My girls, it’s not just the Daddies that bring home the bacon.

It has been a while since I have typed words that come from my heart and not words that include grim facts with attributed quotations. My NCTJ training, along with my love of The News has sent my blog into a downward spiral. The very thing that led me to discover a passion for telling stories in the first place.

I’m a bit late to the game (a sinking feeling I’m coming to be more familiar with than I would like to admit) but as we are still in the week that hosted International Women’s Day, and today is Daughter Day (apparently), with a bit of Mother’s day thrown in this weekend, I thought I might just about be able to squeeze a bit of sentimentality out of my keyboard.

This is what I want to say to my girls – if they sat still long enough without an ipad and / or TV and / or unicorn colouring book and / or baby Annabelle bemoaning her last bottle feed which was administered with slightly more force than I was comfortable to witness.

If they listened…

My girls, I’ve been a little distracted lately. I know it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Our army of babysitters filling the mummy-void in your lives will continue for quite a while to come, (along with salvaging your school jumpers out of the dirty wash bin and consuming odd mixes of carbohydrates for breakfast.)
I can’t promise that once I have finished this road-to-journalism, you will occasionally  be kissed goodnight, and taken to school, by someone other than Mummy.
But I want to show you so desperately that you, little cherubs, can be anything you want to be.
But you gotta work for it.
I want you to be proud that your body can have babies, but feel rest-assured that your brain can still function. And that society will have a place for you to use that brain and earn a crust even when you go by the Mum name.
I want to prove to you that the world you are growing up in embraces women on the payroll, and it’s not just the boys that get to flex that university degree, maths GCSE or Apprenticeship.
I don’t just want to tell you that the world’s your oyster, I want to show you.
I want to be a sodding flag bearer on your pathway to success. Whatever shape that success takes.
So, while I am busy and distracted, and fulfilling my dream, know that you are the powerhouses that keep me striving towards a career.
Practising shorthand. Learning libellous case law. Chasing interviews. Writing into the evening. Talking- a lot on the phone. Reciting the Editors Code in the bath. Searching for my next story.
It’s not just the daddies that bring home the bacon, and it’s not just Daddy that will show you what a days work looks like.
Somehow, I am going to prove to you that one day you’ll be able to do the school run, and follow your dreams.
That women are equals.
And that you are enough.

4,000 reasons not to ski with young kids.

Once upon a time there was a young girl who threw her salopettes and factor 50 lip balm into a case and gallivanted around the Alps on skis. She was always on the first lift up – keen as mustard. Trendy head band teamed with a minor headache just creeping into her consciousness- a satisfying memory of dancing until dawn because: Apres ski.

Not a run was left un-carved. Well perhaps the blacks and maybe most reds…

Ahem: Not a blue run was left un-ploughed.

Oh the crisp fresh air in ones lungs, mountain passes  chalked up.

***

Fast forward ten years: That young girl is now part of a knackered couple who decided to take their darling treasure-chests skiing…

“Won’t it be dreamy! Snugged up with hot choc, a roaring fire, snow capped mountains!” This Middle-age insta-porn swam around my head.

“The girls will build snowmen! They will learn to ski… Maybe they will be naturals” I mused. “And one day they will be ski-champions, all because we took them from such a young age!”

How clever we are being!

Clever is one word for it. If by clever we were infering ‘stable genius’.

Rounding up our kids to go to the supermarket is challenge enough; let along navigating our way around a mountain range in search of ski schools loaded up like abomanble snow-donkeys.

  • Four crash helmets.
  • Four (Razor sodding sharp) pairs of skis.
  • Four pairs of poles to go with those skis: That’s EIGHT meter long poles people.
  • Four jackets (it was 23+ degrees most days and jackets were redundant after 10am).
  • Two backpacks filled with enough snacks to fuel an Alaskan out-post for an entire season, possibly two.

All the while clapping one foot infront of the other in the worst creation imposed upon the human race: the snow boot.

We sweated and stumbled our way to the gondola each morning to a chorus of  “WE HATE SKI SCHOOL”.

Super.

Sounds clever so far?

Oh yes, we were feeling very clever as the sweaty panic swept over us when it became horrifyingly apparent that I was going to have to ski down four runs with a two-year-old between my legs to get to the damn-ski-school (God bless Ski-School).

