International Women’s Day

I realise that I am one of the millions of people who are today writing about International Women’s Day and my thoughts on being a woman in the world. I am in awe of so many men and women and have many places I can look to for inspiration and guidance.

There are women the world over who are inspirational such as powerful women in governments, business, human rights, music, celebrity and writing. I am quite sure if I asked any woman she would have her list of go to inspirational women and the lists would differ greatly depending on personality and lifestyle.

I am not going to use this post to talk about women I find inspiring as I often do that in my blog posts as standard. I would like to talk about how I feel about being a woman and ask what does being a woman mean to you? I think my views are slightly off as I am not raising daughters. I have to use the viewpoint of raising boys who will respect women and be inspired to look at the achievements of everyone around them regardless of their sex.

I have spent time on Instagram this morning (big shocker I know!) and there are so many pictures of mothers who are raising daughters and their hopes and dreams for these little girls who have such a massive and varied world to grow up in. If I’m being totally honest I feel a little left out, I’m the mum who spent the morning arguing with Leo about how it is not appropriate to go to school with no pants on. I have been up since 0300 hours as my mind is constantly going over worries and issues so much so that I can’t sleep and I have been branded useless by Nate as I can’t tell him how much a McClaren F1 car would set him back or how many horse powers (Nate’s words not mine) they have.

I am struggling with being a human being at times at the moment let alone a woman, wife, mum and holder of massive parenting responsibility. How can I show my boys how much women should be respected and how important they are? Well I think the one thing I can say I am able to show is overcoming adversity. We have all had our fair share of issues in our lives and I don’t think there is a woman walking this earth who hasn’t. Yes okay some issues are tiny in comparison to others but that is all subjective. What I might see as huge someone else might see as tiny and vice versa. Just because people may not appreciate what it means or meant to you as an individual doesn’t mean that it wasn’t an issue and that you didn’t overcome it.

Every day I work on issues in my life of some kind, as many of you know at the moment its self confidence and self esteem issues and feeling like I’m not quite sure exactly who I am following a hysterectomy and six months off work. Some days I am really good at facing these issues head on and coping, solving and working on being a better person than I was yesterday. Other days I sit on the sofa and feel like all I can do is eat rubbish and watch reality TV which is somehow addictive but a total waste of time (Keeping up with the Kardashians?!)

The boys have been acutely aware that mummy has been ill and has been down, it must have been obvious over the last year going from issue to issue culminating in my operation. They have however seen me physically grow stronger, do more and recover. They watch me now being brighter, aware that I have issues but working on them. Stepping slowly into the sunlight and trying to stay there and not look back. How many other women have had to embrace such a journey that you can think of?

Whether it be a bad break up or divorce, ill health, career changes, family issues, friendship issues, dramatic changes in circumstances I can think of lots of women who have embraced these new beginnings and become stronger and wiser because of them. If the boys learn nothing else from me about women it will be that we take on board what life throws at us and we deal with it. Not always quickly and rarely on our own but we deal with it because we have to. We are women, we are depended on by so many and we depend on others. We are an integral part of how the wheel of this world turns and we should be proud of ourselves for this.

What defines us as women is whatever we want it to be. I, living in a house full of boys have to be quite strong in my identity as a woman otherwise the boy things take over. I say this while looking down at a remote controlled Porsche on the floor beside me, a drill on the dresser and some kind of electronic device with lots of wires and flashing lights on charging in the nearest plug socket. I have the responsibility of being the female influence to the boys and that is one that I take very seriously and am honoured to have.

Today we celebrate women all over the world and I am proud to say I am one of you. We can lead, achieve, influence and raise the future of our world and if that’s not an important job I don’t know what is. So whatever you do, stay at home mum, career woman, partner, single and happy hold your head high today and each day. You are doing the best you can and if today doesn’t go so well there is always tomorrow.

I’m not sure who said this but I wholeheartedly agree, ‘The women whom I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because shit worked out. They got that way because shit went wrong and they handled it. They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are my superheroes.’

 

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Mental Health and Me…..

This post is going to come with a disclaimer…… you might find it tough to read or get extremely bored. Please read on if you are happy with that!

Since I was twenty I have had a very interesting relationship with my mental health. So much so that it has at various points throughout the years since (I’m now thirty three) been something that I have been unable to ignore, that I’ve been able to work around or in general we have worked quite harmoniously together however it has always been something that has been a big part of me.

