Can’t you take a joke?

 

I am 37 years old. During my lifetime, I have been seriously sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, groped and told I have ‘beautiful blowjob lips’. I have been bartered over, whilst present in the room. “Suck my dick, and I’ll pay for your dinner,” “I bet you’re a right dirty bitch,” “You look like someone who can handle a cock,” are just a tiny example of things that have been said to me.

I am 37 years old. During my lifetime, I believed many of these things being said to me were compliments. I believed all the uninvited assaults and harassments were my fault. I believed that objecting to these assumptions about my character made me boring and unlikeable. The times I did speak up, I was silenced with five innocuous words. “Can’t you take a joke?”

I am 37 years old. I have finally realised the power of these words. I want my daughter to understand these words. I want my daughter to understand where the blame really lies when she inevitably hears these words. I want my daughter to not be afraid of these words like I always was.

Many won’t understand that what they are saying is belittling, hurtful and archaic. They may believe that their words are a joke (or ‘banter’, whatever the fuck that means). They may accuse you of being over sensitive and/or lacking a sense of humour. These people lack the intelligence to even begin to understand. They are fucking idiots. However, their idiocy doesn’t provide them with a free pass to go through their lives causing hurt and anguish to other people.

There will also be those who know they are in the wrong. They will use words to see how easy it is to knock you off balance, to make you believe it is your fault for taking it the wrong way. To make you believe you somehow deserved it. They will know that a line has been crossed. They should feel ashamed but whether they do, I don’t know. All I do know is, they will try to pass the shame onto you. They are fucking cowards.

I am 37 years old. For the rest of my lifetime, I will not be afraid of those five words. I will defend my body, my self-respect and my right to object. I will push back against misogyny and sexism with the fierce female determination I inherently possess. I will not carry the burden of shame gifted to me by fucking idiots and cowards and neither will my daughter. I have a voice. It will no longer be silenced by ignorance.

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Finding Mum

Back in 2013, when my body was ravished by exhaustion and broken from a human exiting via, what used to be, a teeny tiny hole, I wrote “I had a dream…and it wasn’t like this“.

Four years on, I’m still struggling under the heavy weight of parental responsibility. I have a 7 year old now that lays on the guilt thick and fast…

7yo: Did you know that when people don’t eat food, they can actually die?
Me: Yup. They starve to death.
7yo: I haven’t had breakfast yet.
Me: I see what you did there.

I have a 5 year old, who is thriving at his specialist school for kids with autism, learning to talk like Father Jack and who lovingly punches me in the face when it all gets a bit too much.

I still hide in corners in the hope of not being asked another fucking tedious question or having to subserviently wipe arses that are now clearly no longer in need of my assistance. This act of trying to gain mental health time is usually rewarded with one child falling down a well that I wasn’t even aware was at the end of the garden or the other one eating four jars of chocolate spread in record time. Don’t ask why I have that many jars of chocolate spread in my cupboard. I just do.

So, 7 years into parenthood, what am I doing? Well, I did have a little dream and now the kids are being looked after by actual grown ups qualified to teach kids useful shit, like spelling and reading and stuff, I decided to pursue it. I’ve gone back to school.

I’m inspired by my fellow females – some I knew before we became mums, others are as a result of becoming a mum. They’re all following dreams in some way; teaching yoga and mindfulness, moving to NYC to kick American arse, quitting day jobs to set up new business ventures, expanding their families and nurturing babies, all whilst coated in the sticky crust of motherhood.

I remember the first fog of motherhood. It was all consuming and overwhelming. There were even dark moments when I questioned if I’d done the right thing. To be honest, I still do. Especially when I’ve got two kids screaming at me for answers to their intolerable lives that I just don’t have, or I have been the cause of.

I am finding me again though. Perhaps a different me that wouldn’t have been able to exist had it not been for motherhood.

So in a usual shout out to my fellow ladies, trying to adult and navigate the dangerous (for us, not the kids – I have no idea how many times a bumhole finger has been poked in my mouth) territory of Parentland, keep those dreams alive. All dreams have the same value. There is no hierarchy to dreams. No one dream is better than another. They’re yours and yours alone and they hold the power to make you feel brilliant and inspired. And if you feel like you’re a million miles away from those dreams, don’t despair. Just say ‘fuck’ a lot. It has helped me no end over the last seven years and will no doubt continue to, looooooong into the future.