At one point I had a back pack on, two helmets clipped and hanging from each hip, snow ploughing down a green. My non-toned, unprepared thighs burned quite unlike anything my gym-phobia being had experienced before.

Every fibre of my sorry-for-itself body was asking me W.H.Y was I straddling one child whilst dragging the other on the end of a pole, along a slushy white cold path… I was the very definition of a 

w i d e   l o a d.

Alpine-chic.

This was neither elegant or clever.

“At least the girls learnt a new skill – what fun!” friends asked.

The three-year-old tried to master skiing along a gradient of 2 degrees. And try she really did. With her helmet which sloped off the back of her head, a coat the swallowed her whole and my sunglasses. Because we forget hers.

She absolutely rocked those aviators.

This one time, in the eye-of-ski-hell, Dan and I took Darcie on a green slope. Easy! Just the three of us!

“Take a video! Take a photo!”

More like:

“Stay fucking upright and don’t loose the kid.”

It turns out a six-year-old needs a little more practice. Who knew!

Oh the fun we had uncrossing her skis and twisting her body back into a slightly more humane angle.

But, those child free moments, that 1.5 hours of ski time we carefully measured out each day were a joy.

I don’t want to go Karl Pilkington on you, I’m a positive person…

However our alpine-sprint to the lift from ski school was a hyperventilating shoop shoop of Michelin-man neon.

Cries of “Have we got time to go again?”

“That was over too quickly!”

And

“My legs! My fu*king legs!!”

What legs?! Apparently ten years makes quite a difference to ones flexibility, staminia and ability to control a ski at the end of each foot.

Fancy, we spent all of this wonga to make ourselves unimaginably, inexplicably exhausted. On top of the usual Parent eye-bags.

By the end of the ‘holiday’ my husband and I looked as though we had walked to the north pole.

Sill want to have a go?

  • Do ski in ski-out and save yourself the click-clack horror of juggling your ample equipment, equipment that doesn’t come with handy carry handles, and cannot be hung on the invisible snow-buggy.
  • Book with a company which collect the kids for ski club from your door. In my fantasies these exist… Mark Warner must have thought of this.
  • Be fully catered. We were, and it was blissful. My Hanger was kept well at bay and it was by far my favourite bit of each day!

Shut the front door: 2017

I’ve just sent off ToddlerMonster’s ‘big school’ application.

It’s the last thing I will do with any coherent sense this year.

I didn’t consciously leave it until the dying monuments of the year before I hit send, but now I come to think about it, it’s fairly fitting to be sailing out of the year with a school place on the horizon. *Wishes teaching profession Bon chance*

The school-app thing has given me a little nudge to pause my shorthand exam revision and tap away to you for the very last time this year.

It’s an odd thing studying as a Muma; I have my first shorthand exam next week, and revision passages and exercises are taking up as much of my time as I can parentally justify.

So far this morning I have had several study breaks.

And Not to watch Neighbours like the good old uni days.

-I’ve continued my good work as toilet assistant.

-Created a sylvanian village, most notably developed a nursery extension.

-Ordered 500,000 paw patrol plates, napkins, cups, balloons and party bag alternatives in blind panic for The 4th Birthday next week.

-Prayed it will arrive in time.

-Pinned several paw patrol cakes that I don’t have a hope in hell of replicating.

Before journo-school broke up for Christmas we all quizzed our tutor on shorthand exam scenarios:

“what if someone sneezes and we miss a bit of the audio?”

“What if a police car goes by and the sirens drown out the passage we are taking down?”

But at no time did anyone ask, “What if 2 under 7’s streak through the classroom screeching “IT’S MINE, IT’S MINE, DON’T BITE ME”.

No one asked that.

And I can tell you, if that happens during the exam, then I go this.

My kids have me prepped.

An atomic bomb could go off and I’m fairly confident I will not take a blind bit of notice.

2017 has been totally bonkers and for once it’s been that way not just because I am keeper of small people.

I set off the year hoping beyond hope that I might get my writing published somewhere, anywhere.

Hoping that this might be the year I try to make a path parallel to parenting.

