Mummy’s In A Half State.

‘Quality Time’. The ultimate phrase that basically kicked off the era of parent guilt.

My kids are now 9 and 3. While most parents seem to lament every year, month, week that passes I would place myself firmly at the other end of the scale. I relish every week, month, and year that passes. If that sounds callous, hear me out.

Kids Rock

Kids are awesome! Unless you spend a significant amount of your time around children (which I’m sure most of us here do, actually) it would be difficult to accurately describe how astoundingly amazing the little beastlings are.

They learn at a rate of knots, and all at once. While us dinosaur adults need to focus on one skill at a time, children are constantly learning. They draw upon every tiny experience and they’re always looking for more.

Let me pause here to make it clear that I am not talking about school. My 9 year old who has been a proficient reader for years now when faced with a change of teacher exclaimed ‘What if the new teacher doesn’t give us as much reading time?!’ also is the person who reads the least out of us all at home. Including my 3 year old. But even though she chooses not to read at home yet confesses to love it at school she is still constantly learning and changing. Not all learning comes from books.

…my 9 year old showed me this amazing video about climate change last week.

Anyway, I digress, my point is that my kids really astound me. Watching them learn and grow is genuinely incredible. My 3 year old can tell you the name of almost every dinosaur just because he’s really interested in dinosaurs and my 9 year old showed me this amazing video about climate change last week. Her world view is changing and her thoughts are beginning to reach more outside of herself. Whilst my 9 year old considers how big the world is and her possible place within it, my 3 year old is practising gross motor skills. He likes playing football and catch. Most recently, he’s really into sorting and measuring. He sorts his cars into colour groups and tips things from one container to another to see what happens, completely independently. We saw a stick insect today and he asked if he could touch it. I mean, he had no clue if it would bite, jump, or sting, he just decided ‘I wanna know what that thing feels like’. I love it.

Babies are cute and all but…

I must confess to feeling a bit confused when people say they miss their babies. Especially when they’re still only little kids. I mean, I can imagine wanting to jump back a few years when you’re dealing with teenagers! I think I’m a bit peculiar in this way and I don’t mean they shouldn’t say it at all, in fact I think it’s really sweet but when I remember my kids as babies I feel like I had that time and it was good at the time, you know?

Another indisputable plus is that the bigger they get the more freedom I have. Breastfeeding has stopped and I’m no longer the only person in the whole world who can put my son to bed. I can explain to him that I’m going out and I will be back for bedtime, or Daddy will put him to bed that night and he understands that.

I can arrange an evening coffee with a friend. I can do a ten week evening course. I can go for a weekend breakfast date with another friend. I can take a ten minute shower in the day while he plays with his toys. I even went to Venice for two nights. And I bloody loved it.

I Am Home

“I am home, I am the maypole around which all the ribbons are strung.”

BUT. What is this post about – Mummy’s in a half state? I am still the main carer. Numero Uno. I’m a stay at home mum while my husband works full time. It’s the way we’ve always done things since we had our first baby all those 9 years ago. That is pretty amazing in A LOT of ways (see above) but it also means that I’m the fall guy. As in, I am base, I am home, I am the maypole around which all the ribbons are strung. I am unmovable, reliable, constant. The top end of my allocated range is a two night city break.

Let me just intercept this bit here by saying…I really wouldn’t like to have it any other way. My kids are my life and fuck anyone who says they shouldn’t be.

I’m Not All There

I’ve realised that a lot of the time I’m with the kids I’m in a half state. Half reading a story, half folding laundry. Half washing dishes, half dancing in the kitchen. Half making a meal, half playing cars. I’m hardly ever all there. My attention is not all theirs. When Daddy is home that’s the only time there is a possibility I’ll get a break from 24/7 mum-ing. I might go upstairs to write or have a bath or meet a friend for a coffee.

If it’s been a trying week I might bury my face in my phone rather than get us out to the park (and then feel guilty about it). Or if I’ve had a titful of laundry and making meals and all the other stuff I might say to myself ‘right, now I’m going to sit down and have a break and go on Instagram’ whereas my 3 year old is thinking ‘Mum I’ve been entertaining myself all this time you’ve been faffing about and now I need some attention’.

We have the best time when we’re out of the house together and I’m free from the distraction of menial house labour. Even though feeling the pressure to wash up or get tea ready when we get back is inevitable.

Quality Time

We always have great fun in the summer holidays and I think that’s why, because we get out a lot and go on days out together. Marvelling at the beetles and running down inclines, feeding goats, touching stick insects and going on bumpy tractor rides.

