Social Commentary

‘Are you a ‘Boardroom Mom?’


Every class has at least one or two of them. A ‘Boardroom Mom’ that runs her children’s life with the same determination and precision as running a Fortune 500 company, full of back-to-back appointments, targets and desired outcomes. Come to think of it, 90% of moms I know are one version or another of a ‘Boardroom Mom.’ Boardroom Moms can be described as overqualified, overeducated and overachieving moms who ascribe to what anthropologists call ‘intensive parenting.’ I just read an article over the weekend ‘Poor Little Rich Women, by Wednesday Martin, a social anthropologist who is coming out with a new book on the ‘Upper East Side’ tribe of ‘Glam SAHMs’ (Glamorous Stay-at-Home-Moms), in which she criticises these women, who put all of their ambitions on their children and ‘over-parent’ in more ways than one (And to answer your question, no, I have never heard of wives bonuses and, yes, I think they are crazy or at least just a joke).

I only realised that I fell into this category, despite promising myself I would never be one of them, when my nanny was away and I tried to look after my children all on my own and realised that it was actually physically impossible to be in two places at one time. While one was at swimming class, the other was meant to be at a music class. One was meant to be dropped off at one school and the other at the other school at precisely the same time. When there are two people running this schedule, this type of scheduling works. But without two people, this schedule falls flat on its face. You may think I am an extreme, but other friends have excel worksheets of their children’s schedule. I consider myself average on the scale of ‘Boardroom moms.’

A lot of people without nannies wonder what women do who are Stay-At-Home-Mums and have nannies looking after their children. Most think that they are mani-pedi-ing, Yoga-ing and blowdry-ing most days. And some do and are of minor interest. In my case, I am guilty of over-scheduling my children and running my household as if I have two single children. Each has its own separate and unique schedule that completely does not coincide with their sibling’s. (I read some random article that guilted me into thinking that having more than one child means that the second will always be neglected, therefore decided to treat them as separate beings and entities, just because I can, but clearly not always to my benefit. Don’t believe everything you read). This keeps me busy and overstretched and my children believe that there should always be two people looking after them, to their detriment. But in the end, all I was trying to do was to be a good mother.

The trouble really is that I and so many women of my generation were raised thinking that we were going to rule the world. We were told to work hard, be independent, have careers, be equals to our male counterparts and that we could do whatever we put our minds to. So, as part of this generation of post feminist women, we all scrambled to get great degrees from the top universities, climbed the requisite career ladder and reached our goals of succeeding in our careers. Prior to motherhood, we were praised when we achieved a top degree, when we were promoted or did a great job or got a bonus that allowed us to buy that Chanel 5.0 or those Louboutins on our own salary. It filled us with pride. We were important cogs in the wheel of society.

But then, after reaching these top jobs or positions in a company, motherhood hit and these ‘top jobs,’ seen so highly valued by society, did not often work well with the trials and tribulations of motherhood. For example, my job sometimes meant working until midnight, working on weekends. It was not a flexible job where I could drop everything to take my kids to the doctor if they were sick, be there to do a ‘book reading’ at school or to attend any of the multitudes of events put on by the school; Christmas plays, Christmas fairs, bake sales, parent coffees, Sports Days, Parent teacher conferences, and the list continues. There are some ‘top’ jobs that allow that flexibility, but for the most part, with these types of jobs in banking/consulting/law/any demanding high-flying career, you are either in or out. You either let nannies raise your children, which is fine and you can plough on with your career, or you are out, and become one of these Glam SAHMs.

After trying the whole work-motherhood balance and even part-timing, I realised that I couldn’t do both well. I was too groomed to be perfect at what I do and not to tolerate my own mediocrity. When at work, I tried focusing on work, but motherhood kept interfering; sick children, sleepless nights, school events and of course the biggest monster of all, guilt. Then at home, I was tired, stressed and would worry about not being there with my children for each and every milestone. Like a friend who missed her child’s first steps because she was out of the country on a work trip. Can you live with that or not? is the question many moms have to answer. My answer was that I soon quit and became a full time mother. I chose to be at home because that was my personal priority, but also because ingrained in my DNA was this primal, instinctual, uncontrollable need to be a parent, whether I wanted to or not. Others of course choose work, which I completely understand and often admire, but for me, the pull towards motherhood was stronger.

