Boy Power

The push for equal rights is not just for girls, I know this because I’m surrounded by men who are feminists too. Men who roll their eyes at a stupid sexist comment, men who see beyond gender and men who treat me as an equal.

One or two generations has seen a massive transformation in the way in which our men see the world. I look at my husband and my friends and find it incredible how different their outlooks and views are from the generation before. Just the subtle differences, where there is absolutely no thought about gender or gender roles in the day to day. Whilst I think that our Mothers deserve a big chunk of acknowledgement for this, ultimately these men deserve the credit. They see us girls as equals, the difference is they were never corrected in thinking this, never told they were superior or entitled to anything more. They overcame washing powder advert stereotypes and are the most amazing modern men.

These men look at what we can do and what we should be doing, instead of why we can’t, or shouldn’t.

I believe that when my parents generation retire we will see a huge shift in equal rights, especially in the workplace.

This generations culture is becoming extinct and they are clinging on for dear life.

Our thirty something men are on the same path as us, they want to see flexible working for all, choice for families and women listened to and respected. And the ones that don’t are outnumbered.

I go to a party and see our guys hanging out with the kids basking in every moment they get with them as they may not have had the opportunity for as much time with them throughout the week, they lap up every opportunity to be with their offspring.

They are showing their Dads how it is done, there are Grandads everywhere who are learning from their sons and son in laws and getting stuck in with the kids. And they do it all together, probably with a beer. It is a wonderful sight to behold.

I don’t think our parents and parents parents didn’t want to do this- this attitude has changed, from what I remember growing up it wasn’t “manly” to be left with the kids at a social occasion and very often the already over tired mothers would be left, quite literally holding the baby.

This change is a positive shift towards gender equality, homes and families being built on team work and fair game, and it has happened quickly.

This progress is so fast, and as the importance and relevance of gender dissolves it could be entirely different in another fifteen years.

One of the key shifts is because we have had the self confidence and worth to wait for our life partners and refused to settle. Our Parents generation is riddled with broken homes and divorce, we saw that and it educated us. Many of my friends parents are either divorced or in unhappy marriages. There was a 13% decrease in divorce rates between 2003 and 2013. (According to Office For National Sastictics). It’s worth being picky.

I am proud and delighted to be part of the change, seeing the message of our predecessors taking flight, for the change in attitudes to be taking hold and to be married to one of the many, many men who are on our team.

Equal Rights? We Do It All.

As I write this I am hot, itchy and swollen laying spread eagled on my bed at 7 on a Sunday morning with a fan blowing on me. I awoke to a series of regularly deteriorating selfies from my husband who went out out with the lads- reason being, “wetting the babies head”. (His mates wife carried and gave birth to a little boy in January).

It got me thinking.

Firstly my impatience and intolerant side is wittering at me- “wetting the babies head”, is ridiculous. It’s an excuse to go out with the guys and get hammered for something that, quite frankly the physical input that men have in making babies is nothing but enjoyable. Well done, your sperm worked. So they get a party. Whilst I’m laying here overheating and blowing up like a character from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. It’s not the first “wetting the babies head”, and it won’t be the last.

Lads, go out, have a wonderful time, drink beer and watch football. But in the name of celebrating your wife’s physical sacrifice for a year, where she’s not even involved or included? I think not.

I don’t begrudge the night out. Just the reason behind it. But I have to be a cool independent woman who’s totally fine with it all. Whilst hot, aching and fat.

As far as I’m concerned this pretty much sums up where we are with equal rights, feminism and all around gender fairness. As a woman you have to to do it all. By this I don’t mean all the housework, cooking and cleaning. I am not criticising my husband who, treats me with nothing but respect and support. No, this is a dig at society.