ToddlerMonster’s school application was looming and I wanted to set myself up for a life of writing after the full-on full-time parenting was somewhat assisted by the 9am-3pm world.

I get a bit giddy, you know, that excited pukey-pit of your stomach feeling, when I consider that I might actually pull that off.

It’s becoming more believable that one day I may just be paid to write.

And have a J O B.

Doing something that I don’t resent.

Doing something that I… kind of love.

Signing up to start my NCTJ Diploma in Journalism was a total leap of faith.

It feels quite mad to write this but as I sit here in the dying hours of 2017 I can say that I now regularly write for a newspaper, host a news show on the radio, and help out at a flipping massive radio station along side a truly inspirational journalist.

I honestly have to pinch myself.

(However, I am also still a terrible cook. I offered my husband a ‘fresh’ pizza from the freezer last week. I set fire to my kitchen last month, and continue to be unable to drive in heels. – We can’t tick all of the boxes can we now…)

Lidl’s ‘random’ aisle used to be the most unpredictable, exciting part of my week.

It’s surreal and I’ll be honest, the juggling act between wannabe-journo and Muma is incredibly tough.

The logistics of child care, alone, are mind blowing.

I had no idea what working parents were going through until now.

But 2017 has shown me that one thing’s for sure: It’s ok to be a parent AND go after a dream.

There’s room for both.

Just about.

As long as you have an understanding nursery.

And fantastic family and friends.

God only knows what 2018 has in store:

I think I’m ready.

Hang on, I’m not sure…

I want to be the Mum that let’s them decorate the tree

The trouble is…

I love my perfectly perfect pastel themed Christmas tree.

With soft lighting- you know, the glowey yellowey kind.

Carefully chosen tree trinkets hang at equidistant intervals, the pale pink is never next to a pale gold, is never next to a pale silver.

You feel me?

Yup, I’m basically Monica Geller come December 1st.

This has become a problem since having the kiddliwinks.

Because

I want to be the Mum that lets them decorate the tree.

Honestly I do.

That Mum that endorses excessive use of Tinsel inbetween the homemade Santa hat and snowman masterpieces a la nursery school.

But I love my pastel hew.

I love clearing away the family photo frames on the top of the mantel piece and selecting which of my over-priced, over-sized wreathey long foliagey things should take pride of place that year.

I want to be the Mum who, as Sarah of Unmumsey famously put it, shouts: “The theme is Christmas!”

And it is.

-In the toy room, behind a nice big closed door.

I have learnt that Christmas is allowed to throw up its sickeningly tacky, heart wrenching sentimentality in this room.

We used to go over to ‘Granny’s’ as the girls came to call her, and Christmas-up her living room every year.

We loved it.

I think she loved it too.

Our toy room now has Granny’s tree in pride of place.

And on this tree goes all of the homemade offerings that have been painstakingly crafted, not at home, over the years.

Scraps of paper with stubby bits of cotton wool hanging on for dear life are shoved into the centre of the tree with all the precision and delicacy of a hammer-throw.

Constrictor style tinsel sucks the life blood from this psychedelic fire hazard, with baubles that spell out Harrods 2010 (how posh!) stick men Santas and too many clashing baubles for my brain to process:

Shiny Red next to sparkly red next to cracked red under red tinsel with some of that purple, foiley, whispy stuff statically-stuck to every.bloody.relic.

Lines and lines of coloured lights, some even in the shape of trees, struggle to shine through the offensive layers – wrapping Granny’s tree all up in a firefighter’s nightmare.

But.

I’ve grown to love letting the kids loose in this room.

Mostly because I can close the door on it.

But occasionally I gaze at it when the kids are in bed and think ‘this is what Christmas means to them.’

Colour, chaos, and no equidistance.

How it should be?

Probably.

But Christmas.

Unattainable ‘Magazine-shoot’ Christmas.

It doesn’t exist.

It’s happiness. It’s noise. It’s finding the green triangles have all been eaten when it’s finally your turn at the quality street.

It’s squeals of delight as hoards of Poundland tat slowly take over the lounge.

It’s cheap crackers and shoddy jokes. It’s queens speech and Slade.

It’s Merry December to us, the grow-ups: the overworked, knackered elves of Christmas.

