Social Commentary

Quote of the Day: ‘But mummy, only daddies work!’

…M’s response to my telling her that I am going back to work.

The Challenges of the Career Supermom, the Part-time Mumpreneur and the SAHM (Stay-at-Home-Mum)

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I once had the potential to be what most people would call a ‘high flyer.’ I entered one of the finest graduate programmes in the country, acquired multiple letters past by name, got a number of degrees under my belt, wrote articles as an ‘expert’, until, that is, I had children. Then my perception of what was important and where I was going in my career was overtaken by how much my baby had slept/drank/cried/pooped/peed, and I forgot how to spell my own name. I went back to work after a year but was torn between the guilt when I was working, and being brain-dead when I was singing ‘Gymbo the clown goes up and down’ for the 100th time.

Eventually, the guilt, stress and pure exhaustion won out and I stopped working completely to see where things would take me, despite my husband’s fear that this meant a withering bank account (which by the way he now agrees was completely unfounded). The Sunday Times Style Magazine last week quoted that Generation X are ‘those aged 30-49, who are likely to be in the thick of child-rearing or taking care of elderly relative, are the most likely (48%) to say that work eats into family time. This is the most time-squeezed, stressed group of all, and huge numbers of that generation’s high flyers dropped out to raise their children.’ A few years on, I am still trying to figure out the right balance, between my children’s needs (being with them 100% and becoming a neurotic helicopter parent), and my needs (needing actual adult conversation, whose main subject of conversation doesn’t revolve around sleep training or school admissions).

For X number of years, parenthood takes over and no matter how hard you may fight it, this time inevitably has to be dedicated to your children and their needs, until they go away, some earlier than others to boarding school, and then to University. But then, those parents who spent all their time helicoptering are left all alone wondering where did all this time go and feeling the empty nest syndrome. The others, after being overwhelmed, stressed and exhausted trying to manage a full time career and full time parenthood, may end up feeling regret at 60 for not spending enough time with their children when they were young. Currently, all the mothers I know are trying to balance, juggle, and manage being a mother while continuing to develop their own ‘self.’

 What Kind of Mother Are You?! The Career Supermom, the Part-time Mumpreneur, or the SAHM (Stay-At-Home-Mum)

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The Career Supermom: 

As it turns out, all the research shows that the career supermom is happier than the full time Stay-At-Home-Mom (of course, this research doesn’t consider the Notting Hill SAHM who have full time nannies). (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/15/study-working-moms-are-ha_n_1152202.html) Career supermoms are valued in society, which values women like Nathalie Massanet, Sheryl Sandberg and Hillary Clinton who managed to be working mothers who have excelled in their industry. Full time working mums say they enjoy work because they are intellectually satisfied, earn great money and enjoy the social aspect of work. Of course, the career supermom will always have the risk that their children call the nanny ‘mummy’ (which has happened more times than I wish to explain), and they will have to manage their guilt when they miss their child’s first steps and have to explain to their child why they were the only parent who wasn’t at the school christmas play.

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But apparently, for the working supermoms, the guilt is not strong enough for them not to work, as it was found that the majority of women do not feel guilty about being at work instead of at home. Many super-high-fliers I know, are much happier being at work than at home, but they are also happy to sacrifice the time with their children, knowing that their children are safe and happy with their nannies/daycare. Sheryl Sandberg discusses her rise to power managing motherhood and career by ‘moulding’ her hours to fit these two roles but she emphasises that she had to make a lot of sacrifices. She admits to not having it all, and to feeling like a lousy mother a lot of the time (http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/organization/facebooks_sheryl_sandberg_no_one_can_have_it_all). Sue Palmer, an advocate on literacy, says that these educated, career women find it easier to control their work than their kids, therefore feel happier at work than at home, although biologically, women were meant to bear and raise children. (http://www.mothersathomematter.co.uk/mahm-blog/447-what-makes-a-happy-mum)

From a child development point of view, she describes children’s needs:

*In the first couple of years babies and toddlers need ‘constant, consistent, one-on-one, loving care’ from a primary attachment figure. Doesn’t have to be mum. As time goes on, the care can be shared with other loving attachment figures, e.g. dad.
*Between ages two and three is a grey area – it probably depends on the individual child.
*From around three, children benefit from being with other children for a few hours a day, so a half-day at nursery is probably a good thing.
*The older children get, the more they need to move beyond the family so they’re probably ready for a full school day from around 6/7.
*BUT throughout childhood, they still need loving care around the edges of the school day – time with their family, as well as time with a trusted adult ready to hand while they play.

The one thing I can’t get my head around is that not only do these supercareer moms work 70+ hour weeks, but when they come home, they often are still in charge of the household/cooking/childcare etc… even having equal or greater pay than their husbands. This is where women have failed in their fight for women’s lib. These women end up with the work, the house and the children to look after. Most men have not taken their half of the house-work equal to how much women now work. Of course, to the few women who have these perfect husbands who work and take care of the house, consider yourselves very lucky.

The Part-Time ‘Mumpreneur’

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Part-time working mums are meant to be the happiest since they manage to spend time with their children, as well as stay in the working community. But unfortunately, this doesn’t always work out, as eventually those mums feel torn in both directions; when at work they think about home, and when at home think about work. Working part-time mums, consider themselves ‘involved moms and talented employees.’ They enjoy the social aspects of work, being challenged and fulfilled on the job, and the increased financial stability (which translates into balancing the power in the relationship between husband and wife). They are although, probably the most stressed out of the three groups because they have the whole domestic responsibility as well as the job responsibility, therefore pressure coming from all angles. The career woman can leave the majority of child-rearing to the nanny, and the SAHM can leave the money-making to their husbands.

