Tethers

Someone recently recommended I watch the Netflix show Sex/Life. And although I can’t relate on the level of having any kind of wild past, it did get me thinking about the tethers we have between who we are now, and who we used to be. The strings weaving from our old lives into the new. And the people attached to those strings.

For some of us, the 2 halves of our lives are easily distinguishable as being the crazy youngster and the settled adult. For some it’s more of a gentle curve in the road to adulthood, maturity, and endless bill-paying. Some may define their turning point not as a change in themselves but a change in their circumstances; whether it be a move in career or location. Maybe it’s when you simply decided to let go of your old demons. Either way, who you are now is unlikely to be the same person you were 10 or even 20 years ago.

I remember her, semi-fondly. She was much more shy and withdrawn, perpetually frightened of the world around her. Social anxiety and self-deprecation haven’t changed much, I’ll admit. But a need to stand on my own 2 feet has made my attitude towards the world less “deer in headlights” and more “bull in china shop”. Less of a victim and more of a fighter. More self-aware, more likely to take a risk or accept a challenge. More determined. More able to voice what I want, need and deserve. Still a little scared. But never deterred.

There have been various turning points and forks in the road for me. Many decisions to be made, jobs left, countries abandoned, relationships cut off and sacrifices made. Much struggle and pulling myself together because fuck it if I’ll be beaten by this. There isn’t much of my old self or my old life left now. I no longer speak the same language I did 20 years ago, and that’s no metaphor. She’s long gone, and I remember her semi-fondly. Because it wasn’t all bad. There were bright lights. Good moments. Good people.

The tethers to the past have almost all been cut, or been cut for me. One funny one remains, a strange constant. Strange because how do you call someone a constant when you haven’t seen them in 20 years, and spoken to them maybe twice in that time? For sure I’m no constant in their life, but they’re a constant in mine. Not a week has passed in those 20 years where I haven’t thought of them or dreamt of them. A constant reminder of a good person. A little light. I think back on them with nothing but love and fondness, and my heart sometimes aches for their presence. I hope they read this, and know I still love them. Always.

Raising Boys

This post comes entirely courtesy of the beautiful and powerful speech given by equally beautiful and powerful Jameela Jamil.

I  suppose when writing something about feminism, I can’t help but feel that it’s not only us who should be learning and growing, being armed with motivation and understanding.

I think so many women have the power to infiltrate misogyny in their own homes. It starts by never taking for granted how poisonous society can be to the male psyche, and protecting boys from the onslaught of misinformation everywhere. They are bombarded with dangerous imagery, song lyrics, peer pressure and often quite damaging / violent / entirely intimacy-free pornography, all of which is sold to them as a glamorous and realistic norm. Men are throttled with toxic masculinity and given made up ideals that they are forced to subscribe to. They are belittled and rejected when they show signs of sensitivity. They are mocked and insulted when they show their pain or “care too much”. Even the fact that music that is kind to women or talks about feelings, is considered “wet” or labelled “sad boy music.” It’s such a potent, rotten marinade that boys grow up soaked in.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some “poor boys” appeal. It’s just that in my opinion, it’s as if men are recruited young and brainwashed, in order to be indoctrinated and manipulated into an oppressive patriarchal institution. This is a call to arms for the women who have boys growing up in their houses. We have a lot of work to undo.

Mothers, sisters and aunties, I implore you to take this little sponge, and render him sodden with humanity and an understanding of women. It will send him into this delusional world with an armour of empathy and self-assurance, that a strong woman is something to be celebrated and not feared / crushed / undermined / spoken over / stopped / humiliated / shamed / blamed / discouraged / controlled / told that to be worth anything in this world, she must have big tits, but a small waist and thin arms, oh and a big pert arse but absolutely no thighs and a young face (forever.)

All you have to do is tell him the truth.

Tell him what happened to us. Tell him our  whole story. Tell him how only very recently we were able to fight, protest, beg and starve our way to basic human rights. Tell him that a long time ago, as far back as you can imagine, men became afraid of women. Women could make people inside their bodies, they could feed those people using just their bodies. They had an extreme and quite scary tolerance for pain, and were distracting and beguiling for men. On top of all of this, we were equally able to learn, to hunt, to keep ourselves and our kin alive. AND we have tits. Men feared that other than their semen, women had little need for them. And actually, we were very self-sufficient and tough, while at the same time being able to arouse men and sometimes drive them quite mad with love / lust / possessiveness. We held quite a lot of power. And so, using the only thing they had over us, physical power, they fear-mongered an entire gender into submission and controlled us for thousands of years.

