“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.
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!”
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”
“What if I fall?”
“Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”
The stakes are high.
‘Falling’ would mean that I have failed; Failed to pass my NCTJ diploma in journalism and failed to re-enter the world of work as a journalist. It will mean a huge waste of money, and thousands of pounds down the pan. It will mean letting down the people I love the most. The disappointed eyes of my children upon me is almost more than I could bare.
‘Flying’ would mean everything.
Flying would mean regaining my independence and my individuality. It will mean pride and it will mean confidence.
(It will also mean that I managed to pass a 100 word per minute shorthand exam, gulp.)
In September I am going back to school for an entire year, to learn how to be a journalist. My passion for writing is going to morph into a career and I am quite literally tingling with anticipation to get started.
I’ve discovered this compulsion to write since I started my blog, a passion for word splurging. Quite simply, an addiction to divulging the nitty gritty backstage at the Mum-game.
My blog has led me to write a monthly column for a local magazine for 8 months now, a goal I never thought possible to reach. When I started this blog back in 2015 after the birth of our second daughter, I never dreamt that my sleep deprived, delirious words would open up this new career path. It just used to make me smirk as I documented The Witching Hour and Soft Play Hell…
I always thought I would stay at home forever.
-But that’s not an option now; Not now I know what I want to be when I grow up.
I have been on ‘mat leave ‘for 7 years. 7 years!! I’ve loved being at home with our girls (most of the time, blog might contradict that…) never having to hesitate when there has been a music show at school or a ‘look at their work’ afternoon. Each time the phone has rung because they are sick, or banged their head I have been at the school office within 5 minutes. Without exception. I’m grateful and thankful that I have been there every step. I haven’t missed a beat.
I am well aware that ‘flying’ will mean I will be giving that all up. I’ll be in the working Muma club. A working Muma who earns money I might add. There is no doubt that
my wardrobe our family will benefit massively from an additional wage packet. The satisfaction of buying my husband a Christmas present not with his own money will be a maje milestone!
But, the guilt fairy peers over my shoulder on a daily basis at the moment:
“You’re leaving them y’know… They’ll be latch key kids drinking cider & smoking slims… What a juggle the holidays will be now, you selfish bitch…”
I’m ready to give this career thing a go.
I think. (Self doubt will always linger won’t it?!)
I want to show my children that if you have a dream, you need to go for it. Embrace your ambition, no matter when it comes looking for you. Be brave, roll up your sleeves and get stuck in.
But I am bricking it. Of course I am. I’d be lying if I was to give you the impression of taking this next step in my stride. It has been 11 years since I last stepped foot in a classroom. And then it was when I had nothing else to juggle, it was just text books and alcohol. (Hmm, Perhaps it won’t be all that different after all…!)
For the first time in years I will be accountable to someone over 3 ft.
What if my new classmates are all 10 years younger than me?
What if I don’t understand a word I’m being taught?
What if I hate it?
And so I come back to this:
What if I fall?
But my Darling, what if you fly.
If you had told me when I was knee deep in the latest baby poo explosion and still with that mornings milk reflux result on my shoulder, that in 4 years time I would have had my waffle featured regularly by the likes of Mumsnet, Selfish Mother and The Huffington Post, I would have probably poured you a stiff drink and suggested a doctors visit first thing.
Back then I didn’t dare to dream beyond the end of the day when I hoped I would be able to watch Ian Beale having a pint in the Queen Vic, in peace. Back then that was my #MumaWin. There was nothing wrong with that, it was all about survival for me as a new mother- the Baby’s as much as my own. I had no real idea of what I was doing and the sleep deprivation along with the chronic reflux was turning into a lethal combination.
I had decided not to return to my job in recruitment, I loved sales – believe me I did. But it wasn’t a career I had spent thousands of pounds training for, and I wasn’t so passionate about it that I couldn’t bare to not ever see my telephone statistics again! So, what with childcare being so crushingly expensive together with my lack of desire to actually return to work – I chose not to. Playgroups it was.
What I hadn’t anticipated was that ‘just being mum’ was arming me with a skill set and a resilience which would give even the hardiest Marine a run for their money.
After the birth of our second daughter my Mummy friends all began returning to work. Of course it seemed like EVERYONE was once again finding their feet. I didn’t have a career to return too and that sinking feeling I experienced all too much during my teens returned. What do I want to do with my life? This can’t just be it! I’ve been to university for goodness sake!
So I started a blog. For the first 7 months I only wrote a handful of posts. My only readers were pretty much my Mum and her best friend! I have the technological ability of a gnat, and live by the switch it on and off remedy. I was determined that this teeny tiny set back, along with my dyslexia was not going to stand in my way! I was only slightly disheartened when my first post didn’t go viral a la Unmumsy.
Blogging propelled me into a world filled with talented, clever and forthright women all etching out a little bit of the digital world for themselves. These Muma’s were not about to let that label alone define them. Being a Mother equips us with valuable and unique capabilities which are an asset to the workplace. However the ‘Workplace’ doesn’t lend itself well to the life of a mother. It is simply not feasible for the majority of Mums to work in the traditional way. The #flexappeal movement fiercely introduced by the incredibly inspiring Anna of @Mother_Pukka fame is a real eye opener. Promoting the need for employers to adopt a more flexible way of working for parents. Why has it taken so long for this to be a thing?! The #MumBoss is born, do we dare to dream?
Could it be possible that we are approaching an era where it really is possible for us Mums to have it all?
I’m going to confess, I am no longer satisfied with solely being known as Muma. Don’t get me wrong, the school run in the rain and the daily ‘I’m not eating that’ dinner time arguments are a huge pull… But I am daring to dream big, and daring to have just a little more out of life. Since I have started my blog, I have finally discovered what I want to be when I’m older. It’s embarrassingly late in the day to be realising this, I know. If only I had had this epiphany at age 18, my life might have turned out completely differently. (Visions of The Devil Wears Prada boss fly around my head!!) If I think about it though, I think my dreams are a result of becoming a parent. I had to do that first. That’s just the way the world wanted me to do things. Let’s face it, we change so much after having our kids that this late realisation shouldn’t really be a huge surprise.
I’m going to approach my pie-in-the-sky aspirations with my ‘Mum’ label front and centre. For this label is my biggest asset, and not my biggest hindrance.
To be a columnist; That is my dream. There. I said it. (Now stop laughing at this small-fry dyslexic blogger!). When I utter this dream out loud it does sound ludicrous. Honestly, I am well aware. But then I remember that somehow Donald Trump is president of the United States and ludicrous was a phenomena that we are all getting slowly used to. But I’m a firm believer in determination and hard work. If you can learn to believe in yourself, you will be a force to be reckoned with.
My #MumaWin this week was having one of my posts published on The Huffington Post. This has been a dream of mine since I started blogging a year and a half ago. I have had the login for a while but I’ve been too scared to send anything over to this big deal of a publication until last week. There is was: MY name actually next to the infamous logo, and MY scribble actually on their website! I know this is a regular occurrence to so many bloggers. There are even some bloggers out there who refuse to submit their content to HP because of the lack of ‘what’s in it for them’ in way of payment or back links. But to me this was such a huge achievement having always struggled with English. I even teared up.
It’s a little boost in the right direction. It’s a baby step closer. It’s encouragement and recognition that something I have written was worth their worldwide audience for all of 2 hours! I’m going to dare to dream, because…shouldn’t we all?
I’m no longer ‘just a mum’, I’m a bloody writer!
An absolute #MumaWin to treasure.