Now…mental health time over…where the fuck are the kids?…*Retrieves one from a well and confiscates four jars of chocolate spread from the other*

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My kids are just mocking me


My Three Obsessions of Parenthood


Before Parenthood (BP): Intelligent discussions about politics, films and how much booze I had consumed at the weekend.

After Parenthood (AP): Comfortably discussing bowel movements with people I’ve only just met; my own and my children’s. Regularly taking photographs of the toilet beasts produced by children that only live on breadsticks, raisins and cheese. Needing a faecal update at every opportunity to help keep the poo anxiety at bay.


BP: Suffering from bed ache after spending far too long in bed.

AP: Suffering from sleep anxiety and graduating as a senior member of the Noise Police which involves wanting to kill my husband for tripping over what sounds like a mountain of tambourines, anyone with fireworks, the postman, aircraft, twatty teenagers on 50cc scooters and barking dogs*. (I am exempt from this as the noise I accidentally make is an accident.)
*Fully aware this will change when I have my own twatty teenager.

BP: Eating out in places called restaurants, fluctuating wildly between high end cuisine and Frankie & Benny’s.

AP: Suffering food anxiety as I rotate between four main accepted meals of frozen beige, pasta beige, rice beige and bread beige. Occasionally pinning them down to pump an Ella’s Kitchen pouch down their necks like a foie gras goose and secretly hoping the tomato sauce on the pizza counts as 1 of their 5 a day.

Oh, to be a mother like the ones I saw in all the magazines.

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Sex education for your five year old: what not to say…

My husband and I made a pact to never lie to our kids. We quickly learned this was an idiotic pact as we informed our children that the local soft play was closed. Again. (How they earn a living, I’ll never know *inserts winky face).

We changed the pact to never giving misinformation to our kids. The pact needed to exist because my husband still thought thunder was created by clouds banging together, despite gaining a physics a-level, and we didn’t want our children to feel aggrieved later in life by incorrect facts they had been told, just to shut them up.

Death? No problem. I stick to the facts. We return to the earth and feed the flora and fauna in the same way it feeds us during our lifetimes. “But I don’t want you to die, Mummy,” my five year old says forlornly. “We all die. But hopefully by the time I die, I’ll be really old and you will have spent a good few years wiping my bottom for me as I won’t be able to use a toilet any more…or not even know my own name for that matter.” See? Facts.

Sex education? Easy. Simple facts. No need to go into details of who has to sleep in the damp patch. Just cold, hard facts. But I don’t have to think about this right now. My eldest is five. She won’t ask about the birds and bees for at least another two years.

Five year old: “Mum…when I grow up to be a lady, I’m going to have lots of babies. *Thinks for a moment* How will I get a baby in my tummy?”

Shit. Really? Shit. Ok. Facts….seed. Seed in tummy. That’ll do.

Me: “A seed gets planted inside your tummy and a baby grows.”

Lame. Really lame.

Five year old: “Do I eat the seed?”

Just say yes. Eating the seed is good…Hang on…NO! NO TO EATING THE SEED! 

Me: “No…ummmm…I tell you what…get your pjs on and we’ll have a little chat about how babies are made.”

Good. Stalling. I like it. Load up DisneyCollectorBR on youtube and she’ll forget all about it.

Me: “You know…it’s not inevitable you’ll want children. Lots of people decide not to. Both your uncles have decided not to have children. Your body. You can do what you want with it…and if that means not having children, then fine.”

Female empowerment. I like where you’re going with this…

Five year old: “So, how do I get a baby in my tummy?”

You carried on talking. Why did you do that? The feminist cause could have waited…

Me: “So…you know girls have…”

Use it’s proper name. Use it’s proper name. Say Vagina. Say it.

Me: “…minnerwins…”

It’s ok. Minnerwin is fine.

Me: “…and boys have windles…”

Well, you’ve said minnerwin now so it’s utterly pointless saying penis. You dick.

Me: “…well…the windle goes inside the minnerwin hole…the hole that bleeds…and puts a seed inside the tummy which meets with an egg and grows into a baby.”

What the actual fuck. The hole that bleeds? Why? Why? Why?

Five year old: “Do the seeds already have names on?”

Amazing question. I bloody love her so much. I love her for completely bypassing ‘the hole that bleeds’.

Me: “No, my darling. The seeds are inside…well…you know the…ball bags under the windle? They’re inside them. There’s no names on them. They’re blank.”

Are you fucking out of your mind? Ball bags? Did her question even require this explanation? No. Just stop now. Stop talking. Get DisneyCollector whatever the fuck her name is on youtube and shut the fuck up.

