Airing your dirty laundry online – for imperfect mums

A pile of dirty washing in front of a washing machine

Anyone up for sharing dirty laundry online?

Do you sometimes scroll through other people’s online lives and wonder if you’re the only one who isn’t sailing through life from one photo opportunity to the next? Facebook is a collage of happy moments carefully selected from the scrapbook of life to stroke our egos and create glimpses of the person we want the world to see:

Look, here I am with my beautiful, adoring family; here we are in another exotic destination. Aren’t we pretty? Aren’t we special? Aren’t we happy?

Virtual street cred 

Twitter is subtler, punchier, wittier. You need a bit more virtual street cred, the right lingo. But the purpose is the same – a virtual mantelpiece advertising the you brand to the world – Aren’t I clever? Aren’t I witty?

Less-than-happy updates

But which online tool do we use when the cracks start showing, the public face slips. Is there a place for my dirty washing online? Is there a place for less-than-happy updates? Where do I go to lick my wounds online after a hurtful row with my partner, where is the online confessional chamber to own up to my parenting doubts and insecurities and mistakes? Who do I ask to Share, Pin, Like or Dig my wobbly life moments?

Lacking depth

Maybe the online life platforms lack the depth of real life relationships because the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who create them haven’t yet experienced the knocks and disappointments of adult life. They impose their shiny world of opportunity and positivism upon us, leaving us unequipped to deal with the fall-out if our realities don’t live up to the ideal.

So, we’re trapped behind strained smiles and bubbly messages, covering up a secret sea of unexplored feelings that never get to see the light of day. We feel shamed by negative feelings, compelled to delete on the spot the emotions that really touch us, that make us who we are.

What are you missing?

A recent study found that Facebook makes us feel sad – because of FOMU – fear of missing out – so while you’re sitting in your slippers in front of the laptop jealously ogling other people’s lives, you suspect they’re sipping cocktails on a beach, jumping out of planes or watching their children perform some amazing feat. Meanwhile, they’re sitting in their PJs staring at their screens worrying that you’re having a ball.

Impulsive rants and vacant threats

Social media seems out of depth when it comes to real emotion, but happily gives a world audience to impulsive rants and vacant threats. Immature men fire off rape and bomb threats on Twitter at women who intimidate them in stead of facing up to their insecurities.

Social media also fails miserably when it comes to dealing with the emotions of people touched by tragedy. No bullet-ed RIP message on Twitter or macabrely out-of-place Facebook status update can really touch their grief.

Too many glasses of wine

Sorry, if I’m being a bit morbid, today. You’re probably wondering, rightly so, if I have had one too many glasses of wine tonight.

Maybe – or maybe I’m just in a reflective mood. Maybe I’m just not bursting at the seams with uncontrollable excitement about the day, my children, my husband or my life today. Maybe that’s OK.

I’ll post a more polished PR snapshot of my life on Facebook to turn you green with envy again tomorrow.

Advertisements

Do you still know how to flirt?

Vintage photograph of couple flirting

Flirting for mummies – I’m a bit out of my depth
Credit: Shook Photos – Flickr

A deep, throaty voice 

I was standing at the supermarket checkout poised to pay for a few hurriedly grabbed items that by some miracle would have to turn into tea in the 45 minutes between my son’s athletics and my daughter’s piano lesson.

His voice was deep and throaty: “Madam, would you like my club card points?”

I looked up to find the owner of the voice – a handsome 30-something man in a smart navy suit and aquamarine shirt with eyes to match – looking at me expectantly.  I swallowed hard. I was out of my depth…

Out of my comfort zone 

It’d been a while since I’d been addressed by a man of any age who wasn’t related to me or trying to sell me something. It also had genuinely never occurred to me that there might be people on this planet who didn’t find accumulating club card points as deeply thrilling as I did.

“Uh… OK. I mean yes, please. I’d love that!” I mumbled.

