29 January 2012

Quality Time & Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

As a business owning mum, one of my constant struggles is the emotional guilt of not spending enough quality time with my children.

When they were tiny we made the decision that we would forgo holidays, new cars and lovely treats so that I could stay at home and look after our children rather than paying someone else to do it for us. I did that for ten years but when the youngest of our three finally started school aged five, I loosened the apron strings and signed up for the full time horticultural course that set me on the road I'm currently on.

With fantastic support from Mr G I studied and experimented, dreamt and talked plants and just a month after finishing the course threw myself into starting Greenside Up so that I could share all the knowledge I'd learnt about soil, water, polytunnels, biodiversity and plants, thereby helping newbie gardeners to grow their own veg too.

However, as any self employed, business owner knows - this isn't a nine to five job. To make a success of it, and particularly when you're so passionate about what you're trying to achieve, it's a seven day a week, evenings, early mornings and even middle of the night kind of job. I can't deny either that I thoroughly enjoy being 'Dee' again and not just being "someones mum", but as a mum, that's where the emotional struggle begins. How can you have a successful business and be *WORLD'S NO 1 MUM*? (I wonder do men feel this pull, as Mr G certainly doesn't feel the same guilt I do at bathrooms not always being clean and shiny and floors unwashed...?)

The answer, I feel, is that you can't be everything to everyone and that there's no such thing as the perfect mum. We all try and do our best. There were no school lessons teaching us how to do it, we weren't born knowing how to be parents, nobody ever warned us just how difficult it would be, that it doesn't necessarily come naturally to us all. All we have is our own upbringing to guide us and we either try and replicate it if it was a good upbringing, or hopefully improve upon it if it wasn't.

Before she retired to go on to become a full time foster mother, for many years my own mum was a business owner too and I now fully understand and appreciate all the sacrifices and guilt she must have felt. (Mum's now in her mid 70's and along with my dad is currently looking after three under one year old babies...) I was lucky - mum did her very best and I feel, a fantastic job, guiding and showing us in her actions how to be good human beings. My sister and I grew up to be independent spirits thanks to her amazing example.

So how do I do the best that I can for my own children? Well for a start I'd like, and need, to spend quality time with them. I'm having to accept that it's not going to be every day, or as often as they or I would like. At the beginning of this year I made a firm resolution that I would spend good, quality time with them - not homework or eating meals together time, but one on one time. Children remember things they do rather than things they own. My memories are of holidays, swimming lessons or weekly trips to the cash and carry where the four of us would stop off and buy huge piles of fish and chips and pickled gherkins.

For our children and me, our quality time tends to be spent in the kitchen baking. They love to cook, so guiding  and teaching, weighing and tasting is how we're currently spending most of our quality time. Yesterday we baked tasty little Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars from a recipe our youngest had torn out of a magazine. To our surprise the easy recipe worked, the cookies are delicious and I'm sharing it here ....


1 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs (I used 3 as the mixture looked very dry)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour
100gms 70% chocolate broken up (or a cup of chocolate chips)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Heat the oven to 180oC and grease and line a baking tray (23cm x 33cm). Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until combined. If you don't have a food processor, cream the first seven ingredients together, then add the remaining.

Spread the mixture in the tin and place in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the oven, cut the pieces to size and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy with a cup of tea, cream or custard!

For now, when I'm sitting alone at night, when they're all tucked up in bed and I'm beating myself up from feelings of unbearable guilt that I missed the latest soccer match, haven't yet taught my eleven year old to knit or am sending them off to a neighbours once again to be looked after, I have to hang on to the fact that as long as my children keep slipping me notes like this one I can't be doing it that wrong.

If you have children, how do you spend your quality time with them? Do you suffer the same guilt? All tips greatly appreciated please!


  1. Lovely lovely post Dee... I'm sure you're doing a wonderful job!


    1. Thanks Margaret - the older they get the better they get at making me feel guilty! All back to normal now :)

  2. Hi Dee, you said exactly what most mothers feel I think. I know I feel the exact same when I work anyway. Our quality time is usually watching a movie or playing a board game. Since we went to Bloom last year, when my eldest got to cook with Neven Maguire on stage (highlight of the day!) we cook and bake a lot together. It's great seeing kids with an interest in cooking and I think it makes great memories for them too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and recipe, can't wait to try it out :)

    1. Thanks Jessie, all okay again now! Wow to cooking with Nevan! Our girls especially like to cook and our eldest boy when he's on his own with me ;)

  3. Love the little letter ! sooo cute! Don't think you need worry if they're writing you letters like that :) I used to have a furniture shop and as you say when you're self employed sometimes its round the clock! The guilt is terrible! But all you can do is your best and I agree proper quality time with children is the key! My quality time with my my eldest (19 year old son) is always one on one chats where all I do is listen finding out whats niggling him and his hopes and dreams, I think sometimes all they want is for someone to think that what they have to say is important. Quality time with my youngest (3 year old - yep big gap) is stories and singing songs all day long!! No guilt cos I don't work anymore and I'm with him all the time :)


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