#JanuaryJoy: Get Organised

So often, ‘get organised’ New Year prompts are about diary management – something I’m always keen to improve… I must double book myself at least once a week. The thought of returning to work and having to plan not only where I am but where Bea is on a daily basis, frankly terrifies me and so I will be fascinated by todays post and all your comments. I’d love to hear how all of you (working mum or not,) balance your life and various commitments and any pointers you have! Over to Esme…

Have you read Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please? In it she talks about how motherhood changed her and some of the things she finds hard, and she suggests a mantra for mothers to use that I really like: “Good for you, not for me”. She calls us all out for saying things that, at first, sound supportive, but are actually us being judgemental over someone else’s choices or working patterns. She tells us that we should support each others decisions, even if it’s not what we would do. Taking this advice into account, it’s difficult for me to offer advice for how to regain balance in your family life, because maybe you want to make very different decisions from me. If that is the case then I hope that you will respect my choices, just as I would respect yours.

At the beginning of 2014 I decided to set myself up as self-employed in order to stay at home as much as I could with Freddie, while still bringing in some money. “It’ll be a really good balance,” I thought to myself and told everyone who would listen, “Once I’ve got a good set of clients and regular work coming in, Freddie will go to nursery for a couple of slots a week and I’ll work around him. I’ll have time for everything!”

Best laid plans, and all that. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t get enough work, or that Freddie didn’t settle into nursery, it was that after doing a temporary freelance full-time post in an office I realised that I wanted the structure of an office job again. I was very lucky to find a part-time job somewhere I wanted to work very quickly, and, suddenly, we had a very different routine to work out. Since I went back to working structured hours, I’ve been trying to work out the conundrum of being part of a family with two working parents. The only thing I can conclude is that there are not enough hours in the day to be able to do everything you would want or even need to do. Being a working mother and the ‘issues’ and the guilt that entails is part of the struggle (but not the subject of this post, so I won’t dwell on this), but really it’s about trying to find a way not to let anything slide. It is about finding a balance, a balance that works for your family.

When I became a mother I kept trying to work out whether I’d changed or not. Was I the same person as I was before? Had this new person coming into my life dramatically altered me? I came to the conclusion (and still think this now) that being a mother simply became another part of me, an addition to what was a whole person before. But if I used up all of my time being an employee, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a blogger and a woman, how could I possibly fit in another incredibly time consuming role?

We haven’t got it all worked out. I don’t have it all, not even by a long way. But we do have something that resembles a balance that we’re happy with. The key for me has been realising that I had to find a new way of working things out, making the things that were a priority for me an actual priority. I also had to let go of spending all day with my son if I wanted to work. I will never be able to see every milestone Freddie reaches, just as I can’t be there to hear about every achievement my husband has at work. I can’t be at work for every meeting because I don’t work on Mondays and I have to leave by 4.15. I have to balance the emotions about missing out with the knowledge that me working part-time is what is best for me right now, and – by association – best for my family.

Making an effort in my marriage is important to me, so we ask friends to babysit and have even had our parents take Freddie for a night or two on more than one occasion. Having time to myself is important as well, so I say yes to meetings friends for drinks in the evening and book in the odd Esme-only Saturday morning to go shopping or just read in bed. I admit that my friendships have taken a back seat over the past almost two years, and I have to hope that those people who are true friends will understand and will still be there when I emerge from this period of having young children.

I work hard when I’m at work (and have been rewarded for it already in a small promotion in my current role), but I endeavour to always leave on time. This is partly because Tom’s job has long hours and quite a lot of travelling and so, between us, we balance the responsibility of dropping off and collecting Freddie from nursery and being the ones who see him in the morning and in the evening. Sometimes it’s both of us, sometimes it’s me every evening for two weeks. The balance isn’t always perfect, but we try. And when something goes wrong we just scramble together a temporary solution. There is usually an ‘exceptional’ day at least once a week.

This is our regular weekly routine:

Monday: My day at home with Freddie, Tom normally travels on Mondays and often leaves very early and returns late. I try not to do too many jobs around the house and concentrate on having a fun Freddie-focused day.

Tuesday – Thursday:
7.30 I leave the house and travel to work, arriving at 8.30
8:15 Tom takes Freddie to nursery and goes to work
4:15 I finish work, run to the station and travel home
5:15 I collect Freddie
5.45 Everyone is home.

