Why we don’t need more advice from Sheryl Sandberg

Photograph of Whyishersostroppy holding hand up against Sheryl Sandberg

No more, please Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl is the kind of woman who gets up my nose. I don’t so much resent that she’s loaded (400 million US Dollars), has the mother of all jobs (Facebook boss) and combines this with being a mum or even that she looks 10 years younger than me at the same age. (44)

Full of it 

What really bugs me is that she is so full of it. She just can’t stop rubbing our noses in it.  As if it’s not enough that she’s clearly made it big time, she can’t stop offering us pearls of wisdom on how we should all stop being such miserable failures and get this work/life balancing act sorted so we too could become millionaire superstars.

Her book Lean In warned that unless we lean into our careers when we start having babies, even if it takes breastfeeding during conference calls, we’ll never fulfill our potential. Well, thanks for that, Sheryl. See my thoughts on the book here.

Share the housework 

Her latest advice for working mums is even more enlightening.  Want to have it all? Just get your husband to do 50% of the household chores and child rearing. Simples.

This is according to her foreword in a new self-help book published in America (where else?): Getting to the 50/50: how working couples can have it all by sharing it all.

So the argument is that convincing men to share the chores provides women with more choices and benefits the men and kids too.  Although she and husband, Dave, “can afford exceptional childcare”, they still have difficult decisions about who will pick up the slack when the other can’t be there.

But they do aim for a 50/50 split (of the remaining 20% of duties presumably) because it’s fair and gives women more opportunities.

Really? To imagine anyone researching and writing a page, never mind a book about this, beggars belief. What exactly is there to research?

According to a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research, just 10% of men do an equal amount of housework as their wives.

So, let’s see: do you think these women have better chances than the 90% whose husbands come home, dump their shoes in the entrance and ask: “What’s for dinner, dear?” Uh… yes,  duh!

How to get him off the couch

What would be infinitely more useful would be if Sheryl and her coterie of friends in the banking sector tell us just HOW we should get the lazy, spoilt, selfish bastards off the couch and emptying the bin without turning the marriage into a daily episode from Married with Kids.

At this point, I should confess that my husband actually does quite a bit around the house. Not quite 50% – not even close, but a decent amount. This is because he’s German and because I’ve become less willing to be his slave for little or no appreciation through the years.

So he’s quite comfortable ironing his own shirts, making the children’s lunchboxes, unpacking the dishwasher and packing away clothes.

Now, if only he did his 35% chores and parenting properly, without me having to go around and redo it, I would probably be heading for my first million by now.

Domestic god – yes please

But in my experience our set-up is quite rare.

Some men, the majority – have no idea how to hang up washing, would never dream of ironing their shirts and would be surprised to find out that toilets don’t clean themselves.

And the women will moan to their friends about having to carry the can, but would not really expect their husbands to touch a duster or look after the children they helped produce.

As a columnist wrote in the Sunday Times this week: “He is not a domestic god. I did not marry him for his ability with a duster.” She says she doesn’t find him sexy in this role.

Really, darling? So, he must have married you for your ability with a duster then. Do you also have to wear a short little skirt and apron while you clean up after him? How very convenient for her husband.

Getting away with murder

My mouth often hangs open when clever women tell me what their husbands get away with at home. They work so hard, must let them play more golf, go to the pub more often, go for boys’ weekends away, while you stay home, clean the house and look after his children. Not something Sheryl and her mates would put up with, I can assure you. But then, that’s everyone’s personal choice, isn’t it.

There are many reasons why women choose to let their men off the hook when it comes to sharing housework and parenting responsibilities. Cultural beliefs, buying into chauvinistic values, perfectionism and a fear of confrontation or turning marriage into a constant battlefield being some of them.

Personal choice

Each to her own. Some marriages may be better off without screaming matches about whose turn it is to take the bins out. Some women may choose not to lean into their careers because spending time with their children when they are little is more important to them than a million dollars.

I wish someone would tell Sheryl Sandberg to mind her own business and that we’re actually doing OK. We don’t need her advice, but her next book is probably already with the publisher:

How to raise successful children in 15 seconds a day. 

How will we survive until then?

Our very different Greek family holiday

Family on the beach in Porto Rafti

On the beach in Porto Rafti

PIcture the Greek island in the Mama-Mia movie – you know the one – with crystal waters, hills covered in crisp white buildings teeming with straw-hatted tourists.

