New Year’s resolutions for mums – be even stroppier!

Photograph of mother and daughter

Paula and I are looking forward to being even more stroppy in 2014

Demanding, selfish, self-centred, stroppy, difficult, complex, complicated.

Throughout my life these labels have been used to discourage me from being myself.

At school I was inquisitive, sensitive, emotional and fiercely independent. Yet, these qualities which I now know should be nurtured and encouraged, especially in women, earned me derogative labels which stuck to my identity like cruel stick-it notes.

A cage of Calvinism and chauvinism

Growing up in a conservative society, I was a free spirit trapped in a cage of Calvinism and chauvinism: Girls should’t smoke, get drunk, girls shouldn’t show too much emotion, certainly not too much anger. Girls shouldn’t laugh too loudly, swear, or go out to restaurants or cinemas alone. Girls should not ask too many questions, they should do as they’re told. Women should give up their careers for their families after studying for years, women should do all the housework and smile while they’re doing it, women should respect their men, even if their men don’t respect them.

Fighting spirit 

Time after time, my rebellious nature made me stand up to what I saw as gross injustices, my fighting spirit made me ask questions when I knew the consequences would be disastrous. My spirit tried to soar while being battered from all sides like a seedling facing strong winds and storms pushing towards the light. My spirit was crushed back into the earth too many times to recall.

Believing the labels 

There were many times when the labels defined me. When I would accept them and when I, too, would punish myself for being demanding and difficult, for daring to question, for daring to be strong.

And every time I believed those labels, I would sink into a depression, which would eat away at my soul like a cancer. I didn’t realise it at the time but the unbearable sadness was a direct result of looking at myself through others’ critical eyes – allowing them to stamp their labels on my soul.

Reject attempts to control my thoughts

Slowly, over the years I’ve come to realise that the only way to be happy is to stop trying to please others and to be who I am. To not care a damn about what others think, to seek the company of people who value these qualities and to shun the narrow-mindedness of people who judge anything they don’t agree with. To reject any attempt to manipulate or control my thoughts or to make me feel small.

My only New Year’s Resolution therefore – is to be even more ‘stroppy, difficult’ and demanding’ – in other words to be true to myself and wear these labels with pride.

And I wish the same for my own independent-minded daughter Paula and for every woman who has ever been tagged by a label she didn’t deserve.

What labels have you been stuck with during your life? Have you managed to get rid of them – and how?

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Any other bad mummies out there?

Image

Any other bad mummies out there?

I now edit a Bad Mums Round-up for Britmums every month – no prizes for guessing why they chose me.
The purpose is not to name and shame, but to share your imperfections, guilt and failures to make us laugh (not in a nasty way) – but to make me and hopefully some other mums feel a bit better about ourselves. Tweet me @CheneKoscielny your bad mummy posts – and I’ll include them in the round-up. Go on – I know I’m not the only one who’s not perfect…

How NOT to start your day… and other tips from an imperfect mum

A minion from Despicable Me close-up

Me in the mornings – how you don’t want to be

I am walking hand-in-hand with an unidentified handsome male on a deserted beach. I can taste the salty breeze, my companion – he has the same profile as George Clooney – turns to look at me…

The alarm on my mobile phone rudely interrupts my dream. I try to block out the sound, but the beach and the mystery man have gone and then I remember: It is 5.45am. This is MY hour, my window of opportunity in the next 24 hours to do something Just for Me before my day is swamped by other people’s demands and desires.

So, I get up quietly, slip on my airline socks and my husband’s fleece and sneak downstairs with my laptop to write on my novel or what I hope will one day become my novel. This is pure bliss, escaping into a different world of interesting characters created and controlled only by me.

A scene from a badly scripted sitcom

Like Cinderella dreading the moment when her carriage will turn back into a pumpkin, I watch the hands of the clock creeping closer to 6.45am, which will signal the end to my solitude, my calm and inner peace.

From the moment I wake up my daughter at 6.45am our house is transformed into a maddening, hysterical scene from a badly scripted sitcom.

My husband has woken up by now, grumbling about sitting in the traffic again while scavenging through his wardrobe for an ironed shirt. (He does his own ironing of course)  Any minute now the daily hunt for his company access card will kick off. He will be crawling around under the sofa, rustling through the washing basket and the boys’ toy box – cursing under his breath and accusing every woman and her dog of stealing or hiding his yellowing mug shot resembling someone on Prime Suspect.

