Nearly every day there is a new note in Pip’s school bag. Whilst we do have snazzy apps and tech to keep in touch with the school, like Classlist, and GroupCall somehow the paper in the book bag method pervades. The latest in a long line of health related information has been about the NHS National Child Measurement Programme. Excitingly data is collected from all reception children unless they opt out because:

About one in five children in Reception are overweight or obese, rising to one in three in Year Six. Because the number of children being overweight has gradually increased, we have slowly become used to it. It can be difficult to tell if your child is overweight as they may look similar to other children of their age. By recording their measurements, we can get an accurate measure.

Research shows that if your child is overweight now, they are more likely to be overweight as an adult, which can lead to health problems in later life. This measurement is an important way of checking how your child is growing.

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but it did surprise me that at Pip’s school, they don’t do PE classes in reception. I asked about kit at the beginning of the year and was really taken aback to find that as they are not required to do it, they don’t offer it. When I read that “as a result of extensive independent research commissioned by ESP Play and carried out by Liverpool John Moores University, the average amount of physical activity taking place during PE lessons was remarkably low” I didn’t feel so bad though. The report demonstrated that “68% of a child’s PE lesson is spent stationary”  which seems rather high but then I remembered watching Pip’s gymnastics classes and skiing classes where a proportion of the class is spent queuing for a turn.

I don’t worry about Pip specifically, because she does do ballet (which is active) and gymnastics (semi active) and scoots everywhere (full on active), and spends all playtimes hanging off monkey bars or racing around, but (playground aside) those activities are not just expensive but the logistics of them and work is enough that I can quite see why they are an easy to avoid unnecessary complication in many family’s lives.

Is there an answer? Pip’s school seems to think so – all of the HSA fundraising that we do is going towards building a new playground which will include treetop houses, raised walkways, quiet relaxing areas and all sorts of ideas to get all sorts of children active, cementing the school’s forest school status, and bringing opportunity for physical exercise and interaction to all the children. Which is why I found the time to help (wo)man the bar the other week at an event, and the inclination to make costumes and support fundraising activities – so that all of the children will get increased opportunity, not just the ones who have parents able to pay for extra classes.

Collaborative post

What a difference a year makes… These photos were taken a year apart at work conferences – on the left I am heavily pregnant, on the right, a month back into the swing of a full time job after my second maternity leave. Sadly the necklace on the left is no longer, after the baby finally succeeded in breaking it free from my neck. I was wearing it when he was born and he took great pleasure in grabbing, growing slowly stronger until the day when he finally destroyed it. But I digress…

Things have been super busy round here. I kept toying with the idea of requesting some flexible working when I returned to work and I just kept putting it off. I felt like it would be my responsibility to find a solution to find someone to cover the extra work, or I’d end up doing 5 days work in 4 days, but not being paid and so I returned full time in January when Buster was 8 and half months old. Things have obviously been quieter round here as I got used to being back at work and juggling childcare commitments, alongside being a wife and a friend and an upstanding member of the PTA with cake sales and promise auctions and car boot sales to organise, and then work pressures have built up, and I’ve been staying late where possible, and going in early every morning, and then came the evening events, and it was on the bus home last night after the second evening out at International Women’s Day events, and I realised I’d spent about 30 minutes with the children all week, and even though I’d managed the school run on Wednesday as per my slightly shifted hours agreement once a week, the balance still isn’t quite right.

And yet, I don’t know what the answer is, either. I love my job. I get to write about interesting stuff (and even make the cross over between this blog life and work blog life because my connections are intertwined. About the only thing I can confidently list as a skill is networking, connecting and joining up people, so it is no surprise to me that I can connect with people in a professional capacity that I met whilst in my wedding blogging era, or that I can write things about flex, baby, for my work blog after meeting Anna in the cafe at the V&A back before she was on panels at feminist things.) I like volunteering at the school, being on the PTA, getting involved with the school community and so on. But I also love my kids, and surely even an event with the Lord Chancellor isn’t worth missing bedtime for. Or is it?