I have always felt envious of people who never seem to struggle with negative aspects of their mental health, who are able to get that balance right and not to be pulled down by their overwhelming emotions. I salute those people and commend anyone who is able to deal with their own wellbeing in a positive and efficient manner. Of course it will be no big shocker to you that I am not one of those people. I am in fact the polar opposite of this and have been made acutely aware of this again recently.

For anyone who has ever suffered with depression and anxiety issues you will know that there are good times and bad. There are times when doing anything other than laying under a blanket and pretending that the world outside the front door doesn’t exist is impossible and other times when you feel you could climb a mountain and do a pretty good ‘Sound of Music’ rendition when you get to the top. There are also times in between in which you cope relatively well and are aware of any triggers to your issues and can deal with them accordingly.

I bounce around between these and every couple of years or so end up at a real low and some of you may have noticed here I am now! I’ve been grumpy, miserable, made bad decisions, upset people and generally been a pain in the arse to anyone that knows me (except Alf the Cat, thank the lord for him!) I now find myself in one of those phases where I could literally shut the whole world out and really wouldn’t mind doing so.

Of course we can’t do this, when it was just Karl and I this wasn’t an option and now I have the boys they need me to be the best mum I can be (yes I know, middling at best!) so the only option is to deal with it. Sounds so simple doesn’t it, pick up the pieces, move on, grin and bear it, keep calm and carry on (insert a million more inspirational quotes!) But how do you actually do that?!

Well I took the first step and referred myself back for counselling. Something I haven’t done for two years when in the middle of my last down phase I decided it would be a fantastic idea to stop eating. This consisted of a phone call to one of the suggested local practitioners and answering some questions trying to ascertain how urgent my need for help was and how long I could wait. The nearest available appointment for an initial telephone conversation was in a months time. I of course took the appointment and as I jotted this down in my diary tears streamed down my face. Its such a horrible thing to feel like you have made no progress at all and you are back to square one.

I acknowledge of course that this isn’t square one, in fact I’m not sure the squares even have numbers. They are just slightly different colours to the ones I have been on in the past and I need to work my way out of each and every shade. I cannot do this on my own hence my asking for help. I hope that this time I will be able to enter into a new, brighter period in my life where I can acknowledge that its okay to need help and to ask for it when you need it.

It is massively hard just being a grown up in our world and the amount of pressure on each and every individual is vast. When you add work, home, family life, parenting, friendships, money, politics, education, confidence, self esteem and just managing to all of this I think it is understandable why so many of us can at times struggle with our mental health. Women are particularly bad at allowing themselves to feel things for worrying that they will look weak, lose respect of others or be judged negatively because of their actions.

I wonder how many other mums like me today walked into the school to pick up their children feeling inadequate, like they aren’t good enough and embarrassed to hold their head high. I feel like that more often than not at the moment and it can be debilitating. I know deep down of course that people probably aren’t thinking all the negative things about me that I am and that they are just going on with their day and probably struggling with or through something themselves.

I wonder if you would notice should a friend or family member be displaying these behaviours, would you be worried? Would you question their welfare and see that they were not quite themselves? I imagine many of us wouldn’t as we get so wrapped up in our own lives that it’s easy to see past what appear to be tiny things. I ask you to have a look around you, if you think someone is low say hi, crack a joke, ask them how they are. You never know that might be the only time that person smiles that day. If that person is like me running after a small child up the High Street the best thing you can do is offer cake (its one of the few instant mood elevators in my book!)

I enter this new phase with uncertainty, I am determined to pull myself out of this current lull but I’m not quite sure how to do it yet and how long it will take. All I ask of you is patience, love and understanding and I promise I will give the same back.

When someone who struggles with depression is at their lowest they can often be tough to love, it’s hard work with little or no reward. I assure you though this is the time that a person who is suffering needs the most love and understanding from you.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. It has been hard to write and believe me I would love to just be writing about the number of parenting faux pas I’ve made this week (27,000 and counting) how I managed to spend fifteen minutes trying to put my jeans on backwards, how I poured milk in the kettle and the worlds worst bit of parallel parking you have ever seen witnessed by open mouthed members of the public who almost laughed and pointed but I needed to let you all know that I’m not okay and for now that’s fine.

