Surviving the School Gate

imageI’ve woken up late, my hair looks like it’s been zapped by a plug socket and as I scrabble to make breakfast, collect school bags and get out of the house in ten minutes flat, I know it’s going to be another one of those days.

When you have children, you will have a plethora of books containing unimaginable knowledge about: feeding, temper tantrums, the terrible twos, the ghastly threes, the horrendous fours but nothing, nothing will prepare you for being a ‘school gate’ mum.

Surviving the school gate is like survival of the fittest – and I hate exercise. Why is it, on the day you roll up looking like Freddy Kruger, you always stand next to one of those mums who exudes superhuman qualities? I’ve often wanted to ask what time they have had to get up in the morning to get their hair and make up done with such precision as honestly, a few tips wouldn’t go amiss. I think that there should be no secrets between us mothers. We are part of an exclusive group, a secret society if you like. It’s us against the world but alas, it seems that once you enter that school gate, you enter a whole new world, a Hunger Game where only the strongest survive.

So how do you survive? Having two children who have attended two different schools has led me to believe that in order to maintain an equilibrium in the playground, always smile. Smiling goes a long way, even in the pouring rain when you are stood next to the gymoholic mum, that cellulite free mother with a body that you didn’t possess even before giving birth, just smile back like she is your favourite mum in the world.

Another important tip I’ve discovered is to approach the gate with caution as you never know where the PTA mum is lurking. As a mother who can’t bake, make or create, the sheer terror that I might be pounced upon is enough encouragement to drop the kids at the gate quickly and dash off to work in a hurry.

It is hard to fit in at the school gate so if you really can’t beat the super mums, join them. Enrol yourself in an arts and crafts club to ensure prime position at the next PTA committee. Try Zumba and get yourself fitter so that you can finally be the subject of envy.



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Being a Dad

At the age of seven, my parents divorced and my dad moved away which meant that my siblings and I rarely saw him. As time passed, I only had distant memories of what it was like to have a real dad, that was until my mum met the most wonderful man and remarried a few years later. 
At the time, I took for granted how much this man, who had entered our lives unexpectedly, selflessly sacrificed in order to create a stable home for us. Let’s face it, it can’t be easy for someone to take on the role of a father to three children who are not biologically his own; and yet he did without so much as a grumble. He never complained when we tried and tested his patience, never winced when as teenagers, we rebelled and shouted that he couldn’t tell us what to do as he wasn’t our ‘real’ dad, and never once treated us any differently to how you would expect a dad to treat his children.
In fact, through all my most important milestones, it was my step-dad who was there to hold my hand in times of trouble or congratulate me on my achievements. He was the one who stood like a proud dad at my graduation ceremony and held his head high when I went on stage to receive my degree. He was the one who helped me to choose my first car and was then the one to console me afterwards when I crashed it only a few months later. With a tear in his eye, he was the one who walked me down the aisle, watching his daughter become a wife. He was also the one at the hospital with the huge smile, as he held his granddaughter in his arms for the first time.
Colour and size does not fit all and as such, we are blessed with many different types of dads in this world. Some are biological dads and some, like mine, are step ‘in’ dads. Some might be uncles or grandfathers, or any male father figure that you are privileged to have in your life. The 19th June is always a special day for me to pay homage to that man who unexpectedly came into my life all those years ago as anyone can be a father, but it takes someone truly special to be a dad.

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Published article on the school gate years


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My published article on kid’s parties


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imageHave you ever worked really hard to get that chosen career, only to find out you are pregnant? With the rising cost of childcare and the logistics of taking and picking the kids up from school, many women feel forced into giving up their careers and becoming full time, stay at home mums. It’s absolutely fine if this is what you choose to do but dirty nappies, sterilising and washing need not define you once you become a mother.
The modern mother is a multi-faceted creature whose roles include that of: photographer, party planner, stylist, taxi service, psychiatrist, hairdresser, nurse and teacher to name but a few. Your life does change when you have a baby but embrace those changes and use them to your advantage. You already have a wide skill set so why not utilise those skills and become a mumpreneur, setting up a career in something that you love and are passionate about?
As a mother, you are a far stronger person than you think. You have carried a baby for ten months, endured the horrors of labour (and survived to tell the tale) and experienced more jobs in your first year of parenthood than most people have experienced in their life time. Have confidence in yourself and take a leap of faith like local mum, Faye Wilde did in 2010, when she set up her own clothes label Beau LOves, inspired by her fearless, fun-loving little boy, Beau, and the stuff he loves. Now six years on, the collection can be found in over 180 stockists worldwide including Selfridges and America’s prestigious store Barneys.
Faye Wilde is not the only local mum to achieve success as an entrepreneur. Siobhan Cook, owner of property development company Archco, found she had a personal passion for interior design when she was pregnant with her first child and decorating the nursery. Following an interior design course and offering her services in the evening when her daughter was sleeping, she went on to purchase run down properties in need of renovation. This mother of two went from being a stay at home mum to number one on the 2016 Fortuna 50 list for the UK’s fastest growing women-led businesses.
Motherhood does not need to be the closing pages of your career. With creativity and passion it could be a new chapter brimming with adventure and possibilities.

