What sort of leave is Sam Cam on? 

There is annual leave, sick leave, maternity leave, in my job I even get study leave to attend courses and exams. As a working woman I can’t help but wonder what sort of leave Samantha Cameron is on, special husband supporting leave of some sort? No sign of Nicola Sturgeon’s other half, presumably he is at work. 

They’d be more likely to grab the female vote if their wives stayed at work like all the other normal working women. The double standards are appalling. 

Nick Clegg’s missus, quite rightly, is too busy to join her husband on the campaign trail. 

Addendum: last night’s news saw Miriam Gonzalez (Mrs Clegg) gurning it up for the cameras in a park on the campaign trail. Get back to work! 

fingers in too many pies sam cam



I need some new shoes

Shoes and I have a long and happy relationship; I am never too fat to buy shoes, heels make me feel taller, they make me look thinner, shoes make me feel better, shoes are pretty, shoes can be fun, shoes are much better than a diamond seeing as sparkly rings are not allowed at work.

Had I been wearing some decent shoes and not my theatre clogs I may have handled a recent row with a radiologist slightly better, seeing as I would have been a taller and more cocky version of me. Sadly I instead ran off near crying with frustration after a run in with the evil little doctor of darkness.

Confidence in my ability to manage my job and the endless decisions I take used to vary in a sine curve fashion, moving around the midline as I made alternating good and bad decisions. Recently in spite of no real fuck up’s (tempting fate here I know) my confidence has been stuck at the bottom of the curve and doesn’t seem to be moving from there. I’m not sure why this is, normally it makes me feel quite down for a week and then the feeling usually passes with a good operation done well. I don’t feel too unhappy despite this current crisis of confidence but the mood isn’t lifting. I’ve had a lucky amount of time off this Christmas and hope that the break will have resulted in a new found surge of confidence, we will see.

I discussed with a more senior female colleague the worries I have about complications and dealing with the range of emotions you experience when an operation goes wrong and even more so when someone dies. She nearly wrestled me to the floor and told me to shut up, lest a man overheard us. She said I should never feel like this, that the boys don’t feel like that and I couldn’t and shouldn’t doubt myself.

I’ve progressed from 12 years ago when I used to lie awake imagining the vessel I had tied off was spurting arterial blood and the patient was exsanguinating as I snored. I’ve progressed from 7 years ago when I used to hover over patient’s beds and check on them repeatedly throughout the day. Now I check for readmissions on the computer of people I may be worried about, operations that were difficult to perform or people that have high risk factors for complications. The relief when the names aren’t there is comforting to me.

So what I think I need, what surely will give me the balls I am currently lacking is some serious kick ass shoes, shoes that say “fucking right I am the surgeon on call, now do what I say and be quick about it”. One of my very junior colleagues has this attitude in spades, she has next to no experience and can’t tell her APER* from an EVAR** but my goodness, she is confidence personified.

Red soles are called for, I feel strongly that red soled shoes were surely made for surgeons and that 120mm is in order. They have beautiful brown suede ones on net-a-porter I keep peeking at, how completely impractical for January in the UK but they somehow say authority and confidence, and I know they’ll fit despite the “mince pie half a stone” I need to lose.

*abdominoperineal excision of rectum
** endovascular aneurysm repair.

The KBW shoe classification system: Saturday night shoes, Big lady shoes, Mummy shoes, Ugly shoes etc.

These are Saturday night shoes

These are Saturday night shoes

It’s great being in a hospital as there is an endless supply of gossip. Inevitably though, some of the gossip is going to be about you. I was disappointed recently to hear a story about me criticising a junior doctors shoes as being ugly. I have a certain fondness for shoes and as most of mummy life is spent in flat shoes, at work I wear what my children call “big lady shoes”.

These are the very pair of shoes that courted the comments. "Big lady shoes"

These are the very pair of shoes that courted the comments.  LK Bennett, same as Kate’s! 

Surgeons spend most of the day in scrubs and clogs so my heels and dresses are usually only on me for an hour at either end of the day in theatre, apart from the days I am in clinic and to be honest most of that is spent on my backside.

Theatre shoes. Extremely comfortable.

Theatre shoes. Extremely comfortable.

