Taking a break

I’ve decided to take a summer blogging break. I know, I know, with the scarcity of posts that I publish these days, you’re thinking that you won’t even notice my break. However, even when I’m not writing here, I’m thinking about writing here. I’m feeling that I am neglecting my lovely online space. I’m thinking about how I’ve fallen out of love with it a little and feeling lots of self-doubt about what I share and how I share it. 

This year has been so busy for us and yes, I work in academic years, much more than I do calendar years. Mckdad started a new job and while it’s been amazing to see him finally be somewhere that he is appreciated and his skills and strengths are recognised, it’s involved an awful lot more work for him and subsequently an awful lot of work for me. We know that perhaps we haven’t got the balance quite right and that we need to change that. 

I thought things would be a little easier with Nano at school now, but Lady Mck is growing up. She needs more input from me and sleeps less in the day. She also makes more mess, as toddlers are designed to do. I envy those who are able to write or photograph for their blog during the day and as much as I aim to do this too, I am left with the scarce free, grown up hours in the evening to write and by then I often find I am too tired and uninspired. 

The summer holidays do give me a chance to write, but frankly, no-one is reading blogs in the summer and so I fear that any effort I put in would just end up making me feel deflated. I’m not really sure where I fit anymore in this ever-evolving blogging world. That may not matter. I am not sure that every blog has to have a mission or a ‘brand’, but if it doesn’t matter, I need to come to terms with that. I need to believe that it doesn’t matter and get back to writing about the topics that I want to write about, rather than feeling nothing I have is worth sharing. 

So, I am taking a break. I am not sure for how long. I may try to write some stuff ready for my return. I may just have a complete break. I can’t imagine that I will stop forever, although maybe some distance will result in me deciding I have blogged for long enough. What I hope is that a break from publishing will reinvigorate my enthusiasm for blogging. 

In the meantime, we are leaving for a a few days camping today and on our return we have lots of things we want to do with this much needed summer break. I am looking forward to switching off and having some thinking time, some much needed brain space for things to permeate. I hope you have an amazing summer, whatever your plans are and I will see you back here, hopefully, when the nights start to draw in and we can feel that early autumn chill in the air. 

This girl can……wear a tiara

When I had a daughter, something that still seems a surprise to me, I felt an extra responsibility that I’d not experienced with either of the boys. I knew that as she moved through life she would have more challenges to negotiate, more hills to climb. I was always relived I didn’t have to fight against the sea of pink for the boys, although it annoyed me that it wasn’t long before they identified it as a ‘girl’s colour’. The pinkness of girlhood is only the start of it. Telling girls what they can be starts at a young age and it’s pervasive in our culture. I knew I’d have to fight against that and I do.

However, as Lady Mck got older she began to get her own ideas about what she likes and what she wants. She began to put the boy’s doll in the wooden block truck and take it for a walk and I knew she’d love a pushchair of her own for Christmas, but I resisted. I dismissed it as too girly.

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Then, it occurred to me that this was wrong too. Why should she be put in any box? Wasn’t I doing just the thing I hated? I realised that if the boys had ever done the same with their doll, I would have gladly bought them a pushchair. I was deciding for her how she should express herself, how she should be. So, we found a pushchair at the car boot sale, it was blue (Yes! *punches air*) and the boys gave it to her for Christmas and she loves it. She also got a shopping bag and the first thing she did was hook it over the handle, put her doll in the seat and walk around the house like this for most of the day.

She runs, she climbs. She has no fear. She is known in the school playground for falling over, getting up, dusting her knees and carrying on. She might grow up to be girly girl, she might not, but in a house where she will always be told she can do whatever she wants, where she will be shown that she has choices in what she wears, plays with and how she decorates her room and what she is interested in, she deserves to be given the full choices.

Telling her that everything deemed to be female is to be avoided is limiting her choices and who am I to do that? I am sure I will still encourage her to look wider than the ‘pink’ choice, because if you went along with what we are shown and what we are sold you would think there was no other colour for girls, in a way that doesn’t happen with blue and boys, but I will let her choose the pushchair, or the princess tiara. I will just make sure that we at least call in a Queen tiara. If we’re going down that road she may as well be the boss!

