I am raising two small people. One boy. One girl. It had never crossed my mind that I would face different challenges because of their sex. I never understood the importance of raising a daughter to understand her power and value in a society that uses Women however it sees fit.
In all honesty, I’m terrified of raising a daughter. There’s so much I want her to know. I want her to believe it. I want her to believe in herself.
To my Daughter…
1. You are Unique
Every milometre of you is unique. You were designed using the best bits of me and Dad. Your big round eyes are full of knowledge and they sparkle when you smile. Your little turned up nose is just like mine and your brother’s, but it wrinkles when you giggle. You’ve got Daddy’s top lip and Mummy’s bottom lip and they blabber away telling stories in a language only you can understand. You have a birthmark between your eyes and on the back if your neck. It turns red and warns me when you’re sick. Your body is so clever. You’ll probably hate your sticky out ears when you’re older, but I love them. They are an ode to your Daddy’s family and they make you look a bit like uncle Mark. One of them curls over, just like your Dad’s and your brother’s. You exude wisdom. You are wise beyond your years. You are strong tempered and strong willed but you have an innate mellowness about you. Your hands and your feet are massive. I’m concerned that in the future, you may struggle to find shoes.
You will not be to everyone’s taste. You will be too loud, too quiet, too opionated, too mellow. But that’s OK. It’s more than OK. You will make friends who appreciate your differences. You will meet a partner who loves your strength and determination as well as your big round eyes and the wrinkle on your nose.
Don’t change yourself. Don’t ever change yourself. You are perfect just the way you are. Look after your body. It will be with you for a very long time. Be kind to it. Don’t let anyone take advantage of it. It’s yours. It’s precious. No one has the right to tell you what to do with your body. Love your body the way it deserves to be loved. Remember. You are unique. One of a kind.
2. You can be whatever the fuck you want to be.
You have the power, the strength and the support to do whatever makes you happy.
You can be a dancer, a doctor, an artist, a cleaner, a truck driver, a teacher, an acrobat (but you should probably steer clear of retail, take it from me and Dad). You are not defined by your career.
You can be gay, straight, transgender, asexual, polyamorous. You are not defined by your gender or sexuality.
Whoever you are and whatever you do just make sure you really really give it everything you’ve got. That’s the only way to make shit happen. That’s the only way to be happy. Don’t be half arsed. It’s a waste of time.
Know that money does not bring happiness. Passion brings happiness. Find something you love and you will be happy. Life is beautiful and life is short. Life is here to be lived. Me and Dad only had this realisation after you and your brother were born. Don’t waste a second.
Trust your gut. Trust yourself. And trust us. You can come to us with anything. Always know that we are here and we love you. We created you. Our wish is for you to be happy. And if anyone has anything to say abut your choices, fuck them. Fuck Everyone.
3. You are not a Princess (or a Prinny or a Prin) you are a god damn Warrior.
And you should be treated as such. Both Men and Women should respect you. Your future partner, boss, colleagues, friends should give you the respect you deserve. Princesses are locked in towers, treated like fearful animals and ‘saved’ by a handsome Prince. Fuck. That. You will not need saving by anyone. You came into this world an immense force, kicking and screaming and demanding to be heard. I hope you continue to do this throughout your life. You are not the weaker sex. Don’t ever be treated as such. You are a Warrior. You are a Woman.
4. Don’t be who they want you to be.
They are all around you. Our society is filled with stereotypes and ideals. The media will have you believe you have to look and act a certain way to be the perfect Woman. Don’t believe them. It will be difficult. There will be propaganda everywhere. But understand it for what it is. Just that. Propaganda. You are not a sheep. You are not a follower. You will create your own sense of self. You will make your own rules.
“I always loved that you marched to the beat of your own drum, even as a child. You have the ability to talk to anyone without fear and never make any apologies for who you are. I have always admired that about you and wished I could have had that strength when I was younger.” Kim, my Mum, 2006, a year before she died.
5. Don’t rush.
Don’t rush to grow up. Don’t wish your years away. There will be plenty of time for romance. Plenty of time for partying. Plenty of time for make-up and short skirts (if that’s what you’re into). Don’t make yourself older. People take advantage of disguised youth.
Enjoy your days. Play in the mud. Play with your dolls. Play with cars, trains, boats, fairy princesses. Play with your brother. Keep annoying him. Chase him and follow him around. One day you’ll stop wishing you were older and realise how fast the time went. Be a kid.
