I hope you’ve had a good week, it’s going to be a post of two parts today. First of all a style fix for those who prefer this part of my blog and then we’ll move on to the next instalment of the work life balance discussion that we’ve been having over the last few months.
At last I’m starting to get my head around Autumn 2015 style for women over 40. There’s no doubt that skinny jeans and tailored crops are still going to be mainstays this season. Although the fashion aristocracy has declared them to be dead, the high street stores are still full of them so, for us lesser mortals, I think it’s safe to stay in your comfort zone. However, if you’re feeling like a move on, two newer shapes are the wide cropped trouser and the high waisted flare.
If you’re planning to give them a go, it’s all about proportion. A wide crop needs a more fitted top for balance. Flares can be worn with loose tops if you’re into the boho look but the old style adage that if you remember something the last time round you’re at high risk of looking like mutton always niggles at the back of my mind. So, an easier route is to go for a boxy top that skims the waist. A good way to edge into a new look is by nonchalantly opting for a neutral colour palette but using an accent colour with one or two statement accessories. Here’s an example of the way that both wide crops and flares can work with interchangeable accessories and I’m purposefully repeating some of last week’s items because we’re working on a core wardrobe here.
Boden jumper / Zara top / Wool blend coat /Clarks Burgundy Bag / Zara wide cropped trousers / Whistles smart jeans / Jigsaw scarf / Hobbs necklace / Leather ankle boots / Pointed ankle boots / Scallop pointed flats / Fedora hat
I’ve also been very impressed by what I’ve seen from Marks and Spencer so far this season, here’s another outfit idea that extends the core pieces above.
Hopefully that’s set you thinking, there are pieces that will probably sell out fast – the knee high boots, the burgundy shopper (so many of you wanted to buy it last year but it sold out in about 3 weeks), the snow leopard shoes and the fedora because they are such a great price for the quality.
The work life balance saga
So, as regular readers will know, last year saw the launch of Midlifechic and the beginning of my journey to get my groove back. By December I had been working hard at the gym and eating healthily so I was feeling in good shape, I had spent a predetermined sum of money on building a new core wardrobe and I was continuing to balance working in the creative agency that I ran with Mr MC with looking after the boys and enjoying the rest of my life. Then a sequence of events began that turned things upside down.
Firstly, just before Christmas, I was driving on a roundabout when I was hit by another car. At first I felt fine but a few days later I started to feel increasing pain in my right shoulder. By mid-January it was so bad that I found myself in tears walking through the village because any movement at all felt like my right side was being consumed by flames. I never cry so Mr MC and the boys took it very seriously and forced me to the doctor. I won’t bore you with ongoing story of diagnosis, recovery and relapse. What is relevant here is the following:
- it taught me a little about what it must be like to have a disability
- it forced me to stop doing everything and rest for 2 weeks
- it has meant that I can no longer do the Kettlebells classes that I loved and which kept me in shape
- I have ended up living with a varying level of ongoing pain
- I have learned to appreciate my general good health and also accept that I am not indestructible
The next life event came along at the same time. In January I was offered a role as Head of Marketing & Creative at a company which is based an hour’s drive away from my home. It was an irresistible challenge. I had been working flexibly for 14 years and the lure of the career path seemed very bright. My youngest son had settled at secondary school, the eldest was in his last year before uni and the middle one was spending most of his time buried in the tunnel of teenagehood. Mr MC was perfectly capable of keeping our business ticking over without me so I was feeling less needed and I was dazzled by the challenge. I have now been doing the job for 6 months and I have learned a lot including:
- how good it feels to go back and use the full range of my skills
- how much I enjoy contributing to the household income independently
- how much teenagers still need their mums despite appearances to the contrary
- how hard it is to sacrifice your time – I have dropped my time at the gym, my time with friends and time writing my blog – all things that are essential to my well being.