What a beauty…

This Muma Went To Court…

“I sentence you to 10 years imprisonment… Take him down!”
I shit you not, real life judges actually utter those words. Not just the ones off the telly box! Obviously those amongst us that have ever graced a court will be familiar with the Netflix-esq setting and those loaded setentenses which go hand in hand with the slightly overdone wood panelling. 

I on the other hand,I am ‘just a mum’. I’ve never received the golden ticket calling me up for jury duty (as much as I have willed that summons to drop through the letter box – especially in those early years of motherhood. A legitimate break from Mumming? Yella.) I have never been naughty enough to find myself in the goldfish bowl of a dock, and never has it ever occurred to me to exercise my right to witness justice being done, to pop along to our local court and take a pew. 

Until now of course. 

Part of my journalism training is based around court room reporting. Basically learning what you can and can’t write. Pretty crucial as a little slip up could see this muma enjoying a child free break on the inside… (However tempting that might be during my kids’ rabid slagging matches mostly thanks to multiple Sylvanian family custody battles). 

Well I wasn’t going to wait until our class were escorted to a magistrates court for a speeding find or the like. I thought I’d go in big guns: so last week I headed over to Crown Court. 
Bold, right?!

This posed a number of issues; smart clothes were suggested on the website so I dug out my funeral coat and decided that putting on lip gloss was fundamentally ticking that ‘smart’ box. 

The Crown court in our town has been there since the year dot. Wondering if I looked more Crim or barrister I asked the kindly security guards where I might find the ‘menu’ for the days proceedings. (Menu?! This isn’t the sodding Harvester! Why did I say that?! Running order, list, itinerary! Any of those would have better helped mask the blaitnet imposter syndrome plastered all over my face). 
Anyway, I chose a court after being given the options like I was ordering a fry up:

 “Well there’s a murder starting in Court A, a Sexual assault in court B, and if your quick you’ll catch the beginning of the rape trial in C!”
Christ. 
Proper baddies, sorry, alledged baddies, were everywhere. 
On the other side of what can only be described as the BFG’s mahogany double door was one of the most elaborate court room movie sets I’ve ever seen. Men in wigs, dark wood panelling, ladies in wigs, a Judge, capes, and a mahoosive glass dock right in the middle of it all. With an alledged baddie inside.
This is probably the right time to tell you that I love drama. A drama magnet if you will. I love nothing more than ‘information sharing’ with my friends, and getting the inside scoop on anything I can. 
Suddenly here I was, hearing the ultimate secret. 
The usher of the court did give me a slight death stare, but we quickly moved passed that as I asked her 101 questions during the ‘rise’ (when the judge left to hang out in his chamber, how Game of Thrones of him!)



My jaw dropped as the judge summarised this particular man’s crimes (this was a quickie before the main trail of the day, stack ‘m high…) He described how this alledged baddie had injured another so badly that the victim would need care for the rest of his life. How not only had he committed this crime and pleaded guilty (which he got a pat on the back for), he offered no explanation as to why he stabbed another, and showed no remourse. 

The accused just stood there in a hoodie, slouched to one side when the judge asked him to stand for sentencing. How could a fellow human be that evil? 
He had not one member of his family there, not one friend. What must his mother think! 
No one else watched him get sentenced to 10 years inprisonment. I was the only joe bloggs to see him meet his fate that morning.

 

I felt sick. (Point taken that I need to harden up before I take to the press bench!). 
I just couldn’t believe my eyes. Or ears. 
I watch endless crime programs, a good court room drama is always a particular favourite of mine. But this was real life. I wasn’t wrapped up in my blankly with my old slippers on the sofa. This baddie’s next 10 years was being served up right in front of me.
I did spot the judge notice my astonishment. I have been blessed (?!?) with THE most expressive of faces. 

Nothing is hidden amongst my fine lines and acne scars. Which is a major problem when playing poker. Or in court… 
As fast as he was taken down (literally, they took him down the stairs in the dock!) and the barristers switched over it was time for another. In walked the next one. Up to the dock he went. And another after him. 
It occurred to me that I wouldn’t be hard pressed to find a story in these parts.  
I saw a jury sworn in. They looked just like the jury from broadchurch. How realistic I thought!

