In the age of social media, what’s next for women?

I am a mother, and I am tired.

I’m not tired of getting up in the night because other people need to use the bathroom. I’m not tired of tying shoelaces, wiping faces and pairing hundreds of tiny socks, all while being interrogated by two small but relentless torturers. And I’m not even tired of the exhaustingly perennial clutter.

Well, I am, of course, tired of all of those things. But you know what I’m even more tired of?

Talking about it.

For decades, centuries, millennia, the stories of women have been routinely swept under the rug, shut out of mainstream media, consigned to the ‘no further interest’ file.

Appropriating space

But social media has somewhat shifted that; now women’s stories are everywhere. Women are sharing, collaborating, arguing, talking about what the Tories are doing to the most vulnerable in our society, how to Mumsnet the fuck out of a chicken, and counting dead women.

And I love that; I love that we’re appropriating space whereas once upon a time we had none. I love that we’re taking control of conversations, publicly, and not just in our living rooms. I love that the minutiae of women’s lives are suddenly of interest – from what it feels like to run a meeting on no sleep, to how it feels when someone grabs your arse in the street, to how annoying it is to be halfway through a blog when your three year old spills porridge all over the kitchen floor. Excuse me.

The motherhood blogerati

And yet, I also find myself getting a bit bored of the conversation. There are what feels like 77 billion blogs by mothers floating around out there, from the earnest to the honest. We talk amongst ourselves endlessly about motherhood; what it’s like to be a working mother, a stay at home mother, a mother of boys, of girls, of both, of kids with challenges, extraordinary talents and everything in between.

But now that women’s opinions and feelings and passions are out in the light, I find myself a little disappointed that what we’re talking about so much is…ourselves. Or, more accurately, ourselves as mothers. Perhaps this is just the ‘Caitlin Moran’ stage of working out what it is we want to talk about, to shout about, to discuss. According to Moran…

‘(Women have) had to spend years kind of patting ourselves like we’ve just recovered from an explosion and going, are we okay? And once we’ve established that we’re okay, then it’s like, well what do we want to do?’

Motherhood is wallpaper

In this ludicrous, but sadly quite typical example, the level of angst involved in mothering is in overdrive: http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/guest_posts/2589176-Guest-post-Were-making-our-children-unhappy.

And when you’re on the receiving end of great deluges of this type of over-analysed drivel, it becomes possible to think of mothers as a group of people struggling with a uniquely difficult and specific set of problems. And of course, some of us are.

However, given that over half of US women between 15 and 44 have had children, it’s actually, for most of us (dare I say it) a completely normal experience.  One that is, variously, hard, boring, tiring, stressful and wonderful. Often, motherhood is wallpaper; it’s the constant background, the spine that runs through life while lots of other things are going on.

And now, like Caitlin Moran asks, I want to know what’s next, for all of us?

I’ve got lots of things I want to do. One of them is being a good mother to my children. The other 47395 have nothing to do with my children. Maybe one day I’ll write about some of those other things.

 

 

 

Women’s magazines and the tyranny of eyelid-shaming

On a freezing cold December night, what I really wanted was a long hot bath, preferably with something good to read and maybe something to nibble while I was in there.

Having read all of my books at least five times, I went to the local shop for a magazine, something I do rarely – and when I started reading the titles of the articles, I remembered why.

Cosmo was the worst offender, with an article called something like ‘Ladies – how to tame a player’ which I won’t go into right now, as I can see from here that your heads have already exploded with rage and you don’t need further goading. There was also a delightful piece called ‘How passion turns sane girls psycho‘ but my fingers physically refuse to get into that one – there’s not enough time for the angry typing that would ensue if I went there.Read More »

Patience

I'mNotAWriterBut...

compassion

In 1986 I got a job with the Manpower Services Commission. I worked in the old orange Jobcentres with the bubbly writing and the psychedelic chairs. My job was to find other people a job. By the time i worked there people no longer HAD to visit the Jobcentres, they went because that was where jobs were advertised.Through the years I moved onto be the ex-offenders officer, the Disablement Resettlement Officer, the Ex-Regs officer, the overseas workers officer – all these posts were about giving specialist help to certain people to help them find jobs.