So here I am, a full time mother with so many degrees under my belt, so overeducated and so overachieving, so disciplined and organised, doing what apparently nannies can do just as well as me or perhaps even better (if you read the articles about full time working moms and their children being just as happily raised by their nannies, you wonder why you do it at all – you just can’t win as a woman). That’s when over-parenting, ‘intensive parenting’ comes in. We, as highly educated and highly intelligent women, are left with running a household and raising children, with the skills of CEOs, accountants, managers and leaders. That’s when we put all of our energy into raising these ‘perfect kids’ because we have achieved so much in our prior lives that we expect that we can do the same in a domestic setting. We don’t know how to handle mediocrity. We want to be the ‘best parent’ we can be, just as we tried to be the best lawyer/banker/worker. Perhaps it is out of frustration, or perhaps it is the only way can be.

Then, once you become a full time mother, there is no more praise or quantifiable, measurable achievement or metric of you as a mother. That’s when ‘getting into the right school’ becomes an obsession and we put in all our energies where we can get an actual reward as a mother and we can proudly stand tall and tell someone at a dinner party that so-and-so got into ‘St.Pauls/Westminster/Oxford/Harvard’ as a praise to us as parents. We are using our children’s achievements as personal praise, which is just so wrong, and which I strongly try to resist in the midst of parental madness, herd immunity and peer pressure. But I understand where it comes from. I miss receiving praise for the work I have done, to feel good about myself because of some sort of achievement, and the ability to proudly tell someone what I do for a living. Instead, just last weekend at a dinner party, someone asked what I did, and I replied ‘I take care of my 2 children,’ and the conversation pretty much ended (which ultimately, I understand, because I also want to talk about other things than talk about my children).

It is my own fault for not taking more pride in what I do day in and day out, but I miss being part of a team, of being useful in a different way than changing nappies, co-ercing my children not to eat with their fingers or ensuring that homework is finished on time. I miss having quantifiable, measurable results and rewards. Even though nothing can replace the hugs and kisses I get from my children, I still miss the achievements I once had, and can only remember them as if they were part of a distant past or another life. Instead, I am led by my maternal instincts and plan my children’s future. I plan their weekends and their playdates. I make sure they are learning ‘essential life skills’ like swimming, a second language and sports, to be polite and responsible citizens. But a part of me deeply misses the old me and hope that one day, she will be back.

So instead of criticising these Glam SAHMs, perhaps the real question we should be asking ourselves, now 50 years after Betty Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique,’ is how to find a way for all these overeducated, overqualified women to use their skills usefully in society, without compromising their role as a mother.

Let me know your thoughts.






In the Press: Interview with NHYM in The Financial Times

This week, I was interviewed by the Financial Times about parents getting their children into the ‘right’ nursery. Here’s the article! The moral of the story is that we should all chill out…

The Financial Times: 

Paid to advise on the ‘right’ nursery

Emma Jacobs

Cambridge university, then Deutsche Bank. This was the future one father working in the City of London told Sabine Hook he had mapped out for his son. The child was six months old: it was Ms Hook’s job to get the infant on the right track through her work as a nursery consultant.

This father’s ambitions for his infant are far from unusual. Many of Ms Hook’s clients are, she says, high achievers who want the same for their offspring. A good nursery is viewed as the first step in an educational chain, ending in a top university. Some nurseries “know the value of a firm handshake and eye contact”, she says, which may help a child get into a sought-after pre-preparatory school (fee-paying ones for children under seven or eight). Anke Gosch, meanwhile, is used to dealing with parents fixated on a top nursery as the “stepping stone” to Harvard and Oxbridge.

Both women offer advice to London parents wanting the best education for their infants, typically in Notting Hill, Chelsea and Hampstead, which have some of the capital’s most expensive properties. Rates for nursery consultancy are from about £290 an hour (plus VAT, the UK sales tax). Though Ms Hook, who used to teach and is now a full-time nursery and early-years education consultant, might be hired to interview nannies over Skype or suggest holiday destinations that provide learning opportunities. One family have retained her services more than a year.

