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.

Taking my New Body Clothes Shopping

Last week was the first time I experienced shopping for clothes with a semi bump. I still look like I’ve had one to many cakes but the bump is starting to take shape and I’m sure it will be “proper” in the next week or two.

We are off to a wedding next weekend and I had absolutely nothing that fitted me. Jack and I had a rare day off together in the week. I work shifts so am often galavanting around mid week, taking advantage of the not so busy shops. It was a real treat that Jack had a days holiday to take. We took the opportunity and went into London. After an AMAZING lunch at Spiltalfields, where we consumed masses of melted cheese in a tiny cheese shop, Androute. We actually stopped and spent time together, it was long overdue and I loved every second. If I had known what the next hour would have in store we might have stayed for another drink. But no, I had a great idea.

We headed to Oxford Street, where, I was confident there would be a plethora of suitable maternity options for the big event next weekend. How wrong I was.

Maternity tights. I needed them and I needed them immediately, the non maternity version I was wearing were cutting my vagina in half. “It’s ok”, I thought, “I’ll find them straight away”. Nope, it took ages.

The first surprise I got was that many of the shops maternity sections were in separate shops out the back, we literally had to walk out the front of the shop and go round to the separate Maternity door. I’m over sensitive at the moment and it made me feel like the dirty secret the clothes shops were catering for. The second surprise I got was that they were TINY, with not a lot of choice. I fully understand the beauty of online, but I’m no fashion guru and have no idea how to dress this new body of mine. I wanted to try stuff on. It really took me aback. Now I’ve had time to reflect it does make sense, it wouldn’t be viable to have massive maternity sections, but I wasn’t prepared for it to not feel like the normal, shopping for clothes on Oxford Street experience.

In the end the only shop that came through for me was H&M. Amazing bras and tights, (thank you very much) and I managed to find a respectable dress to wear to said wedding. And all for under fifty pounds. Thank goodness.

Feeling a sense of relief we headed to Soho, where I immediately changed into my fabulous new tights. Going on to have the most wonderful time with some of my oldest friends celebrating a birthday. It was the first time Jack and I had been out and I hadn’t felt like falling asleep standing up since we found out I was expecting. It really lifted my spirits and although the clothes shopping experience was fairly frustrating, I know I’ll get the hang of it. It didn’t nearly ruin our day and I discovered the amazingness of a mocktail, this revelation has literally made my life. And please- Mums out there- any tips on dressing my baby bump would be gratefully received, I can’t continue to wear my dressing gown pretty much all of the time. 😉

Spreading The News I Was Expecting.

When I found out I was expecting Baby Wilson, it was really early- the Clear Blue test told me in no uncertain terms that I was 1-2 weeks pregnant. I pee’d on a stick and put it on the end of the bath whilst I got in the shower. After my first shampoo I looked over to confirm what I already knew. (The boob pain was real). I jumped out the shower, soaking wet and ran into the bedroom and shouted at my hungover husband, “oh my god, I’m actually pregnant”. Jack went white as a sheet and said “oh right, you ok?”. As I got back into the shower, and finished washing, I was shaking like a leaf, then I went back into the bedroom.

This was the point I HAD to tell someone, someone who would scream a little bit and tell me it was great news and how exciting it was. Jack was not this person, he was still in shock, still white and still playing on some annoying golf game on his phone. I messaged my sister who was in Singapore and got the reaction I needed. Me and Olivia are vastly different, but she knows me better than anyone and I trust her with my life. Speaking to her re-centred me and it was at this point I was SO EXCITED.

It took about 12 hours for Jack to get his head around the fact that he was going to be a Dad. And as pragmatic as ever he refused to get excited. He was, “going to see what happened” and get excited after the 12 week scan. How he compartmentalises his emotions like this I will never know.

We found out that we were expecting on the 23rd December. Hiding this from the family we were spending Christmas with was going to be hard, especially when you’re the ring leader, wine pusher and organised fun dictator of the family. It was for that reason Jack suggested it was a good idea that we told his Mum and Dad. Jacks Mum is loud, funny and says what she thinks. Jack highlighted that she doesn’t have a filter and it would be better to tell her and Jacks Dad, rather than her get suspicious and out us in front of the whole family after a bottle of wine. (There would only be one reason I wouldn’t be drinking on Christmas Day). I agreed. They came round on the 24th December and we shared our very new news, Alby’s reaction was priceless, and loud, she screamed and cried and was delighted, it was beautiful. But, as we had told them so early it surprised me to find that it put some pressure on. I didn’t want my uterus to disappoint.

Christmas came and went, we muddled through all the emotions and unbelievable tiredness. ( I work in retail and Christmas is hell on earth). We were going to tell my parents but I wanted to see their reaction. The plan was to visit them on New Years Eve and tell them then.

We arrived at their home in Hampshire. I was full of cold and felt horrendous, but I could not WAIT to tell them. They were going to be so excited. I told Mum and Dad almost as soon as I got in the door, my Dad looked all excited and was trying not to jump up and down in a, “it’s not manly to show my emotions way”.  My Mums reaction was also one of delight, however, she questioned who else knew, which took me by surprise. She was disappointed I hadn’t told her sooner, and I get it, she is my mum and was worried I had kept it from her because I had some negative feeling towards her. It was not the case, I just wanted to see her face, but I would do it differently next time, I wanted to tell her straight away and won’t wait when it comes round again. It was at this point I understood that sharing this news can impact the people around you in a profound way which can highlight their deepest insecurities.

I considered how we were going to share our news to the wider world and decided that I was not going to keep it from my friends. My character is really open and I find it hard to keep my own secrets, and felt that telling my friends I was antibiotics or something similar was not going to wash, and it was an obvious lie. I wanted my close friends to be on the journey with me and I slowly told friends and family up until the 12 week scan. Not through any big announcement, but if it came up naturally. I didn’t tell some of my best friends until 12 weeks, not through any friendship hierarchy, but because it didn’t come up.

I had to consider how the news may impact on others, and how their reaction was going to impact on me. The most common reaction is sheer joy. I’ve had friends with the emotional warmth of a stone go absolutely mad, friends buy in non alcoholic beers for their homes for when I pop round, bring me flowers, track my pregnancy progress and message me every day to see how I am.  There was no doubt as the first trimester progressed that our baby was going to be loved.

Once we had the 12 week scan we decided to put a post up on social media. I wasn’t going to, but I had this picture of a tiny blob and all I wanted to do was show everyone in the whole world. I was with my friend that afternoon and she encouraged me to take the leap and post it. I was so glad that I did!! I had messages from people I had not spoken to for years, my family shared the post avidly and we had so many well wishes, it was wonderful. Jack and I were floating for days.

Announcing this news was an experience, in those first weeks I was riding an emotional roller coaster and taking my family with me. What I learnt was nothing arouses a reaction like a new baby, it’s quite a ride.