A personal message to the men in this world

IMG_0371It may take a year, it may take 2, it may be a matter of months… but men, if you decide to have a baby be prepared to wait for your wife or girlfriend to return – metaphorically speaking!

From my own experience I can wholeheartedly say that I and most, if not all women, change when they have a baby. For some those changes may be more subtle than for others. For me, they were dramatic and I’m so grateful for an understanding and patient husband. So many men are not prepared for how a woman changes when she goes from being ‘me’ to being ‘mummy’.

Aside from the obvious physical changes of bigger OR smaller boobs, stretched skin from the bump, stretch marks (tiger stripes, love lines whatever you want to call them) heightened or lowered sex drive, all of which are difficult enough to bare, there are also deep emotional changes. The one I want to focus on for this post is the feeling of no longer knowing who you are. A woman losing herself as such.

What men often don’t realise is once a mother always a mother. Women don’t switch off during the 9-5 working day to be Directors, Receptionists, Doctors, Cleaners, Solicitors or any other job… They just fit more into their minds. I never stop thinking about my children but over time I am learning to push those thoughts aside; to focus on work, or the job at hand, or maybe even my sex life! This however, in my opinion, is a learned skill which takes time.

I’m certain it’s not just me that feels I’m often pulled in a million directions! Although, this feeling is often self-inflicted nonetheless, it’s there. My children, my husband, my career, date night, wine with the girls, time for waxing etc. I’m sure I used to do all of these things but without the emotional baggage of always wondering if I had chosen to do the right thing that day.

With my first child I’m not sure when I became ‘me’ again or really if I ever did! There was the odd glimmer, on the odd occasion of the old me, but I often used to push my buggy along the street wondering when would I return. Where has Emma gone? Would I ever feel like ‘me’ again? The answers to those questions are: THAT Emma has gone and no I will never be the old me again. Why would I want her back? Why would anybody want her back? I have developed, moved into another chapter of my life and I’m now so much more than what I was. I’ve built onto my old foundations and I’m settling into my many new roles.

But that ‘bedding in’ period, so to speak, takes time and more than that really… It’s taken baby number 2, a second return to work and drawer full of new underwear to finally feel more like ‘me’ again and in some ways I’m still getting to know the new me. That’s more than 3 years of muddled searching for Emma!

I’m comfortable now as Mummy, wife, radio presenter, wine lover and constant weight loss struggler. I’ve done it and all women do eventually. I’ve muddled through the changes and now my family is stronger, closer and ready for anything. We know what we stand for, who we are and what we want. Many of those things have been decided as a couple, some as individuals, but always with patience and a mutual understanding that our lives are evolving and changing all the time.

So men, don’t EVER expect things to ‘be the way they were’… no matter how much you want it to be. You created another person and now they will, and if they don’t they should, factor into all your decision making. Don’t abandon your loved one because she has changed. You helped make those changes when you decided to have a baby. More fool you if you go elsewhere. After having a baby and when the time is right (feeling more like herself) a woman is stronger, sexier and more determined than ever. And believe me it’ll be your loss if you choose to break up your family.

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The Auction House is a Strange Place

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Having recently moved house I have some rather empty rooms and bare walls, so, I decided to visit the Auction House. A friend of mine had bagged a few bargains and I thought I’d give it a go.

I went with another friend and it really wasn’t what I expected. My naive self assumed it would be full of stuffy restoration types all discussing history of art and which era this or that piece of furniture was from. No no, it was more like a hectic car boot sale only there is just 1 seller and even the buyers are on display, apparently!

The people there were a real mixture. Some wearing tweed, others shell suits, men and women, old and young, unwashed and washed. The same goes for the items on sale… Lloyd Loom wicker baskets, untouched 1930s cabinets and rather a lot of junk!

Once the sale had started one woman told me her unfortunate (and disgusting) story about a man masturbating next to her during the auction a few weeks back. And even my (not particularly wealthy) friend was told when she entered the room ‘you can’t hide money love’ as a man looked her up and down. Is the auction house really a man’s world? The comments and behaviour of one or two, not to mention the smell of some of the people in there, would certainly make you think so.

At first it was almost impossible to understand the auctioneer but we listened VERY hard and when it came round to the items we wanted it was our turn to bid! So we pushed our buggies a bit closer to the front and had our programmes ready to wave in the air.

I was outbid but had a go, my friend bid up to win the piece of furniture she wanted and on doing so the auctioneer announced: ‘there you go, you’ve just lost your auction virginity.’ We hadn’t realised that we were so obviously ‘new’ to this… Or was it that we were washed? I’m not sure.

Anyhow, I did buy some ‘junk’ as my husband calls it. I’m very pleased with the old glass bottles on top of my kitchen cupboards and I’m glad to have lost my ‘auction house virginity’!