Maybe that’s partly why I love holidays so much as well, because we’re all together and we’re all present in the moment. Or as the ‘parenting experts’ from 2006 might tell you, spending quality time.

So yeah, sorry kids you’ve been speaking to a half me all this time, I promise I meant to give you my all.

P.S. Am I the only one who reads this title as ‘Mummy’s in a half state – turtle power!’??

Notre Dame & Grenfell

If it took billionaires throwing cash at Notre Dame for you to realise what a fucked up world we live in then where have you been?

The fact that nobody in power did anything substantial about Grenfell was a tragedy whether Notre Dame burned down or not. It was a tragedy before it happened. People being told to stay in their flats until they were rescued as part of an emergency plan? Unsuitable insulation which escalated the fire even more quickly than if they’d built it properly? Do you think Teresa May or anyone with any power in this country would be living somewhere like that? Do you think the people that died in Grenfell were worth less because they weren’t politicians?

They have us hoodwinked. While we have been sharing meme’s on facebook about trading laws and fishing rights families are being made homeless.

While we all bravely share sad videos of homeless people being given a bag of clothes by some everyday hero MORE people are being made homeless. And nobody but charity organisations seem to be doing anything about it.

On my feed today, a woman posted in a blogger group. ‘I’m sorry I know this is off topic’ she said ‘…but my family and I are about to be made homeless and I’m just trying everything I can’. On the precipice of total decimation of everything she knows as her family life desperately posting to try to reach somebody who may be able to help her, her husband and their 7 children. Her post described how after 16 years of living in their current rented home, their landlord has given them 4 weeks to find somewhere else to live. More than that they were only one family of many facing this life crushing circumstance. Their landlord being in control of many properties deciding to re-purpose their estates. ‘They’ve left those with kids until last’ she said.

Like what the fuck. What the fuck.

Read on to the comments to see there are at least 2 more women who have personal experience of this happening to them also. Trying to share their limited knowledge of the law and their rights, knowledge that they had to learn sharpish when they were in the same situation. Because nobody would help them. You may think if you were about to be made homeless the council would do something about it. But they won’t.

People are suffering. Government does not care.

Notre Dame was sad. You and I and the people of Paris singing and anyone else who felt saddened watching that beautiful structure burn are allowed that emotion. It was not wrong or privileged to have an emotional response to it.

Grenfell was an absolutely abhorrent disaster that should never have happened.

Two separate things. Two absolutely separate things that cannot be placed side by side.

Billionaires have been wandering around throwing money at stuff for years and no-one has given the slightest fuck. We cannot control what billionaires spend their money on. If they want to buy Notre Dame new windows they will do so. And as Utopian a world it would be if we were able to distribute wealth fairly, it’s never going to happen. There will always be rich people.

We are living in a U.K. where charities and voluntary organisations are picking up the slack and our leaders are O.K. with that. Funding is being pulled like a rug out from under the feet of these organisations all the time and seems to go under the radar.

What is the answer? I don’t know. But I do know it’s not in getting angry at multi billionaires on social media. I do know we won’t find the answer in meme’s that compare the loss of life at Grenfell to the fire at Notre Dame.

Getting angry that some people are rich is pretty pointless. Rage that families are made homeless like it’s a nothing matter. Rage at the media bringing you more Brexit news while children eat from food banks. Rage that somehow we’ve allowed a generation of people to suffer the negative consequences of an outstandingly bad decision made by their predecessors.

Rage, but not at the rich people. They don’t give a shit.

Chatty Update – January 2019

Hello and welcome to 2019! I was sitting there today thinking how absurdly futuristic the time we are living in is. I was at a soft play and overheard a grandad telling his charge that no, he couldn’t go on the slide with him. I looked up to assess the voice’s age and wondered how it would feel to be older. As I looked (nosed) I thought how I would like to ask him about his experiences of the war and it occurred to me that this old man would have barely been born at the 2nd world war’s end. I remembered reading somewhere that soon the 2nd world war would no longer be in living memory.

2019 – almost 20 years after the millennium! That’s somebody’s lifetime! Rumours were rife that all the computers would shut down and the world would end as all the electronic dates wouldn’t be able to fathom the 01/01/00 date. Such a privileged generation we had to mock threaten ourselves with the idea of evil tech. It’s laughable now of course.

