on my nerves. Lets get this right. My issue isn’t with people for whom English is not a first language, that would be unfair. Nor am I referring to a slip of the finger. I’m referring to educated adults for whom English IS their first language. People who hold professional jobs or run businesses and don’t know the right word to use. Sadly, their poor command of the English language is usually splayed across the pages of a C.V or within an email to colleagues or superiors. These people had a seemingly good education but when they write – oh my days! (as my niece would say)

Really I write on behalf of all those who find it challenging to decipher the message being conveyed. It is sooooooooo confusing and a little bit of care makes a huge difference, at least to the reader. I was having a moan with one of my friends about this and I told her a story that was funny and quite bizarre for me but drives the point home. I shall relay it to you all

It was a warm cool day in Lagos and my mum had just got me a summer job right after my final exams, in the interim period between receiving my results and the start of university. It was a job with one of the first suppliers of computer hardware in Lagos. The operating system was DOS and I was getting to grips with the function keys and touch typing. One day, a thirty-something-year-old gentleman who worked at another branch walks in and strikes up a conversation with my twenty-something-year-old colleague. I’m sitting across from them and he eventually notices me. He takes slow, lingering steps towards me – ok I exaggerate – he walks towards, introduces himself and makes small talk.

    Lothario : What is your name?
    Me: Tomi
    Lothario: How are you?
    Me: Fine thank you.
    Lothario: You seem like a nice girl, can I launch you?
    Me: I beg your pardon.
    Lothario: Can I launch you?
    I look at the other girl bemused
    Me: What does that mean?
    Lethario: Launch, launch. Take you out to lunch.
    Me: Of course not. (In my head I’m saying ewwww)
    Lothario: Why?
    Me: Because you are too old!
    Lothario laughs.

/End scene/

I think I’ve made my point!

* Check out an interesting list of homonyms

Outing Myself As Weird

I went on a creative writing course some years ago and met this beautiful lady. We got talking and she happened to mention that she just had a civil partnership the summer before and then proceeded to tell me about the fact that her Australian partner’s family were very embracing of their union but her family were disappointed ever since she came out. I thought it was interesting that she went into all this detail with a stranger but hey, some people are just open like that.

During a break, a group of us went to lunch and this same lady mentioned that she was a pescatarian but had been a vegetarian for a long time. Her partner was a pescatarian and helped her though the transition. Apparently it is better to start with a little piece of fish, so I think she chose prawns or some white fish. Anyway, she then proceeded to talk about how distressed she was and how she had spent all night throwing up because she felt that the fish would possess her body or something along those lines (my memory fails me now). SO in order to make retribution for all the seafood she’ll be eating she decided to be buried at sea so she could give back to sea life. She said this like this was a beautiful thing – fish eating her corpse.

I stared to see if she was joking but not at all. This was a belief strong enough within her and she didn’t feel the need to filter it because it was her truth. Everyone else around the table seemed to be listening and no one said anything but I’m sure some were thinking one flew over the cuckoos nest!

Now here’s the thing. In a world that is becoming increasingly liberal and secular, I often feel that Christianity is viewed as a belief for weirdos. If this woman could get up before total strangers and spiel out weird and wonderful things about fish taking over her soul and spirit, then COME ON surely I am no more weird than she is for believing that a man died for my sins.

I believe in creationism. I believe in the Virgin birth. I believe we were all born sinners and only through faith in Jesus Christ can our souls be redeemed. I believe in eternal life – heaven or hell. I believe in miracles. I believe God speaks to us in many different ways. I believe everyone has a distinct purpose to fulfil on earth that was predestined before the world begun. I believe in angles and their presence on earth. I believe there is only one God, the maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in all these things so I guess that makes me weird too. I have a few regrets in life but I have never regretted my decision to become Christian despite all the many things that don’t make sense. I have seen the changes in my life and the lives of others and more that philosophy, this is a life changing experience that I wish everyone on earth would experience. For anyone curious about this weird lifestyle I live, check out Alpha, a fabulous organisation that runs a course on Christianity and gives an opportunity to ask critical questions; more importantly they leave you to make up your own mind.