As mentioned in my last post, mumpreneurs are the new, hot, trend among NHYMs. I was having a conversation with an above career supermom; fund manager, part-time internationally renowned artist, mother of two, LSE graduate, loving wife, about mumpreneurs, when she condescendingly snubbed the term ‘mumpreneur’ telling me it was really just a hobby for these women. But when I asked her when did a hobby becomes a business, she replied that ‘Anything that makes money is a business,’ so all of the mumpreneurs I know, genuinely do make money, therefore are businesses (even if they are in a privileged position of not having to contribute to the mortgage payments, but we are in Notting Hill after all).

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Mumpreneurs set out to make money, whether in designing clothes or jewellery, creating a food business, or becoming yoga gurus. It takes guts to set out any company on your own, with the looming reality that you may fail and that everyone you know will be talking about it. You invest your money, you create a website, you hire a tax account or do your own taxes, you learn to understand marketing and advertising, you manage your inflow and outflow of costs and revenue, and all these things that some of these women may never have done before. They become marketers, advertisers, accountants, graphic designers, web designers, business managers and the cleaner, all rolled into one. If anything, it will give them knowledge for the next business they try to set up. I admire these women for doing it, and yes, most of them will fail. Actually, 82% will fail, since only 18% of any entrepreneur will succeed, in any business.

Many of these women will have worked in a corporate environment before deciding to go at it on their own, and will use their past skills to start their own company. As a strong supporter of small businesses, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit, I admire and salute all these women, trying to juggle being there for their children, while creating a business or company. Annabel Karmel started like this, Ella’s Kitchen as well. They inject money into the economy, they are useful to society, they learn or hone new skills for the future, they stay interested and current in their industry, and they strive to be a part of working society.

Notting Hill Mumpreneurs

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A number of superwomen, beautiful, creative mumpreneurs have approached me since the beginning of the blog, promoting their passion to me, and as a woman/mother/entrepreneur supporter, I wanted to share some ‘mumpreneurs,’ (some who have approached me, some I have heard through the NH grapevine) who have taken the courageous plunge into entrepreneurship doing what they are passionate about, often from a completely different career background.

Food and Beverage: Ex-model and LSE grad, Bodil Blaine is starting a war with Nespresso, making ethical coffee at CRU Kafe teaming up with an established Canadian Entrepreneur (http://crukafe.co.uk). Chika Russell is importing West African treats the UK, which have already been picked up by 5* hotels, and will soon be found in a number of high end department stores. (http://www.chikas.co.uk), Kara Rosen Diamond uses her marketing expertise by bringing cold pressed, organic juices from the US to the UK with Plenish Cleanse, which has already been featured in many magazines, including the Sunday Times Style Magazine (http://www.plenishcleanse.com/shop/).

Health and Fitness: Ex-Banker turned pilates and facial fitness guru, Carme Farre, gives you a six pack, a Kim Kardashian bum, and a wrinkle free face without any surgery (http://studiocarme.co.uk). Leslie Saglio, an ex-real estate expert brings Serene Social to the UK, ‘an international wellness, philanthropy and conscious networking community for women,’ organising rooftop yoga (http://serenesocial.com/events/serene-london-rise-up-weekly-rooftop-yoga-series), and on top of that she teaches kids and yin yoga in West London (http://www.lesliesaglio.com).

Design and Style: Ex-De Beers/Cartier artistic director, Raphaele Canot brings her creative expertise to her ‘timeless and beautiful’ art deco jewellery line (http://raphaelecanot.com). Alex Al Badar, an ex-model, has turned herself into fashion designer and collaborates with her sister who hand paints individual breezy and bright designs at Soler (http://www.soler.co.uk). Rachel Verghis has started a company called gooeyskins, http://www.gooeyskinshq.com, which designs cool and iconic cases for iPads, iPhones, and other gadgets.

Children: Two ex-lawyer mums, Caroline and Pinja have brought Scandinavian and Dutch children’s clothes, furniture and toys to the UK with their website http://www.fourfairiesandaprince.com. Marina Fogle and Dr. Chiara Hunt, Kate Middleton friends and entrepreneurial ex-party planners, recently started an NCT competitor class called the Bump, which doesn’t force breastfeeding for four years or advocate births without intervention, even when necessary (http://www.thebumpclass.com). And finally, watch out for Gudrun Wurm’ s organic baby body products this August at http://www.littlebutterflyorganic.com

The SAHM: Stay-At-Home-Mum

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The Stay-At-Home-Mum is considered be the unhappiest of the lot, with the most depressive illness and mental health issues as seen in the study mentioned before because of loneliness and feeling that society doesn’t value them as much as a working mother. Of course, this doesn’t apply to most Notting Hill SAHM, as they have the luxury to hire nannies and focus on their needs any time they want (There should be a study on SAHM with help and their life satisfaction).

Being a SAHM makes you financial dependent on your husband (usually, unless you have your own trust fund to rely on), and unfortunately gives him power in the relationship. He works hard, therefore you are responsible for everything else outside the scope of work; keeping the house immaculate and clean, raising the children, having – the right- food prepared on the table at night, arranging school and playdates, grocery shopping, present buying, looking good for his work events and the list goes on. Some women feel guilty about their husbands working hard all week and feel indebted to them, while husbands resent their wives for having a ‘lady of leisure’ lifestyle. My mother was a typical SAHM who told me from a very young and tender age to go out there and have a career, have a job and be financially independent. This was the generation who pushed women’s lib and forced society to accept women as equal workers to men. Unfortunately, this has also brought on increased divorce rates through women’s independence, women marrying later and having more miscarriages and ivf babies than ever before.

