I’ve set myself a challenge, it’s nothing to do with diets or exercise or quantities of books devoured. … read on and see if you’d care to join me.
I was talking to some friends the other day and we unearthed a very similar pattern of behaviour amongst us. It came as a surprise that we have set of similar core traits in how we conduct ourselves, as my perception of our characters is that we are all quite different. Consequently, I wouldn’t have expected it. To a greater or lesser extent we all had the following in common:
We all fight this instinct and do make strong decisions. We stick to our guns and lead effectively in both our professional and personal lives, but it comes at some personal cost.
I feel like I have ‘superpowers’ in these traits and can take them to extremes. If I know I’ve upset someone and I’m in the wrong (admittedly seldom-kidding!) I can really ‘overdo’ making amends and live the regret for ages. Even when I’m sure that I am right I still find any kind of conflict upsetting. Over, the years, I’ve fretted over how I can choose to not follow someone’s advice or seem ungrateful for it without giving offence to them. In addtion, I’ve spent way too much of my professional life circumventing conflict and wording tactful emails to reach a desired goal. I guess that could be seen as a positive, but it would be so much easier to just be direct.
I have been pondering if these are traits more likely to be found in women of my age than men? Or I wonder if similar traits are always likely to be found amongst a group of friends because similar types flock together? What do you think ?
I think that I think many women of my generation tend to feel this way because as girls we were taught to be polite and amenable. This behaviour is praised, so even though I’m a fully fledged 50 year old it is hard to make waves. I will, but I don’t like to do so, Then, because of this, for many of us our first reaction is to be a ‘pleaser’. Also, perhaps part and parcel of being amenable and a pleaser is presenting as relaxed and chilled and easy going. Therefore it is easy to defer to someone presenting a strong personality.
This all bothers me. I don't want to confirm so neatly to generational expections! so I’ve decided it is a good time to fight the ‘pleaser within and put away my paper-thin skin. As such these are my June targets:
(As an aside, I just shared the content of this blog post with Saint Mick. His response was "so in other words you’re going to be a bloke for a month!")
I'll choose to ignore that, it sounded facetious and the first productive thing I will go do is get a cup of coffee and a piece of carrot cake. This is going to be tough for me - the challenge, not eating the carrot cake, that will be easy!
If you are a pleaser too do you care to join me…?
Last night I had the most horrible dream. The type of dream that isn’t at all subtle and brings all your worries to the surface. It actually woke me up crying, which is really weird as I’m not much of a crier! I can’t say that I’m not prone to the odd tantrum and door slamming episode when I’m not getting my own way, but most of the time, I and the rest of my family have a more ‘British stiff upper lip, let’s get on with things the best we can’ approach to life.
Why do we cry?
I think when I do resort to tears it is more likely to be through frustration than anything else. They, whoever they are, say women at work must be professional and never cry, however it isn’t always possible to rein in emotions. I remember a couple of years ago feeling so frustrated that a very poorly colleague and friend of mine wasn’t getting a fair deal at work. Ironically it was only when angry tears leaked out that things started to happen to improve her situation. It seems tears can be powerful. Whilst I am opposed to pretty much everything Theresa May stands for, I still felt sorry for her as she struggled to contain her emotions as she stood outside Number 10 the other day. Tears also seem to be a trigger for sympathy and empathy.
Revealing our prejudices
Reflecting on how we respond to tears is I think, quite revealing, though having just done so, I’ve realised it doesn’t necessarily show us in the best of lights. For me, I think it has, once again made me realise just what a sexist feminist I actually am! Recently I have:
A lot of our response to tears is probably at an unconscious level, but I wonder how many of us can actually ‘turn on the tears’ or use them to our advantage. I wouldn’t say I’m good at this, but there have been occasions, even recently when I’ve known crying will lessen the negative consequences of a situation. For example, when I recently crashed the car the other driver was far more sympathetic than he might have been once he saw a middle aged woman with a wobbly lip emerge from the other vehicle! I’ve got a feeling that women do manipulate tears far more than men because it is seen as acceptable to do so. I’m trying to figure out what the parallel for men is.
Crying is a good thing
We mustn’t forget the good side to tears:
The emphasis of young people on improving mental health and encouraging boys and girls to cry from a young age has got to be a positive. I wonder though if all teachers and parents have really caught up with this concept. I very much suspect in homes and classrooms across the world right now boys are being tussled out of their tears with rough play as girls are being cuddled out of theirs. I might be wrong, of course, but it is interesting to consider how we do treat young children differently. This study shows how gender stereotyping in managing tears starts at as young as three years old.