Tell him that we work the same hours, with the same skill sets and the same qualifications and get paid much less, just because we were born with different chromosomes.

Tell him we were only recently allowed to choose who we love, rather than be sold by our fathers to the highest bidder, however unattractive / unkind / unsafe / boring / old that man may be, with no question as to what we wanted. And tell him this is STILL going on in many countries around the world TODAY. We are still second-rate citizens in many places.

Tell him about what it’s like to be a woman. Tell him we have to be on guard, literally ready to protect our lives, every time we walk down the street at night, walk through a park, get into a cab, take a train, go out drinking, walk to our car, go on a date, be in a lift with a stranger, be in ANY BASEMENT EVER, sometimes we even have to feel afraid in our own houses because there is a constant threat to our safety from men, both strangers and the ones we know. Make him sympathise with us and feel protective over us.

Tell him to cry when he is sad, tell him how important it is to talk about his feelings. Tell him it is better to be soft and strong rather than be hard and weak. Never let anyone tell him to “stop being a girl” when he is showing sensitivity. By narrowing our ridiculous prescribed gender roles, we will come closer together, and no longer be such a mystery to one another, which will dilute the fear and mistrust men have towards us. And by making him a more mentally stable and secure person, you will far lessen the likelihood of him being infiltrated by our insecure and pathetic patriarchy.

Treat him with kindness and empathy. Make him feel safe. Do not betray his trust. Your relationship with him will shape his entire outlook on women. So that in every girl he looks at, he will see you, and feel love and respect. Make sure he confides in you from a young age, so you will have a sense of what poison is pouring into him, and do not judge him (to his face, you can totally judge him behind his back, and to your friends) and explain the correct fair path in a way that makes it sound fun and appealing.

Tell him about sex. Not just reproduction. Sex. The pleasurable fun part of it. The joy of equal pleasure and enthusiastic consent. Do not shy away from this. Do not make it an awkward topic in your house. If you push him into the shadows, he will find pornhub in there and that will become his teacher. And nobody wants that shit! Learning to have sex from porn, is like learning how to drive from The Fast and The Furious. A fucking terrible idea. Tell him about the history of the word “No” for women and how new it is to our vocabulary, and how if he were to abuse our historical conditioning to bend to the whims of men, it would be the greatest sin and sign of weakness he could show. And when it comes to sex, tell him technical consent isn’t the gold standard but the complete basic foundation, and anything less than a woman being enthusiastic about something sexual that is about to happen is a bad thing and a sign that he must stop whatever he is doing and talk to her.  Tell him that being generous in the bedroom will be reported far and wide amongst women across the lands, because we tell each other everything, the tales shall travel far and wide, and his name shall become legend amongst us.

Tell him about your hopes and dreams so he grows up wanting them for you and feels as though they are important. Tell him how you feel. Don’t always be perfectly stoic as we have been conditioned to pretend we are, which in turn means that men overestimate our coping ability and then push us to the fucking edge. Build a man who understands that we are only human and have needs and sometimes need help.

Tell him that we are smart. Show him smart women you admire. Tell him to look for that in a girl. Show him films with tough female leads from when he’s young. Tell him that we are funny. Show him funny women. Tell him we are strong. Tell him that’s a good thing. Tell him it’s cool. Tell him it’s sexy. Show him how strong you are. Don’t just pick up after him. Don’t just pick up after his father. Command the respect you deserve. Be his friend. Be his teacher. Spend your life with and raise him in front of a good man who shares your beliefs and respects you. DO NOT EVER SELL YOURSELF SHORT.

We may have to fight our generation of men (and the one before that) for our rights, our safety and for our voices to be heard, which is sad and frustrating. But we have a golden window of opportunity to completely shape the future of our entire society from our living rooms. Build these men from scratch to fit women, rather than have them take up all the space and force us to compact ourselves to the little corner allocated to us.

