The Hardship of a Mother, Sigh…

•November 18, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I felt driven to write this as a result of mostly going stir crazy without the tap tap tap of my keyboard, but mainly after reading a blog set up by a fellow literature graduate from my course. The topic of the day was juggling a career with motherhood, and how difficult it must be. The end. It didn’t so much address the issue, but instead went along the lines of, ‘Wow, I want a career but I want babies too… however will I do it? Ho hum.’ I’m sorry, but surely some small aim of writing is that you have a purpose, rather than considering the multitude of obstacles you would have to overcome IF you were in either situation. I’ll order my saucer of milk now shall I?

Now we all know, you didn’t have this fantastic option before. The two choices laid out for women as the media would have us believe is that you could be money hungry power-bitch, or join the Von Trapps. Think Miss Trunchball or the sappy maternal one, Miss Honey, either Matilda feminine role works and is of course completely unexaggerated and realistic. It has been historically drummed into the female population, especially our Grannies, that you don’t yearn for things like employment, and to be valued; having a small being with some sort of mini incontinence pad strapped to its behind should be enough. What do you mean you want to feel challenged, Ten hours of non-stop on-call entertainment not enough for you? Some people are never satisfied….

Is it that it’s now acceptable, but not physically possible to become both mother and woman in control? We’ve shifted as a gender from accepting our limitations to fighting for perfection. The woman of the fifties was satisfied to make a casserole that would last a week and adopt the job title ‘homemaker’. Now, we’re instructed, ‘look younger! get thinner! eat your five a day! bake black olive and sun-dried tomato bread! Gym it up three times a week! Oh, don’t forget the kids, they need to be wholesome too!’ Jesus. You realise people don’t live like this right? The photos you see in Good Housekeeping are FABRICATED. They do not spend thousands of pounds on customised pieces of furniture for their little monsters to customise further with their Haribo hands, and don’t swan around in Whistles frocks and Marc Jacobs slacks. Now, hold you hands up and be truthful now, and I too will be happy to come clean. I think about baking bread, a lot. However if I eat all that bread on top of all that dairy milk I’ll never be thin. Yes, my child watches television and gets terribly excited when ANTM comes on, as the theme music has been instilled in his brain since day dot. I would go to the gym, but I don’t have the energy, because by the time I’ve knocked up an evening meal a la Ramsey after two hours of chasing a child round one playgroup or another, I’m bushed.

Perhaps its the public glare that ensures we pick one or the other, but never both. Where we like to think that we now like in a thriving modern society where all are equal and anything is achievable, boy do we like to scorn the women who fight the ‘urge’ (I’m still awaiting mine, Royal Mail have a backlog) to stay in the four cosy walls of the home. If Peter Andre had moonwalked into the jungle, we wouldn’t be sneering behind his back about staying within spitting distance of his three little munchkins. Victoria Beckham gets snarled at for even attempting a half arsed fashion career, and Britney Spears… well, I hear Iceland is looking for a Katona replacement so I’m sure Brit’s sat nervously by the phone. Our attention isn’t drawn to bad mothers by the press, its the mothers that have chosen to do something other than absent-mindedly babble ‘twinkle twinkle’ with her day. Although I’ll reserve judgment on Ms Spears, give her the best shot.

I just like to believe that having another focus besides your children can be viewed as both a possible, and positive addition to your role as Mum, Ma, Mother, Mommy, the Old Mare. People do it, I’ve seen them! For the crazy perfections, think how much more organised you would have to be with a sideline- what a challenge! To the more sane folk who enjoy an ocassional (ok, every other) day on the sofa with your new found friends Phil, Hollie, Jeremy and Coleen, find something to battle with the deadening brain cells. At least you’ll get to wear something that isn’t nightwear. If only we could all realise that we don’t get a certificate for how many different homemade chutney on our shelves, or how many hours kiddy-time we’ve notched up this week in comparison to next door, who is out back with her children, creating a mural on the side of the house of the various CBeebies characters. Give yourselves a break, we were all raised on fish fingers and chicken nuggets and we turned out just fine!

One Hundred and One Things not to do as a Parent of the Twenty First Century

•November 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

– Do not shout at your child. Do not scold, raise your voice, lose your temper or patience, but instead remain the epitome of serenity as you usher your little one off to the all-singing-all-dancing-will-fix-every-problem naughty step. Your work as a parent is done, now they’re sat in the hall on their own, they’re just given the time to think up more ways to bring you horror and torment.

– Do not deny your child a mobile phone. Ensure the phone is a contract phone so before they get to the age where they’re calling Chantelle/Kylie/Cheryl/Paris to compare outfits, they have been calling overseas/their own answerphone/every hotline on a TV ad/the emergency services since they could totter about on their own little legs. Don’t dream about actually teaching them about the dangers of strangers, and just say no; their phone will do it for them. Or the muggers will.

