Perhaps the trolls have won

I’m taking a little time away from here, perhaps for a day, perhaps for good.

You all know I love Mummy Says. I love planning posts, crafting them at night when the children sleep, and reading the next day what you all think. I love sharing my thoughts, using my voice, and listening to your voices too.

This has been my place to speak out, to make friends, to reach out at a time while life has been all about two babies who I spend most of my days with at home.

I have written here, on Mummy Says, for a few reasons. I’ve needed to keep writing. It’s how I make my living, it’s what I know and what I do. When I have been sleep-deprived or feeling like motherhood has beaten me, this has been my refuge.

It’s been my digital baby book, my record keeper of the most precious years of my life.

It’s also been my place to have a voice.

I believe that women’s voices are struggling to be heard. It is fact that we are under-represented in public life – in the corporate boardroom, on the political landscape, in the media. I never expected Mummy Says to change things – but it gave me a space at least for my words. At a time when I was no longer working within the mainstream media, this was my corner in which to think, to talk, and to keep on trying to get women to use their voices too.

The blog is an incredibly powerful phenomena. It is the voice we haven’t had. The voice that was silenced.

Today, my voice is being silenced.

I’m sorry.

I don’t want the trolls to win. But for now, I don’t have any fight.

The trolls targeted a post I wrote elsewhere – it was a redraft of a version which appeared here on Mummy Says – a post about teaching feminism to toddler boys. I stand by this not-very-newsworthy position.

The trolls, on the post and on Twitter, accused me of child abuse repeatedly. They said horrid, hateful things. I stopped reading after it was wished that I would put my son up for adoption and have my tubes tied with barbed wire.

I am no newcomer to the wrath of online commenters or newspaper letter writers. As a news journalist, I was called scum repeatedly, my integrity was questioned, my actions were criticised. No-one ever attacked what I did at home though.

I know that this from the trolls is not a personal attack. I know this is a cowardly, orchestrated game and tomorrow they will pick on someone else whose post has a headline they don’t agree with. I know not to respond. I know to ignore it.

I know I shouldn’t let them win. I shouldn’t allow their voices to bully mine.

But, I have a two-year-old and a one-year-old. Really, making them happy is the only thing that matters. I’m tired, to be honest, of trying to be heard. Right now, I’m learning how to be a mum, how to be a woman, how to be a wife, how to be a magazine editor, how to find enough time to be there enough for my children, how to do this thing that is life. I’ll keep talking but quietly, and with the hope that every woman I know is using her voice too. Perhaps I’ll find another way to use mine.

Thank you for listening, and thank you for making the last 24 hours so much brighter. I have been awed by your strength and support. Please continue to natter to me on Twitter, and come see me on Pintrest and Instagram – I’m not leaving those places that I still see as areas of companionship.

And, please, also, use your voice.

I hope to find mine again soon – perhaps it’ll be elsewhere though, on that blog of pretty clothes and lovely things that I’ve thought about starting for years. Maybe I’ll finally find more time to work on the little novel I started long ago. Or perhaps I will write here again sometime.

In the meantime, I’ll be preparing to explain to my children one day why mummy stopped using her voice for a while.

London Eye

#VoiceOfMums – What is motherhood?

In the last two and three quarter years I have learnt more about the world than I have in three decades. I’ve learnt to look at it with new eyes, and hear things for the first time. I’ve learn to appreciate life and never take a second for granted. I’ve learnt of the fragility of the human soul and the strength of the human psyche.

In this time too, I’ve thought about what it is that makes motherhood. It’s the highest highs and the lowest lows. It’s the feeling that everything is too important to mess up right now because there is too much at stake and it’s bigger than me on my own.

It’s sleepless nights and snotty noses, it’s arms being thrown around your neck and kisses being smooched wetly across your face. It’s being a part of something with your children, and a part of a bigger something with other mothers.

What is motherhood to you? To me, it’s the best thing to have ever happened.

Cussons is asking mums to share their experiences of motherhood as part of the #voiceofmums campaign to accompany the Mum & Me Baby Bath to Comfort Snuffles launch.

What is motherhood to me? I made a little video to show you… Enjoy!