Friday: Every other week Tom has Friday off and has a daddy and Freddie day, the other week my in-laws travel to look after him and Tom works a shorter day. If I have to work late, I make sure it’s on Fridays.

This year I’m going to work on being more relaxed about the routine, about finding the perfect balance. I want to say no to spending too many weekends away from home, but yes to sometimes pushing the boundaries of nap times, taking all my holiday from work to have adventures and the occasional ‘personal day’ or day with friends. Having reflected on the balance of work/family/relaxation we currently have by writing this post, I have to say that I’m proud of what we’ve achieved. Ultimately, we have a happy and healthy son who is developing well, and that is what matters. Isn’t it?

Because I’m nosey, I really want to know: how do you feel about your balance right now? Are you trying to readdress it?

Love, Esme.

Find Esme on her blog Esme Wins or on Twitter @esmewwins

The Big Autumn list

It’s the 21st of September this Sunday, the date I always regard as the first of the new season and so my thoughts are well and truly turned towards log fires, fruit crumbles, falling leaves, bonfires and fireworks. Even though its more Indian Summer than crisp Autumn weather it’s fun to plan so here’s my big Autumn list of things I want to see, do, make and experience, and I hope you will join in with yours in the comments.

Last Autumn I made this list and then everything changed as I found myself pregnant and asleep most of the time on the couch. I’m hoping for a much more active and productive few months this time around!

  • Getting back into Autumn cooking with pies, roasts and crumbles
  • Shopping for a fireplace to kickstart our Lounge renovation
  • Kicking the leaves on autumn walks
  • Wearing my new capsule wardrobe and seeing how it works for mummy life
  • Our first family holiday as we head off to Florida to celebrate my Mum’s birthday with Bea
  • Meeting new people and making new friends at Baby and Mummy groups locally.
  • Celebrating 1 year in our ‘new’ house – 4.5 rooms done, 5.5 to go!
  • Slowly reclaiming my body with some dedicated post-natal exercise.

Make a list or share just one goal you have this season – I’ll be looking for more inspiration for mine!


PS! Need more inspiration?
Read my previous Autumn lists here and here.

Becoming a Mother…

Day 2

This post has been a difficult one to write, in fact I started drafting it as ‘2 weeks with Bea’ and got not much further until now. I haven’t yet written about our new arrival, other than to introduce her because it has taken me time to find the words. How to start? To put my words into context, I would never have described myself as maternal – I don’t get ‘broody’ and I would even extend that statement into my pregnancy. I had very real fears that I wouldn’t like being a mum, or that I might resent my baby for the inevitable changes that were about to take place in my life. That probably sounds like I wasn’t ready to have a baby at all, but I had come to realise (much earlier, before we tried to get pregnant) that I would probably never ‘want’ to give up complete freedom to do what I wanted, lazy beach holidays cocktail in hand swinging in a hammock, regular dinners out or last minute plans. But I knew I didn’t want to go through my life without being a parent and building a family with Pete.

First Bath time // Day 5

So it has taken me by surprise just how different I do feel, now that I have a daughter. I should have seen it coming I guess, as everyone always says they fell in love the minute they set eyes on their child, but equally, some of my more honest friends admitted that becoming a mother was a shock, not least due to the physical ordeal and that it took them days or weeks to fully bond with their baby – I suspected I may be the same. In fact the change in me when I first saw Bea was seismic. I finally found the words yesterday when I realised it was like The Big Bang, everything changed in an instant. A whole new universe began and Bea is my Sun.

Now I look back at times I have offered well meaning baby sitting duties to friends with new babies, just to give them time to sleep or shower and they have refused. Now I understand that maybe they didn’t want to be without their baby, even for a minute. I remember trying to reassure chronically fatigued friends that expressing or topping up with formula so their partner could give a bottle while they sleep wasn’t a bad option if it helped them function better. Now I know how they didn’t want anyone else to comfort their baby if they could, even at the expense of their sleep. It shocked me how primal the urge is to hold her sometimes, how much it upsets me when she cries. If I sound crazy, I feel like it at times! I fell hopelessly in love with this little person before I even saw her, the second I heard her cry.

Even now, having written what is here, words fail me. No statement is powerful enough to express how I feel about her or how content I feel with Bea in our lives. I wanted to share these thoughts not just to hear from all the other mothers what they felt in those first heady weeks of becoming a mother, but to reassure those of you who (like I did,) wonder if they will ever be ready or willing to take that unimaginable leap into motherhood.

Tell me, do my words resonate with you or remind you of how you felt? Or do they make you feel more positive about a family in your future one day?