God we must be pretty amazing to have overcome all of this shit. Tell him.

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Raising Girls

This post comes entirely courtesy of the beautiful and powerful speech given by equally beautiful and powerful Reshma Saujani.

Most girls are taught to avoid failure and risk. To smile pretty, play it safe, get all A’s. Boys, on the other hand, are taught to play rough, swing high, crawl to the top of the monkey bars and then jump off head first. By the time they’re adults and whether they’re negotiating a raise or even asking someone out on a date, men are habituated to take risk after risk. They’re rewarded for it. It’s often said in Silicon Valley that no one even takes you seriously unless you’ve had two failed startups. In other words, we’re raising our girls to be perfect and we’re raising our boys to be brave.

Some people worry about our federal deficit. But I worry about our bravery deficit. Our economy, our society, we’re losing out because we’re not raising our girls to be brave. The bravery deficit is the reason why women are underrepresented in STEM, in C-suites, in boardrooms, in Congress, and pretty much everywhere you look.

In the 1980s, psychologist Carol Dweck looked at how bright fifth graders handled an assignment that was too difficult for them. She found that bright girls were quick to give up. The higher the IQ, the more likely they were to give up. Bright boys, on the other hand, found the difficult material to be a challenge, they found it energizing. They were more likely to redouble their efforts.

What’s going on? At the 5th grade level, girls routinely outperform boys in every subject, including math and science. So, it’s not a question of ability. The difference is in how boys and girls approach a challenge. It doesn’t just end in 5th grade.

An HP report found that men will apply for a job if they meet only 60% of the qualifications. But women? Women will apply only if they meet 100% of the qualifications. 100%! This study is usually invoked as evidence that women need a little more confidence. But I think it’s evidence that women have been socialized to aspire to perfection and are overly cautious. Even when we’re ambitious and we “lean in”, that socialization of perfection has caused us to take fewer risks in our careers.

We have to begin to undo the socialization of perfection  —  and we have to combine it with a sisterhood that lets girls know that they are not alone, because trying harder is not gonna fix a broken system. I cannot tell you how many women tell me, “I’m afraid to raise my hand. I’m afraid to ask a question because I don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t understand, the only one who’s struggling.”

When we teach girls to be brave and we have a supportive network cheering them on, they will build incredible things! I see this everyday. Thousands of girls who have been socialized to be imperfect. Who’ve learned to keep trying, who’ve learned perseverance. Whether they become coders or whether they become the next Hillary Clinton or Beyonce, they will not defer their dreams.

Those dreams have never been more important for our country. For our economy to grow, to TRULY innovate, we cannot leave behind half our population! We have to socialize our girls to be comfortable with imperfection and we need to do it now. We can’t wait for them to learn how to be brave like I did when I was 33 years old.

We have to teach them to be brave in school and early in their careers when it has the most potential to impact their lives and the lives of others. We have to show them that they will be accepted and loved — not for being perfect, but for being courageous.

So, I need each of you to tell every young woman you know — your sister, your niece, your employee, your colleague — to be comfortable with imperfection. Because when we teach girls to be imperfect, and we help them leverage it, we will build a movement of young women who are brave and who will build a better world — for themselves, and for each and every one of us.

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This is a man’s world…

… and how is that still OK?

2 weeks ago I posted (here) about the oftentimes heart wrenching decision mums face when debating what the end of their maternity leave means for both their child and their careers. It’s a tough decision that I truly feel we shouldn’t need to make. More options should be available to us, for the benefit of our children, our financial and emotional well-being, as well as our relationships with our children. It can only create a more emotionally and financially stable country, with a better work ethic, in years to come.

And yes, I do believe it is the government’s responsibility to put the legislation in place to back this up. To help us help ourselves. Many other countries already have, and are now reaping the benefits.

So I created a petition, which has spent 2 weeks being reviewed and is now live. If you’re a UK resident, please sign and share. If you’re not a UK resident, still share. Blog it, Tweet it, Facebook it. Make noise. We need 100,000 votes just to be considered for debate in parliament. Even if a change in legislation won’t affect you personally, I guarantee it will affect someone you care about. It may even affect your daughter in years to come. Share the petition, share the post. Every vote counts!