Back to the story; ugly shoes girl said to me (in the sort of tone that suggested I was wearing lap dancer shoes) “how can you walk in those heels all day? It can’t be good for you?” To which I replied “quite easily. I certainly couldn’t walk in your shoes”

Ugly shoes then said “oh really, why not?” KBW “Because I think they’re rather ugly”.

These are pretty close to the shoes that I did not fancy. Not even for gardening, not even for pig farming.

These are pretty close to the shoes that I did not fancy. Not even for gardening, not even for pig farming.

Now, I would never have commented on the shoes because what one wears is entirely a personal matter and each to their own multicoloured, clashing prints, spots with stripes preferences. She asked for the shoe comment with her nippy little jibe about how I can walk in heels all day and now I have the hospital wide reputation of being the shoe police. Ridiculous.

Mummy shoes

Mummy shoes

Stripper shoes

Stripper shoes

Women Doctors are to blame for everything, apparently

Are you currently waiting for an outpatient appointment or an operation? Perhaps you are desperate to see your GP? The reason you are waiting is because of the likes of me, yes, part-time women are a burden on the NHS according to Anna Soubry (who? a health minister apparently) and Tory MP Anne McIntosh (another “new to me” person, but then I am a useless part-timer and too busy dossing about to keep up to date). Feel free to read about the whole sorry debate and subsequent furore here, and here and here. It has been somewhat overreacted to by the media.

Anyway, I had the opportunity (due to the fact I work part-time) to listen to Women’s Hour last week and heard Anna Soubry who had supported Anne McIntosh’s frankly mental comment that part time women are a burden and that there are “unintended consequences” of having all these women. Anna Soubry felt it was a “hell of a storm” whipped up by the media and then there was a ridiculous bit of radio when she mentioned how her mum was a radiographer and that she thinks it’s marvellous that women can have babies and work part time….good God woman…it’s 2013. The other medical madame they had invited along was Dr Fiona Cornish the president of the medical women’s federation (I am not a member) who was so marvellously well spoken she made Jenny Murray sound a bit rough. Most GP’s work less than full time, they don’t do 12 sessions like most of my colleagues do; not one of my friends who is a GP (males and females) is doing the hours hospital doctors put in and this point was well made by Dr Cornish. It was a damp squib of an interview (you can listen too) though and could have been far more interesting and lively. The Daily Mail are the voice of unreason as per usual on this, their own Mrs Malaprop Melanie Phillips (who justifies her comments by saying she is a woman who once worked part-time) thinks that the “The dilemma of combining work or a career with motherhood is a difficult one, perhaps even insoluble. But surely it is essential that we should discuss it?” I can assure you Melanie, that we part-time medical women are completely insoluble, unless you try to dissolve us in fits of laughter at the drivel that is published in the Daily Mail.
I have a solution to the problem; stop letting so many hot women into medical school.
Melanie Philips: Unlikely to be chased around the hospital by the few remaining male doctors.

Guilty Little Secret

My other guilty secret

I have a terrible secret that is about to become very apparent to my colleagues. Nothing salacious, but it is something I am a bit embarrassed about nonetheless. My children are all soon going to be in full time education, they wipe their own bottoms and feed themselves etc and for some reason this has shifted something inside my (male) colleagues brains as they think I will now want to work full time. The secret is this, I will just come out with it straight away; I DO NOT WANT TO WORK FULL TIME. I love, love, love my day off and I will possibly love it even more when there are not any children to look after between 9am and 3.30pm. I will go to the gym, I will get my hair done, I will see my relatives, I will have lunch with other happy day off part time mummy friends, I need to tidy and organise my house and the lives of the people in it. The boys at work are all labouring under the misapprehension that I am desperate to come back full time and am counting the days until I can do so.

I do consider myself a feminist and I am deeply indebted to the women who came before me and fought for equality. I have just finished reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, which is interesting and well written but of course is very US orientated. Part time work is nowhere near as common and as easy to access there and presumably the employer provided health insurance system is one reason for this as well as the lack of state funded childcare and maternity pay/benefits. She makes some great points about women in the workplace and it is an easy read. She does not talk about women who feel like me, perhaps because part time work is not an option. I love my job, it is a massive part of my identity and provides intense satisfaction that I do not fully get from the proper care and feeding of children. I love my children, I love being present in their daily lives most of the time and find them just as (actually much more) interesting now that they are getting bigger and I have not picked up any signals that they need me less now they are out of nappies.