For both Ms Gosch, a former City trader, and Ms Hook, the paid work developed out of a sideline: they found they were offering friends advice on nurseries and schooling for free. A high proportion of their work is advising wealthy expats who do not know how to navigate the British education system. Russian clients occasionally ask Ms Hook if giving a nursery some extra money might help get their child in. It would not, she insists.

For such parents, nursery is not a matter of childcare: who will look after the toddler while the parents go to work. The UK government’s new initiatives to reduce the cost of childcare are of little concern. Some clients have a nanny at home while both work, others will have a nanny as well as a mother at home. Nursery, for these parents, is for the over-twos’ social skills.

Ms Gosch, whose primary focus is schools, says it is American parents, used to such consultancies, who are helping to drive demand for nursery advice. Wednesday Martin, former an­thropologist and author of Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir , says that on the Upper East Side such services are a response to the pressure on nursery places, in part because the wealthy have larger families. There is also a culture of “intensive motherhood”, she says, which places emphasis on educational enrichment. “Wealthy parents often told me they felt it was negligent not to hire someone to help them with this process from the very beginning,” she says. Britain still lags behind New York when it comes to the proliferation of such services, which include a “play date coach”.

The anonymous author of the Notting Hill Yummy Mummy blog, which chronicles life among the “famous, super-rich, super-smart, super-beautiful, super-obnoxious, super-competitive” in banker-and-celebrity-filled west London, knows many parents who have used nursery consultants. There is an obsession with “the best nurseries”, the blogger says, particularly due to local parents being “ultra competitive”.

Her husband dropped the registration off to their preferred nursery the day she gave birth to their first daughter. But she has been told by friends that this sometimes is not enough. “You have to show how much you want to get in,” for example, by name-dropping parents who send their kids to the nursery. Other strategies include sending chocolates and flowers to the registrar. She insists, however, that she would “never cough up £500 just to be told which nurseries are in my neighbourhood”.

Ms Hook, who is eight months pregnant with her first child, says that what clients are paying for is her educational expertise. However, she concedes that part of her job is calming parental anxiety. “Certain nurseries are bizarrely very fashionable and parents are fixated on getting into [them].” Some of her time is spent trying to unravel why parents think that their child “must” get into a particular nursery.

She blames peer pressure and herd mentality. “Nursery competition brings out paranoia in even the most balanced parents. The rumour mill makes them go a bit mad. We go into it and find that a lot of it is built on hearsay.” She tries to persuade clients to listen to their gut instinct and not be guided by others. If you can give them the peace of mind that is a good thing.” Ms Gosch agrees. “There are lots of good places that aren’t hyped. A lot of the time I tell them not to worry.”

Part of the pressure is due to parents’ desire to look good, says the Notting Hill blogger. But it is also because they are “part of the 1 per cent who have enough to provide their kids with the best education”.

Ms Hook was once asked to assess a little girl because her parents were considering switching nurseries, with the expectation that it might advance her chances of getting into their chosen school. The two-and-a-half-year-old was attending nursery five days a week and had a tutor for two afternoons a week (to keep on top of maths and literacy) as well as weekly phonics and reading classes, drama, piano, beginner French and swimming. They were considering adding Mandarin and Spanish. “The little girl was so exhausted and on edge she was terrified of opening her mouth.”

She feels the pressure on some children is too much, too early. “It’s ludicrous to think your capabilities are revealed by two or three, especially boys.” She would never advise tutors for the under-fives. “It’s completely crazy. It’s a waste of money. The skills [a two-year-old needs] are speaking, putting on their shoes and coat.” All of which, a parent should be able to help with, she notes. Both Ms Hook and Ms Gosch, who will also assist parents in finding a good state school, insist their clients are not all “Tiger mothers”.

Ms Hook sums it up: “All parents are the same — they want the best for their child.”
Twitter: @emmavj


‘Review: Paradise By Way of Kensal Green’


All photos in this post courtesy of NHYM 2015 apart from one. 

