Thinking Out Loud

Awesome Grown Ups Day

This is a vintage blog post from 2013 when I wrote under a different blogging name in which I wrestle with the concept of ignoring Father’s Day.

We all know Mothering Sunday goes way back but Father’s Day is a more recent addition to our lives and the more cynical amongst us might be of the opinion that it was invented by avaricious greetings card manufacturers. (My husband) was more than happy with his homemade hand picture and card from the 6, 4 and 1 year olds in his life. No £3.99 card for him!

hands

My sons’ nursery and primary schools veer well clear of the handmade cards that all small people usually sneak home around Mother’s Day when it comes to Dad’s turn. Last year some parents asked nursery staff why this was the case. The simple answer was that there were too many children without fathers in their lives so it was not something they wanted to draw attention to in the classroom.

Last week it was reported on the BBC and in print media that there are a million children growing up without fathers. My husband grew up in a single parent family. His father lived in the same town but never bothered with him so he never bothered back. However, he had good role models around him and his mum’s lovely. He is a fantastic dad to our sons and his daughter who lives with her (single) mum. His daughter has a very different relationship with her father than he did with his. She stays with us twice a week in her own bedroom and is a main character in our little family, involved in every holiday, trip and party. She loves her dad in exactly the same way as her (half) brothers do.

I heard some very sad news last night about a lovely fella I had the pleasure of living next door to while we were in university. His wife, pregnant with their second child, had died and the baby had been delivered prematurely. Mother’s Day will come around every year with a bittersweet sting in the tail and Father’s Day will fall at the same time of year as his children lost their mum. But will their schools ignore Father’s Day just in case it upsets any children without a dad in their home or their lives?

I don’t want to get on a political high horse about parents and families but I think it’s a shame for those children without traditional family set ups to miss out on a chance to say thank you to their fathers (who could be widows or not live with the child) and talk about other positive role models in school.

Rather than cut off our noses to spite our faces, why don’t we have a more general ‘Awesome Grown Up’ day (with a far catchier name) for all children to thank an important and awesome adult in their life? Father, step father, care worker, lollypop man, rugby coach, whoever they may be.

Thinking Out Loud

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week #RealMotherhood

It’s Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. This year’s theme is #RealMotherhood #NoShame and a reminder that getting real about motherhood is healthy for everyone.

I was first pregnant a decade ago and my youngest is 6 so maybe I’m too far removed from my own experience to be sharing it here but we all have a part to play. Supporting our friends, neighbours, colleagues and families is so important. It’s OK to not be OK.

I went to a friend’s wedding when my first baby was 2 weeks old and at the do I just remember feeling, how to describe it? Out of it? Woozy? Years later I tried explaining that I felt isolated, excluded, that everyone else was having a whale of a time and I was… I was content but not me. I was sober for a start! It was a scorching July day and I needed to breastfeed my shrimp of a child in the shade (because he might spontaneously combust in the sun, right?) so I ended up sat on my own in the shade of a marquee while everyone else basked in the sun. Jealously glancing over at friends drinking and laughing and looking fabulous, not the state I felt in flip flops because proper shoes didn’t fit my trotters and leggings under my dress because it wasn’t as boob accessible as I’d naively assumed when buying it. A mum of a friend came over and talked with me. She’s not someone I knew well but I was so thankful. She talked to me about my job, dance, all sorts. It felt like the first time someone saw through the fog and not some mother and baby package.  It wasn’t out of pity, it wasn’t patronising, she chatted away and listened, it was as simple as that.

Of course I loved my babies and of course they do take over but remember a mum of a newborn is more than a milk machine. She might be like a swan, looking serene and graceful on the surface but underneath she’s paddling away trying to stay afloat. She might be physically battered but she’s possibly mentally battered too.

With at least 1 in 10 mums developing a mental illness during pregnancy, or in the year that follows, it is so important to raise awareness of maternal mental health: tommys.org/maternalMHmatt…#MaternalMHMatter @TommysMidwives

I was fine, I am fine. Not everyone is. I had a wobble, I didn’t have a diagnosed maternal mental health condition. For every joyful #blessed #mama out there, remember that it’s not the same for everyone. My second time around was so much easier for me. No cabin fever, I felt more in control, I didn’t have nightmares about my newborn fading away into nothing which I didn’t tell anyone about because I knew it sounded worrying.

