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Peaches Geldof

1 May

I’m very sorry Peaches Geldof is dead. I know it’s not the done thing to criticise those who’ve died in tragic circumstances and nothing can allay the devastation brought on her family and friends of losing a close person at such a young age with such a young family but…
and it’s a big B.U.T… I’m fuming…. Why is she being given a free pass? As the news comes out this evening that her death is related to heroin I hear a ‘friend’ on Channel 4 News extolling her virtues as an advocate of attachment parenting and her promotion of gay marriage rights etc and asking us to “look beyond the manner in which she may have died”. What? Well excuse me if I don’t.
IF… (and please let’s hope it’s not the case) but IF, she was doing heroin in the house with a toddler present, why are we praising her parenting skills at all? How is this not being discussed or at least being flagged up as hypocritical? How is it, in fact, being totally ignored? It makes a complete mockery of real mums (and dads) working away at being good parents day after day after day after year after year. I gave up smoking when I was pregnant seven years ago and now ensure I don’t have my single-half- a-bottle-of-wine-a-night lifestyle, having swapped it for that dull recommended at least two days off a week regime and the rest. I drive more carefully, I cross roads at the right places and I try not to risk my life over stupid or superficial things, whilst still having a fulfilling life. I do this because I have the responsibility of being a parent. My children are young and I want to be around and know that they need me to be around for as long as possible, or at least while they are still growing up. Surely, no one could know this more than Peaches – the girl who lost her mother so young and is such a ‘wonderful example’ of an attachment parent.
I don’t get it. Her death is tragic yes, and clearly no one chooses to be addicted to anything, but let’s not eulogise this and make it something it’s not. Of course the poor woman would have been utterly devastated and traumatised by her own mother’s untimely death and she clearly did try to change into the life of domestic bliss (as if there is such a thing). But reporting like tonight– or the recent, totally uncritical, article in The Times of her attachment parenting – whilst right at the end noting, unchallenged by the journalist, that she has every weekend off as the kids went to her in laws – is just disingenuous to those of us who live in the real world.
It’s not easy and none of us get it 100% right 100% of the time but come on.

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The third baby – Time’s a ticking

8 Nov

And so it begins.

Just 4 months after my 40th birthday and swearing blind that I’ll never have another child, I can feel that tickety tock thing kicking off somewhere deep inside my ovaries. It’s a weird feeling. It’s totally irrational. We’re very lucky. We have a boy and a girl, both healthy, both happy. We’ve talked about it, having a third – but we don’t have the money – or inclination. That is, until now.

This summer was the first holiday we’ve taken since we started the baby-thon that we didn’t need to pack nappies or bring a push chair. We travelled lighter, went further, could eat later, stay out an enjoy a pizza at night with friends without total melt-downs. It was a watershed moment. The hubs and I exchanged smug glances of “that phase is over” here comes a brave new world.

Enter small cute newborn. And another. And another. It seems like fate is throwing them at me faster than my poor aged ovaries can produce eggs. My smallest ‘baby’ is nearly four. The infant I think I have is, in reality, a giant when compared to a newborn, full of willie waggling gestures, poo-rhyming songs and general jumping to which 4 year old boys are want. The newborn by comparison, sleeps a lot on a shoulder, is tiny, beautiful, perfect – and yet to form a personality which requires you to chastise, reprimand, commend or praise.

The placidity (word?) has an appeal in a world filled with chaotic 4 and 6 year olds – and whilst I must admit I’ve spent the last few years realising that I’m not an earth mother and enjoy children much more once they are able to communicate – I now look at these tiny sleeping angels and think – “I’d do better next time, this time I know not to get stressed, I know what to do, when and how to juggle it all. Maybe I’d actually get it right with number 3.”

So in creeps the doubt. They look so tiny, so harmless, so completely incapable of turning life upside down, inside out. How could that happen. Surely not. Tick tock.

 

Turning psychotic neurotic means I need a job

13 Oct

Eeek! As I chastised my long-suffering husband for “wiping the crumbs off the granite in the wrong way” I realised I probably need to get back in the real world, get a real job and get a sense of perspective.

It’s not that I don’t work. I do. Not only do I do all the mumsy stuff: to-ing and fro-ing kids to school, swimming, back n’ forth from playdates and parties, I also do all the cleaning, shopping, cooking and even hold down the remnants of a sort of journalistic career.

So far, so average. But what’s tipped me over the edge I fear, is that after 3 years of working by myself, for myself, I’ve hit an impasse – not the first woman to do this by any means, but it’s hit me rather by surprise I must admit.