Food: 3.8 stars

Atmosphere:  3.85 stars

Service: 4 stars

Design: 4 stars

Price/Value: 3.8 stars

Overall: 3.85 stars


First floor Bar/Restaurant Courtesy of the Internet NHYM 2015


Paradise isn’t a new restaurant, but they have just put in place a new Head Chef, Cat Ashton, straight from the Petersham Nurseries to head their kitchen, and I was cordially invited to try their new menu last week. My friends fall into two camps; those cool/hipster ones that said ‘Paradise is really cool, great place!’ when I told them I was going, while the others looked at me blankly/abject wonder when I told them I was going to Kensal Green for dinner. They responded: ‘Non! Kensaal Greeen?’ shaking their heads ‘I ‘ave never ‘eard of eet!’ These latter are some of my Euro-continental friends who have never left SW3 to SW7, but I felt that it was time I covered a restaurant that may not be as polished or groomed as some of the others, but makes it up more than enough in character and colour.


The Restaurant Dining Room NHYM 2015.

Paradise is more than just a restaurant, it is a 3 levelled area of Gastro-pub, private rooms, bar and club. On the ground floor, as you are welcomed by a giant statue of an angel, there is a front bar and a private dining room on the right, with the main dining room at the back. On the first floor is a club/bar where DJs spin on weekend nights, when it gets so packed it reminds me of my first ever Metallica concert when I was 13 years old… ie. way past my age-tolerance. On other nights, they host all kinds of open-mic, poetry nights, and special events, for the true trendsters out there. In Notting Hill terms, this place could be a hybrid of Beach Blanket Babylon and the First Floor Restaurant on Portobello, decorated with religious iconography, chandeliers, candelabras, old Renaissance-style oil paintings on the wall, and mismatched wooden chairs.


Restaurant Dining Room NHYM 2015. 

The Food

But back to the restaurant, which is what I was asked to review, compliments of the house. The menu is solid English comfort food staples with a twist of sweetness (Cat must have a sweet tooth). We started off the dinner with Flower Courgette Tempura filled with Ricotta Cheese, which was quite creamy and unctuous with a honey sweetness, and a Burrata which was satisfyingly good. For our mains, both of us chose the steak. We are both hearty meat-eaters and we had the asparagus and honey-butter Rib Eye steak, which was good. Not mind-blowing good, but good nonetheless and satisfying. On the sides, we had polenta chips with parmesan, and if you hadn’t noticed, Polenta is currently all the rage at the moment.

The service was good, almost a bit too attentive, although they brought the potatoes instead of polenta at first, but quickly rectified it with a profuse apology. The wait staff were all very friendly and helpful, and actually all had English as their first language, which is quite a rarity in London.


Rib Eye Steak and polenta chips NHYM 2015.

Grand finale

For our desserts, we had the Pavlova with mango, which we were told was really the dessert to have, and was quite caramel-like chewy, and made us feel like two kids eating Carambar (a caramel candy from my youth which sticks to your teeth for the rest of the evening, for those who don’t know) and the Sticky Date Pudding, butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice-cream, which was a twist from the usual Sticky toffee pudding, but which was equally as indulgent.


Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce and Mango Pavlova NHYM 2015.

The Ambience/Crowd

We had an early seating, which was a novice’s mistake, as the place only really gets crowded around 8:30/9pm (tip: don’t go before 8:30pm), when it filled up with an eclectic crowd of Americans, French, English and other nationalities. Next to us was an Asian couple on probably their Friday-Night-Fourth-Date, filled with slight nervous excitement, flirting and compliments. ‘Ah young love’ I said looking at my husband, dreamily remembering our fourth date. This was date night for us, but a slightly different date night: ‘let’s-get-out-of-here-we-need-a-break-from-our-kids-date-night’. Next to them were two older women having a nice Friday night dinner together. The crowd was mixed, young and old, one table was intergenerational, while another table had a table 10 young men celebrating a birthday. Some tables were trendy, some weren’t. (The private room in the front was filled with 10 giggling, dressed to the 9s, probably celebrating a hen night).