I have long reconciled the fact that my faith is not intended to make any sense. Its intent is salvation – the reconciliation of God to mortals. It is the single most fulfilling and tangible experience of my life. Some people are looking for proof. I say I am all the proof I need. Christianity answers the question, ‘is there more to life than this’.

Jesus is my Jerry McGuire. From the moment He walked through the door, He had me at hello*.

*line from Jerry McGuire the movie

Keep The Faith

This has been on my mind all day.

You call out loud
Will it get inside?
Through the heart of your surrender
To your alibis

And you can
Say the words
Like you understand
But the power’s in believing
So give yourself a chance

Cuz you can
Climb the highest mountain
Swim the deepest sea-ee

All you need is the will to want it
And a
Little self-esteem

So keep the faith
Don’t let nobody turn you round
You got to know when it’s good to go
To get your dreams up off the ground

So keep the faith
Baby yeah
Because it’s just a matter of time
Before your confidence will win out

Believe in yourself no matter what it’s gonna take
You can be a winner but you gotta keep the faith
Gon’ keep it brother
You got

And when you think of trust
Does it lead you home?
To a place that you only dream of
When you’re all alone

And you can go by feel
‘Stead of circumstance
But the power’s in believing
So give yourself a chance

I know that you can
Sail across the water
Float across the sky-i
Any road that you take will get you there
If you only try

So keep the faith
Ow
Don’t let nobody take you down brother
Just keep your eyes on the prize
Feet flat on the ground

So keep the faith
Baby yeah
Because it’s just a matter of time
Before your confidence will win out

I told my brother how to do the thing right
Lift up your head and show the world you got pride
Go for what you want
Don’t let them get in your way
You can be a winner but you gotta
Keep the faith
Gon’ keep it brother
You got

I know that keepin the faith
Means never givin up on love
But the power that love has
Has to make it right
Makes it
Makes it right

So keep the faith
Don’t let nobody turn you round brother
You got to know when it’s good to go
Get your dreams up off of the ground

So keep the faith
Baby yeah
Because it’s just a matter of time
Before your confidence will win out

Better stand up and act like you wanna do it right
Don’t play the fool for the rest of your life
Work on it brother and you’ll make it someday
Go for what you want and don’t forget the faith

Look at yourself and what your doin right now
Stand back a minute just to check yourself out
Straighten up your life and how your livin each day
Get yourself together cuz you gotta keep the faith

Don’t let nobody take you down brother
Just keep your eyes on the prize
Your feet flat on the ground

So keep the faith
Baby yeah
Because it’s just a matter of time
Before your confidence will win out

Lift up your mind before your mind gets blown
Some things in life you’re best just leave them alone
Go for what you want
Don’t let it get in your way
You can make it happen but you gotta keep the faith Gon’ keep it brother
You got to keep the faith
Yeah keep the faith
Gon’ keep it sista
You got to keep the faith

I told my brother how to do the thing right
Lift up your head and show the world you got pride
Go for what you want
Don’t let them get in your way
You can be a winner if you keep the faith

Straighten out yourself and get your mind on track
Dust off your butt and get your self-respect back
You’ve know me long enough to know that I don’t play
Take it like you want it but you got to keep the faith
Gon’

Don’t let nobody take you down
Just keep your eyes on the prize
Your feet flat on the ground

So keep the faith
Baby yeah
Because it’s just a matter of time
Before your confidence will win out
But till that day
I said you gotta keep the faith

Sorry I couldn’t find a better video

Writer(s): Anthony Dent, Michael Jackson, Sean Combs, Siedah Garrett, Faith Evans, Glen Ballard

Takeoffs And Landings

“Trying to keep the number of landings equal to the number of takeoffs”. I spied this on Facebook the other day and found it really profound. As I read through all the other comments on the post it became obvious that it was actually a pilot who posted this comment and he referring to an actual takeoff. It was a ROTFL moment when I realised it wasn’t a metaphor.

