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The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land is available to Pre-Order on Amazon!

 

You can now pre-order my book, The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land on Amazon!

Pre-Order On Amazon

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My Book Cover Revealed!

It is a strange thing to come up with a book cover, given that I am not the one who actually drew those pictures or designed that cover, yet it is the one thing that is supposed to sell my book. I did give the designers some ideas of what I thought the cover should look like, but they are the ones who came up with it.

The book, which is really like a baby to me, was conceived by me from the first word to the last (well, with some editorial help!), so when I received the book cover, it was hard to feel like it was mine. But I am now thrilled with it, and can’t wait to see the physical copy in a few weeks! The official publication date is June 20th 2017!

And here is the back cover blurb:

When Sophie Bennett moves from a quiet, sleepy suburb of Toronto to glitzy west London, she doesn’t know where she has landed: Venus or Mars. Her three-year-old daughter Kaya attends Cherry Blossoms, the most exclusive nursery in London, where Sophie finds herself adrift in a sea of Alpha mums. These mothers are glamorous, gorgeous, competitive and super rich, especially Kelly, the blonde, beautiful and bitchy class rep.

Struggling to fit in and feeling increasingly isolated, Sophie starts The Beta Mum, an anonymous blog describing her struggles with the Alpha mums. But when her blog goes viral, she risks ruining everything for herself and her daughter. How long will it be until they discover her true identity? Is her marriage strong enough to survive one of her follower’s advances? And will she ever fit in with the Alpha mums?

You will soon be able to purchase The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land locally on June 20th from The Notting Hill Bookshop or you can get it straight to your door with the ever so reliable Amazon from June 20th!

You can also enter the Goodreads Giveaway for a chance to win a free copy on May 10th. The Goodreads Giveaway will run from May 10th to June 10th.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha-Land by Isabella Davidson

The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha-Land

by Isabella Davidson

Giveaway ends June 10, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Let me know what you think!

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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Press

NHYM in Harper’s Bazaar July 2015

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I was interviewed by Rachel Johnson for an article she wrote about the Highs and Lows of Notting Hill for Harper’s Bazaar, to promote her new book, ‘Fresh Hell.’

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Ok, so my interview ended up being more just a one-liner quote in the article, but hey, I am still pleased to have made it in Harper’s Bazaar!

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xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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Social Commentary

‘What Postcode are You?’ London’s Poshest Postcodes…

I used to be what you could call a ‘Chelsea Girl’ about 10 years ago, with my SW3 postcode, Saturday lunches at the Chelsea Farmer’s Market and drinks at Eclipse on Walton Street. Then, I moved up ‘North of the Park’ where I swapped King’s Road for Westbourne Grove, Eclipse for the Westbourne Pub, and Saturday lunches at CFM for Daylesford lunches and went from ‘Chelsea Girl’ to ‘NHYM’. As a Chelsea girl I remember thinking that Notting Hill was a) not as pretty b) a bit grungy/scary c) a little ‘too cool for school,’ but I followed my other half and 10 years later, all the remnants of ‘Chelsea Girl’ are well behind me and with two kids in tow, I have fully embraced the Notting Hill ‘cool.’

I recently wrote a short piece about London’s most expensive postcodes and the bankers who want to live there. http://news.efinancialcareers.com/uk-en/205575/6-london-postcodes-that-show-youve-made-it-in-banking-and-the-bankers-who-live-there/. It got me thinking about London postcodes and how we identify with them. So what does your postcode say about you?

Zoopla’s Rich List of the most expensive postcodes: http://www.zoopla.co.uk/property/richlist/uk/england/

Highest value areas
Area Zed-Index
1 W8 (Kensington) £2,707,386
2 SW7 (Knightsbridge) £2,493,204
3 SW3 (Chelsea) £2,324,889
4 SW10 (West Brompton) £1,857,677
5 W11 (Notting Hill)

Here is my guide to London’s Most Expensive & Poshest Postcodes:

18-Hyde Park

1. SW1X: Knightsbridge

Your neighbours: Sheiks & Oligarchs

Your Style Icon: Queen Rania of Jordan

Knightsbridge is Blingland. It is home to One Knightsbridge, one of the world’s priciest residences where Sultans, Sheiks and Oligarchs love to mingle with their own kind. For them, the postcode and address are clearly more important than cost per sqm. Their motto is ‘the more expensive, the better.’ Of course with Harvey Nics and Harrods at their doorstep, shopping is a vital past time for the SW1X residents. They love labels, flashy cars, yachts and PJs. Competition is rife amongst the SuperRich, and Knightsbridge is the perfect place for them to show off their latest bling.

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2. W8: Kensington

Your neighbours: Kate Middleton & Tamara Ecclestone

Your Style Icon: Kate Middleton

With Kensington Palace and Kensington Palace Gardens, W8 has won the trophy for the most expensive postcode in the UK. It is easy to see why the SuperRich drop £75 Million for a house on Billionaires Row, aka Kensington Palace Gardens, with Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens as their backyard. Then just a few streets away, Phillimore Gardens houses will keep you drooling, which is the best place for Halloween Trick or Treating, with a competition for the best, excessively decorated house on the street. Kensington divides the Chelsea set and the Notting Hill set who are constantly competing for ‘best postcode.’ Ideally located with Holland Park to the West, Hyde Park to the East, South Kensington to the South and Notting Hill to the North, no wonder it is considered the Billionaires Postcode.

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3. SW3: Chelsea 

Your neighbours: Charles Saatchi, Roman Abramovic, and Hugh Grant

Your Style Icon: Amal Alamuddin (Amal Alamuddin may appear straight out of Chelsea, but she is in fact a Notting Hill Girl). 

Chelsea used to be for Sloaney Poneys and the Posh British set, but times have changed. Even the ‘Made in Chelsea’ cast can’t afford to live in Chelsea anymore. Hugh Grant remains one of the last Chelsea Toffs that can be seen toffing around in Chelsea at Brinkley’s on Hollywood Road, right around the corner from his house (unless he moved since my last sighting). Nowadays, it is rich American Private Equity and Hedge Fund kings who sweep up many of the Chelsea Square mansions. The Chelsea set tend to be immaculately dressed and coiffed with head to toe Chanel or Ralph Lauren, thanks to the Chanel store on Brompton Cross or Ralph Lauren on Fulham Road. They do tend to think that ‘it’s Chelsea or nothing’. Chelsea is beautiful, immaculate and manicured, home to the Boltons, some of the most expensive London real estate. But let’s be real, Chelsea is like that really, really good looking guy, who knows it.

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4. SW7: South Kensington

Your Neighbours: Italian and French Aristocrats

Your Style Icon: Marion Cotillard, Clemence Poesy

South Kensington used to be ‘the’ place for all the Italian and French to decamp to from Paris, Rome or Milan, helping to make London France’s 6th biggest city with 400,000 French inhabitants. The French of course love it so much that it has the French consulate and the Lycée Francais within 2 blocks of each other. There is even a French street, Bute Street, with a French bookshop and delis filled with Lycée boys and girls. For the French who want a piece of France in London, South Kensington is the ideal place. Their Mediterranean neighbours, the Italians, equally love South Kensington, paying homage to it with the 2001 film with the same name, South Kensington. The Italian aristocrats can’t get enough of South Kensington, and you may just find yourself on one of their 42 m sailing yachts off the coast of Capri if you’re lucky enough.