I as you know love a quote and am a huge fan of Sex and the City, one of Carrie Bradshaw’s most profound moments was this…. ‘ As we drive along this road called life, occasionally a gal will find herself a little lost and when that happens I guess she has to let go of the coulda, shoulda, woulda buckle up and just keep going’.


 

 

wellbeing, creativity and violence?

I read a hilariously funny thread on The Motherload Page on Facebook this morning about a mum who had some choice words to say about Kirstie Allsopp and her home made Christmas programme. The thread turned into such  a laugh that I had to stop reading as my post surgery tummy really couldn’t handle it.

This has got me thinking this morning about just how differently we see and think about things as mums. For any of you who haven’t seen it Kirstie has made a series of shows for the last few years about her making and crafting things for Christmas. These have included things such as driftwood trees, garlands, embroidered gifts, homemade chocolates and chutneys and on this weeks show pears dipped in gold leaf and used as place settings. The whole ethos behind it is to lose mass produced expensive gifts for handmade and cheaper unique alternatives.

Now I am a bit of a Kirstie fan and love her ideas of creating things for your home from old peoples junk. I also view this with dreaming eyes as I know I neither have the time or the cash to invest and renovate in old items. However it is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine to watch such shows and come Christmas I do get a real kick out of all the amazing crafts, artisans and ideas that her programme showcases.

In real life I like to do craft, I am a fan of drawing and lettering as you all know and I love a bit of papercraft. This does not mean I am very good at it though and I can recall last Christmas getting very uppity after watching what felt like a million you tube videos on how to fold paper stars and not actually achieving any and making what resembled boomerangs. Karl however tried one and ended up folding a perfect star which I still have on my dressing table now as a reminder of how much I made him laugh pouting as I couldn’t get it right!

I have found this year a way of making cardboard barn stars which not only have I managed but I also really enjoy so now the house resembles the bit in Elf where poor Buddy goes into overdrive making snowflakes. Cooking and baking, I barely get by, crochet and embroidery, I’m more likely to stick a needle in my eye and end up in hospital and things like felt make my teeth go funny when it rubs together and makes that funny noise! Anyway my point is as much as I enjoy watching and looking at such crafts I am no good at them and leave it to the professionals. For me though there is a kind of relaxation or therapeutic element to watching such arts being undertaken.

Some of the comments on the Motherload this morning however spoke of wanting to punch Kirstie, how unrealistic her ideas are and how the money she was spending (gold leaf on a pear for example) would be much better spent on other more important things (like prosecco or chocolate Baileys I thought!) I did note that her own children didn’t take part in the show and she uses other children who do not belong to her and do crafts well and behave impeccably. I imagine this is because she like the rest of us knows that if you try and do anything with your own children they see it as a cue to misbehave, cause merry hell and eat everything in sight. Kirstie is a mum to boys too so she like me will face challenges such as arm wrestles over who gets to eat the most cherries, tears and tantrums over the metallic sharpies and constant games of hide and seek because the scissors have gone missing…… again!

It can be seen as yet another pressure on busy mums at Christmas that not only do you need to buy everything, get it all wrapped and ready and have the kids at home for two weeks you also need to make things yourself and spend countless hours doing so and then delivering them with a smile looking glam and not pissed (because of all the prosecco and Chocolate Baileys!)

Kirstie Allsopp will have at the very least, a team of researchers, a make up artist, a hair stylist, an assistant, a runner, someone who cleans up as she goes, someone who buys the stuff in for her to use and childcare on tap. She is also a famous celebrity who has plenty of cash to spend on gold leaf, artisan chocolate and things that are sold at posh Christmas Fairs. This is clearly not and never will be me, I am just happy if I get a compliment about my cardboard stars and a few likes on Instagram. I don’t think Kirstie wants to pressure us mums into a craft induced anxiety attack she is just doing her thing.

It really doesn’t matter what is under the tree this Christmas but who is sat around it. Whether that be your family, friends, moaning children, sleeping elderly relatives, drunk, sober, on their third bottle of chocolate Baileys or whatever. My point is that we are all bloody amazing and our families and friends are grateful to have us even if they haven’t got a place name marked with gold leaf or nothing but beans on toast for their dinner. Christmas is what we make it, we are who we make ourselves and no amount of gold leaf will do anything about that if we don’t believe it.

I leave you with a quote from Lady Cora from Downton Abbey, ‘You are being tested, and you know what they say my darling, being tested only makes you stronger’.