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We still live in a world where being a woman makes everything just that little bit harder, where traditionally female responsibilities are thought of as lesser, whether they are done by a woman or a man and I refuse to add to this by giving my daughter the impression that her choices are wrong. That’s not the answer. Making sure she has a choice and sees all the colours, is.

I love…..for a 5th birthday. 

It feels a little wrong to start an ‘I love’ post with a caveat, but in this case it also feels wrong not to. Many of the things that I love about Nano, also, in the heat of the moment enrage and frustrate me. He was such a serene and easy baby and toddler, but for last couple of years he has been the one that gives me the most worry. The one who I feel I am failing. We are all trying hard to be better and I know this is a phase, albeit a rather long one, but for today I wanted to celebrate that stuff that often makes him hard to parent and I wanted to be honest about it. It could so easily be read and taken that I am a perfect zen mother, professing to love those things that we all know can cause conflict and frustration. Far from it. Love me when I least deserve it, as that is when I need it most is a Swedish expression that springs to mind with this boy. This is unashamedly blogging my highlight reel and I make no apology for that, because who shouldn’t be told they’re amazing to mark their birthday. 

I love how gregarious you are. Settling into school this year has been a complete breeze for you. I love that as we walk through the playground, your classmates shout out your name. I love that parents always tell me that their child talks about you a lot. Everybody wants to be your friend. I love that you hug your friends, actually you hug everyone. You show your emotions, both good and bad.

I love how brilliantly you have taken to wearing glasses. Having been warned you might resist it complain, you have been a dream. I love that you chose them yourself and picked the best pair. They look so fab. I love how you dance, with a rhythm that you feel in your bones. You want to sing and dance and play. I love that you ask me everyday whether it is drama class day, even after starting months ago.

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I love how you play with your sister. You take her along in your crazy ride of imagination and she follows you gladly. She does everything you tell her to do and you enjoy this to it’s full advantage, especially when the two of you are up to mischief. I love how you play alone, detailed, crazy games that just have to be finished before you can move onto the next thing.

I love how determined you are in everything you do. Nothing can stand in your way when you have an idea in your head. It doesn’t always fit with our family life, but I cannot help but marvel at your single-mindedness. Don’t lose that, it will help you through all of your life. I love that you don’t care what anyone thinks of you. For someone so young, you have a confidence at your core that I can only marvel at. These two things together make you different to other kids. You walk your own path or perhaps more accurately you run your own path.

I love your passion for knowledge. You love books about space and will ask questions for weeks afterwards and many times in different ways until you have a concept in your mind and yes, one day the world will explode, but no, you won’t be alive, so don’t worry about it. I love how clever you are, but that you hold back until you feel you will be able to do something. You were slow to start talking, but when you did the words came out strong and fully formed. You were slow to start drawing, but again it was like you were storing the information until you were ready to let rip.

I love how funny you are. You make us all laugh every day, your clever, quick mind entertains us. And when you laugh, you really laugh, an infectious giggle that turns into a cackle right down to your belly. Nothing is half measure with you, nothing.

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Everything is big with you. You love fiercely, you rage strongly. You question big. You live in the moment and huge. You have no fear and you will not be told no. It makes being your parent a big job, but oh, my love, imagine a man who lives big, who loves big and who has his own mind and won’t be blown off his chosen course. A man who uses this stuff for good could live a big, amazing life.

The Perfect Storm

Hello Friends. Are you up for a bit of a ramble? I started an Instagram post today and the words underneath became so long, I thought perhaps I should just write a blog. Sometimes there is just too many words in our heads for microblogging. I’m never really sure whether to publish my ran some brain dumps, but it always makes me feel clearer and I remind myself that you don’t visit for a magazine read, or at least I assume you don’t.

Today seems to be The Perfect Storm for a day filled with anxiety. One of the boys has been having some minor friendship troubles this week. Something we haven’t really had to face before. It occurs to me that the true challenge of parenting, is that it is always new. A new situation or with a different child makes us feel that we are on a high wire, with no training. I’m not sure that feeling ever really goes away and trying to guide our children through rocky waters, when frankly, I still feel I’m working this stuff out for myself is stressful.