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5. W11: Notting Hill 

Your Neighbours: Stella McCartney, Richard Curtis, Writers, Musicians and Fashionistas 

Your Style Icon: Stella McCartney and Kate Moss

It used to be that Notting Hill was the edgy, cool, hip Postcode, but with the 1999 Notting Hill movie and the Bankers and Funders entering the neighbourhood, Notting Hill has gentrified and become the home of the NHYMs and those artists that have ‘made it’. Some of the Modelistas, such as Elle McPherson and Claudia Schiffer have left, but the newer and younger ones like Arizona Muse have moved in, and Stella still remains. It is also popular with many musicians like Blur and Coldplay musicians and Adele reportedly bought her first house here in NH. Notting Hillers like to think themselves as cooler and hipper than their Chelsea counterparts, but the reality is that they both drive their Black Range Rovers, carry a Bottega Veneta handbag and shop at Net-a-Porter but with a rock chick look like Kate Moss. W11 though still prides itself of its multi-coloured homes and magnificent Private Gardens like Ladbroke Square that most can only dream of.

So what your thoughts on your Postcode?!

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

 

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Social Commentary

‘T.L.C.: Tinder-Loving-Care…’

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I was having dinner with a friend of mine, let’s call him Karl, at the Arts Club a few weeks ago when we came upon the subject of Tinder. You see, Karl is circling his 40s and is one of those eternally single guys who dated models in his 20s, a TV celebrity in his 30s – which was serious until it wasn’t – and is now pure and simple ‘single.’ We all have one of those friends, don’t we? Edging his 40s and still unable to settle down, roaming the streets of London entertaining his married friends with his Tinderadventures.

Tinder is a slight obsession of mine, since I am 10 years too late for this cyber-phenomenon (remember the days of Speed dating and Match.com? I even missed those days) and I have often wondered what Tinder-dating is actually like. Would I have been a Tinder-dater if I had been single during Tinder-Time? Would I have been mostly swiping Right or swiping Left? Is it just an instant hook up or relationship worthy material? Who are all these Tinderers? It is actually fascinating, considering Tinder started only just over 3 years ago.

So, Karl gave us a Tinder Tutorial and explained how it all worked for us Middle Aged Tinder Virgins. He showed us the profiles of some girls he had swiped Right for: there was everything between a 5 and a 10. Karl didn’t seem to know the difference between a 5 and a 10, I thought to myself. One woman had for a profile picture, a picture of her enormous double DD cleavage. Classy, I say. He laughs. Perhaps this was why he is still single, I tell him. Sometimes, for the fun of it, he swipes right 10 times in a row just to see what would happen, he explains.

He had also been ‘around the world in Tinder’ he tells me, using it even when he was in New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo on business. (Apparently Tinder New York is more about instant sex, whereas Tinder London has more ‘looking for a relationship’ members). This is truly a global app, I think to myself. The ‘Uber’ of dating. He even went places where he had no more swipes to do! He actually came to the end of Tinder, who knew you could actually get to the end of Tinder?

I ask him if Tinder actually works and he tells me that apart from one Tinder-relationship he had for two months, it is soul-destroying. He was having 15 simultaneous conversations with 15 different girls but was not planning on actually meeting any of them. He just wasn’t interested in any of them but wanted to stay ‘connected’ so that he had someone to talk to when he was lonely or bored, without having an actual, IRL, demanding relationship.

Another friend of mine also on Tinder told me about one Tinder relationship she had with a guy she had met once but he then never made an attempt to meet again but would send her photos of where he was traveling and send random texts to see how she was doing. I wondered what kind of need this was fulfilling in these people’s psyches, if it wasn’t even about sex.

I began to wonder what the point of Tinder was until my husband came home and told me about the actual magic of Tinder: his recently divorced friend came raving to him one night about the merits of Tinder. He had just gotten divorced and was needing some ‘loving’ from someone, anyone, to lift him out of the deep self-esteem-hole he had gotten PD (post-divorce). Enter Tinder-Loving-Care, when two swipes make a right, and rebound sex/attention is on tap. For a divorced, middle-aged father of 2, with a social life solely based on happily married couples from ‘couple dinners’ with his wife’s friends, Tinder was a godsend. Instant TLC at the swipe of a screen, nothing like it for morale and self-esteem boosting.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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Social Commentary

The Pushy Mummy Brigade: Only the Best Schools Will Do. Even at 4 years old.

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Photo courtesy of the internet

In West London, where the motto of the pushy mummy brigade is ‘’Good is not Good enough, only Excellence will do,’ the quest for the perfect education is taken to extremes where only the fittest will survive. For many mothers, the choice of school at 4 years old is thought to determine the entire future of their children’s education, therefore is taken with the utmost seriousness and competitiveness. Friendships and pleasantries are put aside as mums compete for coveted spots at what are considered the ‘top schools’ in London. This causes an intense and fierce competition to gain entry into these schools that leaves some mums defeated by the system or anguished if their child still hasn’t been offered a ‘spot.’ There is now a collective social anxiety created by these mums, bordering on hysteria, which leads to all mothers feeling the pressure of getting their children in the right schools.

For the not-so-pushy-mothers, the question is do you join the ranks of the pushy mummy in order for your child to keep up with them, or do you stand up against the ideals of the Tiger Mother, which can rob childhoods away from children in order to push them in the ‘perfect school’ trajectory? But then how would you feel if your child was left behind as their children enter top schools and yours do not? Is this purely an obsession for anxiety filled mothers or is there any merit to this ultra competitiveness? When does it become more about the parents rather than the child and are we are really doing what is best for our children or are we missing out on what is really important? As a West London mother at the beginning of the school trajectory, I ask myself all of these questions and wonder what kind of parenting model I will subscribe to.

I was recently having dinner with a friend of mine, Sophie*, who was overly distressed because she hadn’t gotten her 3 year old son in what is considered the best pre-prep boys school in London, the infamous Wetherby School. Despite her husband hand delivering 6 applications at birth, he had only gotten into what is considered a ‘second tier’ school in the world of private, independent schools of West London. She had decided early on not to ‘play the game,’ which in West London parlance is being a pushy mum by pestering the registrar with phone calls, writing monthly letters and pulling in connections to call in a good word until you get a ‘spot.’.

It was as if she was describing that her son had only gotten into a ‘lesser’ Ivy League University, the equivalent of getting into Brown University instead of Harvard University which made me think: 1) but this is only pre-prep, he’s only 3 years old for god’s sake 2) all the private schools are very, very good, just be glad he’s gotten in somewhere 3) but finally concluded that she had been carried away by the social pressure that ‘only the best will do.’

I asked why the ‘second tier’ school wasn’t good enough, to which she responded ‘they hand out flyers, it can’t be that good if they are passing out flyers in the street’ and therefore could not be good enough for her son. I tried to re-assure her that his school was still a great school but even though she thought rationally that it was a good school, it was not the ‘best’ and wasn’t accepting the rejection very well. Like Groucho Marx once said, ‘I don’t ever want to belong to a club that I can get into.’

She finally admitted that the social pressure to get into the ‘right’ school had gotten to her and she was seemingly unable to be satisfied with the lesser school. She felt that this was a reflection of her as a mother: ‘I can’t even get him into the best school.’ I could see the little she-devil on her shoulder murmuring down at her as she opened the rejection letter. She had believed that she didn’t need to be a pushy mother to get her son into the ‘right’ school yet was devastated that she hadn’t gotten him in either. Instead of playing the game, she felt that she was the one who had been played, and was disturbed by how much she cared.