7 in 10 women will hide or underplay the severity of their perinatal mental illness #everyonesbusines everyonesbusiness.org.uk @MMHAlliance

Sometimes the best support is not trying to get someone to talk about their feelings but just being there. If they’re not ready for visitors, just send a hello by text. In those earliest of days the best visit was my mum bringing a Sunday roast around for us, making no demands to coo over the baby or cwtch her grandchild but being a practical help. It’s the offering to take the dogs for a walk, doing the ironing, making cups of tea instead of expecting to be waited on hand and foot. (Note to self: remember all this for when the new niblings arrive in the next couple of months.)

I set up this blog partly in response to the gazillions about babies and toddlers. Mine are older and my parenting experience isn’t about nappies and baby vom anymore but the pregnancy and the mad year that follows is so important and you don’t forget it.

As for #RealMotherhood I suppose I’m part of the problem. I tend to share photos of the lovely things we do, the brilliant places we go and on my personal social media their smiling faces. Should I be more real and photograph the tears and tantrums? I really don’t think it would have helped my 9 year old this morning if I’d snapped him in a grump and I’d feel the same.

Just take my word for it that for every photo of a wholesome daytrip we also have a Saturday morning watching cartoons and eating cereal. For every matchy matchy special occasion outfit that my boys wear there’s a mismatched set of pyjamas or school joggers with a hole in the bum (the 6 year old has done this to three (yes THREE) pairs of joggers this year). I’ll try to post some Instagram shots of my week’s chaos to give you a flavour of my real life.

If the content of this post has made you think of anything that has happened to you or someone you know and you feel upset, worried or uncomfortable then please visit Maternal Mental Health Alliance for a list of support services. I am not an expert in anything.

If you want to join in with the #RealMotherhood 5-day Challenge then just share your piccies and posts about the barefaced reality of motherhood. Warts and all. Keep it light and silly or use it as a chance to be truthful about your own experience. Let’s not judge ourselves by unrealistic standards.

 

#RealMotherhood #NoShame @TheBlueDotProject @MMHAlliance #everyonesbusiness #MaternalMHmatters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking Out Loud

Wishing my life away

Anyone else feel like they’re wishing their life away? “Only one more term of this school year left to go.” Whaaaat?! I still think of ages in school years – if you were born between September 1982 and August 1983 then we are kindred spirits. Age, schmage, when did you do your GCSEs? Class of ’99 you are my people.

I don’t think I’m ready for 2018 yet and it’s well and truly underway. I can’t keep up with the politics (WT actual F are they thinking?) or the fashion (did you hear that the scrunchie is back? The bloody scrunchie!)

I’ve said before that I’m not into the whole “they grow too quick” rhetoric. I’m fine with my kids getting older and more independent, that’s cool. It’s the rest of the world I can’t handle. I’ve been in my “new” job for more than 3 years and I still think I’m the new girl. I was in uni for 3 years and that felt like a lifetime. In a good way.

On a positive note, I’ve embraced body positivity so I’m no longer wishing away weeks at a time with that “when I’ve lost a stone” type of thinking but I’m still clinging to the magical payday with “I’ll book those tickets at the end of the month” or “just a week to go until I buy those shoes.” I’m no Imelda Marcos, I’m not binging on a shoe flavoured shopping spree. I have holes in the soles of my leather boots, rips in the heels of my Primark hi-top daps and snapped laces in my other boots. 

Does time go faster as you get older? Maybe it’s because I’m flailing about with no major life marker in the year, no more children, no career change, no wedding, no big birthday. I’m sure there’s some motivational meme out there about enjoying each day. I do something every day that scares me (answering the phone, checking the front door’s locked at night, getting in lifts). Carpe diem and all that even if your boots are falling apart and time is going too fast.

 

Thinking Out Loud

To #ad or not to #ad

If you’re a fellow mum blog lurker on the gram, you can’t fail to have picked up on a recent anti-ad mood. I’m not an influencer. Not by a long shot. No siree. Not in the blogosphere, on any social media platform or even in real life (I can barely influence my on kids to eat vegetables). My relentless “Easter things to do” recommendations are exactly that, they’re ideas and suggestions. Some I’ve tried out with my own kids in the past and some just sounded incredibly cool and I wanted to tell more people about them. No one has paid me to mention their place or promote their thing. No #sponsored #gifted or #ad here.

That said, I’m not anti-ad. A gal’s gotta eat. I blog, insta, tweet and facebook in between work and mothering and the rest of my life. It still takes up a heck of a lot of time. My following is miniscule (but ever so appreciated, thanks for coming). I’m typing into the ether, ranting in a vacuum most of the time.

