Self employment and motherhood

When you are self employed, having a child brings different challenges.  

What do you think happens in terms of maternity pay?  Well, what happens is that you become entitled to Maternity Allowance.  Which is the same as Statutory Maternity Pay.  There is no one to top that up when you’re self employed so while many of my employed friends get up to a whole year of full pay whilst on maternity leave, I got four months of Maternity Allowance (and had to beg my mortgage provider to give us a break in that time which has probably damaged my credit rating forever) and then had to go back to work.

I didn’t want to go back to work, but I had to because a) I like our house and b) I like my job and so if I didn’t a) We wouldn’t be able to pay the mortgage (and the four months of arrears) and b) as my “job” is actually a contract there was a (probably small but I didn’t want to risk it) chance that if I didn’t go back fairly swiftly I’d lose the contract and there’d be nothing to go back to.

I got lots of “that’s very young to be leaving him” type comments.  They hurt.

Once back at work, F went to a child minder for a few months – who then quit, but that’s another post – and now goes to a local nursery.  To help pay for the nursery, my husband’s firm provide a salary sacrifice scheme for childcare vouchers.  That’s good for us as it saves on the tax and NI husband pays, and good for them as it reduces their employers NI contributions, and makes a loyal worker out of husband.

However, I am self employed so I am not entitled to childcare vouchers.  Nor are any of our childcare costs tax deductible.  Even though, without childcare I wouldn’t be able to work.

“Why not just go and get a proper job and be employed?”, you are probably thinking. Because I am good at what I do, and I like it, and there is not a similar job elsewhere. What I do is pretty much unique. Plus being self employed offers me some flexibility. I work four days a week and although I will answer queries on a Wednesday colleagues know if they call me, they might hear F in the background.  I only have to commute for two days into London, and I work from home the other two (and sometimes evenings and weekends) so, if I wanted to take the afternoon off and go to the beach with F, I can and no one can tell me not to.  

 

 

 

 

Disability is a dirty word

Another blog, Tricky Customer, set the challenge to write a blog post about disability, so here we go.

 

Having a child with a disability must be endlessly challenging.  I have huge admiration for the children, and the parents, that overcome the struggles that disabilities can bring.  I thank my lucky stars that Franklin was born able bodied and with no obvious mental disabilities.  I can feel you all cringing, because to say to be born with a disability is awful is, well, awful, isn’t it?  But you see I’ve seen disability from a different angle as my father is disabled.

Dad had polio as a toddler.  As he was born in 1952 he was probably one of the last children to contract this terrible disease before vaccinations were introduced.  He spent a long time in an iron lung and as a result of the illness he has a curved spine and no use of his right leg.  When he was younger he could walk a bit using a calliper but these days he is  completely confined to a wheelchair.

As a child, this never registered with me.  I always forgot to tell friends that my dad was disabled so the wheelchair and the big limp always came as a huge surprise to them.  We did, almost, the same things that other families did.  He decorated our home, we had a rabbit, we went on caravanning holidays in East Anglia, we went shopping every Saturday, he came to parent’s evenings and school concerts and Dad played board games with us (although never let us win) and shouted at us when we were naughty (until we realised we could walk away and he couldn’t follow).

But we never went skiing, or had a dog, or had walking holidays, or went on boats, or played football in the park or visited some members of the family because he couldn’t get in the house – or the toilet was upstairs.

Dad was always employed.  He worked for the same bank for over 30 years, working his way up to the IT department (which didn’t exist when he joined the bank in the 60s!)  Sometimes, he loved his job and sometimes, like everyone else, he hated it.  But unlike everyone else, resigning was never an option.  He realised that being re-employed as a disabled person was going to be near impossible because when you go for an interview, the wheelchair and the issues of access that come with that is the first thing that registers with an employer.  He hardly ever had a day off sick in his working life, but I suspect many potential employers would assume that his disability equalled sickness.  So, Dad stayed at the same employer until he took early retirement in his 50s.

Each Christmas my Dad and I went shopping for presents and every year I would have to tell at least one shop assistant to talk to him, not me, as he had the money.  People are embarrassed by disabilities.  It makes them uncomfortable and quite often they would rather not talk to a disabled person, so they get ignored or patronised.

Disability has its advantages.  You get to the front of all the queues at Disney World and as a result Dad was dragged on a lot of rides on our only family holiday abroad.  Oh, and you get a blue badge so you can park a bit closer to the shops.  It’s not much of a compensation though, is it?

I love my dad.  He can be stubborn, unforgiving, funny and generous but that is just him, that’s not his disability.   Would I love him more if he was able bodied?  Of course not.  But do I wish he wasn’t disabled, yes I do, and I suspect he does too.  Why would I want any child to have to face those challenges?

Funky Giraffe Bibs

Currently we are in teething hell.  We seem to have been in it since Franklin was eight weeks old but at six and a half months there’s still no sign of a tooth appearing.  Along with the runny poos and bright red cheeks, teething brings with it dribbling.  A lot of dribbling.