Not only that, but she hadn’t even been placed on the wait list, but received a flat rejection letter, while she saw other children born after son being put on the wait list for the small chance that they would get a spot. She described the headmistress of her nursery consoling her on not getting into Wetherby by telling her ‘Don’t worry, it’s for the best, you’re not really a ‘Wetherby Mum’ which could be interpreted in any number of ways but most likely meaning competitive, pushy, alpha mums that will do whatever it takes to get their precious son into the school. Still, there is some reverse snobbery in that comment that makes it all so uncomfortable for everyone involved.

Wetherby was first made world-famous by Princess Di dropping off little Prince William and Prince Harry at the doorsteps of this West London boys pre-prep school. Later, Claudia Schiffer, Elle McPherson and Stella McCartney all chose this school to educate their offspring, creating even more hype around this school and more recently the Beckhams. Even Britain’s favourite posh export, Hugh Grant, is an alumnus. Wetherby is generally considered the ‘gold standard’ where all mums would happily send their children and its new Prep school received the Best Prep School Award from Tatler’s School Guide a few years ago. As one mum says, ‘if you get offered a spot at Wetherby, you don’t think, you just take it.’

All mothers hope and want their children to be successful and since education is seen as one of the best predictors of success, it has turned us into a school-obsessed nation. West London mums take this obsession to another level, schooling being a constant subject of conversation, and when one meets another London mum, ‘How are you?’ could almost be replaced by ‘Where is he/she going to school?’ These West London mums are always a few steps ahead and have worked out the perfect educational trajectory for their children from birth to the end educational goal of Oxbridge or the Ivys for the Americans, which often rightfully, does predict a certain level of success. Take Hugh Grant as an example, he followed the trajectory of Wetherby, Upper Latymer and Oxford, which was an educational and financial success.

In this part of the world, there are only a few roads that lead to Oxbridge; Westminster School (52% go to Oxbridge) and St. Paul’s Boys school (60 Oxbridge offers last year) for the boys, and St. Paul’s Girls School (33% go to Oxbridge) and Wycombe Abbey (32% go to Oxbridge) for the girls. If you work it out backwards, for the boys school, Colet Court is the feeder school to St. Paul’s and Westminster Under is the feeder school to Westminster, and before that, Wetherby Pre-Prep is a great feeder school to both Colet Court and Westminster Under. For girls, Bute House is often quoted as the ‘golden ticket’ since one third of its pupils get places at St. Paul’s Girls School. Other prestigious 4yo+ girls schools include Pembridge Hall, Glendower, Falkner House and Kensington Prep, which are feeder schools for the top girls schools.

West London is an area that attracts overachieving, A type, competitive parents who procreate what they hope to be A-type, over-achieving offspring. This demographic is not your typical parent population, and to even have a chance of attending these schools, the game must be played. But these players are cutthroat, willing to do whatever it takes to win and their persistence is likely to be greater than yours. Like Gore Vidal once said, ‘It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.’ There are clusters of these ‘top tier’ 4 + entry schools in London that these mums have an eye on, with a strong concentration of them in Notting Hill and South Kensington, which include schools mentioned above and others like Notting Hill Prep, Chepstow House, Norland Place and Thomas’. Most of the Notting Hill schools operate on a first come first serve basis, whereas many South Kensington schools also have an assessment at 3 years old, which are even more competitive.

To get into these 4+ entry schools, there are sets of rules that one must learn and adhere to early on, to ‘play the game.’ The rules are taught either by a school consultant for foreigners or by a friend with older children who have already passed this rite of passage. One mother I met in a pregnancy class boasted that she had paid a school consultant £500 just to tell her which schools were ‘appropriate’ schools and which would fit her and her family. Another mother called me in a panic when her daughter was 9 months old because she had ‘slacked off’ and still hadn’t gotten her daughter into a school, asking for advice, from what to do, to what wear and what questions to ask on the school tour. I told her to relax, look presentable and follow the rules.

For first-come-first-serve schools such as Wetherby and Pembridge Hall, applications must be dropped off the day of the child’s birth for the best chances of getting in, which with luck, may happen. Only two children per month are offered a place and two more are put on the waiting list. If that isn’t enough, letters must be written on a monthly basis, extolling the school’s virtues and calls must be made convincing the registrar of your utmost desire to get into this school. Meetings with the headmaster/headmistress consist of telling them that their school is the only school for their child and a few names of friends whose children are attending said school are dropped casually. Friends can call on your behalf. If all else fails, cakes, cookies and cards can be sent in on a monthly basis to assist the odds of climbing the waiting list. Some schools apparently write down each every contact made by the parent to express their interest in the school. Persistence pays off.

I was lucky enough to have been prepped by a few mothers before I gave birth to my first child and chose a school based on 3 criteria: its 5 minute proximity to our house, its adorable school uniforms that really made me melt and thirdly all of my friends in the neighbourhood were all sending their children to this school. These criteria were not based on any kind of research, spreadsheets or enlightened thought, but at 8 months pregnant with more hormones than sense, these seemed as good enough as any. I followed the strict protocol and guidelines and sent my husband 12 hours after my child’s birth, application in hand and flirtatious smiles on standby, to this school and one month later we were luckily offered a spot. I dread to think of the anxiety and anguish I would be faced with had I not undertaken these carefully planned and executed steps as prescribed by the ‘elder’ mothers.

My ‘dejected and rejected’ friend Sophie had also registered her son at birth, but didn’t follow through with the above rules when he didn’t receive an immediate spot, and therefore didn’t stand a chance. She described how she met a mum who immediately boasted that her son had gotten spots to 4 different schools including Wetherby. When Sophie explained that she had only gotten her son into a ‘safety school’ the mother said, ‘Don’t worry, spaces always open up. I still have my spots to all 4 schools.’ She had paid 4 different deposits to retain those places, but was already sure she would be sending him to Wetherby (of course). This would be costing her around £13,500 worth of deposits (4 x £3,500 of deposits), just to retain optionality if something were to go wrong (like what? the school moving to an undesirable post-code?).

Other mums I know have secured places in schools in Notting Hill for their girls, which are first-come-first-serve such as Notting Hill Prep, Chepstow House and Pembridge Hall, only to put their daughters through the assessments at schools in South Kensington like Glendower and Falkner House even though they live much further from these schools. These are considered some of the best girls schools but the assessments are extremely competitive and can be a large source of stress for girls and their parents, who spend hours ‘prepping’ them for the assessment but particularly for the ones who are rejected from the assessment schools or for those who have no backup options.

One of my friends Sarah* went through the excruciating assessment process for her daughter at Falkner House, and despite having attended the nursery attached to the school, failed to get into the school or any of the schools that did assessments. She described the day the offers came out; ‘within a few hours, everyone knew who had gotten in, who had been wait-listed and who had gotten rejected. It was catty and divisive. You didn’t know who had done what to get their child in. Parents pull out all the stops to get in, they wrote letters to the school, found ‘cheerleaders’ within the school to support their child. There were different levels of bribery, from baking cookies to offering holidays on their yachts or in their second home. Even siblings are not guaranteed a spot, and those siblings who do get spots are ‘monitored’ to ensure they keep the standards of the school.’

When her daughter still had no offers or wait-lists, she had to listen to other mothers self-obsessively tell her how difficult it was to choose between different school offers, not realising that she had none, causing unintentional hurt and more stress. Eventually, after 3 rejection letters, she finally received an offer from a non-selective school but for the remainder of the year, she still had to endure the questions of schooling and the implication that her daughter had not gotten into the ‘best’ girls school. She is now very happy with the current school her daughter attends but in retrospect calls it a ‘terrible process that I guess is needed for these over-subscribed schools.’ She tells me that if she had to do it over again, she would have avoided the whole process.

