Of home births and hero worship.

Recently, it’s really struck me how we all (or at least those of us who spend too much time googling shit and carry around an abundance of middle class guilt) aspire to a certain kind of birth. Pain-relief free, in a birthing-pool and, ideally, at home. The natural way.

(Incidentally, this line of thinking partly started because of the whole Helen-home-birth storyline on the Archers, which has since paled into insignificance).

Before I go any further I should say – if you did give birth at home, then props to you. I ain’t no hater.

But I do feel like women who manage to do it all ‘naturally’ receive a particular, celebrated status. They are sometimes talked about in a way that I rarely hear women who had assisted births being described. “Such a hero”, “amaaazing” etc.  And I don’t think that status serves anyone. Because, for one thing, it dictates how you should feel about your labour. At home with no pain-relief? You should feel good! In hospital with an epidural and some ‘assistance’. Bad. Obvs. Continue reading

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28 times we hated Rob Titchener a little bit more…

rob evil

Public Service Announcement: This man is the actual worst**

Is The Archers sending anyone else into a borderline-panic-attack state recently? Seriously, this shit should come with a trigger warning.

In fact, trigger warning. This post contains reference to eating disorders and domestic and sexual abuse. Sigh.

Catching up on Friday’s episode of The Archers, I was physically shaking. The Rob and Helen storyline is car-crash radio at it’s best/worst. It just gets more and more disturbing, yet I can’t look away. Actually, I might have to, it’s not good for my mental health.

So, in order to excise some of this trauma, I thought I’d share my anger/grief/fear with y’all. I’ve been on Twitter, so I know I’m not the only one with #RobRage. Please enjoy this rant/romp through some of the highlights of Rob Titchener’s most hateful moments. (put the kettle on and settle in, we’ll be here for a while). Continue reading

How to lose your baby weight.

how to lose your baby weight‘Baby weight’: should it be an actual thing? Should it be something we talk about and focus on? Is ‘baby weight’ a helpful idea/turn of phrase in any way?

When you become a mother it is very likely that you’ll feel your body is not your own for while. I mean the whole being-in-labour thing is enough to make most of us feel a bit odd, what with the world and his wife regarding your nether-regions with clinical disinterest for 24 hours. Then there’s the fact that you have a tiny human attached to you boob/general person all the time. (Like, all the f*cking time). Anyhoo, the whole newborn scenario is not exactly going to make you feel like you’re bringing sexy back or anything, and that’s totes normal, so, like, don’t worry about it.

Added to all this body-consciousness is the concept that you have some ‘baby weight’ that you must lose sometime soon. Because that is what people do, right? By people, I mean Victoria Beckham and Jessica Alba and Kate ‘The Duchess of Cambridge’ Middleton. You know, the kind of people who can afford a nanny for each child, personal trainer and chef. And the kind of people who get followed around by cameras ever darn day of their lives… I mean, I can’t think how/why they do it…

At first this whole issue may not bother you, but give it time. I have written previously about the few months of grace after giving birth where I could look in the mirror and think “yeah, my body looks different and that’s okay”, but then the inevitable happened and I looked in s three way mirror and tried to buy jeans. Foolish woman. Suddenly it dawned on me that I really did need to shape up! And by ‘shape up’ I mean lose weight and look thinner, obvs. I need to shed my baby weight.

But did I? Do you? 

Now, I’m not saying that women don’t put on weight when they’re pregnant. I’m obviously not saying that, because that would be straight-up wrong and silly. I’m not saying that women don’t put on more weight than the 6-10lbs their baby weighs either (again, wrong and silly). What I’m saying is that the whole idea of ‘baby weight’ has a certain, well, weight to it. It has an expectancy that at some point you really need to get your act together and return to your ‘normal’ body type. Like your body has just gone wrong for a while and it needs a gym membership and 10-day juice cleanse to get it back on track.

But what if – and bear with me because this is a pretty out-there suggestion – what if growing a person in your womb, going through major hormonal changes and having the skin around your torso stretch, like, a lot, means that your ‘normal’ body type has changed? If that’s the case then isn’t the idea it’s all just ‘baby weight’ that needs to get gone a bit, well, unrealistic. What with having to look after an actual tiny helpless human and everything, I just don’t think this expectation is one we should be putting on ourselves.

And while we’re on the subject, what body shape are we trying to get ‘back’ to anyway? The way we looked before we had kids? You know, that pre-baby physique that you’d always been so happy with and never wanted to changed in any way? Hmm… Ain’t hindsight a bitch.