Now wipe this image from your mind completely and imagine a very different Greece, a protected little bay on the mainland, which doesn’t have quite the postcard wow-factor of Mykonos or Santorini but which makes up for it a thousand times with glimpses of real Greek culture.

Where the Athenians go 

“Porto Rafti is where the Athenians go on holiday,” my friend Caroline (her of lunchboxworld.co.uk) had told me when she mentioned they would not be using their apartment in Greece this summer.

Fancying myself as the footloose, ‘off-the-beaten-track’ kind of traveller – and at the moment very much a budget traveller, I really liked the sound of this. I’d long ago made peace with the fact that unless I did a Shirley Valentine or won the lottery, I was never going to see Greece in August, so this seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.

On our 20-minute drive from Athens airport, half-finished buildings scarred the landscape confirming the country’s financial woes. It also became clear that Greeks do tacky quite well – judging from the glaring neon signs and shouting posters competing for the attention of drivers-by.

 Invitingly clear waters

Family in the water at Porto Rafti

Lukewarm, clear waters… perfect for cooling down

My sagging spirits lifted when the bay of Porto Rafti opened up in front of us in a tranquil late afternoon scene of invitingly clear waters and gently bobbing sailing boats.

An hour later we walked a few 100 metres down to the beach from the apartment to join extended Greek families for a sunset stroll along the promenade and a quick dip in the lukewarm ocean.

 Families are big

Families are big in Greece, in more ways than one. Several generations gather for lingering beachside picnics, chattering loudly and soaking up every last ray of sunshine.  Children are at the heart of every gathering, hunting for crabs in the rock pools with their nets, scootering in and out of the human traffic along the promenade or splashing around in the sea goggle-eyed.  We all loved swimming with goggles observing the sea life underneath, although the soukres or jellyfish that seem to creep up on you and can cause a nasty sting, were quite unnerving.

 Not a foreigner in sight 

Joining the Greeks in their worshipping of the sun and love of the sea in the almost complete absence of other foreigners, felt like a special privilege.

Skin cancer doesn’t seem to bother them much and everyone, including the 70-year-old ladies who bob up and down in the sea careful not to disturb their weekly blow-dries, is a deep coppery brown.

Me on the beach

Less obsessed with the body beautiful

The obsession with the body beautiful also seems less pronounced in these parts with fewer gym-toned physiques and a much more healthy spread of gracefully aging, normal flesh on display. Put it this way, I felt relatively comfortable in my costume, which doesn’t happen often.

A different kind of heat

It was August, so it was always going to be hot, but this was a different kind of heat – an oppressive force that slaps you down every time you try to get up and do something  constructive between noon and 5pm. In the end you stop fighting it. You have no choice, but to slow right down and even succumb to the odd Siesta. We found it to be a good time to play a selection of games in my friend’s family-friendly apartment.

After 5pm the port gets its second wind, restaurants start serving frappuccinos, ice cream parlours tempt with fresh flavours and families crawl out of their midday hiding places onto promenades and beaches for a second instalment of sun and sea.

To round off the day, the skies reward you with a spectacular Greek sunset like a changing artwork of watercolour pastels running into each other with dramatic effect.

 No English… not a word

I can’t remember when last in my life I’ve been to a place where you can’t get by with English. In most foreign cities people at least understand a few words.

But in Porto Rafti it soon became clear that English was really not spoken, not a word.

As adventurous, intrepid travellers, we loved being surprised when ordering food and trying helplessly to interact with friendly locals – a bit like trying to eat food without cutlery.

However, when my daughter fell down the marble stairs in the apartment block breaking a bone in her shoulder two days before the end of our stay and we needed to find a hospital, this became more of a challenge.

Broken arm  

Girl with arm in sling in Porto Rafti Bay

Paula with her broken arm in sling after falling down marble stairs in Porto Rafti

Through a miraculous series of coincidences we were directed via hand gestures, drawings and finally a few words of English from a helpful lady at the tollgate to a big state hospital, where my daughter was seen to within 20 minutes and we paid 6 Euro for an X-ray and a sling. The economy may be crumbling, but the state health service is still going strong.

 

Greek salads, fresh fish and souvlaki 

A plate of Greek salad

Greek salads to die for!

Boy eating fish

Fresh seafood: Lukas with a sardine hanging out his mouth…

Being on a budget, we didn’t eat in expensive restaurants, of which there are a few dotted along the pretty marina on the opposite side of the bay.  However, we did treat ourselves a few times to very reasonable Souvlaki – chicken or pork strips with trimmings in a deliciously doughy pita-bread, as well as fried squid, sardines and arrogant and generous helpings of Greek salad.