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Spending all day long with your children, and even meeting other similar like minded women can be fun and somewhat appealing for a certain amount of time, but two problems arise, one is helicopter parenting since these women’s sole focus of their attention are their children, which creates a needy, anxious and dependent child with poor coping skills (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/nation-wimps/201401/helicopter-parenting-its-worse-you-think), and secondly, what about the longer term. In only a few years, their children will leave their home to go to school full time and then off they go to university and the empty nest syndrome will hit. What will they do then? It will be much harder to get back into the working world if they stopped working early on, and when their children are at university, what will they do to to keep their minds sharp and focussed? Having a ‘hobby’ or business will do that, whether or not actual money is actually exchanged or produced.

The Bottom Line:

In the end, no one has the perfect formula to being a happy mother, woman and worker. These are just a few questions to ask yourselves to determine what will make you the happiest and most satisfied in the long run. There are no right answers, unless you, your husband or your children are not happy. The bottom line for your children though is quite simple, says Sue Palmer. They need five things to have a healthy development:

1. Love

2. Discipline

3. Play

4. Language

5. Education

Let me know your thought on women, working mums, non-working mums, stay at home mums in the comments below! For the NH mumpreneurs out there, feel free to leave your comments about being a mumpreneur, or let us know what great business you have started!

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

twitter: @NHyummymummy

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Quote of the day, Social Commentary

‘A Day In the Life of A Notting Hill Yummy Mummy’

Quote of the Day: ‘I’m panting like a bulldog during a heatwave and sweating like a 60 year old man trying to have an orgasm on Viagra.’

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(All photos courtesy of the internet)

5:30am. ‘Waahhh!’ I hear screaming somewhere in the background through the BT monitor trying to wake me from my happy-beach-dream slumber. Please Stop. I ignore it. I am sure the noise will die down if I just pretend I don’t hear it. 10 minutes later, I am back to my beach-dream. I am exhausted from being up 4 times last night. 2x with the teething Baby A, and 2x with M, once because she had a bad dream, and the other to tell me she wants pasta for lunch.

6pm: ‘Mummmmmyyyy!!! Peeeeppeeee!’ Really? Hasn’t she been potty trained for years? I try to remember. But the potential thought that I may have to clean up her wet carpet mess if I don’t go, makes me get up to take her to the bathroom.

6:15am: More noise. This time louder. ”Wwwaaaah’ in one monitor. ‘Mummy!’ in the other. Both kids are up and screaming for attention. I guess I sympathise, since it’s been a whole 12 hours since they saw anyone but a teddy bear.

6:15am-7:30am: I’ve used all my tricks to entertain and convince them it’s still night-time and M replies ‘It’s light out, it’s not sleep time, it’s play time!’ How is it possible to be this exhausted by these two little angels (monsters)? I look at my watch every  minute. 30 more minutes until New Nanny shows up. 29 more minutes. 28 more minutes….

7:30am: Hurrah! New nanny is on time. I hand off my oompah loompah midgets and go back to my Haastens bed and Egyptian cotton thread. Ah. This is more like it. Until I realise that I promised myself to try that Zumba class, since I am surrounded by Claudia Schiffer and Elle McPherson types and I still look like K-Middy’s post-baby-St.Mary’s-Lindo-Wing-Photo.

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8am: Breakfast with the girls. I’ve had 30 minutes to turn myself into someone slightly suitable for drop offs and pick ups, so I won’t be mistaken for the nanny again.

8:30am: New Nanny is in charge of Drop Offs and Baby Naps today, so I have a Full NHYM day ahead.

8:45am Off to Zumba! I am trying to get rid of the 5kg tire that has been stuck like super glue to my pre-baby-size-8-body since the birth of Baby A. It has been impossible to get rid of it: Dukan diet, 5:2 diet, only-eating-apples/pineapples/kale/pomegrenade diet, Bootcamp Pilates or Yoga. ‘This isn’t me, I’m a skinny girl stuck in a fat-girl’s body!’ I want to tell the mums I meet when they ‘up-and-down’ me. What’s worst, is that I have a full wardrobe of beautiful, gorgeous clothes that I may never wear again. I am stuck wearing elasticated waists for the rest of my life like an 80 year old, I think to myself.

8:50am On my way there, I pass by the twiglet-blonde-ex-magazine-editor-who-never-smiles NHN (Notting-Hill-Neighbour). I guess I wouldn’t smile either if my ex husband was a philandering pig. But still, I see her almost every day and she barely acknowledges my existence. Must be something with fashionistas. They must be either hungry (which makes them grumpy), or angry that their husbands are cheating.

9am: Zumba! I don’t know anyone here and I feel quite intimidated. There are about 35 women, size 8 and under, chatting to each other, and I am quite literally the elephant in the room.

9:05am: Oh, there’s someone I recognise, one-hit-wonder Trinny in the front row (I hear she had a successful fashion show on TV a lifetime ago, which was replaced by her fat-turned-skinny-gay-friend Gwok Kwan, and whose career is now non-existent. The difficulties of fame). More importantly, can someone tell me what she is doing with Charles Saatchi?! She is certainly not with him for his dashing good looks or charming, endearing character. Was she hibernating in Antartica when he throttled Nigella, divorced 3 times, and confessed to being a narcissistic, reclusive, egotist?? I want to go up to her and hug her and tell her she’s better than this.