We had a night of broken sleep last night, Lady Mck awake for nearly two hours at 1am and Nano up at 2am, then up for the day at 5:30. It’s amazing how many years of my life I have been woken several times a night for many nights in succession and have handled it admirably. Today, after only one night, I feel broken. Add to this a hormonal time of the month and a big Brexit ‘hangover’ to the point where I can’t really process what seems to be happening to our little country just now, every day the news becomes more upsetting. So, I can feel the tiredness and anxiety coursing through me. With a solo bedtime ahead I am steeling myself for a long day.

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Brexit badge available from HelloDODO’s Etsy shop

However, I managed to get everyone out of the house, with everything they needed and deliver the boys to school, on time, with no shouting at any of them. I only wish I could display as much self-control on a ‘normal’day. I guess, sometimes, when we know what is really driving our reactions, we rise to the challenge. I know that letting my emotions rule today is not going to end well, so I reach a level of calm that I don’t usually display. I only hope I can keep it going until the children are all in bed.

So, today is for the small victories. It’s not for trying to be Superwoman. There will be no big cleaning or decluttering. Today is a day for simply keeping on top of the washing and wishing I had a tumble dryer, because, British Summer. Today is for making sure we all eat and that I am thinking of the next thing coming up. Today is for tidying as I go and keeping the train on the tracks. Today is for making sure I drink enough water and coffee, but not too much coffee. Today is for grabbing five minutes to knit a row or tow, to feel yarn through my fingers and today is a day for kittens, there’s always kittens.

Today is for understanding. Understanding why I feel the way I do, why I want to react the way I do. Understanding that I am not the only one who is tired and that they need to me to help them deal with their emotions. Understanding that I can’t fix everything.

And today is most definitely a day for an early night

A time to speak

I wrote this on Friday. My emotions were raw and I just wrote, but reading it back today, on the eve of the most important of democratic votes, my feelings are the same. I know that many of you don’t come here for politics, but sometimes it is time to speak, however we choose to do so and this is how I speak. 

I am writing this on the train, on the way to Blogtacular, ready for a weekend of work, friends and inspiration and I am excited, but I have also spent this last day, randomly shedding a few tears when I hear the news or log on to social media. Things that have made me sad for months have come to a head with the tragic news of MP Jo Cox’s brutal murder in the street, in her constituency. So often when big things like this occur and I feel I have things to say, I stop myself. Who am I to profess sadness and shock over the death of someone I never knew, but there’s something today that tells me I want my voice to be out there, however small it might be, I want to be heard.

 

Of course, we don’t know why the man who murdered her did this, we can guess, we can read the press, but we don’t know. What we do know is that she was an MP, doing her work, in a time where the political rhetoric in our country is as divisive and hateful as I can ever remember and when you consider that English Football fans have been taunting Muslim children in France, you can’t help thinking that being told our country is being stolen from us is having an effect, greater than we and even the people who spout this stuff could imagine.

Sometimes I feel that I am living in a comfortable, liberal, tolerant bubble. Naturally, we gravitate towards those who think like us. Most of the right-wing, xenophobic, intolerant stuff I hear about is shared by people who like me, are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads and it’s easy to imagine that everyone is doing this. But the General Election result proved that this isn’t the case. That there are many who believe what they are told and vote accordingly.

 
It seems to me that it is the hateful, scaremongering voices that are shouting the loudest. Katie Hopkins shouts, Nigel Farage shouts, The Daily Mail shouts and the sensible voices are drowned out. The facts are drowned out and it makes me feel helpless and hopeless.

 
I always come back to thinking about what I can do. Of course, I can raise my children to be tolerant and welcoming to diversity. I can model kindness and compassion. I can talk to them about those less fortunate and encourage them to notice and care, but that doesn’t feel like it’s enough against this barrage of shouting.

 
But I can do this. I can use my quiet, tiny blog to say that I don’t want this. I don’t want to live in a country where national pride means not giving a shit for others and putting up our barriers to anything that isn’t white, middle-class. I want our pride to be that we welcome diversity, that we see how it can make our country greater than it was before. I want to live in a country where we value everyone and not just those who fit into the “hard-working families” category. I want to live in a country where we put our arms around those that need help and not simply punish them. I want our children to be able to be children, to be able to enjoy and relish their education, rather than being treated as a number on a spreadsheet. I want our public servants to be valued for the amazing jobs that they do, instead of being told that they are greedy, lazy and failing us.

