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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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
‘…there aren’t so many stock images available of mums loading the washing machine with the uniforms while their kids look on fondly.’
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.
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.
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?
I went out to the cinema last night with a female friend. I haven’t done that for ages, it was lovely. We were chatting in the car ride there and back (because we drove 20 minutes to get to a cinema that only charges £3.50 per seat) and the conversation turned to how challenging general life can sometimes be as a mum. Life as a mum is full of joyful moments and full of happiness in the main part but sometimes it is hard. There’s no getting away from it. But do we as mums talk about it enough?
Life as a mum can be hard in many different ways but we were generally discussing the juggle of all. The. Things. I have a lot of thoughts about community and support network and how vital and simultaneously lacking they are in modern motherhood but I’m sure you’ve read a lot of that lately. What we got into last night was the all-pervading idea that when you’re a mum everything should be picture perfect.
I personally felt very vulnerable when I was pregnant. It’s not something I bring up a lot because often when I talk about being pregnant it’s because I’m with a pregnant friend and I feel like I don’t want to put a downer on things. I don’t talk about my second baby’s traumatic birth unless it’s with people who were around me at the time. I certainly don’t talk about it to pregnant women because I don’t want to scare them or make them think it might happen to them. Interestingly, the last time I opened up to a friend I hadn’t seen for a while about it she explained that she had in fact experienced a similar birth. The odds of which are so very slim it was almost funny. Almost.
I have more than a couple of life experiences I keep in a hidden lock box particularly relating to my life since becoming a mum. I think we all do, and isn’t it a shame? Because maybe if we all talked more about the difficult experiences as well as the amazing we would all feel more empowered as mums.
Hopefully you have those friends you feel you can have a moan to and you don’t feel judged by if you say you’re having a rubbish day. Perhaps those friends are in a similar position to you in their lives. I hope you have those friends. But perhaps we also need to be bolder in sharing the big things with mums we don’t know so well?
I’m not even entirely convinced it’s the right thing to do. Maybe there’s a balance? For instance, maybe if I had been more forward in sharing my baby’s birth story it could have helped another pregnant woman feel braver to ask for an extra scan. Yet also I know there was a time when it was just all too raw to talk about at all.
Help or Hindrance?
I think we also need to consider is it relevant? If a mum is having a hard time breastfeeding and we share how we got over some obstacles that may be helpful. Do you think it is still helpful to go into detail about the hard journey you had with breastfeeding if mum is doing just fine? I’m not so sure. When I was pregnant first time round I had a lot of women tell me how hard they found breastfeeding (sometimes completely unsolicited) to the point where I was under the impression that breastfeeding was nigh on impossible. I would say “I’m hoping to breastfeed” rather than “I’m going to breastfeed” because 1. I felt like I was being naïve to say it absolutely and 2. I didn’t want to offend anyone who had found it hard!
Pregnancy and motherhood are such an emotional time in our lives. Things like birth and breastfeeding are emotive topics. Perhaps being vocal about our difficult times needs thoughtful timing. But I do think if we were all just a bit braver in sharing our bad experiences it would help to alleviate some of the immense pressure to be perfect.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all learned how to listen to one another without taking the other person’s experience as a reflection on ourselves or what we do? I’ve heard this referred to as ‘holding space’ and I think it is one of my all-time favourite phrases. If we were all able to ‘hold space’ for one another, the bad experiences might get mixed in more with the amazing and that would facilitate a more universally realistic reflection of the experience of motherhood.
Talk to your mum friends today. It might bolster them. Let’s chase down the picture-perfect ideal and kick it back to way back when!
How do you feel about this topic? Do you feel OK talking about the big things as well as the everyday? Do you think you would feel more comfortable sharing your hard experiences if you heard other women doing the same?
Feeling a sense of belonging is a huge part of a fulfilled life. It’s also hugely underestimated. However, feeling belonging is not about fitting in, far from it. To truly connect with people and feel a sense of belonging, we must feel accepted for who we are first.
Opening up to another person and releasing our barriers is what bonds are made of. Think of your closest friendship or relationship and it is littered with vulnerable moments. Close friendships are very rarely plain sailing. You will have come through things together or supported each other at difficult times. There is one person at least who you feel really knows you. Who would know how you might react in any given situation, who has seen you at your best and possibly your worst and still loves you for who you are. These kinds of connections are what life is all about. These are the relationships that enrich our lives beyond measure and these are the relationships we should be prioritising.
Imagine now for a second those early days of this particular close relationship and imagine if you had held back certain aspects of your personality or character. Or they did. Do you think you would have the kind of connection you have now? Maybe you would and it just would have taken a longer time to get there, but maybe the opportunity would have passed you by.
In fact, I know in my marriage some of those early days of getting to know each other are still fondly referenced to in long running insider jokes we have with each other.
Superficial Friendships Serve Nobody
The magic of meeting someone and hitting it off immediately is fabulous, but rare. Most relationships, whether intimate or platonic need a certain element of work. Some of my best friendships have occurred with people who either I didn’t like when I first met or who didn’t like me!
Trying with a person is different to trying to fit in. When we try to fit in somewhere it is because we are feeling uncomfortable in ourselves. And once we present an altered version of ourselves to someone firstly it is a difficult barrier to drop later on, but most importantly, it prevents anyone else from getting to know the real us. This can equate to having quite a few superficial relationships and not so many real life enriching amazing connections.
We need to feel accepted in order to form true connections and those connections will lead to a sense of belonging. Don’t try to fit in with someone else’s idea of how you should be. There’s only one you and there’s a really good reason for that.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”