***

The school playground that afternoon felt like willy wonker’s chocolate factory by comparison. 
Fluffy marsh mellows floated past as innocent giggles wafted by. 
And then the toddler daughter started to demand a third snack whilst we waited in the drizzle, and cried when I couldn’t produce a rabbit out of a hat. My school daughter cried becasue it was ballet day for toddler daughter. Toddler daughter didn’t want to go to ballet either.
 I put on my best judge voice, and marched them up the road – still in my funeral coat. 
I went back for more the following day. .


“Did you eat popcorn there Muma?”

“No darling, I barely breathed”

MumBoss. Mumpreneur. Are you offended yet?

Mumpreneur. 

MumBoss. 

Do these terms offend you?

Because they don’t offend me. Quite the opposite in fact; they make me feel empowered.

I read a post entitled “We are not Sodding Mumpreneurs” by a great blogger ‘More Than Toast’ back in february, it’s taken me this long to final hit publish on a post I furiously scribbled down at the time.

The post in question was shared and hailed as gospel by another blogger that I really admire, and who I would describe as a ‘MumBoss’.

I couldn’t have disagreed more with their strong views on the subject. It really got me thinking about labels, and why, as Mothers the term ‘Mumpreueur’ or ‘Mum Boss’ should be a proud label to wear. I just couldn’t get my head around why these terms were being deemed as pitchforks to the feminist.

We should be proud that these labels are becoming so mainstream and this is why…

You see, if being a Mother is the most important job of all, and widely accepted as the hardest and most thankless of roles; Surely turning your dreams into a reality and earning cold hard cash alongside this seismic position of ‘Mum’ is something to shout about?

“I keep tiny humans alive, AND earn money , all on my terms because I’m running the show”

(Ok, so I don’t get to say that phrase just yet. I am working on it though…!)

It was also said that to assume us Mums run our business’ from their kitchen table is offensive. Really? That’s an offensive assumption?

I am not meaning to steam into Alice for writing this, I am just surprised that so many ‘Mum Bosses’ felt this way.

A business that can be run successfully from a kitchen table is anything but derogatory.

Many a brainwave has been hatched in far meeker circumstances. Facebook is the birth-child of a Fresher in their Uni digs for goodness sake – he didn’t even own a kitchen table! And what about that old saying ‘We came up with the idea on the back of a fag packet…’

So why do these affluent bloggers think  it is insulting to assume that a Mum might have begun a start up and run a business from the kitchen table?  I doubt you would rent office space just to brain storm some business ideas…

Surely if you can run a business from your kitchen table AND be there for your family you are, from where I’m sitting, 100% winning the game of life right now. 

I saw an interview with the powerhouse that is Harriett Harman recently. Harriett was saying how, not surprisingly, tough it was to work in Westminster when she had very young children. To keep up with her male counterparts she had to compromise on seeing her children and family life. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that to succeed in that environment something had to give- and it’s usually always the home front.  She hopes to make up for her absence by being there more for her Grandchildren now.

She couldn’t have it all, let’s be honest – I don’t know anyone that does.

If the mould doesn’t fit, then break it.

-That’s exactly what these inspirational Mumpreneurs are doing. 

It’s frustrating that there is still a long way to go until the playing fields are more evenly balanced in the workplace. Like it or not biology doesn’t give us much choice in the matter. We are the ones who have the ‘privilege’ of carrying our babies. We are the ones who grafted for years on a career  only to see it all come to a grinding halt when the egg timer gives way to “PREGNANT”.

Some women would say we had the raw end of the deal…

But it all comes back to this: Why on earth should we be trying to hide our ‘Mum’ label’? Is the struggle for equality becoming so sterile, we have to drop any reference to our lives behind the front door in order to be taken seriously? Surely not…

I’ve said before that I want to wear my label front and centre, because that is who defines me. I am a mother first, and I am proud of that. I am also proud that I am beginning to get a career off the ground on my terms. And  guess what – it’s from my kitchen table.

We live in a world that is allowing us all to be a little more creative, and work a little more remotely, there is a movement towards a more flexible way of working. The hugely inspirational Anna Whitehouse and her Flex Appeal movement are an inspiration and spreading positive vibes that us Mumas shouldn’t be put on the scrapheap just because we procreated.