From comments on social media and chatting with real life mates I’ve picked up a sense of frustration with influencers, with mum bloggers who’ve built up a “I’m just like you”, “we’re all just muddling along together”, “yay for Mums” type of vibe. Then it turns a little sour, a tad ingenuous when they’ll go on a fancy holiday, go to a swanky restaurant or wear something and you’re foolish enough to click through to the company and then you do a little sick in your mouth at the cost. Jealousy is an ugly little beast but sometimes I just can’t help it. I feel out of depth, poor, worthless and a bit like I’m still at school where it felt that it mattered to be cool (which I wasn’t) and popular (which I wasn’t).

It’s made me question why I’m even bothering with this. Why me? What have I got to say that some other mum isn’t already sharing online? Does the world really need another white, straight, female, English language parent blogger? Nope. I might come across as confident in real life but I assure you that nearly every waking hour I am wallowing in self-doubt. I’ve not started this to make money. I’ve not started this to be popular. I’m doing this, in the words of Billie Piper, “because I want to, because I want to”.

So good luck to the others, the behemothers (see what I did there?) and monetising moms. I follow a massive range of them, some for their clothes, some for the giggles, some for the campaigns, some for a mix of all three. I’m just using the approach I apply to the rest of my life, making it up as I go along. Some people feel a weird fandom ownership over the most followed and well known mum bloggers and intagrammers. They’re just playing the game like all of us. Maybe they’re better resourced or ahead of the game but so what. Just do you. There’s room for all of us and if only 5 people read this (OK, that’s optimistic and I’m definitely related to at least one of you if there are 5) then that’s fine too. Oh and if anyone wants to give me any free stuff I’m definitely not too principled to consider the offer!

Thinking Out Loud

International Women’s Day 2018

It’s International Women’s Day and trawling through Twitter I was reminded about why I took a Twitter break last year. The negativity. The arsewipes asking when International Men’s Day is because that’s real equality innit? Hmm.

I’m late in the day adding my voice to the melee because I’ve been busy doing what I do. Trying to adult. Juggling two jobs, life admin, school trip permission slips and all the rest. Not quite getting there but still trying. Thankfully my track record with children and dogs is better than houseplants. (My cheese plant is terminal I fear – any tips?!) The 3 human males in my house are fed, showered and sleeping. The 2 canine males are snoozing by my side.

I’ve been fortunate to work with strong women, I live close to my sister, mum and grandma, I’ve got awesome female friends who inspire me with their range of careers and achievements. I’ve somehow muddled my way through motherhood with a job (or two). I can see how the world has changed through the generations. That said, I still remember the struggle I had about a decade ago to get working hours that fitted my life.

2018’s IWD is riding in on a wave of high profile activism. Time’s Up. #MeToo got me thinking about moments in my life that were just out of f***ing order, in my teens alone there was the flasher at a gig, the gropers in an alley in the middle of the day, the sleazes in clubs.

Privileged, successful Hollywood superstars sticking to black for their expensive, sophisticated awards ceremony outfits feels so far removed from my life of leggings. I’ve not bought an item of clothing for myself since the end of November. But that doesn’t mean that things shouldn’t change. For all women.

We’ve now had a centenary of women’s suffrage in the UK and Ireland. Yes, we’ve got a female Prime Minister but a “record high” number of female MPs were elected in the 2017 General Election. That’s still only 32% of all MPs. In early February only a quarter of the Cabinet were female. How’s that right when we make up (just over) half of the population? As Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women says “healthy societies have a mix of voices”. We need more varied voices in power. We need to raise our children to be ambitious, to never expect less of someone because of their gender and to not let the twitter arsewipes drag them down.

pregnant woman
Thinking Out Loud

Nine Months In (my womb) Nine Months Out (to work)

Another vintage blog post, this one from March 2013, in which I bemoan returning to work before my youngest turns one.

Having never been one for the ‘live to work not work to live’ mantra it will come as no surprise to learn that I was hardly cockahoop about returning to work following maternity leave.

