The Guilt of Motherhood

5b9b65e0-f880-4a85-9ff1-483130dc5446Some days, I find myself shouting: screaming and swearing like a fish-wife and, as I do so, in front of me stands a crying child. Quite obviously terrified, quaking, in case I actually reach out and hit someone. This is all due to: being late for school, again –  or someone hasn’t put their socks on, brushed their teeth, or is still: playing lego/drawing/reading/singing on the piano… while the minutes, just literally dissolve into a black hole and we are late, again.

I shout in vain for them to: ‘get a bloody move on’, jumpers unfound, toothpaste strewn down shirts, hair in a tangle and all, for, what?

Conformity.

As we drive silently in the car – my anger slowly draining from my body – the children: quiet, tense, the day just unfolding.  I resolve, silently to myself, to apologise and hug them as tightly as I possibly can before they go into school.

I do.

The rest of the day is spent in a grey fug as I feel drenched in dark mother-guilt about my: outrageous behaviour.

And I wonder: did my mother, ever, do this to me?

Yet sometimes, and I have to make this point to you, this is not a regular occurrence, but just, very occasionally, (honestly),  I am so lost in anger. I. just. Cannot. Stop. Even when: right in front of me, I can see the destruction I am manifesting in my children.

Motherhood has revealed the darkest side of me: the anger and venom that gently froths, darthvaderlike, just beneath my conscious…Waiting for some unknown trigger to set free the raging torrent  across the still-ish waters of family-life and establish literal tsunamis of pain, tears, anxiety and, quite probably: therapy-inducing permanent fuck-up fuelled futures…with an over-priced psychotherapist proferring instant coffee…

And, as the days from that jarred, hurtful, venom-filled moment pass – I carry the wake of churning guilt and bitter after-taste disgust within me. I cannot believe I can behave this way to those I love more than any other beings on the planet…

What is that?

I apologise, again, many days later and desperately seek forgiveness – it is waved off.

But that anger is really, truly, not fine, sometimes it is truly scary and I’m in it and I cannot find a way out.

 

Keep It Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S)

Hannah and Toots kissing up a tree: K.I. double S  I.N.G…

Just one kiss, this is where it begins. A single kiss has the potential to lead to a myriad of outcomes, one is parenthood…did you plan it like that?  I didn’t have the time or the notion to think about how I would: ‘parent’ – I was terrified…That one kiss led to twins.

I have no ambition to preach, or bore. Yet one thing is essential for us, our children, our friendships and our loves: simplicity.

Allowing our children to unwind and grow in a technology-free environment. Where nature and boredom can sit hand in hand, allowing a child to discover in their own time and in their own way, how to play.

Children in todays world are bombarded by an unprecedented amount of media and technology, the way they play freely has changed dramatically, the countries schooling system is under pressure and a competitive nature in parenting leaves many children finding it hard to cope.

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How can we help them to function in this high speed, stressful environment?

We have to simplify things, we need to de-clutter emotionally, physically. Give children, and yourself, the freedom to do nothing, to have nothing to do, to get dirty, to get outside, in the park, in the garden, kick a ball about, read a book or hang out with a mate.

Remove the technology and the thinking, the information and your anxiety to ‘succeed’ and allow them to just be. Allow them to get bored and to faff about with a pen and a paper, or a hammer and a nail, a hole and some mud.

Enjoy the chaos, the mess and the madness – this is life.

This scaling down, moving technology, pressure and allowing us all too just live gently and more organically – will provide your child with a safe space to be themselves – and it will teach them to find contentedness in simplicity.

Why should we save Childhood?

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Boo inside an ENORMOUS Oak Tree Trunk #FreeNature

Childhood – an enormous word encompassing so much. There is such emphasis put on ‘childhood’ today and as parents it can feel very confusing knowing what you should give your child in order that they: ‘get the best’ childhood.

Of course, for every parent that means something different, perhaps a safe home, a garden, violin classes after school, private school, Steiner school, home-school, playdates, being vegetarian and on and on. There is a myriad of things we worry we should do more of, or cannot compete with, or simply cannot afford to give.

Yet research has found, over and over again, just giving a child the chance to connect and be free with nature, dirt and the earth around them is, quite simply, one of the most vital and important experiences they can have.

Encouraging children to play by themselves is essential. Get them outside and away from screens. Let them roll in the grass, chase butterflies, make ‘perfume’, plant seeds, blow a fluffy seed clock, run barefoot in the grass, listen to the birds, poke holes with sticks, taste fresh berries off a tree, build a fairy house with leaves, moss, stones, talk to animals, trees, flowers, clouds, the moon. Just let them really feel. 