I’m not that keen on bibs so to start with I decided I’d just leave him without one and see what happened.  What happened was a lot of dribble-soaked clothes and the washing machine on constantly.  I thought a bandana style bib might be nicer for him but in the shops they are very expensive for what is essentially a scrap of fabric with a popper closure, so a friend recommended Funky Giraffe bibs.

The website is a little confusing as it talks about bandana bibs and dribble bibs – which are the same thing, I eventually worked out. It is also not possible to tell how much your bibs will cost until you’ve put them in your basket as the price changes depending on how many you buy.  My advice is go for the 10 bibs for £20.50 deal – you will need at least 10 so you might as well buy them in bulk and get them at the best price.

I was really impressed with the speed of their delivery.  Both times I’ve ordered they’ve arrived the next day.

The bibs have a cotton front and fleece backing so they are kind to your baby’s skin and it stops the dribble soaking through to their clothes.

ImageObviously, Franklin is a boy.  This means there are usually about half the amount of clothes to choose from for him than if he was a girl, but Funky Giraffe bibs have loads of boy friendly designs – my particular favourite is the anchor, which Franklin is modelling here.

My only gripes are that once they’re washed they tend to curl up a bit at the bottom and as the label says not to iron them I’ve no idea how to fix that.  Not that I would iron bibs, what kind of mad woman irons bibs?  I did ask about it on their Facebook page a few months ago and got no reply so they lose a star for not engaging with their customers and having curly bits at the bottom.   Also, the washing label is not particularly attractive and it would be better if were sewed flat to the backing – have a look at that photo of Franklin up there and you’ll see what I mean.

I’d still recommend the bibs though.  At half the price of high street bibs, you can’t go wrong really.

Mummy rating: ImageImageImageImage
Good value, quick delivery, nice designs, keeps his clothes dry but don’t lie flat once they’re washed

Franklin rating: ImageImageImageImageImage
Keeps my skin dry, don’t irritate my neck, I look cool

Mia Tui Bags

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When I was quite heavily pregnant I waddled off to the Baby Show at the Excel Centre and there found myself buying two Mia Tui bags as they had a buy one get one free offer on – the Amelie in black (£59.99) and the Ava in red (£49.99).  I had been looking for a changing bag that I might be able to use as a handbag too and the Mia Tui bags fitted the bill.  I also bought a Grace in brown (£39.99 although I got it for the special price of £10 through their Facebook page as that colour is now discontinued except in leather) .

For large bags, they are very light.  Which is just as well as once I’ve put half the contents of my house in one in order to take the baby out for a quick walk I’m pretty laden down.  They are made of totally waterproof material inside and out so they are so easy to wipe clean and come in a range of really lovely colours.   Inside the bags came a few clear zipped bags and a clutch bag.  I’ve found both useful for storing things like sun cream, teething gel and bum cream.  I, personally, wouldn’t use the clutch bag as a bag but for keeping things nicely tucked away in the bigger bag it works well.

They have key clips which are brilliant as I’m forever having to hunt through dirty muslins and empty bottles to find my keys.  I’ve also been known to hook a dummy on the key clip so that it doesn’t get lost. The bottle holders in them are great for keeping drinks (for me, or the baby) upright so you don’t end up with a leaking bottle getting all the baby’s dry clothes wet.  They also had a small bag charm attached – although I think that may have been a perk of the Baby Show and you’ll need to buy that separately now.  I’m not a massive fan of bag charms but these ones are quite pretty and inoffensive .

The Amelie makes a good bag for swimming.  It holds towels, costumes and all the paraphernalia I need and neatly fits inside a swimming locker.  I’ve also used it as a beach bag and it did the job splendidly.

My childminder called my Ava “posh” so it makes the kind of impression I was after.

My only niggle really is that I find if I use them as a handbag they don’t stay on my shoulder and I’m constantly having to hitch them back on.

They’ve made a few changes since I bought my bags.  They now come with a detachable shoulder strap which is really handy because without it they won’t fit over the handle of my pram.  When I realised this was the case and that my bags didn’t have the strap I approached Mia Tui who very kindly sent me a strap for free, and threw in a charm too so a big thumbs up for customer service.  The new Grace now has a zip closure instead of a popper and that makes a lot more sense.  I love my Grace, it’s my favourite of the three, but I can’t use it when it’s raining or the contents get wet so in the winter I’ve turned to my Ava.

They also now make leather versions but until I can guarantee I won’t get poo or porridge on it I will hold off buying one.

Usually there are some good deals on their special offers page so if you’re not too fussy about the colour you can pick up a bag at a fraction of the price.

I’m really quite fond of my bags and they’ve now launched a couple of new ones, the Minnie Amelie and the Sofia.  I quite fancy a Sofia in my stocking this Christmas please Santa.

Mummy rating: ImageImageImageImage
Great for hanging on the pram, plenty of pockets, find they slip off the shoulder when used as a handbag though

Franklin rating: ImageImageImageImageImage
I’ve never been naked or hungry when out and about so I like them

 

Mothercare’s Bouncer Chair

When I was a baby, my father spent hours rocking my bouncer chair with his foot apparently so when Franklin hadn’t yet been born, I went on the hunt for one.