Five year old: “So…does that doctor that looks at babies on the computer see the name?”

Me: “No…the doctor might be able to see whether it is a boy or girl but the baby comes out without a name, unless it’s mummy and daddy decide on a name before the baby is born. We knew you were a girl and named you long before you came out of my minnerwin.”

Five year old: “Babies come out of minnerwins?”

Fuck.

Me: “Goodness…is that the time? I think it’s time for sleep now. Goodnight.”

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The Eight Methods of Negotiation

Parents have spent centuries developing ways to combat the power struggle that exists between them and their offspring, using pathetic attempts at gaining compliance so they can delude themselves that they are actually in charge. It appears there are eight main methods of negotiation that exist when dealing with children, although this certainly isn’t exhaustive, and I have adopted all of them at some point or another.

It’s not always necessary to use all eight methods for the same activity – hair washing, for example, may only require one or two. However, there are some activities that require pulling out all the stops; mealtimes being one of them. Sick of serving up beige food with the nutritional value of bark, or having to witness that look when I present them with something new, these eight tried and tested ways may be all I need to lead me to victory:

Incentive

“Look at this delicious dinner I have just made. It has special ingredients that make you really strong and clever.”

*Only really used when I have the required amount of patience (varies daily). If I have not had an adequate amount of sleep due to dealing with the dream shark, and I get presented with the look almost immediately upon delivery of the dinner, then this method will be skipped entirely.

Obstinance

“You’re not leaving the table until you have eaten your dinner. Even if you have to stay there all night.”

Standing my ground. I make my position perfectly clear. I’m definitely in charge. I’m almost definitely absolutely possibly going to win this.

Cliché

“There are children starving in Africa who would give their leg limbs for a mouthful of your dinner.”

Clearly floundering, I jump straight into cliché, followed by muttering, “you ungrateful little shit,” under my breath just to make myself feel better.

Bribery

“Try it and I’ll give you £1.”

The child waivers slightly. The promise of a gold coin usually bags the win…but not this time. The food is just too nutritious.

Emotional blackmail

“I have spent hours making this for you. I’ve even made my fingers bleed making this dinner and if you don’t try it, I’ll be very, very sad. Do you want to make me cry?”

*Inserts other words such as disappointed, heartbroken, devastated and ruined for maximum effect.

Threats

“If you don’t eat your dinner, I’ll never cook for you again and you will have to survive on scraps out of bins.”

Other threats include dobbing them in to their favourite teacher. Despite usually being incredibly effective – it’s time to go nuclear.

Rage

“THAT’S IT! I’M SICK TO DEATH OF MAKING FOOD JUST SO YOU CAN MAKE THAT FACE AT IT! STARVE! SEE IF I CARE!”

Complete with a dramatic door slam and stomping off powerfully, spitting expletives through gritted teeth followed quickly by an overwhelming sense of failure and guilt.

Desperation

“Five mouthfuls…three…just one mouthful…taste it…just taste it, please…just lick the spoon…one lick…sniff it then…one sniff…look at it…just one look…look at it with one eye and you can leave the table.”

YES! They looked at it! VICTORY!

And who says this parenting lark is difficult? *Pours large glass of wine and beats self with parenting stick for not sticking with ‘Incentive’.

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A Toddler’s Guide to Choosing a Transition Object

Frightening illustration from Wikipedia
Frightening illustration from Wikipedia

You have probably discovered by now that your primary carer cannot wait to bin you off with anyone who will have you. Despite being desperate to bring you into the world, your massively differing body clock seems to cause your grown up to have psychotic episodes and be really ill, or whatever.

Screaming till you choke on your own spit and clinging to their leg is futile. Grown up brains are underdeveloped and lack the ability empathise with your emotion. They’ll always prioritise ‘I desperately need a poo’ or ‘if I don’t eat something, I’ll die’ over your emotional well being.

This is when you need to invest in a Transition Object; an object that can serve as a replacement when your mother – so called -pisses off to ‘earn money to live’ or some other bullshit excuse in an attempt to make her look less selfish.

Selecting a TO requires careful planning and research. It needs to fit a very specific criteria in order to get your grown up working in complete harmony with your needs. It doesn’t just serve to comfort you but can be used for bargaining, manipulation and all other forms of skulduggery normally observed in an adult human mother when trying to get you to sleep in your own bed/not piss yourself/smile in photographs. So, here is my handy guide to help you make a good choice:

It is important to consider when choosing a TO that you will be carrying it with you at all times, day and night. Having a TO that is average size (a generic teddy bear size) is pointless. It either needs to be larger than a five year old, or small enough to fit in the palm of your hand making it incredibly troublesome to a) carry or b) find*.