This natural play is the building blocks of intelligence. To discover how to feel connected with the earth and yourself, to know you can return, any time you need, and re-tune throughout your life. It is so simple and all we need to provide is a green space.

One uncluttered with screens, tests, exams, the pressures of what to look like, be like, speak like, act like – leave it all behind – un-necessary weight.

The value of creative and experimental play in childhood, and adulthood, is often undermined and we need to ensure that we, as guardians of the next generation, are strong enough to stand true to the simple values of letting the children of our future be free.

Be truly free to experiment, get dirty, to imagine, to really feel and to play with their beautiful and wild imagination.

Britain has plenty of parks and open spaces and it is up to us to try and get everyone out for a walk and to deeply breathe in fresh air.

This year the Save Childhood Movement is partnering with National Children’s Day UK (NCDUK) on 17th May to celebrate: The Science and Magic of Play. Here in Bath that celebration will be in partnership with The Forest of Imagination ( a four-day contemporary arts event in Queen Square). This will include of a number of free talks given by the likes of, Wendy Ellyatt, Chief Executive, Save Childhood Movement, Steve Chown, Director, Play England and James Findlay of The Play Foundation. To hear these inspiring speakers and to find out more go here.

Underpants

Can men actually stack dishwashers?

I’m possibly biased as I write this knowing that many folks might not have a) men or b) dishwashers – or perhaps neither things in their kitchens – this is, probably, a good thing.

Men are, generally, useful in the car and in bed (not always) but near a dishwasher: I don’t think so.

How is it that man can pack the boot of a car with painstaking precision, shifting the entire contents of your household neatly into a space the size and depth of a child’s paddling pool in less time than it takes you to have a wee – yet cannot physically put a dirty coffee cup into a dishwasher, or, even better: a sink; don’t even think about it. 106

Have you noticed on your journey through life that small men, i.e: boys, have barely any capacity to hear what you are asking them – you have to state the same question myriad times, then triple-check they have computed the information.

What they do with it thus is anyone’s guess.

Ask a boy to get their shoes on at 8.25am on a school day and find them ten minutes later embroiled in logging football cards, shoes: nowhere in the vicinity.

Is this training for their future of non-filling dishwashers and sinks?

In his brilliant book, Raising Boys, Australian child psychologist, Steve Biddulph, notes that girls have better hearing than boys, and ,moreover, boys’ retinas are more sensitive to movement, but less sensitive to colour than girls.

I feel this explains a lot and is a point I try my darndest to remember every single time I tell my son to brush his teeth, pick up his underpants, turn off the tv, put his cereal bowl in…

Beholden to the boss

IMG_4200France, our perennial adversary, recently unveiled plans making it illegal to send work related emails to colleagues after the working day has finished. Yes, you heard me right – it will become illegal to write, open or send emails after 6pm.

This people – is downright bloody genius, don’t you think? Hang on I am just going to google this and check I have it right…

Ohhhkay – so it will not be actually illegal per se – but the Gallic country has indeed introduced new rules designed to ‘protect’ workers in media and consultation. These rules ask workers to switch off their work phones and stop checking work emails after 6pm and before 9am.

This intentional disconnect is such a bloody fantastic idea. In this crazy century we are in we need to be given permission to have down time, to eat supper without a device, to understand that it is just, no MORE, important to have a life outside of the workplace – and that the internet will not explode if we don’t check it every five minutes.

If you work from home it is exceptionally tricky to locate the off button – much to the delight of your employer – and much to the frustration of your family.

It has become more and more acceptable to work at all hours of day and night. If a client or colleague emails and expects a response, the rub is that if you don’t respond you feel guilty and if you do, you feel pissed off…

We feel beholden to that all encompassing dictator; the internet, all its devices and ways of luring you in.

But what if we were all on the same page – that we could relax in the knowledge that we are having our, much needed, time out altogether – without the fear that someone else will jump on your bandwagon just because you are happily taking a walk or sharing a meal.

This simple yet brilliant idea is one we, I think, should fight to adopt – here on our shores, where working all hours has crept into our lives and is fast becoming the norm.

So are you in with me?

Working nine-to-five

For the first time in four years I have utterly, totally and completely abandoned Fealte & Rosebud. My place of respite and rejuvination. I screwed up: I went and got myself a fucking job. Now I find myself writing for the wedge, not the edge and my friends let me tell you – it sucks. rosey_mother

Well, not the money in the bank every month bit – obvs. But the actual, physical, doing the work bit.

As your very last child crosses the bridge into the eternal abyss of the British schooling system one is left – and bereft. The pressure begins to build…expectations, raised eyebrows and you feel you should move on – your work here is done – hell, let the teachers pick up the slack.

