Girl Power

Although I’m a teacher, I’m very aware that I never really blog about what I do on a day to day basis in my job. Occasionally, I might describe why I love teaching and how children are absolutely the best people to work with. But – I haven’t ever wanted to write about something specific I’ve done within the classroom.

You can already tell – this blog will be different. Today I’m going to break that self imposed rule and write about something that I’ve done, with my gorgeous class that I’m really proud of and would like to share with the world.

Being a mother of daughters, I feel a huge responsibility to make them feel strong and empowered growing up in the world that we live in. I’ve always felt that strength myself, but I want to ensure that my girls feel that way too.

About a year ago, we were browsing in Waterstones (the Mother ship), when I saw a series of beautifully illustrated and attractive books called, ‘Little People, Big Dreams!’ My daughter and I investigated further and we realised that these little girls with big dreams were biographies of incredible women from different walks of life, different ethnicities, who had made a difference to the world in a number of ways.

We stood around the book stand, unable to move. Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks, Ella Fitzgerald, Ada Lovelace, Coco Chanel….the titles went on and on. Of course, I couldn’t resist, so I bought as many books as I could and excitedly we went home.

For hours my girls simply read, not surfacing until eventually they were forced to eat. They loved learning about these incredible, determined women. Excitedly, they chattered about the outrage they felt when Rosa was asked to move from her seat on the bus, the achievements of Marie Curie, how Harriet Tubman was so incredibly brave freeing the slaves through the underground network. And my heart swelled with both satisfaction and pride. They were only 7 and 5 at the time, but listening to their arguments and discussions, they sounded older than their years.

A few months later, it was my turn to do an assembly for Years 1, 2 and 3 in my school. Racking my brains, I wondered what to talk about for 25 minutes. It then hit me. History is always about men. The achievements of men. The mistakes and stupid decisions of men. I spoke to the children in the hall about how much I loved history because it helped to explain why things are the way they are in the present day. I also explained that when they learn about history as they grow up, quite often they will be learning about men – but whenever I would do an assembly, I would teach them about a famous women in history.

I looked at the sea of faces in front of me as I made this statement – no one blinked. No one stirred a muscle. They were ready. The woman I introduced them to that day was Florence Nightingale. The BBC produced some absolutely excellent videos about famous women, and I shared with them the video of Florence, pausing every so often to question, clarify, explain things to the children so that they understood the obstacles and problems that she had had to face and eventually overcome.

The children were absolutely fascinated and I had a number of children (both boys and girls), ask me afterwards, when I would be doing an assembly again because they really enjoyed learning about Florence Nightingale.

Their response made me feel incredibly encouraged. To children it didn’t matter who they were learning about: men, women, black, white – they simple loved learning and being inspired.

The cogs in my brain started whirring. In Year 2, as a part of our history curriculum we needed to teach the children about the lives of significant people from the past. After speaking to my year group partner, we both felt incredibly excited – for 6 weeks, why didn’t we teach our children about significant women from the past?

I tell you, the children were so absolutely gripped and fascinated about learning about these incredible women. I think what touched them all was how all of these women were underdogs and achieved against the odds. They discussed how unfair the world was. How things hadn’t been right. How thankfully things had changed for the better. Once again, my heart swelled with pride and happiness.

Why do we teach? We want the world to be a better place. We want children to go out into the world feeling strong and brave and able to take on the challenges that they will face in the future. So many of the children, both boys and girls, went home and spoke to their families about the books that we had been looking at, about the women that we had been learning about and went home and watched more of the videos about famous women on the BBC teach website. I think there was a surge in the sales of the ‘Little people, big dreams’, series of books, as the children asked their parents at homes to buy those books for them.

I tell the children in my care how they too can become artists, scientists, mathematicians, advocates for equal rights – and that the people that we had been learning about were once little children, with big dreams – just like them.

Everyday, I feel grateful to be in a career that I love. Working with the best people in the world – children. And who knows, as the spark has been ignited, what will these wonderful people go on to achieve – I don’t know. But I tell you something, I can’t wait to find out!