– Don’t allow your child to take part in ‘playtime’. Every activity must be aimed at making the child smarter, quicker, keener, clever-er, and altogether witty-er than the next kid. No more playgroup, sessions must be singing, making, doing, signing, massaging, learning, feeling but NOT playing. Remember, children are not for your own pleasure, but in fact part of some mastermind plan that whichever child wins, gets to rule the world.

– With reference to the previous note, do not sit back on your laurels if your child is not fiercely advanced. They’re tired? Screw that, they can sleep when they’re your age. Now get them rolling/crawling/walking/talking/lifting/digging. In fact if they don’t make the grade, if anything you have set them up for the Young Offenders break out, they’ll be streets ahead.

– Do not feed your child anything that’s not heavenly, organically, untouched-fresh-from-the-fields-no-sugar-or-enjoyment-from-it food. If it’s not an orchard fresh apple or some ludicrously priced organic pulp that is ever so slightly reminiscent of what was left in their nappy only three hours previously, it just doesn’t cut it. How do you think you ended up so mentally deranged? Iced buns, Sherbet fountains and Space Raiders, that’s how.

– Do not put a price on your child, they must have whatever is essential for them to excel in the world. View every purchase in your investment towards the next Tony Blair/Sir Stephen Hawkins/Alan Sugar/Ian Beale. They NEED every extra-curricular activity in order to rule the world. And if nothing else, they’ll be too busy to be the loner kid if they’re being taxied every night to some sports-related happening.

– Do not leave your child with anyone. Nursery, friends, family- anyone is a threat and could potentially shop you for that white head on your child’s nose that looks like a bruise in the wrong light, or the fact that you called them your ‘chubby funster’ as your drop them off in the morning. There’s a root to every therapy bill……….plus Ofsted are working on commission now, every child is a 10% bonus with an annual trip to the Seychelles.

– Finally, don’t share those little snippets of your lapse as a parent with anyone. Read 1984? The Thought Police hid in the most unlikely of places. No mentioning of the ‘I took him out without a coat in October’ moment or the time he left the house with odd socks on. Shame on you, your hierarchy on the School Calling Tree is slipping faster than Mid-Winter landslide!

Dare I ask….but is Octomom really so bad?

•November 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

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So yes, she had eight children. And another six before that. And came across in her Channel Four documentary as a little insane (even aside from the mega family) and with such a squeak to her voice that she summoned dolphins from far and wide. However its unavoidable to ignore the media frenzy that is following this woman, regardless of her actions. Did anyone put themselves in this woman’s position before they sat down at their PC’s, whacked on a webcam and decided to play home videos? So, you’ve created a mini army for yourself, and then when it comes to your seventh pregnancy, turns out there’s eight little munchkins in there. Whoopsy. It would take a woman with bigger testicles than most of the men that despise her on YouTube to fathom out how to raise six children simultaneously. Octo-loop has done one better and cares for fourteen children, and as a result all of a sudden she’s a shocking example of parenthood and many ‘critics’ – by which i mean crazy geeks with an outrageous eye for cartooning- are more than happy to take her out to a field like an old mare and put her to rest.

Because today’s society adopts the approach that we should only have a certain number of offspring, and should remain considerate of the credit crunch/strain on society/generally other people thinking ill of us. Was it nearly as difficult seventy years ago, when my late grandfather was one of thirteen? And this wasn’t uncommon, so why is Nadya Denise Doud-Suleman Gutierrez’s situation such a travesty? There are too many factors involved here to just blast the woman for her very existence and wash our hands of her. Dirty silly Nadia and her womb? A little hasty, general public.

First of all, all you nutty men with your wagging fingers and scathing tongues (your mothers would be ashamed of you!), anyone consider the concept of her alternative? If the IVF had produced one children to complete her family of seven plus Hecto-Mom- quite a shabby nickname in comparison- this would have never reached the level of interest that its gained. If she had discovered that there were eight little cabbage patch kids floating around her uterus, and made the decision to terminate a number to ‘save’ the others, the men would be nodding their heads in chorus, humming approval at the silly woman who did the right thing. With the magic of hindsight, would she not have made an unwise move there, in the fact that all eight babies survived and completely healthy? Ponder that, Joe Cartoon.

Octomom merely highlights the wild and wonderful world that we live in alongside the media; a lose lose situation. As the spectators of a public hanging, we do secretly salivate at fresh meat to tear to pieces, and Nadya fits the bill. Shopping your own children to the public eye, how distressing. However, I’m pretty sure that had she sat on her behind and waited for the benefits to come streaming in while she caught up on Maudy, or returned to work and left her children as nursery orphans, fending for themselves in a wilderness of childcare, we would have been just as quick with the proverbial boot.

