Balance

I hesitated for a considerable time before sharing my first post. I wondered if it made me seem miserable. I wasn’t sure if my honesty might be misinterpreted as unhappiness. I was also concerned that I might be crossing a line in terms of the sanctity of our family life. I share a lot on social media, Instagram in particular, but I have always been very mindful not to post anything that I think could upset or humiliate my children later. I asked myself: what would they think if they read this? 

Would they worry that they weren’t enough? 

As I said in my first post, these reflections on my life, and my confusion as to my identity presently, don’t stem from feelings of sadness or regret. So why the need to (over)share them now? 

I think my current wistfulness comes from a couple of places.  

The first is my belief that, as a society, we do not value the role of a stay at home parent (or, in fact, the act of caring for anyone, whether as part of a family relationship or professionally). Even the terminology* feels derisive: as though a person who chooses to be the primary caregiver for their child has failed to maintain a meaningful contribution to modern society. They have ‘stayed at home’; checked out. Few people seem to recognise any worth in what I am doing. And I’m not looking for a medal, incidentally, or my name in lights. Just an acknowledgement that caring for children all day, every day, is hard work, as well as a privilege. I haven’t become a “lady who lunches” (that particular gem was, quite genuinely, said to me by one of the male partners when I went into the office to resign in person at the end of my maternity leave). I do not believe that I am “Helping Kill Feminism and Mak[ing] the War on Women Possible” (thanks for the solidarity, Elizabeth Wurtzel**). I do not accept the suggestion that I have let myself, or anyone else, down by making this choice. I know I shouldn’t let these stereotypes bother me and, on a good day, they don’t. But I’m unfortunately not quite so robust so as to manage perpetual indifference as to what others think of me. I’m working on it.

The second is more significant and also much simpler: although I am confident in the decision to stay at home with my children for this stage of their lives, it has involved a sacrifice in terms of my identity and my career (perhaps in part because the former was so wrapped up in the latter). It would be too easy if I saw motherhood as my vocation; if there was nothing else I wanted. That isn’t realistic. I will not do myself or my family the disservice of pretending that I am one-dimensional. When my children grow up, I want to be able to show them how much I adore them but also how important it is to find a balance. 

When my son was born, I was completely overwhelmed by the gravity of my love for him. It was all-consuming and disorienting. It left almost nothing in its wake. Combined with his fairly poor health and a temporary move when he was just eight weeks old, far from family and friends, I was submerged by motherhood, completely. It took quite a long time to recover and, by the time I was beginning to raise my head above the parapet once more, I was pregnant again! 

Although I currently find myself thoroughly engrossed by life with two children, the arrival of my daughter hasn’t subsumed me in the same way. I have felt much better equipped to cope. I think that’s why the time feels right to explore and enjoy something beyond motherhood. I know that it won’t be the same something as before. Life has changed, irrevocably, and I have changed with it. 

And so, the question of whether my children are or should be “enough” just isn’t the right one. They shouldn’t have to be “enough”. 

They are so much more than that! 

They are my everything. 

But at the same time, they can’t be my only.  

Trying to find a balance 


*I do use the term “stay at home mum/parent” for convenience but suggestions of any good alternatives would be welcomed! 

** I appreciate that I haven’t managed a very timely rejection of this piece but reject it I certainly do https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/06/1-wives-are-helping-kill-feminism-and-make-the-war-on-women-possible/258431/

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Post-natal baldie heid

My hair is falling out. Again. Right on cue: it started four and a half months post-natally, just as with my son.

The first clue: my ankles swimming in water during the shower. Turns out my twice-monthly rummage in the drain was no longer sufficient to stop the repulsive build-up. Bleurgh.

The second: an increasing sense of parental negligence as I untangle yet another rogue hair from the tiny grasp of my baby and wonder if I will ultimately be responsible for the loss of a digit due to prolonged lack of circulation.

The third (and a bit more obvious): clumps of hair coming out in my hands when I wash. (What do you do when you have hairy hands mid-wash? I always stick the hairs on the shower wall and then scoop them all up at the end and put them in the bin. Except when I forget. When I first went on holiday with my now-husband, then-boyfriend, we stayed in a shitty room on an island in Thailand, where the shower was about a metre from the bed. I caught him one day, looking perplexed and disgusted in equal measure as he watched me washing my hair. It was not the look of love/lust I was hoping the holiday would elicit. After the shower, he asked somewhat tentatively, “why do you pull out your hair and stick it to the wall?” Ha. He was so fucking relieved when I told him the hair had fallen out and I wasn’t some sort of budding Emin, using my own bodily products to daub offensive art on the walls of hotel rooms.)

The fourth (and ultimate insult): my Dracula-style recession. Ugh. This bit is the worst. My fringe hides it a bit from the front so I can delude myself that I look ok but every now and then I catch sight of my profile in a mirror or shop window and realise I have an expanse of forehead between my increasingly-sparse fringe and the rest of my hair. I’m not even sure it’s strictly forehead if it is that close to your ears. Sidehead? Anyway, I am not confident enough for this shit. My hair is usually the one thing I can console myself with when I look in the mirror. But not now. It looks and feels awful.