For one of our home-cooked meals we bought squid from the weekly food market and fried it in the pan, served with lemon and chunks of fresh bread from the bakery around the corner.  Delicious!

 In the footsteps of civilisation

Family in fornt of Akropolis in Athens

The Koscielnys in the footsteps of civilisation – on the Akropolis hill in Athens

We had great intentions of taking the ferry from the nearby harbour town of Rafina to one of the islands, but in the end we slowed down so much– that all we could muster was a one day-trip to Athens climbing up to the top of the hill of the Akropolis in searing  heat.

We were pushing the limits of the family with this outing, resulting in frayed tempers and tantrums – mainly from my husband – but the realisation that we were walking in the footsteps of civilisation, the impressive columns carved out of marble without the help of modern machinery and breathtaking views of Athens, made it all worthwhile in the end.

I’ve yet to experience the Greek Islands and maybe I’ll be blown away when I do, but Porto Rafti gave us a very different, affordable Greek holiday which felt authentic and most importantly forced us to calm down and relax.

Family in front of Akropolis ruins

Magnificent marble columns of the Akropolis in Athens

Have you been to Greece? Can you relate to our experience?  What did you think?

 

A strong Greek coffee 

Airing your dirty laundry online – for imperfect mums

A pile of dirty washing in front of a washing machine

Anyone up for sharing dirty laundry online?

Do you sometimes scroll through other people’s online lives and wonder if you’re the only one who isn’t sailing through life from one photo opportunity to the next? Facebook is a collage of happy moments carefully selected from the scrapbook of life to stroke our egos and create glimpses of the person we want the world to see:

Look, here I am with my beautiful, adoring family; here we are in another exotic destination. Aren’t we pretty? Aren’t we special? Aren’t we happy?

Virtual street cred 

Twitter is subtler, punchier, wittier. You need a bit more virtual street cred, the right lingo. But the purpose is the same – a virtual mantelpiece advertising the you brand to the world – Aren’t I clever? Aren’t I witty?

Less-than-happy updates

But which online tool do we use when the cracks start showing, the public face slips. Is there a place for my dirty washing online? Is there a place for less-than-happy updates? Where do I go to lick my wounds online after a hurtful row with my partner, where is the online confessional chamber to own up to my parenting doubts and insecurities and mistakes? Who do I ask to Share, Pin, Like or Dig my wobbly life moments?

Lacking depth

Maybe the online life platforms lack the depth of real life relationships because the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who create them haven’t yet experienced the knocks and disappointments of adult life. They impose their shiny world of opportunity and positivism upon us, leaving us unequipped to deal with the fall-out if our realities don’t live up to the ideal.

So, we’re trapped behind strained smiles and bubbly messages, covering up a secret sea of unexplored feelings that never get to see the light of day. We feel shamed by negative feelings, compelled to delete on the spot the emotions that really touch us, that make us who we are.

What are you missing?

A recent study found that Facebook makes us feel sad – because of FOMU – fear of missing out – so while you’re sitting in your slippers in front of the laptop jealously ogling other people’s lives, you suspect they’re sipping cocktails on a beach, jumping out of planes or watching their children perform some amazing feat. Meanwhile, they’re sitting in their PJs staring at their screens worrying that you’re having a ball.

Impulsive rants and vacant threats

Social media seems out of depth when it comes to real emotion, but happily gives a world audience to impulsive rants and vacant threats. Immature men fire off rape and bomb threats on Twitter at women who intimidate them in stead of facing up to their insecurities.

Social media also fails miserably when it comes to dealing with the emotions of people touched by tragedy. No bullet-ed RIP message on Twitter or macabrely out-of-place Facebook status update can really touch their grief.

Too many glasses of wine

Sorry, if I’m being a bit morbid, today. You’re probably wondering, rightly so, if I have had one too many glasses of wine tonight.

Maybe – or maybe I’m just in a reflective mood. Maybe I’m just not bursting at the seams with uncontrollable excitement about the day, my children, my husband or my life today. Maybe that’s OK.

I’ll post a more polished PR snapshot of my life on Facebook to turn you green with envy again tomorrow.