If you can manage to be a Mumprenuer and do it for yourself, setting up your own business on YOUR terms, from scratch – all while your kids scream blue murder and utter 50,000 unreasonable demands all before 6am, then you lady, are a MUM Boss.

We are kicking legs from under the chairs of our often comfortable, complacent male counterparts. We are shaking things up through sheer drive, determination and the desire to have it all, on our terms.

So here’s to the kitchen table start up.

Here’s to those inspiring Mothers who are cooking up these innovative businesses and changing the face of society.

Here’s to the Mum Boss in us all.

My Dirty Little Confession…

There’s a new fad in town. It’s dirty, its fresh… it’s alfresco. 

I’m a slap dash kinda girl at heart, fads fly in and out of my life. (Although that’s not strictly true of the ‘Let’s have a baby’ fad, I’m still well and truely in the midst of that fleeting idea).
Hair extensions were an interesting fad – expensive, and created a nest effect at the nape of my neck somewhere between my scalp and those tiny bonds. It wasn’t a pleasant craze to live with, however the flicking of ones locks over ones shoulder was most satisfactory al la Cher off of Clueless… for a time. 

Anyway, I have a new fad I want to tell you about, a progression I suppose you could call it. A definite move towards middle age perhaps? The garden. My garden. Or ‘Outside Room’ as those exterior designers like to refer to it. 
This is entirely new territory for me. The only time I used to visit the garden centre was at the end of the school holidays when we’d run out of money and I’d pass it up as a fun day out to play in the wooden houses that we wouldn’t be buying. Or to look at the bunnies in their teeny cages. At Christmas time we like to just go and wander the decoration aisles taking in the tat n sparkle. Oh we have all the fun in our household. 

I’m not really sure why my attention has moved in the direction of our ‘outside room’. I have been obsessive about covering our ugly fence since we moved in 5 years ago, I haphazardly planted a few clematis, (spelling that carefully) and thought they would just grow evenly and beautifully just like they did in proper grown ups gardens, who are well seasoned at adulting.
It turns out that there is a little more to it. 

 

If someone had suggested I kept my perennials moist a few months ago, I may have thought of them as a bit pervey. I did raise some eyebrows at the garden centre when I asked Barbara of Shrubs to point me in the direction of her hardy Perineum.

I thought my growing addiction to all things green was just me. But this spring I have seen more Facebook updates concerning blossom than newborns. More lavender pots than ice cream faced tots and more ‘look at me on my new rattan BBQ set’ than new Prams. 

I’m entering a new era, and it seems my friends are coming along for the ride as well. 
Just last week one of my coolest, least ‘homey’ friends (No offence S!!) came right out and uttered a sentence which I had never expected to leave her lips, 

“Can we just talk about our Clematis Montana?” 

Once I’d managed to get past the shock of this lingering question, we sat for the next half an hour swapping not only tips for teasing tentacles along a wire, but we cooed over each other’s floral photos – that just so happened to be on our phones. 

Clematis Montana you woody, hardy, white flowering delight – you are the subject of our new Prosecco n skinny popcorn chatter.
 
We confided in each other that we like to nose over the fence of other people’s gardens and squealed in delight when we discovered we share the same ‘favourite climbing rose’ -which is freaking unbelievable I’ll have you know, outside a front door on the way to school.  Pink big blooms, climbing all around the doorway: Rose Di Caprio 😉

So it seems playground gossip (of which there is always a constant steam of, I might add!) and boys, well husbands now more than boys I suppose, are a thing of the past. 
I’m not sure this is going to work out to be a cheaper fad than my past infatuations. The garden still has plenty of space to add too! I do wish the names of plants were slightly easier though.  I did Latin at school, and even that isn’t helping me to understand these ostentatiously long names. It’s highly pretentious, Garden Snobbery. I’m still very much of the ‘tall pink thing’ vocab. It’s a whole new world out there, and I have whole lot to learn!

There is an upside to this green fingered lark – the last 24 hours has seen a deluge of rain. Moan I did not: 
“RAIN” I exclaimed, “That will save me having to get the hose out!”
Who am I, and where did I hide my cool?!