*At your convenience

Because it’ll either be being permanently dragged through exfoliated skin cells, animal hair, mud, puddles of your own urine or being clutched in a sweaty, greasy little hand, it needs to be a neutral shade of beige to fully display the collection of crusty matter. This will also come in very handy for the next point as it makes it disappear easily amongst the rest of the detritus.

An inconveniently large TO ideally needs to be a blanket to aid with the dragging through crap process as well as the getting lost regularly saga. A tiny teddy or stuffed animal of indiscernible species is also ideal for this very important part of TO ownership. It is essential that the TO is lost at least once in the bed covers, every night. This is to ensure your grown up doesn’t get too much sleep; sleep causes cancer so you will be helping them live longer.

Perhaps once every six months, lose the TO in the local area – far enough away that your grown up has to employ the efforts of international rescue, but not too far that it is gone forever. High anxiety situations such as this keeps your grown up’s skin looking more youthful.

If you feel like your grown up has been particularly emotionally unavailable, then you will need to lose it in a motorway service station. Despite the fact you will go through extreme grief during this difficult time, your grown up will suddenly possess powers of omnipotence to be at your beckon call, usually with large amounts of chocolate.

Due to the power a TO has to possess to fully ensure the grown up conforms when required, it needs to be either a) expensive (think Build-a-Bear) or b) irreplaceable. Ebay needs to be redundant and no amount of frantic internet searching will be able to locate anything like it on Earth.

This is also why it is imperative that you never let your grown up wash it. If, God forbid, another child does have the same TO as you, you can at least guarantee, by the no washing rule, that it won’t be covered in the same crusty shit, or emit the same cheesy smell that yours does.

Despite the fact you have employed its services to act as a replacement for when your grown up has disappeared again ‘treating yet another head lice infestation’, know that your TO will never let you down, always be there for you and will comfort you when you’re left on your own in front of Cbeebies…again. The sooner you get one, the less likely you’ll end up addicted to crack and yo yo-ing in and out of prison. Trust me, I’ve been there.


Written by Edward, aged 3 years.

Eight of the Biggest Changes Since Motherhood PLUS EIGHT MORE…

A while back, I wrote an informative piece on eight of the biggest changes since motherhood. Clearly being a bit previous with its publication, I have thought of several more. So, here for your gratification, is the original piece with an additional eight, and to save myself from further embarrassment, I’ll add a disclaimer that this list is not exhaustive and will likely be added to on a regular basis as my life continues to devolve into chaos. Enjoy.

Obviously, there are a multitude of things that are just not the same after Vaginal Destruction Day, some quite surprising in fact. Like my new found hatred for fireworks. I used to really enjoy them before VDD; perhaps that’s because they only seemed to appear on one day a year. However, since having children, they seem to have exploded onto the scene from October until the New Year with their constant threat of waking sleeping children. Thank you wanky cheap imports.

Clock changes. Getting the extra hour in bed. Oh, it was heavenly. Now, it’s just utter torture knowing that your 6am, four year old alarm clock will now be jumping on your head at 5am.

However, there are sixteen (and counting) major things that are just not the same for me anymore.

# 1. Makeup.

How the feck did I have time for shit like blusher? Get the black bags hidden. Do I look less like death? Yes. Fuck it, just get out the house.

#2. Tampons

Has the flow changed, or just the flow outlet? Who knows, but there’s carnage every 28 days.

#3. Body hair.

This is a conversation I had with my four year old daughter the other day:

4yo: What are you doing?
Me: I’m putting my deodorant on.
4yo: Why?
Me: Because when you’re a grown up, you need to use it to stop being so sweaty and smelly.
4yo: Does it make your hairs smell nicer?
Me: Did your Dad put you up to say that?

#4. Underwear.

My underwear drawer is possibly the most depressing place on Earth. But, it’s sooooooo damned comfortable.

#5. My brain.

Who are you? What am I writing about? Have I eaten today? Shit, I think I’ve just wet myself.

#6. Muscles.