Actually, I think most of us want to have the body we wanted to have before we were pregnant, not the one we had. There’s still part of me that wants to get ‘back’ to my ‘ideal’ weight. This weight was not the weight I was just before Bubs was conceived, on no, it’s the weight I was when I was 24 and vegan and went running regularly and was yet to become quite so fond of Sauvignon Blanc. Incidentally this was also the weight I was when lots of people volunteered their unbidden opinion that I was too skinny. Sigh.

The fact that half of the women we see modelling clothes we’re supposed to wear are teenagers doesn’t help here. I mean, what if we’re not all supposed to have the figure of an adolescent girl whose boobs have just ‘come in’ for the rest of our lives?’

I’m just asking.

Having a baby, whether you give birth to it or not, is going to change your lifestyle. You will be exhausted a lot of the time and less able to just ‘pop to the gym’ (apparently that is a thing that people do) whenever. You will most likely eat more quick and easy food, which usually means more frozen pizza.

And so what? I mean, maybe that’s just okay. It’s obviously not okay to eat chocolate for breakfast every day and live a sedentary lifestyle, but any parent of a toddler will know that the option of a sedentary lifestyle is but an illusive dream.

(Just as an aside, I think all parents of toddlers should, by rights, have really toned arms. Who’s with me?)

Bodies change. That is an actual scientific fact. So what if we just let them? I don’t mean what if we all become morbidly obese, obvs, (wrong and silly), but what if we don’t try to ‘get our figures back’? What if we try to love the skin we’re in, generally eat some vegetables, make sure we move about a bit, and also drink some gin and eat some chocolate?

Sure Victoria Beckham is the skinniest four-child-bearing mini you’ll ever see, but as the paparazzi aren’t particularly bothered with my everyday movements, maybe it just doesn’t matter that much if my arms wobble a bit. Maybe that’s even.. Nice.

Dear Reader, I am so sick of this crap. I am so tired of being surrounded by women on expensive, extreme diets, or talking about how ‘bad’ we were on holiday (i.e. we ate lots and enjoyed it). I am SO sick of all this body image stuff getting into my head and making me crazy and unhappy and stopping me just enjoying my ridiculously blessed existence!

So, I am turning over a new leaf, I am going to try to live a healthy lifestyle because I don’t want to die of a con colony heart failure when I’m 55, and if doing that means I lose a stone then I will be ecstatic (not gonna lie) but if I don’t, I am really going to try to feel good about myself anyway. Because why shouldn’t I? And why shouldn’t you? 

If you need further inspiration, check Amy Schumer’s acceptance speech at the Glamour women of the Year Awards. Nothing to do with baby weight, but the line 47 seconds in is priceless!

  

Always Check the Eyelashes: Your CBeebies Guide to Gender.


Ah, Cbeebies. A land filled with possibilities. Where lions and zebras can coexist as equals and trainee knights befriend cave-dwelling trolls. Where every community – even small Scottish fishing villages – is a multicultural, wheelchair-accessible beacon of diversity. Surely, this is the utopia of which we all dream?

I do love CBeebies. In fact more than this I attribute a good proportion of my parenting sanity to its existence #nojokeofalie. I love that they show women being scientists, fitness instructors, bus drivers, pirate captains, minibeast adventurers, post officers (is that a thing?), nurses, nursery teachers, cooks, stay at home mums… Ahem. Well, you get the picture.

Yes, in the realm of humans the confinements of gender have (almost, sort of) been stripped away, huzzah to that! However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I mean, we need some stereotypes, right? Otherwise how will girls find out that they’re supposed to be pretty and bookish? Or boys that they are headstrong and brave but ultimately a bit annoying??

More importantly, how will our youngsters learn to tell the difference? Imagine, a whole generation growing up not being able to tell whether a fictional character is supposed to be a girl or a boy? It would be chaos, people. CHAOS!

But fear not, Dear Reader! For I have deciphered the CBeebies gender-coding system (it doesn’t take a genius) that will have you sorting your Peters from your Lilies in 4 easy-to-follow steps. Disseminate this PSA widely, because God forbid we couldn’t tell which Cloud Baby is supposed to be a boy! Continue reading

All My Single Mummies!

(Dear Beyonce please don't sue me for using your image: I'm trying to be nice.)

(Dear Beyonce please don’t sue me for using your image, thank you please.)

It’s Mothers Day so by rights I should be reclining on a chaise longue, having a foot massage whilst eating peeled grapes. But I’ve got something to say! (no surprises there then)

Firstly I’d like to big- up all mums. Birth mothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, god mothers, people-who-aren’t-called-mothers-but-maternally-care-for-many-others. You all rock.