Link

a newspaper article

Die Glocke in Ennigerloh – we are front page news

So, we didn’t exactly plan to make the front page in Germany, but a chance meeting with a young reporter and a quick chat about my blog and our holiday have catapulted us into the limelight in the country of my husband’s birth.

As you should know from my previous post – we spent a few days with my in-laws in Ennigerloh – a town in Munsterland, Germany, best known for cement factories, which also happens to be my husband’s hometown.

What is a mummy blog?

While we were enjoying a friendly water polo match in the Freibad – public pool – I got chatting to Elisa Berste, a student and freelance reporter for Die Glocke – a daily paper in the area.

I told her about my blog and that I will be writing about our experience there. She didn’t seem too sure about what a mummy blog was, but her editor obviously did and she emailed to ask if she could interview us.

The article – which was promoted on the front page and then carried inside the paper with a photograph of our family, including my in-laws – has apparently hit the little German town like a bomb – in a positive sense. It was even discussed at a local political meeting and seems to be the best PR the little Cinderella town has ever had.

So, what made us so newsworthy?

We raved about the town’s facilities for families – an amazing public swimming pool, a Venetian ice cream cafe, family cycling routes, amazing playgrounds and very affordable meals out: £4 per large pizza in an upmarket pizzeria.

The open countryside, friendly locals and the fact that local children seem to play outside and roam by themselves also impressed us.
German children start school only at the age of 6 and there seems to be less pressure on them to perform academically and to have a planned activity scheduled for most days of the week, the kind of competitive parenting you can’t help but getting sucked into when you live in certain parts of England such as Buckinghamshire.

The reporter did get a few minor facts wrong – probably lost in translation between her English and my German, but the themes of discussion of freedom, affordability and a society which seem to prioritise the freedom and quality of life of families came across very well.

As a bonus visits to my blog have skyrocketed since the publication of the article in Germany.
Just awaiting a call from German Chancellor Angela Merkel – who knows maybe she can give David Cameron and Nick Clegg some tips on how to look after families!

Forget Majorca, Ennigerloh is the place to be this summer!

Little boy playing with water and sand

Max enjoys the water and sand play area at the Freibad in Ennigerloh

I´m typing this post on a German keyboard which annozinglz swaps the y and z, so bear with me till I get the hang of it.

This summer holidaz report is brought to you, not from mz deckchair on the beach in the Caribbean, but seated amidst stuffed animals, and plastic pot plants in a black leather armchair in my father-in-law´s study.

We are spending the first few days of our summer break trapped in a forgotten little outpost in Northern Germany called Ennigerloh, where my husband spent the first 18 years of his life (which explains quite a lot.)

The little village in Munsterland best known for its gigantic cement factory, does not feature on Tripadvisor as a sought after holiday destination (in fact it doesn´t feature at all – surprisingly…) so I wasn´t exactly counting the days.

Holiday is a state of mind

But a friend once told me that a holiday is a state of mind and has nothing to do with the destination, so I was determined to see a different side of Ennigerloh this time.  And, believe it or not, the little Cinderella town has seduced us with its charms over the past few days.

Spaß (fun) in the Freibad (open air pool)

The fact that we find ourselves in the midst of a stifling heat wave perforated by the odd spectacular thunderstorm means we´re spending a lot of time at the Freibad.  The open air public swimming pool, of which almost every German town boasts one, puts our drab leisure centre pools to shame.

The Freibad – almost every village has one – which costs 2 pounds (can´t find pound sign on this computer) to enter, is as close to a children´s paradise as you can get.  My older two spend hours jumping from the 5m, 3m and 1m diving boards into the sparkling Olympic-sized pool in Oelde, a neighbouring town. I even managed the 3m jump after holding up the queue of German children for 20 minutes to much ridicule from my husband and hysterics from my children.

Max, 4, meanwhile has two smaller pools with sprinklers and slides to choose from. Luscious lawns and huge trees surround the pools with (towel-free) deck chairs and picnic spots as far as the eye can see. (Obviously the Germans are more chilled about deck chairs at home than when they are on holiday)

Little boy flying through air after jumping off 5m diving board

Lukas, 9, flying through the air from a 5m diving board in Germany

middle-aged woman jumping off 3m diving board

Me leaping off 3m diving board – watch out Tom Daley

Competitive water polo

The children took part in an organised water polo tournament with local children and soon started shouting to team mates in German after realising that was the only way to get their hands on the ball. The game took quite a serious turn after the dads, including my aggressively competitive husband, joined in.

