Dunker? Dunkee?

It’s Halloween…. And have I got a spooky tale for you, you allotment of pretty pumpkins. You coven of hot hags. It’s a tale of witches. An angry mob. Premonitions. Drownings. Are you sitting comfortably? Doors and windows locked?  If so, let us begin….

A few years ago, I was sat in a nurse training course (Yep, I used to be a nurse.  Sorry, did I not tell you that?  A nurse.  Yep, they let me train and work as a nurse for ten long years.  And yes, I left by my own free will.  Nope, I was not kicked out.  Yep, they actually let people like me look after people like you.  No Halloween trick. Scary eh?).  It was the kind of training that nurses have to do regularly to show that their brains haven’t rotten away like an over ripe banana being devoured by hybrid maggot-flies.  It wasn’t that interesting.

It was, however, also unfortunate that the course be made even more tedious by a twat of a tutor who was seemingly so insecure that she had to question and humiliate every sensible answer given by her brightest students.  She was possibly the only university lecturer that I ever met who seemed irritated by the intelligence of others.  She was a twat.  No doubt about it people.  A twat.  However, it was during this lecture, when I had my first vision.

“Errrr… What now?” I hear you, my wondrous werewolves say.  Sounds crazy I know but I swear it was a vision.  You see, just as the lecturer responded to her latest bright-spark of a student (a wonderfully wise midwife) I seemed to doze off slightly and a historical scene, clear as day, popped into my head.  I witnessed this lecturer, this female misogynist, leading a large angry mob and dunking this fabulously bright young woman into a lake… Accused of being a witch.

Ducking stoolApart from being thankful for the distraction, I didn’t think much of the flash of a vision until, on the last day of the course and in an impulsive fit of hysterics, I told the midwife.  Instead of the expected giggle, she responded by being pale as garden-centre-Christmas-display snow and telling me that she believed she was in fact drowned in a previous life.  How she believes in pagan teachings.  How she would consider herself a white witch of Mother Earth. Well fuck me – that shut me up.  Completely silent I was – for at least 60 seconds.

That little incident happened over six years ago and yet it remains in my head, the memory settled in my brain and sat like a squatter, refusing to be replaced with other things I should remember like my best mate’s birthday or my child’s non-school uniform day.  In fact, it wasn’t until recently that I understood why this vision had stayed with me.  I had a revelation.  You see, here was a vision of a group of brutal folk.  Of the extinguishing of this liberal, kind, wise woman.  Events that were clearly traumatic.  However this was coupled with an aspect of uncertainty.  I was nowhere to be seen.  And that got me questioning myself… If I wasn’t there.  How do I know?  I mean, what would I be?  Would I be the dunker?  Or the dunkee?

Would I be the dunker?  The kind of woman who says things like “You see… other women just feel threatened by me” to your bare, thirty-something, fine-lined face and seeping mascara eyes (the tube said it was f@cking waterproof).  The kind of woman who spends days preparing a dinner party, insisting it ‘was nothing’ as she is presented with your newest failure of a raspberry pavlova.  The kind of woman who says “Motherhood just never phased me, I just managed to get on with it” as you tell her you’ve been prescribed your second course of antidepressants for postnatal depression.  Am I this kind of woman?  The kind of woman that can only be elevated by another woman’s dunking?????  That doesn’t sound quite right…

Would I be part of the crowd?  Would I follow like a sheep, not wanting to cause a stir or stick up for others?  The kind of woman who believes the victim ‘deserved it’ because of her short skirt.  The kind of woman who, despite intelligence, insists before her argument in a debate that she’s “not a feminist” (WTF?  Not a feminist?  How can you not be a feminist?) in some attempt to obtain kudos and respect.  The kind of woman that turns up the sound of her TV as she hears her female neighbour’s argument turn sour.  Am I this kind of woman?  The kind of woman that doesn’t concern herself with the rights of others?????  That doesn’t sound quite right either…

But, yet the real scary thing this Halloween is… I recognise that I do actually have this potential.  I think we all do.  Yep, sometimes we get insecure and say hurtful things.  Or perhaps, in our darkest moments, we may feel slightly relieved that our pal didn’t get the job of her dreams.  I mean, how would that make us feel?

Or, maybe sometimes life is just too bloody hectic and we feel so frazzled we avoid the troubled friend we spied in the supermarket.  Or perhaps we keep our head down as our colleagues bitch about the weirdo at work who we secretly like despite everyone else having an irrational fear / hatred of them.

I know I do have this potential.  The potential to be the dunker.  To be part of the angry mob.  We all have this potential.  How bloody depressing.

