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

 

Donald Trump, Thank You!

Hard to believe, but I’m finding the positives in the arrival of the Trump

Donald,

21 days since you became president and I want to thank you.

Thank you for reminding us that we still have so much work to do to remove ignorance and intolerance from this world.

Thank you for teaching my children that if you judge and speak badly of someone because of their gender, sexuality, religion or ethnicity, everyone will stand up against it to prove you wrong, no matter how powerful you might be.

Thank you for teaching them that complacency is as disruptive as extremism. We will no longer take a good, or great, situation for granted.

Thank you for showing my children that if they disrespect women, they are disrespecting mothers, sisters, daughters and wives everywhere.

Thank you for shining a light on just how gullible and lazy we have become in our consumption of media. We will no longer click and share ‘news’ without verifying facts and sources.

Thank you for showing us just how many people are disenfranchised, disillusioned and discouraged from politics.

But most of all I want to thank you for bringing us together. For helping us to unite, regardless of race, religion, gender or even location. You are spurring us to build bridges, when there are threats of walls. Without you, so many of us would not be standing up to make our voices heard.

Donald, on behalf of everyone who believes in tolerance, freedom and fairness, I thank you.

Why are women still getting ‘pregnant then screwed’?

My thoughts on how to reduce maternity discrimination.

Another week has gone by and more reports are being published showing how working women are being treated like crap when they are pregnant or on maternity leave, only to become victim to a pay gap with their male colleagues once they return to work.

This really annoys me. Particularly women who are sacked, made redundant, demoted etc just because they have pushed out or are due to push out a baby. This is illegal and needs to stop.

Yes, I understand that for some organisations (particularly small businesses), the cost of maternity pay could have an impact, especially if they need to pay for additional cover. BUT that doesn’t mean we make it ok for any business not to employ women of childbearing age, or treat them like rubbish. Nor does it mean we should just accept there isn’t a place for us in the workplace after we’ve given birth aka comtributing to the future of the human race. 

What it means is that we clearly need a more equal view in our approach to parental leave and responsibilities. Society’s mentality towards leave and parenting is outdated, still in a time where women didn’t have professional roles and fathers weren’t as hands on. But times have changed. Women are pursuing or already in senior, demanding careers (God forbid) and many fathers actually spend time with their children (shock horror!). But the ‘system’ doesn’t acknowledge this.

Let me explain. At the moment our maternity system is very much that, maternal. Focussed on solely the mother. She is allowed to take time off for medical appointments, without question. She gets paid to take time off caring for a newborn. If a father wants to take significant time off, he might get funny looks from an employer and he’ll have to accept a drop in pay. Not the best move at a time when finances are already be impacted by nappies and wipes (and coffee and cake for mum lol). So it makes sense for mother to take more time off (up to a year), leaving her with a gap in her career, which according to statistics will impact her financially for life,  whilst dad continues to work, progressing his career to bring home the proverbial bacon.

And in most cases, this then continues once she has returned to work as she is the primary care giver. She takes the pay cut to work part time, leaves the office early when a child is sick etc etc. And employers kind of expect it. Some embrace it – ‘that’s her being a mum’ they accept. Some use it as an excuse to treat women differently which is down right wrong. Either way, all employers need to respect the fact that fathers are parents too! Make it acceptable, in fact the norm, for a dad to leave the office at 430 to do the nursery pick up or ask if they can do a conference call from home to nurse a sick child.

Now, imagine if both parents received the same pay for leave? They could split the leave, reducing the ‘time out’ of work for either parent, but ensuring they bring in some kind of income, meaning the onus isn’t on any one parent. I know that the right to shared has been introduced in the UK, but statistics show that take up has been very low. But we shouldn’t give up on it. If we got to a stage where this was the norm, employers wouldn’t or couldn’t discriminate against workers just for being parents. They wouldn’t have many people left in their books!

If you haven’t heard of the wonderful Joeli Brearley, check out her amazing campaign, Pregnant then Screwed. It really is an eye opener into the number of working mothers being discriminated against. But she is actually helping women to challenge their employers and supporting them in the process. Positive action! Thankfully I haven’t had such experiences, but it really is sad that in the 21st century, this is such an issue. What’s more sad is that it’s getting worse. 

But I think it fans, and will get better. It will take time. It will take a lot of effort. It will take mothers to stand up against discrimination to hold bad employers to account. It will take fathers to use their right for shared leave and make it known to their employers that they actually want to parent! It will take the government to make discrimination tribunals cheaper and easier. And it will take the rest of us to provide support for our friends and family in these situations.

Then maybe less of us will be screwed. 