Note: This post is not meant to patronise those of you reading who have never wanted or do not want a family in future, merely to describe how I feel and speak to those who might feel as I did weeks, months and years ago about children in my future.

Capturing the bump…

I never planned to do a ‘bump shoot’, thinking I would have lots of selfie style bump shots to suffice and Pete would have taken plenty too. Whilst the former is true, the latter hasn’t been – we have been far to busy in the house to be anywhere worthy of dressing up and taking photos of late. Maybe it’s also the looming end to my pregnancy that has made me cherish it more, I will certainly miss this bump and shifting baby inside, but I hope the reality in my arms will be infinitely better. :)

I had planned to have a newborn shoot, when baby is fresh and still scrunched up and small, to capture that newborn bubble the three of us will hopefully be in (read: chaotic, sleep derived blur,) and so at the last minute last week I decided to ask our good friends Laura and Peter Lawson to do a bump shoot too. They made us feel so at ease in front of the camera and I knew they would ‘get’ how blessed out together we both are just now, as they had their little boy Albert only 7 months ago.

I’m so glad we did it now and Pete loves the results too. This was too special a time in our lives not to make some memories to treasure and now I just have to pick some for the wall!

Have a great weekend readers, see you next week!


What I have learned about Weddings: 5 years on

This Saturday is Pete and I’s fifth wedding anniversary. How did that even happen? As it’s somewhat of a milestone and I don’t talk about weddings on here very often, I thought it would be a nice time to do a little series on wedding reflections with that 5 year perspective. I also know that many of you know me via my wedding blogging background and shared the journey with me, getting married around the same time and in the couple of years after my wedding, so I’m sure you must have something to say on the subjects I’m going to cover too – I’ll be looking forward to reading your thoughts! I’m also away this week (at a wedding!) so it will be a ‘weddings only’ special week with reduced posts.

Firstly, I thought I would write a post about my perspective on the wedding now. It goes without saying that my tastes have changed and of course, I would probably change everything looking back if we were to get in to the detail. I guess some people would say that they wouldn’t change a thing and I get the sentimental aspect of that, but I tend to be the kind of person who changes as life changes, plus I don’t feel attached to my wedding ‘day’, but the resulting marriage.

The last couple of years has also seen some of our best friends get married and so I’ve been heavily involved in weddings all over again, after a break from wedding blogging. Having that outside/inside perspective and the benefit of hindsight is interesting and has made me think about the stress and money involved, so I thought I’d share my thoughts.

Image Via SMP

1. Less formality.
You know how Carrie and Big’s guest list in the SATC movie suddenly jumps to 200 and when she tries to explain it to Big she compares the wedding to a poker match, saying ‘The dress upped the ante.’ Well that kind of happened with our wedding. My dress was probably one of the first things I found, (totally wrong order,) and ended up commanding a grander venue when an informal garden wedding was something I had always wanted. Of course there were loads of other factors that dictated the wedding, like Pete’s specification that it be held in a church, our lack of venue to hold a ‘garden wedding’ and my fears about the weather. In actual fact we had the hottest day of the year and everyone I know who has planned outdoor parts of their wedding since has been lucky and the weather held up. We have always said since the day we got married that we should have done it at our rehearsal dinner – a garden BBQ we had the night before with just our immediate family and bridal party.

2. Less people
We had a guest list of 88 and I think around that number give or take a few attended. I remember overwhelmingly feeling that there were people there that we didn’t need there and afterwards realising there were still people we hadn’t managed to speak to.

3. Less nik knacks and stress
Don’t get me wrong, I still love a creative wedding and I really admire people who put masses of effort into their day, but it totally stressed me out and with the benefit of hindsight, it wasn’t necessary. People don’t notice (other than fleetingly,) and I’d concentrate on a great venue with good bones and overdose on the flowers, forgetting much else if I did it again. All of the extra details just contributed to stress and observing other peoples weddings has reinforced the fact that the more detail there is, the more stress there is for everyone involved.

Image via SMP

4. A comfortable dress!
It’s easy to say, having worn a princess dress once already, but I would choose something much softer and less intrusive on everyone else if I did it again. My dress wasn’t heavy (light as a feather) and it wasn’t uncomfortably tight, but it got in the way of just being around people and hugging and dancing with Pete and it’s not really me to wear something that restricts me doing everything I want to.