I checked out from the outside world on the day the schools broke up for the Christmas holidays. I switched my phone off and put it in a drawer for a few days to hone my attention span and spend some time with my family. It was all too easy for me to defect to hermit status. Should I say defect or revert? I’m not sure. Either way, the result of it was that I read a lot.

The hibernation period over Christmas was lush. Visiting family I waddled from house to home like King Henry the 8th sampling wedding breakfast menu’s. Travelling no more than 10 minutes drive from the base of home. On one of the days after Boxing Day I ambled over to see if the library was open. I live within walking distance of a library. It’s one of the best things about my life. I was delighted to find it was open because (and I can’t remember why now) I really needed some books/info about the First World War. I also discovered the library’s online ebook service. It is brilliant! So I’ve read a lot, and I’ve also been watching a lot of T.V.

All those elements combined have led to some reflection and contemplation which I have enjoyed. The banishment of the phone meant a freedom to think in long-form rather than this quick, short, almost meaningless thought pattern that mimics the social media feed scroll. Reading about the war has made me contemplate how much life has changed since then and how different times were. I also read The Diary of Anne Frank. Now every time I use the toilet I find myself thinking ‘I’m so glad I can flush the chain without being fear of being detected.’

I watched 2 great films worth mentioning. Dunkirk, which is a war film. It is about the evacuation of 330,000 British and allied troops from the French beach in 1940. The pace of this film is exquisite. I would go so far as to say it is the best film for pace I have ever seen. The other film was Ready Player One. Directed by Steven Spielberg is possibly enough of an accolade. It is a great film set in the not too distant future – 2045 – where everyone has these VR headsets and they all play in a space called Oasis. I had heard some hype about this from people on twitter who had read the script. It seems the script has been around a while and the film has been greatly anticipated.

I think 2019 will see the big boom for VR. The book I read earlier in the year by Jaron Lanier and his TED talks, Zuckerburg’s very public massive investment in VR, and a book I am currently reading called Future Presence written by Peter Rubin all point toward the big take off for this tech this year. And it is going to change everything. If you haven’t already, then deffo watch Ready Player One. Especially if you like 80’s references.

I’ve also been watching loads of TV. Netflix – You, Bates Motel. BBC – Mrs Wilson, Les Mis, The Long Song. And actually I’m going to wrap this up now so I can go and watch another episode of something.

Overall it’s been a great end to the year. I’m feeling hugely grateful for all my mod cons and life in general, horrified at the lack of value placed upon the lives of our forefathers, and a great foreboding feeling about the future with VR. Oh and if I hear the word brexit one more time I’m moving to France. Oh wait…

Not Feeling Body Confident

I’ve always thought I was quite body confident. Throughout my teenage years I was slim and into early adult hood. As a young girl I was more into what my body could do than how it looked. I loved playing netball and I enjoyed pushing myself physically. I always wanted to throw further in baseball or become more agile in netball. When I became interested in sex I was even more into what my body was capable of and thankfully I was content with how it looked. I don’t recall body confidence being an issue I really dealt with. 

I was in a long term relationship from about age 17 and I never felt like I was trying to get attention from boys like in those American high school movies. My friends and I weren’t into make up and hair as a rule and if we were it was never that important to me so it never felt like a competition.

I had my least favourite parts just like anyone. I have always been most self conscious of my belly and as I grew through puberty at school I would slouch to try to cover up my boobs a bit. All that did was give me a bad posture. 

My confidence took a huge knock when I suffered with depression but that is definitely a different issue to body confidence. The feelings of worthlessness that depression brought with it convinced me that I was less than nothing and unattractive on the whole. I would try not to look in the mirror and I self harmed too. I hated my body because I hated myself. But the problem wasn’t about the way I looked, it was systemic.

Having quite a few more pressing situations to navigate during adolescence (I was vulnerably housed and still self harming and trying to work 2 jobs) my weight really was at the bottom of my list of priorities. As I said, it was neither here nor there anyway, I wasn’t overweight nor underweight. 

It was only as my life became more stable that I started to gain weight. When I met my now husband we went out to restaurants or we were tucked up at home watching films (or American football at 3am) and eating takeaways. The most detrimental thing I was doing to my health was smoking. We were both smokers for a long time. I’ve since given up and it is one of my greatest accomplishments – never underestimate how bad ass you are for giving up smoking. 

My life changed so much in that year. I had been settled in my flat for nearly 2 years, I had changed jobs to caring and I loved it, I passed my driving test and got approved for a bank loan and bought my first car. Rich and I went out on the weekends I wasn’t working to his mum’s pub and we even went on an amazing holiday around America with his mum and step dad. 