 

Life lessons from 48 hours in a theme park

During our France trip we spent two days in the “Magical Kingdom” in Paris. It’s been fun. Still deciding if I should write a review (I loved it!). Before I do that, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve observed​ and learned about life, just from our short time there…

  • Children can move quickly if they want to – tell your child they’ve got 10 minutes to get to the other side of the park before they miss the slot on a Buzz Lightyear ride and just check out the speed they develop. Think about that next time their dawdling in Tescos
  • Children can be patient when they want – we waited 90 minutes for one ride! That’s about the length of a Disney animated film!! Regardless of the fact he hated the ride and cried when he finally got off, it reminded me that finding your child’s motivation is really important. I sound like a cheesy management training guide, but knowing what motivates someone can really help to drive them towards a goal
  • Fast food is still king – yes I know it’s a holiday destination and we should all have a ‘treat’, but the amount of burgers, chip and sugary snacks available in modern life is worrying. It was actually difficult to find anything that resembled a vegetable, apart from in the expensive restaurants 
  • Islamaphobia is real – sad but very true. I’m a people watcher. I love looking at people in a queue, wondering what their story is, conjuring up some exciting journey that has brought us to the same point. But I couldn’t help but notice the number of extended glances aimed towards people  of a certain skin tone or women wearing headscarves. Isn’t it sad that we can’t just let people enjoy their days out? Do I want my sons to grow up in a world where people so blatantly give fearful or even disgusted looks to people because of their race or religion? 
  • We are selfie obsessed – they are everywhere!! From young girls to ‘wannabe cool’ dads. I worry that people aren’t really soaking up the environment around them and missing beautiful sights, just so they can perfect a pout
  • Languages are important – I love languages. I sometimes regret not pursuing a career that let me use my degree level Spanish. I don’t think everyone needs to learn them to this level, but just having a basic appreciation for host language can break barriers. Seeing the smiles on people’s faces as my son uttered a mancunian “merci”, was lovely. One of my favourite quotes from Nelson Mandela says, 

    If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

    In times of ignorance and intolerance, this couldn’t be more true

  • Family time is important – even with the sugar highs (and lows), spending small fortunes on fatty foods and tat, you can’t get much better than family time. No work emails, no chores, no gadgets, nothing to rush back for. Just a chance to talk, laugh, play and really enjoy each other’s company. Even moody teenagers were laughing with parents and siblings!! Whether it’s going abroad or staying at home with a board game, this is what really makes a difference to little ones – blocking out other influences and just enjoying time as a family. We just can’t let modern life let us think otherwise 

XX 

Signs you have a toddler in your house 

  1. You find random household items dotted around the place. Boy2 has developed a particular penchant for Tupperware. So pretty much every day I’ll find at least one rogue tub or lid in a non-Tupperware belonging room
  2. You automatically check what’s on Cebeebies/Disney Junior/BabyTV when you turn on the TV. What’s more worrying is you do it when your child isn’t even there!
  3. You find yourself regularly trapping your fingers in drawers or cupboards because you forgot about the bloody safety locks!
  4. The bottom of your handbag is now home to half eaten packs of raisins, confiscated toys, socks etc etc, meaning no matter how much you want to tip it upside down when you can’t find your keys, the potential horror on people’s faces is enough to stop you
  5. Your nursery rhyme game is strong (whoop whoop!!). The first few months were a bit shaky, you’d forgotten the tune or lyrics to a few classics. But now you’re on top form and can relive Rhyme Time’s greatest hits faster that you can say Humpty Dumpty. In fact it’s so strong, you can even interpret your toddler’s mumbling rendition
  6. You’ve learned the art of translating cries. So much so, your guests give you a worrying look as you ignore your child’s squeals. You know they are just moaning because you wouldn’t let them keep a fork in their bed, but your guests are wondering whether you’ve given up on parenting altogether.
  7. You constantly debate with yourself whether you should introduce a naughty step. Would a small being really understand it, or just think its a new game?
  8. Your once lovely House Beautiful-ready living room is now a multi-coloured, plastic ridden dumping ground, complete with toys that make random noises ten minutes after you think you’ve turned them off (clearly designed by childless people)!
  9. The piles of washing are no longer full of hideous green poop, but now stained with mud, paint, bolognese and whatever else the nursery/childminder have decided to ‘learn’ about today
  10. You are more confident than you were with a newborn and loving every minute of seeing your little one’s personality grow, along with enjoying the cuddles whilst you can still get them…

xx

My son is black, he needs to know 

I have a nearly 8 year old son. He’s handsome, funny, smart, caring. He makes us proud. But in recent months I’ve become increasingly aware of the difficult conversations I’m going to have to have with him. Aside from the puberty and girls chat (eeek! Think I’ll leave those to hubby!) there’s a somewhat more challenging topic. Race.

