Thinking Out Loud

AWOL During a Crisis

No, I’m not talking about Boris (although his lack of presence is outrageous), I’m talking about me. I’ve been AWOL from this blog and the linked socials for a good few months. But why with all that spare time lockdown gave us? Spare time?! Pfft. What’s that?! Jog on. Working from home, supporting the kids with home learning, volunteering, tackling the snowballing admin and applications for a charity I’m involved with that was helping feed families during the crisis and all the Zoom quizzes hasn’t helped me to learn a new skill or pick up a hobby.

I lie, I’m now much better with iMovie after filming every task and challenge for school, Scouts, sports and morale boosting lip sync montages.

It’s not just the time, it’s been a lack of headspace, being in a bit of a distracted fug. I’m aware of how wanky that sounds but I mean, usually I’m a voracious reader but for the first month or so I struggled to get into the books I had on the go. I’m back in the swing of it now but that surprised me.

Pre-Covid, this blog had morphed into a places-to-go and things-to-do kind of thing and all of a sudden we weren’t allowed to go places, they were closed, even the park on our doorstep was shut.

There have been loads of online activities, projects and opportunities but along with home learning from school, it was all a tad overwhelming.

School have been brilliant. The primary has anyway, not so much the high school but that’s a whole other post. The activities for my youngest have taken well-being into account and were nowhere near as ominous as the volumes of work I’ve seen other kids his age have from their schools. Even so, I felt guilty for not being able to do it all, that damn FOMO coming in again. For being stuck on my laptop all day or hypnotising them with technology so I could have the silence for another Zoom or Teams meeting.

I’ve not been posting on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter about the stuff we have managed to do because it’s really not the whole picture. Also, when I’ve flicked through the relentless baking, gardening, crafting and family challenges that some people have done I’ve just felt like such a shitty failure. Jealous and frustrated. Yes, we’ve had a lot of forced time in the same house but I’m not at their disposal all day, every day. I’m trying to work during the hours that I could and should be helping them.

Of course, I’ve juggled things and we’ve done the Scout challenges, tasks from school, we’ve had the barbecues and been on walks but at times it has all just been a bit bloody much.

I’m not totally woe is me, call me a waaaaambulance. I am grateful that I live with other humans, that my kids are older, that we’re all healthy. That’s another reason that I’ve felt redundant as a blogger. My story, our experience is so insignificant in the grander scheme of things.

I was furloughed from one job a few weeks ago so in theory it should’ve been better. Somehow though, other big meetings from my other job have fallen on those days and, given the way things are in my industry at the moment I’ve Zoomed along. I’ve also volunteered with food parcels on those furloughed days because that’s what we do isn’t it, come together as a community to make things less shitty where we can. Perspective wise, I know I shouldn’t be moaning at all.

I know, I know, I know, I’ve also seen those insta quotes and twee tweets braying “it’s OK to be unproductive through a global crisis” and self-care this and that but I’m just a girl who can’t say no. Except when something’s got to give and in this case, it was the blog and all the gubbings that go along with it.

I was reluctant to join the voices pounding socials with yet another fun thing to try with your kids when there’s just no bloody extra time for it. Although, with the summer holidays on the horizon, without messages from school, would you be up for some ideas or recommendations for online shows or things to do at home? Or have you just had a bloody gut’s full of all that wholesome faff?

A close up of three items hanging in a wardrobe. It's unclear what the items are but two seem to be satiny, one with a Japanese inspired floral pint and the other more of an abstract bird print. The iten in the middle is a sequinned dress with long fringing.
Thinking Out Loud

Fast Fashion Slow Blogging

Back in September I took the 30 day pledge and didn’t buy any new clothes for myself through the whole of the month. Oxfam’s Second Hand September campaign was about addressing fast fashion, reusing, rewearing and recycling rather than sending piles of clothes to landfill. I didn’t actually end up buy any clothes at all, second hand or not, and my main challenge with my own wardrobe is much loved stuff just not fitting anymore.

Why am I only blogging about this now? Two months late is a bit much even by my usual delayed standards. I did an Instagram post about it at the time but was reminded of it by the fabulous exhibition at National Museum Wales in Cardiff that’s been curated by their Youth Forum to run alongside Dippy on Tour, the UK’s most famous diplodocus skeleton cast. It’s in the temporary exhibitions space next to the gift shop until Dippy leaves at the en of January so you’ve got plenty of time to go and have a look. Not only have they curated a collection of items belonging to museum staff but they’ve also created some amazing creatures and scenes out of recycled clothes and bags with a focus on the impact of fast fashion on our precious planet. The dinosaurs didn’t see the end coming but we can do something about our own destruction of Earth. My boys loved the umbrella pterodactyl and I was blown away by the colour, quality and creativity. A big shout out to the lovely volunteer who showed some cool bones and fossils to us.

