Finding my Voice – For my Daughter

I have honestly always felt like a boy mama, right from day one. I have never longed for a daughter and much to many people’s surprise baby number 4 was not ‘one last try for a girl’. But having a daughter has changed me; she has made me look at society differently and the ways in which girl’s roles are positioned within it. Having a daughter has made me stop and look at myself, my behaviours and the roles I fulfil. It’s left me questioning many of my behaviours and if I’m honest feeling a little lost in myself. What kind of example am I setting to her? What kind of female role model am I to her? What I do know is that I want my daughter to grow up as a strong woman. Who is able to pursue activities in life which make her happy; that enrich her and fulfil her. I do not want her to feel that she has to conform to any pre-conceived ideas about what a woman should do, how they should behave or what they should look like.

I watched a story on the news today in relation to the up and coming Oscars, which was discussing gender inequality in films. There is a test, called the bechdel test which was designed to test the presence of active female roles within films. In order for a film to pass the test there are three criteria it must fulfil; firstly there must be two female characters in the film, secondly they must talk to each other and thirdly the subject must be something other than a man. My initial through was how basic and almost trivial that criteria seemed and yet the report went on to say that half of the winners for best picture in the history of the Oscars have not passed the bechdel test. I was genuinely shocked. Films that I myself have loved watching and regard as great films, like ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. How is this possible? That we are watching films that are so heavily male dominated that two female characters do not even have dialogue with one another. Or if they do it is only concerned with a man!! I haven’t been able to get this out my head all day, I’ve been left me thinking about the way women are treated within our society. The roles they are given and the ways in which the media portray those roles.

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We have seen a lot of movement in the film industry over the last few months, high profile women using their voices to speak out at the way women are treated. The #metoo and #timesup campaigns have been spread across the media and I really do believe a change is on the horizon. So what does that mean for ordinary women like me and our daughters? The reality is we still live in a patriarchal society and gender inequality is spread across it. It’s present in our schools, in our places of work and in the media our children are so heavily exposed to. Change won’t happen just because we want it to. We have to be the change. I do not want my daughter to grow up and be paid less than her brothers simply because of her gender. Where do we start? We start by empowering ourselves and each other. We start by believing that we are strong women, that we have a voice and a right to be heard. We stop cutting other women down and build them up instead.

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The words being written right here on this blog only exist because a group of women who I’m lucky enough to call friends believed in me. They encouraged me to believe in myself and empowered me to share what I had to say. Because this female voice, this voice of a mum of four, a wife, a daughter, a sister is worthy of being heard. I want to be part of the change. I want to stand up and stand united with other women. It’s time we were not simply part of the chorus, a pretty background to the male centred plot. It’s time women and what we have to say took over the story line because it’s just as worthy of the central plot as a man’s; in the movies and in real life.

For my Piper x

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Self-improving: it’s all bollocks!!

It’s the beginning of a brand new year. There will undoubtedly be lots circulating about new years resolutions, becoming a better version of yourself, self-improving ect. ect. It’s really all bollocks!! You don’t need to improve you’er already totally awesome!!! I have no idea where this notion that we as beings need to constantly tell ourselves we are not enough; not good enough, not pretty enough, not productive enough!! (Maybe the sociologist in me should research it?) The truth is we are enough. You right now, just as you are, you are enough. You are beautiful, you are unique, you have your own journey imprinted on your soul and your body which no other being has experienced. You have something to offer this world which only you can. Don’t set out this new year to change yourself or to improve yourself, set out to embrace yourself, to love yourself.

I have set myself 2 goals for 2018: number 1 to be happy and number 2 not to let fear steer my journey. I am so guilty of being afraid and letting that fear dictate what I will and won’t do. From voicing my opinions, to what I wear; I worry what people around me will think of me. I’m scared of being judged, I’m scared of being viewed negatively, a lot of the time I’m scared and I don’t even know what of!! So today I opened up one of my (many) un-used notebooks (I hold my hands up to having a slight stationary addiction) and wrote out a few mantras for myself. These included “Put your big girl pants on and go for it!” and “No Regrets!!” Hahaha!! Life is too short and the world we live in holds too much beauty to let fear sit in the driving seat.

I think we all need a little reminder sometimes to be happy. Our society places so much emphasis on making money, on owning material goods, on superficial beauty but we forget how important it is to feed our souls. So if you search for one thing in 2018 make it Happiness. Allow yourself to be happy, give yourself permission to pursue the things that bring you joy. The true beauty of happiness is that once you have gifted yourself with it you can share it, you can spread it around and watch it grow. Our world needs more happiness.

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So if you see me on the school run in feathers, sequins or head-to-toe fuchsia don’t panic, if I’m wearing a smile I’m happy so go with it I’m just embracing my individuality hahaha Charlie xxx

Preparing for a Realistic Birth.