A young reporter from the local newspaper: Die Glocke was on standby to photograph the holiday fun, so my husband (who can´t resist a bit of limelight) and children may have made the news in his hometown.

A stretch of sand dotted with beach baskets – as they´re called in German – wooden two-man seats with canvas awning overhead and footrest, an invitation for stressed-out parent souls to relax while the children get to grips with a variety of water pumps and wheels. A permanent outdoor table tennis table and giant chess board and squeaky clean changing rooms and showers make this one of the best pools I´ve ever been to.

Spaghetti ice cream anyone?

Famished after several hours in the water, we hit the Venetian Eiskafe – an Italian ice-cream parlour distinctly out of place in the industrial heartland of Germany – for generous plates of spaghetti eis: spaghetti-shaped ice-cream drizzled with strawberry sauce and topped with smarties. I enjoy a cream-laced iced coffee with enough calories to last me until Christmas.

Family in front of ice cream shop in Ennigerloh, Germanz

Eiscafe Venezia in Germany – might as well be in Italy

Family eating ice cream at EisKafe in Ennigerloh

Spaghetti ice cream and sinful iced coffees

German children are well-catered for – the playgrounds are creative masterpieces, testament to imagination that the nation is not usually credited for.  Drawbridges, towers and castles with twisted slides and tunnels can be found in every village.

Paradise for cyclists

Unlike at home, where we are too scared to venture out on our bicycles as a family, Germany is a cyclist´s paradise. Cycle routes and lane criss-cross the town and take you across acres of stretched out rural fields under glorious open skies. Everyone aged between 4 and 94 uses this as a mode of transport and I can vouch for its safety, even after a few glasses of Schnapps.

My husband and I cycled 10kms to a restaurant in a nearby village overlooking a lake, for a cocktail evening that could almost compete in terms of food, music and location with a Manhattan hotspot, if you ignore the local farmgirl out on the town dresscode and the perennial stereotype of socks with Birkenstock sandals, favourited by hardcore Germans. Tonight the plan is to cycle to a nearby beer garden for more Weiz-bier, a refreshing beer served with lemon slices.

After three days, I feel more relaxed than if I´d spent a week in Majorca. Whoever said Germans don´t know how to have fun?

How are you spending the first days of the summer holidays? Have you ever considered Germany for a family holiday? What were your impressions?

How to throw a smashing disco party for pre-teens – on a budget

Photograph of a young girl in a garden

The party girl – for once quite impressed with her mum.

After 3 kids, you would think that I’d be like a walking Google search results page for How to throw a successful children’s party.  But in this instance you’d be well advised to click on by and consult a different source for inspiration.

Previous party mistakes

It’s not through lack of trying – I should add. It’s just that I’m not very practical and I’m quite shy (OK, you can stop laughing now).

So, this usually means that my parties are either at least one parcel short for the pass-the-parcel game or a cake slice missing in a party bag or both (I kid you not).

My shyness (I said stop laughing!) means I get stage fright when confronted with 10 expectant four-year-olds all wanting to pin-the-tail-on-the donkey at exactly the same moment or 10 tweens aggressively demanding a fair winner for their X-factor performances.

My palms go sweaty, my throat gets dry and I usually dodge into the kitchen at this point to fetch yet another plate of over-catered, often inappropriate food, leaving my husband or some other more competent parent to pick up the pieces. I also usually top up my glass of  Chardonnay at this point.

Food no-no’s

When it comes to food, I’ve made a few mistakes in my time. When I first arrived in the UK from South Africa, I’d never heard of e-numbers and the idea of presenting children at a party with carrot sticks and cocktail tomatoes (which to this day I haven’t seen a single child eat at a party) would never have occurred to me. It’s a party for @£$!! sake!

For my eldest’s second birthday party I invited all the kids in the street and laid on the children’s party with the highest sugar content ever held in the history of the UK.We had cupcake-decoration, Easter egg hunts, chocolate treasure trails, fizzy drinks in every flavour – and not a cocktail tomato in sight.

The children – bless them – were high as kites as they bounced and raged around the garden, but the mums couldn’t wait to bundle their kids out the door to force-feed them vegetable smoothies at home.

Success at last! And some handy tips for hosting a disco party

But all this is in the past. I am delighted to report that after 11 years, I’ve just hosted a summer disco party for my daughter – which was raving success and really raised my stakes in the mummy department (long may it last) I thought I’d share this achievement with you – and maybe boost my reputation as a talented entertainer and my Google ranking for children’s parties in the process.