Be true to yourself. Always.
I love you for everything that you are. Everything that you have taught me. And everything that you will be. You are and always will be a force in this world, little Woman.
It’s something I’ve been trying to say for a few months now. Something I didn’t want to say. Something I didn’t want to feel. Something I really didn’t want to publish online. Something I didn’t want. Full stop.
It may come as a shock to the people that know me. It will certainly come as a shock to the people that ‘facebook-know me’. My life looks so perfect from the outside in. My life is perfect. I have a truly wonderful husband, two great kids, a good job, a nice house and an abundance of people that care about me. Does that mean I am not allowed to suffer with the illness that is depression? I thought it did. But I realised that sadness and depression are two very different things.
I have felt this way before. I have been tormented by darkness. Followed around by a big black hole just waiting for me to fall in. Urging me to fall in. And I did. I fell. Like Alice into the rabbit hole, I tripped and went head first into the darkest time of my life, with little understanding of what was happening and no end in sight. Consumed by demons, emotionally and physically. But there was a reason for that. Grief. Immense, all-consuming, heartbreaking grief. My Mum died. She was taken from me at such a pivotal time in my life. I needed her. I still need her. I was grieving the Woman I needed more than ever to help me through. I was grieving my loss. Grieving my future. Grieving my stability. Grieving my childhood. Yes, I was 24 but I wasn’t quite a woman yet. And I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Mum. I am still not ready.
I had panic attacks. Anxiety attacks. Migraines. I lashed out. I shouted, I screamed, I cried. I hit. I drank. A lot. I hated the world. I hated myself. I was self destructive. I struggled to deal with the most basic of everyday tasks. I struggled to accept love. I struggled to accept life. I struggled to live.
It didn’t get better quickly. It didn’t improve until I spoke to someone and started to process my emotions. I spoke with a counsellor for nearly 2 years until I had the ‘attacks’ under control.
But I was forgiven. By everyone. I had just lost my Mum so it was allowed.
Recently I have noticed a few things about myself that I haven’t liked. My inability to deal with daily stresses. Negative feelings showing their evil faces towards people I love. Resentment. Jealously. Disgust. And the physical elements have hit me hard. The roots of my hair tingling with pain, teeth grinding constantly, nail biting to the point that my fingers are sore and bleeding. Nausea. Migraines. Aversion to breastfeeding. Aversion to my kids in general coupled with an overwhelming fear of being away from them for more than half an hour. Anxiety. I also find myself grieving again. Grieving my old life. Grieving my old self. Grieving my freedom. And grieving my Mum all over again. I miss her. I need her. I feel that hollow space in my heart where she lived. She still lives there. But I can’t access it anymore.
“I’m a shit Mum. I’m a terrible person. My house is a mess. My car is a mess. My life is a mess. My head is banging. I feel sick. I just want some time to myself. I’m not leaving my kids with anyone else. She needs me. Please don’t leave me on my own with them tonight. I hate you. I envy you. I need you. I’m so lonely. I’m alone. I never have a minute to myself. I can’t even piss on my own. I wish I could just go on that night out with my mates. I just want a date with my husband. I just want a long, uninterupted, hot shower. Something just for me. Don’t come near me. Take her off me. I need space. I can’t leave her with you. I just can’t. I need her. She’s mine. I don’t trust you with my children. My teeth are gonna fall out. My fingers are sore. My head hurts. My body hurts. I’m tired. I’m so tired. Where are you, Mum? I need you.”
It gets dark. I feel myself tipping over. Unable to deal with the house sale, paying the bills, finding a nursery, cleaning the house, doing a weekly shop, cooking the the dinner. But I don’t tip over. I can’t. I’m needed. I wish I wasn’t needed so much. And so I cry. I can’t stop crying. I function. I am still a Mum. I am still a Wife. But I’m not much of a Woman. I’m not an individual. I’m barely a person. I’m a machine. It’s foggy. I block it all out and continue as I did before but I do it without heart. My needs are at the bottom of the pile. My sanity is slipping. I hope that the feelings will go away. I hope I stop feeling choked. I hope I can laugh. Really laugh. I hope that the tears will stop. And they do. Eventually. But they come back.
I am usually in touch with my emotions. I can rationalise. The counselling I had all those years ago helped me to understand my emotions and recognise triggers. But recently it’s not been easy to rationalise and recognise anything. I realised that I needed help. So I went to my GP.