I’m not going to lie I spend a LOT of time at the moment thinking about Labour! I am 38 weeks pregnant baby’s head is engaged, my hospital bag is packed, my sister is on standby to babysit, we are ready to go whenever this lil munchkin calls time!! The thought of giving birth again fills me with both overwhelming anxiety and utter excitement. I have had three vaginal deliveries, I know I can push out a baby, I know how earth-stoppingly incredible it is when your baby emerges and you become a mummy for the first time or again. But I also know that I do not handle the pain of child-birth well; I have always wanted to manage on just gas and air and have always had to have pethidine to get me through the 2nd stage. I have always wanted a water birth or at least to be able to get into the birthing pool during labour and have always encountered some little complication which has prevented this. To be totally honest I have always felt like I haven’t remained in control during my labours and been left with a feeling of disappointment in myself.

This is my last baby, my last pregnancy and my very last labour, so what am I hoping to achieve? I am trying to prepare myself for a ‘realistic birth’. In an ideal world I would love to have a water birth. I imagine a really calm atmosphere, me in the birthing pool, just Rich and a midwife in the room maybe some music on and most importantly me feeling like I am in control. I would love to feel empowered in my labour; a strong, confident mama who believes in her own abilities to birth her baby!! But there is also the flip-side; what I don’t want. I don’t want to have a C-section the thought of being cut open completely freaks me out, I have the upmost respect for all the mums who go through that!! I don’t want to experience any significant complications in labour or to have to stay in hospital once the baby is born. The thought of being away from Archer when he is so young and extremely clingy still is a real worry for me. And possibly most obviously I want to birth a healthy baby.

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So going back to my 3 previous labours while no I haven’t achieved my “ideal birth” I have been incredibly fortunate to avoid all the things I’ve wanted to (aside from staying in hospital 2 nights with Archer because he was so tiny). I am incredibly grateful for having experienced 3 straightforward births which have produced 3 healthy babies. So with my last impending labour I am reminding myself of this. My one failing in my 3 previous labours has been feeling disappointed in myself; I am not going to allow myself to feel that after this labour because I struggled or cried or needed strong pain relief to get me through it. Labour is bloody hard work, it’s incredibly painful and at times totally overwhelming. No woman is less of a superhero because of the level pain relief they require to get through it. No woman is less of a heroin if she requires assistance in any form to make sure both herself and her baby stay safe and healthy. Just like the baby born every labour is unique it cannot be compared to any other labour. Whether you pushed out a baby with no pain relief at home, you had every drug available in hospital or your baby was delivered by C-section it’s irrelevant. You made and birthed a baby and that makes you one hell of a…….I couldn’t think of which world to use here that does it justice which is stupid because of course it’s Mother/Mama/Mummy.
Charlie xx

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“If you want to change the world…” – After Manchester

It’s been one week since the atrocities in Manchester in which 22 people were killed. Like most of the country I sat and watched the news in utter horror that this kind of evil could exist in our world and that it had attacked innocent children and teenagers. As a parent this type of attack taps into your darkest, most terrifying fear; losing a child. And there were parents in our country, in some of our communities facing this unimaginable horror. My heart is broken for them.

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As a parent watching the reports on this attack, hearing the devastating news of the loss of life, seeing the wrenching images of grieving families; aside from my feelings of heartbreak and sorrow for those effected I felt helplessness alongside fear. Scared that my own children were growing up in a world where such evil exists and operates. A world in which as a parent you are rendered powerless to protect your children; the most basic of parental instincts. How do we as parents deal with that? How do we bring up our children in a world which can be so terrifying? And how should we react to such evil? Feeling so incredibly helpless where our children’s safety is concerned it’s not simply frightening it’s unbearable. Are we truly helpless? There is a very famous quote from Mother Teresa; “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” I believe therein lies our power; as parents we are raising the next generation. How that generation shapes our world and treats one-another is in our hands right now. As parents we have the ability to bring up our children to show kindness, to be accepting rather than judgmental of the differences we see within others and to stand up to the hate that spreads through our communities like a plague.

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As parents who have watched the atrocities of Manchester’s horrific terror attack on innocent children and teenagers; our future generation, we must find the strength to move forward shrouded not in fear but in hope. Hope that we can teach our children to be kind, teach them to love and teach them to except one another. Hate breeds nothing but hate. Let’s teach our children understanding, empathy and acceptance. We may never know the true extent of an individual act of kindness; just how big an impact it could have in driving hate out of our children’s lives, our communities, our world. There have been so many incredible stories of acts of bravery, of generosity and of love which have come from this act of pure evil. Individuals running towards the terror in order to demonstrate that love, that bravery and that compassion. Those people are true heroes and they are driven not by hate or anger but by love and kindness. Let us as parents raise the next generation of heroes not of haters.

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My prayers are with all those affected by the Manchester attack and I have added a link below to a justgiving page for those affected by the attack should you wish to donate: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/westandtogethermanchester

Charlie xx

 

 

Easter: A time for new beginnings, self-acceptance or just lots of chocolate?