While I’m sure some women delight in the chance to spend ten hours of their day commuting and in paid employ with no chance of being asked to wipe any bottoms (let’s assume I’m talking about office work before I hear the cries of “well, I’ll have you know that I wipe bottoms for a living and I’m BLOODY GOOD AT IT”) there are also some women who balk at the suggestion that they should have to work at all. “But who will bring up my children?”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not sitting on the proverbial fence here. I would far rather be caring for my children. Physically, emotionally and practically AT THIS STAGE in their lives it would be the most sensible situation. My youngest is 10 months old. I have been and still am breastfeeding him. On the plus side, when I am not in his company, my breasts magically grow to impressive proportions. On the down side this means that I must pump my milk out in a random tiny room. I am not and never have been a militant member of the breastapo. It’s free. I’m not one for making bottle feeders feel rubbish or defensive about themselves. Let’s not dwell.

So, physically my breasts are still in the ‘we are the mammaries of a mammal with an infant so we will produce milk’ zone and when I am with my amazing baby I am in the ‘I want to feed my baby for free’ zone. But the world of work says “you have done your time woman, put down the baby and get back to your desk.”

On the emotional side of things I don’t think I sound like a crazy banshee saying “I love my children”. I carried both of them inside me. INSIDE MY BODY. (It is still weird. You were once INSIDE someone. Not a random person, granted. But I digress.) We created these little people to be involved in their ever changing lives, and when they’re less than a year old they change more quickly than they ever will again. I don’t want to miss that. Maybe I can miss a bit if it makes me feel sane and worthwhile but sometimes work makes me feel a bit bonkers and pointless.

I work in an industry where I enable other people to LIVE THEIR DREAM. I never said “when I grow up I want to be a Participation Officer”. I didn’t know what one of those was. Most people still don’t. Which is embarrassing, deflating and devaluing. Wait. I must shake the You Should Have Done Teaching imp from my shoulder. “You would’ve been on thirty grand a year by now, imagine that, it’s the same as you earn as a couple now”. Shut up and bugger off Teaching Imp.

Maybe if I LOVED my job I’d feel differently but, quite frankly, I don’t. It’s a means to an end and the end is money. And I don’t earn much. Let’s just say I’m not paying back my student loan yet. I would like to love my job. I need to win some bread, sing for my supper and provide a positive, productive role model for my children. Just not yet. At ten months old neither son asked why mummy was a lazy Jezza Vile watching housewife while daddy worked his arse of at the docks. I can readjust that patriarchal rubbish when they’re both in school.

On a practical level, working is a logistical nightmare/challenge. My four year old and 10 monther have different schedules and needs. Granted, they’re not very complex at the moment and I’m lucky to have grandparent help for two days, more than that and I feel that I’m taking the mickey. They’ve done their time.

The current government has paid lip service to the notion that women are entitled to a year off from work after giving birth. Well I’ve got news for you Dave, those last three months of unpaid maternity leave do not and cannot work for most families’ finances in the current economic mess. Better maternity packages come higher up the ladder and in better paid industries, widening the gap between the women at the top and those struggling at the bottom. Statutory Maternity Pay, while utterly amazing compared to the seventies and America, is, to be blunt, rubbish. Forward thinking companies and those who give a monkeys arse about retaining staff have varying maternity policies better than SMP. Not where I work.

Babies aren’t expensive. Your income dropping from £355 per week to more like £117 (rough figures for my salary in 2008 when I had my first son) is what hits you hard. The Camerons’ annual income is approximately one thousand times more than that of my household. ONE THOUSAND! Out of touch with the needs of most families with young children? Probably.

 

Carved Halloween Pumpkin
Thinking Out Loud

March of the Mummies

Today, at noon on Halloween in six cities around the UK the March of the Mummies made a stand against pregnancy and maternity discrimination. If you follow Pregnant Then Screwed you’ll know all about it. If you don’t, go find @PregnantScrewed on twitter. Sadly, I couldn’t make it in person because of work but it got me thinking of my own experiences.

I’m not preggers or on mat leave nor do I intend to be so ever again but I do remember the stress and frustration first time around when I met with inflexibility to my requests for reduced hours. I broke through the barrier eventually with a presentation (the idiot’s guide to job sharing) and some much appreciated support from my maternity cover (who is still doing ace things for women in the workplace).

Second time around I got wound up enough to write a blog post so in the spirit of raising mummies from the dead, I’ve resurrected a couple of blog posts from my first foray into the blogosphere as Moody Mum in 2013:

Trapped Part Time Workers

Nine Months In (my womb) Nine Months Out (to work) – in which I bemoan returning to work before my youngest turns one

If you want more information on what the March of the Mummies was for and why it’s important, head over to marchofthemummies.com.