Nothing prepared me for the changes that my body would go through pregnant. I knew I’d get a bit fat, but the itching, swelling, hormones and painful hips, back, fingers? Yes fingers. Was not on my radar. I am lucky enough to be in a position where I was able to stop work at 31 Weeks due to to holidays- but I wasn’t doing my job. It was time to stop. The role is physically demanding and hands on, and I was sat on my arse for a fair amount of time leading up to leaving. I couldn’t do it. Had I not been in the lucky situation I am with my holiday entitlement I would have had not choice but to continue working for another 8 weeks. Yes I could stop anytime from 29 weeks, but I get paid for 14 weeks. (That’s considered “good” maternity leave). So really what choice do women have other than to keep going right up until the end? There’s hardly a choice. Just a rock and a hard place.

I’ll go on to give birth. I got a small insight to this yesterday as we had to pop over to Watford for a blood test. The delivery ward was busy, there was a lot of bloodcurdling screams echoing along the hot corridor, beds that looked like a murder had just taken place, waiting to be cleared and some very uncomfortable ladies making their way home.

When they get home it won’t stop there, healing from a physically and mentally difficult (different for every women, but I think safe to say challenging for all?) experience. Learning quickly how to keep a tiny human alive, often continuing to sacrifice their own bodies.

You get some maternity pay. Maybe six weeks, maybe more. But then you are left with a measly pay out for you to live off for nine months.

Now, I’ll get to my point. I’ve worked pretty much full time since I was 16. I earn a good wage and for much of our relationship have been the bread winner. I now contribute equally to the household. (Or I did). We own our house, a terraced ex council house in an ok, but not posh part of town. We’ve decided to have a baby.

As a woman I get 14 weeks to spend with my new child. Because, gender equality is still not supporting women. I am relied upon in my household not only for bringing up a baby, but to finically contribute in equal measure to my husband. We don’t live an extravagant life, we have a sensible mortgage and live to our means. Why should it be so hard to navigate this first year?

I say women in this first year because I feel we should be supported to stay at home (if we want too). Our bodies have gone through significant trauma and need time to heal, apart from anything else. As well as the time to mentally adjust to this life you grew being there all the time as well as ALL THE HORMONES. We aren’t allowed to say this anymore, because we can’t afford to show that it might be hard sometimes, at the risk of being perceived as weak.

Men don’t have to deal with it. Of course it’s tough for the guy, but come on. You can’t compare it really. So now we’re in a position where the woman is placed to do it all, I’m not sure what the answer is? Better flexible working would help, better maternity pay, bringing up a child or two being considered important in society and not an inconvenience to business? We don’t consider looking g after our offspring as a “job”, but it costs £75+ a day for someone else to do it for you.

Women should have more choice and options with regards to home set ups in that first year- and if they don’t want to stay home and want to go back to work, their Partners should get the same. There is a conversation to be had about after the first year, but for today I’m just talking about those precious initial 12 months.

Equal rights don’t support women, parents or families.

They support the money lead, greedy part of society where every family’s priority is earning enough to pay the mortgage, put food on the table and live a little. Often with huge sacrifice, mostly for the mother, the woman who carried and birthed a human being, with little acknowledgement, help or support from the big man. Frankly, because men are still running the show and equal rights have been morphed into somehow benefiting and taking the pressure of them. The balance needs re-addressing. Women and families need more help, more choice and more freedom.

Boy or Girl?

Quite a lot of people have asked me if Jack would care if our child was to be gay. The honest answer is no, he wouldn’t give a shit.

These conversations often evolve into a discussion about gender identity. It’s big news at the moment (Although most definitely not new news). Would Jack care if our child was to be transgender. (The interest is 100% on my husbands views, maybe men are perceived to be less tolerant?) Again, no he wouldn’t. I can say that hand on heart. He lives his life by the wise old mantra of, “some people are just dicks, why don’t people just see through race or sexuality and see who the dicks are and who’s alright”. Can’t argue with that really.

Recently there has been a lot of discussion around raising a child allowing them to dress and act in accordance to a certain gender, even if that’s not what their body represents. There has been discussion in the media about Angelia Jolie allowing her kid to dress as a boy, John Lewis removing gender from the children’s clothes section and celebrities not revealing the gender of their child.