Tonight the bunny will visit our house and leave out Easter eggs for my boys, who will wake up delirious with excitement and require a full military operation to stop them raiding all their chocolate before breakfast. The bunny also hides little eggs in the garden and the highlight of Easter Sunday morning has to be the insanely excited, if a little competitive (between the big boys) egg hunt in the garden. The boy’s scrambles for eggs are intermingled with questions of “do you think there are any more”, while I try to remember the top secret info the bunny passed me on exactly how many eggs there are and where they are hidden!easter1

So besides all the chocolate and the cuteness of baby animals popping up everywhere what does this Christian holiday mean to me? What I love about this time of year is the freshness, that inspiring feeling of new beginnings. I’m not really a believer in re-inventing yourself. We spend far too much time being critical of ourselves. I do, however, believe that we can learn to accept ourselves and in doing so make little changes which make us happy. A “new you” isn’t required, love you as you are now. Its OK not to be perfect; in fact that’s actually what makes you bloody brilliant. Accepting your faults is so uplifting and refreshing, and not to mention GOOD FOR YOU. easter2

There are so many things I suck at and wish I could do better, there are also so many things I wish I did full stop. But at the end of the day I wake up every morning and live. Some days I do really bloody well and other days I pull on my invisibility cloak and crawl through the day. And you know what that’s OK! If you want to make a change then go for it, find that self-belief however deep down it may be hidden and give something new a try. I saw a social-media post the other day which said “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” I thought about that for a while and there are lots of things I don’t do or try because I’m afraid. Afraid I’ll fail or afraid of what other people will think of me. There’s nothing wrong with being afraid, acknowledge your fear let it sit in the passenger seat but don’t let it drive your car.

As we walk along our path in life there will be lots of things we can’t change, or make better and accepting that can be incredibly difficult. Yet when we make peace with those things and let go of the anger or frustrations we may feel, we are actually making space for new solutions, acceptance and positive emotions. Life can be so full of pressure, worry and stress; and these things have such a detrimental effect on our mental and physical well-being. What we should take from Easter is to stop, smile and remember that life’s a gift. Don’t spend it worrying that your not good enough, don’t allow the superficial pressures of our society to weigh you down. Find what gives you joy, laugh and enjoy life with all its incredible imperfections.easter3

I really hope you all have a wonderful Easter; eat too much chocolate, get out in the sunshine, smell the flowers, smile and remember you are enough. Charlie xx

Side by Side We Stand.

Exactly one year ago, on International Women’s Day I published my first ever blog (I have linked this in the comments below if you wish to have a read). In it I discussed the concept of blogging and how it can inspire us as women but also place expectations upon us. As this was my first ever blog my perspective on blogging was situated firmly as an outsider. So after a year what have I learned? Well firstly I have to be honest I haven’t been blogging for a year, I have dipped in and out of it and only in the last few months have I actually dedicated myself to blogging regularly. Part of my blogging journey has understandably involved social media; Facebook is where I share parts of my life online with I’ll refer to them as my ‘real-life friends’ and I have found using Instagram has connected me with new ‘virtual-realm friends’. I have been able to connect with other female bloggers, most of whom are mothers; some new to blogging like me and others more established well-known bloggers. When I read my first blog post back what strikes me now is that I don’t once mention the women behind the blogs; the real women behind the words or the Instagram pictures. It didn’t once occur to me that I would have a true connection with these women, who I would share experiences with. Women who I would empathise with, gain support from, while being encouraged and inspired by.

Yet that is precisely what has happened; I have started to build up relationships through social media with other women. I recently contacted a number of established bloggers to ask them to contribute to a blog post I wished to write (watch this space it’s coming!!). Now when I sent out the email I honestly had no idea if I would get any responses. Because when you think about it these women don’t know me, they are insanely busy running successful blogs, working, oh and that little chestnut motherhood!! But I did!! I got a lot of responses, these amazing women took the time not only to email me back with the information I had asked for but also to offer me support and encouragement as a new blogger. And that was it right there, the part of blogging that I hadn’t thought about, the part of blogging which hadn’t once occurred to me when I first started and wrote my first blog post. Other female bloggers supporting and encouraging me!!

This isn’t really about blogging; this is about women, blogs and social media are simply the platform that connects these women together. Women being inspired and motivated by one-another, learning from one-another and most importantly supporting one-another. We live in a patriarchal society, there’s no denying it, a significant pay gap between men and women still exists (according to the government stats it currently stands at 18% https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-gender-pay-gap). You are still more likely to see a man in the most senior positions within businesses and our political environment is still a male dominated arena. The only way this is going to change is if we as women support one another and celebrate the success of strong women around us. So often it can seem like society pits women against one another, forcing us to compete. But the truth is there isn’t a limited amount of space for women to be successful in. One woman achieving something that you want to achieve shouldn’t be viewed as her taking your spot, she isn’t, she’s pushing open that narrow gap for women which exists and making it wider.

An Instagram post I saw shared recently said “Real Queens fix each other’s Crowns” (@thefmlystore) How bloody awesome is that? And so true!! Let’s support one-another ladies. Be inspired, be supported and show each other the love. Whether it’s in a workplace or at the school gates that successful, badass women you’re in awe of, she’s your ally not your competition. Side by side, together we can elevate one another and make sure those crowns stay straight and sparkling.

Happy International Women’s Day you amazing woman.

Charlie