Is flexible working the answer? Maybe… would working from home more often help. I don’t know. I feel like my contribution to the #beboldforchange campaign is to raise this, and try and work out how to address this disconnect. Because I can’t be the only one questioning it.  I wouldn’t go so far as the doctor who thinks she isn’t doing a good job at either being a mother or a doctor because I’m actually on my good days pretty confident that I am doing just fine as a parent, and an employee, but perhaps that is because I’ve deliberately stepped away from my previous role as a solicitor and took a conscious step a few years ago to seek something less stressful whilst I had young children. But seeing as I’ve now had my last pregnancy (I think!) I technically don’t need to remain in a junior, less stressful role for more than the next couple of years. Giving up work for the next couple of years is also something I could never contemplate, for many many reasons. Not just for me but for the example I set for my children, not least of which is that earning money is both a male and female responsibility and opportunity. It hasn’t escaped my attention either that Buster loves nursery, is progressing much faster because of his social interactions – how much good nursery did Pip and how well she settled into school. Neither of us see childcare as purely necessary so we can work; to a decent degree, I work so that I can afford to pay for it, as well as working so that I can have half a chance of having a fulfilling future career by not doing irreparable damage by stepping off the ladder altogether.

Last night I sat with a room full of other women in law and listened to Liz Truss calling for more senior women in law to make themselves visible, to be role models, to tell their stories. She asked for senior women including judges to remember that as long as they aren’t discussing their cases or their clients, they can speak publicly about their job and their history, their story, their experiences. And I got thinking that perhaps it is not just senior women that need to do this – we need role models of all generations and experiences, that we can relate to now, not in 30 years time. Not that I am saying I am a role model, of course, just that this is what I am up to, and how whilst I am happy with each individual decision, the whole answer seems to not quite work, and if I’m questioning things I am sure others are too. There is not a straightforward answer mind you, of course there isn’t, or we’d all have shut up about this long along. But whilst it probably doesn’t achieve anything other than adding more noise to the conversation, somehow, just sharing seems to help.

I do love it when my different worlds collide – how’s this for a good story…but bear with me, you need a bit of detail and hopefully even if you’re a reader who doesn’t write their own blog, you’ll at least find the randomness of the linked connections amusing…

About a month ago I went along to the UK launch of a German technology company, blogfoster. blogfoster are a German technology startup who essentially use technology to automate the entire montetised link between bloggers and brands who wish to collaborate with bloggers on sponsored content. It also offers compelling Insights for bloggers (all free for the blogger) helping the blogger make the most out of their content and understand their audience. A market leader in Germany, they are launching in the UK with ambitions to be the “leading cross-channel technology provider for Influencer Marketing in Europe” and see the UK blogging scene as part of the largest advertiser market in Europe.

As regular readers know, I’ve been a lifestyle blogger for more than a decade now, and had a parenting focus since I first became pregnant back in 2011 and started writing The Little Pip. Back when I started blogging in 2006 making money was all over the place – not just was it not regulated but it was pretty hard to keep track of things. Even with a separate blog email address, it took me years to sort out sending invoices rather than just making them through PayPal, and even now, I spend a considerable amount of time on manual admin.

As I am sure you all know too, I don’t just make a bit of money through blogging, I also have a day job, which used to be as a lawyer, and I now am a content marketer for a legal technology company. As part of my day job, I create insight led reports that our customers and potential customers will find useful – I spend a lot of time thinking about what will resonate with our audiences, and how to assess what is working. Content wise, how technology plays a part in our lives, and our work and businesses, is a massive facet of that work – in the last month we have released one report on the Gig Economy from an employment perspective, and the other on the impact of technology and lawyers… how lawyers can’t afford to be left behind and must listen to what their clients need, and invest and implement technology, despite the fact that this is changing the profession. Suffice to say, it is all inter-related, and how technology can impact and improve what we do, how we deliver services and what we expect as clients, is fascinating.