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9:05am: There’s Pamela Anderson! Oh wait, that’s a skinnier, younger, and prettier version of her without the inflated boobs or lips.

9:15am: These women clearly come every day. They all have the ‘special Zumba shoes’ and all seem to know the moves even before Doni, the Zumba teacher, shows us. This Zumba class is like a game of Twister and I am definitely losing.

9:30am: I’m panting like a bulldog during a heatwave and sweating like a 60 year old man trying to have an orgasm on Viagra. Not a pretty sight.

10:00am: How much longer is this class?! I wonder if I can sneak out without anyone noticing, but I think about my tire, and I can’t go anywhere, I’m too tired and it’s too heavy for me to move. Again, I look at the clock to see when this torture will end.

10:15am: It’s wind down time. Finally. This class really isn’t for me.

10:30am: As I am leaving the Zumba class, looking my best, I see David Beckham leaving Bonpoint, arms full of Bonpoint, Caramel and Marie-Chantal bags. There’s certainly one lady in his life. He goes shopping for her, drops her off every day, looks at her adoringly and he is apparently just the loveliest guy, says my local butcher… (I’ve also figured out why his parents called him ‘David:’ after Michaelangelo’s David’s body!). Can someone tell me why Victoria never smiles; she’s super-rich, super-famous, she is now a bona-fide, super-designer, she has four super-adorable kids and a husband like THAT. What’s not to smile about?!

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11am: I stop by Austique on my way home, and while trying on girly goodies, I run into B.B., an impossibly leggy, beautiful, ex-model, LSE graduate, married to some Art Superstar who tells me about her new company she has started, producing ethical coffee. You see, to be a NHYM it isn’t enough being beautiful, smart, size 8 and under, rich and married to a super successful husband, you now must own your own company and be successful at it (and save the world while you’re at it!). This is the new trend for NHYMs; to be your own boss and become a ‘mumpreneur (Post about mumpreneurs coming up soon).’ Me and my tire are feeling even more deflated.

11:30am: I’m rushing home to take a shower to get rid of all of that Zumba sweat, check in with New Nanny that all is well at home and school. Finally I spend time with Baby A who has been neglected since her birth, give her lunch and sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ for her nap before heading off to lunch at the Electric with my two Scandi friends K & C.

1pm: I am the first to arrive. Just as I am about to think that The Electric is full of bespectacled, middle-aged, writers in plaid shirts, Paloma Faith walks in and sits in the booth across from me. She is the last Mohican of Notting Hill Cool. NH is not full of NHYMs and yuppies after all.

1:10pm: K arrives 7 month pregnant, but doesn’t even look pregnant. I look more pregnant than she does. She is radiant and glowing. Which is giving me morning sickness, even though there is no way I could even be pregnant.

1:30pm We are finally happily eating our salads and soups while talking Europen real estate, schools, and healthcare and all I can do is stare at them trying to find a flaw. White perfect teeth? Check (Must get my teeth whitened one of these days). Always smiling? Check (They are actually genuinely happy people). Long, blonde, beautiful hair? Check (Must get hair dyed and done). Pool-blue eyes and flawless skin? Check (Must make an appointment with Dr. Lowe). Cool factor? Well they are Swedish after all. Ugh. This day is depressing me more by the minute. And they are just the nicest people ever. I spend the whole lunch trying to find what’s wrong with them and all I can come up with is that they are fans of 50 Shades of Grey.

2pm: We are going through our Celebrity Crushes (CC). Mine is of course, David, only for the fact that he is the ‘World’s Best Dad’ (and he happens to be even hotter in real life than in photos). I just can’t help it, seeing a (hot) dad with his adorable daughter in his arms just wins me over every time. C’s CC is Christian Bale in American Psycho, with a bit of Christian Grey thrown in, while K’s is Brangelina. Together. In Bed. At the same time. And here I was thinking that Scandis were boring.

David Beckham Takes Harper Out For A Morning Stroll

2:45pm I leave the Electric after a lovely time with K & C, and having had a decent but un-extraordinary soup and salad, but anything tastes better than waiting in line at Bill Granger. On our way out, Marina Fogle, Ben Fogle’s wife, is busy having a work meeting for her new company ‘The Bump’. More mumpreneurs in action.

3pmish: Pick up time. I rush to the school gates and dread the uncomfortable small talk and idle chatter (Where are you off to for half term? How was your half term? Are you going to the Parent’s Event/Sports Day/Christmas Play?) while they ‘up-and-down’ me to see what labels I am not wearing. I feel like an awkward teenager who has no one to sit with at lunch time.

3pmish + 5 minutes: I spot ‘Gossip Mum’ and go straight to her. She loves talking so much and only listens to herself anyway, so I will look like I have a friend, but won’t need to talk. Perfect. And she keeps me in the school gossip loop, which makes me feel less of an outsider. Today, she chats away about the latest weird thing ‘Weird Mum’ has said and done and tells me about SuperRich Mum’s inbuilt trampoline and slide in her huge back garden (Yes, in London). Alpha Mum joins us and tells us about how many laps her perfect, supersonic daughter can do at the ‘Country Club’ after having lessons from Gold Medal Swimmer Coach. I wonder whether I should admit that M still doesn’t swim without floaties.

