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Friday, 25 March 2011

Life Before P&G : 1930's Housewife Challenge

It's 80 years since Procter & Gamble arrived in the UK - originally set up in Cincinatti, USA in 1837 by an English Candlemaker and Irish Soapmaker who brought floating soaps to market moving on to laundry detergents and washing up liquid ; a saviour to housewives everywhere!

We see their products everywhere : Pampers, Tampax, Duracell, Gillette, Fairy er Pringles...   some of which I use and some one which I choose alternatives for - sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the massive machine of brands and starting to choose very carefully... thinking of a positive impact on the planet. In either case, P&G have given us this choice to begin with, and 80 years on has challenged us to see if we could have coped before these products!

The challenge involved experiencing a day in the life of a typical 1930s mum - no washing machine, no batteries, no phone, laptop and undertaking domestic chores pre-convenience products. We were sent a pack and given 6 tasks including preparing our Beauty Regime, Washing the dishes with grated carbolic soap and scrubbing laundry by hand on a washerboard all in the realities of modern life where I fell I'm constantly running about! It wasn't as glamorous as it could have been - I envisioned a day of delightful properness and domestic bliss.  Find out how it went:

So - I think it went rather well - it brought me more into touch with my domestic side and I enjoy spending more and more time with physical things and spaces rather than on the computer! Though it may be about changing how you interact with objects- you'd definitely need to be more organised to fit all the tasks into your day. But it was a pleasure. I admire the 1930s woman and perhaps understand that they weren't as manic as us lot because they took the time to do everything and cherished the act of preparing the home life, serving her husband and bringing up the family... instead of finding a million and one other things to get stuck into... But modern ladies have far too many other things to think about ;)

The beauty regime was pretty much the same as I do now so no much change there but I missed my eyeliner and deoderant... I also cheated and didn't try washing my hair with soap -too scary, but they probably only washed it a couple of times a week ;) The cooking from scratch was OK as we pretty much do that anyway - but we just had a normal dinner that we realised came from all over the world... not very 1930s?
More home-made dinners, More washing up
It was just the washing up that would have been long a I'd be gutted without decent bubbly washing up liquid. But with a scourer and some elbow grease it's no task at all and can be energetic and fun! Same for cleaning, it's a way of moving round the house and ensures that everything is tip top. I appreciated the fewer chemicals too and the vinegar cleaned the mirrors really well! The laundry challenge was tough scrubbing away to wash six items, but luckily I had done 2 loads the day before in my washing machine with my usual Fairy liquitabs ;) Leon was content following me around and playing with his things while I was getting on with a task, rather than climbing up my legs when I'm on the laptop.

And I spent more time actually playing with Leon and introducing him to new games rather than flashing noisy toys.
Tea parties were all the rage in the 1930s

And what does a 1930s man do at the end of the day? Sits down to read the paper of course.
Your slippers are under the armchair dear

What will happen in the next 80 years I wonder...
Learn how to live with fewer things and less mess? 
I'm anxious about the large quantity of chemicals and packaging that these wonderful products are bringing to the earth and wonder if we can create uniform and reusable packaging that can be used for various brands - ie. take the Fairy Liquitabs box bag to the supermarket/for a refill - similar to the Ecover concept of washing up liquid, or the German beer bottle or milkan idea.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Review of For Sanity's Sake Networking evening, Twickenham

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a 'working mums' event organised by the lovely ladies at For Sanity's Sake, an incredibly useful website for parents looking to get out of the house with their kids, and Mumpreneurs a networking club for busy business mums holding frequent meetings around UK.

As a freelancer, I love opportunities to network and chat to other people -but the reality is, since having a baby I've hardly had the 'opportunity'. Yes, of course like any other mother we do so constantly chat at baby weigh-ins, or whenever we meet for coffee - but often it's with baby-in tow and sometimes it's hard to get into a proper conversation about ideas, experience and general business chit-chat. Evening events are a whole different matter. You feel a bit like yourself and are more 'woman' than 'mother'.

Naturally, it was lovely to see fellow local ladies that I knew already from different occasions and converse over large glasses of wine, and meet new people sharing their experiences with me about work, childcare, life, babies, fashion, home, de-cluttering, society and plenty of ideas...

However I also enjoyed flitting through the stalls to find out anything useful. I questioned Kinesis Studios about what happens to your back after having babies and carrying them for so long - and about being Tall! They were very helpful explaining that instead of bending over all the time, to use my legs and knees more and as I understood, to move around like a dance! They suggested a consultation to check my back and they do massage and pilates classes and body conditioning... sounds like what I need! A few other useful stalls re childcare, but the best was speaking to the people and the three talks.

Mumpreneurs and networking
Sara Guiel, co-founder of Mumpreneurs and a fabulous speaker, explained her motivating story of how she created her business after a hiccup with a franchise - totally turned the situation around and does it all with 3 kids in tow. Seems like a big support to other mums looking to start or grow business. She did mention the reality of working evenings on the computer, which is what I dislike and it's so easy to be glued to laptop researching little things here and there and having 50 tabs open in one session!

With regards to a networking club - I like the idea, though our nearest one is Teddington and I haven't yet been - unsure about paying £15 a session/£110 for the year and if it'd be worth it. I think I'd prefer to just chat informally at other opportunities rather feel that I need to get my money's worth! However I should go along to try it out before making my mind up and the first session is free.

Returning to work tips
Gained some useful insight from 2 working mums (3days a week) with 20mth old toddlers in nursery since 8 months old and they're so happy to be there, very social and there's hardly anything to prepare- just dress them and go! Different to my ad-hoc arrangement but good to hear the differences ;)

Main tips I got from throughout the evening from attendees who've gone back to work or from Joy Dykers (Criminal Barrister supermum to one 20month old): Start early, be choosy with childcare, be organised, share responsibilities with partner and don't worry - little one will be having fun and doesn't miss you ;)

Supported by Richmond

The highlight of my evening was perhaps hearing from Pamela Fleming, Councillor for South Richmond (Conservative Strategic Cabinet Member for Community Development if you will) outlining why Richmond needs innovating individuals and how they are supporting local businesses and start-ups. They're keen to transform the town and work on the 'villages' identities' to help businesses looking to set-up shop, and improving tourism specifically in time for the 2012 Olympics and 2015 Rugby World Cup... I'd love to get involved further in contributing to the improvement of our high-streets and general community as feel there's so much potential! Pamela made it clear that so much is possible and advised on some projects that I hope will fructify if I get into gear. Thanks to FSS for helping bring people together! (Though unfortunately Zach Goldsmith couldn't make it at the last minute!)

Conclusion of this wonderful soirée

So, all in all, a wonderful chance to chat to mothers you know locally but about other more important things, and to meet other new people, hear stories, gain confidence about doing bold things and reassurance that babies/toddlers are happy even without you...
Surrounded by rather successful, ambitious women definitely gave me food for thought and inspired me to get mucho things done in perhaps the last 6 months I may have in Twickers for a while :( I need to channel my energy and effort and actually make things happen!

As I was heading out the door I had a quick chat with two lovely ladies from The Little Gym
a brilliant place for children to discover movement, space and - well it's a gym for kids! FSS held their Christmas party there so Leon had already tried it out and even though was very sleepy, the encouraging instructors helped him tumble, 'surf' over bug cylinders, fly over my head, swing around and generally introduce things from beyond his comfort zone. Although I don't see myself as a pushy mother, I think he could really benefit from sessions there!