I handed over my keys blindly to the stranger, our fingers touching briefly, and he gave it to the cashier who swiped the key fob without question, oblivious to the fact that I was socially way out of my comfort zone.

Had I been chatted up?

Blue eyes flashed a smile and he was gone, leaving me to gather my shopping bags, children and galloping thoughts.

I’m aware that most people – apart from other 40-something mums – will find this tragic, but this little episode stirred something in me, which probably should have been left unstirred.

Had I just been chatted up? Why hadn’t the lovely young man offered his points to the builder at the counter on his other side? Why did he choose me?

My inner voice awoke from her slumber: “Or is it because your strained face and tired clothes suggested that you really needed the points. You were his good deed of the day.”

The truth was it’d been a while since I’d been chatted up. It was a good seven years ago when a quite inebriated man who claimed to have Italian mafia connections, instructed the barman at the village pub to send over a drink. The barman had to repeat it three times before I believed him.

And when an ex-colleague told me over the phone that I was much more beautiful in real life than the photograph on my website, I giggled nervously, even though I knew he was simply trying to tell me subtly that it was not cool to use a photograph of your 20-year-old self when you’re nearly double that age. My inner voice almost wet herself laughing.

Affairs: no, attention: yes

It’s not that I’m hankering after an affair or even a free drink (though I might be persuaded on the second one), but a bit of male attention – other than: “What’s for tea?” wouldn’t go amiss.

My encounter had just brought it home to me again that men – other than my husband and sons- had completely disappeared off my radar like a plane falling from the sky.

My wildest fantasies about men– other than the ones involving my husband (and they deserve their own blog post…ha ha) – can be summarised as:  “I really hope those strong hands and muscular arms will be able to fix the washing machine.”

When was the last time I stole a second glance at a passing pair of solid shoulders or solicited a wolf-whistle from even the roughest workman on the street?

Once you’re on the wrong side of 40 and especially if have that weary-eyed mum-of-three look in your eyes and telltale layers around your waist, you’re blanked by the majority of English men over the age of four.

(This is different in Europe, in my experience, where a full-bodied woman past her sell-by date can still raise an appreciative glance. They like their wine older too.)

But perhaps I’d underestimated English men all along. I’d been thinking of things I should have said to Blue Eyes: “What is your club card total?” or “You can swipe my club card again any time. ”  – I’m still working on it.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking of taking some initiative and might just offer to share my points with some poor unsuspecting man on my next shopping trip.

When was the last time someone of the opposite sex tried to chat you up – or even just noticed you? How did you react?

Is having fun on your to-do list?

Image of magnetic letters spelling having fun on a fridge

Has having fun disappeared off your to-do list?

My friend recently quit her stressful full-time job to stay at home. She’d been fantasising about this every day for the last 10 years.

Finally allowing herself the time to piece together the missing chunks of her children’s lives, at last having the freedom to arrange every minute of the day to fit her own agenda. She couldn’t wait to indulge her passion for cooking exotic recipes, join a running group and catch up with friends who’d been lurking at the bottom of her to-do list for years

Two weeks later and she’s as miserable and stressed as when she was working.”I can’t seem to enjoy it,” she says. “I think I need to go back to work.”

Every minute must count 

Another friend, about to take some well-deserved time off after years of spreading herself thinly on all fronts for years, has drawn up a list of planned activities that will make any senior company executive break out in a cold sweat:

Refurbish the house, landscape the garden, do a painting course, volunteer for a charity, Pilates sessions every day. The list is endless and is rattled off to everyone she encounters – daring anyone to doubt that every minute of every day at home will be spent productively.

On trend 

As with every other negative parenting phenomenon, I am bang on trend. My decision to realign my life with the things I care about and enjoy – my family and my writing, is a secret rebellion against an army of inner voices telling me that without a regular pay cheque, my self-esteem will be punched full of holes by every working mum I meet.