4pm: We are home after a play in the playground/private garden/park/activity. M has been best friends, enemies, then best friends again with her BFF in the past 10 minutes. Her BFF happens to be SuperRich’s Mum’s daughter and has a private jet, two drivers, three chefs, and 6 staff and M keeps asking if she can have a slide that goes down into a trampoline in our non-existent garden, and why we don’t have our own a ‘taxi’ driver. Hmm… Perhaps they should stay enemies.

4:30pm I open the door for the alarm/kitchen/builder/dishwasher guy to fix the broken alarm/fridge/house/dishwasher. Groundhog Day.

5pm: Finally, it’s TV time and everyone is happy! Anything from Frozen, Doc Mc Stuffins, Peppa, Mickey, Epic, or anything with Pirates will do.

6pm-7:30pm: Dinner, bath-time and wind-down-time, sleepy -time: Baby A doesn’t want to eat, M doesn’t want to poop and neither wants to go to sleep. Lots of negotiations and bribes later, everyone is in bed sleeping.

8pm: Dinner-time. Finally a moment to sit down. Mr. C is at a work dinner/traveling, as usual. I really need to go back to work, I think to myself, at least just so I can blame work for being an inadequate mother. Until then, the pressure of being a NHYM lurks heavily. I blame myself for my daughter not swimming yet, I self-loathe some more about my non-size-8-body, go back to feeling like the outsider who has no one to sit with at lunch-time, feel like the Ugly Duckling next to all these gorgeous Scandis (who seem to have an unfair physical advantage over the rest of the world) and feel personally inadequate for not having my own internet company/ethical food/clothes line/yoga studio.

So, perhaps this is why Trinny is with Charles Saatchi, because the NHYM pressure we put on ourselves creates unrealistic expectations to become these superwomen and supermom NHYM, who don’t actually exist (Except if you are Scandinavian, and then perhaps you stand a chance). Perhaps we should realise that all that really matters is that our families are happy and healthy and all the other stuff just doesn’t really matter. Period.

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xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

Twitter: @NHyummymummy

 

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In the Press, Reviews

Review of Tate Modern’s Matisse Cut-Outs: The Cut-Outs vs Butt-Outs

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(Blue Nudes. Photos taken by NHYM. Copyright 2014)

Tate Modern until Sept 7th

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/henri-matisse-cut-outs

*****5 Stars

Cut-Outs vs. Butt-outs: Matisse vs. Kimye

Two ‘once-in-lifetime’ events have recently just occurred: April 2014 saw Matisse’s Cutouts opening at the Tate Modern, a historical and unmissable event bringing together all of Matisse’s most important cutout works, and May 2014 saw the most ridiculously over the top wedding of all time, golden wedding toilet and all; Kim Kardashian’s wedding to Kanye West. Kimye’s wedding kiss became the most ‘liked’ picture on Instagram. But the similarities between the two events end at voluptuous, naked women with large bosoms and bottoms.

The 21st century is laden with reality stars taking over the world and covered on every magazine, newspaper and social media cover. I despair to think that my children are growing up in a world with role models such as Kimye. Yes, she may be (artificially) beautiful and I am sure she is very ‘nice’, (her and her artistically enhanced derriere), but what is she really teaching our children? That constant bitching, plastic surgery, a world of materialism and superficialism, multiple weddings, and excessively spending ridiculous amounts on the aforementioned multiple weddings is an entirely normal proposition? Luckily, the Matisse exhibit at Tate Modern keeps my hopes up that we still have role models everywhere for our children, if we just open our eyes beyond the Kimye Press.

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(The Mermaid and the Parakeet)

Going to this Matisse exhibit, (Matisse happens to be one of my favourite artists), was truly an unmissable event for me. The juxtaposition of Kimye’s vacuous and superficial reality life splashed all over the tabloids next to Matisse’s Cutouts and his life as an artist in the Daily Mail is unreal. How far we have come in 60 years from his death in 1954 to 2014. I will try not to go on like many Art Critics, writing verbose, possibly pretentious articles, that frighten most normal people with their diarrhea of adjectives, to describe what I saw (you can read all these articles online at the Telegraph, Guardian, and Times) but I hope to give you a ‘simple’ take on his world, his art, and his ‘genius’ (unlike the ‘genius’ called by Kim’s mother describing Jaden Smith in his white Batman suit).

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(Large Decoration and Masks)

Matisse didn’t enter the art world because of pushy parents. His father wanted him to study law, but Matisse was introduced to art by his mother after a bout of appendicitis. He was ‘hooked,’ as one would say, and would become one of the most influential modern artists, next to Picasso. Matisse started his Cutouts late in his life as an artist, in his 70s, after a close encounter with death and major surgery, in what he calls his ‘seconde vie’. Despite his ill health, for Matisse this was his second chance at life, which gave him the freedom, ‘liberte,’ to truly express himself. Initially, the critics called his work ‘child-like,’ but I think he was trying to teach us to look at the world as if we were looking at it for the first time, like a child, to see beauty in the simple things. He used simple methods of paper, cutting and painting to cut out flowers, fruit, and seaweed. Simple, beautiful, objects we often overlook every day because of the busyness of our lives. He was then able to use the inspiration of a lifetime and translate it into artworks to create some of the most alive, dynamic and beautiful pieces of Modern Art.