Growing up I had pals who were “tom boys” running around in football kits and getting muddy, defying all gender stereotypes and not being “girly” in the slightest. But it wasn’t analysed or pulled apart, they had a great time and grew up being satisfied with their gender. On the flip side I have other friends who grew up playing the part of their gender stereotype to a T, and I’m not fully convinced that they are 100% happy with their body’s representation of their gender, even at the ripe old age of 30 something.

My point is, I don’t think that we are anywhere near getting it right for our transgender population. Why are we so obsessed with gender? We haven’t found out what we are having and it’s a massive conversation starter. But we could get a boy who loves ballet and a girl who ends up being an international footballer, they could be gay, they could be transgender. Why do we care so much? I really struggle to get my head around what makes people feel uncomfortable about people not adhering to the gender rules.

I work in the service industry so see thousands of people every week. Historically, nothing sparks a whisper like a transgender person walking into my place of work, and it makes me so angry. We need to stop.

Stop over analysing what genitals people have and whether how they dress or act match them.

Being transgender needs to be normalised and I don’t think creating a fanfair around, for example- letting your little boy wear a dress is the answer. Just let him wear a dress, with no comment or judgment, no big announcement, just allow him to enjoy wearing what he wants. Maybe he will wear a dress for a week, or the rest of his life. But if this is just normal, not questioned or judged, not pulled apart and discussed at length, surely that gives him the time and freedom to discover who he really is and the be it?

We have such a long way to go. June is a big pride month, London, LA and Sydney celebrating theirs, to name a tiny %. Still I’m not seeing enough transgender representation in the main stream.

We have come such a long way in the last 50 years, but think it’s dangerous to satisfy ourselves that we are “there”. For our child my wish is that we keep challenging social stereotypes, keep pushing forward, allowing people to be their true selves,keep opening minds and hearts until our children can live without fear of being who they want to be and grow up to be accepting of one another, and not whispering when someone who is different to them walks into the room.

The Top Ten Things That Took Me by Surprise in My Second Trimester

  • I feel better, I woke up one day and didn’t want to vomit all over everyone. It’s excellent.
  • As people could see the physical changes that occur, my work colleagues mostly became warm and interested in my pregnancy. It was a lovely shift and one which I appreciate so much.
  • I’m a bit of a hugger. I have really noticed that people are almost worried to touch me. I think it’s out of respect and fear of being intrusive, but I don’t mind people I know giving the bump and little rub or continuing to be tactical. However, I get that not everyone is like me and I appreciate the consideration given to my personal boundaries.
  • EVERYONE of my parents generation LOVE to tell me, “make sure you get your sleep now, you won’t sleep much after the baby comes” or “ohhhh, you know your life will never be the same”. It drives me mad, I want to reply, “oh really?! I had no idea that babies cry in the night and we won’t be able to go out to raves in London every month”, and bop them on the nose. I mean honestly, we’re not morons.
  • You look pregnant. I know that’s obvious but this seems to take forever and it feels like a lifetime of being a bit chubby. Looking pregnant when you are is great- people smile me all the time and you get a seat on the train.
  • I have become OBSESSED with the movement in my belly, and freak out if the baby doesn’t move for a nano second more than usual. Basically I’m relentlessly worrying about it before it’s even born.
  • I hate being pregnant. I am so excited for the end result, but hate my body and mind belonging to someone else. I hate that I have no control over the changes and that pregnancy makes me ache, makes me tired and REALLY HOT all the time. I know how lucky I am, I don’t take that for granted for a second. I know when we meet our baby it will be worth it. But right now I would love to be able to sleep on my back.
  • Strangers love to undermine my husband by assuming he won’t help with the baby. Most unfair and untrue, he can’t wait to be a hands on Dad. It’s not OK to make these sweeping assumptions and honestly, it pisses me off.
  • I hardly had any cravings, one briefly for Heinz cream of tomato soup, that lasted all of two weeks. I thought I’d be sitting up at 3am eating gherkins.
  • The thought of walking away from work for a year became a scary reality. I was so excited basking in the idea of coffee mornings, long walks and play dates. As it gets closer It’s freaking me out. I’ve worked for the same company for 15 years- half my life and my entire adult life, it’s all I know, I am well and truly institutionalised. The sudden realisation of change pretty terrifying. No guaranteed adult social interaction. Complete unknown waters to navigate. I’m sure it will be fine, would could go wrong…

My Top Ten Tips for a Home Makeover

When we bought our home there was no doubt we had bitten off more than we had an anticipated.