As my children slowly become embroiled in full time education, I’m left with the ‘freelance career’ that used to fill the gaps in between sporadic childcare, but which now seems an odd dead end. I’m lucky to get enough work to get by but not lucky (talented?!) enough to yet get a proper career from a column or book etc. So I find myself in unchartered waters career-wise. Quite odd for a girl who for the best part of the last 20 years has defined herself by her career – well in my own head at least.

So the psychotic neurotic temperament has slowly grown to the point where the poor old hubs gets short shrift for misplaced crumbs, the cleaning takes on a weird priority and daily meals become a focal point to fixate on conjuring up the perfect family scene.

To worry about or do these things is not in itself an issue of course, but to fixate on them is. The road to bored housewife must surely be paved with lack of fulfilment. Meaningful things to do where you feel valued for who you are in a professional capacity – not as a mum, cleaner, cook or wife – must be key to that.

So here begins the search for the next chapter in my life. Full-time mum, full-ish time worker. Lets’ see what happens. Any tips welcome.

Marital Rules.. to tell or not to tell

10 May

As we watched Modern Family last night (very funny & worth checking out if you haven’t already), the gay couple were arguing about the ‘shooting down’ of Cam’s protracted and not very funny story.

As I’m sure we all have those moments of thinking “not this one again… (Lobster humidor/Paul).. It got me to wondering – is it a spouse’s duty to sit and listen over and over again, dutifully providing the needed response of “ha ha darling/ oh no!/ really, that’s hilarious”? Or, should one say in a quiet moment – “enough now babe – it wasn’t funny when you told it to me on our first date but I fancied you and wanted to see you again so I laughed, now it’s like groundhog day torture… PLEASE STOP TELLING THAT STORY” – or something perhaps a little more sensitive.

And then if you extrapolate it out – where do you stop – the dandruff? the ear & nose hair? the snaffling eating habit? the bogies hanging from the nose? – oh no that’s the kids.. but that kind of thing.

Similarly I walked out the house the other day with a rice krispie stuck to my cheek and yesterday’s mascara smudged under my eye creating a fetching battered woman-type look – I think something should’ve been said, but no – out into the big wide world I went, totally oblivious.

I’m curious – where’s the line? What’s the correct spousal supportive action – to tell or not to tell? – and what actions should we be picking up on?

Here’s my  interventionist starter for ten:

Boring protracted stories with lame endings

Groan-worthy puns

Facial cereal

Age-related hair growth: nose/ear/chin/upper lip or anywhere else

Skirt in Knickers/Flies undone

Shaving cream trails

Random food stains on clothing – especially fish related

Bad parking manoeuvres  – ‘helpful’ hints on how to do better?!

Queuing strategies that involve pushing to the front “for the family” but in fact just embarrassing said family

Dance moves from last century – or the one before! (Paul/me respectively)

 

What are yours?

 

 

 

A mum’s night out

8 May

Up until now I had – naively or arrogantly – assumed I’d side-stepped that awful mummy-pitfall of over-dressing for a night out.

I’ve noticed certain mums doing it over the last few years. I think the infrequency of nights out brings it on – like a rash. A night down the pub brings out the sparkly tops, skimpy skirts and pre-childbirth stilettos. It’s like having “I’m a mum on a pass out” written all over your forehead – it’s basically a spotlight highlighting how out of place they have become in the regular world of socialising.

So when I went out to meet some old friends at Green Park last night, I realised, as I tottered to Gunnersbury station in heels that I could clearly no longer walk properly in, that I had not so much side-stepped the over-dressing banana skin as gone hook, line and sinker for full banana skid.

This was confirmed, not only by the heels, but also by the fact that I spoke during the day of going ‘into town’ – like some true-blood suburbanite.

When oh when did that happen?

I have no idea how I slipped out of urban outfitters & into suburban mum unfitters, but I want to get back to the real world of socialising..

That means I need to go out more than once a month, not wear high heels on inappropriate nights (& re-learn to walk in them for when they are appropriate) and remember that living in zone 3 IS already ‘in town’…

Working 9-5 – it’s no way to make a livin’

28 Mar

I’m no Guido Fawkes, raging political commentator or even Dolly Parton (sadly) but it seems to me we really need to radically rethink the way both women and men work for the next generation.

Clegg’s latest suggested working mother benefit is tinkering around the edges pure and simple, with a grand here and a grand there.  It is just a distraction from the main event. We will never solve the problem of women returning to work after children unless the entire working culture is changed.