She gave me drugs.
I understand that medication is necessary for some mental health issues. I get that some people can simply not function without it. I’m just not sure that this is the right FIRST option for me. “I need to talk to someone. I need to understand why I’m feeling like this. I need to stop it before it worsens. I’m not sure antidepressants will help me with that.” She gave me the number for TalkLiverpool and prescribed me something I can take ‘when I feel the anxiety coming on’. I’ve had a telephone assement with TalkLiverpool who have diagnosed me with Anxiety and put me on their 12 week waiting list. Sometimes I think about the tablets the doctor prescribed me. But I’ve yet to take one. I’ve found another way of processing the darkness whilst living with the fog. I talk. I talk to someone who listens and who relates to the feelings I have. And she helps me more than she knows. I talk to my husband. He reminds me that I am an individual too. He supports me no end. Just as he did when my mum died. I don’t talk to my friends. I don’t talk to my family. I worry they won’t understand. On the surface I have everything. I’m not even sure I understand.
“It’s not forever, you should enjoy it.”
“Your life is so perfect.”
“You’re so blessed.”
“You’re so lucky.”
“Your family is beautiful. You should be happy.”
People say these things regularly.
I know these things. I am happy. I am loved. I am lucky. I am truly aware of my luck in this life and the love that surrounds me. I am not ungrateful. I am not sad. I have depression and I am trying to remember how to live with it and how to keep it at bay. I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole again.
I am disgusted in my own knicker collection. I really am.
When me and the husband first got together I would buy a new thong for each one of our dates. I got great pleasure in purchasing the cheap ‘buy 3 for £5’ character thongs from Miss Selfridge. My knicker collection was massive. Brazilians, shorts, girl boxers, and lots and lots of thongs.
Now there’s no need to go all feminist on me, I did it for me. I felt empowered by my new knickers. They gave me superpowers, or something. I’m not sure he even gave a shit. He was happier when they were off!
We’ve been together for nearly 11 years, and slowly but surely my knicker collection has changed. The colourful and cute thongs turned into lace and silk, sexy numbers, which then turned into matching bra and knicker sets. Then came the packs of 5 white and black thongs, that I bought in abundance with some plain tshirt bras.
Then I got pregnant.
Do you remember wearing thongs when you were pregnant? If you were a bit stupid like I was with my first, I attempted to wear my thongs for as long as possible. Why? Why the hell would anyone do that to themselves? The day I let go of my thongs and turned to my M&S belly warmer, granny knickers was seriously the best day of my pregnancy. And potentially my life. And I never looked back.
Two pregnancies later, there are no thongs left in my knicker draw. There are no sexy sets or matching sets or lace or frills. There are no Brazilians, there are no shorts, there are no pretty briefs. The drawer is full of white granny pants. All two sizes too big for me. They’re a bit baggy and a bit grey and I wear them every fucking day. And to top it off my bra collection consists of sports bras. Yes. Just sports bras. My tits are massive and full of milk. They are heavy. And they change daily. Hourly even.
What if you get run over I hear you cry? (If you’re my Nan or something) Well, if I get run over, everyone will see my grey granny pants and that they don’t match my sports bra, which is probably a bit bobbly and covered in breast milk.
My husband was at football last week and his mate made a joke about him wearing my knickers to feel sexy, his reply “You’re fucking joking aren’t you? My undies are sexier than her knickers!” And even though his undies are generally white Asda specials that have also gone grey and a big baggy around the arse, he’s probably right.
At least we don’t give a shit together. And what is it they say? “It’s what’s inside that counts!” 😉
I don’t even remember the last time I went into Miss Selfridge.
“Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world.”
Being told how ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ it was in antinatal class had me convinced that breastfeeding would be a breeze when I had Fox. I was definitely going to breastfeed.
It wasn’t a breeze. It certainly didn’t feel natural. It was the toughest thing I’d ever done. My body and my mind were in shock. How can something so natural be so bloody hard. I was so convinced I would successfully breastfeed. After 10 days of mental and physical pain and for my own reasons, in a time of desperation, I turned to the bottle. I felt completely disheartened and like a total failure. He took to it immediately and completely refused another sniff of breastmilk. The Breastfeeding support workers disgarded me like an old rag. I wasn’t given any further advice or wished well. I was told “well that’s that then” on the phone and immediately the line was dead and my support was gone. I felt alone. Why weren’t they more honest about the obstacles I’d face? Why didn’t they tell me the truth about breastfeeding? Why did I think it would be so easy? A girl like me needs facts. I need to know how shit it will be. I need to be mentally prepared to go at it full speed. Non of this airy fairy bull shit. Tell me the cold hard facts!