5. Party!
Lastly, I would make the wedding much more of a party and less of a sequence of events. (drinks reception, dinner, speeches, dancing.) Casual, relaxed, FUN!

I suppose I should temper this with things I wouldn’t change or am glad that we did do as this sounds negative and I’m certainly not sat here worrying about it 5 years later!

Image credit: Lawson Photography

1. Photography
I’m so glad we spent money on Photography. Admittedly it seemed like a huge chunk of our budget then, (it was probably about 10% relatively speaking) and decent photography is even more expensive now, but I don’t think it could ever be something you regret.

2. Fake cake
Our cake was made by a friend at the time who was a pro-cake maker. It was a gift and saved us a fortune, but looking back, I certainly wouldn’t spend money on one again in the future. Ours was four tiers and would have been so much bigger than required so the top three tiers were ‘fake’ polystyrene but you never would have known.

Image credit: Lawson Photography

3. The Ceremony
I wouldn’t change a single thing about our ceremony – every bit of effort that I put into it was worthwhile and the whole thing was perfect – it remains my best memory of the day, as it should be!

4. The feast
After having quite a few bad generic wedding chicken dinners, I am so glad we spent money on the food, (we held our wedding at a restaurant and as a result the food was incredible – a four course italian menu with antipasti, a pasta course, a fish/meat course and tiramisu for dessert!) People still say how great it was now and given how much I like my food it was a worthwhile expense! We also scheduled a longer than usual (even given the fact that we had photos close to the venue and weren’t away from the guests for long,) drinks reception – it’s often my favourite bit of the day at a wedding and over before it has begun.

5. Having it close to OUR home.
Looking back, I’m so glad we had our wedding in Manchester. It meant all of our suppliers were local to where we lived, which reduced the planning stress, and the majority of our guests didn’t have to fork out for accommodation or travel. The few that did had access to the whole range of accommodation options to suit their budget and the venue was walkable from the church.

Image Via

6. Time with family
The other precious moments that I cherish the most from our wedding are spending it with the people I loved the most – I don’t mean our extended guest list when I say that, but the rehearsal dinner the night before and the morning I spent getting ready with my mum and bridesmaids. That was such a relaxed and fun time and felt really special.

7. Flowers
I love flowers and still do, so although we spent a huge amount on flowers I would do it again in a heart beat. In fact I’d have even more!

8. Get a planner
I also asked Pete what he would change and we were pretty much on the same page; ‘Smaller, more casual and less formal,’ were his words and he also reminded me that we always said if we were to do it again we would get a planner. I think wedding planners are so under rated and always considered a luxury. Whilst it’s certainly not cheap, an affordable cost is to get an ‘on the day’ planner, or someone to support you around the last week of build up and expense wise, I’d say they are worth their weight in gold.

So readers, with the benefit of married hindsight, what would you do differently looking back on your wedding, and what are you glad you spent the time, money and effort on?


PS Later in the week I’ll be talking marriage and sharing some pics of my own wedding :) I hope you enjoy reminiscing over it all!

Family Lifestyle: Mum & Dad’s Date night

Before we became parents, we always said we wanted to be the kind of parents who prioritised their marriage. I’m not sure where I come down on the ‘put your marriage before your children’ line, but what I do know is that I love my son and husband a huge amount. Tom and I have been together a long time and, despite this(!) I still love spending time with him and neither of us wanted to forget why were married and raising a child in the first place.

Image credit

I’m not going to lie, making an effort with my husband was way down on the priorities list for a long time – behind eating, washing my face and getting more sleep – but when the new year came round we decided together to make a resolution to have a date once a month and, so far, have stuck to it. Finding the time, and a babysitter, has been difficult, but we both feel very strongly about how important this is now. And, actually, it’s been wonderful and definitely worth it.

Perhaps you think I sound a little callous saying that I like spending time away from my baby. The fact of the matter is that before I became Freddie’s mum, I married Tom and made a commitment to him as his wife. It should go without saying that we make sure Freddie is with someone he knows and would rush home if he needed us, but as long as he’s doing alright, we will continue to make time for ourselves on a regular basis. I think it’s really important to get this into our routine now, before our baby becomes a child.