There is nothing better than a cathartic cry at a good book and who can deny the benefits of a proud mum’s tears at a school concert. I’ve got a feeling my own kids might actually judge my level of pride at their success on whether the waterworks get turned on or not. Betsy asked me if I cried at her IB graduation and seemed slightly perturbed that I did not! Looking at language for a moment, what an interesting phrase ‘turning on the water works is. I can’t quite figure out if it is negative or not.
I recently felt pretty close to tears when a very successful blogger and influencer, Middle Aged Mamma, mentioned me in her own blog. Check it out here. I’m not sure if my tears would have been 50-something hormone driven, or just sheer gratitude led. As there was no one else there around I guess I can’t be accused of trying to manipulate my audience!
Anyway, next time you’re driven to tears, or perhaps after they’ve dried up, why not take a moment to analyse what they reveal about yourself. The result might just suprise you!
I have just spent a pleasant hour reading the Kate Greenaway medal shortlisted titles for this year. It made me sad and nostalgic that I won't get to share them with the kids at school. We have always enjoyed reading them, voting for our favourite title and discussing the issues they explored. The kids made connections, sometimes even to the previous year's titles and remembered the stories way after I'd forgetten them. Sometimes we added to this a little research activity, author study quiz, or creative writing and drawing extension activity, though for me, it was always sharing the story that was fun. I'm not a big believer in forcing written responses to reading (it kind of kills the magic). Anyway, I didn't always realise it, but those were fun days.
There are, however, certain advantages to reading the books alone, by myself, from the comfort of a sofa, not least being able to enjoy a cup of tea and a hob-nob as I read. Despite being a little regretful to not be having the follow on discussion and excitement that sharing books with little people brings, I still enjoyed them and as stories are 'want to do' they got me thinking. It sort of felt like a ton of rusty doors in my old grey matter had been opened, with each room having a different set of thoughts and issues to ponder on. Consequently I've now got absolutely no idea what to blog about. There are just so many options! Will it be one of these things?:
As I say, I'm not always a fan of using reading to do follow up written work, so perhaps today I'll take it easy and just enjoy having read the Kate Greenaway stories for no reason other than the enjoyment of reading them. I'll keep the personal, social and political follow-on reflections in my head. That is, until tomorrow at least!
I read Ian McEwan's Children Act back in 2014 and wasn't disappointed. At the time I posted a review on goodreads.com, as I am want do. If you are not a member of goodreads I can't recommend it enough for keeping up with what's current, getting book reading suggestions and for using as easy way to keep check of your own reading (required if, like me, you forget everything!)
The central question in The Children Act is whether a 17 year old boy should be forced to have a blood transfusion, which is likely to save his life, but goes against his Jehova's Witnesses' parents' (how do you correctly punctuate that?) beliefs. I revisited the story and the question a couple of weeks ago when I watched the movie (on a flight back to Bangkok). Fiona, the powerful judge in the story, was played brilliantly by Emma Thompson alongside a fantastic cast. The topic is weighty - it doesn't get much bigger than choosing life or death and had me asking all sorts of questions to which I don't have any answers!
It got me thinking about whether we actually 'own' our children. If the answer is yes then do we stop owning them when they turn 18? Or does it end when we stop subsidising our kids financially? Perhaps it never ends and ultimately the tables just turn and we own our parents - there's a thought to make the oldies break out in a cold sweat. No wonder there are often fireworks in families
My first response to the question is that of course we don't own our children, but when you think about it, so much of parenting does suggest a level of belonging (positive) and being controlled (negative). Perhaps we can view ourselves as benevolent dictators! Right now, for example, Betsy is sitting with her Maths tutor, the marvellous John of www.transum.org. She didn't choose to spend her Sunday mornings doing Maths, but is a willing participant in this transaction. Does this make her my 'owned product' being forced to achieve my aim of attaining a certain level of Maths competence, or is she an independent being making free choices about preparing for her future? (IB Maths exam tomorrow - yikes!) My other daughter, Annie, will hopefully be in the Science Library soon, at UCL revising for her Ecology exam. She did choose to study Ecology as part of her degree, and she did choose her University, but she was directed, encouraged and equipped to get there, so how much of that is actually free choice and how much is our 'owning' her life direction and choices? How much of parenting is a transaction and negotiation, and how much is non-negotiatable and led? Have our girls complied to our overview of where they are heading or have they chosen it, trusing our guidance and leadership? You can take it further; have we, as parents, complied passively or unthinkingly to social expectations or have we actively chosen them?