Still to come: flaky scalp. FFS. I actually had to ask my best friend the other day if she could please be on the look out for dandruff in case I should be too tired/in denial to spot it. Last time it was horrendous (but I was able to mask it mostly by wearing grey knitwear and being perpetually covered in baby vomit). I bought a Philip Kingsley scalp tonic that helped a bit (maybe) so I have that waiting just in case the same thing happens again.

As well as looking totally shit, my post-natal hair feels crap too. The products that I usually use seem too thick and heavy; my hair is lank and dull. I had been using a free sample of an Oribe styling cream that made even my brittle mop feel like spun silk, so I investigated, only to find it costs FORTY FIVE ENGLISH POUNDS. Man alive. To make matters worse, it’s so good that it’s got me wondering if maybe the accompanying shampoo and conditioner would CURE my sad hair. Just what I need: the world’s most preposterously expensive hair regime.

I am going to take some vitamins too. I eat a fairly restricted diet because of my kids’ allergies (another story) and I’ve been promising myself and my husband I’ll take some supplements for a while. I’ve ordered Biocare’s Femforte capsules and a Vitamin D spray from Victoria Health (along with a few things to try from The Ordinary 🙊). Perhaps I should also try some fish oils or something.

Help me, internet friends. Is there anything else I can try? Could you perhaps shame me like Cersai walking the streets naked in Game of Thrones if I am disgusting enough to spend that much on hair products? We wouldn’t even need to hack much of my hair off for an authentic GoT walk of atonement.

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Count Draculabbott

Where to start

I feel like I want to start a blog, but I’m not sure exactly why. Perhaps I’d just like to start a conversation; have a chat. I know there are so many blogs out there. What would make mine different? Me, I suppose. There’s only one of me.

I recently read an article in the Guardian about mothers who regret becoming mothers: one of the final taboos.

The article quotes Sarah Fischer, who writes, “The reality of motherhood… is incontinence, boredom, weight gain, saggy breasts, depression, the end of romance, lack of sleep, dumbing down, career downturn, loss of sex drive, poverty, exhaustion and lack of fulfilment… [The father] fall[s] in love with an independent career woman who turns into a cook-clean-bake mummy; or suddenly only wants to talk about the children; or becomes depressive; or ignores you.” Whereas, she says, “when a mother is born, the person she used to be is left by the wayside”.

It hurt to read this. I adore being a mother and I absolutely do not regret it. But this does ring true. I was a successful lawyer in the City; now, my husband comes home from work and talks about his day and, when he finishes, I tell him about going to the playground or what my son said or when my daughter rolled over… One day I spoke to him for at least half an hour about an altercation I’d had with a woman who walked in front of me on the pavement and whom I accidentally clipped with my buggy. (I remain completely indignant. She shouted at me and, when I pointed out she had changed direction on the pavement and so walked into my path, she said “what do you think I should do, look behind me when I’m walking?” To which I said, “yes! If you’re changing paths!” Anyway. Let’s hope she doesn’t often drive on the motorway). I could hear how boring I was being. I couldn’t stop. I have nothing more to share. My days are sometimes tedious as I live them; they are almost always tedious in the retelling.

I don’t know how to explain how this isn’t a story of regret. I adore my children. I live for them. I take a hundred photos a day so I can look at them again when they’re sleeping. I share their photos on Instagram, mostly because my family are far away, but also because I want to shout their beauty and wonder to everyone. I am completely besotted.

But I am also pining for old me. I miss my independence. I don’t miss my job (and I especially don’t miss the politics), but I miss having something that was mine and that I was good at. I miss the prestige. I feel like a dick for admitting that but it’s true. Few people value the role of a stay at home mother. (I’m not sure *that* many value the role of a corporate tax lawyer either actually, but more do). People from what feels like a past life look at me oddly (or I think they do) because I’ve stopped working. I was once the woman described by Fischer – determined, independent, fierce and excellent at my job. What am I now? Why does “stay at home mum” not measure up? Is it because you can be a mother *and* those other things? I don’t know how to reclaim my value without sounding like I’m denigrating those who don’t stay at home. I don’t want to pit myself against anyone. But I want to be recognised. I want the world to see my worth.

Ooof. Maybe this was not where I planned to begin a blog. Perhaps this is a post for later on. I might start instead with my post-natal hair loss, my obsession with kids’ clothing (they are so much better dressed than me), the burgeoning of my new career (current status: stalled by new baby), my favourite things to do with my kiddies, my experience of home birthing or “extended” breastfeeding, my terrible attempts at cooking or how we manage with multiple food allergies, my current dilemma about my summer born boy and when he starts school, or my efforts to get fit again after two kids… I don’t know. Should I start a blog at all?

Looks like I have. Bear with me.