Growing up my parents didn’t have a very strong marriage and they divorced when I was a teenager. While they never wavered in showing me affection, looking back I find it sad that I don’t remember them going out much at all and certainly never cuddling on the sofa or holding hands. Clearly they married the wrong person, which is a whole other story, but I’ve always known that that’s not the kind of marriage I want and I don’t believe we can keep it strong without putting constant effort. We’ve also made a rule that we kiss each other hello and goodbye first, and Freddie second. It doesn’t always happen, but it does make me feel special when Tom comes home after a stressful day and although Freddie is reaching out for him, I get the first acknowledgement. (This was instigated after me telling a story about a family I used to see coming off the train from work: the dad brought the son to the station to meet mummy and she would instantly gather him up and smother him in kisses. It wasn’t until they were getting into their car that she would off-handedly ask her husband how his day had been. It was a bittersweet moment that I saw everyday.)

So far we’ve had a couple of meals out and a night at the cinema, but next on my list is a daytime date. Having a leisurely lunch without grabbing hands sounds like my idea of heaven right now, and with Freddie loving his time with grandparents and my sister and his cousin, it’s going to get booked in soon. We’ve also booked a night away for our anniversary in August, which feels like a huge step at the moment, but I know it’s the right thing to do.

As much as I cringe at the phrase ‘date night’, I’m a true convert now I’m a mum. I’d love to hear if you agree or disagree with my opinion on prioritising nights away from the kids. Could you do it? Or do you have any suggestions for keeping your marriage strong after you’ve had a baby?

Love, Esme.

Find Esme on her blog Esme Wins or @Real_Married

News Flash!

Ahem! So, today is quite a big day and I’m going to let the picture do all the talking… :)

I can’t believe that the time has gone so quickly already and I’ve been waiting to have a bump to show you all! It’s lovely to be finally able to announce that Pete and I are expecting our first baby! I’m almost half way along now and so glad the bump has finally popped out so I can start talking babies, motherhood and get advice from so many of the mums who I know read Florence Finds.

As always, the blog is a reflection of my life, so I hope I don’t put off those of you who don’t have or want children, yet or ever, but I’m not expecting to have a personality transplant now there are three of us, so much of the blog will remain unchanged. Hopefully, this will be a welcome addition, it certainly is for us. :)

Anyway, I’m going to write a bit more next week, for now, I’m so glad you all know!


PS I’m wearing the ASOS dress I posted about last week in a size 12 for extra room!

Family Lifestyle: Family Fraud

Today Esme is broaching a subject that is very near to my heart as a blogger, the reality behind the on-screen facade. It’s extremely hard as a blogger to bridge the gap between those who want pretty escapism and those who find a perpetually positive approach at best saccharine and at worst perpetuating the media factory of idealism that makes the average reader feel inadequate. I personally prefer positivity as I feel I really have little in life to complain about, but thats not to say that like all of you I don’t have the same daily trials and tribulations. Being a new Mum is difficult enough without holding yourself up to ‘blogger mums’ so I’m glad Esme is keeping it real today…

I’m a fraud. I think you should know that I’m not what you think I am. Perhaps I should explain…

Nearly all of us bloggers are guilty of presenting an image that is not a complete representation of our lives, but, of course, most of the time that’s fine and kind of the point of blogging: it’s escapism and offering something to aspire to. Ever since Rebecca started Florence Finds that’s what this blog has been for me, an opportunity to look at some pretty clothes, dream about perfecting my beauty routine and a bit of a break from the daily grind imagining that one day I too could be as stylish and organised as her. When Rebecca asked me to write a family column here, I jumped at the chance. But when she titled it ‘family lifestyle’, I have to admit I was a bit scared – there was no way my real life could live up to what she would want.

The fear of coming across as Rebecca’s boring mum friend soon went away as I realised I had lots to write about, but when I started thinking about my next columns I realised that I had inadvertently already begun to portray a side of my family that is not completely honest. Don’t get me wrong, we really did go to Belgium, we do love the National Trust and Freddie really is that cute, but the smiley, happy, loved-up family days such as the Welcome to the World party are not our everyday and I would never want any new or expectant (or hoping one day to be) mums to think I’m something I’m not.

I adore my life right now, but it is not all baby giggles and trips away. We are by no means a perfect family and I am not a perfect mum: money is tight, my husband works more than I’d like, my baby does sleep through the night, but can be a complete nightmare during the day if he wants to. I get very stressed sometimes, am generally found to be wearing my least dirty terribly fitting jeans with a baggy t-shirt to hide my 9 months post-baby tummy and find myself doing that mum cliche of collapsing on the sofa at the end of the day with a glass of wine more often than I’d like to admit. I am not stylish, back in my pre-pregnancy jeans or able to juggle looking after a baby full-time with being a housewife (not mentioning an actual wife) and keeping in touch with friends as often as I’d like. I definitely don’t ‘have it all’.

