Shared Parental Leave: just not progressive enough for me

I’ve been mulling over what we will do about childcare when J starts school recently, and to be honest it scares me!  I have been reading around our options, and naturally the new shared parental leave policies and prospective childcare policies have been popping up on my news feed encouraging me to think about how Mr B and I will manage this between us.

To be honest the policy background leaves me thinking ‘is this it?’

The Children’s and Families Act 2014 introduced a new entitlement for employees who are parents, to take shared parental leave (SPL) in the first year of their child’s life (or the first year after adoption).  I’ve blogged before in my post ‘What About Daddy’ about the sense of missing out Fathers can feel heading back to work after their two weeks paternity leave. As it happens this month Daddy has just reduced his working week by two days to spend more time with J while I work full time, so this is highly topical in our house.

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The deal

Previous policy interventions including additional paternity leave (APL) have seen a low take up though (with just 1.4% of new fathers taking it in 2012-13)* – cultural barriers are likely to be at work here, fathers are nearly twice as likely as mothers to have requests for flexible working turned down; in 2012, 18% of men who requested flexible arrangements were refused, compared with 10% of women.

Under SPL eligible working parents (you can check your eligibility here) can decide how to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37  weeks of pay, including being off at the same time or regularly swapping.

Our take on it

For our family this might have made a difference when J was born, financially at that time I was the bigger earner and from a cultural point of view, we both work in the voluntary sector where employers can be more sympathetic (I think more flexible in my experience) to changes in working requests and our colleagues, family and friends would have been more open to the idea too, but clearly the stats outlined above indicate not all employers will be as open to these changes.

In comparison to Labour’s ideas about paternity leave (extended to four weeks and with a weekly pay increase) plenty of tabloids are referring to SPL as ‘progressive’ but for me both policies are lacking and lagging behind; in Norway shared parental leave was introduced in 1977!  I’d like to see a little more ambition for early years policy!

Money isn’t everything, which is why we are accepting a drop in household income at this time to enjoy more time with J whilst both working, but being able to do this is a luxury, we will still enjoy a decent standard of living, and this was something we really had to weigh up in terms of where we are at in our careers and employment status.  I recall policy and primary research I was reading about a year ago when studying; plenty of mums reported having to go into work to be interviewed for their own jobs, to talk about possible redundancy situations or threats of reduced hours, even in early maternity, a time when these issues would have worried me deeply in my post-natal anxiety state, we are not safe from threats to family income and livelihood even at this precious time.  Choosing to share parental leave would thus be a difficult decision, a weighing up of the work environment, each parent’s income, their hopes and wishes and whether either can really afford to take leave.

My hubby and I believe in sharing our parental responsibilities, we both work hard and play hard; like everyone else we do this against a backdrop of cuts in local early years services, potential job loss, reduced costs of living and our costs of childcare have a strong impact too – these policies don’t go far enough towards supporting families, supporting them for a year after birth is important, it’s an important time in terms of bonding, but it stops there, what happens when the leave comes to an end? Is that really where shared parental responsibilities end, surely it’s only the beginning!?

Affordable childcare a must

Until we have a better system of affordable childcare parents cannot truly share the rewards and joys of child rearing.  All of our friends with little ones Js age talk about their fears about wraparound childcare and making that work, of reduced hours, or increased pressure on grandparents, and it’s a fear we share too.  I feel strongly that free childcare should be extended to all two year olds but also that this should also be increased beyond the current 15 hours for older preschoolers too, this would reduce the financial strain and keep more parents economically active too; a better universal offer would really interest me, in the meantime we’ll continue to look at best and worst case scenarios for childcare for the coming three years and keep trying to make our family situation work in the best way we can!

*Source:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-27838255

Blooming gorgeous home office feat. Graham & Brown’s Dreamscapes range

There’s an unforeseen perk to working from home; I get to enjoy my Mother’s Day flowers that little bit more, with Easter just around the corner I’m feeling so springlike!  I recently discovered Urban Jungle Bloggers so I am linking in this post; greenery is a huge mood booster so I’m loving their community!