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Thunderstorms

I still laugh at some of the things that we used to think and believe when we were little. I remember being about 7 years old, I was at school, it was very close to home time and the skies became really, really eerie and dark. My friends and I were tidying up, getting ready for home time and then we heard it. A slow, guttural rumbling sound coming from the heavens. A flash of light. A mixture of fear and excitement. A thunderstorm was about to begin. A few of the children screamed every time they heard the thunder. I didn’t. I’ve never been afraid of thunderstorms, or lightning. Their yelps of fear simply confused me. How could you be afraid of something so beautiful? So rare? So powerful and awe inspiring?

One of the boys in my class noticed that I was standing still, transfixed, listening to the rumbles in the sky. He sidled over to me and nodded sagely, clearly acknowledging a kindred spirit. ‘It’s God moving his furniture around in heaven. That’s what’s making all that noise!’

I thought carefully about what he said. It seemed like a perfectly plausible explanation to me. ‘Yes,’ I agreed. Then decided to add my own spin. After all, why should he be the expert on thunderstorms and I be left out? ‘Yes, he’s moving the furniture around but he’s also angry. That’s why there’s lightning!’

I’m not sure how long our conversation continued but both of us carried on adding to the story that we had begun about an angry God, moving his furniture around, getting cross in heaven. I remember other children trying to add their own twopence worth into our story – and depending upon whether we liked them or not, we either accepted their contributions, or derisively rejected what they said. Another child mentioned that the sound of thunder was actually the sound of God’s stomach rumbling. I remember looking to see who had dared to offer their own alternative explanation, and I was pretty sure that it was one of the screamers from earlier. How one of them had the audacity to offer up a theory after their performance, I did not know. Neither my friend or I gave that theory our stamp of approval. Because we had become the official experts on why thunderstorms happen, nobody dared to challenge our authority…

To this day, I still have a fascination for thunderstorms. I pride myself on being able to predict when one will happen. I feel a pressure in the front of my head which only eases when the storm has passed.

Of course, as an adult I know why thunder happens. I understand why we see the lightning first and hear the thunder afterwards. I know how to count the intervals between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder to ascertain how far away the storm actually is. Despite knowing all the science behind storms, when I’m actually at home, in my back room, listening to the rain drops pelting against the glass roof, seeing the unexpected and unpredictable flashes of light and listening to the furious, unpredictable claps of thunder, I revert back to my 7 year old self. Wondering silently to myself, what specifically had made God angry this time?

One of the other reasons why I absolutely love thunderstorms is because it is one of the times in my life when I am absolutely, genuinely fearless. I would be happy to go outside, stand in the middle of the rain, feel the violent drops of rain pierce my skin, look up to the heavens and marvel at how small, insignificant and helpless we are compared with the might of nature. We humans, we’re so used to being in charge aren’t we? So used to controlling all aspects of our life. A thunderstorm reminds us there are forces more powerful than us – and it is good for us to remember that.

However, the best part of the storm is…watching how magically everything goes back to normal again. There is a calmness and sense of relief – as if the anger, resentment, bitterness that had been causing the conflict – all just drift away. We start afresh. The fear has dissipated. We go back to our normal business – as if nothing had happened at all….

Mothers

Throughout my teaching career I have seen all types of mothers: loud, quiet, worried, over-protective, overwhelmed, stressed, guilt-ridden, frantic, peaceful, relaxed, abused – a whole spectrum of women, all trying to do their best by their children.

Because I teach primary aged children, I see the delight in the children’s faces when their mums come and collect them from the school gates at home time. It doesn’t matter how much of a brilliant day we’ve had at school, I get a huge satisfaction of seeing children race to their mothers’ arms and be enveloped in a huge hug.

Whenever I get the chance to pick my own daughters up, I’m almost knocked over by the ferocity of their hugs. They are so pleased to see me. Even now, whilst I’ve been writing this blog, I had to stop for a while because my eldest just wanted a cuddle.