Clegg’s stab at it has enraged stay at home mothers as their hard work seems to’ve been ignored, while many working/career mothers would probably give the money up in a flash to have working life that was more sympathetic with their home life or more flexible hours, without damaging their career prospects.

The male dominated workplace –and its 9-5 culture – is the culprit and nothing else really matters before this issue is addressed. And it needs to be radically rethought. In this age of instant messaging, working from home, internet, skype etc, it cannot be beyond the wit of man (or women) for employers to embrace part time work properly once and for all. So that means accepting that many women – who are highly skilled in all sorts of areas – can do a serious job, but within the hours of 9.30am t0 3pm.

Let me take a step back. We all know that many women fall off the career cliff and there’s a dearth of estrogen at senior management and board levels. This is due in a large part to the child-rearing issue. Many women I know were heading up the ladder and doing very well, keeping up with men and doing better than men in many cases, before the babies arrived.

But now, five years later with our toddlers, pre-schoolers, and reception kids in tow, many of these ladies have gone back in some way shape or form to their former employers or to new jobs but in a smaller, more junior role – doing the grunt work and picking up the other projects that no one else wants to do, because at it’s safe, it’s something and it’s better than nothing.

But what a waste of a great talent pool. We are missing out on these excellent minds which have been well educated, learned from experience in the workplace, learned about life from becoming a mother – plus have often become much better multi-taskers and much better people managers in the process too.

If forward thinking employers could only look at women returning to work as assets and allow them to work around their family but in jobs that are at use their level of expertise– I would be very surprised if many were let down. It’s a bank of talent that’s waiting to be tapped and the first employers to do so will surely reap huge rewards.

We are not all Sheryl Sandeburgs. Many of us, myself included, just want interesting work that makes the most of all our skills, experience and knowledge, which is fairly paid, and that we can do while the children are at school.

It can’t be right that so many women to have to take huge backwards steps and accept lesser roles in order to try and achieve some semblance of work-life balance.

 

Pull yourselves together girls. We need to stop pressing ‘self-destruct’

20 Mar

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. As children of the 80s we were promised it all. The perfect body, the gorgeous & rich husband, the 2.4 kids, dog, big house, luxury holidays and glamorous career. It was Loads-a-money all over. But reality is a hard mistress.

And guess what – most of our lives have fallen short in one or more areas because, like it or not ‘having it all’ is just not possible for most of us. So when we hit our mid-life (I won’t say crisis – but the point where you look back and reflect on where you thought you might be, where you actually are, and what lies ahead) many of us feel disappointed with our lot.

And the result is to press the self destruct button. But women are sneaky creatures. We don’t just fall apart, we pick one area of our life to let go, lose control or blow out the water, while managing to carry on our daily lives as if nothing is wrong, so no one else can tell.

Take friend A. Super-successful international career girl in mid forties but single who would give it all up in a heartbeat to have a husband and kids – her self-destruct weapon – unprotected sex with random men during her travels and at home, genuinely putting her health (life) at risk.

Take friend B. Again high powered career woman but with family and husband who never gets a moment to stop or breathe. Her self-destruct weapon – she barely eats at all during the day, then binges at night on packets of biscuits and chocolate. Her weight peaks and troughs taking her regularly from a size 10 (on diet shakes) to size 20 when reverting to normal food.

And finally friend C. The stay at home mum who also works, but not to a high level because she is also doing all the family organisation and kids routine. Her self-destruct weapon – alcohol. She can’t wait till 6pm for that glass of wine that inevitably leads to half a bottle or more. She’s not an ‘alcoholic ‘ as such,  she doesn’t get wildly drunk or have raging hangovers that force her to stay in bed, but similarly she can’t not have one, she is the oft-written about middle aged, middle class alcohol dependent – worrying constantly about how much damage the wine is doing to her body, yet unable to stay dry for more than a couple of days.

There are more examples out there no doubt, but it just dawned on me that for those of us affected by this self-destruct tendency, instead of focussing on these negative influences – and they do become a focus of our daily thoughts, be it the “I am/am not having sex with anyone” or the “I can’t wait for my first drink/biscuit” – we need more positives to focus on in our lives.

I for one have done very little to take care of my body since I was single, pre-kids. But since the start of the year, a couple of friends and I have shared a personal trainer – Ron – once a week and it has become the highlight of my week. It has become the ONLY thing I do for myself that I really look forward to in my life which combines both total personal enjoyment, benefits to my body and fitness and has no bad side. It is in fact the opposite of self-destruct – it is rebuilding me.