I’m really pleased with the office space and it’s working really well for me.

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In my last post I promised to look at the colour scheme in a little more detail drawing on the new Graham & Brown Dreamscapes range; in soft pastel shades with motivational quotes about dreaming big these compliment a working space perfectly and add a fun and creative touch too!

Graham & Brown’s Dreamscapes Range

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From Graham & Brown website

Graham & Brown kindly sent me their Air Balloon Cushion and Dreams as Big as the Ocean canvas to accessorise my office space.

I am delighted with the quality, a gorgeous big squashy cushion in lovely muted pastels with complimentary shaded piping (a sign of a quality cushion I think!) that really sets off the scheme and is super comfortable, and the equally impressive canvas which is great value at £20 as it’s enormous and really draws the space together!  The canvases really are brilliant for filling a blank wall space with fun quotes and a dash of colour too, I love the moody blue tones, they draw together my overall colour scheme really nicely.

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Graham & Brown’s affordable art isn’t a newcomer to our home, the LOVE letters in the floral pics have been with us for a couple of years now, they were a gift on the arrival of our little girl, so I know their products are built to last at a brilliant price!

If you’re looking to add a splash of colour to your home you might also like to check out Graham & Brown’s wallpaper ranges too, I’ve got my eye on their children’s range for when we redecorate little Miss’ room later this year!

Disclaimer: I was sent these products for review purposes, all views are my own

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Crafter’s Companion Easter Wreath Make

The challenge

The lovely folks at Crafter’s Companion set me a little Easter challenge, to make an Easter wreath using some goodies they sent me in the post.  I love a craft challenge, and haven’t done anything creative for a few weeks so I took up the mantle, and here are the results!

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Supplies

  • A cut out cardboard ring (I made my own by drawing around two different sized plates and cutting out carefully with scissors
  • Two different coloured ribbons (I used a spring green and cream)
  • Collal tacky glue and Collal all purpose glue
  • Crafter’s Companion Centura pearl card pack
  • Patterned paper flowers
  • Buttons

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Easter Wreath Make: How to

  1. Secure your ribbon to the back of the wreath with a little all purpose glue, then wind the ribbon around until you’ve covered just more than half of the wreath.  Switch to your second colour ribbon until the wreath is completely ribbon-wrapped.
  2. Add another length of ribbon using all purpose glue to make a loop to hang your wreath
  3. Cut out your flowers from patterned paper (I used a printable) and cut out some rough leaf shapes from pearl card stock.  Assemble your flowers in layers with tacky glue and pop a button in the centre of some of them to add to the 3d effect, stick the leaves to the back of each flower
  4. Assemble your wreath by gluing the flowers into position slightly off to one side of the lower wreath
  5. Cut some ribbon shapes from pearl card and assemble with tacky glue.  I cut a large ribbon shape, a smaller copy in a contrasting colour, then assembled a simple 3d bow by gently folding the card stock to make the ribbon ‘stand out’ – a final loop of card to cover the centres of the ribbons finished off the look – again I used tacky glue to affix to the wreath

The finished piece!

I have hung my Easter wreath onto a piece of willow branch, with some contrasting coloured paper eggs to add to the festive feel!  I’m really happy with the finished result – thanks Crafters Companion for providing me with the materials and the inspiration for this eggstra special make (no more Easter puns now, I promise!!)

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Smiggle Voucher Code and Review

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Happy Birthday Smiggle (UK!)

It’s no secret that we love working with stationery brand Smiggle in our house!  At Christmas I blogged about their brilliant stocking fillers, now I’m back with a new product roundup and a brilliant Smiggle voucher code for you guys too!  Open now until the 31st March to celebrate their new online store Smiggle are offering you lucky readers a brilliant 20% off (see below for the code).