I then became a Restart Interviewer- late 80s – loads of people out of work and I did 60 interviews a week to get through them all. This also meant new rules and new targets – stricter benefits regime targets – SBR. For the first time we could stop someone’s benefits for not Actively Seeking…

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I’ll hold your hand if you’ll hold mine…

The first time I held your hand was the day after you were born – the first full day of your life. I think. If I’m honest, I was drugged up to the eyeballs, attached to a catheter and half-crazed with exhaustion on your first day, and I struggle to remember all of the details. I do remember a nurse sticking a massive needle right into my thigh muscle without warning, and rolling her eyes when I cried out in pain –that, I remember.

But back to you. Truthfully, I was a little bit scared of you. You weighed less than eight pounds, smelled like strawberries, and had the tiniest pout I’d ever seen, but at the same time you were the human equivalent of a nuclear bomb that had just gone off in the centre of my life (and other places, but let’s not think about that right now.)

So, Day Two. Your Dad had gone home, laden with bags of washing, to get the house ready for us. You were in your little plastic box, blinking and stretching. I contemplated you from my bed. What was I supposed to do with you? You didn’t seem to want anything in particular. But in that moment I recognised the need to take control of what was beginning to seem like an overwhelming new life, so I lifted you up, sat back and rested you on my chest.

I said your name, over and over, until it really felt like yours. It’s a strange thing, naming a human, and I needed to embed it, both in your heart and mine. And so we just lay there together, quietly sowing the little seeds of your life, and of my life as a mother. I rested my finger in the curled up palm of your hand, pink and delicate as seashells, and you grabbed it.

Looking right into your eyes, I actually gasped – I remember it still – and I felt the connection that I had been evading since the moment you arrived. We held hands, that first time, and it meant everything to me.

We’ve held hands a million times now. Taking your first steps. Walking on the beach. Holding you up as you skate around the garden, always landing on your bum with a shout. Walking the hospital corridor with you after you’d been to visit your new baby brother. Every day. Going to the shops. It’s nothing special, but it’s forever special.

And so tomorrow, I’ll take your hand again, and walk you to school. School! When you were a baby I’d stand outside those gates, watching the mothers of giant children in bedraggled uniform, and look forward to your turn.

Now it’s here, I’m so full of pride that my throat feels like it might burst. I’m so full of sadness that you’re not that tiny baby any more, looking to me for everything you could ever need. I’m so full of excitement for everything you’re about to learn. I’ll hold your hand if you’ll hold mine, and that’s how it’s always been.

Thank you for mornings like these…

This morning I woke to the sound of tiptoeing feet padding down the hall. Cracking an eye, I could see that it was 6.23am. I sighed, then realised it was practically time to get up anyway. Closing my eyes for a blissful last few seconds, I waited for a small person to creep into my side (always my side) of the bed, cuddle up close, and put their freezing cold wee feet on me.

But, nobody appeared. And then I realised, Kate had crept past our room and into Innes’ room. ‘Innes, Innes. Can I come in for a cuddle?’ And despite his protests of ‘it’s too urly’ and ‘my still sleeping’ a cuddle is exactly what she got. I lay there, for maybe five minutes, listening to their chatter – I couldn’t hear much of what was said, just the sounds of their laughter and their early-morning conversation.

And then, they came. Innes came, inexplicably, with a wooden saw. Climbing into bed, he sawed my face. ‘My got a saw, my cut you in Mummy-half’ he said, in the most threatening voice a two year old can muster. He’s going to be one to watch when he’s older, I’m telling you. And then Kate clambered onto my pillow and said, in her cheeky-monkey voice ‘Mummy, you look like Pudsey Bear and you have the voice of a crow!’

By now, Dave and I are, like most mornings, crying with laughter and grinning. Waking up with small children is somewhere between completely exasperating and the best gift you’ve ever been given. Today was definitely at the very far end of the gift spectrum. We got ready, whilst Innes sawed us all in half and Kate sang made up songs to make us smile.

These are the small things. But they are very, very big things too. The nothing but everything moments that make you heart swoop and soar, and break a little bit too. Because time moves so slowly some days, when they are small, but then they grow, just a little, and you feel time begin to tilt, and speed up, and you realise you wished some of the boring, rainy, dreary, jigsaw-nappy-laundry days away.