I am glad that I never succumbed to putting my daughters through the assessments at 3 years old. I wouldn’t have handled rejection very well or felt it fair for my daughter to be judged by an arbitrary assessment which likely means nothing about her future cognitive capabilities. Children grow at different speeds and one can only deduce so much from a 3 year olds communication and social skills. At some point, shouldn’t we let our children be children and leave the competition for later?

Speaking to an English mother who has been through the British system and is an Oxford alumnus, she is sending her child to a ‘first come first serve’ school. She says ‘not only because it is closer to where I live, but also because it has great results even though it is a non-selective school. Despite having children that may not have passed the assessment system, they are still achieving excellent results. You could extrapolate that the teaching there is particularly good, since the results of this school is equal or above some of the selective, assessment based entry schools.’

For those without school spots the year prior to entry, the anguish and anxiety of getting into a school becomes almost an obsession, where anything goes to get their children spots involving using school consultants, recurrent meetings with nursery headmistresses to help them get spots, and sending letters and calling schools at regular intervals to move up the waiting list. Not only are there acceptance letters and rejection letters, but there are waiting lists.

Waiting lists are bittersweet, since they give the impression of hope but without a guarantee. The only leverage of a waiting list is that a parent can climb up a waiting list by calls, cards, presents, donations and pleading whereas a flat rejection letter means that all hope is lost. A mother I know was determined to send her child to a certain school, having decided that it was the best school for her son, but despite having gone to the attached nursery, couldn’t get a guaranteed spot. After numerous calls to the school, she found out that her son was 95 down on the waiting list and at that point realised that they had to look at other options, but luckily she has a family connection to another school that she could use.

One of the headmistresses at a leading Notting Hill nursery recently explained that more and more people were moving to Notting Hill for the quality of schools and that they were more over-subscribed than ever. Ten years ago, she could get generally get places for her students into great 4+ entry schools, but not anymore. ‘It is more and more difficult to gain entry into these schools because of the sheer amount of children competing for the coveted spots. These schools used to cater to locals in Notting Hill, but now people are driving their children half way across London so that their child can attend one of these prestigious school or living in Queen’s Park, where they can buy a bigger house, but still sending their children to what are considered some of the top schools in London’.

School choice is also a delicate art in decision-making, which for some parents becomes a form of social snobbery and an indication of social status. School snobbery is based on where your child goes to school and the social assumptions that are made depending on the school. As mentioned, Wetherby is accepted as the best pre-prep boy’s school in London and therefore one of the best in the world some would argue, but still as I mentioned before, there is a social term for ‘Wetherby Mums.’ Every school falls victim to some kind of derision and criticism at some point or other.

One school is considered the ‘airy fairy school for the artsy types without homework or testing’, but ‘forget getting into a proper school after.’ Another fairly new school in a less desirable location was described by a mother ‘where the rejects from Pembridge and Wetherby go to.’

My daughters’ school is known for being ‘blingtastic’ with mothers thinking they are at a ‘fashion show’, and has at the same time been called too competitive by one parent and not competitive enough by another, described as a school ‘for girls who learn how to sew.’ Then there is blatant snobbery I have overheard about a school: ‘Have you seen the parents there? They are not my type of people.’ These are all excellent schools yet these parents can’t help but judge them. It is as if we are back in the playground, but without a headmaster to keep us in line.

It is difficult not to be affected by the general chatter and comments about where our children go to school because school choice is important. As mothers, we want the best for our children. We don’t want our children to be bullied, we want them to be happy, well adjusted but we also want to give them the best opportunities we can give them. Malcolm Gladwell showed in his book ‘Outliers,’ that middle class parenting which encourages extra tutors and extra-curricular activities produces more successful children than lower class parenting which didn’t. He also showed that educational opportunities do help with success, just as Bill Gates had exceptional opportunities in his high school driven by involved mothers. The reality is that certain schools open doors and opportunities, so it easy to buy into the ‘perfect educational trajectory’. https://nottinghillmummy.com/2014/08/29/everything-you-need-to-know-about-your-childs-education-success-by-malcolm-gladwell/

And early education has been proven time and time again to have a strong impact on our children’s future, as evidenced by numerous research papers and renowned academics such as James Heckman, a Nobel Laureate Professor researching the advantages of quality early education on future success. But when we are dealing with private schools in the UK, shouldn’t we be satisfied with any of them, which generally provide world-class education for 4 years old? Isn’t all a bit ridiculous?

Pushy mums, alpha mums, and tiger mums, whose numbers are much higher than average in London, set a precedent. They set a standard of tutoring, sports activities, Kumon lessons and music, and it creates pressure to keep up with these standards. What makes it hard to ignore, is that these children will have an advantage when applying to schools and universities. Our children have to compete with these alpha children who have a tutored advantage over ours and as much as we’d like to think our children to be naturally brilliant, the fact is that practice makes perfect, and the hours of extra help does make a difference. So do we join them to create an equal battleground, or do we stay strong and believe in our children, yet face the reality that our children may not get into the ‘top’ schools? The son of one of my friends who didn’t get into a ‘top’ prep school after the 7+ exams because he wasn’t tutored was left wondering why all his friends got in and he didn’t, which undermined his confidence.

I am not sure whether to praise the pushy parents who are advocates for their children and their ‘go-getter’ attitude or question whether this is creating too much competition and feel sorry for their children who will bear the weight of their mother’s intensity. In one respect, they are opening doors and opportunities for their children, but at the same time forcing others to join in on the competition, fuelling mostly unnecessary anxiety while placing unrealistic pressure on their children to succeed.

Tanith Carey, an ex-tiger mother, details her evolution from pushy- mummy to more-relaxed-mummy in her book Taming the Tiger Parent: How to Put Your Child’s Wellbeing First in a Competitive World, giving advice on how to provide a more nurturing home for happier and healthier children. Having been a Tiger Mum and having failed at it, she truly believes are children are better off in a less competitive environment. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Taming-Tiger-Parent-Tanith-Carey-ebook/dp/B00M0T03TC

It is can be easy to lose sight of what is important for our individual child when we are influenced by this greater social consciousness and conversation. It would be easy to dismiss it, but as a parent, who wouldn’t want to send their child to the ‘best’ school possible and give them the ‘best’ opportunities possible? But sometimes we have to be reminded that being at the ‘best’ school may not always be the right decision for the individual child and that competition is not always positive for our children.

One wise mother I know once told me, ‘I would rather my son was the top of his class in a lesser school than the last in the most competitive school. His confidence will grow much more in an environment where he is among the best than in an environment where he is among the worst.’ The parents’ attitude towards success and failure is also an important contributor towards a child’s overall success. Most child psychologists stress that failure is just as important as success to build character and emotional resilience, therefore opportunities for learning and growing are just as important in times of success as they are in times of failure.

At no other time in our lives do we feel more judged than when we become mothers, whether we decide by choice or not by choice, to breastfeed or not, whether we are ‘too posh to push’, or where we decide to send our children. All of sudden, motherhood is an open door for all to comment on. It is difficult not to think that these decisions are reflections of you as a parent, because in some ways they are. Our children are being shaped and encouraged by all those around them, including schools and their peers. These are questions many mothers today face on a daily basis, from our microcosm of West London, to middle class England, but I believe that we ultimately have the same goal in mind when we stop listening to the chatter; happiness for our children.