So when I had Shadowcat I had a different mindset. I’d breastfeed if I could. No pressure. I’d take one day at a time and I’d have a backup plan. I mean I wasn’t the devil for feeding my first kid formula. It really isn’t as bad as the Breastfeeding-massive make out. Fox is doing just fine. Anyway this isn’t a debate about Breast vs. Formula. My stance is simple. Do what works for you and be happy. You’re a wonderful Mum. I salute you.
So, I decided to join some online breastfeeding support groups after I had Shadowcat in a bid to share honest horror stories and to seek out advice. I didn’t find them very supportive. At all. It felt like a cult. You were either one if them or you were not. If you didn’t wholeheartedly agree with every little thing the deity that is Dr Jack Newman preached then you were not a true member of this exclusive cult. It was very black and white. And I’m more of a multicoloured rainbow type of person. I found myself arguing with other members constantly because of their narrow-minded views or inconsiderate advice and opinions. And don’t even think about asking for advice on having some ‘me time’. You’d be eaten alive for even suggesting it. I mean, “If you wear your baby you can take them everywhere”. Yeah thanks for that ‘advice’. Way to go.
They were ‘fighting a cause’ apparently, but my guess was they were doing more harm than good and making a lot of women feel shit in the process.
I left the groups.
I soon realised I wasn’t the only one. I’ve got other Mum friends who think the same thankfully. They also found this type of online ‘support’ neither supportive nor honest. The rose-tinted advice is too much to stomach for an honest, straight-to-the-point girl like me.
With that in mind I’ve devised some of my own honest breastfeeding advice for new Mums and if it all goes well maybe I can start my own cult?
1. It will hurt
Whether the latch is right or not. It will hurt. Don’t fucking believe them when they tell you it only hurts if you’re not doing it right. Granted it hurts less when you’re doing it right. But it still hurts. There is a new, starving creature sucking the life out of your nipples. Your ensitive nipples are being sucked within an inch of their life by a confused, famished infant trying desperately to find milk. But no, it’s not going to hurt. OK. Whatevs.
It’s not a constant type of pain. But it’s toe curling and teeth clenching. The thought of your little angel latching on will probably make you feel sick. It will probably make you cry. And you’ll probably wish they stayed asleep just a bit longer so you didn’t have to feed them. Let me tell you, this is normal.
And your nipples will most probably scab. Your adorable little vampire won’t care. They’ll just keep sucking until you feel like the inside of your boob is being sucked through your nipple. When they do heal they’ll be purple. They’ll be purple because they’re bruised. Think about having a love bite on your tits. It’s exactly like having a love bite on your tits. Remember getting your first love bite from your first boyfriend when you were 12? Remember him sucking away for what felt like hours? Remember the pain? Well there you go. But on your nipples. 23 hours a day.
You’ll feel ripped to shreads. You’ll feel abused. Get a lovely hot bath and submerge your boobs. A word of warning though….. don’t be fooled into thinking that lovely fluffy, soft towel you’ve warmed on the radiator is going to feel nice against your nipples. It will feel as though it’s woven in razor blades and you will bork as it grazes them. And maybe even throw up.
It will stop hurting eventually but it will feel like forever. Hang in there sister. Do whatever you can to survive.
2. It is relentless
That baby will practically LIVE on your tit. This is normal. I know it’s hard to “Just let them feed” especially when you have another kid running around but you should get used to hearing this advice from the Breastfeeding-massive. They have no regard for whether you have another child, or ten. You must “Just let them feed” and that’s the extent of your advice.
And although you do need to let them feed as much as possible in order to establish a nice full supply, it’s important to be kind to yourself too. Take a break when you need a break. Give them to Dad. Let them do some bonding. I read that in Pigmy tribes the Dad’s ‘breastfeed’ too in order to sooth baby (obvs they don’t lactate) so maybe the men in our lives should step up to the plate and get their nipples out to give ours a god damn a rest. No?