And I don’t believe in God, or anything like him, but, to whoever is up there – thank you, oh thank you, for mornings like these.

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The weight of a lifetime of memories

Breaking the stillness that I’ve grown accustomed to, but wearied of, a door handle is suddenly turned. She is home!

But wait; the grasp on the handle is one I don’t recognise; it isn’t hers. Or rather, it reminds me of hers when she first arrived here: capable, with a hint of matriarch.

The door opens, and suddenly there are sounds, unheard for so long. Footsteps, slow and heavy, boxes being set down in echoing rooms, and the urgent blether of feet as wee boys race to bagsy bedrooms ahead of their brothers. A new family has arrived.

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A Necessary Evil…….

Life as a MeCP2 Mummy

Blog Number 2…..

This blog is about something that I HAVE to do. It is a huge aspect of my life  and I want people to understand what I do and why and I also want to encourage more people to help me in some way. So here goes….

I don’t want to fundraise.

I didn’t want my child to be born with profound and multiple disabilities.

I don’t like posting to ask for help, in fact, I actively DISLIKE it. I cringe at myself when I click on the “Post” button.

I worry (a lot) about annoying people or boring them senseless. I worry that people hide me or delete me from Facebook.

And I get hurt when I see someone has “unliked” Blake’s Facebook page.

I shouldn’t, but I do. I can be a bit sensitive at times (okay, most of the time!) and I get hurt easily.

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My boy turns 3.

Life as a MeCP2 Mummy

I have considered writing a blog before. Purely because sometimes i have too much to say to put on one Facebook post. However, I am not the best at writing and some of my friends who blog are extremely articulate and I am perfectly aware that my blogs will be nowhere near as well written. However, I can guarantee they will be honest and from my heart. I am not expecting everyone to agree with my thoughts, but they are mine and I cannot change that. I am not too sure what I hope to achieve from writing things down….maybe it will be like a journal for me, a means to vent my frustrations and share my hopes, dreams and joy, but most importantly I hope that I can at least help someone in a similar situation to realise they are not alone, they are not bad people for having…

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Love is a verb

My Gran died. She had a large, loving family, a lifetime of memories and a tired old heart, and so she died. I already miss her, and the centrifugal force that held our family together. We congregated at her house at Christmas, on birthdays and almost every single Sunday of my life. On those Sundays you had to eat; soup, cake, ice cream, steak pie, strawberries, and sometimes, if you didn’t want anything at all, you’d get offered a brandy; but mostly, you had to eat, because that’s what families coming together is all about. Families eating together is a kind of communion, a celebration of being together for no good reason at all. So Sundays were special.

Here’s what my Gran taught me. She doesn’t know she taught me this. Just something else I wish I had thought to tell her.

Love is a verb

Words are easy. It’s a simple, small thing to say to someone ‘I love you’. It’s much, much harder to show someone that you love them, day in day out, for as long as you share a wee bit of the world.

I knew my Gran loved me because she proved it. When I was pregnant she spent weeks gathering stuff for the new babies’ arrival – vests, bibs, nappies, and dummies, all wrapped up in a cosy knitted blanket. Getting ‘the baby box’ from Gran was a big deal!

And when I had a two year old and a tiny baby, and I’m sure looked like I’d had far too many sleepless nights, she said to me she was just sorry she couldn’t be more help. She was 90! I told her that, as far as looking after babies went, her work was done, but in truth it bothered her not to be able to give help when someone she loved needed it.

Every week, when she was busy boosting supermarket profits sky-high (and don’t think there’s no connection between Tesco’s losses and my Gran no longer doing her weekly shop) she would buy me a pack or two of baby wipes or maybe some nappy bags. In fact, her nappy bag mountain is still going strong and will outlive her for some months yet!

It may sound trite, but that’s real love. The fact that my Gran had me in mind each week, that she spent her own money on wipes because she knows babies are expensive, that she kept the kid’s bankies filled with pennies, that she loved nothing more than sharing a cuppa and a sneaky cigarette and some stories from her past. Those little things, those small gestures that speak volumes; that’s real love.

Not words, not songs, not lofty proclamations without actions to back them up. Words crumble to dust in the face of solid, dependable, unswerving, unquestioning love. Love is a verb. I’m glad I’ve seen it done.