MatisseTheSheathNHYM

(The Sheath)

He is known as the best colourist in the 20th Century and his vibrant colours of Blues, Yellows, Green, Yellow and Purple are reminiscent of a child’s painting palette. He manages to create movement through his cut paper and uses his paper cutouts, pasted on top of background paper, to create texture and contrasts of colours. Other themes of his Cutouts are Dancing, Jazz, Ballet, and the Underwater World of Tahiti, all subjects close to his heart and mine. Years before, Matisse had made a trip to Tahiti when he felt a lack of inspiration and there he spent days snorkelling and basking in the sun, and later used fruits, seaweed and palms from that trip to create ‘Oceania the Sea’, and ‘Oceania the Sky’. His ‘seaweed’ and ‘corals’ that he uses over and over in his cutouts, which you can see in ‘The Sheath,’ and ‘Decoration and Mask,’ show us where he was most at peace and happy; underwater surrounded by bright, vibrant light and colours not visible in the overwater world. When he was bed and wheelchair ridden, he was able to re-create scenes which he was now no longer able to enjoy, like the underwater sea, and also create a garden in his studio by pinning cutouts onto his walls.

MatisseIcarusNHYM

(Icarus)

What Matisse achieved in doing, despite his infirmity, his age, and his critics, was to create a new form of art which was alive, vibrant, and in his mind, full of clarity. While he was unable to move freely, he was still able to bring gardens and the seashore right to his bedroom. He was able to make dancers dance for him, to tell tales of Icarus and 1001 nights through his art and to recreate himself as an artist. For him, this was a rebirth, a second chance to see life differently and wanting to live it fully against all odds. This is what he can teach and inspire my children. Unlike a Kardashian, whose lustre will fade as her wrinkles multiply, her bum sags with age, and her money won’t save her from being replaced by the next prettier, younger thing.

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(Family sitting below the Blue Nude on the Right, cutting out and reproducing Matisse’s works of art).

Five Matisse Cutouts you should know about (or at least appear to know about at a dinner party):

1. Blue Nudes Series: There are four of them and are his most popular and recognisable pieces aside from the Dancers painting.

2. Icarus

3. The Snail: Matisse’s slight exploration into abstract art, until he realised he should leave it to Picasso.

4. The Parakeet and The Mermaid

5. Large Decoration and Mask

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Reviews

Review of Polpo Restaurant, Notting Hill

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(That’s him in the window/ that’s him in the spotlight/ Working the tables/ It’s Russell Norman/The Restaurant Man. Photos taken by NHYM Copyright 2014)

Polpo Notting Hill

126-128 Notting Hill Gate London W11 3QG

02072293283

http://www.polpo.co.uk

Overall: 3.75 stars

Food: 3.5 stars

Service: 3.5 stars / raised to 4 stars for having Russell Norman on the floor

Design: 4 stars

Value: 4 stars because their Pizettes were only at £5 and their plates are very filling

Having read some of the gushing praise of Russell Norman’s, aka the ‘King of Small Plates,’ many restaurants (Spuntino, Polpo Soho, Polpetto, Mishkin’s, and Polpo Covent Garden), and how people actually wait in line for an hour and half for a seat, I was thrilled to hear that one was opening up in Notting Hill. Not one for waiting in line for a restaurant (I’ve left ‘waiting in line’ behind a red velvet rope in my 20s, let alone any restaurant line in Soho), there was no way I was ever going to shlep all the way to Soho, unsure of whether I would have to wait 30 or 80 minutes for a table. Polpo Notting Hill would be the perfect way to try one of this famous restaurateur’s restaurants, without ever having to leave my 10-minute radius. Not quite ready to face the possibility of waiting in line, I took the safe road and booked a lunch reservation (They actually don’t ever close after lunch, which must be great for business).

PolpoMenuNHYM

The Polpo Restaurant concept is about being a Venetian Bacaro serving small Italian plates (the Italian version of a tapas bar). Having been to a true Bacaro in Venice during my ‘Gap/Backpacking year’, which made me think of a dark, smokey restaurant full of students and young trendy things, smoking cigarettes, drinking vino and nibbling on bits (not only the food), while discussing the superiority of Italian men (I was a twenty-something woman after all), I had high hopes and expectations for this establishment.

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The original Polpo was created during the recession, and Russell Norman was able to make it a success by making it a relatively cheap, relaxed and cool dining scene. Russell’s background is as a restaurant manager and operations director at Caprice Holdings. He knows a thing or two about running a restaurant and what attracts people to a restaurant. It is not always clearly about the food alone. In the recession, he saw that all the buzzy, cool places were the ones that were packed. So he interior designed all of his restaurants (and is known for carefully choosing all the details from the toilet sinks and lighting himself), to attract the trendy and cool crowd. His staff are hired for their attitude and for being the creative types, rather than necessarily their restaurant credentials, which adds to the cool factor of the restaurant. When I saw Russell Norman working the tables as I came in, being a true ‘Restaurant Man,’ listening to what his clients and staff have to say, seeing with his eyes how the restaurant was being run, I wanted to love it.

PolpoBarNHYM

When I entered Polpo, what struck me immediately was a slightly damp smell. Perhaps to recreate the summer’s humidity in Venice or perhaps why it shut down for one day (a flood maybe?), 4 days after opening.  But then I saw the bar, which immediately made me forget my initial impression. The Bar is Beautiful. I do love a nice bar, and this one easily took me back to my Italian Backpacking days. I was then seated with a perfect view of the restaurant, (which is one of the reasons I always come early to choose my spot before my lunch date arrives). The clientele here is rather eclectic as the restaurant is; beautiful posh British Blondes two tables on my left, two American NHYMs two tables on my right, a family of 4 across from me, older men having lunch, young trendsetters  at the bar and two lovely Notting Hill Grannies, one Japanese and one American, next to me. This is what I love about London; all ages, all nationalities and all social classes mixing easily together in an Italian Wine Bar. I can imagine it being great at night with a buzzy atmosphere with cocktails flowing, a few good friends, and lots of laughs.