So you scan the job sections, you talk to friends, you fantasize about the perfect job and here’s the rub…it doesn’t actually exist.

The real nux of the problem – is that the school day is ridiculously short. Within that 9-3 window the washing still needs to be washed, the shopping bought, the meals cooked, the old man appeased, the hoovering – jesus, girls how do you do it? Who washes the inside of the pan these days? Who, tell me, puts out the recycling, folds up the pants and pours the wine? And, into this madness, not to mention BTW, the football practice, ballet, play-dates, cubs and all the other social overkill that escalates with school attendance, you have to squeeze your working day in and out and appear, deep breath: measured, on the ball, intelligent: unflappable – not the washed out old bag you really are…

So without employing a cook, a cleaner and a myriad of after-school or before-school clubs, frankly, your just winging it. But in the craziest of ways, it feels good: you can do it: you’ve pulled it out the fucking hat.

Yes – it might be pasta every night and hell, who needs play-dates, they spend all day with the bloody blighters anyway…and, guess what, I can afford perfume now.

Until, that is, someone pukes…or the holidays rear their ugly/beautiful head.

But what I really wonder is – when the day comes that I lie on my deathbed…bear with me …and consider: what was the most important achievement in my life? (Apart from the, as yet, un-published book) it is, without doubt: my children – no regrets.

So, in order to juggle everything – all the minutiae gets thrown out – the sweeping, hoovering, play-dates, hand-made bread, cubs – fuck it all – we will just do the best we can without, compromising the bin lids…and our, very precious, time together.

Twin Perks

Getting a ride on the back of my new loves bike was a profoundly altruistic experience, more so because I was five months up the duff, and we were wheedling through heavy Barcelona traffic.

Cycling our way to hospital, “Caballero”, the van drivers yell to my boy: a gentleman they considered him. As he humbly struggled to peddle me around, while I sat fat, blooming, getting a backie.

The twins

At that five month scan, our first – (eventually we had managed to decipher the bureaucratic Spanish health system) – the obstetrician asked whether we had planned our pregnancy.

“Errrr, no Señor”, we sheepishly admitted. He then proceed to interpret the scan image.

“…Your first child is here…” I looked across at my new love – he paled and fell back against the wall, desperatly looking for somewhere to sit down.

“There, there is the spine, the head and the vagina…”

“The second baby. Here, see the head, the spine, here, and the penis…Did you know you had twins?”

Shock, fear, joy and sheer disbelief flooded through me, fortunately I was lying down. Unlike Toots, who was clinging onto the cardboard walls.

“You are very lucky”, the obstetrician proclaimed as he left us in our newfound chaos.

We stumbled out of the hospital and gazed across at the steadfast, azure whims of the  Mediterranean sea.

We clung to each other in wondrous amazement. We were indeed blessed – we were magical. We could not believe this thing we suddenly held between us. Just an hour ago we had one baby and now, incredibly, we had two – we were: a family of four.

It was mind-blowing. More so, as we had met only eight months previously and had nothing between us except for a couple of rucksacks, a laptop, some books, our passports and a great and beautiful love for each other.

Nothing so far in our relationship had been conventional and now fate had dealt us another unexpected card. We truly believed our love was so magical that we had created boy/girl twins from it.

Little did we know at that time how common multiples are becoming as our generation parent much older and as IVF becomes more prevalent.

Eight years from that precious eureka moment Fealte & Rosebud have played a starring role in our lives.

And from those humble bycling beginnings we have continued on our quest for simplicity, knowing that the single most important thing we can ever give to our children is our love.

No need is there of great mounds of ugly plastic destroying our peaceful home.

No need is there of television or high-tech pushchairs, great monstrous high-chairs, massage classes or adidas trainers.

Pencils, paper, lego, books and latterly bikes are the most important tools in their lives.

Barefoot we plant seeds, water vegetables and make-up songs.

Research from TAMBA (The Twin and Multiple Birth Association) suggests that parents of multiples are more likely to separate – citing financial pressure as the main culprit.

But surely twins, or singletons, or three, or four children need as little or as much as you care to give them. Granted the costs of two high-chairs, two cots and two pairs of shoes at once may be great, but that is, surely, what IKEA was invented for.

No parent needs to lavish its offspring with the amount of material junk they do these days. No child can wear more than one pair of shoes at once. No child needs a mountain of DVD’s or plastic gadgets. No child needs to be taken to hand-signing or baby-yoga classes in a huge motor.

The amount of debt and expense taken on for the sake of an innocent child is incredible and cannot fail to rock the foundations of its parents as they struggle to keep on top of this mega debt.

And all for the sake of whose happiness?