As I child I used to daydream a lot. I distinctively remember numerous occasions when my mum bellowed ‘Tomi get out of the bath’ and callously fractured my reverie. Only heaven was aware of what most of my dreams were like. Sometimes they were about being famous; other times simply about a boy I liked in primary school. Some of my daydreams were so vivid that I could almost taste them. I’ve been a prolific song writer; an artiste (pie in the sky seeing as I can’t draw or paint); a journalist at the war front; a movie star; a super model; married to Rob Lowe (heart); I’ve also been Italian and fluent in the language which I can’t speak in reality. Where the mind can take you is unbelievable.

As an adult, I’ll have to admit that I am still a daydreamer. I’m an ideas person and I think if I’m being conservative, I generate three to five fresh ideas each day and work on another five previous ones. I have journals full of ideas and half wit plans. Sadly I also have a spreadhseet of ideas and I tick them off as the years go by (*covers eyes*). The thing is my ideas keep me alive and hopeful.

I have accepted, rather reluctantly, that though I am an ideas person, I don’t need to execute every single idea I get. I confess I still make a note of them just in case, in another time and space, they are doable. At the very least my ideas inspire me to dream bigger and aspire for a different life. However, there are some daydreams that I know for certain need to leap out of my dream world and into reality.

The challenge is knowing what dreams to birth and which ones to leave in never never land just like a village in a snow globe. Once in a while I’ll give it shake and be inspired but just like the snow globe, they’ll be safely encased never to be touched. When I was younger I could try and execute everything. I wrote songs, started a business, danced, sang in a choir and wrote articles. You name it, I probably did it. I unleashed myself on every desire I had and it worked for then. Now I’m older, a little wiser and aware that time has a boundary. So I need to be a lot more picky. The last thing I’d like is to do build up a dream and find out at the end that I have scaled the wrong ladder. Doh! I’m too old for that.

I Don’t Do Resolutions

They make me depressed when I get to the end of the year and I haven’t accomplished them. So you ask, were they written down? Were they time bound? Were they blahdiblahdiblah? Yeah yeah. I know. Goals should be SMART and blah blah blah but resolutions don’t work for me.

I find that having a theme or a focus for the year works better for me and then I apply it to every area of my life. At the end of each year I’m able to see tangible changes and I don’t feel like a loo-oo-ser. My theme for 2012 was new beginnings; I left my job after 10 years, moved to a new city with no friends or family, made new friends, tried new recipes, got a new job, did new things. 2013 was about actions not words; I started this blog, started writing a book- ish 🙂 , became a school governor (which I had wanted to do for ages), turned a hobby into a business and generally applied integrity to the things I said I would do. 2014 is going to be a year of growth and I’m looking forward to stretching beyond my usual capacity.

It obviously doesn’t mean I don’t believe in plans. I just prefer not to be caught up in the emotional frenzy of a new year and make good choices for myself without the almighty resolution hanging over my head. I have accomplished so much more this way than the years when I ‘resolved’ to do something. In the words of John .C. Maxwell,

you can’t manage a decision you haven’t made.

The other thing I don’t like about resolutions is how it fragments life. Like a new year really means you can put the past behind you like it’s not a part of you. I appreciate the optimism of a better year ahead but life is a continuum and can’t really be fragmented into the ‘you’ of 2013, 2014, and so on. Rather than resolving to do something fantastically and radically new, why don’t we add to the progress or non-progress of the previous year. Acknowledging that change can’t happen without action. And honestly, there are some things we aren’t always ready to change. We’ll just have to accept that they’ll be there to be picked up in 2015, God willing, because life is a continuum.

Some people may use resolutions in the right way and kudos to them. I have simply made peace with the fact that they aren’t for me.

25 Manners Every Kid Needs by Age 9

Really loved this post.

staceyaltamirano

This post has generated a lot of buzz in the past year and I am so excited for all the traffic it has brought to my blog. I never imagined that so many people would not only read my blog, but find it and share it!

Please be kind in your replies to this post. You are totally (and I welcome!) allowed to write your honest opinion in comments, but let’s remember to be kind. Attacking me is not going to change my post or have me take it down. (trust me, I’ve gotten both demands!)

Finally, this article originally appeared in the March 2011 edition of Parents magazine. I do not own and did not create this list of manners (although I wish I had!)…I just merely posted them on my blog to share with the 5 followers I had at the time.

Please enjoy and comment if you’d…

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