Smiggle is now celebrating its first birthday in the UK – and what an amazing first year it has been!  In February 2014, Smiggle opened its first store in Westfield Stratford, revealing an ambitious expansion plan of up to 20 stores in its first year. Twelve months on and the successful retailer with over 160 stores across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, now has an impressive 19 stores also operating in the UK.  As part of celebrations to mark its one-year UK anniversary, the colourful stationery giant is is now launching a local online store that will see orders for its vast range of goodies fulfilled out of Smiggle’s UK distribution centre, and delivered directly to the front door within 2-3 days.   The online store will be launched on March 23. The range will reflect what customers can buy in store, and there will be some celebratory opening offers on launch. For more information, subscribe to emails at smiggle.co.uk

Great products

Here’s my latest roundup of brilliant Smiggle goodies! I’m loving these berry brights; Smiggle’s pens are brilliant quality, in vibrant true to colour shades they are great for colour coding reading for work and study and bring an element of fun too – who remembers these 80s multi-colour 6-in-1 pens?!  I love the quirky backpacks and this Berry Shake pencil case is perfect for all of J’s crayons, she quickly made off with the hologram ”moving” stickers and drinks bottle too!

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As I was photographing these fun lollipop erasers I thought they would make a really nice non-choccie/sweetie Easter present!  Don’t they look tasty though!

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The stickers are quirky and for a sticker loving toddler they’re really robust, re-positionable and as we’re going through a robot phase pretty much the perfect theme for us!

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 Smiggle Voucher Code

Head over to Smiggle’s great new online store (checkout their new Woodlands range while you’re there – it’s fab!) and bag a bargain with 20% off full price goodies with the code UKBLOGGER20 before midnight Tuesday 31st March – do let me know what you buy by tweeting or commenting here!

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Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom

After five years in my current job I am moving on to pastures new, starting a new full time job working from home. This has its benefits in terms of my personal preference for homeworking, but also enables my lovely husband to drop some of his hours to have more daddy-daughter time which I’ve blogged about before, this is an important change for all of us, and a busy time too!

I haven’t worked from home in the time since I became a parent, and space is at even more of a premium for my family, so I saw some challenges in creating a home office space that I think I have managed to meet happily.

Last time I worked from home my office was set up in our living room, but this is no longer practicable with a toddler around and all of the trappings of life with a small person, so this post is all about setting up a home office space that integrates with living in a small family home and uses smart solutions and technology for making the transition into home working.

Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom

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I’ll precede all of this by saying that we live in a small flat, well, it’s actually a large flat in some aspects, the rooms are light bright and spacious but storage space is lacking, and space for a desk even harder to accommodate!

Home office in a bedroom: planning

I decided to set up my home office from our master bedroom in the absence of a spare room. Creating a home office in your bedroom is actually pretty practical if you’re clever about your use of the space.  I have opted for a bureau setup with the IKEA Secretary desk from their PS 2014 range, complemented by office furniture and peripherals that make the space really work for me.

Opting for a laptop bureau means that I can pop my devices and paperwork inside the main body of the desk at the end of each day so that we reclaim the space as our bedroom and I can literally call time on the working day. The space up top acts as a handy store for all my stationery and keeps important papers and notebooks out of the way of my inquisitive toddler!

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I thought about whether to make the space distinct or keep the colour scheme in line with our existing bedroom palette, I opted for the latter because it’s a calm room and I didn’t want bright and vibrant office ware to detract from the relaxed feel of the space.  Hannah from Mumsdays has wrestled with such issues recently, and I love the palette she is looking at too, but her post really inspired me to look at what we already have and how we can complement this!

Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom: colour

So… I have gone for a soft, complementary and feminine palette to denote a separate work space that ties in nicely with the overall feel of the room, my chest of drawers gives you a feel for the style of the room.

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Speaking to Graham and Brown about some ideas for the space I decided to build on the soft sage theme in our bedroom drawing in colours from their Dreamscape range which I have also drawn out in the stationery and furniture too. You can see from my home office pinterest board that this draws on peach, cream, soft muted blues and corals.  More on this in another post looking at the Dreamscape range with a review to follow.