A display at the museum of a meteor model blasting into shop sale signs reading "Going Going Gone!"
One of the displays at the museum of the impact of fast fashion on our planet.

So back to the whole fast fashion thing. I have been guilty of stocking up in Primark, buying new for a treat but I’m also a big fan of buying second hand gear on eBay, there are some astonishing bargains to be found. I’ve bought from Oxfam’s online shop too (yes, that’s a thing). I’m a hoarder and I’ll rewear my old favourites on repeat. Some going out gear has been downgraded to day wear or work wear. If anything, I need to Konmari the heck out of my clothes. Yes, I still have cocktail dresses from uni (all found in the sales). When do they become vintage?!

Oxfam has shedloads of stats on the environmental impact of fast fashion, the exhibition at the museum is full of little nuggets of knowledge about it all too. I’ve cringed in the past reading some Instagram blurbs from fashion or mum blog influencers who spend obscene amounts of money on clothes under the guise of quality over quantity. I can’t afford to shop beyond the high street and even that’s a bit of a push for things like jeans and bras. What I’ve tried to do is think about versatility and timelessness, whether it sparks joy and fits me properly rather than because it’s the latest thing. I’ve never been into the throwaway bit of throwaway fashion because I can’t bear to part with clothes that I’m sentimental about.

Maybe it’s part of getting older but I don’t care if I’m not dressed like everyone else and I’ll keep on wearing it until it gets holes (and even then, if I really love it I’ll still wear it, who am I trying to kid?).

There were some pretty judgey comments on posts about the 30 day campaign, from people who couldn’t believe it was a struggle to avoid buying new for a month. I can’t afford to buy new every week but if I’m going out out there’s every chance tat I’ll have a trawl through ASOS. I have bought a ew dress this month but it’s not a one off outfit, I know I can use it for weddings or christenings as well as drinks out or a posh meal. I didn’t buy new shoes or bag to go with it, I know it’ll go with what I already have.

Four items of clothes hang. From letf to right: a pair of blue ripped jeans, a chambray long sleeved shirt, a rainbow woollen jumper and aspotty shirt dress.
One of my old Primark hauls. In my defence, these were bought in the summer of 2018 ,
they’re still regulars in my wardrobe and all are still in good condition.

 

Thinking Out Loud

A Rambling Moan about Virtue Signalling at Christmas

Those facebook posts saying “haven’t sent any cards this year as I’ve donated to charity instead so I’ll say Merry Christmas here” kind of miss the point of a Christmas card.

I don’t send as many as I used to but I think that’s to do with laziness and an ever shrinking social circle and my utter ineptitude at keeping track of addresses.

The idea that it’s an either or, a binary choice of cards versus charity is what gets my goat. I buy charity cards so a donation goes towards those organisations, I’ve used Scout Post so the local scouting groups get a little boost to their fundraising. Today I’ve received a card from a friend who’s included a reminder of her fundraising for a marathon, along with her very new address.

Typing a generic Christmas flavoured message for a social media post via your smart phone while killing time on the toilet or mid commute doesn’t bring the same moment of glee that opening a brightly coloured, handwritten envelope does.

There’s a loneliness epidemic and for some people at Christmas, a little reminder that you’ve thought of them goes a long way. Especially for people who aren’t connected online.

The public statement of “I’m not doing *insert Christmas tradition* because I’m donating to charity instead or having an ethical Christmas or teaching my children about what’s important in life” can read as “I’m better than you”, “my heart is bigger than yours”, “you are an unethical shit”. Giving a gift to your partner or buying a present for your child shouldn’t make you feel bad.

We’ve never spent gazillions of pounds on Christmas because we don’t have lots of money. More often than not my husband and I give each other tickets or vouchers for gigs, shows and local restaurants. Our kids have had presents bought second hand from eBay or gumtree. I’ve made Christmas presents like handmade quilts, dressing up costumes, photo albums, paintings, chutney etc. We don’t splurge. I’m not a fan of consumerism for consumerism’s sake, we don’t need more stuff.