The fact that Nadya has been highlighted as a neglectful mother, unable to nurture all of her children just leads me to believe all mothers are evil. In the world that we live in today, where you are not permitted to scream blue murder, tap, lose the plot with or generally frighten your angelic little treasure these are hard times for anyone with less patience than Mother Teresa. So before you judge, grand nation, please stop and ask yourself the questions…. did you wish you could watch grown up TV today instead of Beebies on rotation with Cartoon Network? Did you stop to figure out the last social event that you attended that didn’t involve ‘Incy Wincy’ and ten million kids? Did you shout back before realising that there is little to be gained from winning an argument with a two year old? And most importantly, did you successfully sleep for at least an hour this morning with your hands over your ears? One step away from OctoMom my friends.

The most White Bread Book Review you’ll ever read

•November 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I can’t find a book to read. I’m not saying that a book does not exist in the world to entertain me, or that every book in circulation-past or present- is a complete load of nonsense and not worth my time or effort to endure such a horrendous creation. I just cannot find one. Waterstones offer a magical book finder to suit my tastes, Borders tell me they can provide such a similar service that I will actually warm to their psychic finder and as a result have to seek therapy for my dysfunctional attachment to a computer generated system tool that ‘knows me better than any man can’. I cannot find a book that can hold my concentration for more than fifty pages. Now, I’m a literature graduate, I should be able to subject myself to pretty much anything; to read a book that isn’t to your literary taste is top skill numero uno for any budding english student. So either the books are getting worse or my patience as a result of years of reading drivel is now wearing thin. I scour the media for those all-important ‘must reads’ lists, I pick at random at the library, and then resort to the classics to guide me into a sure-fire way to sit through a story line that can hold its own. This drew me to 1, question my complete inability to sit in one place for more than two minutes as a result of my new role as entertainer/carer/cleaner/launderette attendent/cook (the umbrella term being ‘parent’), but 2, consider the concept of the perfect book. I appreciate that I could go all night about the various factors to entertaining us through the written word, but I don’t rate myself that highly that I truly believe I’m capable of that argument. The last time I checked I hadn’t read every book on the planet or entered the mind of not only every author but every reader to be able to dictate what every one should and shouldn’t be reading. I just find it bemusing that my favourite books are not essentially the books I cherish and adore for content or story in such a direct manner, but that instead I preach to people about the books that have managed to remain in my memory- there’s limited space in there- but that have gained my respect for getting me to sit down and read them. Beyond that, to want to pick them back up after putting them down the previous night. And so, while I appreciate to the strangers of you out there you may not agree with my point (be it gospel, and always correct might I add), I’d like to offer up my list of must-reads, for if they fail to captivate you and move you to tears or other suchlike frantic emotion that people get a kick out of when reading, then you’ll get to the end at least. I like a book with a bit of balls, and I think that these books stand out from the rest simply because they lack the ability to be pigeon holed into ‘boring’, ‘girly’, ‘manly’, ‘science-y’ and other such intellectual categories that i create in my teeny weeny incy wincy mind. Enjoy. I have justified my choices with very, VERY good reasons.

Isabel Allende: The Infinite Plan

This is the longest book on the planet. Metaphorically, of course. I enjoy the teaching of diversity, and Allende doesn’t try to do what most authors insist upon, which is writing for the sake of writing. each word as a purpose, and as a result you don’t have to listen to any Dicken-esque around the houses story-telling, ‘she looked up as the window sill as he spoke, where she noticed the bric-a-brac amongst a green vase her mother once owned, and a picture frame dating back to the renaissance period….’ shut up Charles, enough already. What the hell is he talking about, never mind the damn window sill.

Chocolat: Joanne Harris

The book exudes feelings, and not just emotions but the feeling of the situation; the atmosphere, the tension, the cheeky humour. If chocolate were a conscious stream of thought, it would be this book. Lush stuff. And not what I expected being a complete chick-flick-phobe. Urgh.

A Thousand Acres: Jane Smiley

Fantastic story about the ‘better left unsaid’ habit of the family unit. You’re not just a reader of events, you’re thrown into the character’s mind to read in between the lines time and time again as they try to ignore the elephant in the room. Oh, and it won the Pulitzer Prize and is a recreation of Willy’s King Lear so you can pass for learned if you’re on the bus.