It wouldn’t be fair to avoid it altogether and keep him wrapped in cotton wool for the rest of his life, but I have to manage how honest I am with him.

You see, I’ve told him that there are small minded people out there who treat people badly just because of the colour of his skin. He knows that had we been living a few decades ago he wouldn’t have made many of the friends he has, because they would have been sent to different schools. He knows about racism. He knows that it’s wrong.

But what he doesn’t know yet is that as he gets older, as he gets bigger, this issue will stop being just a conversation he has with his parents, or sees on the news, but will very likely become a genuine battle he will have to face. And that is a difficult conversation.

I can’t tell him that just by being a black boy/man he will automatically be treated as a statistic by many members of the society in which he lives.

I can’t tell him that this society will expect him to achieve less than his peers.

I can’t tell him that as he gets older and bigger, people might cross the road or clutch their bags tighter, or follow him around a shop, because they feel intimidated by him or just don’t trust him. 

I can’t tell him that when he’s play fighting with his white friends, as boys often do, it’s his face that a passerby will most likely point out as the ‘aggressor’.

I can’t tell him that once he learns to drive, he will get stopped by the authorities at least once, regardless of the speed he is driving or the car he’s in. 

I can’t tell him that he might not get that job or role he wants because his ‘face doesn’t fit’.

I can’t tell him that the confidence to debate and share opinions that we try to encourage in him will one day be seen by someone as having an attitude, being arrogant or even aggressive.

I can’t tell him that no matter how articulate and polite we raise him to be, some people will be shocked to hear him pronounce his t’s when he opens his mouth.

I can’t tell him that when people crack a joke with him in a generic ‘African american accent’, that there might be a hint of inappropriate unconscious bias, that the deliverer might not even be aware of.

I can’t tell him that he will experience negative relationships, sometimes without even knowing, where people will discreetly put him down and subtly treat him differently.

I can’t be the one to ruin his view of the world. Not yet. That time will inevitably come. 

But what I can tell him as that he must continue to be a positive influence and think of the people who have and still fight for equality. 

He must work harder than every one else to prove to any doubters just what he is capable of.

I can tell him the importance of building positive relationships, regardless of race, gender or background, where he and his friends feel free to discuss concerns, encourage each other and more importantly, look out for each other.

I can tell him that he shouldn’t be afraid to challenge and debate issues he feels strongly about, in a well rounded, articulate manner.

I can tell him that by putting his God-given talents to use, that he can make a difference.

Because by doing this – by continuing to be the smart, caring, honest, funny person he already is and I know will continue to be – he could be that person. He could be the one to spark a light in someone’s mind. He could make someone question their opinions and behaviours. He could be the one to change someone’s small-minded views for the better.

Now, isn’t that a more positive conversation to have?

xx

PS. This post first appeared on the fabulous Selfish Mother 

 

Friday feeling?? 

If you are a fan of Twitter and Facebook, like me you’ll be used to seeing the weekly posts and memes referring to “that Friday feeling”. 

Examples include”walking out of the office like…(cue sassy image of Beyoncé doing the Crazy in Love walk)” or “can’t wait for drinks with <insert numerous names here>, a crazy night awaits.” 

This was the Friday feeling of days gone by. That feeling of freedom, the sense of impending self-indulgence. Do I get that feeling now? 

I. Wish. Like most mothers of young children, my Friday feeling is more tiredness than excitement. 

I’m still woken up at 630am, getting kids ready and try to sort various chores whilst entertaining the Energizer bunny, sorry, Boy2, inbetween school runs and swimming lessons. I actually get home around the same time as a normal working day. 

Gone are the days when Friday would mean a drink after work with colleagues. Then home to get glammed up, while listening to music and enjoying a few more drinks. Then out until who knows when! Saturday would mean a lie in, full English, strong coffee, newspapers and shopping for clothes for my next night out. 

Nowadays the most excitement I get is  when the buzzer goes on the oven, signalling the fish fingers are ready. 

My Friday feeling arrives when my children are in bed, I’ve gotten through at least two loads of washing, consumed way too much Chinese take away and cracked open a bottle of red. Only to be woken at 630 am on Saturday, to start over again with football, tennis, birthday parties etc. Not quite the same.

Times have changed and so have I. As much as I might miss those free spirited , self indulgent days, I must embrace my new Friday feeling, which I actually quite like. Well until 1130. That’s my bed time! 

Xx