I guess you could say in my own life it doesn't actually matter, as the kids seem to be heading in a positive direction. To go really 'meta' for minute though, what if we were discussing the acceptance of an indefensible social or political system, that we believed in and were directing our children towards - then what? It makes you think how strong you have to be to really make independent choice and reject the factors influencing who we are.
Anyway enough meandering thoughts on a Sunday morning. The Children Act is a fab book. An aside, it is also a marvellous exploration of the deteroration of a long-standing middle class marriage, arguably due to wifely neglect (rolled-eyes, as of course the wife gets the blame!) If you haven't read it, definitely do. It's a short read but a powerful one. Then afterwards why not treat yourself to the film - always worth seeing Emma Thompson in action! (Hope she didn't have to make too many carbon-rich flights of course - tongue firmyl in cheek here!)
Holidays for carers? 5 star resorts? Expenses paid? Whatever next? I can feel eyes rolling. Surely not. I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous! I’ve heard it all now. But pause for thought. Could it be a viable solution to the billions of pounds currently being spent on residential health care that is neither desired nor wanted by patient and family alike?
The ideal situation, for families and the state too, is for elderly or ill people to be cared for within the familiarity of their home environment. I don’t think though that the emotional toll this has on a ‘carer’ has even begun to be addressed. Our Western society framework means that the care often comes down to one main person – quite probably a spouse, with others only opting in and out. The strain of this is why so often people end up in residential care, when it is the least desired option for all concerned, at huge emotional and often financial cost to the family, and definitely huge financial cost to the state.
Being a full time carer is tough going. It is not good enough for health professionals or government leaflets to constantly say ‘look after the carer’ too. They need to enable this care.
Let’s face it, none of us show our spouse our best sides. It’s hard enough caring for a partner with the flu, or a broken leg for a couple of weeks, so imagine yourselves in the shoes of someone (often elderly themselves) trying to look after their spouse 24-7 with no reprieve in sight. They may well be attending to specific physical issues affecting their loved one’s mobility, whilst also quite frequently addressing quite severe mental health concerns or behavioural changes. On top of all that and both debilitating and frustrating, is the impact of worsening sight and hearing.
Have you noticed the first question health care professionals ask is ‘are you their carer?' It’s not are you their wife/husband? It’s almost as if, the past years of marriage and being a spouse with all that entails is stripped away as a new role is adopted. The carer (previously known as spouse) is left to grieve for the person they once were, and come to terms largely alone with their changed circumstances.
The carer, a.k.a. spouse, may have family support (with all the complexities of sibling and children dynamics that brings) and theoretically there is usually local help available. Accessing it, however, may require the patience of a saint, the intellect of a PHD and pay packet of a banker! Definitely some friends may rally round, and these are worth their weight in gold, but the carers still take the bulk of the strain. Hardest, and the cruellest cut of all, is that the spouse the 'carer' has leaned on for the last thirty, forty, fifty years, can no longer provide the reciprocal support that s/he needs too. The emotional weight of all this is huge.
Despite this, home care is usually what both husband and wife will fight tooth and nail to uphold. It is only when some kind of crisis point is reached that caring from home is deemed unmanageable and the move to a care home is made.
This ‘tipping point’is completely unsatisfactory and inappropriate as a reason to make that move to a care home. Everyone is exhausted; the primary carer is left bereft feeling that they’ve failed, when the reality is that nothing is further from the truth. What about the ‘caree’ (is that even a word?). Significantly the person being cared for really doesn’t want to go or ‘be put’ into a care home’. They may feel abandoned, unloved, or if of a more understanding disposition, an emotional or financial drain on resources and ‘nothing but a bloody nuisance’. The move for them is unsettling and disorientating. Leaving the home environment is what everyone has been trying to avoid and yet it occurs at the worst moments. For everyone else this sometimes unsaid, but very large elephant in the room, adds still further to the emotional strain on the carer and other family members.
So we need a new approach. Mr Hammond and other government ministers, what about this for an out of the box solution? We continue with our 'at home' care, and carers continue to be given an attendance allowance. In addition though, respite care is provided for the carer two or three times a year in the form of a proper holiday. During that time, a health care professional stays in the family home (at far less cost than full time residential care) and the ‘carer’ is given a proper holiday, at minimal cost (or ideally free). The cost still is far less than full time state residential care for the personal being cared for. A reprieve is properly given, the person being cared for gets to stay in their home and costs are lower than other alternatives.
Could it work as a viable option that people can opt into? I think it’s worth investigating. What do you think?