So therefore ladies, my group of gorgeous ghouls, I have a challenge for you this Halloween.  After trick or treating, after hanging up your pointed hats and parking your brooms, make yourself a promise.  Turn your cloaked back on your dunker potential.  Refuse to be part of the angry mob.  This Halloween, be the dunkee.  Give a bit back to Mother Earth.  Be liberal.  Be wise.  Don’t waste your time making judgements.  Celebrate in someone else’s achievements.  Don’t be a bitch.  It’s better to be a witch 😉

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I’m a better parent when I…

OK… Don’t judge me.  Please don’t judge me.  You see, I’m going to admit something which may force you to mount your high horse.  I don’t blame you.  In fact, you may not be able to help it.  Those little legs of yours may just clamber up on to your saddle of self righteousness.  Before you know it, you’ll be galloping off into the distance, to a bright, beautiful, virtuous sunset, while turning your back on me.  Me.  Your embarrassment.  Your oh so slightly dingy, redheaded, blogging friend.  Me, who along with your other embarrassments in life, you would rather forget – those long, hazy university nights; the man in your past that you should NEVER have spent the night with; the purchase of 50 Shades of Grey.  You will try your very best to forget me too…

And of course, is it fair for me to ask that you don’t judge?  Is it fair for me to censor your judgement?  For me to ask that you control your thoughts before knowing the reason why??  Before I smack you square in the face with the punchline?  How can you (you poor reader) guarantee no judgement before hearing my confession?  It’s completely unfair.  But… I guess the truth is… I feel vulnerable.  I feel unsafe and I need to feel that safety, that emotional safety, before I admit something… You see… It’s a terrible truth… It’s a “see you in hell” kind of truth… I hate to admit it but… I’m a better parent when I – wait for it – d r i n k.

PicMonkey CollageYou have probably guessed that I don’t mean “drink” in the mainstream sense of the word.  It’s not in a tan-tights-coloured cup of Yorkshire tea kind of a way.  I, of course, mean the hard stuff.  The stuff that changes your otherwise flawless perception and steadfast emotions – even during a non PMT week.  While I’m not suggesting that I’m able to parent while wasted, I am completely convinced that a few drops of alcohol make me a better mother.

Now, just imagine… I’ve finished my day of work, it’s 4pm and I have just returned home after collecting my two boys from school.  It’s a happy reunion for the three of us.  Cuddles and kisses are shared.  Stories about the day are told.  I happily locate my house key and open the front door.  This door swings open.  The boys charge inside.  I follow, excited and relieved to return to my warm, welcoming home.  However, my smile slowly fades as I am gradually confronted with the devastation that has been left to smolder over the last 8 hours of work and school…

Is it possible that in the haze of a panicked morning routine, I lit a cereal bonfire, leaving the embers of milk and cheerios to burn and embed on our kids plastic table?  While in my zombie state of not asleep, not awake, did I allow the county council to relocate the local recycling centre to our lounge?  What kind of a charity shop is forming in our spare bedroom with clothes – indistinguishably dirty or clean – wrinkled and scattered everywhere.  My heart sinks as I survey the chaos.  My blood boils as the requests from my children begin to pour in: “Mum?  Can I have a drink?”  “Mum?  Am I allowed a lolly?” With every second that delays my response, their voices get louder, higher, increasingly whiny “Mum?  He’s got my game.”  “Mum?  He’s blocking the TV.”  School reading books need to be read.  Bills need to be paid.  Dinners need to be prepared.  A headache begins to form at the base of my head – the pain conscientiously radiates round to my temples.  Pressure forming, pounding within my skull.  Why God why don’t they offer trephination on the NHS???

And…. pop!  The bottle has been uncorked.

And… glug, glug, glug.  The prosecco has been poured.

I swig back a mouthful of cold bubbly stuff and feel the transformation.  Shoulders start to relax.  The headache fades.  I lie on our hard laminate floor, finishing a digger jigsaw with my boys with no cares about the wet laundry festering in the washing machine or the important phone calls I needed to make.  I am happy.  Relaxed.  The boys are happy and relaxed.  Their high maintenance mummy has been replaced with a woman who is able give them time without being swayed by other demands.  I just don’t understand it.  Why do I need wine o’clock to help me chill out?

Initially, I berate myself for needing this hidden pleasure.  I despise my weakness.  But then I get thinking…. it’s the numbing sensation I enjoy.  The ability to slice away the extra, unwanted layers in life – the things that aren’t that important.  The ability to enjoy that moment rather than worry about the past or future.  True, it would of course be more healthy to practice meditative yoga.  However, the reality is that a Downward Dog ain’t that effective when your kids use the asana as a bridge for their diesel trains.  I’m not using a little sip of wine to escape from my family life, I’m using that tiny tincture to escape the other shit.  So quite frankly my dear reader, you can judge all you want.  Go enjoy your numerous, pointless demands.  I’m off to watch Topsy and Tim snuggled up on the sofa with my two boys and a dash of the hard stuff.

