If you’re hovering close to insanity, the thought of ‘being normal’ can feel like a pleasantly calm, if somewhat unattainable, aim in life. We see so many ‘inspirational’ quotes/pictures/articles these days telling us to be the best we can be by changing this, doing that, travelling there, but what if it’s too hard to do that? What if you’re struggling enough just keeping the day to day shit together to find the time to become that world famous artist/novelist/actor/tv star/chef/lawyer/world traveller/scientist/mathematician/tattoo artist (I’m walking through Camden Market)/parter of waves etcetc. To me, phrases like ‘being normal is boring’ can feel just as damaging as any other statement that passes judgement on a group of people.
Years ago people thought the opposite, and feared that which wasn’t ‘normal’, anyone unusual. I’m glad we now live in a society where being ‘different’ isn’t generally feared (although recent news stories may challenge that to a degree). But I don’t think it’s helpful to go the other way and deride those that aren’t ‘different’ (cool, exotic, well travelled) either.
Don’t get me wrong, I know what this card is saying. It’s ok not to be like everyone else. It’s ok not to conform. And there’s definitely a market for that message, and I’m probably in it(!). But it’s the subtle implication that it’s not ok to be like everyone else, it’s not ok to be ‘ordinary’ that I find unhelpful. That we should be more than normal. Be different. Be exceptional. Well I’ve spent my life feeling like I needed to be doing something more exciting, unusual, alternative, bohemian and do you know what I found? It’s exhausting. And depressing. And demoralising. I’ve realised that I’m much better off if I concentrate on being – to quote Bugsy Malone – happy just being me. So let’s take the pressure off. And just concentrate on being nice to each other. To live and let live. Would that really be so boring?
With CBeebies already sorting me out for Valentine’s Day by scheduling in Tom Hardy to read me a bedtime story at 6:45 on Feb 14th, I’ve asked Husbanana to buy 5 Syrian kiddlings a fleecey blanket as a valentine’s gift instead.
Tom Hardy gets valentine’s day sorted
I didn’t tell him about Tom, because he’s a sensitive soul and it might make him upset and/or make him question my real motives for getting into Peaky Blinders and/or think he needs to grow his beard longer, don a flat cap and read me a children’s story to initiate love making which is a road I really don’t want to go down. But more importantly he won’t be home in time to know about it anyway. He’ll just find me a little more flushed and happy than I usually am at that stage in the kids’ bedtime routine when he returns. But unless I’m also reading a copy of Ultra Light Camping Monthly or What’s New in Goretex Weekly or similar, the probability that he’ll even notice any change in my general appearance is tinier than the width of a gnat’s willy-peanuts (engineering term (of a 5 year old).
Anyway, I’ve drifted slightly from the point, which is, fuck me this girl looks chilly doesn’t she? Let’s buy her a blanket so our love can keep her warm this Valentines Day.
There are those people who have a talent for present buying, and there are those people who think presents are a bit of a nuisance. This post is targeted at the latter.
First things first. I am a heterosexual girl so this is very much written aimed at a male significant others. That said, the points are fairly general, so whoever you are you should find some nugget of inspiration for that special present giving occasion. Read on my people, read on.
The fourteen (yes fourteen, get over it) basic rules are:
1. If you think you should possibly be getting someone a present, then you definitely should be
2. Birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, Valentine’s day and Mothering Sunday are present-buying occasions
3. The sorts of presents a person gives shows what they would like to receive
4. Girls like to be spoilt
5. Buying someone more than one present is perfectly normal and…
There are plenty of things that annoy me about our society but there is one thing that really gets my goat and that’s inequality. As a female IT nerd person it is the gender inequality strain of this that affects me the most. And today my rage is pointing firmly towards you. Why is it that in 2015 we still can’t get females equally represented in BBC broadcasting? I am, of course, talking about the shameful display of gender inequality in the CBeebies program the Octonauts.