Follow Thereandbackagainamotherstale’s board Home Office Edit on Pinterest.

Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom: making the space work hard

I sought advice from Logitech about smart wireless solutions for homeworking and I have found their K400 wireless keyboard and mouse to be really effective in making the transition to homeworking in a way that works for me, they’re sleek and really easy to get to grips with, I’m not very techie but I got these two beauties up and running in minutes!  I can now work from anywhere in the house, so on days when I am home alone and everyone is out I can be in the living room with a wireless setup that I can also take out on the go when I am on site visits too.  This fits really well with blogging life too – with a wireless range of up to 10 meters, I can even browse the web and blog all from the comfort of my sofa!  I thoroughly recommend exploring wireless options as you can make your whole home work for you!

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As a National Stationery Week blogger you will know stationery is a priority of mine! I’ve selected complementary colours from Dutch store Hema, Smiggle and Marks and Spencer drawing on the colour scheme with fun and practical notebooks, pens and office equipment – I know this stuff doesn’t set everyone’s world on fire but I’ve always loved to work with a bit of creativity and this helps me draw a bit of colour into my working day!

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Having some photos helps personalise the space and I wanted to treat myself to a little something special too, when I heard I got the job I treated myself to some accessories from my favourite homeware store, Anthropologie, I adore this coaster and mug, as well as the sweet little plant pot!

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Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom: Practical planning tools

And finally, in terms of literally working from home and doing the do, I selected a bright vibrant magnetic glass noticeboard in Retro Yellow, (no secret that it’s my favourite colour!) from Boards Direct – this lets me make a quick note whilst I’m on the phone, have a visual to do list to hand and handily stores notes and business cards too with super strong magnets.  I love the write on wipe off nature of this, and with a choice of up to 21 beautiful colours and 7 sizes there’s something to suit every office space and budget, with boards starting at less than £25.  This 45cm x 45cm board is ready to be fixed up on the wall later this week, priced at just over £40 it’s a bright statement and functional piece that offers great value and quality.

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What about you? Do you work from home? What tips do you have for making your workspace work hard for you?

Disclaimer: I received goodies from Logitech and Boards Direct, all views are my own, all other brands referenced are of my personal preference and I bought these products or already owned them!
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Edinburgh Zoo with a toddler too!

What a brilliant weekend we just had staying in Edinburgh and visiting the Zoo!  About an hour and a half away from us by train we decided to make a little break of our day out and stayed a couple of nights in a hotel for the first time with J, I was apprehensive about the sleeping arrangements but we actually all had two really good night’s sleep!  Here are some of the highlights from a fantastic day:

First up some brilliant birds

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I’ve always loved flamingo so this was a treat for me, twice in a few months after our visit to the Wetlands Centre!

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Then another treat, Tian Tian the panda was sleeping, but it was wonderful to see her

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Next up, J’s favourite tiger and some very active tussling rhino!

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Plenty of greenery at the beautifully landscaped gardens including this unusual Wollemi Pine

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And that view of the city!

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Not forgetting some hijinks of our own!

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Surprise!

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And finally, gorgeous striped zebra rounded off our visit!

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Organic March

Welcome to the latest installment in my bi-monthly organic roundup- Organic March! This month I’ve been reviewing some really great products as well as doing some interesting reading; and the theme that runs through all of this is a definite sense that Springtime is on the way!

Organic News

Between my last roundup and this I was featured on Happy Healthy Mumma’s blog with a guest post on taking steps towards a more natural lifestyle, you can read more here – her healthy living series is well worth a read!