*This is a sponsored post

Fisher-Price Little People Skyway Review

Milin has been testing out the Fisher Price Little People Skyway for the last few weeks and it’s a toddler toy unlike anything else he’s got. Its novelty factor is considerable – and Milin, understandably loves it.

We have been calling it his helter skelter, but it is, really, a very large series of ramps. There are three ramps which you can send vehicles down. The toy comes with a few cars, but Milin has had great fun testing out all of his existing selection of cars on it too. They really do hurtle down the track.

Fisher Price skyway toddler toy

Part of the excitement is that you never know which track the car is going to end up coming out from.  This is because of a series of side exits on the way down. The skyway towers over Milin at about a metre tall too – so they’ve got some distance to travel. A very sweet crane, stop sign, petrol pump and parking meter all make the skyway really realistic too. Milin has been having hours of fun with it and getting very imaginative with his play.  It’s another Fisher-Price toy we would highly recommend. Do take a look at this little video of the Skyway in action.

*We were sent the Skyway to review. All opinions are my own.

Family Fever

Fireman Sam Ocean Rescue DVD review

Milin has a new obsession – it’s Fireman Sam. We were sent the latest Fireman Sam DVD – Ocean Rescue – to review a little while ago. I was intrigued by it before we put it on. I’d not seen Fireman Sam for years. Milin hadn’t ever watched a show or even read about or heard about the character.

Milin is big on vehicles and he loves rescue vehicles. He also likes action and adventure. I should have know he would love Fireman Sam. fireman sam

The DVD features just over an hour of episodes which see Fireman Sam and his firefighter friends repeatedly save the day. They’re out at sea for water-themed rescues and the fire crew are called on repeatedly to save the people of Pontypandy from their marine mishaps.

Fireman Sam first hit our screens in 1986 and it’s easy to see why he has stuck around. This DVD has all the elements of a hit show. There’s the excitement and adventure of rescues, there’s the moral goodness of the hero, there’s suspense, relief and joy – the series has it all.

fireman sam

My only issue with Fireman Sam is that I now find it difficult to get Milin away from the DVD. He does integrate the plotlines into his imaginative play which is really sweet to watch though. He loves the song and has got to know all the characters. Sam and Norman are, of course, his favourites. The stories within each episode are easy for him to understand and not too long.

Highly recommended!

fireman sam ocean rescue review

Reality checks for parents

If I ever need a reality check, I can rely on my children to provide.

They did just that today, for example, when I was having a ‘very important meeting’ at work about ‘very important things’. Then I got a phone call saying my toddler son had just bitten my daughter’s foot.

They also served up a decent dose of reality last time I tried to fit in a sneaky bit of internet shopping while they were reading books together. The sound of pages being torn out of a book will quickly distract me from a pretty bag, it turns out.

Then there’s the discussion about what the contents of a potty look like. “Look Mummy, it’s a snail today.” These discussions have a habit of reminding me that no matter how advanced I think my toddler is, he still finds poo fascinating.

There’s the reality check that comes from seeing my kids spitting out my homemade organic chicken mince burgers but then wolfing down a bowl of plain buttery rice.baby eating at highchair

There’s my son’s refusal to wear anything remotely ‘on-trend’ because he’s got a T-shirt with Thomas the Tank Engine on it and actually, who needs any other clothes?

There’s the smearing of marmite fingers over my dress 30 seconds before I’m due to leave the house for work.

There’s crawling away (at speed) from the nappy changing mat before being wiped. 15 seconds before I’m due to leave the house for work.

There is the complete refusal to participate in my Pintrest-inspired craft activity because making  a tower with blocks is more fun.

There’s the very sudden mood change that comes quicker than you or I could flick a switch. There’s the rapid escalation of something not being quite right to it being the worst thing in the world ever.

There’s the temporary refusal to forgive me for not being there by his side the second he slipped in the park. That one leaves a dull ache somewhere in my chest.

There’s the screaming in the middle of the night that goes on four hours because I can’t make the pain of teething go away.

There is the little voice which says ‘Mummy, please put your phone away and play with me.’ There is nothing like that, I tell you, to make you promise to yourself that the emails can wait.

But then, there are other reality checks too.

There is the reality check which shows me what is really important. When I miss a doctor’s appointment or forget to fill in the nursery form – there is the joy in a little boy’s face because we played trains instead.