The Verdict

We left as the younger versions of ourselves came in. I can’t comment on the rest of the place that night as we had a baby-curfew (the time when it’s time to go home because you know you will be woken up at 5am by your toddler), but from what I saw, it is place for a fun night out with a group, where the main agenda of the night is to have a good, fun night, which in some restaurants in London is hard to find (some friends have accused Chiltern Firehouse to be more about people-watching than enjoying one’s self). Dinner was Gastro-pub Good, but in a creatively goth surrounding. Mr. X really enjoyed Paradise and feels quite at home there, less ‘see and be seen’ than some of our Notting Hill/Mayfair restaurants we often frequent. So, if you’re in the neighbourhood, this one should be on top of your list to check out, Goth and all.




Paradise By Way Of Kensal Green on Urbanspoon

Top 10, Travel

Top 10 Best European Beaches


Plage Notre Dame, Porquerolles, France. All photos in this post courtesy of the internet. NHYM 2015.

‘Where will you be this summer?’

New York may have the Hamptons, but London has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world just one or two hours away. Comparable to beaches in the Carribean or the Indian Ocean, they have stunning scenery, powdery sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. Here I have compiled some of my favourite beaches as well as some that I think are unique in terms of scenery, location and beauty. Many of these are best visited low-mid season, during May, June and September to avoid the crowds, and are best visited by boat (and by that I mean your-own-private-boat rather than a cruise boat). I’m hoping to go to at least one or two this summer. Who’s coming?

Top 10 Most Beautiful Beaches in Europe: 

1. Notre Dames, Porquerolles, France


Notre Dame Beach in Porquerolles, France has just been voted the Best European Beach 2015 by Best European Destinatons, so here it kicks off my Top 10 Best European Beaches. The best way to experience it is by sailboat, so for the boat lovers out there, this one is definitely worth checking out.

2. Playa Ses Illetes, Formentera, Spain


For the party goers, going from Ibiza to Formentera by powerboat is just about the best day trip you could ever dream of. Have lunch at Juan y Andrea, and then listen to Cafe del Mar blasting out of your Sunseeker as the Sun sets. Absolute bliss.

3. Egremni, Lefkada, Greece


The Ionian islands have a plethora of beautiful beaches, including Egremni, but also Porto Katsiki nearby. Beware of boat cruises which will ruin the whole experience, so best to visit during the mid-low season when the tourists are still far away. Best done by private boat.

4. Cala Mariolu, Sardinia, Italy


Sardinia has so many beautiful beaches, it is difficult to choose one. Of course Cala Mariolu is famed to be one of its best. I also love the beaches of Southern Sardinia, which are reminiscent of the Seychelles with similar rock formations and clear waters.

5. Pinarello, Corsica, France


Corsica has a laid back, beach-chic attitude that I love, contrasting with the bling – bling of nearby Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda. Hotel Les Pecheurs has some of the most secluded and stunning beaches you could ask for, even the though the hotel itself could do with a refurbishment. Try to the Lobster Linguine there though, it is to die for.

6. Myrtos, Kefalonia, Greece


Here, it’s all about that view. Also in the Ionian islands, the Greeks do have some of the best beaches in Europe. Also recommended to visit off season.

7. Cala Maracellata, Menorca, Spain


It may be a nudist beach, but these nudists have good taste. It’s a long hike to get there, so best to go by boat.

8. Plage Mala, Cap D’ail, France


One of my all time favourite European beaches, you can only get there by foot down 179 steps or by boat. It has two beach clubs, my favourite being ‘La Reserve de La Mala,’ it combines dramatic cliffs, clear waters, and a fun atmosphere. You can’t beat a morning cappuccino on this beach.

9. Zlatni Rat, Brac, Croatia


This beach wins for its unique, changing shape with the winds and its incredibly clear waters due to the channel currents. It’s not particularly safe to swim and is a pebble beach, so loses some points. But it wins some back for the party goers, who will head back to Hvar for its great party vibe and infamous Carpe Diem Club.


10. Praia da Marinha, Algarve, Portugal

With unique and memorable rock outcroppings, this beach deserves a place in my T0p 10. Absolutely stunning.

Have a great summer!