3. You will live on toast and caffeine
You’ll never underestimate the true value of tea and toast again. You basically need to learn to eat (and live) with a baby attached to your boob. This means it can’t be too hot, it can’t be too liquidy, it can’t need cutting, it can’t require cutlery in general, it can’t require 2 hands and it needs to be eaten quickly. Toast. Jam on toast. Peanut butter on toast, cheese on toast. Toast. Basically toast. You’ll get so sick of toast that the thought of it will probably start to turn your stomach. But when you’ve been sitting on your arse feeding for three hours non stop and you’re starving, you’ll need something quick. You’ll resort to more toast. And it will be heavenly.
Stock up before baby arrives on breakfast bars, granola bars, seeds and nuts. All good, high energy foods for quickness when breastfeeding and will give you a break from your 3 meals a day of toast. Stop saying toast.
Oh and chocolate. Don’t forget chocolate. You’ll eat loads and it will make you feel good.
4. Sometimes you will visualise ripping the baby off your burning breast and throwing said baby out of the window
Again. Normal. Please do not tear yourself apart and think you’re a horrible person not meant for Motherhood. You totally are. And you’ll be an amazing Mum. You already are. I believe this is called ‘Aversion’ if you want a word for it. And loads of Women feel it. And they tear themselves up inside. Just close your eyes and think of rainbows, or sunbathing in the Maldives, or Tom Hardy. Think of anything that isn’t your little leech sucking the shit out of your boobs, grabbing them and prodding them and sucking. And sucking.
Hey if you’re lucky you might not ever have this feeling, but believe me when I say a lot of women do. Even if they don’t admit to it.
5. You will lose your baby weight quickly
But you’ll put regular weight on even quicker. Those extra breastfeeding calories you’re burning makes you hungry. All the time. And you’ll think you’re metabolism is invincible because you’re breastfeeding. It is not. Believe me. Plus you’ll struggle to make heathly meals whilst you’re breastfeeding constantly. Note to self: Chocolate fudge cake is not a reputable evening meal for you and the husband. And how the hell are you supposed to excerise when the baby screams bloody murder every time you take 2 steps away from it. And I’m not sure that spin class is breastfeeding friendly! Then when you do get some time to yourself you’ll sleep. You’ll be so exhausted that you’ll crash out on the bed before you even get your gym gear out of the dusty bag.
My advice would be to get the 7 minute workout app. It’s only 7 minutes. About once a week me and the husband find 7 minutes to do the work out. Usually accompanied by Fox doing it with us and Shadowcat staring at us from her walker with a perplexed look on her face. 7 minutes a week is better than nothing I suppose.
6. Say goodbye to your old clothes
Your old clothes might fit you quicker, but you won’t wear them again. How will you breastfeed in that LBD? How will you discreetly get your boob out in that high-neck tube dress? How will you avoid scratching the baby’s face on that beautiful sequined top? You’ll need a whole new, bland, comfortable wardrobe for your breastfeeding journey. And you’ll begrudge buying anything because it’s all so fucking boring.
You thought maternity-wear was bad, just wait until you go breastfeeding friendly shopping. You’re in for a treat.
7. Breastfed babies don’t sleep
Research shows that Formula fed babies don’t sleep any better than breastfed babies. Real life conversations with Mums at playgroup has taught me differently. Plus, Fox was formula fed and although he wasn’t the best sleeper he definitely slept for longer periods than Shadowcat. And in his own bed.
Basically your breastfed baby never over-feeds. So they feed more regularly. Put it this way… You go for a meal with your other half and you eat your weight in food. Bread and olives, Prawns, fillet steak, the lot. Then you decide to get a desert even though you’re full. You’ve had a few glasses of wine and you finish off the meal with a latte. Then you get some chocolates or glacier mints with the bill and you eat them too. You feel like a fat bastard. But you’re proper happy. It’s hard to walk and you don’t mutter two words to each other all the way home in the taxi, because you’re too full to function. You’re absolutely knackered. You get home, stumble into bed feeling physically sick from all the calories you’ve just consumed and you sleep. You sleep for 13 hours undisrupted. (This obviously all happens before you had kids… who sleeps for 13 hours anymore?) Well basically, your breastfed baby never, ever, ever, feels like that. Your formula fed baby does. Your formula fed baby likes to over-indulge now and again and sleeps blissfully with a full belly. Plus, somehow the little breastfed bleeders know that if they feed more through the night your body produces more milk through the day too. Who fucking told them that? (I bet it was that god damn Dr Jack Newman). Thus meaning they feed constantly through the night. Constantly.