But I know that open display of affection doesn’t last forever. A few years later and it will be uncool to let your mum know that you love her. I have two daughters so I’m dreading the hormonal clashes. The teenage rebellion. Being at loggerheads with one another. I will remember how I felt at their age – not being an adult, but feeling like one. Thinking that I knew best. Sometimes I did. Sometimes I didn’t.

It’s definitely not something that I’m looking forward to.

However, you come through that too. In the teenage years, you take your mum for granted, you don’t realise how much she is doing. You don’t realise how much she is hurting inside. You don’t realise that she’s so used to protecting you, that it pains her to see you trying to push her away. I saw a card in a shop yesterday, on the front cover it read ‘Dear Mum, I get it now and I’m sorry!’

Eventually, there comes a time when suddenly – you’re not fighting. Suddenly, you realise that you actually need your mum – and she’s there for you. Just as she was when you were little and needed a cuddle. Just as she always was there during your rebellion. You just never noticed.

My blog is actually for those adults who are lucky enough to still have their mother within calling distance. Be that at the end of a phone, or a text, or a drive, or even a plane ride away. Call your mum. Make amends if you’re angry with her. Say sorry if you upset her. Just put yourself in her shoes for a moment and think about what she has done for you, for you to get where you are now. Is an annual, obligatory Mother’s Day card and birthday card sufficient? Would it hurt to send a text just to see how she is? In fact, video call so that she can see your face, and tell you that you’re not eating enough, that you need to take care of yourself more, and do you want her to cook your favourite food for you…would that not be a better way to communicate if you can’t visit?

If you’re a parent and you don’t make the time or the effort to spend time with your own mother, what message are you giving your own children? That they can discard you when you are older, and no longer need you too?

The problem…the fact of life is, that people are not around forever. Having already lost one parent I can tell you that losing him was one of the hardest things in life that you never get over. Perhaps that’s why I hold onto my own mum a little bit tighter than I need to. If I’m sad – she’s there, offering moral support, telling me that everything that happens for the best, telling me not to worry. If I’m happy – she’s pleased for me, telling me that she had been praying for me and willing for things to go my way. There isn’t a day that I don’t count my blessings for her still being here.

There are those, whose mothers have passed away. One thing that I truly believe, a mother’s love is so strong that she is always there for her children, even after she had passed, as a protective shield. It’s no consolation for those who have lost their mothers though. I know so many people who would do anything in the world to be able to talk to their mother one more time. To hear her voice one last time. To be scolded by her once again. To be held one more time.

Think of those people.

If you are lucky enough to have your mum around – for your own sake, take the time to reach out and spend more time speaking and communicating with her. I’m not saying mothers are perfect, easy to get along with, angelic creatures. What I’m saying is – you only get one. One who carried you, nurtured you and made you capable of standing on your own two feet.

If you do nothing else today – reach out…

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Forever 28

My birthday is next month. Not far away at all. Inexplicably, my sister, brother and I all share one month for our birthdays. First is my brother, we get his out of the way, then it’s my sister’s, after that – the ‘grand finale’ if you like, is my birthday. Although I’m not sure that my siblings quite see it that way!

When I’m with my brother and sister, I feel that we immediately regress to how we were when we were children. Mischievous, arguing with each other, making up, tag teaming against each other, all (mostly), in good humour. And then I look around – we have responsibilities, houses, careers, my sister and I have children – and the frivolity and carefreeness is replaced once again with the necessity of being adults.

I don’t feel old. Not on the inside. In my head, I’m stuck forever at the age of 28. I’ve had this conversation with others before – some people I know feel like they are 16 or 18. I suppose in your head, you’re stuck at the age when you felt the freest, or strongest, or happiest. That was when I was 28. The world was my oyster. My friends and I ruled the world. I travelled at will. Bought what I wanted. Answerable to none. No responsibilities. The most confident that I’d ever been. In my head, I will be 28 forever.

That’s all very well. How wonderful. Good for me. Forever 28.