I know I am not alone in feeling like this, my best mummy friends (including a few doctors, a judge, a teacher, a lawyer and a policewoman) all have much loved careers but have the same views of the importance of being a mother and a wife. We all want to work, most of us in professional and senior roles and none of us want to compromise too much on our home lives. I know it is a bit off message with feminist thinking that we should all be equal and be treated just like men but I want more than this. I need to be treated differently, I want to work part time because being a mother is a big job. I can outsource the cleaning, the ironing and the shopping can be delivered but nobody else is taking over the mummy role for me. I am proud to be a mother and have a career and deeply grateful that I am able to do both.

Now I just need to come out of the closet and admit that I am not going to be working full time any time soon and shake of the sense of guilt I have about this.

What Margaret Thatcher did for me

Today brings the news that Margaret Thatcher has died. She became Britain’s first and only female prime minister fairly shortly after I was born and remained there until I was almost a teenager. As a child in the 1980’s I was of course politically unaware so my Maggie memories are pretty low brow, I remember my modern studies teacher crying with delight when she resigned and telling us how important this day was. I thought it was an important day because we had witnessed a crying teacher, a  male one at that.

Feminists don’t like her, they think she did nothing for women,  she didn’t care or understand social equality and behaved like a man. I think that she did rather a lot for women, she certainly influenced my peers and I who grew up under her shadow. Here was a woman at the ultimate helm, who pissed everyone off, didn’t care what they said about her, who had a firm and clear view of where Britain was going and ruled her party under the nickname “iron lady”.  She may not have been doing it the way the feminists would have liked her to but there is no denying she was a woman and a wife and mother and there has never been any female as powerful as her since. She hated the feminists in return and had only one woman in her cabinet, but perhaps there just weren’t any women appointable.

Hanging on her every word the PM addresses the assembled press.

Hanging on her every word the PM addresses the assembled press.

She had a strong sense of her own image in the days when having a stylist or a dresser or a team of guru’s was uncommon. Fast forward to 1995 and Cherie Blair (in true First Lady style) submitted an invoice to the Labour Party for £7500 for hair styling during the general election, revolting behaviour.  The impact Thatcher had on me is not insignificant, I grew up truly believing that women can do anything they want to whilst wearing heels, pearls and an alarming amount of make up. I wonder what girls today feel about how high they can reach and whether they have the same expectations of unlimited by their gender success.  I think she showed a lot of little girls that women and men were undoubtedly equal and that women could do anything they wanted to do and for that I am very grateful.

She also believes women can do anything, and also had a fairly significant influence on my life but has not yet been the prime minister.

She also believes women can do anything, and also had a fairly significant influence on my life but has not yet been the prime minister.

Radio 4’s Powerful Women

Radio Four’s Woman’s hour today was all about how young girls handle the pressure to have sex. One girl said a very sad thing about a boy who had stuck his hands into her pants whilst a big group of them were all watching a DVD together on a couch with a blanket over their laps. She said she couldn’t say anything at the time as she didn’t want to make a fuss, so she let this boy (apologies here for the terminology) poke her even though she hadn’t wanted him to do so. It isn’t too hard to imagine that if we fast forward five year the same girl will be telling herself that the date rape she has just endured is not worth making a fuss about. Horrible stuff.

Woman’s Hour is generally very good, it used to coincide with my children’s morning nap and as TV at this time is so grim (Jeremy Kyle, repeats of Come Dine with Me etc) I started listening to it whilst on maternity leave with a cup of tea and a huge slice of cake, when breast feeding meant I could eat for Britain and not put on any weight.

Anyway, they have published their list of the 100 most powerful women in the UK, some of them I have even had the pleasure of meeting. Women such as Victoria Beckham and Professor Sue Black must surely be unlikely bedfellows but they are both there, I have to say that they are both hugely admirable but are they equally powerful? I don’t think so. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister is on there too, she is the 20th most powerful woman in the UK if you can believe that.

No matter how powerful some women become, be it as supreme sovereign or chief medical officer, it is still the case that 15 year old boys will stick their hands down some poor girl’s pants and she will feel powerless to say no.

Hard to imagine Hilary would shy away from making a fuss

Hard to imagine Hilary would shy away from making a fuss