I know that when Freddie was first born and I was struggling very, very hard with breast feeding, reading something like this ‘New Years Resolutions’ post on the stylist Emily Henderson’s blog would have made me feel completely inadequate and feel like I was failing even more than I already felt I was. Now I’ve got a few months under my belt (and a few more than Emily Henderson, I might add), I can step back from that post and knowingly declare to the mums who may have read it that they are not to worry. And because the last thing I would want to do is write something that would make someone like the new mum I was feel bad, I wanted to write this post so you all know the truth.

So what is the truth? Am I worthy of writing a column titled ‘family lifestyle’? Of course I am, as long as I give you all something you can believe in – a bit of the ‘sunnier’ side of life as a three, along with the starker reality.

Is that alright with you?

Love, Esme

Have you ever found yourself feeling inadequate after reading a blog, and do you have any favourite blogs that ‘keep it real’?

Find Esme on her blog Esme Wins or @Real_Married

Refocus on your career- Laura, Teacher (Abroad)

Today we are continuing our series on careers. Last month Victoria shared how redefining what she wanted out of a job reshaped her happiness at work, with a Parisian jaunt along the way. This month, in a similar vein Laura is talking about her move to Brussels where she teaches. I know working abroad is something so many people want to do so I thought this might be inspiring for many of you, not to feel stuck in your current circumstances. Thanks Laura!

How did you come to be a Teacher and what has your career path been so far.
I decided I wanted to teach when I was in my second year at Uni. There wasn’t a ‘Thou-shalt-TEACH!’ revelation from the heavens or anything like that; I simply reasoned I loved my subject (English Literature) too much to commit it to a dusty box in my parents’ loft after three years. Plus, take into account the bonus points of never ever clockwatching ever again combined with spectacular holidays and it pretty much clinched the deal. I trained and taught in Leeds for eight years – in a tough comprehensive and then a fancy new Academy – and learned the tricks of the trade. After three years and a promotion, I turned up at the fancy new Academy in my shiny shiny shoes and fancy pinafore dress delighted to be second in department – only to be greeted by my line manager with the words every 24-year-old deputy dreads: ‘I’m pregnant. You’ll be Head of Department at Christmas. Sorry.’ The next four years – she was promoted as soon as she came back to school and never returned to the HoD role – were a baptism of fire: consistently exhausting, very often terrifying and occasionally mind-numbing, but, by God, it transformed me.

What made you decide to look for a new opportunity and how did you end up in Brussels?
My husband Adam and I got itchy feet after we got married. Actually, we’d had itchy feet for a while beforehand, but having a monstrosity of an Anglo-Irish Wedding Extravaganza softens the ache of the daily grind and fills even the most gnat-like of attention spans – at least, for a while. So then there was the cliched post-wedding high and, following that, the cliched post-wedding lull and the utterly terrifying sense that life was passing us by. And we had plenty of idealistic notions about what we were going to do to change the world, oh yes we did. We were looking into VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) – in fact, we came within a whisker of booking a flight to Papau New Guinea – and when that didn’t work out, we worked out our immigration points totals for New Zealand and started Googling the most fuel efficient make of camper van.

Do we sound manic? We probably were. And so we were in the throes of ‘What-the-HELL-are-we-going-to-DO?’ when a job came up in my husband’s company. In their Brussels office. And we went back to the VSO checklist of things we wanted from the experience – a new culture, a more international outlook, a fecking adventure – and realised it ticked pretty much all of the boxes. And so he went for the job. And got it. And so I applied for a job as Head of English at a British school in Brussels which just-so-happened to have come up. And I got it. After months and months of inertia and indecision our whole life had changed in just short of two weeks.