Body confident
Las Vegas 2007

When I looked back at the holiday pictures (it was that long ago I had had them developed off a film) I realised how much weight I had gained. My habits had changed drastically without me really noticing. The photo showed it all though, and I could clearly see a muffin top spilling over my size 14 jeans. I can still remember the picture. It’s of me and Rich stood in front of a mini replica of the statue of liberty at one of the hotels on the on the Las Vegas strip. 

I was shocked at this particular photo and to be honest I think this was the first picture of myself I had ever instantly hated.

The following year was our wedding. Like any bride to be I wanted to lose weight before the big day. I joined weight watchers for the first time and stuck to it rigidly. In the 9 months leading up to the wedding I lost about 2 stone. On my wedding day I was 9st 6lbs. Slimmest week of my adult life.

Wedding Day 2008 

We had an amazing honeymoon to Cuba and I wore bikinis and felt good about myself and I was very happy.

It wasn’t too long before we planned for a family. The next few years were an age of discovery for me. I didn’t conceive my daughter immediately as I had hoped to and that first year was all about charting and getting in tune with my menstrual cycles which up until then I had tried my best to get  through and ignore. It was fascinating to be honest.

My first pregnancy was the first time I ever faced body confidence issues. No matter where I was It was guaranteed I would get a comment about how huge I was. I had been waiting for my little girl for so long and I was truly amazed at my body so I tried not to let it get to me but unfortunately it did. I tried not to go out as much at the end of my pregnancy.

First bump pic – 18 wks – the first comment posted on this pic was about how big I looked.

My daughter was born and the last thing on my mind was how I looked. If there’s one thing in this world that removes your vanity and doesn’t care much for your ego either it’s becoming a mother.  I was so happy and my everything was focused on her. I cut my hair short and I lost a load of weight after my pregnancy just naturally through breastfeeding. Which was awesome. 

Short hair. Cute baby. 

By the time she was about four I’d gained some more and this was the first time I was a size 16 not being pregnant. I felt a bit uncomfortable but it didn’t really affect my everyday. By now I was a stay at home mum and work and work clothes were a long left memory.

The time came that we were planning for another baby. This time I barely blinked and I was pregnant. I grew big on this pregnancy the same as before and faced the same insulting comments daily as a norm. This time round though I had slightly thicker skin. 

Bump no 2 – 35wks

My son was born and he had a traumatic first 2 weeks in the NICU. Then he had silent reflux and a cow’s milk protein allergy. Due to breastfeeding, this meant I had to cut out all dairy from my diet. For 18 months I had no cakes, chocolate, ice cream, and a whole load of other stuff that tastes good but contains milk. The weight I had gained during pregnancy gradually came off and some I had gained before. People started telling me I looked good.

That brings me to the present moment. After a few non-committal diet efforts and signing up to a home work out programme that I lose motivation for more than my car keys I’m back up to a size 16 and the biggest I have ever been not pregnant.

Describing myself as having a healthy body image I tried to ignore the feelings of self doubt and less-than-ness I have been getting. A conversation with a long time friend brought home how much it has been affecting my outlook. When arranging a spa day I emphasised that I had gained a lot of weight. I have known her since we were kids and I didn’t want her to feel shocked when she saw me in my swimsuit. What alerted me to this particular conversation is that it was a mirror. Deep down, I knew that my friend would not care at all what I looked like in my swim suit. I knew I was deflecting my feelings onto her, and I realised how much my body confidence has dipped of late.

I have been feeling really down about myself lately, and no matter how much I tell myself to stop being a vain bastard I can’t lie to myself anymore and pretend that it isn’t affecting my quality of life. Because it is. Just lately I’ve noticed it has affected:

  • How I feel I fit in (feeling like the biggest one in a friendship group)
  • Confidence in ability (knowing I’m lacking in self control makes me question my ability in other things)
  • Feelings of worth (I feel less than compared to others)
  • Self limits (I won’t run much with the kids, I won’t try climbing even though I would like to in case I embarrass myself being too big to do it)
  • Wanting to melt into the background (anywhere – bars, public spaces, anywhere). 

That annoys me because I know I’m the only person who can do anything about it. Yet I have struggled to make the change. Which is even more fearful for me because it reveals that it goes deeper than eating a bit too much since summer, it’s a behavioural problem. And that needs attention, and I’ve no clue where to begin with that.