 
Today, I feel so sad at what we have become. She was my age, she had young children, she went to work yesterday morning and it was good work. She simply went to work. Somehow, we have to raise our compassionate voices above the shouting. There need to be more of us that speak, that say “we don’t want this”

Laying it all out there.

I’m not totally sure where this one is going to go. It’s a difficult one to write, or should I say, an easy one to write and a difficult one to publish. Because it’s honest. A true reflection of what is going on. There may be little in the way of conclusions or even clarity, but I think I’ll just write for a while and see what happens. 

I’ve been feeling, how do I put it, ‘off’ lately, not quite the best version of myself. Anxious, short-tempered, uninspired, lacking a creative spark and tired, oh, so very, very tired. It just so happened I had a health check recently, a routine, ‘you’ve reached a certain age’ healthcheck and whilst I was fairly certain that I am totally healthy, there was a brief thought that perhaps my blood tests would show a medical reason why I’m so tired. Low Iron, maybe or a thyroid issue, but no, nothing. 

I began to wonder if perhaps my low mood is a little more serious than I thought, the depression word popped into my head, in one of my many internal monologues, but I just don’t buy it. I just don’t feel that I am and not in a self-delusional way, I just don’t feel depressed. A bit stressed out maybe, a bit weary of the grind, but not depressed, but I did begin to wonder if perhaps I needed to offload on someone and that’s where this blog post grew from. Why spend money I don’t have on therapy when I have a blog. Am I right?!

Because, ultimately isn’t it the shared experience of something that brings us back to blogs time and again? Isn’t it the fact that personal blogs aren’t magazines that sets them apart? I am a blogger, I share stuff and by sharing stuff I reach out and someone will nod and think “yes, I feel that. I know what you are thinking and feeling” and by making that connection, we are all better off. 

Mothering is hard, hard work. The mind numbing grind of some of it, as we tidy up the same mess, made for the thousandth time or prepare the endless food and drink that is either spilled or rejected or eaten, while making it very clear that they “hate this dinner”. The huge amount of patience that we need to breath through the two year old who is finding her own way and testing her own abilities to do it all herself. Or the four year old who can’t deal with his emotions and is pushing all his boundaries, it seems all the time. Or the seven year old who is touching that next level of maturity and wants to be like his friends, have what they have, do what they do. The patience we need for this is more than can really be expressed in a few paragraphs. 

Then there is the juggling. The school commitments, the wider family commitments, the appointments, the phone calls, the emails. Basically the flotsam and jetsom of family life that can feel like it will sink us. And we do it all with a smile to the public world. A friendly chat at the school gate, small talk at the toddler group. A shrug and a wry smile when someone gives us a compliment about how busy we are and how together we seem and we carry on, because that’s just what we do. We are patient, when we feel we have no more patience left. When we feel we have no more left to give of ourselves, we give some more. When we feel we can’t cope with it all, we find that we can. We carve out much needed time for ourselves when we probably should be sleeping and eventually we just feel……well, tired to the very core of our bones. 


I look around at other mothers, at my team, as it were and I don’t think it matters what the differences are. Working, not working, single, one child, four children, mothers with babies, mothers with teens, attachment mothers, Gina Ford mothers. It can be hard for us all. There is no miracle cure, this is how it is sometimes. We still have moments when we laugh and relax or days when it all goes well, but sometimes it just feels harder than others. 

So, what do we do? I am still not sure on this one. I tried a little Internet break. I’m not sure what I was expecting, I am not really one for feeling Insta-envy. I am fully aware that the snippets of life that we show are edited and I’m fine with it. Taking a break certainly didn’t change my life. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t the restorative experience that many speak of. I didn’t feel more present in my own life and now I have re-installed all the social media apps on my phone, I’m generally just annoyed that all the notifications seem to be turned on and it keeps buzzing at me, when someone who will never talk to me, follows me on Twitter. I am a sharer. I believe that we should be making connections, not withdrawing and when it comes to motherhood it is even more important. A coffee with two other Mums, that have three children, of similar ages to mine, was the best therapy I could have wished for last week and those connections are just as valid on-line as they are down the street. 