The music:

My daughter luckily sits next to a young man in class who hires himself out as a DJ and lighting expert for parties at £35/evening  (Take note – Sir Alan Sugar). Despite their proximity in class, I was instructed to ask the boy’s mother in the playground if he would be available for our party.The youngster also has a very cute dad (more about that later)

The venue:

Our sound and lighting expert came for a pre-party consultation and together we decided to use the conservatory and outdoor areas (his mum had a gazebo we could borrow) for dancing, thus saving my wooden floor from complete destruction. He drew a plan of where the lights and music system would go. Sorted. (Or so I thought)

The decorations:

I’ve got one word for you: Poundland – our decorations consisted of:

  • 8 small mirror disco balls (£1 each)
  • plastic, champagne flutes with the cutest summer cocktail straws
  • fairylights (borrowed) for the gazebo.
  • Oh and a few balloons – also Poundland, though don’t expect them to outlast the night.

The food:

Needless to say, I over-catered – and again there was not a cocktail tomato in sight – but in keeping with the summer theme we had coloured jellybeans, popcorn and marshmallows.

I dodged to the kitchen a few times at inopportune moments to fetch mountains of sausage rolls, chicken nuggets and crisps and to top up the fizzy drinks.

Instead of party bags, we had colourful ice suckers that we handed out on the way out and they went down a treat.

The games:

I found this relatively stress-free – a few dance-offs – my husband was the judge and a limbo dancing competition, which they loved so much, they asked for a rerun.

A microphone – which led to several impromptu performances on the dance floor and thankfully I wasn’t drunk enough to go near the mike – I do love a good Karaoke.

The weather:

Because it happened to be the hottest day of the year – the children loved being able to play on the trampoline and be outside in-between dancing. The boys even managed a rugby game.  Thank you God.

The stress levels:

Because of my shyness (Oh shut up!) I will never experience a stress-free party, but considering we had 26 children and that the DJ actually came down with a nasty stomach virus on the morning of the party and had to pull out – I did pretty well. This is where the cute dad comes in – he offered to be the DJ in his son’s place, stuck around for the whole night and even took photographs, which naturally I didn’t even think of.

The result:

One very happy 11-year-old girl and loads of leftover sausage rolls and fizzy drinks.Success! I may even consider starting a children’s party event management business in partnership with the young lad’s dad – what do you think

Do you have some children’s party tips to share?

Sipping bubbly on Centre Court: impressions of a Wimbledon virgin

First published on  on 03 July 2013 in MagazineTravel

wimbledon scoreboard

Me in front of Wimbledon scoreboard

If you’ve ever thought of going to Wimbledon, I’ve got one word for you: Corporate.

Beg, steal or borrow – but get your hands on corporate tickets.

Take it from a Wimbledon virgin who has glammed it with the likes of Pippa Middleton on Centre Court this year: huddling under a plastic bag in the rain on a soggy Murray Mound with the masses just isn’t the same.

As it happens I didn’t have to do anything untoward to find my bum cushioned on a coveted sponsored seat to watch our Andy thrash some unworthy opponent.
I only had to be married to my husband, who won tickets in a lottery at work. I’m hoping this signals a drastic improvement in the perks of being his wife.

The dress code

As I desperately filed through my school run-inspired wardrobe in search of an outfit that would stand up to the potential glare of international television cameras, I panicked.

I had nothing suitable to wear and no time or budget for an elaborate shopping spree.  Enter my fairy godmother in the form of Kate Battrick @TwistedSkirt – a personal stylist I stumbled across in the TK Maxx Lounge at Britmums Live who transformed me from frump to fabulous faster than you can say Game, Set and Match. Read more here.
Tip: Heels are a must for first impressions, but take a pair of sensible shoes for later as you’ll do a lot of walking.

The company

Hospitality marquees filled with executives (or scientists in the case of a life science company) can be daunting if your corporate speak is rusty.

As we walked in, a confident woman in a stripy suit held out her hand, announcing:  “Caroline, Rare Diseases.”

“Uh… Chené, Household Germs,” I felt tempted to reply. My husband shot me a sharp look, so I mumbled: “Home Executive” instead.

After knocking back a few glasses of Pimms, I was chatting to “Genetics” and “Immunology” like old friends. I didn’t understand anything, but nodded encouragingly and counted my blessings I wasn’t sitting next to “Sexually Transmitted Diseases.”
Tip: Ask fellow guests why they love their jobs, zone out and enjoy your Pimms.