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A Dedication to all Mummies

This morning my oldest boy donned an oversized blue sweater, grey teflon trousers and black leather dinosaur shoes (which he swears help him to run faster than any other 4 year old).  All in all the clothes looked baggy but of course I told him how handsome / gorgeous / smart he looked.  And he did look great – in a Michelin Man kind of way.  He looked so cute.  Just how I imagined my child to look on his first day at school.  We have prepared for this day in all the usual mummy ways: attending school introductory meetings, sowing nametags into clothes, playing imaginary ‘school’ with Avenger characters.  I thought I had prepared for all eventualities, both practical and emotional.  However the one thing I hadn’t prepared for was the emotional response this day would evoke inside of me.

If I track my journey back, my reaction to this event began last night, manifesting in some weird physiological manner.  My heart beat quickening.  Sweating palms.  The irritability dial turned up high, swift to respond to any slight demand my family could make of me.  It was only after an hour or so, after the school bag was packed and all trouser hems sowed, that I realised what was going on.  I was nervous.  I was afraid.  I was saddened.  My heart was crumbling.  I was letting go of my baby boy, allowing him an inch more of independence.  I had prepared him soundly for this transition (his ease in entering the classroom a testament to my good mummy work) but I had forgotten to prepare myself.

The mummies I meet are very good at this… shelving their own feelings and needs to ensure the emotional protection of their children.  At 5.30am each day I can guarantee that around the UK there will be mummies in their millions, clambering out of their warm beds to make sure the house is tidy, dishwasher emptied, laundry ironed, school bags organised, allowing themselves maybe five minutes to grab a quick cuppa and slap on some gloopy, out-of-date mascara before waking their children for the day ahead.  During these early morning moments I often imagine other women going about their business, preparing for the day, so I don’t feel quite so alone or isolated.  It makes me feel part of a fabulously, wonderful, organisationally slick yet secret team.  I use the word ‘secret’ because it is only when you become a mummy yourself that you realise the dedication and the skill that it involves.  I am constantly amazed by these women.  These mummy women are understatedly inspirational.  They look for no financial gain and no thanks.  Let’s face it… if that’s what you’re after, you’re in the wrong blobbin’ job.

But the most hidden secret is that the link you have with your child (that link you thought was only temporarily there through pregnancy) stays.  This spiritual umbilical cord doesn’t leave you.  It is evidenced by the sickening sensation a mummy feels when her child takes a closer step to independence.  The child moves further from you, your heart breaking as the next phase in life becomes apparent: birth, nursery, school, university, leaving home, marriage.  Yet, us graceful, dignified, amazing women smile, giving our children confidence and strength.  We smile while our hearts ache, while tears form in our eyes.  We stop our lips trembling with fear and sadness while together with our child we look hopefully to their future.

Mummies of the world, you are amazing.  I’ll be thinking of you at 5.30am tomorrow, astounded by your resilient grace.

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My Awful Realisation

I have come to an awful realisation.  A gut-churning, guilt inducing revelation that can only be revealed to a person after 4 hours of insomnia.

So, I went to bed as usual and thought my good night’s sleep was in the bag.  It wasn’t.  I trailed through thought after thought, considering how I feel about my ever-increasing age, the dynamics between family and friends, the numerous demands of my job and how I find it oh so difficult to work three days a week then change to being mother earth for the remaining days.  I then started to consider my increasing irritation with my oldest child.  How I had reported to my husband just earlier that day that I found this almost 4 year old boy infuriating.  His constant cry for attention.  His heightened sensitivity.  I moaned about the competing demands of childcare and housework.  You see, I have become more and more houseproud.  Maybe because we have a newish house or maybe this is a phase that comes with my age.  I’m just not sure but one thing is for certain, every comment made that could be construed as negative about my lack of domesticity is a cut to my throat.  Every slight inference that my house is untidy / unclean is a blow to my womanhood.  Which got me thinking… What the fucking hell has happened to me?  I stated counting each pointless domestic task that took me away from giving my children attention and I actually wanted to cry.  My oldest son has renamed me ‘Wasp’ after his favourite red-headed, feisty Avenger superhero yet I apparently can’t play with him because I have to mop the kitchen floor.  The realisation that of course he feels sensitive because he and I have always been linked in some freakish spiritual way.  I sometimes don’t know where his feelings end and where mine begin and of course vice versa.  He must therefore feel my irritation and not understand what has changed.  My poor poor boy.  A sobering, heart wrenching revelation.  But… I am back baby.  I am back.  And I now understand what needs to change.  I am your mummy foremost.  Not your maid.  I am your mummy.  I suddenly feel my mind clearing.  Insomnia drifting away.  Sleep inviting me for the last few hours of  this night.  Sleep which will prepare me for a day of play and a filthy, unhoovered, untidy house.  Bliss.

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