Doing It All

I’m not going to beat around the bush during this post… I find it frustrating when I hear other mothers putting each other down. It makes me angry. The one thing that really grates on me is competitive mothering. The type of mother who partakes in ‘competitive mothering’ APPEARS to be able to do everything with no help. She never looks flustered, her house is always tidy, she never forgets the kids’ bags and just looks at you vaguely when you express how tired you are. I used the words ‘appears to be able to’ because I don’t believe any woman can ‘do it all’ on her own. It’s the women that claim they can that hurt us all.

These women are damaging to first time mums, working mums, stay at home mums and society in general because they create unrealistic expectations. Women who don’t admit they have help create a standard that can’t be reached because it doesn’t exist. When another tired mum asks ‘how do you keep your house so tidy?’ It’s wrong to pretend you have perfect children who never make a mess, or that you are Mary Poppins and when you click your fingers everything jumps back into place, it’s right to admit you have a cleaner.

It’s the women that ‘buzz’ off making someone else feel bad that make me the most cross. The women that want you to think they are amazing at the expense of your own sanity! It’s the woman that when you tell her your child is:

A. not eating

B. having tantrums

C. wetting the bed

D. struggling at school

She says:

A. oh no my child has a great appetite

B. oh no little Jonny has never had a tantrum

C. we’ve never had a problem little Jonny was toilet trained from the age of 9 months – day and night

D. oh no what a shame it must be difficult to have a child that doesn’t like learning

Not only do these women believe their child is the cutest, the best, the most intelligent they also believe they are the most competent all-knowing of mothers.

Although do they? Is their competitiveness in their nature or is it to cover up a deeper insecurity? Do these women behave like this – sucking the last drops of life and confidence out of other more realistic, down to earth mothers – to make up for their own failings? Or are they just not very nice. I’m inclined not to be so sympathetic and believe the latter.

A while ago Kirstie Allsopp said in an interview:

‘How does any working woman manage? With a lot of help. I have a wonderful nanny in London and a housekeeper in Devon. Otherwise I couldn’t do what I do. What drives me mad – and I won’t name names – is when I read an interview with a high-profile career woman who claims to “do it all”. You read it all the time and you just know it isn’t true.’

The same goes for ordinary non high-profile career women! We may not have nannies or housekeepers but I’m sure a lot of us have trusted babysitters, helpful parents maybe even a cleaner! So don’t pretend to be something you’re not; If you do you’re damaging us all.

Nearly Finished

Not long ago I left a house I loved to move into a house I could, maybe one day, love. What a wrench that was! 14 months later and I still pine for the high ceilings of Jackson Street, the tidy rooms and cream walls, the fact that I had enough furniture to fill the house and it felt like home.

But we had outgrown it. Our home was starting to feel cramped. We had had our first child and were preparing for the second one’s arrival. It was our time to move on. Now, I live in a house in which every room is nearly finished. There is something left to be sealed, hung on the wall, painted or cleaned in every room. It’s actually driving me crazy. I often sit and wonder when will it feel finished? When will at least one room feel DONE? People always say it takes a long time to make a house a home – but how long? When will the building dust, and with it my mind, settle?

Anyone who has moved house into a bit of project will understand I’m sure. I’m trying to be careful not to see passed the mess and the random holes in the walls for fear that they will become ‘normal’. I’d hate to think that this state of ‘nearlyness’ could become permanent. Cunningly, (or at least I think so) I move the piles of mess now and then so that one of us trips up! This acts as a sort of kick up the backside for both me and my husband. It reminds us this stuff needs a place to live!

However, despite the frustrations and my impatience, there is of course always the issue of finance. One thing at a time because that’s all we can afford. This in itself is a killer for me because I’m not good at waiting for anything.

But, as I flick through the parish newsletter having ordered my husband to put another box in the loft before work; I notice the sunshine highlighting all of the dust on the kitchen surfaces (despite having wiped them once this morning already) and instead of feeling defeated, I feel positive that this village and this house will feel like home… Eventually!

Pushing the ‘Remove’ Button

When is it ok to delete a Facebook friend? I recently removed 3 people from my Facebook page because I was sick of receiving game invitations. Maybe I was harsh? But I did it. There. A few days later I had a conversation with a friend who wants to delete ME, because I blog. She hates blogs. So, when is it ok to delete a Facebook friend? What is the correct social media etiquette?

There seems to be an unspoken rule that once you’ve clicked that ‘accept’ button there’s no going back. Somehow, if you delete a Facebook friend, you are in some way, removing them in real life. It’s like living life as an adult but having a teenager control your mind whenever you’re on the Internet.