PolposeatNHYM

We ordered small plates on the recommendation of the waitress; a plate of ciceti, the garlic and clam pizzette, classic beef and pork meatballs, lamb caponata, the polpo of course, and the asparagus and broad bean salad. The food was good, but unfortunately not quite as good as I was hoping. There was a slight lack of flavour to the dishes, perhaps a slight banality to them. The arancini and the pizettes were rather good, I liked the creativity of eating a spicy clams, capers and garlic pizzette. The Polpo fell a bit short of my expectations, instead a crispy, browned Italian octopus the way I like them, it felt as if this poor polpo had drifted for days in the Med and somehow landed on British territory, and had become a bit soggy from all the British rain. The lamb and meatballs were just average, and knowing that this restaurant is coming from one of the biggest restaurant names in London at the moment, I was, I admit a tad disappointed.

Perhaps I am expecting too much from a Bacaro, perhaps my expecations were too high and I am a demanding NHYM that should be kept away from Notting Hill Gate. Perhaps these are teething issues which he will iron out over the next few weeks, so I will come back for another go in two weeks, this time at night to capture the buzz. But then again, perhaps this is what Russell is trying to do; cheap and cheerful dishes in a great atmosphere. And maybe, this restaurant was not conceived with me in mind. When I read reviews later on Tripadvisor, I realised that this place is not for earth-shattering, tantalising food, this place is for friends to meet, drink and have a good time in a greatly designed restaurant with a good atmosphere. After all, this is all the Italian students could afford on a budget, so in this respect, Russell is succeeding after all.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

twitter: @NHyummymummy

Polpo on Urbanspoon

p.s. For those also adverse to waiting in line for a dinner table, there are subtle ways of getting a dinner reservation but what’s the fun in telling you how? I will leave it to you to figure it out on your own…

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In the Press, Social Commentary

Kids’ Birthday Party Crashers: ‘Nobu or the Dorchester, darling?’

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(All Photos in this post courtesy of Les Enfants on Pinterest)

These days I seem to spend every Saturday and Sunday carting my two kids to various Birthday Parties at various venues across London. Recently, I had triple birthdays in one weekend: one Sat am, one Sat pm and two Sunday pm. (I had to devise a hierarchy of needs for the Sunday pm parties: whose party do I really need to go to?) Is this what my life has been reduced to? My toddler’s social life being more booked than mine?. I am torn between my egoistical self and my maternal self that needs to provide to my children’s happiness first. Then, for my children’s birthdays, I have to reciprocate and throw a party for all the people who have invited us, whether I want to or not, to avoid personal social suicide and my children becoming social pariahs. This becomes 42 parties a year, and 42 children + 42 parents to invite for a grand total of 84 mouths to feed and entertain (not to mention the siblings that are undoubtedly brought along and the occasional daddy), which equals to exhaustion and unimaginable stress for me for months ahead.

I have always been sensitive about Birthday Parties. This likely stems from my early Freudian (all our issues really are due to our childhoods), traumatic experience when I had only one person (my neighbour) show up to my 6th birthday party out of my class of 30. Granted, I had just moved to a Muslim country 10 days before and didn’t know anyone or the usual customs, where no one seemed to throw birthday parties or go to people’s homes they didn’t know. So, I think I have a good enough reason to be obsessed and fear-stricken about throwing a birthday party and having no one show up. All I ever wanted growing up was someone (anyone) to attend my birthday party to throw a hot potato or play musical chairs with me. Times have certainly changed and children’s parties these days are a whole extravagant, creative and OTT affair competing with Bat Mitvahs and Weddings, but which are a yearly, recurring affair (and sometimes a few times a year, depending on how many children you have).

So where do the famous, the rich and the Notting Hillers celebrate their kids’ birthday parties?

The Notting Hillers

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The Notting Hill Mums (as do the Chelsea Mums, Belgravia Mums, South Ken Mums and all West London Mums) all compete with each other to throw a worthy birthday party for their gorgeous, perfect, little angels (or brats). Venues are booked months in advance. Party bags are made artfully from internet websites or party organisers. The catering is organised, kosher, halal, sugar and fat free. For the NHYM chef-wannabes, cupcakes and cakes are made-with-love, gluten free, low sugar, low fat. Favourite venues include church halls for the under 3s, The Commander for standard NHYM great parties, RS Currie for smaller but lovely, well organised parties, and the Harbour Club for active kids. Cinemas are popular with older kids, when the entire Electric Cinema will be booked or one of the screens at The Lounge will feel like a like a private view.

Outdoors, Private Gardens are used to blow up Bouncy Castles and the Princess Diana Playground is taken over by 30 kids running wild. Battersea Zoo is one of the more original and cute venues. If it rains, Private Member’s clubs like Purple Dragon and Maggie & Rose are available, perfectly organised without you having so much as lifting a finger. One NHYM rented out the whole of the Arts Club 1st floor, which is still being talked about at the Arts Club. Then there are the Entertainers and the theme: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Princesses, Superheroes, Pirates, Star Wars in a warehouse, Fireman Sam and the list goes on. Eventually, it is a blurry vision of what the child originally wanted and what a NHYM’s ‘creativity’ and ‘imagination’ runs away wildly with.