Even if we can afford it financially, and I’m very conscious that not everyone can, mums of my generation seem to be terrified of losing their grip – even just for a moment – on the slippery corporate ladder for fear that one misstep will send them sliding down into the doldrums of depression where their minds will rot away never to spark again.

Empty diary panic

Why does an empty page in the diary fill us with panic? Why do we feel the need to justify – even to strangers – a perfectly reasonable decision to take time out from the relentless and often unsatisfactory grind of being a working mum?

We are almost ashamed of the desire to spend precious hours with our children or just have a bit of time to ourselves, doing things that might not earn money, but could pay off handsomely in brownie points with our children and in self-fulfilment.

So where is this going?

Take my writing for example – I finally got myself as far as signing up for the creative writing course I always wanted to do – (my inner voice is still not talking to me) and I love it! But the niggling voice is there every time I leave the class – So, are you actually going to publish a book? This is all good and well, but where are you going with this? Are you going to make money (highly unlikely) or get famous (even more unlikely)?

I’ve never been driven by money – a new handbag or pair of shoes turn me on as much as the next woman – however, can I live without them – absolutely.

The real problem, I suspect, is that my sense of self is so entangled with my to-do list, that the thought of having a day without a plan or an activity without a concrete outcome – is like stepping off a cliff.

On the rare occasion that I manage to shake off those fears and anxieties, take deep yoga breaths, eat lots of chocolate and focus on enjoying what I’m doing in that moment – sitting on the carpet playing with my son or getting lost in my writing in a coffee shop – I feel like I am the person and mother I was meant to be.

And if I can build more of those moments into my life – who knows where that will lead?(See there I go again – why does it have to lead somewhere? It’s fun, I enjoy it – it’s good for my children and me. Is that not good enough?)

Does this sound familiar to anyone? Am I having a midlife crisis? Am I on my own out here? Anyone?

Why it is good to spend time with your bum in the air

Snoopy

Snoopy needs inspiration too

I spent most of the week upside down.

No, I’m not referring to some severely disturbed emotional state, although that probably also applies, I mean physically bottoms up.

This entailed bending over and looking through my legs, in-between school runs, checking Facebook and dusting the skirting boards. You’d be relieved to know I only assumed this position in my own home with the blinds drawn. (So far, anyway)

Why, you may well ask. Have I gone mad? Did I forget to take my tablets? Have I put my back out?

Nope. The answer is simple: I needed a fresh perspective – new horizons, a different way of looking at things.

Inverted tea pot

I also tried balancing on my head in the inverted teapot or whatever that yoga stand is called – as that’s meant to let the blood rush to your head infusing your brain with fresh ideas.  I quickly realised a flurry of new ideas would not be of much use if I broke my neck.

Actually, what inspired me to imitate a supersized bat was an instruction from the lecturer on my creative writing course: Describe an upside down scene in 500 words.

How hard can it be, you’d think. Well, it’s damn hard, nigh impossible. I felt like a dried out prune with every last bit of creative juice squeezed out of me.  I didn’t know where to start. My rational brain refused to flip my world, probably rightly thinking that things were hard enough the right way up.  So, I took to drastic measures, physically inverting myself in search of creativity.

Creative writing course

“Let’s get this straight,” my husband had said when I first informed him that I was finally going to do the creative writing course I’d always wanted to do but never got round to.

“You’re going to spend a fortune on a course that has no guarantee of ever bringing in any money.”

The voice of reason, the rational, responsible one… my lord and master.

Needless to say – I ignored him.

And at first it went really well. I loved being out in London, thrived on discussions about characterisation and finding your voice over free coffee and biscuits.

Until I had to actually write something…

And read it out to the class.

Carnage

The bunch of sweet and innocent looking young people – apart from one other fellow journalist and jaded soul – turned into a pack of bloodthirsty wolves, setting upon my carefully crafted words with sharpened teeth and drawn-out nails, tearing my work apart sentence by sentence, chewing and spitting, shredding my hopes of ever being on the bestseller list.

