Manchester: Keep on buzzin’

It’s been 48 hours since my beautiful city was attached. 48 hours since 22 lives were taken. 48 hours since many more lives were impacted in ways we’ll never really be able to measure. 

I’m broken hearted. 

I can’t find the words to express how I feel. Shocked, saddened, scared, angry, confused. But what I can say is that I’m proud that the city I love; the city I call home has not been broken. 

I worry for my oldest child and what he’s thinking about, what he’s saying or hearing in the playground and if I can really reassure him that things will be ok. 

I want to wrap them both in cotton wool and squeeze them for years, protecting them from this horrible, horrible world. 

But I’m his mother, his Mancunian mother. And because of this I must keep on going. I must embody the spirit of our Manchester bee and be proactive, industrious and collaborative. I must, as we say,  keep on buzzin’. 

Mothers unite for fish fingers. Seriously…

So any fan of so called ‘instamums’ would no doubt have seen or heard about an article that appeared today in a certain national newspaper. I’m not going to link to it but it starts with Daily and rhymes with ‘Fail’.

The ‘article’ basically slammed some of my favourite mama bloggers and authors, Clemmie Telford, Hurrah for Gin, Don’t Buy Her Flowers, The Unmumsy Mum and The Scummy Mummies, describing their work as “a race to the bottom to prove yourself the worst mother ever…” where “women compete to seem incapable of caring for their children’s basic needs.” Yes it was total B.S.

No sooner had this article appear did the most mumtastic of backlashes begin. Every mother, in fact, every parent who relates to these women’s accounts stood up in solidarity against some pretty shoddy journalism.

These women are just a handful of mothers using their creative, intelligent minds and the power of the internet to connect women at what can be the loneliest and most confusing time for many. They are shattering the romanticised facade of perfect parenting. They admit to feeding their kids fish fingers and surviving a soft play centre with a hangover. They are helping us to realise that sometimes motherhood is a bit shit. But its ok, because we all go through it.

They are honest, self deprecating, funny, sometimes controversial, but always honest. What this article failed to gather from all of the sarcasm was that these women LOVE their children.

And the parents of the world love them for it. Seeing so many other women standing in #solidaritea against this article has been really refreshing.

If you ever thought the sisterhood was dead, today it has truly been awoken. And if anything, this article has helped to raise their profile even more (which sounds like a reason to crack open a bottle if you ask me!)

So thank you ladies. Keep doing what you’re doing.

And as I said on my Instagram post: People who don’t like fish fingers can’t be trusted. FACT

x

 

Breaking the News to a child

Last week, I was interviewed by a journalist for the Telegraph who wanted to know how I explained and answered difficult questions about current affairs to Boy1.

Its a really interesting issue because I’ve always wanted to make sure I don’t overprotect my children from the big wide world. In fact its my responsibility as a parent to teach them about ‘real life‘, but at the same time, I have to filter and edit to a level that’s comfortable for them, and me (to be totally honest).

We have the news on every morning, as I always tell him its important to know what is going on in the world around us, but I guess that world has always seemed quite distant from him and nothing to worry about.

So when, out of the blue, Boy 1 asked me about the Westminster attacks a few weeks ago (just before I headed to London), it took me by surprise. I had to try my best not to use the word ‘terrorism’ as I knew this might scare him even more. Instead I described this very angry man that wanted express his anger and unfortunately some people died because of him. But with any ‘deep’ conversation I have with him, I try to end on the positive, so explained that the police were on the case, keeping us all safe. Because, for a child, that’s the most important thing. They need to have confidence and optimism and it’s our job to maintain that view for them. 

When he asked my why Donald Trump had won the election if he’s such a mean man, that says horrible things about women and Mexicans, I had to explain that sometimes not everyone agrees with each other. That’s how democracy works.

I’ve found that in these situations its beneficial to put things in a context a child can related too, without over-simplifying the situation.Whether that’s through the importance of talking and compromising or helping those in need, it helps to put their mind at ease.

Through the interview I realised that whilst I try to be honest, I will still try to change the conversation in certain situations. Seeing injured bodies of innocent children that could the same age as his brother, or hearing about young people being attacked by their family members – he doesn’t need to hear that, not just yet.