- what a terrible waste of time commuting is, even if it is through some of the UK’s most spectacular scenery
- how much I admire every woman who balances work and a family
Two weeks after starting my new job, a very close friend died suddenly. I am still in shock, probably because I have spent a lot of time heavily involved in the aftermath with his family and giving what practical support I can. I still can’t believe it and I haven’t completely digested my learnings but I know:
- life can be gone in a flash
- friendships are so very important and should be held close
- ‘stuff’ and the accumulation of it really is pointless
- stories and love are the only things that survive you – if you don’t spend time creating memories with people who matter, you will simply evaporate – from this world at least
The importance of friendship seems to have been a theme that life has continued to throw at me this year. Coincidentally I have had a number of reunions – school, my old Selfridges crowd, my group of close friends from my 20s. It has been fascinating to see how the lives of people that I knew really well during my younger years have turned out. They are people that I have been close to, but I have often held different values to them. It has made me think a lot about:
- the importance (or not) of money
- the value (or not) of a career path
- the results of choosing to have children (or not)
- the impact that parents have on the lives of their children (good and bad)
- the results of the choices that people make
- the difference between outside appearances and internal realities and the lengths that people often go to to hide what is really going on in their lives
- the imagined outcomes of paths not taken
During the weeks that followed my friend’s funeral, I struggled to keep on top of everything – the sorrow of losing my friend, the pain of my shoulder, the exhaustion of a new job and a long commute on top of caring for my family. Then came another curveball. I was approached with another head of marketing job opportunity, this time for a legal and financial firm. I would be earning much more money than I was for working 4 days with a shorter commute and all they wanted from me was 2 days a week during term time. Everyone I spoke to felt it was a no brainer but the problem was that although it would have suited my family much better, I really didn’t want to do the job. After weeks of agonising I stuck to my guns but I was now feeling utterly unsettled in every arena. On top of all this I was working crazy hours in my new job putting the finishing touches to new ranges. You will remember that I was writing cryptic posts about work life balance – now you know what was going on behind the scenes. I was discovering that:
- Time not money is my currency but…
- …I need to spend my time doing something I enjoy
- If you do too much at once you burn out!
- Sometimes you have to go with your own gut feeing, no matter your brain and other people may tell you
Finally, we got away for our holiday in Turkey. I was so exhausted that I fell over in the car park at the airport, putting my right arm out to stop the impact. This, of course, jolted my shoulder badly and so at the beginning I was feeling shattered both physically and emotionally but I was also suffering a lot of pain again. However surrounded by mountains and trees and bathed in sunshine I was able to rest and as I did, I felt myself starting to regenerate. I reconnected with my boys and we spent a lot of time talking. This is what they told me:
The eldest – “I feel really sorry for the younger two because they aren’t going to have a childhood as good as mine. You’ve always been there for me and I’ve really missed talking to you after school. When you get home you look so tired that I don’t want to hassle you but it means that the next day I haven’t resolved what was bothering me and it feels twice as big.”
The middle one – “I don’t see much of you – now that you’re working I never get you to myself and when you’re at home you’re always talking about candles and smells.”
The youngest – “I hate it when you’re working, I like to know that you’ll be there when I come home and I don’t like the holidays now – it’s just not the same any more.”
Mr MC – “in the end I just want you to be happy and I know that this is something that you need to get out of your system. You were a career girl when I met you and I know that you’ve missed it. But I miss you and hope you’ll come back to work with me as soon as you’re ready. Until you’re ready, we’ll manage”
I must admit that before digesting all of this, I enjoyed a moment of pride (and amazement) in having such articulate males in my life. This led me to think that I have undervalued the role that I have played with them at home. They’re turning out to be rather lovely men.
So (and at this point I have to hope that some of you are still reading) this is what I did. I came back and handed my notice in. I felt really sad, as though I was saying a last goodbye to a big career; leaving a lot of exciting and good work half finished and abandoning the team of brilliant youngsters that I had handpicked. But I knew in my heart that it was the right choice for my family and they must come first.
The twist in the tale
This is what happened. My boss listened to my reasons and asked me to go home and think if there was any way that I thought I could find any kind of balance. I went home. My family sighed but over the weekend we discussed various options which I then thought through and at various times we regrouped.
On the Monday I went in to work to propose that I reduce my days to 3 along with time off in September to prepare the eldest (and me) for university, time off in October for half term, time off for the school Christmas holidays. I then asked that we meet again in December to review how things were going and discuss 2016. Without any argument it was agreed and I am very grateful for the open flexibility that they have shown. Mr MC is a bit disappointed but he and the boys understand my need to complete the major projects that I’m halfway through and, on paper, it seems to be a good compromise for everyone. I’ll have less money but more time for the people who matter and for myself – and that’s what counts. And the last bit of good news is that I’ll also have more time to spend with you all on Midlifechic which has become my personal passion and pleasure.
Now I’m off to enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend which I have balanced carefully so that I spend some time with everyone. Today I’ve been to my parents’ grave as it’s 9 years since I lost my lovely dad. I’ve had coffee with my sister, been shopping and had lunch with the boys and talked to all of you in this post. Tomorrow I’m having a date night with Mr MC, on Sunday we’re seeing friends and on Monday we’re going for a long family walk followed by a big lunch.
Happy days with some of the people that matter most. After all, if I’ve learned one thing this year it’s that these days are the only things that matter. I hope this all makes sense and that maybe it helps you because I know from my other posts that many of us are in the same rocking boat. May you all spend time with your loved ones this weekend and make some great memories. I’m going to leave you with this. It’s an advert but I haven’t been paid for placing it, I just think it sums up some of what I’ve been trying to say. Keep in touch.