But isn’t it lovely when Christmas is about generosity? I get my kids involved in ideas for what their dad would like so they can wrap and give him something and learn about the joy of giving not just receiving. I’m not talking fancy things, it’s stuff like his favourite chocolate bar. Generosity isn’t just presents and cards but time and energy. Trips to our local theatre, long dog walks around Christmas trails, carols at church, Christmas crafting with kids, inviting family and friends over, all those get togethers.

Perhaps I don’t quite get the idea of not giving or receiving as an ethical choice because we already don’t spend as much as a lot of people. Instagram has been a tad galling at times, people buying Christmas Eve box pyjamas that cost more than the main gift my youngest will be getting. “stocking fillers” that cost the same as the tickets I’ve bought for someone else.

When Father Christmas asked our boys what they’d like for Christmas (their sister opted out of meeting him this year, sad times), one said Lego and the other said a puppet. They know it’s not about presents, some of their favourite parts of the day are seeing their cousins and playing charades.

It also makes me wonder how much other people spend on cards. I’ve spent under a tenner. Should I stop this tradition to give £10 to a charity? Would it be the same if I saved £10 by not buying that bottle of wine or those books and gave that money to charity? I know there are extortionate stamps to buy too but I’ve sent half with my dad to get disseminated around family by hand in another part of the country.

It’s a tad disingenuous to be promoting an ethical stance of asking for charity donations in lieu of presents when you promote products for other people to buy. Standing behind the less is more hashtag when everything you already have is beautiful and perfect and lovely. I’d quite like a perfume for Christmas because that’s the one bottle I use through the whole year. Last year I wanted a mirror because we’d had the same one in the living room that had belonged to the previous owners about a decade before. It hasn’t gone to landfill or even a charity shop, the old mirror just moved rooms. When you also talk of having Christmas abroad in another culture away from all the stuff at the end of a year of fancy holidays and posh homewares, it jars with people who are in a financially less privileged position.      

I can air this knowing that the Instagrammers who inspired the previous paragraph won’t read it because they treat Instagram and blogging as their daily paper, they curate it to ensure that they only have what they perceive to be high quality content. This translates as only reading what’s written by their friends. They can’t believe their luck that they’ve got book deals and gazillions of followers but they don’t support or engage with the lowly regional oiks and upstarts, they don’t help nurture the blogging ecology.

I’m not advocating for these people to splurge even more of whatever money they’ve got on pointless, vacuous presents. I just wish they’d stop making me do little sicks in my mouth when they say they’re not buying their partner a gift for ethical reasons and they’ve asked for charity donations from other family. Of course you don’t need or want presents, you’ve already got everything. Your life is already perfect and you get “gifted” shit all year round so why should Christmas be especially gifty?   

If you’re giving presents and sending cards, that’s fine, you do you. If you’re not then great, you can do you too. Just bear in mind that whichever side of the fence you fall, the moment you start preaching or showing off about it on social media is the moment you alienate someone.

  

Thinking Out Loud

The Summer of FOMO

This was my first summer holiday working full time with kids. We haven’t had the wholesome days out, the free days getting sandy on local beaches, the rainy messy crafting and baking. I’m not totally woe is me about it. Just a bit sad and full of FOMO. We had a week’s holiday at the end of August that we made the most of despite the weather and we’ve had some evening walks and jaunts while some of the usual hobbies and sports are on a hiatus.

Plus we do have a little more money. Not a lot but enough to stave off the usual empty purse panic.

I’ve not blogged in a millennia. My Instagram feels boring, impersonal and a bit blah. I think there’s a connection there. I didn’t start this up to just share photos, I have my own personal account for that. I started this off to share things to do and places to go, sure, but also to vent and be silly. The whole anonymous thing is doing my nut in and really doesn’t help. I’m toying with making my personal Instagram private and actually having my face in the Vale of Glam Mam stuff.

Haven’t fully thought it through yet.

What do you reckon? I’ve not come across many other anonymous parenting blogs so I’m wondering if maybe it’s not a thing for a reason. There is comfort in being anonymous when I’m dishing out the opinions but all my family and friends know it’s me so who am I hiding from really? 

Back to the FOMO and the lacklustre Instagramming. The connection is pretty clear, we’re doing less and making less. I’m not having the family experiences that I used to snap and share. Photos of my laptop make for crappy content. I’m not selling products or services, I can’t even do outfit shots because I’m still anonymous and besides, I wear the same few things on a rotation so I’m hardly #whatmamaworemonday fodder.

I guess I’ll just have to try getting a little more creative and remember to make the most of evenings and weekends, to stop being jealous of other people having a whale of a time and be a bit more grateful for what we can do.       

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 own 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!