Good enough Christmas

I know a lot of people are feeling stressed and short of time in the run up to Christmas. It’s a shame that we feel like this because Christmas should be a calm quiet time of year when offices close and we spend time with friends and family. My advice is to lower your expectations. Don’t try to create the perfect Christmas, simply enjoy a good enough Christmas.

Above all, remember that if you have guests coming they are coming to see YOU. More than a perfect meal, expensive presents and a beautifully decorated house what they want is to be able to talk to you. They want to spend time with you. So let them join you in the kitchen and help you with the vegetables. Don’t see this as you failing as a host. You are giving your guests what they really want, time with you.

Keep things simple and leave yourself time to enjoy the ritual of the preparations. Don’t worry if things go wrong. You are more resilient than you imagine. Even if you burn the dinner, run out of wrapping paper or kill the tree you can still enjoy yourself. Take the family on a walk to the nearest open takeaway, have fun ripping up newspaper.

If you have children, remember that they can have a fun day playing with you and a cardboard box. They are probably happy to eat cheese and pasta for dinner. What they don’t want is stressed out, angry parents. Save your patience for your children, don’t waste it on a last minute dash through crowded shops or hours in the kitchen.

Female role models in maths

There is a lot of talk about how we can get more women interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). Most of the discussion and initiatives focus on action at a national level. This is important, but will take time. What can you do if the problem is immediate and closer to home? If your daughter, sister, niece etc. used to enjoy a STEM subject but is losing self belief?

The teenage years are a particularly difficult time. Girls are so desperate to fit in that they may start to hide a talent for STEM from their peers. Unfortunately when they start pretending not to be very good at STEM subjects this can be self fulfilling. They spend less time practising, their teachers believe that they are not very good, they avoid extra curricula activities and ultimately choose subjects based on fitting in rather than what they enjoy and are talented at. What a sad waste!

Parents find it difficult to change this course directly because teenagers are naturally much more motivated by the approval of their peers than their parents. This is a normal stage of growing up and becoming independent. So what can you do?

Firstly expose your teenager to media which value women in STEM. Try these lists of books

and these twitter accounts

as starting points.

Older and very motivated teenagers will benefit from a mentor (the stemettes have a scheme). However this kind of formal mentoring needs to be driven by the mentee and this is a lot to ask of a teenager.

Finally a female STEM tutor can be a great role model and show your teenager that it is ok to be a woman and be fantastic at STEM. Contact me on anna.granta@gmail.com if you would like a female STEM tutor in Cambridge (UK).