Perhaps we should take a step back and take a deep breath, relax and realise that the most important thing is our children’s wellbeing. Perhaps we should just let them be children and let them play, jump in muddy puddles, let them run freely in a garden and climb trees and forget about the stringent activities of ballet/tennis/swimming/music/2nd language/football on top of reading/writing/maths tutoring. And then, we can start being kinder to each other and to our children, since motherhood is already hard enough as it is. All we can do is the best we can, and that should be good enough. And let’s face it, most of us are just winging it after all.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

Let me know your thoughts and comments on competitive mothering!

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Reviews

Review: Wormwood Restaurant

‘…there’s a new Wormwood/In our hood/Gotta try its so good/Chef Rabah Ourrad/He’s a chef-rapper/Who loves his Lobster. 

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Wormwood Restaurant

16 All Saints Road

London W11 1HH

0207 854 1808

http://www.wormwoodrestaurant.com

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(All Photos courtesy of the internet for this post)

Food: 4 stars

Atmosphere: 4 stars

Service: 4.25 stars

Value/money: 3.75 stars

Design: 4 stars

Overall: 4 stars

The Restaurant

The latest foodie addition to Notting Hill is Wormwood, a Mediterranean restaurant in what some people call the dodgier part of NH/W11. I have been meaning to try this restaurant for quite some time now, having read very good reviews, the most recent from Giles Coren last Saturday, who highly rated the food, less so the concept of ‘sharing plates.’ All Saints Road is having somewhat of a revival, from the Rum Kitchen to the Wormwood Restaurant, and is becoming the Hollywood Road of the North; a quiet road with an international restaurant across from a rowdy, rustic Italian. ‘Wormwood’ really is a tragic name for a restaurant though, didn’t the owners know that Wormwood Scrubs is a prison just a few miles away? Or is it purposefully a commentary about the dream of two Algerians who now co-own their restaurant, proving that the underdogs can come out on top? (Chef Rabah Ourrad has an interesting background of a young Algerian-in-Paris-rapper-turned-chef with stints at Momo’s, Sketch and the Ledbury. I would like to sit in his kitchen while he raps ‘Le Micro Brise Le Silence’ over his truffle emulsion).

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In any case, it is a light and airy restaurant with colours of green, blues and white patterns with some olive trees in its terrace to keep it, well, very Mediterranean. The crowd is quite grown up looking for an exciting change from ‘Michelin star’ type restaurants, which do get repetitive after a while (I must admit that my experience of Marianne’s of Masterchef fame down the road was disappointingly underwhelming, hence why I have not reviewed it). The concept here  is keeping high standards of cooking techniques in a more relaxed ‘sharing plates’ style, ‘elegant yet relaxed,’ as it likes to be described. There is a lovely back area, which can be privatised, and also acts as an art gallery.

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(Smoked Aubergine)

The Food

Sharing plates is the hot trend of the moment for restaurants, and Notting Hill is no exception; Polpo, the Shed and Mazi are just a few of the recent openings in the past few years. Mazi, a nouveau-Greek, showed how simple Greek food can be elevated to sophisticated food, using ingredients like Rice Paper for the Souvlaki instead of your regular old Gyro bread. It is international cuisine with a twist. Wormwood to me is the Morrocan version of Mazi, trying to create nouveau Moroccan inspired dishes. If you like Mazi, you should try Wormwood. The lobster couscous with lobster bisque is delicious, the beetroot salad cleanses the palate and allows space for the foie gras which is another distinctive dish. There is pork belly tagine, sea bass dishes, and lots of aubergine. The cauliflower truffle combo is becoming my new craving, which I also found here at Wormwood, almost as good as the cauliflower and truffle mousse from Nuno Mendes’ Chiltern Firehouse. At some point though, it felt as if my palate wanted just two or three ingredients per course, rather than 6 ingredients per plate, with 10 plates for four (Example: Scallops ceviche with redcurrant dressing, coriander cress, and homemade limoncello gel. That means 60 different ingredients in one sitting).

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(Lobster Couscous)

The menu offers inventive and unique dishes blending Morrocan, French, Spanish and Lebanese influences, and bringing unusual ingredients together. But it all rather works. The dishes are quite sophisticated in their presentations and have more ingredients than necessary (he just couldn’t resist showing off his jellies and mousses) that they turn out quite foodie but difficult to share. The service was excellent and we were impressed by our waitress’ poetic memory of all the dishes and ingredients per plate. It felt as if the rapper Chef wanted to prove his fine dining skills and creativeness while ‘keeping it real,’ which suits All Saints Road perfectly.

The Verdict: The older, more sophisticated brother of Mazi restaurant for those who are tired of Michelin-star restaurants formality. Great for a grown-up dinner with ‘couple-friends’ who don’t know each other very well. If there’s a break in the conversation, the food is always a conversation starter.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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(Homemade Cocktails)
Wormwood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Social Commentary, Top 10, Travel

Review: The Splendido Hotel, Portofino, Italy

Quote of the Day: ‘Why Don’t I Have Prices on my Menu?’

Splendido Hotel

Salita Baratta 16, 16034 Portofino, Italy

+ 390185267801

http://www.belmond.com/hotel-splendido-portofino/

SplendidoViewNHYM

(All Photos Courtesy of NHYM Copyright 2014.)

Overall: 4.75 stars

The restaurant: 4.5 (5 stars for the Truffle Tagliatelle, 4 for the rest).

The Room: 4.75 stars (5 stars for the Balcony of Room 101, 4.5 stars for the room)

The view: 5 Stars

The Service: 4.5 Stars

The people-watching: 4.75 stars

The ‘most expensive hotel in Europe’

Portofino

When I told my Italian friend that I was going to Portofino and staying at the Splendido for a few nights, he smiled broadly and replied; ‘Ah, the most expensive hotel in Europe!’ I cringed. This was the most expensive hotel room I was ever paying for out of my own pocket (doesn’t count when work/business/clients take you somewhere, like the time I was taken to the Byblos in St. Tropez with similar prices for a Suite). It makes the Maldives look like a good deal in comparison. One night here was equivalent to one month’s pay check at my first job after grad school. There was no way it was going to be worth it. I could probably build a whole village in Africa for this kind of money. But, it was decided, we were going to go to the Splendido for a once-in-a-lifetime experience to celebrate our wedding anniversary and make up for the honeymoon we never really had.

Splendid Splendido

SplendidSplendidoNHYM

The Splendido was originally a Benedictine monastery where ascetic monks gave up all worldly desires in the name of God, until it was bought by a rich Italian family who carved its future in becoming the home of the Dolce Vita, the sweet pleasures of life. It then became a world famous hotel that welcomed the biggest stars in Hollywood; Clark Gable, Charlton Heston, Liza Minelli, and other international stars like Alain Delon, Maggie Smith and Michael Caine, all who have black and white photographs hung in the corridors of the hotel. The hotel is surrounded by a gorgeous garden of rows and rows of agapanthus, rows of hydrangeas, lemon trees, 100 year old olive trees, palm trees, cacti, bougainvillaea, daisies, jasmine and all the other flowers you could think of. It is a small garden of Eden in Italy.

Inside, the hotel is decorated in a kitschy way that only Italians can pull off, with painted frescoes on the walls, my grandmother’s curtains hanging from the windows, and gold framed paintings of flowers on the walls. The hotel could use a lift, but in some ways, you are living a part of history past. The paintings and black and white photographs on the walls are all crookedly hung, but no one has fixed almost intentionally. The view is to-die-for. Watching the view for a few hours is as good as meditating for the day. It quietens the soul and instantly lifts you up. The view is of the bay in front of Portofino, inhabited by Superyachts changing daily, Invictus, Lady Joy, Elisa and Virginian (all of which can be rented for 250-500,000 Euros per week), fuelling my FOMO despite being in one of the nicest hotel I have dreamt about.