But as I was lounging in bed this morning, being brought brekkie by my lovely Hubs (and Bubs who has no idea what day it is and just wants to eat my croissant) I realised that there were probably some Mothers Days when my mum didn’t get any of that. She was a single parent and when I was four-years-old I doubt I popped down the shops for a bouquet of a Sunday morning. Maybe other people did stuff for her. I imagine my Dad would have marked it in some way now and then (he’s lovely and they are together now so don’t go making assumptions #It’sComplicated). And she had some kickass friends who were totally my extended family growing up. (seriously guys, when my mum had tonsillitis and I was a baby they made a 24-hour rota and took care of use both, hurrah for friends!).

Still, we were lucky in ways that many single-parent families aren’t, so there must be a lot of women waking up this morning to no card, no flowers, no cup of tea. Just a hungry child and a pile of washing.

Continue reading

Sex A.D. (After Delivery)

so hot right now

Have you had a baby in the past few years? If so, how long after the birth did a midwife start talking to you about when you could/couldn’t have sex? I think I got about 24 hours before someone asked “Now, have you thought about contraception?” I think I answered, probably with something like “Erm, no, erm…*adjusts small person attempting to breast feed*”. A more genuine response would have been  “Have I thought about contraception? HAVE I THOUGHT ABOUT CONTRACEPTION? And frickin’ kidding me??”

Yes, I am aware that it is very responsible for hospitals to explain to women that they could potentially become pregnant straight away and that breast-feeding is not a guarantee against baby number two popping up on a scan in 12 week’s time (was that a collective shudder I just heard?). But, seriously, 24 hours after Bubs was born a more pertinent question would have been “do you think you’ll consider ever having sex again, ever in your entire life?” Because, let’s face it ladies, there’s nothing about pushing out a tiny human that makes you wanna welcome a fella into your lady garden any time soon, now is there?

Weirdly, though, I have heard stories from multiple midwives about couples being caught ‘at it’ on the post-natal ward. Yep, that’s right, on a ward, behind those flimsy blue curtains. And they say romance is dead! All I can think when I hear about this is “WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?” I mean, forget the psychological element, my first day of motherhood saw me walking around with a bag of my own pee. It’s just not practical, now is it?

Next time I had ‘the talk’ it was when I was being discharged by the community midwives. Same question again: “Have you thought about contraception?” I think I laughed this time. She was well aware that I had infected stitches (over-sharing?) and a particularly screamy baby. We both knew that this was a box-ticking exercise. (no, I did not intend that to sound like a joke from a carry-on film).

Actually, due to the afore mentioned stitches, I was also advised to wait until they had healed before resuming bedroom antics. And, you know, I was pretty okay with that. A lot of my friends had assisted births or caesareans and so were in the same boat. I’m pretty sure none of us minded putting off the hanky panky. At all.

Now, my friends and I don’t actually talk about our sex-lives; come on people, this isn’t Sex in the City. Still, every now and again one of use would hint at their, shall we say, lack of enthusiasm and we’d all laugh knowingly, then move on to more talk of puke, dribble-bibs or other such highbrow subjects.

Depending on your experience of labour (I haven’t met anyone who loved it yet, tbh), I’d say there is a sliding scale of how weirded out you feel by your body A.D. (After Delivery) It goes from, well-that-was-super-intense to oh-my-freakin-days-whose-boobs-are-these to AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH. Many of us spend a good few months (longer?) feeling our bodies are not our own. So it’s no wonder we aren’t feeling that up for it.

And must give a shout-out to the partners here too. Watching your loved-one give birth may be awe-inspiring but I imagine it is also pretty darn gross! I saw Robbie Williams on the Graham Norton show a while ago and he said “it’s like watching your favourite pub burn down.” Now, obviously Robbie Williams is a dick who prefers to live tweet his wife’s labour than, you know, actually be there for her, but I think he’s probably illustrating a wider issue. I mean, once you’ve seen that you can’t un-see it. Ever.

But I haven’t even got to the best part yet. The most effective form of contraception that arrives after the birth of your first child: That’s right folks, it’s your first child!

bubs CRYING b&W

Screaming babies: nature’s contraceptive.

 

A little baby sleeping inches from you bed, or indeed in it, every night isn’t exactly an aphrodisiac. In fact, let me rephrase that. A little baby not sleeping inches from your bed every night; that’s the real kicker. When our little ones do eventually drop off at 1am after hours of coaxing and rocking, our priorities tend to be capitalising on a two-hour window for sleep, not having a quicky.