That was a week ago. Meanwhile, I’ve band-aided my ego with yoga sessions, lots of chocolate and pep talks from girl friends, who relate to the crossroads faced by a 43-year-old mother trying to find her way back to herself.

I have also purposefully avoided the kind of people – men and women – who will sell their souls as long as they got a good price for it.  The kind of people who measure self-fulfillment by the number of zeros on their pay cheque or John Lewis labels in their living room.

Needless to say, I didn’t mention my little setback to my husband – and I didn’t think he’d take too kindly to me spending half the day upside down (unless of course there was money in it)

So what have I learned from spending time with my bum in the air?  And more importantly what can you learn from this – as apparently the whole point of blogging is to “give” people something.

Why YOU should spend time upside down:

Herewith my insights – for what they’re worth:

  • It’s never too late to pursue your dreams
  • It may not be easy at first – but persevere
  • Don’t feel guilty about going for something you want – you deserve it
  • Surround yourself with positive, nurturing friends
  • Avoid people who make you feel bad
  • Spend some time upside down – it really does give you a fresh perspective and if nothing else, you’ll be inspired to clean the skirting boards.

PS. If you enjoy my writing, please spare me a few pence… no, seriously please VOTE  for me as  I’m a semi-finalist in the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Awards in the Writer and Commentary categories, If you like what you read, I’d be so very happy if you voted for me.

Click on the badges below and tick the box next to Whyishersostroppy under WRITER and COMMENTARY to vote. It’s ever so easy. Thanks.

NOMINATE ME BiB 2013 WRITER

NOMINATE ME BiB 2013 COMMENTARY

Finally… Recognition for my late night efforts

Image

Get a job, wash the car, iron something, cook tea, but stop wasting your precious pre- and post school run hours ranting, raving and rambling in a blog that no-one in their right mind will ever find, never mind read.

The virtual skyline is cluttered with the leftover thoughts of zillions of exhausted, frustrated mummy bloggers in a desperate online search for their former selves.

This has been the abusive line of questioning I’ve been subjected to by my tetchy inner voice ever since I started blogging a few weeks ago.

So, it was with great excitement that I discovered the LIEBSTER AWARD comment last week. (Not that I’m counting comments or anything)

AWARD? I have been nominated for an award: Now, we’re talking! I smirked at my inner voice: “Somebody DOES appreciate me after all!”

I was working out who I should mention in my tear-filled acceptance speech as my main source of inspiration – ruling out God, my dad, my husband and any other man for that matter, before I took a closer look at the small print.

The Liebster award is a blogger-to-blogger award with no winners and no judges and I have been nominated by a kind-hearted online Samaritan who takes pity on bloggers with fewer than 300 followers.

I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I was a little put out at first that I wasn’t going to be able to sell the film rights to my little blog just yet.

But after some soul searching, I’ve decided an award is an award, beggars can’t be choosers and one day when I’m the type of bloggess who doesn’t get out of bed for less than 10,000 comments a day, I will remember with fondness the day I received my Liebster award.

I might even reach out and give my Liebster badge a little virtual stroke from time to time.

So, Thank You Rebecca at The Dissocial Mom  – for noticing my late night efforts and bestowing this honour on me, which I will pass on to a few of the blogs I’ve found and liked so far – bearing in mind I’ve not been around long and I’m discovering wonderful new blogs every time I go online (a little intimidating at times)

As a recipient of the Liebster award I should now share 11 facts about myself, answer 11 questions set by Rebecca, nominate a few other blogs and set questions for the bloggers I am nominating.

But because this blog is already too long, I will answer five questions and hope that my audience will not be too disappointed.

What motivated you to start blogging?

A dire lack of intellectual stimulation, a dwindling social life and the desire to see my name in print again.

If you could ask only one thing of your children, what would that be?