Entrepreneurial and Inspirational Mothers:
Faye Wilde

Beau LOves

Siobhan Cook

Archco Developments Ltd

Sarah Willingham

Dragon’s Den

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Half-term hell

imageAs the summer fades away, a harmless, fleeting thought floats across my mind. At first, its facade of innocence does not affect me but as it manifests and lodges into my brain, a sense of impending dread and fear rises from the pit of my stomach. It’s nearly half term …
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t love my children, because I do. It’s not even that I don’t want to spend time with them, because I do. It’s those little determined fingers that prod, poke and finally shake you awake, throughout the holidays, at five thirty every morning with the same foreboding question: ‘what are we doing today…..?’
Wasn’t it only yesterday that they had six weeks summer holiday? I had spent months strategically planning each and every day so that for forty two mornings I had an answer to their question. We had been: bike riding, glamping, bowling and ice skating. We had visited seven different cities, five theme parks and four farms. I had even watched the Minions movie three times at three different venues; we had done it all and now, like a magician, I am expected to conjure up new and exciting places of wonder, only this time the weather is cold and rainy – great!
Whilst calmly breathing in and out to steady my nerves, I pick up the telephone and call Fairkytes Art Centre in Essex. This place has saved my life on more than one occasion. They offer fantastic workshops during the school holidays from one hour model making to three hour street dancing sessions. Last October, my children carved pumpkins for Halloween and spent three hours working on a choreograph to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It’s inexpensive and the best part is that you don’t have to stay! As you head to Costa for your skinny latte, you can smile blissfully, knowing that your little cherubs are having the time of their lives.

Next on my list is Kidspace soft play. To most parents, soft play centres can be compared to the fiery pits of hell; a prison with no escape from the stench of sweaty feet and vomit. However, this place is massive and really does the trick on a rainy day. Last year they hosted a children’s Halloween party which truly was a blast. Dressed in vampire costumes, my children played, danced and got to hold extremely terrifying reptiles. To top it off, dinner was even included in the price – one less job for me!
With some activities now booked, I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself. Who says being a mum is hard? As I smile smugly, I notice the clock on the counter – oh god I’m late for the school run!

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Ditch the Tuition 

Yesterday, my eight year old came home from school and asked me what he should be when he grows up. For the first time ever, I stumbled. I always envisaged that my children would go to university, become a doctor, dentist or lawyer but now, I’m not so sure.
With the grant system for student nurses being scrapped in favour of loans, I really am concerned about how best to encourage and direct our children in the career paths that they wish to take.
As parents, we are constantly pushing our children to do well academically. Endless hours are spent pouring over homework and paying for private tuition in the hope that they succeed and have life choices. If all your input pays off and you are lucky enough to have a child who achieves and who has aspirations, what do they hope to gain at the end of it all besides a ton of debt?
Every parent wants their child to be successful but in the current climate, I do not necessarily think that going to university guarantees success. It’s more about tapping in to that one thing that truly inspires your child. With this in mind, I’ve ditched the tuition in favour of extra curricular activities in the hope that something holds their interest long enough for it to develop and shape their future career.  

My son’s desperate need to constantly be in the limelight has led us to a drama school in London. This drama school, which runs on a Thursday evening, is brilliant for any budding actor or actress. The teachers are energetic and there is a buzz of excitement in the air when they begin to play their crazy games or start rehearsals for the end of term show. Given my son’s innate ability to mimic a stall holder in an East End market, it seems probable that he may end up on the cast of Eastenders or else selling a pound of bananas. 
If the acting doesn’t pay off, just around the corner is a Tennis Club which offers coaching for kids and even the opportunity to be part of a squad. Unlike many other clubs, juniors are encouraged to play as much as possible so who knows, with hard work and perseverance, my son may just be the next Andy Murray.

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Having a child with dyslexia

image¬†Having a child with dyslexia can often feel like the worst thing in the world. That’s how I felt when my daughter was diagnosed three years ago.

I first noticed something wasn’t quite right when my daughter was four and struggling to read. She was a painfully slow reader and unfortunately I am not the most patient of people. Listening to her read was like watching paint dry and it often ended in tears of frustration for both of us.

Having a child with dyslexia is not your fault. It’s not because you had that one extra sneaky glass of wine during your pregnancy or wore high heels when you were advised to wear flats. It took me a while to accept that it was not my overzealous nature that gave my child dyslexia. She was born with it and once I accepted that revelation, I could move on and get her the help she needed.

Speak to your child’s teacher if you have concerns but be aware that most teachers are not trained dyslexia specialists. However, if you feel there is something not right or that there is a barrier to your child’s learning, persevere. I’m sure I came across as a paranoid mother, a crazy woman obsessed with her child’s schooling, but we know our own children and we need to trust our instincts.

Intervention is the key if you have a child with dyslexia. I have sought solace in a Dyslexia Centre in Essex which offers private assessments, one to one tuition and support for children of all ages. Every time I think of this centre, my heart warms. The teachers remind you of a grandma that you wish you had (I’m sure they would kill me if they read this as they really aren’t that old). Every summer they hold an annual celebration evening which is simply inspirational. The biggest tear jerker for me was when a group of university students stood on the stage and reminisced about their times at the centre.

Three years on from my daughter’s diagnosis and she is above average in her class. When she asks me what she should be when she grows up, I tell her to reach for the stars as she can be whatever she wants to be. Children with dyslexia do succeed, they just need you to believe in them.


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