But I’m far from 28 now. I don’t look the way I did when I was 28. Heavier, slower, wider, bigger. Having children changes your perspective on the world – I am humbler than I was when was 28. Life made me realise that not every problem can be solved so easily, everyone is different, there is more than one way to do things, one size does not fit all. My way may not always be the right way. Learning that is a tough call. I’m heck of a lot wiser and more accepting of others than I was, when I was 28.

So what is the point of this post? Well, I suppose there’s an anger in me that is seething and gently simmering away. The wiser part of me tells me to not be bothered by what I am frustrated with, the other revolutionary part of me wants to set fire to the world. So what if I’m older, so what if I’m not in the first flushes of youth? Does that make what I have to say, or what I have to offer any less valid or relevant than someone in their late 20’s or early 30’s. Because from where I stand, the world seems to belong to that age bracket. Anyone who has stepped over that threshold, may as well be dead.

You may think that I’m over-exaggerating? Being overly sensitive? Well, you’re entitled to think that. However, you only have to look at the entertainment business to see how rife ageism is – particularly when we focus on women. How many actresses, singers, news presenters, sports commentators over the age of 40 still get regular work – compare that to men over 40. When they are spoken about, it is their physical appearance that is constantly under scrutiny. Don’t they look young? Look at how slim they are? OR, God, she’s let herself go! What happened to her? Women are not allowed to age – no grey hair, no fine lines or wrinkles, no weight gain. We must be the same and look the same as we did in our twenties.

I know that I have to fight harder to get my voice heard – being female, a person of colour and now older! The endless battles, when I know what I’m talking about, that I have the life experience to know that my point is proven and valid, that I have to shout a bit louder to be taken seriously – it becomes tiresome. If I was wiser, I would probably put my head down, not worry and focus on other things in my life. Sadly for me, I’m not as enlightened as I should be yet. So, as Dylan Thomas says, I ‘rage, rage against the dying of the light’.

I will never grow old. Not in my head. Not as long as I have all my faculties working and am physically able to do everything I need to function. I still have unfulfilled ambitions in life – desires that one day I hope I can fulfil.

People often think that ageism is associated with pensioners and much older folk. I disagree. I think that ageism begins to creep well before that. You’re viewed as past your sell-by date way before that. Particularly if you’re a woman.

Be that as it may, I refuse to be patronised or over-looked. I refuse to be under-estimated or not taken seriously. There are so many things I want to do in life, so much I still want to learn, so many places I still want to visit, so much I still have to offer. I will not grow old gracefully. I will not bow down and be passed over meekly.

If anything, with age I have realised that in order to achieve anything in life, you have to be a force to be reckoned with. As I grow older, I become equally more patient and more ferocious; more able to compromise and equally more belligerent; more able to see which battles are worth fighting for, and which things just don’t matter in life anymore.

I want to end with some inspiring words. Something that might aid other women, who also, like me, feel overlooked and undervalued simply because of their age. The only thing that I can think of is: Don’t the bastards bring you down.

I think that pretty much sums it up.

Treasure

I’m not feeling well at all today. My ears are blocked. My head hurts. My throat is killing. A day off, totally wasted by sitting on the sofa, trying to take my mind off how lousy I’m feeling. Therefore, I’m going to blog about something that made me feel full of pride and gratitude this week.

As I mentioned, I’m not feeling well. I haven’t been feeling well all week actually, and it’s progressively got worse as the week has gone on. Monday evenings are a bit tricky, because that is the evening that the girls have Taekwan-do lessons. As they only go once a week, I never want them to miss these valuable lessons, and my eldest also has a grading coming up soon, so it is imperative that she attends and keeps getting guidance from her teachers. This Monday I felt like I was going to die. My head was stabbing with migraine pains. Strong smells were making me want to throw up. My stomach was doing somersalts. Had it been any other day, I would have said to the girls, I’m sorry we can’t go today, but with the impending grading, I just didn’t feel that I could do that.