Things have moved on since 1974 it seems.  Bouncer chairs now vibrate, rock, swing and do the washing up*.

However, I am old school (and a bit tight and didn’t fancy spending £50 on something he might not like) so I bought an old fashioned bouncer chair from Mothercare for £14.99, that I have to bounce with my foot, just like my dad used to do.  The one in that link has a different pattern on the fabric to the one I have, but it’s the same thing.

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It has been a God send.  When he was tiny he had reflux and so every time I laid him down he puked.  I mean REALLY puked.  So putting him in the bouncer chair was a nice way of keeping him a little bit upright and some milk inside of him.

Now he’s on the verge of sitting up unaided and napping on the sofa or in his cot instead, it’s not going to get used for much longer and it’s just as well really as one of the edges has started to fray where I’ve kept my foot on it to rock it constantly.  If we ever have another baby, I’ll definitely be buying another one of these.

*that might not be true

Mummy rating: ImageImageImageImageImage
One of my best baby buys.  Highly recommended.

Franklin rating: ImageImageImageImageImage
I
t was lovely not to throw up all the time, and it’s comfy for a snooze too.

Ikea’s Antilop Highchair

Before I had the baby, LOADS of people told me about Ikea’s Antilop highchair. “You’ll love it” they cried “it’s cheap, babies love it and it’s easy to clean”.

I was a bit dubious if I’m honest.  How can a £16 high chair compete with the space-age styling of something like the Bloom Fresco chair?

Well, I’ve never tried the Bloom Fresco chair because what kind of BONKERS PERSON spends £470 on a highchair?  Not me. But I can tell you the Antilop chair does pretty much everything I need it to.

Firstly, it is very easy to put together.  You can buy it with or without the tray  – we bought it with – and it has a little safety strap.  We’ve not got on that well with the strap actually as no matter how loose or tight we make it it makes Franklin sit at a weird angle so we don’t bother using it.  We might revise that decision when he’s big enough to climb out of the chair on his own.

We’re going down the baby led weaning route at the moment so there’s a fair bit of mess and the Antilop is great for that.  With no twiddly bits or soft cushions for food to get trapped in, it wipes clean very easily.  Incidentally if you plan to do baby led weaning I’d recommend you get a dog.  Ours is a perfect vacuum cleaner under the chair.

Now for the downsides.  It’s not that pretty to look at.  It’s pretty inoffensive but no one is ever going to say “wow look at that highchair”.  It doesn’t have any height adjustment and doesn’t tilt or swivel at all.  I can’t actually imagine a situation where I would need to tilt it but some do so presumably it’s a feature some mums want.  Lastly, whilst not having a padded seat is good on the cleaning front, it has meant that Franklin has thrown his head back and hit it on the hard chair a couple of times.  We’ve got round that by slinging a jumper over the back of it – see the photo above – so as long as you don’t mind rice cakes rubbed into your clothes that sorts out that issue.

On balance, I really like it.  Franklin can sit in it even though he’s not quite sitting unaided at the moment and can still use his hands to eat.  And anything that doesn’t take ages to clean always gets the thumbs up from me.

Mummy rating: 
Easy to clean, cheap, easy to assemble but not the most attractive chair

Franklin rating: 
Yum yum I love my food and this chair keeps me upright for eating.  It hurts my head sometimes though

Fisher Price Jumperoo

My mum rolled her eyes a bit and scoffed when I said I’d spent nearly £100 on a piece of baby equipment a month or so ago, but it turned out to be a great investment.

The Fisher Price Jumperoo came highly recommended from other mummies and having tried it out at a friend’s house we decided to jump in and get one.  As I said, it’s a bit pricey.  In fact we’d tried to buy one second hand to start with but had no luck so ended up get a brand spanking new one for a bit more cash than I would have liked.

My husband had the dubious honour of putting it all together and despite his moaning it actually didn’t take too long at all.

On the box the Jumperoo is recommended for 8 months+ but we got ours when Franklin was 4 months.  The only issue was even though it has three height settings, his little feet didn’t touch the floor so we had to stick a couple of reams of paper under his feet.

Franklin was a bit suspicious at first and wouldn’t stay in it for more than a few minutes but at six months he’s really cracked it and will give it a good go for twenty minutes or so.  He also now touches the floor so he can get a really good bounce going.  He’s able to turn himself round in the swivel chair so can decide for himself if he wants to play with the parts that light up and play music, or the spinning lizards or suns.  He’s not that impressed with the pop up tiger but to be fair, nor am I.  It doesn’t pop up very far and seems a wee bit pointless.

It really did hurt my bank balance buying it but we plan to sell it when he’s done with it and expect to recoup about 50% of the cost as they go quite well on eBay.

The other negatives is that it takes up a LOT of room in our lounge as it’s quite a bulky item, and it’s a real struggle to get him into the seat on my own.

Mummy rating: 
Amuses the baby for ages, has helped develop his coordination, noises aren’t too annoying, easy to put together but expensive and difficult to put the baby in it on my own

Franklin rating: 
I love it!