After a full re-wire, new bathroom and kitchen, new ceilings and floors downstairs we were out of money. Then we got engaged, got married and lived out the rest of our twenties in a blur of parties, holidays, festivals and meals out. It was awesome.

I found out I was pregnant and looked around at the dusty floorboards and something took over. We had to finish the house.

In four months we have made more progress than we had in the first three years. Growing up I never lived in a house that was finished. My Dad LOVES a project so it was a never ending merrygo round of “jobs”. He’s onto the next house now…

As an adult this experience I had growing up has helped me massively in the renovation of our little house. We have a tight budget but it’s working out really well.

Here’s my top ten tips for when you don’t know where to start. It’s worked well for us so far!

1. Get the big stuff done first. Bathroom, kitchen, electrical. Although it might not be pretty, you NEED these in your home.

2. Break your house down into rooms or segments. Completely finish these areas, so then if you run out of funds (or steam) your whole house isn’t half finished and you can grow into it but by bit.

3. Finishing an area includes soft furnishings, lighting and touches. If you don’t do it when you’re completing the room, you might never get it how you imagined. These things make it a home.

4. Keep as much natural light through your house as possible by using mirrors/glass interior doors. It will make your home feel so much bigger.

5. Shop around. It’s always worth investing in one or two good quality pieces of furniture (I love John Lewis) and then adding your “touches” from places like The Range/Dunelm. Outlets are amazing too. Where would we be without Homesence?!

6. Don’t be afraid to pay someone for the big stuff if you can’t do it. Use someone recommended if you can. We are rubbish at painting- and it was worth every penny to get a Decorater in. Think how much time and money you can waste getting it wrong.

7. Have a go at the little stuff. Not sure how to hang a mirror? YouTube it. Anything that’s not going to ruin you house or make it fall down, have a go at. My logic is “how easy or expensive is it to fix if it goes wrong”. It’s worked so far!

8. Copy people. Stuck for inspiration? Pinterest and Instagram are full of brilliant ideas and hacks. Don’t be to set in your way and go for some of the more off the wall ideas- they are often the best. Nick your friends ideas too.

9. Remember this is your home, not an Ikea set. Don’t forget to include storage solutions and comfort in your design.

10. Don’t worry if it takes time, you can move in room by room- it will be worth it in the long run when your home is exactly how you want it.

The Choices We Make

It was always a plan to get pregnant but I never would have referred to it as a choice.

Do we choose to be parents or is the fact that we reproduce something that we do to create our future?

Some people don’t want children, and I get that, and absolutely am not of the view that having a child makes you more accomplished at life or a better person.

However, I read a letter recently suggesting that people who “make the choice” to have children should not get any “special treatment”. (His words, not mine) from businesses. The context was that he felt that parents shouldn’t be allowed time away from work for a year, or to be given any sort of a leg up when coming back to work, he was worried that there was going to be a culture of positive discrimination towards working parents, and that it wasn’t fair as it is a choice to have a baby, a lifestyle choice that shouldn’t impact on the workplace.

I have to disagree with this sentiment. As it gets closer to having to face the reality of being a working mum I see that it is going to be near on impossible without a “leg up”, and too right I’ll be taking a year off to be with my child.

I will need flexible working, which I will get to an extent, but I have no option to work from home, and can have two absences in a year before being managed for not attending work.

My friends little girl has been poorly at least three times already this year and on these occasions she’s worked from home to be there for a cuddle if needed. Too right.

