Tag Archives: motherhood

13th May 2015

On the subject of being judged….

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 19.45.32I’ve read nasty comments about myself twice recently. The first occasion was work related, when I received a pretty unprofessional email from someone. But do you know what? He was clearly having a bad day and needed a hug. So after replying, I closed my laptop, and that was that. I didn’t give it another moment’s thought.

The second, however, was when I wrote a blog post about wanting to spend more time with the boys – and somebody wrote a comment saying: “How about you stop blogging and spend the time with them instead LOL!

LOL!

Or not – because, to be honest, that one did upset me.

You can slag me off all you like for a magazine feature I chose to write, or the clothes I picked to wear that morning, or the fact I am pretty hopeless at cooking. I won’t think you are the nicest person, but I’ll get over it in about three seconds.

But judge my mothering skills, and I immediately feel affronted.

It’s a bit comical actually, that anyone could think I would have time to blog while my boys played at my feet. If I even glanced at my laptop while I am with them, one child would immediately start throwing himself across my lap to reclaim the space, while the baby would toddle straight towards a reachable glass of water / standing lamp / plug socket.

But I am not writing this blog post to defend myself. I’m writing it because it isn’t the first time I have felt judged as a mother. I’ve felt it so many times in the last three years.

When I was feeding my newborn baby a bottle as he stopped latching and I didn’t want him to starve – and I noticed people on the next table whispering and raising their eyebrows.

When I was dealing with a tantrum in public and my toddler was kicking me and screaming – and I made the decision to scoop him under my arm and keep walking, trying to ignore the shocked looks from passers by.

When I was in a café and my toddler was in the queue at a coffee shop proudly holding his money and a lollipop and I heard tuts from the queue behind.

When I gave my two-year-old son his dummy on a flight as he was screaming and disturbing other passengers – and a mother in the row alongside mouthed ‘dummy’ to her husband, whilst pointing to her mouth and raising her eyebrows.

Why can’t we all be a bit kinder to each other?

None of us know what we are doing in the motherhood lark. The job comes with no rulebook, no weekly appraisals, and no mentor services. We are all doing the best we can, working with colleagues that are less than compliant and very rarely offer to do the tea run.

It’s not easy.

And sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes we do things we regret, and sometimes our whole day can be ruined by a raised eyebrow or whispered comment.

It’s just so unnecessary.

The saving grace is that this job comes with rewards.

The very best rewards.

And at the end of the day, when I am crawling through a homemade den in the lounge with two boys in pyjamas and everyone is howling with laughter, I know that is all that matters.

So next time I hear a tut, I am going to try and remember that.

That is all that matters.



2nd April 2015

A note to my teenage self about motherhood

Me

Sitting on a bench at school assembly, we stare up at the headmistress standing on the stage. It happens like this every morning; hundreds of girls filing into the school hall and taking their place in rows. The sound of happy chatter filling the echoey hall before she appears and it fades to silence. This is the late 90’s and thick, black kohl eyeliner, streaky highlights and platform shoes accessorise our navy uniforms. My skirt is rolled up four times and I’m wearing bobbled 70-denier tights, a yin-yang chain around my neck, and silver studs in my ears in the shape of tiny safety pins. I smell of The Body Shop Dewberry and listened to Blur’s Parklife on the way to school.

It’s an all-girls school and the headmistress tells us that we can do anything. We can be anything. We just have to work hard and we will achieve our ambitions.

I listen, wide eyed, absorbing every word she says. And I feel invincible.

I always wanted to be a fashion journalist when I grew up, working at a magazine in London. And as her words filled that echoey hall, I was absolutely convinced that I could and would do it.

She never mentioned gender in those assemblies. She didn’t need to. She just needed to fill us with confidence about our abilities and our place in the world. Her message was powerful and made a difference. I was a young feminist, without even knowing what a feminist was.

Fast-forward nearly 20 years – and here I am. My CV reveals that I did those things I dreamt about. I thought often of her message as I ticked things off my list. A-Levels. A degree in English Literature. A first job at a magazine. A successful freelance career. She was right. I could do those things. I did do those things.