I think that perhaps that is the answer, or at least part of it. Along with more rest, good coffee and a regular dose of yoga, the way to find that spark, that last ounce of patience and grit is to share our story. To speak the truth about our life and experience. Not every moment of every day, but sometimes we should say; “This is where I am. This is how I feel”, because there will always be someone reading who will say “Yes! This. This is how it is and that’s OK” 

Single-tasking; Is it the way forward?

If you ‘google’ Single-tasking you get a ton of links that tell you how much more productive you will be, from a work perspective if you single task. On the other hand, we live in an age where everything is faster and everyone is trying to be busier than each other and if we are not trying to do at least two things at once, we are failing. I’ve been thinking about single tasking recently, as I’ve noticed more and more how difficult I find it. I watch an episode of my favourite TV programme while folding washing. I send emails while I eat my lunch, I tidy the kitchen while eating my breakfast, I look at the social media while watching TV. In fact, anytime where I am only doing one thing feels like a waste of time. Not only does this seem really unhealthy, but it means I don’t always do anything well.

The more I think about it, the more I feel as though I need to re-train my brain to just do one thing at a time. For example, last night I watched a film. I started by also repairing a cushion cover, but came to the end of what I could really do for a while and so put it down. I had intentionally left my phone in another room, so I would get to bed at a reasonable time. So, I found myself, alone and doing nothing other than watching the film and it felt really very strange. My hands fidgeted, I found myself feeling restless and it was really hard to immerse myself in what I was watching. My mind kept wandering to things I have to do this week, this month, next month. The same thing happened to me when I went for a massage earlier in the week. Switching off and just focussing on one thing was really hard. We seem to have come to the point where we over stimulate ourselves so much, in a quite passive way, that we can no longer just do one thing or is it just me? Come on, be honest, I know it isn’t….

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Although actually, it seems, from doing a little digging that we don’t usually multi-task at all. We are task-switching. This sounds really familiar to me. I may think I can tweet, watch TV and check emails at the same time, but so often I find a whole episode of something has finished and I don’t really remember any of it. It’s just been a background noise. I am making it sound as though all I want to do is watch TV and watch it well and that’s not the case. In fact, I think the idea of single-tasking makes us really decide what we want to do most, rather than just trying to do it all at the same time and doing none of it in a fulfilling way.  So, if I am not going to give the TV my focus, does this actually mean I am not bothered about watching it and should really be doing something else.

Sometimes multi tasking the dull bits of the day seems like a good thing. It can make those mundane tasks easier to power through. For example my new habit of watching something on iplayer when folding washing. Although, I do wonder if that’s not a really sad way to catch up with my favourite TV and in any case, wouldn’t folding washing without any entertainment give me some much needed quiet time. Some mental space, if you like.

Perhaps the most difficult part of single-tasking isn’t going to be the actual doing of one thing at a time, but the mental multi-tasking that has become so ingrained in my way of thinking. One of my favourite Instagrammers did a great hashtags project last week called #whatdoesmummydoallday. It was a great way of shown her girls what she really does all day. The part that I found most interesting was the way her brain was always multi-tasking. While she was doing one or even two things, she was also thinking about something else on her ‘to-do’ list. It was so familiar to me. I do this all the time and it can tip from thinking about stuff that needs doing to anxiety about the stuff of life. For me it can anyway. I think that could also be why I try to multi-task, to over-stimulate. So that I don’t have the brain space to overthink.

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Sometimes multi-tasking is essential, like when making risotto and holding a child
Whatever the reason, whether it’s trying to block out negative thoughts or simply get as much done in the shortest time possible, I have trained myself to multi-task or at least attempt to multi-task too often. I am going to try a bit more single-tasking in my life. One thing and one thing only and then move onto the next thing. I suspect the art of single-tasking is under used and much needed for many of us.

What about you? Do you think multi-tasking is detrimental to you and if so have you tried any methods to retrain yourself to single-task?