So when a friend from work took a new job in Berlin, and knew of my interest in both blogging and technology, I was pretty interested when he emailed one day to say that he’d met someone I really had to meet… that someone worked at blogfoster – who were just about launch blogfoster into the UK market. Blogging and technology is a pretty interesting subject – the rise of the ‘blog’ and the impact of native advertising, and then more regulated, obvious sponsored content, brand collaborations and social advertising to a largely personal, hopefully engaged audience, to what makes a good blog in which the readers can be kept happy, engaged and increasing, whilst also allowing the blogger to make an income from said content, is widely discussed. Which is why I found blogfoster a compelling solution, and not just because it was a European company launching in the UK post Brexit rather than the other way round.

I think blogfoster is a really interesting proposition – both the founders, Jan Homann and Simon Staib, presented at the launch and so did one of their investors. Dr. Gerrit Seidel, Partner and Managing Director of yabeo Capital GmbH gave a hugely interesting few minutes on investing in start ups – the three things that get investors excited were all present: “Team, technology and scalability – three success factors for startups. blogfoster has them all”. I thought it was a great touch to see (a) how lovely and approachable the founders were, and I chatted with them at length about the blogging landscape and technology, and life generally, as well as meeting one of the investors, who clearly has a great deal of faith both in the company and the team. Every single member of the blogfoster team was interesting, personable, fun and I loved they were all staying together in an Air BnB apartment- which is another example of using technology to disrupt a market… the largest hotel/accommodation chain in the world and it doesn’t own a single room!

blogfoster disrupts the ‘traditional’ model

If you can call something less than 10 years old traditional of course, but I found the idea of using technology to automate a process, disrupt the old standards and bring a fresh approach to a model where all numbers can be bought, to be compelling, fresh and interesting.

blogfoster understands bloggers

I liked immediately that blogfoster “got” bloggers – there is no SEO campaigns element to blogfoster, so all campaigns are about content not just about links, or even reach – views are important, but not the only thing. All links are to be no-follow, for example, there isn’t an option for a PR company to use blogfoster to automate their SEO campaigns. Brands sign up to create a campaign and they select who they are aiming at, what kind of bloggers and what kind of engagement they are after, and the blogfoster technology presents options from their list of bloggers, using sophisticated algorithms to put forward the best matched options, inviting bloggers to opt into campaigns that the meet the criteria for. The communication, billing and reporting is all handled by blogfoster, allowing the blogger to focus on what they do best – content writing, not admin.

blogfoster Insights

blogfoster is not exclusive – you can work with them and other similar companies too. It doesn’t cost anything to the blogger. It’s quick and easy to sign up and install Insights, and even if you for whatever reason don’t end up taking on any work through the company, I think the Insights look pretty interesting in their own right (and certainly seem easier than Google Analytics to understand). It took me less than 5 minutes to sign up and install blogfoster Insights, and they give a view of your audience, how they use your site and what keywords they searched, all in useful and easy to understand dashboard.

not just for big bloggers with a huge following

There is real opportunity to be linked with companies who are looking for niche audiences – one of the bloggers at the audience was a jazz blogger… Although blogfoster works with brands like Topshop, ASOS and Etsy, they also work with loads of smaller companies, who perhaps don’t have the big budgets for agencies, and this is a good chance to be linked with them rather than rely on either your blog being found or having to pitch for work yourself.

Try blogfoster yourself – 3 super easy steps:

  1. Sign up at blogfoster here – enter your blog name and some quick registration details.
  2. Fill in your profile which has a short paragraph about your blog section and you can link your social media handles. Select the various ‘verticals’ that your blog covers – which is how the brands select who they are looking to work with.
  3. Link blogfoster Insights by installing their plugin on your site

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a look and come back and tell me what you think!

Collaborative post with blogfoster and the sign up link is a referral programme – however, I was not paid to attend the launch and this post came to fruition after the launch due to my belief and admiration for the brand. I go to a lot of events and I only write about the ones that I am interested in and think you guys will be too… which is why I am writing about this one!