Mutiny over breakfast

Poster of white text on red stating keep Calm and Carry On

More calmness needed in the morning

From downstairs my daughter starts her daily rant about the lack of choice on the breakfast menu, having dismissed 15 types of cereal and a selection of fresh fruit. Wait till she has a family and see if she’s still so keen on rustling up eggy toast or Nigella’s pancakes on a weekday morning.

The next one to surface is Max, 4, who solemnly announces that he’s not going to school today because his best friend stinks. This, rather than being a reflection of his best friend’s poor hygiene, is his latest ploy to try and stay at home because the novelty of school has worn off after just two weeks.

“I hate phonics. All we do is phonics. It is rubbish,” he moans through his Cheerios.

My husband, thankfully, has now left the house – minus his access card and dragging the overflowing bin behind him as he forgot to put it out the night before.

Child cruelty

The last one to rise is my 9-year-old son, Lukas, who tries to stay in bed as long as he can to resist my attempts at forcing him to do his 11-plus homework.

(If this sounds cruel – it’s not. We’re talking 10 minutes of maths or learning vocab instead of playing Fifa14 on the I-pad.)

Things start accelerating from about this moment. I realise there’s only an hour left before everyone has to be ready and out the door, including me.

My daughter is walking up the hill to the bus stop, the four-year-old is lying on the floor in front of my bathroom naked, refusing to move and Lukas is trying to see if he can take 30 minutes to put on one sock, one eye on the clock.

A race against time 

Max is refusing to get dress. I scream, cry, plead… in the end I challenge him to a dressing contest. I am halfway into my bra and knickers when the doorbell rings. My daughter has forgotten her bus pass and will now be late unless I drive her up the hill to the bus stop.

Lukas, seizing the opportunity, claims he absolutely can’t work out how many halves there are in three and a half without my help and downs his pen. Max, meanwhile, starts wailing because I’ve won the dressing contest unfairly as I had to quickly pull on my jogging bottoms and T-shirt to drive my daughter up the hill.

By the time I’ve deposited Lukas at the middle school 10 minutes late, having returned home once to fetch his forgotten football kit and dragging Max into the infant school, kicking and screaming, I’m very low on humour and badly in need of a strong coffee.

I return to my home office, climbing over discarded shoes and dirty washing, ignoring the mountain of breakfast dishes in the sink, ready to start my working day.

Does this sound familiar? What are your strategies for making the mornings easier?

If your mornings are more successful, please send me some tips and I’ll do a follow-up post with tips for other badly organised mums like me.

Scrabble letters spelling 'bad mum' words

Bad mums round-up on Britmums

And by the way, I am the editor of a monthly bad mums round-up for Britmums.  If you identify with my struggles and imperfections, drop me an email chenekoscielny@gmail.com or tweet me @CheneKoscielny your imperfect, humiliating, bad mummy posts and I’ll include them in the October round-up to make other mums feel a bit better about ourselves.

Why we don’t need more advice from Sheryl Sandberg

Photograph of Whyishersostroppy holding hand up against Sheryl Sandberg

No more, please Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl is the kind of woman who gets up my nose. I don’t so much resent that she’s loaded (400 million US Dollars), has the mother of all jobs (Facebook boss) and combines this with being a mum or even that she looks 10 years younger than me at the same age. (44)

Full of it 

What really bugs me is that she is so full of it. She just can’t stop rubbing our noses in it.  As if it’s not enough that she’s clearly made it big time, she can’t stop offering us pearls of wisdom on how we should all stop being such miserable failures and get this work/life balancing act sorted so we too could become millionaire superstars.

Her book Lean In warned that unless we lean into our careers when we start having babies, even if it takes breastfeeding during conference calls, we’ll never fulfill our potential. Well, thanks for that, Sheryl. See my thoughts on the book here.

Share the housework 

Her latest advice for working mums is even more enlightening.  Want to have it all? Just get your husband to do 50% of the household chores and child rearing. Simples.

This is according to her foreword in a new self-help book published in America (where else?): Getting to the 50/50: how working couples can have it all by sharing it all.

So the argument is that convincing men to share the chores provides women with more choices and benefits the men and kids too.  Although she and husband, Dave, “can afford exceptional childcare”, they still have difficult decisions about who will pick up the slack when the other can’t be there.

But they do aim for a 50/50 split (of the remaining 20% of duties presumably) because it’s fair and gives women more opportunities.