This sexist fleet of under water heroes is the current obsession of my three year old girl/boy twins and in turn it is a current obsessional annoyance of my own that the 3 main protagonists in it are all male. The program starts off thus:
Octonauts to your stations! Barnacles! (male) Kwazii! (male) Peso! (male) Ba ba-ba-ba-ba ba ba ba, ba-ba-ba ba ba-ba-ba-ba ba ba ba! Ba ba-ba-ba-ba… (you get the idea)
Bam! Right from the get go we’re shoving three male heroes in our kids’ faces. Why did you decide to make all of them male? Why is the most highly educated Octonaut, Professor Inkling, male? And indeed, why is that only 2 of the 7 gendered characters (the Vegimals appear to be gender neutral) female? The only female characters that appear in the program are Dashy, who apparently ‘oversees operations ..monitors the computer systems and manages all ship traffic’, but in reality is seen taking the odd photo and pressing a few computer buttons occasionally. And Tweak, the ‘ship engineer’ who has the most annoyingly bad fake american(?) accent you’ve ever heard, making you want to kill her whenever she appears fleetingly to say “you got it Cap!” dutifully to Captain Barnacles. It seems you’ve tried to give the females non-gender biased (perhaps even ‘stereotypically male’) roles (computers and engineering) but in excluding them from the opening sequence and giving them less air time you’ve effectively relegated them in the ship’s hierarchy. It feels like you think you’re ticking diversification boxes by having females with techy jobs (and I’m not belittling those jobs), but why isn’t Captain Barnacle female? All you’ve got to do is lose the tache, give her a female voice and maybe a bit of hair and you’re done. Professor Inkling? Lose the tache! Do you see how easy it is? And surely it’s a no brainer to always have equal numbers of male and female characters?! I mean come on.
Our society needs more women in higher roles within organisations for it to work as well as it can and as a key source of education and influence it is the BBC’s responsibility to promote that through role models in your programmes. This is so obvious to me, and I’m astounded that in this day and age the BBC still fails to hit the mark. Through programmes like these you’re still setting poor stereotypes early on in a child’s life. If we can’t get it right there, what chance have we got of changing the order of things in society as a whole?
Please do better. Now cue the race and sexual orientation inequality police for their take on things.
Yours, Kate Woodroffe.
An infuriated Mother of boy/girl twins who is trying desperately (against the tide) to raise her children with equal expectations of what they can achieve.
It’s 4:30am and I am sitting between two identical cots stroking two non-identical backs making two non-identical noises. I am tired. Tired to the core. We are on the tail end of a tandem tantrum and my nerves are long since gone. The fact that I’m still here at all is only because I am so numb with fatigue that I can’t even be bothered to stand up and relocate back to bed. And besides the (god sent) lullaby star night light is actually quite soothing…
The love of my life.
It has been a long day. One that I cannot believe I will have to repeat tomorrow. The current regular tantrum inducers are: trying to get them dressed, trying to get them undressed, putting them in the buggy, taking them out of the buggy, leaving the house, re-entering the house, putting them in their chairs for dinner time, not allowing them to make their own dinner, not allowing them to sit on a perilously high surface for dinner, bathtime, bedtime, and so it goes on… I find myself going through varying degrees of calm and collectedness (mixed with a lot of uncalm and disconnectedness), but I know that if I want to get through each fit of insanity quickly then the only thing that works is acknowledging their grief in a grown up, sensible, serious manner and then distracting them from it jovially. But who has the time and patience to do that 24 (x2) times a day? And so they cry on. And boy do they.
Nothing can prepare you for the pain of having two year old twins. I literally feel like someone has come round and injected fatigue into every joint…with an extra shot into each of my temples. When they are born you have this lovely image of ‘being totally sorted’ by this stage. “In a year or two they’ll
be playing with each other and you can put your feet up,” people said to me. At that point, phrases like that were the light at the end of the tunnel. Well that light has long since gone out. In fact it turns out it wasn’t a light at all but a firefly flying ever closer until it finally exploded like a fire cracker in my face. But will there be a light at the end of this tunnel or more exploding fire flies/crackers? Ah well, “things get much better when they turn 3,” someone sagely tells me. Well d’you know what? I know people with 3 year old twins and I’m yet to feel much hope when I visit them, I can tell you. So when is it then? 4? 5? 5000?? All I know is that if I concentrate on thinking “oh good god when will it get better??” then right now feels worse. So I’ll concentrate on the here and now. And the here and now is drifting off to sleep. And so am I. That night light is magic. In fact, fuck these two. Tonight that light is mine.