8. When they do sleep you won’t
It’s not because you’re worried. It’s not because you’re concerned. It’s because your boobs will be in a state of shock. They have had a baby attached to them constantly for weeks, maybe months and all of a sudden it’s stopped. Your boobs are freaking the hell out. They are full and milk is backing up fast. They are hard and lumpy and painful. You’ve just rolled over on to your left boob and woke up instantly in absolute agony. They feel like they’re going to explode and there’s milk pissing everywhere. You walk around the room aimlessly for ten minutes then stand hovering over the baby’s cot waiting for them to stir. Up until now you’ve begged them to sleep in their own bed for more than 30 mins at a time. Now they have been asleep for 4 hours and you’re urging the little fucker to wake up and drain your boobs. You give up and head downstairs to get the pump. You’ve given the pump away because they won’t take a bottle. Fuck. You don’t want to waste that precious milk that took so long to establish. So you sit in bed at 3am milking yourself into some tuppaware. Each squirt of milk is heavenly as the pressure eases and your stretched skin resumes it’s natural state.
The next day to try the baby with the milk you’ve expressed. You get the look “What the fuck it that, Mum? Where’s my soft, squidgy boob? I am NOT drinking that from THAT!”
9. Breastfed babies are not socialites
They don’t like other people. They’re fucking starving constantly and they want your boob. They still think they’re a part of you. Because they are. Your nipple lives in their mouth. They don’t like your other half. They don’t like your Mum. They don’t like your sister. They don’t like your friends. At this point they don’t really even like you. They’re a bit like cats. You feed them so they show you mild affection. But then eventually they will fall madly in love with you. They’ll cuddle your boob like it’s their best friend. But they’ll still hate everyone else. Including your other half. They won’t get a look in with either the baby or the boobs. Poor bastards.
10. You will cry. A lot.
Reasons you’ll cry:
You won’t know what you’re doing. Or if you’re doing it right. You’ll worry that baby isn’t getting enough from you. You’ll feel like a shit Mum for disliking your baby for not letting you have a minute to yourself. You’ll be so tired your eyes will burn. You’ll want to quit. You won’t want to quit. You’ll watch an NSPCC advert. You’ll sneeze and wee a little bit. You’ll run out of bread. You’ll eat a full packet of cookies. You haven’t shaved your legs for 3 weeks. You’re watching the X Factor. The possible reasons are endless.
It’s OK. You’re allowed to cry. You’ll feel better in the morning.
Needless to say I’m no longer a part of any of the support groups. I threw a paddy and left. And my advice isn’t given with endless research and knowledge. It’s just me being honest about my experiences. And some like-minded Mums told me some of their stories too. I honestly wish someone had been more honest with me when I started my breastfeeding journey with Fox. I honestly wish I knew how hard it would be. My different mindset with Shadowcat helped me to tackle each obstacle and before I knew it the pain had stopped, she was happier and my milk was there. It felt like forever but it went so quick too.
Yes it’s natural. But it’s not is it, you’ve never done it before. In your 30 years on this planet you’ve never had a little creature sucking on your nipple for dear life before. So no, it’s not natural to you. And it is tough.
Just remember to do what’s best for you and take all of the advice with a pinch of salt, mine included. Be honest with yourself and with others. You ever know what experiences other Mums have had but you can guarantee to find one who has felt the same as you.
Sometimes it’s good to talk.
And hey if you wanna be in my cult, everyone is welcome 🙂
I never liked high school. The girls were bitches. Don’t get me wrong I could give as good as I got, but if a group of them decided they didn’t like you anymore there was nothing down for you.
Girls can be cruel. But they’re just kids. They don’t get it. They don’t understand the importance of sticking together. Of Womanhood. Of Sisterhood. Of Motherhood. Women do. Or should I say Women should.
My Mum always encouraged me to march to the beat of my own drum even as a child. So I did. I still do. People either like that or they don’t.
Becoming a mother tests every ounce of your character. It strips you back and floods you with insecurities. Emotions you have never experienced swirl around your body alongside every feeling you’ve ever had. You are consumed. It’s like your first day at high school all over again. You are scared, you are lonely and all you want is someone to hold your hand and tell you it will be OK. So you join an online support group or go to a baby group. You’re looking for support. Friendship. Compassion. And then you meet them. The Mummy Mafia. It really is like high school. Why do these women have to be so bitchy?