There are lots of people who post things I disagree with or things that irritate me… But I don’t delete them! The reason I don’t is because it’s a big ‘political’ statement and my 15 year old self seems to control me when I’m online! My friend who wants to delete me, hates blogs, she doesn’t hate me.

However, what happens if you do delete someone and then bump into them in the supermarket. Lots of people notice! Then you have to have THAT excruciating conversation. ‘I deleted you because you irritate me’. But that sentence in itself is problematic; I didn’t delete them because they irritate me. I deleted them because their posts irritate me.

Perhaps the way to do it is to warn them? The way you warn a child about the naughty step: ‘If you do that again…’. Or do it and hope they don’t notice? I’ve had my warning, it was a verbal one. So, I’ll be checking my friends list tomorrow to see if I have been deleted, after tagging my blog-hating friend in this post!

IainG, a teenage blogger,(http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/blogs/iaing) makes an interesting observation and one that my teenage self would never have thought of. He says ‘the answer to the question of deleting friends is quite simple. Friendships are not permanent. Very few relationships really are. Why, then, should Facebook “friendships” be permanent?’

So, how offended would you be if one of your Facebook friends removed you? And what is the correct social media etiquette?

Mood Hoovers

Do you know a Mood Hoover? A person who sucks the life out of a room and the people in it. If you don’t know what I mean then you don’t know one; because if you did you’d always be aware of the Mood Hoover’s mood.

I’m writing this post for 2 reasons: to ask advice on how you deal with a Mood Hoover, and to try to give you some advice on how to handle yourself around one.

I have come across quite a few Mood Hoovers in my time. I have in the past tried to make them happy, walking on egg shells around them, trying desperately to get them to join in or even just to crack a smile. But let me tell you one thing I know about this type of person: they enjoy being miserable. They like to be on the outside looking in and they certainly don’t want to take part. So, don’t worry about them. Where you can, don’t invite them, if they’re near you, take a wide birth and if you must talk to them, for goodness sake don’t get sucked in!

Mood Hoovers are powerful! Not only can they change the ‘colour’ of a room with their mind (behaviour) they can also take over your thoughts. If you listen too carefully to their dribble, their moaning, their unhappiness, then you too may become a part of their world and let’s face it… It’s not a happy place to be.

This may sound a little harsh, it could be seen as a little dismissive. But, do you have time to be worrying about other people’s happiness? I don’t! So, I take care of my happiness and in doing so the people around me. A friend of mine once told me something his mother said to him: ‘if something is making you unhappy stop doing it. Find things that make you happy and spend more time doing them’. I think this can be applied to people too. Make an effort to spend time with those who make you happy and stay away from those who don’t!

However, what if you have to work closely with this type of person? Or have ended up with a Mood Hoover in your circle friends? How do you deal with them? This I have yet to learn.

Ps: if you’re one of my friends reading this and wondering if I’m talking about you… I’m not. I like my friends.

 

And then the fun began...

Western Guilt and the Misery of a Million Mothers

I watch the news and often have to turn over… I listen to the radio and often talk over it to my children until another report begins… I turn adverts over and avoid reading charity letters that come in the post… Why? Because I feel the sadness of a million mothers and hold the guilt of the western world on my shoulders!

At least some days that’s how I feel!

When I cuddle my children I want to squeeze them so tightly and never let them go. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with love especially when their tiny hands hold mine or stroke my face or clasp around my neck. Yet, this love is often tinged with guilt! Guilt that I can’t love all the children in the world. I feel a deep sadness that some children have nothing, no love, no support.

I look around at my children’s toys and feel guilty that they have so many things when some children really do have nothing. Nothing.

Why do I feel this sadness? What is it that has turned me into this woman? Yes I used to get upset and hated the horrible things that happen to children in the world; but recently those feelings have manifested themselves, in me, as a deep sadness combined with guilt!

What can I do to help the world and in doing so ease these feelings? I already donate to charity and sponsor a child over seas… Would moving abroad to build a school help? Should I adopt a baby from Africa? Would I be ‘making a difference’?

However, all these thoughts actually feel a bit self indulgent! It’s all to make ME feel better; and perhaps simultaneously help ‘save the world’. Surely, it would be selfish of me to uproot my family to another country just to satisfy what could be termed as my ‘middle class guilt’. It’s my problem right? And how can anyone really know they’re making a difference? Can one, ordinary person, ever cure poverty?

It’s horrible, heartbreaking to know that some mother somewhere in the world is watching her child die. She is helpless and so am I.

So I leave you with these questions as I still don’t have the answers… How do you get over western guilt and the sadness of a million mothers? Can anyone ever ‘make a difference’? Ultimately, does it all come down to fixing things so that we don’t feel so bad about our own materialistic, self indulgent lives?