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/225783

#MummySupportSystem

PS: because every blog needs a photo of you in labour…

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We are sweaty people

No song lyrics or deep thoughts this week, just facts. We are seriously sweaty people. Every selfie I have taken with the kid this week could be titled “0MFG it’s hot” or “FML I’m melting”. Don’t get me wrong, I know we British like to complain about the weather, however it comes. This isn’t complaining, I could never bring myself to complain about sunshine. It charges the batteries of my very core and soul! And I do love it hot. My favourite kind of weather is absolutely scorching with a beautiful cooling breeze. However, as this is Britain, seriously hot also means seriously humid and wind only serves to blow rain or snow in your face; not to provide soothing relief from an absolute scorcher of a summer. So yes, right now we are bloody sweaty sticky disgusting humans, struggling with sleep as much as mosquitoes (which I swear have mutated into a new breed of evil this year). And with our garden currently a pile of rubble, I can’t even go melt on a blanket in the grass (apparently giving the builders a peep show is frowned upon). At least the eldest kid is in nursery where they have put out a paddling pool. I am seriously considering moving in there for summer.

Also, don’t forget to #ThankATeacher at the end and start of school term! It takes a special kind of patience to teach other people’s kids (or even your own) the ways of life and the skills they’ll need for it. When your kids come home with a new nugget of information you haven’t had to impart on them, and you’ve had a day without being asked the same ridiculous question 500 times…. Thank A Teacher!!!

That is all. I’m off to make my 10th batch of lemonade this week!

#SangriaBloodstream   #MummySupportSystem

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I AM MUM

We face many choices as mums. Breast or bottle? Spoon or baby-led weaning? Co-sleeping or straight into their own room? Everyone has their own opinion as to what is “right”, and you will get judged by someone no matter what.  All we can ever do is do what we feel is right for us; try our best, and be the best mums we know how to be.

Not the least of these choices is the back-to-work dilemma. Choices are often tough, and restricted. And in the majority of cases, mums end up making sacrifices for the sake of their children. When my daughter was born, I was told I was unable to go back to work part-time, forcing me to take a 40% pay cut for a job closer to home. Yes it was a struggle, but so was my 3h daily commute on top of my 8h working day, 5 days a week. Then my son came along and now I’m facing the same decision again. Childcare costs will equal 90% of my now reduced wage, the rest of which will be blown on petrol and food just so I can go into work. It seems like a no-brainer to pack it up.

But unemployment isn’t a choice I would ever take lightly. We bought our first proper family home barely a year ago, so the mortgage is still eye-watering. We haven’t even been able to fully furnish yet, as the garden (or paying for it) is still a work in progress. Kids cost ridiculous amounts of money these days, so being a one-income family is a scary prospect.  But then, I’m fully aware that going back to a minimum wage job will not leave me any better off from a financial POV.

I know it’s generally accepted as “what happens when you have kids”. Believe me, I’ve heard the phrase “everyone has to make the same choice” more than I can count. Or better yet, “well, you chose to have kids!”. Excuse me?!

I find it hard to accept that these are the only choices available to us. Lose your income on childcare / Lose your income by leaving work / Commute to a high-pay job and don’t see your children Monday to Friday. Women (by having the audacity to bear children) are sent a clear message that they must make a sacrifice in either area; the only choice they have is which area to make cut-backs in. Raising your children, or contributing to your family’s finances. Something just doesn’t seem right to me.

It’s been proven times over that working mums set a better example to their children. Especially to their sons, who need a strong female figure in order to respect them in later life. But similarly, how many studies have proven the importance of spending quality time with your children, forming emotional connections and taking charge of their development and education? So why are we being forced to make these choices?! Surely the government’s department for “children, schools & families” should recognize the importance of both “working mum” and “stay at home mum”, and allow us the freedom to be the best parents we can be. (This fully transfers to single dads who, by all means, are absolute heroes.)

I firmly believe that, in the interest of our children’s well-being, the government should put in place new legislation to help us achieve well-rounded tiny human beings, whilst allowing us to keep financially afloat. After all, financial struggles as children don’t teach us anything about financial responsibilities as adults! So here’s my very simple (and clearly ideal-world scenario) of how mums can be treated with more respect, and children can get the formative years they deserve.