I’m back. I’m back in the virtual playground, standing in the middle and looking around at all the cliques. But this time it’s not based on where you are from or how short your skirt is. The groups aren’t categorised by how pretty you are or how clever you are. No. They’re decided on how you bring up your kids. There’s the Breastfeeding Mums, the Earth Mums, the Gadget Mums, the Full time Mums, the Working Mums and top of the tree those fucking Supermums. Etc. They’re split into groups in opposition corners of the playground. Bitching amongst themselves. They’re judging me. The new girl. Trying to size me up. Where will she fit in? I’m in high school all over again. I’m scared. I’m lonely. And I’m a bit lost. Oh and I’m sweating.
I never expected to have those same feelings I had in high school. Judgement and ostracism. Cliques everywhere you turn. Luckily, I still don’t give a shit but I do worry for the Women that do.
It’s been happening since Fox was born and has continued now Shadowcat is here. I see and hear it everywhere. Haven’t we grown out of it yet? Aren’t we all a bit old for Mean Girls cliques? Apparently not.
Are we all so insecure that we have to berate others to make ourselves feel better? We judge each other on weight. We judge each other on our choice to have sex. We judge each others’ clothes, jobs, homes, hair, lack of hair. And now… we judge each others’ parenting skills too. Formula vs. Breast. Sling vs. Buggy. Crib vs. Co-sleeping. Baby led weaning vs. Spoon feeding. Disposable nappies vs. Washable. Jar babyfood vs. Homemade. Stay at home Mum vs. Working Mum. Extended breastfeeding. Crying it out. Early weaning. The list goes on.
Sure, the advocates for any of the categories above can back up their arguments with facts and figures (aka memes) that they find on google. They can force it down people’s throats and state they they’re fighting a cause and you can’t argue with the facts. But their facts and their attitudes lack something. Respect.
I have a greater respect for Mothers. For Women. I may not make the same choices as you but I would support you all the same.
It seems to me that the hottest debate of the moment is around feeding our babies. You’ll be judged for getting your boob out in public by people who could quite easily just not look. And you’ll be judged for choosing to formula feed by the Breastfeeding Clique who are ‘normalising breastfeeding’ and ostracising everyone else. Basically, you can’t fucking win. You’re fucked whatever you decide. When did it become everyone else’s business how we choose to feed our babies? When did the war start?
The thing that really gives me a twitch is the obsession with Internet memes being branded as facts. Most of them look like they’ve been created by uneducated, narrow-minded tossers. Which makes me question the sanity of the people that share them and brand them as fact. The common concepts are:
1. Plays on making one side of the arguement look better by berating the other.
Here’s some of my favourite facts that have been shared in Mothering support groups…
It’s worth noting that ^^ this meme recently got over 3000 likes when shared on a Mum support group!
The scary thing is that memes like these actually affect people. Real people. Being a new Mum is hard and you’re at your most vulnerable. It’s 4am, you’re feeding your baby for the 300th time, not quite sure if your asleep or awake. You’re terrified of falling asleep and smothering your baby so you turn to Facebook to keep you awake. You come across one of these memes branded as facts. It tells you you’re a shit Mum. And you believe it.
I appreciate that in most cases the Women that share these memes are doing it for the right reasons. But I can’t help but feel that they come across as self-righteous bull-shit. Trying to sell the benefits of one side of the arguement by berating the other just isn’t helpful. It’s playground mentality. And I can’t help but feel in the long run its damaging to the cause, whatever the cause may be. Partly because the memes look and read like they’ve been created by someone who didn’t finish school. And partly because they are offensive and exclusive, which can ostracise people completely and therefore create sides.
And don’t even get me started on the comment threads. I’ve read some seriously disgusting stuff from Mothers who think they’re fighting a cause. Ranging from telling a 14 day new Mother who’d had a really tough ride and ended up switching to formula that she was lazy and shouldn’t give up so easily. To another Mother generalising that most formula feeding Mothers just want to go out partying with their mates. That right there, in the threads, is where the bullies live. They’re not even trolls. They don’t even realise they’re doing it. They’re just so hell bent on their opinions and their cause that they make everyone else feel like shit in the process. Well that’s OK as long as it makes you feel better. Nice.