The food

While Laura Robson warmed up for her match against Mariana Duque-Marino, we warmed up our palettes with a choice of Parma ham or salmon starters, followed by an impressive cold buffet and a selection of three desserts, washed down with a fruity Sauvignon Blanc. We stumbled across to Centre Court clutching huge plastic cups of champagne with straws to keep us fueled during the match – watching tennis is hard work.

wimbledon food

We returned to the marquee several times throughout the day for top-ups and by the time Murray took on Tommy Robredo, my husband had to restrain me from storming onto court and punching the line judge every time he called a fault in Robredo’s favour.
Tip: Don’t wear anything that is too tight around the waist and take a bottle of water along to pace your drinking.

And… the Tennis

Even if your tennis never got past the rusty racket stage, the thrill of being up close and personal to the world’s top players and the awesome power with which they hit the ball will keep you glued to the edge of your seat.

Your emotions fling wildly up and down with every nail-biting shot, leaving you exhilarated and exhausted.  You’re there with them – at some point I was grunting louder than Sharapova every time Robson served.
Feeling the audience’s rising excitement as Murray scores his way ever closer to victory until he finally smashes his opponent to roaring applause, makes you want to burst with pride.

chene and husband glamming it on Centre Court, Wimbledon

Chené and husband glamming it on Centre Court, Wimbledon

Our day out at Wimbledon was amazing and I’ve already started scheming how to get my hands on corporate tickets to the finals on Centre Court next year!  Any tips or sponsors– let me know.

Have you been to Wimbledon 2013? What were your first impressions?

 

What to wear to Wimbledon if you don’t look like Sharapova

Woman in dress for Wimbledon

Dressed to kill: Me in my Wimbledon outfit

Every now and then my husband does something that blows me away. It doesn’t happen often and it usually is a pure stroke of luck that required no planning or effort on his part, but I take what I can get.

He chose his moment carefully, waiting for me to be particularly annoyed with him for turning a blind eye to the overflowing rubbish bin spewing deadly fumes around the kitchen and feeding our children their own bodyweight in junk food.

Tickets to Wimbledon

“By the way, I’ve got tickets to Wimbledon.” Deadpan delivery. No emotion, no excitement – Germans don’t do excitement in my experience – as if this was as much part of our daily routine as the school run. (He won the tickets in a work lottery, but he only revealed this much later after I’d sufficiently swooned at his feet)

“Wimbledon! WOW!” I was beside myself. Jumping up and down and screaming  “Oh YEAH!” so loudly the grumpy old lady next door slammed her window shut.

And as it turns out, not only are we going to Wimbledon, we are going ‘corporate’ on Centre Court and we will be picked up by a chauffeur from home! This is seriously unlike us – we don’t do style. Our idea of style is shouting abuse at each other while repacking suitcases in full public view in airport halls because my curling tongs had caused the suitcase to tip the scales over the limit.

Panic attack

Once the excitement subsided, I had my first little panic attack – “OMG! What am I going to wear?”I knew straightaway that nothing in my wardrobe would live up to this occasion. What do you wear to Wimbledon if you don’t quite look like Maria Sharapova and your budget can just about stretch to the odd supermarket T-shirt sneaked in during the grocery shop?

I was actually getting myself into quite a state about this, when I happened to stumble across a free personal styling session by the lovely Kate Battrick @TwistedSkirt, a personal stylist employed by TK MAXX for the day at a conference I went to.On the impulse I thought I’d mention to her that I’m going to Wimbledon and had no idea what to wear.

Kate‘s face lit up as if she’d been waiting for exactly this challenge all day: How to turn a mousy, frumpy mum-of-three into a Centre Court sensation. She took one look at me and dismissed my toga-like top, especially chosen by me to hide the after-effects of two large glasses of Chardonnay every night.

Hourglass figure 

“This is exactly the wrong outfit for your ‘hourglass’ figure,” she said.

I almost kissed her.  No one had ever mentioned the word hourglass in relation to my figure and I was expecting the more familiar – heavy bottomed pear shape – so, I was willing to hear her out.

“You need to accentuate your waist,” she said, pointing to a rather garish, tight floral dress with an open back – the kind much more suited to the Sharapovas of this world.

I was beginning to worry about the lighting in the room, because if she thought I had a waist, never mind one that had to be accentuated, her eyesight must be worse than mine and I’d had a retinal detachment in one eye.