I was interested to read Soil Association’s reporting of the growth of the organic market in 2015 – their Organic Market Report reveals sales of organic products increased by 4% in 2014. The new figures announced earlier this month show this is significant growth in a year when both food prices and food spending fell – I think the advent of organic lines in the discount supermarkets show that the demand for Organic is here to stay and I’m enjoying seeing diverse ranges in our local supermarkets and stores too! You can see some of the highlights from Soil Association’s report here

Organic Product Roundup

I’m kicking off my product roundup this month with Buko’s gorgeous organic coconut water, refreshingly tasty with a great backstory too. Cuipo work with conscientious brands around the world to help preserve rainforests by taking a small donation from each product sale and using it to buy real forest. Cuipo have already bought and preserved 88 million square metres since their inception in 2010 and Buko coconut water are the first UK brand to work with Cuipo. On every drink pack you will find a unique code, which represents ‘your’ square meter of rainforest. What’s more you can enter this code on the Cuipo website to see which part of the rainforest you have helped to save.

Coconut water is my go to post-workout drink, I find it really hydrating and I prefer it to water as I find I take my time drinking it, as opposed to leaving myself with that drowning feeling you get when you drink gallons of water! I also like to make an iced coconut water mocha following this recipe from Wholeheartedly Healthy, it’s a great pick-me-up for a busy afternoon!

To find out more about Buko Organic Coconut Water, its health benefits or their partnership with Cuipo then simply visit www.organicbuko.com where you can also buy the product.

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Next up is a brilliant online apothecary that I have absolutely loved poring over this month. Baldwins is one of the largest suppliers of medicinal herbs, essential oils and natural products in the UK, established in 1844 by George Baldwin and a cultural landmark of London’s Walworth Road for 170 years.  I am definitely going to make a visit, and they have an enormous range of organic products to boot! I was delighted to see that they stock Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and wanted to review these as an alternative to so many household cleaning products. Over 5 Generations and 150 Years of soapmaking excellence go into Dr.Bronner’s products – I have always loved their quirky packaging (you must read the bottles, here’s an excerpt from their website – Emanuel Bronner wrote his own peace plan, with 30,000+ words typeset in all directions on his labels, to communicate his “All-One!” vision that unites humanity here on “Spaceship Earth”) and these brilliant liquid soaps have so many uses, I use it as a floor cleaner, shower gel, to mix my own bathroom and kitchen products and I even heard people use it as a toothpaste too! Do take the time to explore  Baldwins site, it’s a treasure trove of natural advice, products and expertise.

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Finally, I’ve loved exploring the Suttons Seeds website and planning our planting for the year ahead, this has been a huge boost to my wellbeing as it gives me something to look forward to.  I am really interested in organic planting and Suttons got in touch because they have a newly-released blight-resistant tomato; the plants have been bred to be naturally immune to blight, thus eliminating the need for pesticide and chemical sprays.

I posted recently about sprouting seeds, and so Suttons kindly sent me this brilliant seed germinator and some great seeds to get us started on the yarden in 2015.

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Joss and I have loved sprouting the alfalfa seeds and bean shoots and they’ve really improved my salads too! If you’d like to start planning your own garden I have a great giveaway for you! One lucky reader will the chance to choose £25 of Sutton’s products – perhaps you’d like to try a seed germinator, or some new varieties of fruit and veg!?

suttons seed germinator

To enter simply use the Rafflecopter tool below

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That’s it for this month’s roundup, see you in May!

Sheaffer Sagaris Metallic Fountain Pen Review

This beauty was a total treat from the folks behind National Stationery Week – I love to write with a proper pen, there’s something really nice about the weight and the ritual of writing with fountain ink! I remember my first Sheaffer fountain pen, it was given to me by my Aunt and I used it all the way through my GCSEs and A Levels, it became my lucky pen until I moved onto university and switched to their rollerball pens.

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In gorgeous metallic blue this is a serious writing implement! Presented in a hard case presentation box complete with cartridges but also the option of filling from an ink pot this would make a lovely gift, it certainly blew me away to receive it as a review item!

I think writing with a proper pen improves my handwriting and makes me take my time about writing too, that’s important in journalling and planning as those tasks require a bit of thought and extra attention.

Do you have a ‘lucky’ piece of stationery – I’m hoping this one will serve me well as I am about to start a new job!

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