Nathanael West: The Day of the Locust

The  most confusing book I ever read. I think I was stupider when I first picked it up, I get it now….. see it as a forecast of Britney Spears’ pap circus, but completely more intelligent than a media frenzy breaking driving laws in Los Angeles.  They saw it coming….

The Almost Moon: Alice Sebold

Forget Alive- fantastic but painful, and The Lovely Bones- fantastic but obvious. This is Sebold’s best piece yet, mainly due to the fact that she wrote The Lovely Bones to elevate her fame as a writer (when quite clearly every critic knew it was a run of the mill sentimental, let’s-involve-children-to-make-it-sad, overly emotional roadkill of a book) and that left her free to finally write something credible to her now ginormous audience. And let’s face it, every girl dreams of killing her mother at one point or another.

Daphne Du Maurier: Rebecca

Obvious but awesome. I don’t really give a monkeys if anyone dares to state that the spookily shivery ambience created in this novel exists in any other book, Du Maurier nails it and if this is the first eiry book you pick up, all others will fail to match up.

Sally Brampton: Shoot the Damn Dog

The last book I managed to sit through- I’m currently on page thirty four of Captain Correlli’s Mandolin and pissed off that I’m going to get a library fine for something that cannot hold my mental drive for more than eight minutes at a time. Brampton is the best female writer I have come accross in terms of integrity; she remains honest and raw but at the same time maintains a humour that i assume is essentially to being a crazy person. Kudos…

Dave Eggers: A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius

Now I know this has taken America by storm, and many critics either applaude Eggers or find him too obvious, but this qutobiography is the most amazing piece of writing I have ever picked up. Its not the content that I am particularly drawn to, but the technical writing style that Eggers adopts. It’s as though you are transported to a stand up comedy club, and Eggers is a hack in a worn down suit with a cigar in one hand, and scotch in the other. His capability to write as he thinks is quite possibly the most aspirational quality to his writing, and i would like to clap along with the nice critics and stamp on the mean ones’ heads. Nasty critics. Go learn to write like this.

Roma Ligocka: the Girl in the Red Coat

For someone interested in the effects of historical events, but doesn’t want to read an elaborate fabrication of the holocaust, this is a perfect read. Ligocka tells it as it was, with affection and brutal candour. If I’m going to have an insight into an event that hopefully I will never be able to witness first-hand, I want the depiction to be as accurate and sincere as possible.

Emily Bronte: Wuthering Heights

Come on, I don’t even need to type here. If you can find me another crazy Heathcliff in literature, then game on.

What is expected of me?

•November 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Am I to inspire you, to move you to the stage that tears roll down your face, and you feel you have made a discovery within the words you read? Should the language you absorb shift you to a different place by its conclusion, or will you simply be dissatisfied that you have not bettered yourself in some small way as a result? I don’t want to show you aspiration, sorrow, fear or any other emotion that you wish to squeeze out of this moment. I don’t want to take you on a journey of manipulation so that you cry when I want you to cry, you laugh at the appropriate moments. Hell, I would wistfully think it fitting for you to laugh at the most inappropriate of times, just to prove that you’re as alive as me. All I demand of you is that you read. You take away what you wish, and leave the bits you don’t want Just don’t bring your expectations; don’t read with the intention that you must learn something. The stories that I write of, the feelings evoked and then relived are not laid out before you to feel any of these things; they just happened. I’m not going to induce or uplift you, but simply tell you that this is how life is. This is existence; its not got to be intelligent, or provide depth, or meaning.

Our lives are one big, gigantic chaotic mess, and instead of searching to understand in what sequence we should be doing things, maybe the first step to the bullshit they call enlightenment is to accept that that’s how it is. No reasons, no consequence, no motive, no Big God in the sky, no basis, no purpose, no intention. It just is; and whatever you gain from this, I’ll simply be content that you picked it up and gave it a go. Treat it like you would hidden treasure, pick it up in stages and savour it, or you may despise the very content and still be drawn to it like a car crash. Fuck it if you hate it or love it, right? This is the new way to be. To just be. Sally Brampton tells me, ‘Life is connection; there is nothing else.’ To have a purpose is found in the smallest of details rather than the large dramatic gestures that the human race chase and as a result look like complete and utter imbeciles, growing old and having to settle for a mediocre life instead of the one that the movies sold to them. When the mediocre is just as fantastic as the big screen, but because they were so focused on chasing perfection, they failed to notice the perfection of the moments that played out before them.

It’s not the things that happen to us that make us, but they are the things that connect one person to the next. Without these, we would fail to exist in a world that encourages us to alienate from one another so avidly. To feel, is to reach out to the next person and kiss, lick, punch, claw them until they feel something in return. We feel only when we make someone else feel something too. To induce that in another person? That’s really living. Because then you know something real has just happened.