But in a world of hyperbole and click-bait driven content, where youngsters have easy access to media, the challenge for us as parents is to ensure they are enlightened, not exposed. Educated, not excluded from the world they live in. We use this an opportunity to build strong citizens of the world.

Then, as in most cases, after about 5 minutes they’ll turn to you and ask ‘what’s for dinner?’.

X

PS – if you are really struggling for words to explain the news, I’d highly recommend a subscription to The Week Junior. Boy 1 loves it!

 

I’ve dropped the balls!

You might have noticed I haven’t posted for a while. I’ve tried. I have about 5 drafts started and saved, but unfinished. If you ever read my piece about work life ‘balance’, you’ll know what I mean when I say I’ve dropped my balls!

Work has been busy, an expand role, lots of travel. Kids have been busy, matches, performance, tests. I haven’t exercised. I’ve eaten crap because of the stress, which has made me tired and therefore less motivated to go to the gym. Hubster had an injury rendering him unable to even pick up a toddler to put him to bed. Then once he was better, he had to travel for work, leaving me in charge of the tribe.

It’s been a tiring, calorie-laden, vicious circle. Then today was the tip of the iceberg. Rush home to cook dinner, a lovely herby buttered cod with new potatoes and steamed veg (yes, on a Wednesday!) and what do a do…. knock it over and smash it on the floor. Butter, cod and shards of glass everywhere!!

Fast forward to 6:45 and my children are sat on the living room floor eating fish & chips and some leftover sweetcorn. Total. Parenting. Fail. Balls totally dropped. Tears filling up and a feeling I have totally let everyone down. SO much so that in the rush to get them a replacement meal, I didn’t actually buy anything for myself!

But tomorrow is a new day. I’ll slowly but surely try to pick the balls back up, so nothing or nobody goes ignored. One more working day tomorrow, then I’m putting down the laptop to enjoy a fun day with my gang. It will no doubt involve more calories, but it will be quality time.

Sometimes, when things get hectic, you just have to pause, take a breath and remind yourself why you are doing this. Then I’ll gradually work out which balls to pick up when and which to start throwing.

Bring on the weekend. And the balls!

 

I’m one of The Mothers!

There isn’t a one size fits all approach to mothering. That fact alone is encouraging.

Anyone in the Manchester area might be aware of a great project by photographer, Bec Lupton, called The Mothers. Its a great collection of photos and reflections on motherhood, from different women. What’s great about it is that it proves just how different everyone’s experiences can be. There isn’t a one size fits all approach to mothering. That fact alone is encouraging.

If you haven’t heard of it, check it out here: http://www.the-mothers.co.uk/

Inspired by some of the articles I’d read and in an attempt to articulate what I really think about my mothering experience, I decided to get involved.

The verdict? I loved it! It was almost therapeutic to take the time and really think about motherhood from my own perspective. Expectations vs reality. Good advice vs bad advice. Hopes and aspirations.

Plus I got some great action shots of me and the boys – it was a nightmare getting them to both sit still at the same time without resorting to Paw Patrol (!)

With parenting life being soooo busy, its easy to lose perspective and forget what its all about. I’d highly recommend taking a few minutes out to think about what you want for your family. And if you fancy it, get in touch with Bec and take part in this fab project – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

xx

PS – she’s also started The Fathers, for any dads who’d like to share

 

Give it a go! 

This is my mantra for 2017.

Following in from last year and embracing the power of ‘yes’, this year I just want to give it a go. 

Nothing specific, but whatever random experiences and activities that spring to mind, I’m just going to try them. 

I’m currently on a busy train, drinking overly priced Merlot from a plastic cup, having missed bedtime, but I’m buzzing. Why? Because I gave something a go. Details can’t be shared just yet, but I’ve had a brilliant day trying something out. Not the best of outcomes, but I have it a go. 

In fact one of the reasons I’ve done this ‘thing’ today is to encourage my kids to give it a go. While it’s great to plan and be prepared, sometimes time isn’t on your side and you can’t wait for things to be just right, because that perfect time may never come. 

You have to seize the opportunity, especially if you can’t lose either way. Children need to see us trying new things and challenging ourselves. Showing them that it’s ok to ‘fail’, trying is the important thing. 

You can’t regret trying. The worst kind of regret is when you’ve done nothing at all. 

So, join me. Just give something a go. No matter how small, make that step into the unknown. You’ll thank yourself for it! 