Really? To imagine anyone researching and writing a page, never mind a book about this, beggars belief. What exactly is there to research?

According to a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research, just 10% of men do an equal amount of housework as their wives.

So, let’s see: do you think these women have better chances than the 90% whose husbands come home, dump their shoes in the entrance and ask: “What’s for dinner, dear?” Uh… yes,  duh!

How to get him off the couch

What would be infinitely more useful would be if Sheryl and her coterie of friends in the banking sector tell us just HOW we should get the lazy, spoilt, selfish bastards off the couch and emptying the bin without turning the marriage into a daily episode from Married with Kids.

At this point, I should confess that my husband actually does quite a bit around the house. Not quite 50% – not even close, but a decent amount. This is because he’s German and because I’ve become less willing to be his slave for little or no appreciation through the years.

So he’s quite comfortable ironing his own shirts, making the children’s lunchboxes, unpacking the dishwasher and packing away clothes.

Now, if only he did his 35% chores and parenting properly, without me having to go around and redo it, I would probably be heading for my first million by now.

Domestic god – yes please

But in my experience our set-up is quite rare.

Some men, the majority – have no idea how to hang up washing, would never dream of ironing their shirts and would be surprised to find out that toilets don’t clean themselves.

And the women will moan to their friends about having to carry the can, but would not really expect their husbands to touch a duster or look after the children they helped produce.

As a columnist wrote in the Sunday Times this week: “He is not a domestic god. I did not marry him for his ability with a duster.” She says she doesn’t find him sexy in this role.

Really, darling? So, he must have married you for your ability with a duster then. Do you also have to wear a short little skirt and apron while you clean up after him? How very convenient for her husband.

Getting away with murder

My mouth often hangs open when clever women tell me what their husbands get away with at home. They work so hard, must let them play more golf, go to the pub more often, go for boys’ weekends away, while you stay home, clean the house and look after his children. Not something Sheryl and her mates would put up with, I can assure you. But then, that’s everyone’s personal choice, isn’t it.

There are many reasons why women choose to let their men off the hook when it comes to sharing housework and parenting responsibilities. Cultural beliefs, buying into chauvinistic values, perfectionism and a fear of confrontation or turning marriage into a constant battlefield being some of them.

Personal choice

Each to her own. Some marriages may be better off without screaming matches about whose turn it is to take the bins out. Some women may choose not to lean into their careers because spending time with their children when they are little is more important to them than a million dollars.

I wish someone would tell Sheryl Sandberg to mind her own business and that we’re actually doing OK. We don’t need her advice, but her next book is probably already with the publisher:

How to raise successful children in 15 seconds a day. 

How will we survive until then?

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.

Father’s Day treats for immature dads

George Clooney?

George Clooney?

The simplest shopping trip or family day out needs to be carefully planned down to the last pit stop, treat and distraction to avoid armageddon-style meltdown – from my husband. I can put up with low-key wingeing from the kids, but it’s my husband’s spectacular temper tantrums – the kind that would put any respectable two-year-old to shame – that I try to avoid at all cost.

Surprise! Women mature long before men

So, of course it comes as no news to me – or any other mum around the world – that men only grow up around the age of 43 – a full 11 years after women mature, according to a study by Nickelodeon which was pinged around the web this week.

Finding their own farts and burps hilarious, driving too fast, not talking about themselves or staying silent during arguments and trying to beat children at games and sports are some of the examples of ‘immaturity’ listed in the study that I can relate to.

Cringe-worthy memory

I still cringe when I recall the ‘fun’ table tennis tournament for families we were invited to at a friend’s house, when my husband insisted on wiping every child off the table with a huge grin on his face – and the day ended with many of the children in tears.

I’ve given up on asking him about his day or anything else for that matter – because the response would usually amount to: “Nothing happened.” or perhaps a few grunts that’s meant to pass for conversation.

George Clooney look-alike…

Every time he sets off to the hairdressers with a picture of George Clooney in his pocket – convinced that the unfortunate stylist will be able to transform the fast disappearing hairline and rather prominent German features into Hollywood material, I try my best not to snigger.

A friend’s husband recently boasted at a dinner party how he let all the air out of a stranger’s bicycle after the fellow commuter – quite possibly a little old lady on her way to visit a relative in hospital – accidentally chained their bicycles together outside the station.