  1. Part-time work in the first 3 years after birth should be mandatory for all employers. A mum shouldn’t be forced to choose between 40 hours or quitting. Just because we have children, makes us no less valuable, so bear with us.
  2. Mums choosing to set that example should be given a financial incentive. Why is there a “marriage allowance” but no “working mum allowance”? A token amount towards childcare would motivate more mums to take part-time jobs if it means they can afford the childcare for it.
  3. If maternity allowance is only paid up to 1y after birth, nurseries should have subsidised hours from 1y onwards, allowing mums to jump straight back in.

We get judged, shamed and penalised for staying home after having children. We’re told we aren’t setting a good example. We struggle financially. We make cut-backs and are judged over giving our children the cheap nuggets&chips frozen foods that our budgets are now restricted to. Is this really our fault, because we make the lifestyle choice of having children? Or should the government try and walk a mile in our sick/wee/ketchup stained shoes, and put measures in place to allow us to help ourselves? I know what my opinion is, but I always did have a Utopian view of what could be.

On a lighter note, we all went seaside-way to Herne Bay today for a spot of “crabbing”. We caught bugger-all and set our one lonely crab free as he would have made for very slim pickings at dinner-time. No tears were shed for 6 hours. We call that a win in this house.

#MummySupportSystem

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This is brave, this is bruised…

Ok I’ll be honest, my diet has suffered massive derailment the last 2 weeks. Like, epic failure level derailment. Between an overly critical and highly opinionated house guest, hosting a kids birthday party where everything seemed hellbent on going wrong, and a new house that seems to take forever to get decorated (took me a day to put together our dining chairs)… I have done an embarrassing amount of stress-eating and stress-drinking. All of which has culminated in an absolute stonker of a cold sore, hence the picture below (hey, I only ever promised this blog would be real, never pretty).

Tomorrow we will crack the whip on damage-control. Tonight, I might as well have one last hobnob. Besides, I’ve wanted to share something more personal than pounds, ounces, inches and dress sizes for a while now. It’s one of those things people don’t talk about within their friends circles. Especially mums, who feel they must have everything under control, all the time (which, let’s face it, we never do, ever). It’s as if not being perfect or having a little mental “wobble” from time to time, is some sign of our failure at mumming. And we all feel judged. All the time. So let’s discuss it.

ANXIETY

Little word, big feels. If you didn’t have it before becoming a  mum, chances are you’ve gained some level of it since. And if you were a sufferer beforehand, you know that cute baby’s smile also comes with a whole sh*t-storm of new triggers as well as elevating the ones you already had. Dealing with anxiety is hard. But having your support system not understand anxiety, makes it even harder. And how do you start to explain it to someone? I still have to point things out to my husband after 7 years of being together, and I can see he still doesn’t get it. Partially because he’s not the most emotionally-gifted person I know. But also because it’s hard to put yourself in those shoes.

Anxiety is a mighty difficult demon to live with. And finding a way to keep it in check is like keeping a careful watch over a small permanent fire, in case it decides to start raging out of control. When someone inadvertently pulls one of your anxiety-triggers, fuel gets added to that fire and you feel yourself starting to lose control of the sane and reasoned part of your brain. Of course you’re fully aware your anxiety is making you feel this way. But that doesn’t mean you’re in any position to stop it! Your normal-person brain is fully aware of the logic and reality of the situation, but your anxiety-brain tries to sneak in some familiar doubts, just to make sure you don’t try and get any ideas of getting your emotions in check. So you start spiralling.

Everyone has a different “root cause” and therefore different triggers. For me, it’s an overwhelming fear of abandonment and a sense of not being deserving of the positive things in my life. It’s feeling like a fraud (not even sure what of) and having a constant need to prove myself worthy and deserving. It’s a never-ending need for approval, in order to make me feel secure. And the feeling of rejection and failure when praise isn’t freely given. It’s being called “overly sensitive” when really I’m feeling hurt from what I’ve perceived as rejection and invalidation. It’s knowing my husband is away for work, doing actual work, yet being convinced something untoward is going on and the end of my marriage is nigh. It’s having the two sides of my brain at war with each other, and not being able to shut up either of them. Let me tell you, I have too many triggers to be able to list!