This is all perfectly reasonable, but after a while, if we’re not careful, the guilt starts to creep in. However feminist you think you are, there’s probably some 1940s-BBC-RP voice in the back of your mind shouting “Women of Britain: Do you duty!” It’s nonsense of course. Your duty is to look after yourself and your baby and, hopefully, stay sane in the process. Any partner who doesn’t understand that needs a punch up the bracket I say!

Looking at the NHS website, though, it would seem some women do feel rushed into sex before they’re ready. Why else would the page on episiotomies feature sentences like “If sex hurts, it won’t be pleasurable”, well, that isn’t something that should need saying! Even more worryingly it goes on “If penetration is painful, say so.” I mean, bloody right you should say so, but I would hope the bloke would notice too!!

So, just in case there is anyone reading this post who hasn’t read the NHS website or had other women to talk to, I just need to let you know a few things:

If you don’t feel like having sex after your baby is first born, then don’t worry THAT’S NORMAL. Still feel the same two months later? That is ALSO NORMAL! Still feel like it after a year? Well, to I’m sure that’s pretty normal too, but you might wanna talk to your partner (or someone else) about it, because if sex was fun B.C. (before children) then surely it can be fun A.D.  (It can be, don’t ask me how I know, my parents might read this).

But, basically, your body, which by the way has produced an actual human being, should be respected and given the time it needs to heal. So should your mind for that matter. It seems weird that this is a thing that even needs to be said in 2015, but it probably does, so I’m saying it.

 

What’s your experience? Has labour put you off sex for life? Or maybe you were the ones getting jiggy on the post-natal ward? Whatever you think do get involved by commenting below!

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Speaking of housework… #WickedWednesdays

Whether or not you feel a guilt-inducing obligation to do the housework due to your own indoctrination by the patriarchy, the chores have gotta get done. That, however, is difficult with a toddling person around. If they don’t want to be played with or picked up, then they inevitably decide to follow you around attempting to eat all of the crumbs and fluff and dust you’re attempting to sweep up. *gag*. So what to do?

This household’s ‘life hack’ (does anyone else detest that phrase?) is to pop Bubs into our hiking baby ruck sack – Yes, we’re that kind of family #NationalTrustForLifeBitches – This usually works a treat as he’s close to you, but not close enough to snatch the anti-bacterial spray from your hands. And, any way, he is now in the perfect position to enjoy a good hair-pulling session!

Sometimes, though, it feels slightly neglectful. I am basically ignoring him whilst tricking him into thinking he’s involved. Mum skillz!

One morning I went to the mirror to make a token funny face at him before continuing with the tasks at hand, but he was asleep! How long had he been in that neck-cricking posture? I shall never know. But, hey, at least I’d emptied the dish-washer!

Bored much?

Bored much?

 

 

 

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brummymummyof2

Housework: since when did I care?

kitchen housework

We were all young once. Young and naive and idealistic. Yes, that was me way back in the day (<2 years ago). I was, a) a feminist (still am one) and b) someone who wanted to stay at home full time whilst her children were young (um, not so much). Unsurprisingly, then, I enjoyed getting on my feminist high horse about the ‘gendering of housework’.

“The problem is, really, that having children is largely shown to change the division of labour within a household; it gets skewed towards the woman, as if the role of mother somehow involves being cook, cleaner and laundry-woman! Whether a woman ‘works’ or not shouldn’t be the issue. I mean, child-care is a full time job, we pay other people a lot of money to do it, it should be valued as an occupation in and of itself…blah blah blah.”

Aaah, to be young and free! I now realise two things: 1) That pretty much all childcare workers – nannies, child-minders, nursery staff – do a crap load of cleaning. 2) If you spend your entire day with a child and do absolutely nothing domestic (i.e. picking up breakfast from the floor or clearing a pathway through the toys) then by 5pm your once lovely home will have disappeared under a heap of used baby-wipes, small wooden blocks and breadstick-crumbs.

Don’t get me wrong, by 5pm everyday my house looks like I’ve done absolutely no housework. What I have actually been engaged in all day is damage limitation. Oh and, you know, entertaining/feeding/soothing an actual tiny human being. So basically, lounging!