The Restaurant

TruffleTagliatelleSplendidoNHYM

After check-in, we went straight to the hotel restaurant, La Terrazza, on a beautiful terrace with a picture perfect view of Portofino. We crossed paths with a short 65 year old man, smiling from ear to ear, accompanied by a young girl, 35 years younger and 35 cm taller. I did a double take. They looked familiar. Had I seen the same couple at the One & Only in the Maldives just a few years ago? Probably not, but it certainly set the scene of the hotel’s clientele.

Our lunch at the Terrazza was one of the best lunches we’d had in a while. It was also probably because it was 3pm and we were starving – everything tastes better when you are starving. We ordered the truffle tagliatelle, which was worthy of 5 stars. Mr. C then had the sesame crusted seared tuna, which was perfectly seared and seasoned. Next to us, we could hear an older American couple whom had probably been saving their whole life for this trip talking to another American couple. The woman asked: ‘Why don’t I have prices on my menu?’ Amateurs. (For those who don’t know, women’s menus don’t have prices in the South of France or in Italy, it is the land of machismo after all.) Two tables down, I saw Arun Nayer (50 y.o.), Elizabeth Hurley’s ex husband, with his new younger girlfriend, the model Kim Johnson (29 y.o.). This was starting to be a recurring theme.

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The dinner we had on a Saturday night was good, but by all means not spectacular. The service was slow but the view and the people watching was stupendous. An older, seasoned American couple next to us discussed their love of Business Class Flying; ‘I could never imagine flying to Europe any other way.’

The Characters

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Watching the clientele of the hotel was a theatrical show of its own, showcasing the world’s current financial and social structural hierarchy. Next to us at the pool were four Russians who wouldn’t stop talking, not the bling and brash ones seen at Les Caves in St. Tropez or Courchevel, just wealthy, upper middle class Russians. The Americans were the really loud ones, whose conversations seemed to be projected over loudspeakers and followed us everywhere. There were London Hedge Funders also in the mix, one of them that sold his fund for a cool £100 (million that is), with his original wife that needed some style tips. There were a slew of younger, more beautiful women (often Eastern European/Russians) with Gerard Depardieu look-alike boyfriends/husbands. The women were clearly with them NFHL (not for his looks) and more FHM (for his money). Although, I have to say that these couples looked happy, these women were being given lavish lifestyles and never lacked anything, whereas these older men could feel young and studly with their beautiful younger girlfriends/wives. It was an economical transaction that benefited everyone. A Japanese couple sitting at lunch read their IPad/Iphone/Samsung the entire lunch without a word exchanged. Finally, there were a few Italian and French head of industries, welcoming each other: ‘Bienvenue a Portofino!’ The only ones missing were the Chinese.

The Wedding

RoomWithAView

We happened to be staying there the same weekend of a wedding. As we saw the guests fill up the terraces, I tried to guess what kind of wedding it was. I guessed ‘second wedding, older man with younger Eastern European/Russian wife’. There were Americans, English, and Russian guests in addition to the occasional Indian and Asian guest. I guessed they were from London, since there is no other city in the world that would mix these nationalities so easily, specifically Chelsea or Knightsbridge. They must be in finance with their Blackberrys ringing and potbellies bouncing. I saw three sexy Eastern European girls with fake boobs, frolicking around each other during cocktail hour, probably the only friends of the bride. (We happened to have the best terrace of the whole hotel, Room 101, which was front row seats to this spectacle). Later that night, all my guesses were confirmed, as I saw the 50 year old groom accompanying his 6 year old flower girl daughter from his first marriage back to her room, while his beautiful, billowy, blond, bride spoke Russian to her friends and I confirmed the London location as I saw Arun Nayer and his girlfriend leaving the wedding.

Room With A View

SuiteRoom101SplendidoNHYM

Can I just suggest Room 101 if at all possible? It is a corner Suite with the ‘best terrace in the hotel’, best to watch the sunrise, the sunset, the ‘flora and fauna’ of the hotel (and the flowers and gardens as well). There is a safe behind one the flower paintings hung on the wall, very Italian Job.

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One of the nicest hotel bathroom views

The Verdict: So, is it worth it? 

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This hotel is a place where prices and currencies are best forgotten. The prices should stay off both the men and women’s menus to prevent spoiling the experience. The experience is priceless, indeed, and my expectations where thankfully met (the worse is when you spend a fortune on a hotel-letdown). This is a place to fall in love, to meditate, to forget yourself and who you are, and to be happy in. It has the best view of Portofino, even better than from the Virginian or Invictus yachts, proven by the yachties who come to the hotel for the food, the view and the atmosphere. The stunning scenery and hotel are enough to wash away any worries, even if momentarily for a few days. Places like this are what dreams are made of.

Other tips:

* There is a Kids Club! Really, an actual, real kids club below the pool. Pizza and Gelato making today!

* The pianist is world famous, dressed in a blue or green sequinned jacket, singing Sinatra and Italian songs and gets those old feet moving and stomping, from 18 to 88 year old.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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Social Commentary

Notting Hill Nurseries & The Rise of the Notting Hill Yummy Mummy

Baby chic

I was first introduced to the world of Notting Hill Yummy Mummies 10 years ago when I was still in the world of Little Miss Notting Hill (www.littlemissnottinghill.com), brunching at the old Electric, Sunday afternoons at the Westbourne, and late nights at Montgomery Place, blissfully unaware of the darker side of Notting Hill. I met ‘Francesca’ through an ex-P.E. boyfriend, who ended up being instrumental in my rise to being a Notting Hill Yummy Mummy. She taught me everything there is to know about motherhood: ‘1. Get Mr. Teoh on the phone as soon as you are pregnant and book your suite at the Portland Hotel & Spa (for those of you who don’t know, it really is a hospital, but their concierge/bellhop is very good, breakfast is 5 star, and request the Dutch Bowen therapist, she is lovely) 2. The day he/she is born, send the sperm-donor to the gates of ‘that’ school with the to-die-for school uniforms (Wetherby/Pembridge Hall), application in hand and stop by ‘the’ nursery on the same day (one of the ‘famous five’). 3. Discipline, Persistence, Perseverance and Consistency (I wasn’t sure if she meant that for me or for my children, but it worked for both). That’s all you need to know about parenting,’ she assured me. I followed all of her advice and here I am today, a Notting Hill Yummy Mummy.