How is your job there different to your old job?
How is my job here different? Oh God, where do I start? Funnily enough, I had my performance management review meeting the other day and I was able to say, in total honesty, that I’m happier professionally than I’ve ever been. That’s quite a statement, eh? So why? Well, school is a lovely, friendly place – virtually all of the staff are British or North American along with a number of North Europeans, and new staff are made just as welcome as new students. It’s also a TOTAL bubble, in the nicest possible way. By that, I mean we’re protected from the immediate impact of governmental policy shifts and so can avoid the knee-jerk reactions that UK schools are regularly forced to make. I’m freed up from a lot of time-wasting tasks to the point where I can actually do some meaningful extra-curricular – I’m currently organising a TEDx event with some students and making plans for an overhaul of the Secondary school library. This kind of stuff makes my heart sing. I teach the international GCSE qualification, which is a welcome change from the stuff that was getting a bit yawnsome at my old school, and I’m also teaching the International Baccalaureate as well as A levels, which is just the most beautiful post-16 qualification I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Seriously – you have to study 14 texts for Literature and some of them have to have originally been written in a language other than English and you must complete a certain number of Creativity, Action and Service hours in order to pass which could involve anything from a self-defence class to working at an old people’s home and….oh, it’s amazing. It’s been a proper intellectual challenge and completely reawakened my love of reading. Seriously, I sit on the tram in the mornings for twenty five blissful minutes and read. And twice a week I run in the beautiful park – lakes! forest! gorgeous sunsets! – behind our school building. At home, I didn’t have the time – I always had an excuse. Here, it’s… easier somehow.

What does the future hold for you, career-wise?
Do I want to live here forever? Strangely, I think the answer is probably no, and then I have to think about why that might be. It seems an odd answer initially, given that I’m happier professionally and more comfortable socially than ever before. Brussels is such a warm and vibrant place. It’s full of ex-pats and people are fairly transient and, as a result, everyone’s super-friendly and all ‘hey, what’s your number? We should go out somewhere!’ without it being weird. I can even cope with the aspects that are frequently cited as being the most annoying things about living in Brussels – the complete absence of regard for any kind of health and safety, for example, and the insanely bureaucratic civil administration system (applying for an ID card is a process that involves PhD level research skills and the patience of a minor saint) I find it a little bit quirky and endearing. It’s like a French city, I guess, but with very little pretension and more graffiti. So why resist the urge to commit forever? It’s a city, I suppose, would be one answer, whereas I ultimately see myself in the country or by the sea. It’s also a young person’s place, which is great while we’re relatively young, but might not suit so much as we get older. I don’t know; we’ll see.

Have you got any advice for anyone considering working or moving abroad?
I do worry about what I’ll do if and when I do come ‘home’, having lived in this lovely bubble when teaching in the UK sound a bit grim in the papers at the minute; all cuts and criticism from people who haven’t stood in a classroom for a long time – or ever. I suppose we’ll have to see what happens. If this whole experience has taught us anything so far, it’s how quickly it’s possible to change and adapt. Going to the post office and having to talk French used to bring me out in hives. Getting on the wrong metro train was breakdown-worthy. Now that the fear’s died down, though, it’s all good. Would I recommend a similar change? Totally.

Great post Laura. I often thought of working abroad but life kind of got in the way. I don’t regret it now but I’m so impressed at the way you made this happen.


PS Find Laura on her blog Parliament of Owls, or on Twitter @missmacdonner (She’s funny) ;)

#JanuaryJoy: Refocus on your career – Victoria, Marketing Executive

So todays post marks the start of a new series for Florence Finds. For a long time I have wanted to involve other people here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the strengths of FF is the community. I know some people would say that they come here to hear what I have to say but I believe theres a lot more we can offer than just my opinion. Sometimes thats via discussion in the comments, but I also happen to know a whole host of intelligent, go-getting, vibrant women who are just as interesting as I am and have many different viewpoints. I want to hear more from these women on topical life issues and so I’m going to co-ordinate various essay series where I ask people with relevant life experiences to share their thoughts on a subject. I’m starting off with careers and Victoria is kicking us off. I asked her to reflect on her career after her recent secondment in Paris and what she has written may make you re-evaluate your perception of your job satisfaction…


As part of January Joy Rebecca asked me to write about a change of career, or even just a job change. I haven’t actually done that for a while though, so I was stuck about what I could write. I then realised that perhaps writing about just a simple change of attitude towards my current situation, and how that actually changed my job, and, if I’m allowed to be dramatic for a moment or two, my life.

Until I made that change, if you’d ask me about my “dream job”, I’d tell you that “I’m still deciding what I want to be when I grow up, *chortle chortle*”. That I was doing “this job” until some divine inspiration about my dazzling “dream career path” came and slapped me on the cheek. In my thirties, that slap still hadn’t happened, and I realised that for me, the title “dream job” is just a Hollywood fabrication!