So I have come to accept that side of it; the clean-as-you-go efforts that keep your house looking messy rather than utterly rank. I can deal with that, it’s fair enough. The part that irks me is the strange thing that happens to my mind when my husband arrives home from work. I feel an irrepressible urge to explain the mess to him. “Sorry about all the pans. We were out all afternoon, and I had to leave right after lunch, and, I didn’t mean it, and, I’m gonna clean it up…”

Why do I do this? It’s not Hubs making me feel this way. He’ll usually just respond along the lines of “that’s fine love, you don’t need to explain.” Oh but I do, Hubs! I doooo! Because I am a mother now, and that involves being a cook, cleaner, laundry woman… Hold up! What has occurred in my brain? Dear Reader, I have become the very thing I once scorned!

Anyone who knows me will probably be reading this with an expression of glaring incredulity. I am not a domestic goddess. My house is never spotless and rarely thoroughly tidied (see image above). Yes, I cook the tea most nights but when I do Hubs washes up. Pretty sweet. I’d say I do 30% of the laundry, at a push, so really nowt to complain about there. I sweep the floors multiple times a day (#blamethebreadsticks) and am generally the resident toilet-cleaner but as households go, our division of labour is pretty darn healthy. In fact, I took the Woman’s Hour ‘chore wars’ survey and, although I am apparently a ‘Clean Machine’ Hubs is rated as ‘Super Human’. So, in my face.

So why do I still feel like a housewife?

chore wars

We briefly interrupt your regularly scheduled rant-a-thon to bring you this statistical information. (This is not representative of my household).

Well, for a start, the whole ‘unpaid’ thing doesn’t help. Suddenly I am not even remotely the bread-winner. I win no bread, not a crumb, (Dear Editors, I will work for crumbs). And so it’s a bit like Hubs is paying me. Which is a bit like being a employed as a Stay-at-Home-Mum by your husband. Weird. Maybe that’s why I feel the need to show employee accountability and undergo professional development reviews: Over the past twelve months I really feel I have expanded my kitchen repertoire and am placing a lot more emphasis on surface-wiping than I used to.

No one is demanding this from me. No one is even really expecting it. But somehow it has become part of my identity. For all of my post-baby feminist ranting I have completely bought into the idea that staying at home with your kids means taking on more of the housework. And maybe it should mean that, whatever gender the care-giver is. But much worse is the flip-side of this idea: that if you don’t do this then you’re a lazy failure of a mother/wife/woman. I mean, I’ve only got one kid. It’s really not that hard. Shouldn’t I be baking bread and running-up curtains or something? *bangs head on keyboard repeatedly*

Many of us have fallen into the trap of measuring our parenting ‘successes’ based on, I don’t know, how many meals we’ve cooked ‘from scratch’ this week, or how often we mop the bathroom floor. But, hold up, isn’t there another exemplar of our hours of labour? (Pun intended). Don’t we have some pretty strong proof that we are doing something with our days?

That’s right people, we have children! Actual alive, looked-after, fed, read to, talked to, cuddled, tickled and loved children. Have we just come to think of raising kids as ‘what you’re supposed to do’? Is it somehow that bare minimum of daily achievement?? You know, I t’s in your genes and, therefore, you should be good at it. Don’t expect any bloody praise for bringing up the next generation of the human race. That be women’s work! *NB: we will simultaneously bombard you with so much contradictory advice you never feel you’re really good at it all. ha.*

Of course, it’s not women’s work. It’s human’s work. It takes a village to raise a child and all that. But, still, child-rearing exists in the collective imagination as a feminine and organic process, one that just sort of ‘happens’. Of course there’s lots of ‘oh she’s such a good mother‘ and ‘go mums!‘ stuff around but that’s usually more about being a nice person than the day-to-day tasks one has to perform as a primary care-giver.

If you stay home with your kids you’re more likely to be thought as ‘lucky’ because just get to do ‘one thing’ (try a bazillion tiny unquantifiable unnoticed tasks). In a way I am lucky that we can afford for me to do this, but I wouldn’t mind also being thought of as capable or creative or efficient. Okay, that last one would be inaccurate, but I stand by the first two!

I don’t know whether I have really been duped by the patriarchy into guilt-tripping myself about my domestic short-comings. Maybe I just need to shut up and get on with. (Incidentally Shut Up and Get On With It will one day be the title of my first self-help book, catchy, huh?)

Somewhere down the line, though, I fell into the thinking that being a ‘full-time stay-at-home mum’ was not enough. That I would have to prove my utility in other ways in order ‘be okay’. As if anything could please, or indeed impress, my family/friends/the world more than that gorgeous, hilarious, wilful little boy of mine. This is the problem; not the amount of cleaning I do but the obligation I feel to do it. I should do it because I am at home. I should do it because I am a mother. And the guilt if (when, several times a week) I don’t do any of it. That is not on. It needs to stop. Guilt doesn’t clean the loos. In fact, guilt belongs down the toilet. So there.