That they listen to me, never talk back, never raise their voices like I do and go to bed early so I can have my first glass of Chardonnay at a decent time.

What is your most favourite thing to do during your kid free time?

I love having uninterrupted thoughts.

I love getting to the end of my sentences when talking to other adults without hearing “Mummy! Mummy!”

And my best thing is sitting down alone with a frothy cappuccino in my favourite coffee shop, scribbling ideas and plans in my colourful notebook, while eavesdropping on other people’s conversations.

What is one thing that you used to love doing as a kid that you still secretly enjoy doing?

I’m a bit of a fairground slut – flashy lights, blaring music, fluffy pink candy floss, plastic ducks, rows of trashy prizes, bumper cars – my psyche is obviously still dealing with some unresolved childhood fairground issues.

What is the best advice you can give other parents on how to cope with stress?

Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Don’t be obsessed with your children and never, NEVER take advice from your husband (or any other man for that matter) on childbirth, childcare or what you should be doing with your life.

And here are a few of the blogs I like – and I have no idea how many followers they have because I can’t figure it out (but does it matter?)

Madame Expat  -as a mum who has been (and still am) an expat mum this website talks to me because it’s about following your heart and your passion wherever you are, which at the moment for Madame Expat is creating the most exquisite flower arrangements. Very inspiring.

Liveslifewell is a beautifully written and inspiring blog by someone who seems to know herself and has the confidence to follow her heart and live life well, but has to combine that with the realities of living with a husband, two teenagers and a couple of dogs. She seems to get the balance right most of the time.

Pangaweka – a small collection of simple pleasures- this one is all about food – and Portuguese food in particular, which includes lovely recipes such as Portuguese seafood rice – tasty, exotic, spicy – need I say more?

My questions for the nominees:

1. What do you get out of blogging?

2. Was motherhood what you thought it would be, and if not how is it different?

3. What do you miss most about your pre-children self?

4. What advice would you give to your younger self?

5. As a woman – do you believe it’s possible to have it all

Feel free to add more questions or include 11 facts about yourself and thanks again Rebecca for taking the time to read my blog and nominate me.

Who needs an Oscar – if you can get a Liebster award?

Through the eyes of a 3-year-old

We were on our way somewhere – the destination irrelevant –  the same frantic rush that precedes every family outing, irrespective of whether it is a carefully planned holiday or an impromptu dash to the park.

The scene is reminiscent of passengers about to board a train at a busy station, scuttling in all directions, searching frantically for missing shoes and lost gloves, dashing for final wees and collecting stray coffee mugs and juice cups for the dishwasher on the way out.

In the midst of this chaos, my husband sees his sole responsibility as rising from his chair, locating his unmissable size-11 shoes which are usually to be found in middle of the entrance hall where he left them, and then shouting at the rest of us to get a move on.

After three children and 10 years of marriage it doesn’t ever occur to him to pack a nutritious bag of snacks, wipe a bottom or two or help a screaming toddler into his coat to speed the process along.

This time my three-year-old, Max, by some miracle managed to find his shoes and coat quite quickly and was standing proudly aside his dad frowning disapprovingly at the rest of us as we desperately fell about our feet to get out the door.

My husband unhelpfully said: “Why is this taking so long? What ARE you doing?”

This is never a good move and I made it clear in no uncertain terms that I would take exactly as long as I deemed necessary and that if he wanted us to get there on time nothing prevented him from getting his hands dirty and helping.

It was at this point that Max looked up innocently at his dad and asked very seriously: “Why is her always so stroppy, dad?”

For a few minutes I was speechless…  and then it dawned on me, he’s only three and has had limited conditioning of traditional male/female roles and a good dose of feminism from my side, but he’s already cottoned on that a man’s role is to look after himself only and any woman who questions this is being demanding, difficult… and stroppy!

It’s been the story of my life and I’m facing an uphill battle!IMG_1574