My youngest has her lesson first, for half an hour, so my eldest and I, we sit in the car and chat, or just read peacefully, waiting. This week was no different, my eldest had created a den for herself in the back seat, with a hardback copy of David Walliam’s ‘Ice Monster’, she sat absorbed and engrossed, oblivious to the rest of the world. To be honest, I wasn’t in the mood to make small talk with her either, so I closed my eyes and went to sleep for a few minutes. I’m not sure when, but I heard a rustling coming from my bag on the passenger seat next to me. Bleary eyed, I looked over to find Eesha rooting around to find my mobile phone. Confused, and struggling to speak, I asked her, ‘Whattyadoing?’ She just said, ‘Go back to sleep Mummy, I’m putting a timer on your phone, so that you can wake up when it’s time to get Shreeya.’ And she did exactly that, she worked out that there were 17 minutes left of the lesson, so she put on a timer that would ensure that we would collect her little sister on time, and then her own lesson could start.

8 years old. That’s all she is. 8 years old. And she is capable of sorting things out for me. Looking after me when the need arose. My heart just swelled with both disbelief and pride, and had it not been so painful in my head, I probably would have cried with gratitude. How and when did she become so mature and grown up and confident to just take care of things?

The remaining 17 minutes passed, and I climbed the steps, which at this point felt like Mt Everest to me, to the dojo to collect Shreeya. Leaving Eesha to start her lesson, I asked my youngest if we could not do our weekly Taekwan do pilgrimage to Morrisons (a 5 minute drive away), this week because I wasn’t feeling very well. Now it sounds really bizarre, but she absolutely loves our post-lesson trip to Morrisons, when it’s just me and her, as we chat, she helps me buy any bits and bobs that we need, she loves helping me out, and choosing a snack for the drive home. When I asked if it was ok if we didn’t do that this week, her face which had been lit up with excitement, just dropped as if someone had switched a light off. As much as my head hurt, disappointing my little girl felt much, much more painful. Never mind, I said, let’s go! Her face lit up again, and off we went.

I didn’t spend that long in the supermarket, as walking around was tricky, and I just wanted to rest. We drove back to the Taekwan-do venue and sat quietly again, waiting for Eesha’s lesson to finish. I closed my eyes again, the pain in my head worse, even though I had taken some tablets. At that moment, my mum called to make sure that I was ok. She said, ‘You took tablets on an empty stomach, that’s why you feel sick. Eat something, you’ll feel better and the tablets will work.’ Obediently, I did as I was told, grabbed a pain au chocolate and within 5 minutes, the sickness had subsided. My head still hurt though, I closed my eyes listening to Shreeya chat non-stop about anything and everything.

Eventually, she noticed that I wasn’t really responding in the way that I normally would and she asked if I was ok? I said, ‘Would you mind stroking my head, I think it would make me feel better?’ She leapt up at the chance of doing something helpful again, so she began gently stroking my hair, commenting with pride, on how soft my hair was. After a few seconds she asked, ‘Shall I sing you a lullaby?’ The thought tickled me immensely because I knew she had been racking her brain to see what might make me feel better, so I replied, ‘That would be lovely.’ In the most gentle and soothing voice that she could muster, she began to sing a lullaby to help me sleep. I don’t know if you have heard a 5 year old sing before, but try as they might, their voices are hilariously loud, even when they are trying so incredibly hard to be soothing and soft. The pain killers were beginning to kick in, so I thanked her for her help, and enjoyed seeing her face and body puff up with pride, knowing that she had helped me feel better.

We collected Eesha and climbed into the car again. Somehow, I drove home safely. They ate, showered and went to bed. No arguments. No disputes. No, ‘But Muuuuum….’ They just did what needed to be done. And I was filled with immense gratitude. These lovely girls could see that I was finding things a bit tricky because I wasn’t feeling well and they just wanted to do what they could do, to help.

This blog isn’t about ‘Oh look at me, aren’t my children wonderful!’ No. They argue and fall out with each other. They make up again within a few minutes. They want to spend all their time playing together. And they get on each other’s nerves too. But this week, when it mattered the most, they pulled together, in their own ways and did whatever they could to look after and take care of me. I spoke to them in the car on the drive home, about how grateful I was, and how much they had helped. But I said, ‘You know how much you helped me, you’ve got to do that for each other all the time too. Don’t fight with each other, look after each other too.’