I thought that when I became a Mother I was becoming part of a community. I thought I’d meet like-minded Women and we would talk about all the shit bits of being a Mum (and the nice bits obvs). I thought we would share a coffee and give each other support and advice whilst our well-behaved children sat quietly in their highchairs. Yeah right. And call me crazy, but I thought the support groups would be, well, supportive. I have met some beautiful like-minded Mums on my journey. But I’ve also encountered the cliques. In force.
I lived in your belly whilst you smoked 20 a day.
You didn’t know any better.
You went out for a pint most nights with Dad,
A few glasses of bitter won’t do baby any harm.
You were skint and working 60 hours a week,
Just to pay the mortgage as it tripled overnight .
You were tired.
You were stressed.
You didn’t know how you would survive.
Another mouth to feed,
Another person to clothe,
Someone else to look after in the height of Thatcher’s reign.
What a bitch.
You went into labour and had all the drugs on offer.
No pool, no home birth, no tens machine, no doula, no yoga techniques.
Dad sat outside. Smoking.
You bottle fed me.
You didn’t want to breastfeed.
Your mum didn’t breastfeed you.
Dad bottle fed me, Nan bottle fed me, Aunties, Uncles, friends all bottle fed me.
I had a dummy.
One in my mouth and one in my hand.
You put a rusk in my bottle at 4 weeks old.
You hid in the cupboard under the stairs with me.
Terrified of nuclear bombs and War and burglars and all the bad things in life.
You were depressed.
You didn’t tell anyone.
Post natal depression wasn’t discussed.
There were no ‘support’ groups.
No weekly phone call from breastfeeding councillors.
No baby yoga.
No baby groups.
You carried on.
No maternity pay,
No food in the cupboard,
No gas and electric,
No warm clothes for baby.
You went back to work.
I was 6 weeks old.
Nan looked after me and I went to nursery.
6 weeks old.
Disposable nappies were a godsend.
I ate from a jar.
No homemade, organic, free range, GM free, gluten free, wheat free.
I ate chocolate and biscuits – baby led weaning at its finest.
Baby led what?
You didn’t wear a sling, a sling was for a broken arm,
But I knew you loved me
I saw it in your eyes
And I felt it in your arms.
I went in my own room and you let me cry it out.
A cuddle now and again.
I knew you were coming back.
I knew you loved me.
I lived on frozen food and E numbers.
We were the ready meal generation.
Convenience at its best.
No one knew what organic was and nor would they even care.
I wore hand-me-downs.
I wore dresses made out of curtains.
I watched TV.
I played with dolls and barbies.
I dressed up as a fairy.
I played in the street.
I played in the mud.
I got dirty.
I played football.
I did ballet.
I ripped my jeans.
I made mess.
I dressed up in your clothes and your shoes and your jewellery.
If I was ever naughty I got a smacked arse.
You chased me up the stairs and grabbed my legs through the banisters.
But I always got a cuddle when I said sorry.
I didn’t wear a seatbelt.
I sat in the front seat.
On family days out I got in the boot.
I rode my bike on the street
And didn’t wear a helmet.
I sat on your knee.
I slept in your bed.
I kissed you on the lips.
I wore a bikini when I was 6.
I got a perm when I was 7.
An actual real perm.
I loved my curly hair.
It’s different now.
The rules have changed.
Mostly for the better.
So many opinions.
But I just want to say thank you,
For being such a great Mum.
I turned out OK.
No lasting damage.
I’m moderately healthy.
I eat vegetables and lots of cake.
I don’t smoke.
I barely drink.
I don’t drink enough water.
I get headaches.
I am a sociable loud mouth.
I’m open minded.
I’m a feminist and I love a tutu.
I support other Mothers.
I know how hard it can be.
We all have our different ways of parenting.
I’m a Mum now.
One of my babies loves his bottle.
The other loves my boobs.
My husband loves them too.
One has a dummy.
The other sucks their thumb.
One eats ketchup with a spoon, eats branflakes for breakfast and cake for lunch.
One sleeps in my bed every night.
But not for ever.
One jumps on my bed every morning.
They watch TV.
And the iPad.
They play in the park and and jump in the mud.
He plays with cars and dolls and animals.
He dances with his Daddy.
She likes football and dressing like a princess.
And dancing with her Daddy.
I’m a child of the 80s.
Just one last thing 80’s Mum….
I hope I don’t see you at baby group.
You’ll be mauled by the Supermums,
With their ideal way of parenting.
They’re perfect you know.