Another respectable dad-of-three and stalwart of the community almost came to fisticuffs with a local policeman after he lost his train ticket and once surprised unsuspecting dinner party guests – most of them close friends and family in his defence – by prancing around in a bright yellow mankini he happened to stumble across in the guest loo – as you do.

So, what’s my point?

Men are immature – and in true male fashion, they wear their immaturity like a badge – for the world to see. If us women do something a bit foolish in a weak moment, we agonise over it for months, questioning our parenting skills and our whole beings to the point of self-destruction.

My husband has been 43 for almost a year now, and although I’ve seen the odd hint of maturity, I wouldn’t exactly call him grown up.

5 Father’s Day treats for immature dads 

But in the interest of Fathers Day, I thought I’d cut him some slack – and indulge his childishness for a day:

So, here are my five Father’s Day treats for immature dads: 

  • Let them lie-in and fart the room blue, while you prepare a scrumptious English breakfast
  • Get the kids in on the act, challenge him to a few games and let him win every time
  • Buy him the Sunday paper and don’t attempt to make meaningful conversation with him at any point during the day.
  • Tell him he looks just like George Clooney
  • Strategically place a bright mankini in the bathroom

How are you indulging your immature man? Care to share some of your coping techniques?

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?

Some good press for bad mums, finally!

A photograph of a woman drinking a glass of wine

Me and my Chardonnay – inseparable

For the first time in many years – since I had children, actually – I felt quite good about myself this week.  It lasted about as long as an English sunny spell, but I definitely felt a little spike of optimism in the dark and dusty pit that is my psyche.

Soul mates 

After years of skulking around shamefully on school runs and sobbing into my Chardonnay, I’ve finally found my soul mates – fellow bad mums who, though they love their children, find parenting to be wildly overrated.

In the US a flurry of new parenting books has hit kindles and bookshelves like a viral infection sweeping through a nursery.  The authors are mums who “curse a lot, drink to excess, reveal scary truths and draw twisted little stick figures of their kids pooping and whining relentlessly.”

Fifty shades of parenting

These ‘scary, dark and funny’ mums seem to have hit upon the fifty shades of parenting – their expletive-infused, boozing, warts-and-all anecdotes of what it’s really like to be a mum – are hitting a nerve!

I’ll drink to that!

Share the grief

Finally, it may be time to ditch the anti-depressants and share the grief openly in stead about the seemingly never-ending daily grind of raising ungrateful little brats.

Maybe that will finally shatter the perfect mum with perfect children, perfect husband, perfect pets and catalogue homes illusion we all partake in at coffee mornings and school gates.

Perhaps it will be safe soon to own up to nasty rows flavoured with unwholesome language with our other halves about where the money will come from and whose turn it is to unpack the dishwasher – sometimes even in front of our kids.

Not-so-proud’ mummy moments

What a relief it would be to see a fellow mum post a ‘not-so-proud’ mummy moment on Facebook in stead of yet another carefully censored postcard glimpse of a perfect family leading a candy floss life.

Maybe we’ll soon be able to have real discussions about the mind-numbing boredom of building Lego spaceships or reading stories about dinosaurs, when all you want to do is check your email, play Candycrush or read a book about bad mums.

Shouting very loudly

Could we dare to come clean about shouting very loudly at our children in stead of gently guiding them to the right behaviour in soothing tones  – in line with parenting guidelines from childless experts?

Would you admit to fantasizing about life before children – all the time – not dreams about steamy sex (though that would be nice) but going to the toilet with the door closed, having a lie-in and spending money on yourself in stead of on football boots or swimming lessons?

I wouldn’t want to push it – but perhaps we could even admit to a less than perfect pelvic floor and how easy it is to lose yourself in the pursuit of being everything to everyone else.

Health warning

At some point I considered putting a health warning for doe-eyed first-time mums on my blog like the ones on cigarette packs for fear of shattering their dreams with my honest accounts of parenting.

But now that I know I’m not alone, I won’t. I only wish that my own library of early parenting guides had included a few titles from scary, dark, bad mums.

It would have comforted me so much to know that I was not alone in my moments of weakness when I couldn’t find anything to love among the tiring tantrums and endless whining.

It would have made me realise that I didn’t have to be perfect – and that guilt, bitterness, jealousy, frustration, cursing, shouting and drinking too much wine are as much part of being a mum as happy snappy moments of love and fulfilment.

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.

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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.

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