They looked at each other sheepishly and smiled…they’d just been arguing because Shreeya was singing the lullaby that she’d sung to me, to Eesha, and Eesha had indulged her for a few minutes, but then her patience had worn thin, and she’d asked her sister to stop singing – Shreeya was in the zone and did not want to stop…

This blog is to remind me, if I read my posts back in the future, how beautiful life is sometimes, even when times feel really hard. When my girls have grown up and flown the nest, I will remember how they used to rally around me and try their best to make me feel better when I didn’t feel good. But I hope that they read this post back, remember how they were so loving and caring at such a young age. And how they were always taught to love and look after each other too, even if they had fallen out.

Sometimes our parents, our siblings, our husbands and wives, our nearest and dearest annoy the hell out of us. It’s the nature of being so close to one another – you’re bound to fall out at some points in life too. But spend less time on thinking about why you fell out, and more time focussing on why you love each other in the first place. Make up with those who you have fallen out with. Reconnect with those you wish you were still in contact with, reminisce about the past. And most importantly, take care of each other. Treasure the people you love. No one is around forever. Don’t live with regrets thinking ‘if only I’d reached out…’ Reach out and be with the people you love again. Life is just too short.

Escape!

Yesterday was Friday. My day off. Usually, my most favourite day in the world where I take some time to recharge my batteries and remind myself that life is not one big, giant job that makes demands of you all the time. Life is for living. Yesterday, I did not feel like that. Yesterday, there were a multitude of jobs to do. My mind was churning away, I had a ‘to-do’ list in my head and the first thing was: ‘Get the girls to school’. As any parent knows, the get the children to school part is preceded by at least 300 other jobs – which includes chivvying children along. The same conversations, the same reminders each morning. Constant chivvying. Once we were out of the house, we began our walk to school.

The walk to school is full of conversations about what the day will hold, negotiating traffic, walking through a subway (which always fills me with dread) and getting to school on time. But when we finally climbed up the concrete steps of the subway and reached the pavement, a sense of relief flooded my brain, and I started to actually look around. The walk to school is actually quite lovely because so many people have the most beautiful shrubs and trees in their front gardens – and there they were, in plain sight. Flowers of every description. And although my youngest had been telling me ever since the 21st of March that Spring was here. Spring had started. Mummy, it’s spring now. My ears had heard her – but my eyes finally acknowledged what she had been trying to tell me. Spring was here. Blossom everywhere. The most beautiful red roses that you never see in bouquets, smiling shyly at me, oblivious of their beauty, hidden slightly amongst the green foliage. Daffodils, tulips, magnolia, crocuses – all waving frantically, trying to catch my attention. And I, like so many others, just walk past them. Heads full of to-do lists, worries and chatter, not noticing the beauty in the world around us.

Mindfulness is a buzz word at the moment. Be in the moment. I received a beautiful adult colouring book once as an end of year present – it was full of flowers. I pictured myself sitting in my back room, at the round glass table, under the glass roof, in front of the French doors that open onto the garden, with a brand new set of Staedtler colouring pencils, spending an afternoon peacefully colouring in. Colouring in those flowers, looking out onto my garden, with a cup of tea, smiling and colouring in. Of course, in those reveries, I’m probably a Victorian lady, who has a lady’s maid that looks after the children and doesn’t have to deal with the arguments, squabbling and mess that goes with being a mum in the modern world. I allowed myself 2 minutes of delightful, uninterrupted day-dreaming though, put away my colouring book in a safe place, never to be seen again.

The only way, I realise that I can be in the moment – is by walking in the great outdoors. Noticing the trees swaying in the wind on a gusty day, the flowers, with their joyful colours announcing that new life is here, the peaceful sounds and movement of the river, or watching the hypnotic waves of the sea gush wildly towards me, and then retreating just as quickly, as though I had offended them.