Afro momma! 

As a child I spent many a Sunday evening having my hair washed, greased within an inch of its life, then plaited so tight I could hardly close my eyes to sleep that night. Pretty standard for most young girls of African or Caribbean origin, then and now. 

As a mum of two boys, I thought that I’d never have that Sunday drama. I’d just need to deal with me own hair whilst my boys bonded with daddy during a trip to the barbers for their short back and sides or a quick ‘shape up’.

But last year, at the ripe old age of 7 and a half, Boy1 decided to embrace his fro. Having always had regular cuts he decided to let it grow. 

One year one and we’ve fully embraced the ‘wash days’, mighty Afro comb and even that funny in between ‘what is going on with his hair?’ phase. 

He’s started to embrace my love for new hair products, but doesn’t quite get what they all do. He just trusts my wisdom! 

This whole process has meant I’ve been more involved in his hair management than the hubster and it’s actually been fun. We’ve had chats about all kinds of issues, not just his hair,but school, politics, Pokemon! It’s been a great opportunity to bond with my big boy whilst helping him to find his identity. I’ve loved every minute. 

I guess what it’s shown me is that you don’t need a dedicated, cash driven ‘event’ to spend quality time with your child. In fact as he gets older, it might be that we find more of these natural moments to bond, rather than forced fun. 

And now he has the most luscious of ‘fros and I’m so proud 😊

X

Ps – to anyone rocking an Afro I’m loving Shea Moisture products at the moment 

Goodbye 2016

So another year has gone by. It’s certainly been a year of mixed emotions, without a doubt. I know most people will be glad to see the back of 2016, but hey, if you’re reading this post, you’ve made it through the year. Isn’t that something to be thankful for? 

So in my bid to start the year with a positive mindset I’ve decided to list some of the good things I’ve experienced or learned over the past year. 

  • Family time is important – ok I knew this before 2016 but going back to work and having busy family schedules, really brought this home
  • I’ve learned not to feel guilty about personal time – reading a book, going for a swim, or even a night away can be a good thing! Switching off from the above mentioned schedules every now and then, is good for you. In fact, it’s good for everyone.
  • I can’t lose out by embracing opportunities and invitations. I got a real boost from taking on a speaking opportunity and doing a charity 10k walk. Both things I wouldn’t have dreamed of a year ago, but the feeling of accomplishment and the things that followed were great. Say ‘yes’more! 
  • I appeared on a daytime tv quiz show!! Ok I kept it quiet (I didn’t win) but given that it was something I’d wanted to do for years, I decided to go for it at the end of mat leave. I really shouldn’t have left it so long! 
  • I got a promotion! I’ll probably post more about this at some point, but it was a great way to end the year, knowing my first back at work had been a success 

In spite of all the random bad stuff that’s happened, this year has been kind of alright. At the end of the day, if you’re still here to read my little old blog, then that’s something. Plenty of people didn’t make it this far. 

Happy new year. Bring on 2017

Why there won’t be an elf on my shelf, ever. 

It’s 1st December. The start of the countdown to Christmas. For most it’s a reminder to put up trees, realise you don’t have any pay days left to buy presents and start the non stop binge fest with your first advent calendar choccie. 
But over the past few years, today has marked the day when your social media feed (if you are friends with many parents) becomes full of images of an elf. In their home doing various activities each day to keep their kids entertained and well behaved until Christmas.

But there are no plans for an elf to make an appearance at Mumsomnia towers any time soon.