Looking beefy more recently

Looking at my habits around my health, food and exercise, it wouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to point out I am using food as something else. And without going too deep in this post, it’s basically because I’ve been feeling a bit alone. A bit insignificant. A bit of a hermit. A bit past my prime.

I feel as if I’ve pinpointed the issue. The effect this lack of body confidence is having is entirely undesirable and yet I don’t have the tools to fix it. Past paying for CBT I’m not sure where to go next. What I have done is followed a few body positive women on instagram who are kick ass babes. I look at them and think how amazing they look but then berate myself in the mirror. 

More than anything I want to set a good example for my impressionable 8 year old daughter. Fighting the mainstream media that constantly push the message that being skinny is the ultimate goal, I want to teach her that our bodies genuinely are incredible. Because they are. I just wish I knew how to regain some of that body confidence for myself. 

This was an epic post! I’m amazed you read this far – thanks! I would love it if you wanted to share some of your thoughts and experiences about body confidence in the comments section below. 

Why is Dad So Cool?

Looking on as my husband played on the floor of our living room with my toddler I felt a pang of jealousy. ‘Dad is the best’ I could imagine my son saying when he’s older, ’he’s so much fun!’ But what about Mum? And why do the things I do for our family seem to remain under the radar?

What Rich was actually doing was a great job of distracting our poorly boy from his nausea with a game of cars. My 2-year-old son had a sickness bug and this was the perkiest he had been all morning. Over and above that sly pang of jealousy what I felt was primarily love but also admiration. As his dad, Rich understood how he could connect with our little boy on his level.


Play 

Play is the most direct way to connect with any child. What looked like a quiet came of toy cars on the living room floor was actually so much more. It was momentary respite for our son from his illness. It was a way of showing him love and helping him to feel safe. Also, we were both unobtrusively assessing him too. Checking while he played how weak or tired he was, his concentration level, his communication, whether he showed signs of confusion etc.

Whilst I had done the majority of the caring work, like emptying the sick bucket and the boil washes, it was the game of cars that seemed to be the best healer at that moment. It was a relief to see my son playing because it was nice to see him happy and it also signalled to an imminent recovery.


‘…there aren’t so many stock images available of mums loading the washing machine with the uniforms while their kids look on fondly.’

Caring

It made me think about how awesome dads are. Scenes of dads with their kids on their shoulders, both laughing loudly, flicked through my mind. Slow-mo images of dads throwing their kids in the air to catch them as they giggled, playing fire engines making all the loud noises, running around a soft play. But what about mums? Well mums do all those things too. Just this week I jumped into a soft sponge pit and landed in something ominously wet while playing with my toddler at pre-school gymnastics. Mums do fire engine noises too. But there aren’t so many stock images available of mums loading the washing machine with the uniforms while their kids look on fondly.

While I don’t necessarily relish doing laundry or making meals,I do absolutely love feeling that I have done something good for my family. When I get to wrap them up after their bath in a lush smelling big fluffy towel, I feel awesome that that will be a part of their memories of their childhood. When they look back and remember that there was always food being made for them by one of us, that makes me feel awesome. When they look back and realise that having ironed clean uniform was just one less thing that they had to worry about I will know it is because of our dedication as parents, and that makes me feel awesome.

Strengths

I guess we all have to play to our strengths and in my family that means Rich does more of the car noises and I do more of the meal planning. Sometimes I am the fun mum who gets on the trampoline and dad is the one who no-one has noticed has ironed the shirts for the week but in general dad is upfront and I’m in the back covering the rear. Or maybe underneath laying foundations? And that is why I’m going to have to get used to the ‘Dad is so fun,he’s awesome’ comments and wait a few years for my ‘thanks for looking after us all mum, you’re awesome’ ones.

I am so grateful to have Rich as my children’s father. He genuinely is such an amazing dad (so he deserves all the praise he gets!). That meme about loving your partner more when you see them as your co-parent is so true. Both of us had absent fathers growing up in some way or another and I think that has helped to make us both more determined to be the best parents we can be. I just wanted to say I recognise that there are a lot of parents out there who are doing both roles at once. They have no choice but to be cool fun mum and background caring mum all at once and with little to no support.

Families

All families are awesome however they are made up. With dad or without dads. This post is a comment on how the role of dad is portrayed and how sometimes my family happens to fall into that tired old stereotype and how sometimes that works for us and that is OK too.

How does your family work? Do you find it’s different in different situations?

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