Illustation by Bella Pilar

For the first four or five years after leaving university I moved on from jobs pretty swiftly, basically when I got bored and needed more out of the role, when I hated the environment I was working in or just simply needed a salary uplift. I moved to my current company over five years ago and I’ve been here ever since. The temptation to move has been there every now and again (money, job-envy, a feeling of stagnation), but I never actually did it. My gut always stopped me. I often look back and wonder why. I wonder if it’s because I found some happiness in what I do. If it’s because solid employment during a period of market and personal instability helped me find happiness by way of job security. I wonder if I haven’t moved on because when I moved here I stopped having panic attacks on the way to the office and crying on the way home. I also found a sense of community, made friends and developed a sense of loyalty to the team and firm and the thought of leaving made me feel a bit sad. That however doesn’t help a career pathway, does it?

On reflection, as well as a combination of the above, I think what actually happened is that I became settled because what I do, may not be my “dream job” but I want to do it, more than I want to do anything else.

It took some personal analysis, perhaps a year or so ago, to realise that. All accidental of course.

Sometimes I find that I get so bogged down in the day-to-day detail of what I do for a living that I forget I don’t actually have to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I have to do something so I can eat, live, drive, travel etc, but it’s not necessarily what I’m doing now that I have to do. I could give it all up and be a vet. I could re-train and become a teacher. I could move to the southern hemisphere and learn to track big cats on safari game reserves. I could hustle and get myself on an internship programme at a glossy magazine. I could go to evening classes and develop skills on floristry, make up artistry, hair dressing, photography and so on. I could drag my wobbly backside to the gym and become a lingerie model… actually, no, I couldn’t. But you get the picture. If I hated what I do now, it is totally within my power to change it and be something else. Yes there’d be sacrifice. Yes it’d be hard work. Yup, the opportunity costs of my decisions would be considerable. But the point is, if I know that I want a change, it’s my responsibility to make it happen. I’ve considered all these career options, and more (NOT the modelling, of course. That was a joke, of course,) some with more seriousness than others and I always end up realising that it’s just a phase, likely encouraged by a TV programme or a conversation with someone about their job and the perceived excitement and glamour it entails… wholly ignoring the downsides!

Anyway, I digress, I was talking about my personal analysis. So, I spent some time reflecting on what it is that I do, and why it is that I do it. I took part in a Myers Briggs test to understand my personal motivations better and enrolled on some training courses at work which incorporated some other personality tests to determine my leadership style. I discovered that all I really want to do is to help people, to be useful and to receive the appropriate recognition for my work. I’m not interested in power or leadership or the glory of achieving it. I want to help other people realise their own glory and all I “need” is to be quietly thanked for helping them do so. I’m an ENFJ in case you’re wondering…

All of a sudden, I stopped day dreaming about what I’d do if I didn’t have to do this and made peace with what I do do. All of a sudden I love what I do a whole lot more, because I’ve realised that if I view my job in the context of what makes me happy, there is so much more happiness and enjoyment I can derive from it.

So, I said it changed my life, I wasn’t being dramatic. I really think that the changes I made effected a number of amazing opportunities for me, one of them being a secondment to our Paris office. This gave me the chance to spend some time working abroad (a personal goal), living what can only be described as a fairy tale life for a short time (see some of my personal highlights from my weekends here,) and pushing me wholly out of my personal and my professional comfort zones (scary but exciting), and thus I came home from Paris a very different person on all counts.

In short, it wasn’t so much an actual physical career or job change that made me happy (or brought me [January] Joy, if you will), more a change in mindset to bring it about within my current situation.

My loved ones noticed how much happier I was at home. My boss, co-workers and clients noticed how much more enthusiastic and applied I was. Great things started to happen. Opportunities opened up, professional relationships became more developed, projects became more interesting and my working day became more fulfilling. All because I started to view them in a different way.

I have always been envious of people that knew what they wanted to be, and how they chose educational and career pathways to make that happen, but I guess I did much the same unconsciously. Really, all I’ve ever wanted to be was a city worker: trains and tubes, take away lattes, snappy meetings, office banter, city suits, after-work drinks, not forgetting the, ahem, important stuff like interesting, challenging opportunities and a work portfolio full of high-profile projects and clients, an international perspective and the opportunity to travel and work with people from around the globe. Recently I’ve also become a “premises snob” and realised that I’ve started assessing future employers on the standard of their building!

So it turns out that I actually have achieved everything I ever wanted from a job and/or a career. I wanted to be a helpful, respected, appreciated city worker, with fun and exciting opportunities available to me, and that I am. And I am happy about it.

I am January Joyful.

Victoria x

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.