Dressing on a budget

Two women talking

Personal stylist Kate Battrick in action

To cut a long story short, she made me try on the dress – it was a size 10 (US-sizes) of course – I’ve been nowhere near a size ten since having my first child.

But believe it or not, the dress fit me and looked amazing (everything is relative of course, as my husband would say). It created a waist and the floral print made me look fashionable and dare I say- younger than my tender 43 years.

I knew I had to have the dress. My mind was working overtime trying to figure out how I would be able to afford the dress and whether I could wear it with flip-flops as I certainly had no matching footwear and would not be able to fork out on a pair of shoes too.

That was when she announced the price:  £20!

My jaw dropped to the floor. Not only would I never have tried this dress had it not been for the stylist, but I would not have dreamed that I could actually afford it without cancelling our summer holiday. Next, Kate advised me to buy a pair of almond court shoes for £49 from M&S and combine the dress with a white linen jacket, which luckily, I already owned.

My husband usually doesn’t get involved in what I wear, apart from telling me I didn’t need it – So, I was chuffed when he LOVED the dress – and that was BEFORE I told him the price.

So, I’m off to Wimbledon with my head held high. My shoes might just cut off all circulation to my little toes by the end of the day, but my flip-flops are in the bag, just in case.  No idea who I’m going to be watching, but if you’re watching telly – I’ll be the woman in the bright floral dress waving madly every time the camera points in my direction. I might even stand up and do a little twirl to show off the back of the dress.

Father’s Day treats for immature dads

George Clooney?

George Clooney?

The simplest shopping trip or family day out needs to be carefully planned down to the last pit stop, treat and distraction to avoid armageddon-style meltdown – from my husband. I can put up with low-key wingeing from the kids, but it’s my husband’s spectacular temper tantrums – the kind that would put any respectable two-year-old to shame – that I try to avoid at all cost.

Surprise! Women mature long before men

So, of course it comes as no news to me – or any other mum around the world – that men only grow up around the age of 43 – a full 11 years after women mature, according to a study by Nickelodeon which was pinged around the web this week.

Finding their own farts and burps hilarious, driving too fast, not talking about themselves or staying silent during arguments and trying to beat children at games and sports are some of the examples of ‘immaturity’ listed in the study that I can relate to.

Cringe-worthy memory

I still cringe when I recall the ‘fun’ table tennis tournament for families we were invited to at a friend’s house, when my husband insisted on wiping every child off the table with a huge grin on his face – and the day ended with many of the children in tears.

I’ve given up on asking him about his day or anything else for that matter – because the response would usually amount to: “Nothing happened.” or perhaps a few grunts that’s meant to pass for conversation.

George Clooney look-alike…

Every time he sets off to the hairdressers with a picture of George Clooney in his pocket – convinced that the unfortunate stylist will be able to transform the fast disappearing hairline and rather prominent German features into Hollywood material, I try my best not to snigger.

A friend’s husband recently boasted at a dinner party how he let all the air out of a stranger’s bicycle after the fellow commuter – quite possibly a little old lady on her way to visit a relative in hospital – accidentally chained their bicycles together outside the station.

Another respectable dad-of-three and stalwart of the community almost came to fisticuffs with a local policeman after he lost his train ticket and once surprised unsuspecting dinner party guests – most of them close friends and family in his defence – by prancing around in a bright yellow mankini he happened to stumble across in the guest loo – as you do.

So, what’s my point?

Men are immature – and in true male fashion, they wear their immaturity like a badge – for the world to see. If us women do something a bit foolish in a weak moment, we agonise over it for months, questioning our parenting skills and our whole beings to the point of self-destruction.

My husband has been 43 for almost a year now, and although I’ve seen the odd hint of maturity, I wouldn’t exactly call him grown up.

5 Father’s Day treats for immature dads 

But in the interest of Fathers Day, I thought I’d cut him some slack – and indulge his childishness for a day:

So, here are my five Father’s Day treats for immature dads: 

  • Let them lie-in and fart the room blue, while you prepare a scrumptious English breakfast
  • Get the kids in on the act, challenge him to a few games and let him win every time
  • Buy him the Sunday paper and don’t attempt to make meaningful conversation with him at any point during the day.
  • Tell him he looks just like George Clooney
  • Strategically place a bright mankini in the bathroom

How are you indulging your immature man? Care to share some of your coping techniques?