And that’s before we added kids into the mix. Now there’s the need to be perceived by the other mums at school, as being perfect and in full control of life (I mean, Christ, I’m not even in control of my bladder). Because if you haven’t had time to wash your hair, or squeeze into a suitably small size of fashionable jeans, you have failed. Lunchbox items are carefully selected in case one of the teachers judges your poor life choices. And let’s not mention kids birthday parties where, if anything goes wrong, it is a direct reflection of your failure at life and parenting. Funnily, you don’t judge any of the other mums like this (unless you’re a horrible person) so I’m not even sure where this conviction of being judged comes from.

Speaking to other mums over the last few weeks (which is hard for me, social anxiety makes me seem uptight when really, I’m terrified of talking to someone new for the first time) has shown me that honesty can go a long way. A ridiculous amount of mums have confessed to feeling some level of anxiety, but being too afraid to admit it because they feel it’s a sign they’re not coping. If we were a little more honest with each other when we are struggling, we could lean on each other for support. Having a “wobble” is not a sign of weakness. You cope with a lot, it’s no wonder it can get a bit much sometimes.

So please. No more fear, no more self-judgement, no more pretending you’re fine until you’re really not. We all feel the same way sometimes. We should be able to share freely, and help each other out when we need it. Nobody gets a mum, like another mum. So let’s trust in each other, and be there for one another, any way we can. Talk!

#MummySupportSystem

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Not writer’s block, just blooming tired!

Between hosting a houseguest, a family bbq, and a birthday party for 2 dozen 4-year-olds… it’s been THAT kind of week. The kind that contains a lot of stress-eating, and winds down with a glass of wine (or a pint of Baileys). Having consumed a fair amount of gluten for the first time in over a month, I’ve got a serious case of Bloat, and I’m avoiding my scales out of shame and probably a touch of denial.

I’m currently feeling like a stressy & deflated balloon, physically shattered and mentally drained. The serious post I’ve been contemplating for over a month will have to wait one more week, as Baileys is conducive to neither blogging nor dieting, so I’m failing on all accounts tonight!

Putting the remnants of birthday cake and party sweets aside (I finished the Baileys to avoid temptation, seemed sensible), I look forward to getting back on the health-train tomorrow. Or at least, my body does. It’s screaming for a bit of fruit & veg, and things not covered in chocolate or unicorn icing. I’m even starting myself on a brand new range of health products, to help me stick within my fat & protein ratios. I might even face up to the scales in the morning. Maybe.

I truly owe my making it through this week with some shred of dignity, to my super supportive fellow mummies. A small compliment goes a long way to someone struggling on all levels.

#MummySupportSystem

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What does an eggplant taste of anyway?

Putting the “Diet” back into “Mummy on a Diet” this week. You may think I’ve veered off the dieting topic for a while as it’s not been going too well. And, honestly, with my track record, I can’t even blame you. But rather surprisingly, you’d be wrong! If you can imagine a crazy lady asking her bathroom scales “are you sure?” every morning, you get the picture. I’ve started doubting its honesty so much, I’ve taken to weighing myself in the bathroom, then moving the scales to the other side of the bedroom and weighing myself again. You know, just in case gravity is different 10 feet further up.

But the pounds do seem to be consistently dropping, and I’ve now taken my 96kg starting point down to a slightly less terrifying 89kg. That’s a 7kg (or 1 stone) drop in just 4 weeks since doing my DNA test.

I could say it’s been easy, or fun, but who am I kidding? Like eating below 1300 calories a day, and having to stick to strict fat and protein ratios is ever going to be easy or fun. I mean, where does a Snickers bar fit into that?! But if you’ve previously starved yourself for a month to fit into your holiday clothes, only to find you’d actually gained weight… finally seeing the scales tick down is such a high, there’s no greater motivator!

So what’s been on my HAVE and HAVE NOT eaten lists?
HAVE NOT: typical diet foods, salads, dairy and gluten
HAVE: everything else! Lots of caffeine (and wine)

Hard as it may be to have to stick to fat and protein ratios, having an app take the guesswork out of it for you, does make it that little bit easier. And you quickly find out that foods included on “normal person” diets don’t necessarily have any place in yours. I could spend a whole day eating nothing but dust, just to compensate for half an avocado on toast! The most amazing thing I’ve found is, having a glass of wine in the evening will actually take down my fat ratio for the day (no I haven’t worked out how that works either, but we don’t question when good things happen). So you could say I’m on a wine diet. Which is all kinds of fine by me!