I’m going to keep on doing the housework, because it needs doing and I live in the house and make a lot of the mess. One day I’ll be employed again and hire a cleaner, so I can feel guilty about neglecting my womanly duties in that way instead. Them’s the breaks. That’s the patriarchy. Bleurgh to it all.

How do you feel about housework? Do you feel more responsible for it than your other half? Or guilty when you have a frozen meal for dinner? Get involved by commenting below, visiting my Facebook page, or tweeting me @aafew.

IMG_1214

The M Word.

can I call you mummy

For while after I got married people stopped asking how I was, instead they’d ask “how’s married life?” It drove me nuts, mostly because they didn’t really want to know the answer to that question. They wanted me to tilt my head coyly to one side and say “yeah, it’s great thanks” with a suggestive and yet demure sparkle in my eyes. Instead I was tempted to blurt out “oh, I’m so glad you asked, I’ve made a terrible mistake!” and then bolt from the room in floods of fake tears. I never actually did this, but needless to say after about 6 months I did get pretty sick of being defined primarily by my marital status.

Of course, the same thing happens when you become a parent. People ask you how your baby is, or how you’re finding mother/fatherhood. Even with you’re good mates you end up talking 70% baby-chat, because it’s pretty much your whole life. What else are you going to talk about? The Millionaire Matchmaker? (horrible, horrible, fabulous programme, very good for daytime TV breastfeeding).

I remember the first time I went out for drinks with friends from my NCT group, after an hour or so we made a ground rule: no talking about our babies! Wowza, did I learn a lot about those women that night. How they met their partners; how they felt about their jobs; the song they would sing if they went on X-Factor. You know, all the really important stuff.

Because of how we met, we had all know each other a mothers first. We had shared difficult experiences and exchanged advice. In a way we knew each other very well, but in another way not at all. Because when you see someone through the lens of only one of their roles in life, you lose sight of the whole of them. I include stay-at-home parents in this; just because being a parent is your full-time (unpaid) position, doesn’t mean you aren’t just as multidimensional as everyone else (if I do say so myself).

That all seem perfectly reasonable. But festering under the oh-so-accepting-and-right-on surface of our culture is an annoying little verbal habit that is becoming more and more prevalent. Enter, the ‘mummy’ label.

There is something very uncomfortable about an adult who is not related to me referring to me as ‘mummy’. It is a child’s word, or at best a very familiar term, and as such I can’t help the feeling that it carries with the potential to be utterly patronising.

You may have no idea what I’m getting at, so let’s focus in on the three worst offenders on my radar:

Yummy Mummy

Of all the ways ‘mummy’ has become part of the adult vocabulary this is surely the most prolific. It is often used in a playful sense, to describe affluent mothers who dare to leave the house looking half-decent, or own a swanky buggy, or still get their roots done, or all of the above. Recently, however, I’ve heard it deployed too often in a tone of sneering snobbery. We are led to believe that there are packs of roaming mothers, all trotting down the high street together, laughing gaily and occupying all the best coffee houses. Bitches.

I mean, really, how bloody dare they? How dare stylish women have children, and then continue to be stylish? So. Selfish. And while we’re on the subject, it is borderline criminal that these same women, who have probably had their own careers and earned a steady income for 5/10/15 years, are now spending their money on expensive baby products! And what do they do with these items – posh prams, smart change bags, all that crap – they flaunt them around for all to see. The shame of it! Vanity, pure vanity. They probably drive Range Rovers too. *spits on ground*

But what’s worst of all is the life-of-riley that they lead. I mean, if you’re a stay at home mum shouldn’t you be scrubbing the oven or something? But no, they just sit chatting away with the other well-groomed and happy looking women, sipping cappuccino without a care in the blooming world (except that crying baby they’ve been trying to comfort whilst holding a steady conversation for the past 10 minutes). I don’t know, anyone would think that they needed to get out the house once a day and have some kind of adult interaction! Well, everyone knows that is nonsense. If a mum leaves the house then it should only be to go a supermarket, a soft play centre, or a play group. Anything else is selfish in the extreme.

Perhaps you think I’m reading a bit much into the use of ‘yummy mummy’. People don’t really feel that derisive, I hear you say, now stop moaning and go and clean the oven.