The most original party bag gift I have heard of was a goldfish. But, what does one do with a goldfish?! Flush it down the toilet, let daddy eat it or keep it alive by researching ‘how to keep a goldfish alive’ for hours on the internet and then buying 100’s of pounds worth of kit for it to survive? And what to do with the goldfish whilst on holiday? And what do you tell your sweet little boy Max when his goldfish dies? That he went back to his home in the sea? That Daddy flushed him down the drain? All the stress and these questions would drive me absolutely nutty.

The Super-Rich

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Now, the excessively rich all seem to love throwing birthday parties in Hotel Ballrooms. The Berkeley Hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, The Dorchester and the Kensington Hotel all come to mind. We were once invited to an amazing party at one of the above Ballrooms, which happened to be the best birthday party I had ever been to. Ever. Adult or Child. (Forget Adults Birthday Parties, I just want an invite to kids’ birthday parties these days. Actually, I want one of these parties for myself). This was a 3rd birthday party and the theme of the party was ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.’ Every child received an invitation with a chocolate bar and a Golden Ticket inside, which served as the invite, written in golden leaf.

As you arrived into the Ballroom, Giant-sized Oompa Loompahs welcomed us with giant lollipops. The Ballroom was decorated as a Chocolate Factory, with chocolate fountains flowing with marshmallows on sticks to dip them in. There were cotton candy machines, ice cream vans, and popcorn machines everywhere you looked. There was a giant bouncy castle almost touching the ceiling of the ballroom with a slide coming down into a ball pit. There were small rides of cars, train carriages, spaceships, and a merry-go-round. All for free! M kept asking if I had a pound coin to put in the rides, and when I told her we didn’t need any and she could go as often as she wanted, she didn’t know what to do with herself or where to go. Her eyes kept getting bigger and bigger as she looked at all the rides and sweeties for her to devour. This was Disneyland in a London Hotel! There were entertainers and balloon sculptors, face-painting and a magician. There was a an entire table full of cupcakes, candy, and chocolate bars. (Hello caries and dentist visits, goodbye our bank accounts when M was going to request a party like this). Then as we left, after having had the time of our lives, guilt and shame hit, when we looked into the party bag and realised it was more expensive than the gift we had bought the child.

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Another, rather ridiculous, super-rich birthday party across the pond in the US was thrown for a 5 year old on his parent’s private jet. But the private jet was parked in a hangar! What’s the fun in that? At least give us a ride! Let’s take this baby for a spin! Although this was a drop off party, somehow, most of the parents decide to stay and oggle at the jet, while the owners happily showed off their dripping, nouveau riche, wealth.

It’s not about Wedding Crashers anymore, welcome the Kids’ Birthday Crashers. One upcoming Summer Birthday Party I would like to go to, is a 1 year old Pool Party in the South of France this July. The children will go cherry, lemon, and fig picking, all out in the back garden, before jumping into a lovely salt-water, heated pool. I hear they may even have pony rides organised in the garden after the freshly baked Tarte aux Pommes. (My address is included below should you want to send me the invite). In the meantime, I hear there is ‘lightning’ party happening this weekend at some ballroom in London…

The Super – Famous

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The famous also have their own way of throwing parties. It may not always be what you would expect:

1) The A-List Actors: You receive a phone call 2 hours before the party and are asked: ‘Are you X’s mother?’ Two hours later, after ditching the hierarchy of needs and the other party your child was invited to,  you find yourself in a massive Dorchester Suite surrounded by other Hollywood Actors and their progeny singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to their exceptionally beautiful and charming children, friends and entourage.

2) Rock ‘N’ Roll Royalty: To go against the grain, the Rock ‘N’ Rollers throw their party at Bramley’s, which is clearly a rebellion against the excess of the other rich and famous crowds. Their famous friends are too cool to even say ‘hello’ to you, even after an introduction by the R’N’R hostess.

3) The English ‘Golden Couple’: For their child’s 15th Birthday, the whole family and friends (20 of them) have dinner at Nobu Park Lane. I am not sure whether this is a good thing or not. I just hope the child managed to have a teenagers party of booze and hookups instead of choosing lobster tempura or which roll to order in a restaurant full of ‘old’ people.

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Party organisers

I have to admit that I admire the creativity, energy and effort the party planners will go through to create a perfect event which will last all of 2 hours. What a great way to make a living, spending other people’s money to create every child’s dream. To have a fantabulous NHYM Birthday Party, Popular Party organisers are as follows:

RS Currie: Bespoke, local, home-grown party planner, by Tom the owner of RS Currie. http://www.rscurrie.com

Twizzle Parties: A go-to for good, standard, reliable party planners and organisers. http://www.twizzle.co.uk

Les Enfants: For ‘Beautiful, stylish, and fun inspiration for children’s parties’ aka those parties at the Mandarin Oriental and the Dorchester, look no further to make your child’s dreams turn into reality: http://www.lesenfants.co.uk

But what happens the following year, when you are competing against your own amazing party in a Hotel Ballroom? And what will these children expect for their 16th Birthdays (One boy has been promised a Ferrari for his 16th but still doesn’t have his driver’s license. Really?!)?

What has been your most extravagant birthday you’ve thrown or been invited to? What do you think about the craziness of the Birthday Party phenomenon? Good or Bad? Share your thoughts!

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xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

twitter: @NHyummymummy

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Photos, Quote of the day, Travel

Quote of the day: ‘We’re not used to such small boats’

… At the Hotel du Cap, Eden Roc, when trying to anchor our boat in front of the hotel for lunch and the hotel’s boat couldn’t help us with where to throw the anchor.

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Cannes 2014

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xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

** All Photos were taken by NHYM. Copyright 2014 **

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