  1. It’s just plain creepy. The elf always looks a bit shifty, with those unhealthily large eyes. That side eye expression 👀 is the kind of look that brings back memories of 80s/90s horror films. Granted I probably shouldn’t have been watching these films but it still weirds me out! 
  2. It’s a LOT of work. I can just about think of something to feed my kids everyday, let alone a different activity for a fear-inducing elf with strangely long legs. You have to be fully committed to the process before it falls flat on its face. And even when that happens, you’d have to come up with a pretty good excuse as to why the elf left so soon. Why bother!
  3. Is it really for the kids? While we say it gets the kids to behave before Christmas, I have a sneaky suspicion many parents do it for the social media kudos of likes loves and lols. Whilst I am always impressed by the creative lengths people go to, it can start to breed parental competitiveness. 
  4. It’s another step away from the meaning of Christmas. I get that it’s not only christians that celebrate the festive season. But by basically bribing kids for a set period of 24 days, are we kind of telling them that’s the whole point of Christmas? Just Gifts? I’m yet to see an elf leave a quirky note telling a child to go and do something for charity or a homeless person. 
  5. It’s bribery without parental guilt. Face it. No parent wants or likes to tell their child they can’t have something. So by shifting that decision making to another party – in this case, a creepy elf – it lightens the burden. 
  6. Does it really encourage genuine good behaviour? Great if kids behave really well in the run up to Christmas in the hope they’ll get the goodies they wanted. But what about the other 11 months of the year? Why behave if there’s no reward? Either go full throttle and bribe them 365 days a year or not at all! Seriously though, shouldn’t we just be encouraging kids to be well all the time without it being linked to a reward. 
  7. It’s creepy. Yeah, know I’ve said this, but the idea of a toy just appearing in your home from out of the blue, watching your every move does feel a bit bizarre. I didn’t realise Christmas gave us free reign to encourage stalking or intimidation! 

Ok – I know it’s all a bit of fun, but with all the pressures of modern parenting, I just don’t have the time, energy or imagination for another unnecessary burden on my list. 

I’ll be keeping an eye out for your elf pictures though! 😉

Why 2016 Is The Year To Teach Kids About Democracy

2016 – the year politics and democracy changed. If anyone had told me at the start of the year that we’d experience a Brexit saga (oh, what a saga it is turned out to be) and that a property tycoon with no political experience would be within touching distance of becoming the next POTUS, I would have laughed in your face. Very loudly.

But with all the surrealism and confusion, on both sides of the Atlantic, I’ve realised we must use the period of time to engage children in the issue of democracy.

hands

Yes, you can have ‘family meetings’ to vote for which film to watch or what topping to get on a pizza. Pretty sufficient for a child, right? At the end of the day, they’ll probably be happy with either outcome, so no skin off anyone’s nose. But is that really a lesson?

What about when they’ve voiced their opinion and ‘done the right thing’ but things don’t go their way? What about when they see a parent, a family member, a commentator on TV is truly set back, shocked, angry and even upset at the outcome of a vote? Do we teach them to just give up, because they didn’t get their way? This is where the democracy talk really comes into its own.

I often like to say, ‘democracy is a chance to have your say, not a guarantee you’ll have your way’. Never has this phrase been so true.

The Brexit result fueled lots of anger, and every time my son hears Trump’s name, there’s usually some kind of negative story attached and it’s up to me to explain why these people are still ‘winning’.

My God, does it make me wonder if children might just lose all faith in democracy altogether when he hears people’s reactions to these victories. It might make many people want to give up, but as parents we have to remind our kids just how important it is to have the right to vote. Our western, first world freedoms often make us slightly complacent about voting because the differences between outcomes aren’t always life-changing, but we must remember that not everyone lives in a nation that lets people express their opinions.

We have the right to share our views and influence the direction our country takes through our democratic system. In fact, if we don’t like the system, we still have the right to debate it, challenge it and try to make changes by encouraging people to make a stand together and vote.

Children need to know that sometimes not everyone will agree with you. In fact, there will be occasions where that group is larger than yours so they will ‘win’. What’s great about democracy is the opportunity, not necessarily the result.

I read far too many articles about how young people have become distanced and disenfranchised from the political system – not just in the UK – and this is worrying. We should use this period of time as an opportunity to stir up more political passion in them than ever before. Ask them what they don’t like about the current political state, but also, what they think can be changed. We need them to stand up and attempt to change things. If they think politicians are ‘all the same’, then let’s encourage them to be the difference, rather than pleading ignorance. Be the change they want to see in the world….If now isn’t the time to teach this lesson, then I don’t know when is.

While debates, complaints, protests and strikes don’t always get the desired outcome, they are a step forward. They can be powerful weapon in making your voice and opinion heard. They can be liberating. A chance to engage in a conversation for better understanding of each other’s views and maybe persuade them to accept your view. Because sometimes just one extra voice or vote can tip the balance.

So whilst we wait to witness the clear up of the mess that is 2016 and ask ourselves if all this stuff really happened, let’s not forget to remind our children, democracy is good and that their one vote is always better than no vote at all.

XX

This blog post first appeared on HuffingtonPostUK