Mummy Blogger

It seems to me that the ‘mummy blogger’ is very much the second-class citizen of the blogging world. You might say that’s because there are a crap load of ‘mummy blogs’ out there and half of them are a load of crap (see what I did there?). The thing is, half of everything on the internet is a load of crap. Most of everything on the internet is a load of crap! The consequence of democratising the media voice is that you’re going to get some people who can’t really write, or who think really boring things are really interesting. Case in point: your Facebook feed. But there are some pretty stonkingly written, witty, thoughtful, moving blogs out there that are primarily about motherhood.

I don’t think this diminished status is really to do with overall quality, I think it’s to do with a vision that is encapsulated in the very term ‘mummy blogger’. You know, that bored housewife with nothing better to do than upload poorly taken photos off their children, advertise stuff they’ve been given for free and write about little Marvin’s first steps. #LikeIGiveAShit Because who would believe that mothers might take amazing photos? Or write sharp, useful reviews? Or even write movingly about their experiences? I mean, hello people! Baby brain much??

Yes, I obviously write about parenting. A lot. But I’d prefer just to be called a blogger. I’m writing about what I know and what I am passionate about. And every now and then I write about Nicki Minaj, you know, just to mix things up.

Mumtrepreneur

a) It’s not a word. It shouldn’t be a word.

b) Please can we not define every women who decides to start a business by her parental status. No kids? Entrepreneur. Kids already? Mumtrepreneur. Piss off.

c) If you hadn’t heard this term yet then, yes, it is actually a thing. Bleurgh.

As parents, and I’d say especially as mothers (controversial?), our identity becomes tied up with someone else. We begin to be defined as a mother before all else. And in a way this makes sense. I suppose I am a mother before all else. Except that before I was a mother I was lots of other things, and I’d like to remember those aspects of myself and honour them. If anything having Bubs has focussed me on getting what I want from life. I have a clearer idea of who I want to be professionally and all that good stuff. Mothering is a phenomenal, challenging, joyous thing, but it doesn’t complete me. No one thing, however wonderful and life-altering, can complete me. And that’s okay.

What do you think? Do you like being called a Yummy Mummy? Maybe you’re a mumtreprenuer and proud? Or have you been called ‘mummy’ in a blatantly patronising way? Whatever your thoughts leave them in the comments section below, tweet me @aafew or go to my facebook page and join the debate. 

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“The mummies on the bus go ‘natter, natter, natter.'” Really? REALLY?!?!?

Picture the scene, Dear Reader: In an affluent area of South Manchester a dozen women gather at a children’s centre for a ‘stay and play’. These are intelligent women. Many of them are educated to a high level. These are kind, interesting, socially aware women.

After a fruit plate snack (which was free, big up Manchester City Council for that one) these women take their places, children on laps, for story time. Aw, sweet. ‘Shall we sing some songs?’ Asks the kindly play-worker. Any requests? After a few rounds of Old MacDonald (more on him later), The Wheels on the Bus is requested. Classic! That is, without doubt, the nursery rhyme equivalent of a BIG TUNE. Me and Bubs sing it in the bath regularly (okay, I sing it, he splashes along semi-rhythmically). So, the chorus begins. The wheels on the bus go round and round; the horn on the bus goes ‘beep beep beep’; the wipers on the bus go ‘swish swish swish’; the mummies on the bus go ‘natter, natter, natter’; the babies on the bus… hang on, hang on, what was that last one??

The mummies on the bus go natter, natter, natter. Um, okaaaay. Here we are, this intelligent group of human beings, making that ‘nattering’ hand gesture (which, incidentally, is the same motion we make for a duck’s quack: rude), singing sweetly to our children about those noisy mothers on the bus. Women, hey? Once they get together, you just can’t shut ’em up!

The song moves on and we then hear that the babies on the bus are fast asleep (yeah right); the children on the bus make too much noise (what a negative message to send our youth); and the daddies say ‘shh, shh, shh.’ Good job the men are there really, or those negligent chattering women would let their children run a muck!

I must confide that I do not sing such derogatory things about the mummies on the bus. I refuse on principle. So, I either sit mumbling the tune for that verse or, on my more bolshy days, I sing ‘people’ instead of mummies, loudly enough so my neighbouring parents can hear. I also scan the assembled crowd for someone who will exchange a knowing eye-roll with me. I usually find one. I should probably scream at the top of my lungs “Come on people, it’s 20-bloody-14, what are we doing???” But I’m rarely that bolshy without the aid of alcohol.