The one fun aspect of having to think about what you’re eating, is experimentation. You work out (through trial and error) what foods set your ratios in the right direction, then try to find accompaniments to either bulk up your plate, or just add a bit of flavour and make your roasted eggplant that bit more interesting (which can be hard work at the best of times). I’ve discovered new ingredients, new flavours, and a whole new way of eating. I still wish I could cover everything in garlic butter. And I do have cheat days. But this new understanding does feel like I’ve turned over a new leaf. And if I ever go off the rails for a day (like today), I know it isn’t hard to get back on track tomorrow. Which is an inner calm I never knew, back when the debate over an extra slice of toast meant having to meal-plan a week in advance to see whether it was worth the stress!

The true test is yet to come, though. My daughter’s 4th birthday fancy dress party is this week, and she wants us in matching outfits. All I can say is, if the genie outfit is a squeeze, nanny is being shoved into it instead. Hair glitter and all!

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The shape of you

Hopefully that title got Ed Sheeran stuck in your head. If it did, you’re welcome.

My baby girl (often lovingly referred to as Child1) turns 4 this month, and I really don’t know when that happened. It got me thinking about the person I’m shaping her to become because, for better or worse, we’re all the people we are today because of who raised us.

We all strive to raise decent humans (although we often feel like we’ve failed and should just let them go run off into the wild like the feral creatures they are). We read the articles in those emails we signed up to whilst pregnant (“what to expect when expecting” being the apparent go-to), we listen to TED lectures and watch Supernanny (Mary Poppins got nothing on Jo). And we desperately try not to make the same mistakes our parents did. Until the child gets on your last nerve, you open your mouth, and your mother comes out. You know it’s happened to you. And you were horrified. Then you feel like you have irrevocably failed as a parent because your child will be just as messed up as you are. Casing point being, we all eff up. We all whing it, cross our fingers, and hope for the best. We all drop an F-bomb when we think the kid isn’t in the room (they usually aren’t, they just have supersonic hearing for anything they shouldn’t be hearing), only to have your naughty words repeated in polite company (or a fellow nursery mum says she doesn’t know where her little angel got a  naughty word from… just play dead, it wasn’t you, nobody can prove a thing). And we all do things we swore we never would… before we had kids, and we were young and naïve, and still thought this sh*t would be easy.

My daughter is going through her Threenager stage (or her being a little sh*t stage) at the moment, where she tries to push my buttons to see where the boundaries are, and always tries to push the boundaries with that look on her face that just says “go on, tell me off, I dare you”. When I do inevitably tell her off, she huffs and gives me a look that has a definite hint of evil to it. She’s recently taken to telling lies (a normal part of development, I know, but still one that manages to push all my buttons at once), and will insist on them being true for so long I actually wonder whether I have a tiny psychopath on my hands. The only thing that usually gets her to confess to things she’s done, is telling her Santa has a camera in the house so we will phone him to find out the truth. I dread the day she realises Santa isn’t real. Times like these, it’s scary knowing we don’t have absolute control over the people they will become. Her sass seems to be built into her personality, as are her defiance and independence. I guess all we can do is keep trying. And don’t be afraid to speak to other mums. Knowing other people’s kids went through the same stages doesn’t make it less annoying when your one lashes out in frustration. But it helps.

So am I raising her right? God knows. And will I raise my son the same way? I watched a TED lecture by Reshma Saujani the other day that really inspired me. She says we are raising our girls to be perfect and our boys to be brave, which makes women less likely to take chances or put themselves out there, and men more likely to take risks and advance themselves. As parents, we are habituating our children into these behaviours by encouraging or discouraging certain actions and behaviours, based on their sex. When, really, we shouldn’t be raising them differently at all. All children should be taught that it is perfectly acceptable to take risks and fail, as they will be respected for having the courage to try. You don’t have to be perfect to be great, you just have to be brave.

My little girl is not a princess. She’s a superhero. And I’m so proud of her.

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