I have a new found strength as a mother. I can wrestle an inhumanly strong toddler into his trousers, his high chair and his car seat. But only using my left arm. The baby bicep. You pick a hip and stick to it meaning that one arm constantly bears the weight until you have just one ridiculously strong arm which then comes into it’s own when overbearing the strength and will of an outraged child.

#7. Lie ins.

Fuck off end of British Summer Time.

I don’t know whether it’s just me, but I spend my life yearning for a wake up time that doesn’t begin with the number 6, but when I do get the chance of a lie in, I lay there awake. I just stare at the ceiling listening to the screams and mayhem from down stairs and can’t close my eyes. Either that or I’m writing a novel in my head.

#8. Toenails

I am fully aware of my unusually large big toe. However, it can always be made more beautiful with a splash of colour. Now my husband doesn’t know whether it’s my leg hair or toenails causing the lacerations to his lower body in bed. That, or we’re stuck together like velcro because of the sheer amount of body hair between us.

#9.  Bath time.

Bath water seems to possess similar qualities to holy water; my children scream as if being burnt alive like tiny demons. Unless I’m in it. Then bath time consists of :

a) staring at the furry animal between my legs for an inaudibly long time to ensure it isn’t going to bite them.
b) being water boarded.
c) orifice violation.
d) husband taking a dump.

#10. Language.
My ability to use three syllable words seems to have vanished. Along with my ability to say the word, “dead,” without shuffling uncomfortably, coughing loudly and changing the subject immediately onto rainbows and unicorns.

#11. Pockets
Coats, dressing gowns, trousers; if there is a pocket on a garment, it will be brimming with random floor pickings that make no sense whatsoever but still don’t quite make it to the bin.

#12. Carbon footprint

Three hour daily drives for ‘nap time’ + house full of plastic tat that will never decompose + washing machine that only gets turned off when it explodes + every light in the house being left on + the use of AA batteries increasing 400 fold = death to the earth.

#13. Facebook Profile Pictures
Faux-ejaculate Binge Drinker to Earth Mother in just a few clickety clicks. No-one with ever suspect you’re rocking in a corner, flicking your teeth, whilst secretly plotting the murder of your snoring husband.

#14. Music

Disney songs and nursery rhymes now infiltrate my brain like an infection. Every day, I end up punching myself in the face after driving all the way to work listening to the some Disney shit when I could have been listening to anything else. ANY. THING. FFS.

#15. Organising.

“Husband, when is the next gap in the diary between after school activities, weekend activities, birthday parties, earning an actual living, charity fundraising, clearing out the loft and buying more unnecessary pets? 2056? Okay, I’ll book Derek and Pamela in then.”

#16. Me time.

Wisdom tooth removal? Smear test? Ingrowing toenail excision? When can you fit me in?

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Why can’t you be more like…

I thought having autism might free my son from my perpetual comparing but apparently not; as we all sat together in his group session for children with communication and socialising difficulties, I studied the only girl in the group. She’s a gentle soul, afflicted with over receptive senses that suppress her. She contorts her body to try and cope, making the space she is in and the world she struggles to understand as small as possible. She is completely silent apart from the delightful tinkle of laughter she emits when she’s being tickled and I’ve never seen a child so mesmerised by shaving foam. What I can see is a calm, passive, non-aggressive, quiet and amenable little girl – the very opposite of my boy – and for just a few guilt-ridden moments, I stare at her and wish that he could be more like her.

I see her for a snapshot of her life, once a week, and can only see enviable qualities that my son doesn’t have. What I don’t see is how long it takes to get her dressed. I don’t see her screaming in pain as she’s being washed. I don’t see her frozen in fear at the sound of a plane. I don’t see how very small her universe must be in order for her to cope. I’m guessing at these things of course. But we all have desperate moments.

Perhaps in a tiny snapshot of life, there’ll be someone looking at my boy and only seeing a passionate, curious, energetic, enthusiastic and happy child and perhaps wishing that their passive, introvert, quiet and shy kid was more like him. I wish that someone was me but it isn’t. In the fog of exhaustion, it is sometimes just too hard.

Now I’ve got it off my chest, I could make a solemn vow, from this moment on, to stop making comparisons when times get tricky…but I won’t. It’s a promise I know I will break and that will only add to the mountain of guilt that I was bequeathed the moment I became a parent. No…I will let the thoughts in. I will take a moment to look at them, accept their truth, and then let them float on by without further attention. I will remind myself that everything passes. I will remind myself that I am doing the best I can. I will remind myself that everything will be okay. I will remind myself that I am that someone (very nearly) all of the time.

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