As you are probably aware the Wheels on the Bus debacle is not an isolated incident. If only. I am constantly suppressing outrage at the a thousand subtle sexisms that assault my son on a regular basis. Actually, some of them are not so subtle. For example, below is the second page of an Old MacDonald book I got from our local library. Bubs loves that farmyard tune, so I was already singing enthusiastically as I turned the page to discover that the first thing Old MacDonald had on his farm was a…

A WIFE!!!!!

A WIFE!!!!!

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought women stopped being included as part of livestock inventories some time around the industrial revolution. Just saying. And a ‘kiss kiss’? She has her own noise? Bleurgh, a thousand times bleurgh! Now *spoiler alert* the last page of the book is ‘Old MacDonald had a baby’, which makes the inclusion of this wife a bit more logical, but still. Well, at least her noise isn’t ‘natter, natter, natter’. Needless to say I skipped this page. Also considered ripping it out, but I restrained myself. I won’t let the casual sexism of a children’s book turn me into a literary vandal!

I do despair, Dear Reader. For all of of the brilliant progressions made in the past century, women in children’s fiction are still all too often the wife, or mum, or the sensible one (yes, that’s you Hermione). Unless the book/song is about a girl defying her restrictive gender roles. There are plenty of those books; books that make a feminist statement. And I love them (Jane and the Dragon, what a book!). The thing is I was kind of hoping we’d be past statement making now, but it seems instead we’ve regressed.

Of course, literature is probably the most enlightened aspect of the cash-cow that is the children’s market. Occasionally I wonder over to the girls section in Asda/Sainburys/Boots to see if there is anything I could dress Bubs in. WALL TO WALL PINK. Maybe a bit of green and white too; plenty of frills and hearts and bows. I’m a feminist but I’m not dressing my son up like a social experiment.* And it doesn’t have to stop at the obvious clothes and toys; any product can be marketed in this kiddy-gender-enforcement way. Even Airbus are doing it, apparently.

Little girls, take note: You too can be a pilot. But you CANNOT HAVE SHORT HAIR OR WEAR BLUE!)

Little girls, take note: You too can be a pilot. But you CANNOT HAVE SHORT HAIR OR WEAR BLUE!

It’s all around us folks, and it troubles me. I am raising a boy and I want him to grow into a man who sees women as equals. I’m dreading the day he discards a toy, telling me “that’s for girls”. In a way I am more concerned with him being exposed to these images and ideas than I would be a little girl. Because if in 30 years we still have a situation where there are over 20,000 reported rapes a year,   or women still only make up a fifth of MPs, or, God forbid, programmes like ‘snog, marry avoid’ still exist , then my son will be one of those who hold the balance of power. He will be a man in a patriarchal society. #winning

So, Dear Reader, what can we do to stem the tide of mummies who ‘natter’ and wives who go ‘kiss kiss’? Well, I have started with a little DIY project concerning my son’s book ‘When I Grow Up’.

Aw, cute!

Aw, cute!

It’s part of a lovely set of six M&S boards, which he loves. However, I felt that this particular volume needed a few changes made. Observe:

 

Yep, I actually did this. I could have been watching Downton, or playing Candy Crush, but I cut out little bits of paper with the correct terms (not politically correct, just correct) and did an edit on a board book. And I loved every minute of it. Fight the power!

Now, do I actually think me papering over the gender-biased terminology in one book will have any real effect my son’s vision of the world? No, I’m not a mad woman. As long as there’s a woman presenting the cookery show on CBeebies, whilst men run zoos and have Dinosaur adventures, I feel I’m fighting a losing battle. (Yes I know there’s a female pirate captain, and yes she is ace). As long as the Super Mario Brothers are rescuing the princess from the castle and women computer games critics are subjected to terror threats,(yes, that’s an actual thing that happened) I reckon me doctoring a few pictures isn’t going to have the greatest impact. Even posts like these, just a mum rambling on about being a mum and feminist, invite such serious trolling that bloggers stop writing (also a real thing, bleurgh). So I have no delusions of grandeur when it comes to stemming the misogynist tide

But these little things make a difference to me. I probably can’t change the world, but I don’t have to lie down and take it either. So my son will be subjected to ‘girl’s toys’ and female heroines for a long time yet, and I hope he’ll be a better man for it.

 

What sexist songs/books/toys are grinding your gears? Share the rant! Comment below, tweet me @aafew or like my facebook page and join in the fun!

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* FYI. If my son later chooses to wear women’s clothing, or informs me that he is in fact my daughter, that is 100% okay with me.