Only after the fact did I realise how much time and money Francesca saved me. I avoided hours of research, headaches wondering which nursery to send M to, visiting all the below nurseries, or paying a ‘school consultant’ hundreds of pounds to research the nurseries before doing all of it again myself . I once almost veered off track and asked about a Bilingual nursery, but my Alpha mum friend told me ‘Don’t do it. Your child will be put in the Z class at Pembridge/Wetherby and that’s the end of it. You can forget about Oxbridge.’ ‘What’s the Z class?’ I asked wide-eyed, innocent and ignorant. ‘It’s for the slow kids that the teachers ignore.’ After that, I thought it best to take Francesca’s advice, and do what I was told.
The first day of nursery, nervous, scouring for new friends, wearing a new outfit, and some crying involved, I felt 7 again on the first day of school, while my child was happily playing with the toy kitchen. (Thankfully, I wasn’t aware that some parents were googling each other, otherwise I would have really lost it) but all has turned out just fine. Here’s my piece of advice for new mums choosing a nursery: stop giving yourselves headaches, women! They are all great nurseries! Which is why everyone bribes and steals to get in, but each has its own personality, which is what I will focus on below. Once in, you just need to stay away from the competitive Alpha and Tiger mums, be polite to the billionaires (you never know when you’ll be needing their private jet) and somewhere in there, in every nursery, you will find clever, interesting, genuine parents that you may become friends with. Just make sure you send in an application as soon as your child is born. That is imperative. If not, send them cards and photos of your child each month, cookies may help, or pretend that you’ve just moved to London, cry a little, and they will take pity on you (There are always spaces once offers are declined. This strategy works well at Acorn).
So here I am paying it back by spreading Francesca’s wisdom and giving you the ‘real’ low-down on the ‘Famous Five’ Notting Hill Nurseries. For Free.

‘FAMOUS FIVE’ NOTTING HILL NURSERIES

‘A is for… A-List ACORN NURSERY’
Best for: Rock ‘n’ Roll Royalty and the Kool Kids
McCartney and Jagger are common last names at this nursery. A-List Hollywood actors send their kids here when they are filming their latest flick in London. Film directors, news presenters and politicians all send their kids here. You have to be ready to mingle with the fash-pack, as you will have to compete with shoe designers, who probably design their children’s own shoes, and a famous fashion designer with rock royalty genes whose latest very cute, kids see-through waterproof raincoat will put your child’s Gap raincoat to shame. But not all fashion designers are welcome. One famous A-list fashion designer (one half of an A-list ‘Golden’ couple) was rumoured not to have gotten a place because when she visited she wore big, oversized sunglasses and never smiled (I wouldn’t smile either if I only are one green apple a day). Madonna apparently was rejected and Richard Curtis may have based the Christmas Play in his film ‘Love Actually’ on this nursery’s Christmas play. There are ‘Daddy mornings’ which involve daddies coming for a coffee morning to encourage daddy and child bonding (which really just highlights the fact that these daddies need their assistants to schedule me-and-child-time in their busy work schedules). A whole article in the Telegraph was written about this nursery in 2004 which will give you a flavour of this nursery, but also of all the nurseries in the area: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1459538/The-only-education-you-need-is-Acorn-and-Oxford.html.
Ofsted rating: Good (2011). http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/CARE/105673

‘M is for… Mini Royals at the MINORS NURSERY’
Best for: English Royalty and Wannabe English Royalty
This nursery was made famous by Lady Di dropping off her precious princes William and Harry at Minors Nursery in the eighties. The nursery is rather on the small side with little outdoor space and the toys are so pristine and clean, they look like they’ve never been used. The parents say that this nursery is ‘all about the children’ so there is less parent-competition around once you are in (the competition remains behind closed doors during the application process here). There is a new headmistress who started a few years ago, whom some parents feel is rather cold and on the snobby side, especially when she explains that Minors stands out for ‘not being a nursery in a dirty church hall’ (what’s wrong with a dirty church hall? They probably had more fun there and that’s probably where most of these mums went to nursery). One parent given the tour of the nursery felt that the children seemed a bit snotty (not the cold-virus-nose-snotty kind but the spoiled-brat kind) and the girls were all in expensive princess dresses (not the Disney kind, more the Melissa Wyndham kind), which scared them off.
Ofsted report: Outstanding (2011). http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/CARE/EY295790

‘S is for… Sexy Dads and Stepford wives at STRAWBERRY FIELDS’
Best for: The PTA mum and hot-daddy-watching/drooling
Strawberry fields earned its reputation some years ago as having the best-looking-dad-of-all-nursery-dads. ‘He just walked by…’ one mum would say, without even mentioning his name, and all the other mums will sigh in unison. This was one good enough reason to send your kids here, but I will try to remain unbiased and will fill another whole post on the virtues on this very famous ex-football player as the ‘World’s Best Dad’ another time (who by the way does the drop off and pick up more than any other dad, takes his daughter to Granger for lunch after nursery, and then drops her off to playdates and BabyBop). As one woman manning a booth at the Christmas fair was overheard saying ‘Every woman should have an accessory like that.’ But it’s the mummies to be afraid of at this nursery. There are some who send their nannies to stand in line for them at the Christmas play and then use their twiglet, sharpened elbows to bulldozer through the line 10 minutes before the start to ensure front row seats. Then there are the panic-attack-inducing mums who organise the Christmas fair (the Christmas Fair deserves another blog to itself). Apart from those details, the nursery itself is wonderful, the staff is strict but loving, the children are adorable, the nursery feels spacious and welcoming, having the use of the large adjacent church hall for physical education, christmas plays, easter hat parades and farm animal visits. Having said all that, the parents are extremely involved, if that is your thing, and there are parents’ nights out at the Lonsdale, lunches at Osteria, and Pub Quizzes all organised by the Class and School Representatives and there are some lovely international parents to have coffee with at Kitchen & Pantry before or after pick up and drop off.
Ofsted: Outstanding (2013). http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/CARE/EY456623

‘R is for… Respite or Rejects? at ROLFE’S’
Best for: Those who are just afraid of all of the above. This nursery is part of the Alpha Plus Group, which has Pembridge Hall, Wetherby and Minors in its roster, so comes from a very good pedigree. Rolfe’s is the opposite of the Minors, with children running around in the big open area on the ground floor, playing with sand, and getting their hands dirty in the outdoor space. It all seemed like good fun. It is still very good, the parents love it and the new nursery premise is brand new, but for some the space has lost its charm and coziness of the Ken Park Road space, where it used to be. Some of the mums choose Rolfe’s in hope that they are shielding their children from the Alpha mums and Bling from the other nurseries, but they can’t escape. There are still chauffeur-driven children being dropped off, mums who give Harrod’s presents to the teachers at Christmas and mums asking other mums ‘So, are you teaching your child Mandarin yet?’
Ofsted: Good (2013). http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/CARE/EY448774

‘L is for… La La Land at LADBROKE SQUARE MONTESSORI’
Best for: The Anti-Bling Notting Hill Hippy Chick
For the remaining Hippy Chicks who live in Notting Hill and decidedly want to stay away from the Hedge Fund/Banker/Bling crowd (although don’t be duped, there are still children living in £13 million mansions backing onto communal gardens), most opt for Ladbroke Square Montessori. There is less competition, so it is easier to get in and is described as a ‘warm and happy place.’ It is not known for its hard discipline, but more for its carefree approach, unlike some of the other nurseries above mentioned. When touring the nursery, one parent asked: ‘How do you discipline a child if one child hits another child?’ ‘We ask the child to apologise to the other child.’ ‘What if they don’t want to apologise?’ ‘We encourage them to say sorry but if they don’t want to say sorry, we don’t make them.’ So, if you’re OK with that, I am sure your child will love this nursery.
Ofsted: Outstanding (2011). http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/CARE/105707

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

twitter: @NHyummymummy

p.s. Check out my mention in this Saturday Times Magazine 30/8/14 in the articles on London Nurseries & Schools!!! xx

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Photos, Social Commentary

The Serpentine Summer Party 2014

SerpentinePartyInviteNHYM

(Photos all by NHYM copyright 2014)

Peak Summer Party Week

Apparently, this week is Peak Party Week for Summer Parties (quoted from the Evening Standard 2/7/14) and if there is one summer party to go to and one invite to receive, it is to the Serpentine Summer Party (Cartier Polo is passé, Wimbledon becomes a bit repetitive, and it wouldn’t be fair to compare it to Garden/Country/School Parties). It is the gallery’s biggest fundraiser of the year and showcases a Pavilion designed by some of the world’s most influential architects, from Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, to Jean Nouvel and Oscar Niemeyer, who have all exhibitied in the past. It is also the trendiest party of the year, mingling artists, architects, fashion designers with A-list Hollywood stars of the moment, Supermodels and London socialites, Rock Stars, and Power Mad Business Tycoons.