What do us working parents do in that situation who don’t have that option? The people in the service industry, the pubic sector workers or people working for small businesses who don’t have the funding to support these needs?

I’m a capable, fairly intelligent human who has given 15 years to the business I work for. Is it unreasonable to ask for a little help making a side step into a job that would work better for my parenting needs? I don’t think so. I’m not sure it’s even a leg up- I’m already on the back foot. (Working parents are still viewed as a pain in the arse by many).

This doesn’t just apply to women, it would be amazing to see support for the working Dads out there too. Maybe, even families having the option where both parents can raise their children with two adults in a household being allowed flexible working without it bankrupting them. Single parent families getting even more support, not just from companies but from the government as well.

Surely it’s better for the economy for businesses to go above and beyond for those raising the next generation? You never know, they might be the future leader of that company?! It must be better for businesses not to loose years of experience and loyalty.

I feel this has to get improve, I don’t think we should have to sacrifice because we’ve made a “choice”. These choices we make are our future, and we need to be given the tools to do best by them, to raise good humans.

The Smart Phone Generation.

IMG_2173.jpg

 

Jack and I recently went to a Jessie Ware gig, as I stood there, bloated with my hair everywhere I looked around at the perfectly preened early twenties looking ridiculously cool, the first dates and the pints of beer, and, for the first time I felt old. And fat. And pregnant.

We were stood at the Hammersmith Appollo and as Jessie Ware came on stage it didn’t matter. I love live music. It’s my favourite, and she did not disappoint, she was mesmerising. What did disappoint was the audience. We were standing watching a powerhouse musician sing the songs she had written and the viewing public were so easily distracted by their mobile phones. As soon as she started to sing a song that wasn’t a high tempo hit the girls surrounding me were lost into the glowing light of Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, WhatsApp and IMessage. In this order, on a loop. I wanted to take their phones and stamp on them. Fair enough, take a photo, but this was incessant, really distracting and downright rude.

On the way home I moaned at Jack and expressed my concern about this generation. Yup, I am old. What is it going to be like when our child is twenty one? How can you get lost in the moment with an artist if all you are worrying about is how many views your Insta story has got and if the right person knows you are there.

That weekend we went to visit my parents, and as we were eating our Sunday dinner the conversation was not floating my Dads boat, I could see his mind wondering and then his mobile phone came out. I challenged him, “errr, Dad we’re in the middle of dinner?!”. He argued he was looking up a song that was playing, no different to looking at a record cover. I kind of got his point, but it had nothing to do with what we were talking about. Twenty minutes later, his phone comes out again, I asked him what he was doing and he started laughing as he informed us he was looking at an AVOCADO KNIFE. WHAT THE ACTUAL.

I’ve picked on my poor old Dad here, but I think most people are guilty of this, me included. It was during this visit that I understood that living through the a mobile phone screen isn’t generational at all. It’s a sign of our times.

For our babies sake I hope and pray that the balance restores itself. I wonder if our obsession with our phones and social media is extreme because this technology is so new, it’s novel to have a PR tool for our lives. To be easily distracted and entertained one hundred percent of the time. Fifteen years ago the internet was dial up, that is no time at all for us to adjust to the magnificent power we have at our fingertips. To be everywhere all of the time.

As I continue on the journey to becoming a Mother, of course I worry about the danger of the internet, the lack of control, the trolling and the catfishing, but these things happened to an extent already. It was teenagers having a fondle instead of sending a photo, it was half of my school year sneaking to the park to drink vodka, insisting to their parents they were having a sleepover at a friends house. It’s not the same but there are definite parallels. What worries me most is our children missing out on life and genuine feeling; going on a date, listening to music at a gig uninterrupted and sneaking out with their mates without a parent being able to track them down on Find My Friends. These life experiences and bolts to independence certainly made me the person I am today, lessons learned and memories made. I want my children to have the same thrills and excitement when breaking free into adulthood as I did. Because, it was so much fun.