I have to go outside to escape from the things that are bothering me in own head. From the people that might have said something that upset me, from the jobs that I have to do but haven’t managed yet, from the things that are not going my way and I can’t understand why. Going for a walk always makes me remember how temporary and small a lot of my worries are. It reminds of the cycle of life. During the winter, whilst it’s cold, we never think the evenings will ever get longer again. The trees are skeletal and bare. The days are cold. The sun is deceptive, shining brightly but heating nothing at all. And we think that we will never get through it. When will the leaves grow again? When will the days start to get longer? When will we feel the warm heat of the sun caressing our bodies again? And it just happens. All of a sudden. And we didn’t even realise where the time had gone.

There is beauty in winter though. There is no other feeling that beats being out in the freezing cold, seeing your breath in the air while you breathe, then scampering indoors and feeling the warmth of your house hit you as you walk in through the door, then making a hot cup of tea and feeling your body warm up from the inside. I love seeing the patterns that the frost makes on glass, on the pavements, how the earth seems to shine, whilst all of nature is temporarily frozen. Even when we go through tough times in life – there is beauty in that. Sometimes you realise who is truly there for you, and others may surprise you with their warmth, care and generosity. You realise how strong you are, how you are capable of doing things that you had never imagined before.

Rightly, or wrongly, I can only be ‘mindful’ outside. Noticing things in nature that we just don’t have time to notice on a day to day basis. How the shape of every tree is slightly different. The colour and patterns on the bark vary. How there are a million shades of green. And how flowers growing outside, make you feel that there must be a benevolent God, with a heart so pure – otherwise, how else could there be such beauty in the world? And for me – the sea. I am never more peaceful and happy, as I am beside the sea. Whether it is turquoise and a haven in the hot, scorching sun; or an angry, terrifying grey, crashing against the rocks, warning you with a furious passion, that you must stay away.

Go outside. When you are sad, go outside. When you are worried, go outside. When you are feeling depressed, go outside. Walk. Breathe. Notice. Notice the flowers, the trees, the birds, the cracks in the pavement, the styles of windows and doors on people’s houses.

And when you get back home, get ready to give life a go again. Nothing is ever as bad as it might seem.

A sense of shame…

I sometimes think about my life before I had children and how different I was at that time. I was so very definite about everything. Everything was so very black and white. I knew what was right, what was wrong. Who was right. Who was wrong. I knew everything. I always felt so strong.

Then I had children. And that is the most humbling experience in the world. Because what you thought you knew – you realise that you don’t. The world that was once black and white, had changed to innumerable shades of grey. The world that I had been so very much in control of, had changed beyond belief. Dangers lurked everywhere. Even a simple activity – a shopping trip, became something that had to be conducted at the exact precise time, with military precision. In between a nap, feed and nappy change. Woe betide you if you tried to be a maverick and attempted anything at a different time. Of course, you couldn’t just park anywhere. You had to park in a space that was wide enough for you to open your passenger door to its fullest, and take your baby, nestled carefully in her car seat, that slotted into your pushchair, which you had to assemble carefully, ensuring all the locks were in place. But of course, at the shops, all of those spaces were taken. Sometimes by gits who didn’t even have children.

Once you’re out and in the shops, of course a third of your attention is on what you need, a third of your attention is making sure that your child or children are ok and the final third is ensuring (a bit like Cinderella), that you’re not taking longer than the allocated time and you’re not encroaching on the nap/feed/nappy change time. Babies, I quickly realised, are incredibly inflexible and unreasonable beings. They want what they want – and they will scream until you give in. Which is obviously why God designed them to have big eyes, tiny noses and tiny, edible fingers and toes. You wouldn’t tolerate that relentless, unreasonable shit from just anyone who wasn’t incredibly cute.

Everyday is pretty much the same. Each day revolves around feeding, sleep, nappy changes and did you wind the child correctly? Any problems with the baby? The baby is crying for an unknown reason – did you wind her?

Yes.

Properly?

Yes.

Are you sure?

Yes.