SSPPavillionSmiljanRadicNHYM

First, the art…

This year, a Chilean architect Smiljan Radic brought a giant alien spacepod to Hyde Park. It is one of the strangest pavilions so far, (I am partial to the Japanese architects, really liking Sou Fujimoto’s pavilion last year and the 2009 Pavilion by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa), but the directors, Julia Peyton Jones and Hans-Ulbrich Obrist see a vision in it: ‘While enigmatically archaic, in the tradition of romantic follies, Radic’s designs for the pavilion also look excitingly futuristic, appearing like an alien space pod that has come to rest on a Neolithic site.’

SSPPavillionSmiljanRadicNHYM2

The Frog and The Yanks have landed in London in a Chilean Spacepod

Not only is this party about art, but it is becoming about international power players and this year’s party was co-hosted by some of the most powerful men in the world; Michael Bloomberg, (who recently became Chairman of the Serpentine, American ex-New York mayor, finance publisher, billionaire, 16th richest in the world), Francois-Henri Pinault, (French CEO of a luxury conglomerate, Kering, which owns Gucci, Stella McCartney, Bottega Venetta, St. Laurent amongst others, 3rd richest man in France), and Andre Balasz (Hungarian-American hotelier extraordinaire and taste-maker worth $450 Million, who recently opened the blazing hot Chiltern Firehouse). And in the midst of this power threesome are stories of politics and money, dating Hollywood actresses, Supermodel ex-girlfriends baby mommas, and more gossip and scandal than in a Danielle Steele novel.

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Michael Bloomberg takes over the world

Michael Bloomberg, known for being a major philanthropist has already donated a large sum of money to help build an extension of the Serpentine Gallery, the Sackler gallery. This is just one of the ways of making his name in the London Social Circle, along with building Bloomberg Place in the city with Fosters architects, befriending David Cameron with party donations, and launching London’s Technology Week with Boris Johnson a few weeks ago. He already conquered New York by ‘buying’ his candidacy with more personal money than any other candidate (and did a relatively good job of it, being a Robin Hood type, decreasing New York’s deficit by cutting costs and spending his own personal money to compensate the losses). He now has his sights on London and I wouldn’t be surprised if he were to try to run against Old Boris for the Mayor candidacy in London. The Etonian vs. the Billionaire. Perhaps we should take it as a compliment that he is now turning to London as his home, post NY, but perhaps it is his ambitions that have grown bigger than the U.S. alone. Unfortunately, Bloomberg was nowhere to be seen at the party, likely too busy planning on how to take over China.

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The Co-Hosts: Francois Henri Pinault and Andre Balasz (Oh, and Brendan Mullane creative director of Brioni and Marina Abramovic, artist)

The other billionaire moving to London is Francois-Henri Pinault from France, who is known for his love scandals in great French style, having fathered two children in the same year with Supermodel Linda Evangelista and Superstar Hollywood Actress, Salma Hayek (I’m not sure his good looks got them into bed…). Andre Balasz, also known for dating Hollywood actresses (famously dated Uma Thurman post-Ethan Hawke, and the comedienne Chelsea Handler), also has his sights set on Hotel-World-Domination after the ridiculously successful London opening of Chiltern Firehouse, where everyone ended up for the Serpentine after-party.

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(Keira Knightely at the DJ Booth)

The Party

As we arrive, Princess Beatrice is being photographed, looking like a princess in her billowy, white, flowery bouffant dress, while we pass the hoards of paparazzi. The security this year is much more stringent than in the past years, promising some great people watching. Inside, Andre Balasz, being the consummate host, is chatting and smiling at my arrival. The Ladies of London cast positioned themselves at the entrance to expose themselves to the world and welcomed any photographic exposure. At the bar near the DJ Booth, I am fighting for a Watermelon Martini with Nick Grimshaw behind me and Zadie Smith on my left (who knew she was this beautiful) while Cara Delivigne sipped her cocktail and watched on, being her kooky self. She is wearing a somewhat subdued, classical black Mulberry evening gown and carrying the latest Mulberry bag, of her own design. She is rather cool and beautiful in person. She eventually wanders off to chat to Keira Knightely who is at the DJ Booth trying to figure out who the guest performer will be tonight.

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(Grayson Perry)

People-Watching

The people-watching is quite simply spectacular (not quite the Met Ball or the Oscars but pretty impressive for London standards), with Actors, Models, Magazine Editors, Fashion designers, Business Tycoons, Artists and all the other London’s scenesters and trendsetters everywhere I look (you can see all the dresses on the Hello, Vogue and Huffpost websites): Bradley Cooper is looking dapper next to Francois-Henri Pinault who made an appearance without his wife, Suki Waterhouse is looking fab in pale pink Burberry although a little too slender for my taste. Grayson Perry, Tracey Emin and Nancy D’el Olio, colourful as always, are yearly regulars. Orlando Bloom looks rather dashing with his hair pulled back in a fitted suit while Lily Allen is looking funky with multicoloured hair. Noel Gallagher has finally made it to the Serpentine this year he says, and chats to Bradley.

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Keira, Cara and Alexa: the Belles of the Ball

Keira, Cara and Alexa are already setting the scene on the dance floor for the surprise guest. Natalie Massanet is looking a bit tired this year, she must be working too hard, while Sir Philip Green is here with his daughter. Nikki Hilton looks a little lost in the crowds, although pulling off a great black and white Diane von Vurstenberg jumpsuit. Gemma Arterton is looking luscious in her red midriff baring dress and red matching lips. The fash pack is out in force; Matthew Williamson, Alice Temperely, Naomi Campbell, Lily Cole, Arizona Muse are only some of the few. And I spot a number of NHN and NHYMs I recognise, and while I am busy people watching, Mr. C is busy being chatted up by a 20something New York socialite.

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(The Electronic Surfboard)

Inside the gallery is a dedicated room for the football fans following USA vs Belgium, being projected on a wall in a man room, with an inflatable bouncy castle and electronically controlled surf board, a basketball hoop and a dance arcade (a favourite of Alexa Chung and Andre Balasz).

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(Pharrell!!!)

I ‘Get Lucky’ and I am ‘Happy’

As the sun sets on a beautiful evening and crowd in the Park, arrives the highlight of the night in the form of our favourite pint-sized, hat-wearing, artist/singer/producer Pharrell Williams. (Last year’s performance by the Saturdays was forgettable, the year before was Azalea Banks who sang 212 while I was boogying between Benedict Cumberbatch and Arizona Muse, and a few years before, Dizzie Rascal made us get rowdy to ‘Holiday.)’ It doesn’t get better than this. Pharrell is an artist and a magician with his hit songs and collaborations, who inspires 3 year olds to 70 year olds. And as he sang ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Happy’ under the stars of Hyde Park’s Serpentine Gallery, there is nowhere else to be tonight, and just for tonight I truly am feeling pretty ‘Happy’ and I’ve gotten ‘Lucky’ as I held hands with Pharrell and danced the night away between Cara, Keira and Alexa.

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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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