I’m having one of those days. I’ve just sat down to drink my tea, a moment of salvation that I was hoping would give me the strength to get through the next couple of hours (or minutes at least) and what do I see? I see that a urine-soaked tea towel has been stuffed in the top of my cup.
We are potty training. Well we (read I for the most part) are attempting to. But today has been one of those days. One where there has not been a single sticker assigned to the potty training log (no puns please). I sigh. I was thinking we’d pretty much nailed it with the little boy one, but even his high standards of 3-dots-and-1-butterfly-sticker a day have fallen by the wayside today. I look back to my ‘tea’ and muse that there must be a joke about throwing the towel in there somewhere. But the ‘there’ involved is my brain and that’s past being able to construct jokes. So although in its deepest corners it registers there is the potential for humour, it otherwise stays still and numb. And no glimmer of a smile crosses my face. I just can’t muster enough energy. Frankly it’s the last straw and I’m now beyond laughing.
I’m also beyond cleaning up the six hundredth wee patch that is under the table (and partly on my feet). I’m also beyond cleaning the sofa for the six hundredth time to try to rid it of what is a distinct smell of bottoms. It’s ‘Mummy’s hit a wall’ time and this tea was going to be the thing to give me the extra gazumpf to break me through it. I feel like my senses have been numbed and I am running on some 20 year old petrol that someone found in the shed that no-one’s sure is still going to work. Well I can confirm that it doesn’t. I am at that stage where I am aware that I am not being the patient, fair, soft-spoken earth mother that I would like to be. Instead I am bouncing between forced earth mother softly spoken patience and severely impatient, snapping, angry I’ve-lost-my-methadone-prescription style mother that I’d really rather not be. And do you know what goes through my mind? Yes, that’s right. I’m thinking that my mood swings are going to cause my children permanent psychological damage. Now isn’t that a productive and helpful way to occupy my mind? Is there any scientific basis for me to start worrying about this? Well there might be something out there, but the reality is that I will have read something, somewhere at some point that suggested something that might have slightly been along those lines. But of course I’ve conveniently forgotten the details of the article. And therefore forgotten the bits of the article that make this fairly unlikely.
I start cursing my inability to retain information and then just in the nick of time before I beat myself up completely for being useless again I swerve. I swerve towards the light and think one very clear thought. That reading is bad for me. Well reading anything relating to being a perfect mama anyway. I am going to go back to baser methods. I am going to trust my instincts. Because when I’ve failed in the past it’s because I haven’t trusted them sufficiently. So what do my instincts tell me? They tell me to put the kettle on, give myself a pat on the back for not killing anyone today and reach for the pack of nappies.
I sit on the sofa and assess the day. It is clear that today would be chalked up as ‘Fail!’ at the Perfect Mum’s training academy. I have failed to get my children dressed before 10am. I have failed to get to music class on time. I have failed to take them out this afternoon. I have failed to get them eating their dinner before 6 o’clock. I have failed to provide them with something that they will actually eat. I have failed to give them a bath. I have failed to keep their dummies from them outside bedtime. I have failed to get them ready for bed before Daddy gets home. I have failed to get them in bed before 7 o’clock (by some margin). What does this tell me? Does it tell me that I’m a terrible Mother? Does it tell me that I better pull my socks up or my children are going to turn out to be vagrants? Should I skip the medicinal G&T and go straight for the self-flagellation? No. What it tells me is that it is clear that this stay-at-home-mum’s skill set does not closely match her (perceived) job description. So is it time to switch careers? Or time to switch the job description? I choose the latter. And re-word it thus, “Keep children alive until Daddy comes home. Then drink gin”. There. I can definitely get on board with that. I might even be something of an expert.