Give her to me, I’ll do it properly!!

Top tip! Never ever say to a new mother, ‘Give your child to me, you haven’t done x, y or z properly!’

Trust me. Just don’t. It’s offensive and hurtful. The mother is feeling like shit as it is. This is new and scary and they are just doing their best. Often feeling like their failing….

So this tiny bundle, changes your entire life. And you have no control.

And people expect you to be able to cook and have a tidy house and be presentable and attend social engagements.

People forget over time, how hard the beginning is. I won’t. Not ever. They forget how much help they got from others, from family members who were around a lot and could give even half an hour of respite.

I remember when my mum would pop around after work to see how I was getting on and I would almost cry with relief. Without a word, or passing any judgement, she’d discretely start to tidy up around me, or she’d make me a cup of tea and say, I want to hold her, you go and have a shower. Or, she would just let me have a nap, whilst she quietly took over.

I hope I can be there for my daughters in a similar vein when they are older. I hope I will know just what to say and just what to do, to give them some respite and let them know, it’s ok to need help. You’re not failing, you’re a human and babies are hard.

But the title of my blog, is ‘A sense of shame…’ And it’s called this for a reason. My blogs are generally about female empowerment and how women can do anything in the world. Bringing up babies made me feel completely overwhelmed.

I’ve written about this many times before, but everything would have been bearable if my babies would sleep through the night. But they just didn’t. They didn’t take huge naps through the day. And they would keep waking through the night. For me this was an impossible situation because I had been a baby, a child and an adult who needed to sleep. My tiny girls didn’t need to – especially my eldest. Even now, her mind is so active she doesn’t want to sleep. Sleep is for wimps. Unlike her mother. Who needs to sleep.

But babies are unreasonable. If they need to wake up in the night – they just do. It doesn’t matter how tired you are as a parent. They don’t care. So, my husband would help me. He was never annoyed. He would pace around for what seemed like hours, holding his daughter to his chest so she would feel warm and safe, listening to the regular beat of his heart, gently soothing her. Never once did he complain. Never once did he say how hard this all was. Never once, did he make me feel inadequate…

I would listen to other women, who were doing it all. Feeding, nappy changes, naps, cleaning, cooking, managing to exercise, doing the night feeds, all on their own. Their husbands wouldn’t help. Wouldn’t even dream of helping. But there they were, these superwomen, doing it all, on their own.

I felt a sense of shame because I couldn’t.

I couldn’t do it all on my own. I physically wasn’t able to. And I was incredibly blessed to have people around me who helped me to stay afloat because I know I would have drowned.

It’s funny how resentful I felt of others. I resented hearing about how other people’s babies slept through the night. I resented hearing about other people’s babies having long naps during the day. I resented hearing how other mums had the energy to exercise and meet other mums and keep a household going with their pristine houses and delicious home cooked food. I kept wondering, ‘What was wrong with me? Why did I need so much help? Why couldn’t I get things done like other mothers?’

What I learnt years later, now that my children are slightly older – everyone is putting on a front. Everyone feels like their not coping with something. But it’s just not done to say, ‘This is really hard. Harder than I could ever have imagined!’

I certainly felt a huge sense of shame knowing that I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was – and that actually my husband was incredibly strong and had a source of patience and energy that I simply did not possess. There were times when I thought, he’s going to be furious with me today. The house is a mess. Nothing’s been done. Today is the day he’s going to tell me how useless I am. But he didn’t. He just knew – the fact that I’d got through the day. Our girls were healthy, clean, fed, extremely loved and happy – nothing was more important.

Thank god he saw things that way. Thank god he helped the way he did – and still does to this day. Never once making me feel like I was a failure.

I see my mother, and see how millions of women like her, and many of my friends, just manage motherhood on their own. These incredibly strong, brilliant women, who do everything on their own. I admire them and am in awe of them.

There remains within me, a deep sense of shame that I was not as strong as some of the inspirational women I know. All I know is that the incredible support that I was and still am blessed to receive, I will pay it forward and help my loved ones when they need it.