But now. What now? Can I still be a feminist with children around my feet? Can I still be a feminist, when I reach into my bag for a business card and pull out a child’s dummy and half-eaten lollipop? What if I am invited to go on a business trip, but think about my children going to bed without me their warm bodies in sheep-print pyjamas and hair smelling of baby shampoo, and decide not to go? And what if I have no choice, but then think about them during a meeting across the other side of the world and feel my eyes filling with tears? What if I miss a promotion as I decide to work part-time?

Am I still just as important?

And what if I decide not to work? What if I decide that I will stay at home with my children instead? What if I no longer own a set of business cards and my job title is “Mummy”. What if I dedicate my entire week to their wants, their needs, their development, collapsing on the sofa at the end of the day feeling tired but proud that we’ve all made it to bedtime?

Am I still just as valid in this world?

I am absolutely sure that the answer is yes.

We still have a role – and it happens to be the most important and most satisfying role in the world. Because I believe that getting the chance to raise the next generation is a career promotion, not a dismissal.

So can someone please lend me a time machine, as I want to go back to that school gym and stand up on the stage. I want to tell the wide-eyed girls below me that the careers they dream about and the life they envisage are important. And it’s true, they can do it. They really can. But I also want to tell them that that those lives may also include a family. And if they do decide to become a mother and are lucky enough to welcome little people into their lives, they might go back to work after a few months or they might decide to stay at home. But either way, their roles as mothers will be a privilege and not a sacrifice.

And in 20 years, when they think back to the days of school assemblies and the dreams they dreamt up on those mornings on a cold, school bench, they won’t regret that family for a second.

And when someone asks what they do, they should reply simply: “I am a Mother”.



24th March 2015

Who wants to be my virtual colleague? (we can chat, drink coffee, and wear our pyjamas)

0060b060acf811e2b39c22000a1f8adc_7Back when I was in my early twenties, in the days when I was responsible for little more than a leather handbag, I had a boss who was brilliant, but totally eccentric. My colleagues and I would ping emails back and forth along the lines of ‘is this for real?’, ‘why is he cycling through the office, I can’t think over the noise of his squeaky brakes!” and “is it time to go to the pub yet?”

And these little messages kept us sane.

Now I’m a parent, I often miss the camaraderie of colleagues and wish for a similar arrangement at home.

I’d love to be able to ping a message to a colleague when the toddler dunks the TV remote in a pint of water and receive the instant reply: “Yes! I saw it too! Shall we escape to the pub and discuss it over a mug of pinot grigio? SOMEONE needs to take the blame for this!”

I’d like to meet someone in the kitchen after dealing with a 9am toddler tantrum and whisper in hushed tones about what an APPALLING start to the day it had been, as I took out my frustrations on a tea bag. I’d then mouth WISH ME LUCK as I turned to walk out the door.

I’d like to ping an email over at lunchtime when the baby is refusing to nap and I am out of ideas. I’d say: “Meet me in 10 in the cleaning cupboard, I NEED TO VENT!”

I’d like to sit down with a mug of caffeine for a natter with a real life adult in a (Peppa-Pig-fuelled) quiet moment. I would say: “I’ve barely sat down all day and have an appointment with the play-doh in 10 minutes. How’s your day been?” and we would chat for a few minutes, before running off to mould monsters out of multi-coloured dough with renewed energy and patience.

I would like all of these things – those quick messages, those snatched chats in the kitchen, and those rushed coffees in quiet moments – and I’d like it all on tap, every day.

But short of moving my children to a commune, this is never going to happen.

So on the days we don’t make it out the door for some much-needed adult company, we parents make do with virtual support networks, like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and blogs just like this, sharing stories, asking for advice, and sometimes even posting pictures of the day potty training went very wrong or the time the dog got involved in finger painting.

And at least we can do it in our pyjamas I guess.

Anyone fancy joining me for a virtual vat of caffeine?