There is the intense, desperate, needy 2.30am cuddle when only mummy will do – and then the instant calm and return to slumber because mummy was there.

The smiles, the laughter, the snippets of too-funny conversations – these are the reality checks that make me happy, every day. For them, I’ll take the real world.toddler fireman sam hat

 

Saying goodbye, giving up work, and not having it all

Saying goodbye to a column is an emotional business. But, last week, after two years of writing, I made the break.

I’ve written for Essential Mums since the site, owned by New Zealand’s biggest media company, launched two years ago. I’d left my acting head of news job at the paper as we prepared for our big move to the UK, and it felt good to get back to writing. It was my first regular freelance gig. I started off with parenting features but settled into three regular columns a week.

Readers followed our little family as we packed our New Zealand life into boxes and travelled to London via Thailand. We announced Jasmin’s birth in a column on the site, and I also documented our first family holiday.

unnamed

I spoke  my mind too. I wrote about why we need to get over our obsession with celebrity baby bumps, I had a bit of a go about it being time to give c-section mothers a break. And I bared my soul. I wrote about feeling like I’ve failed and about motherhood being too hard. Along with the joyous posts (first birthdays, first Christmases), there were the posts written in a hazy blur about breastfeeding being tough, or about sleepless nights making life unbearable.

And then, last week, I said goodbye. To thousands of regular readers who I feel like I’ve got to know, I penned my last column.

I was surprised by how sad it made me – but then I realised that of course it felt like an ending because it was.

Tony, for months, has pleaded with me to give the column up. At first I dropped down to two slots a week. But as my permanent role as editor-in-chief at Wauwaa Life has picked up a gear, I’ve had to admit it – I can’t do everything.

Milin is two, Jasmin is one – they come first. I work three days a week – but of course, like everyone, I work whenever an email comes in and needs responding to. I also – for the short term- work about 20 hours a month in another temporary freelance role. I fit these hours in when the children are asleep. There isn’t anymore time for anymore work. (Save the occasional too-good-to-miss commission that I can’t resist…)

Saying goodbye to my favourite column has been hard – not just because I will miss my readers – but because I’ve experienced a kind of guilt and sense of failure. I can’t do it all – that’s effectively the feeling that comes with giving up a job.

My reasons are sound, I know – there simply aren’t enough hours when the children are in bed for me to fit in three more columns a week. I’m not prepared to extend their childcare so I can fit the work into daylight hours. There’s already too many hours of the week that I spend without my children by my side.

Still, there’s a part of me that wishes I needed less sleep – and then I’d be able to fit the work in. (12am to6 am is an average night…)

And so this is another element of motherhood that has proven to me again that this is all so bloody complicated. It’s confusing when you go back to work, yes – but it’s also confusing when you give work up.

There would have been a time, before children, when I’d have found a way to fit the work in. Today, though, the kids come first. It’s grappling with the consequences of that, and appreciating that it’s ok to not have enough time for everything that is difficult.

I didn’t give up the work because of the ‘working mum guilt’ I believe we partly project on ourselves. Part of that guilt too is, in my view, experienced because of the treatment of mothers by wider society. That’s not the point here, though. I gave up work for purely practical reasons. In doing so, I admitted to myself I can’t have it all. I’m happy with what’s left, but it might take me some time to accept that something had to give.

When do I teach my son to be a Feminist?

My son loves Sofia the First. He is two. He also loves Transformers. Or, at least, I think that’s what he found on the tele this afternoon.

We’re usually a CBeebies family. That is – my two-year-old Milin and one-year-old Jasmin don’t usually get to see much else. They don’t watch a lot – but I freely admit to using the TV to make mealtimes easier with two fussy eaters. Milin has also recently started watching the occasional DVD – Toy Story, The Gruffalo, Thomas the Tank Engine – you get the idea.

He felt under-the-weather this afternoon, so the TV was on more than usual. I’m not sure how the channel got switched, but I came back into the room to see him watching what I think was Transformers. Our conversation went like this:

Me: “Why are you watching this Milin?”

Milin: “Because I am.”

It was almost said with attitude and he made a fuss when I turned it off. It wasn’t going back on though – it was too violent and mature for our living room on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Later, we found an episode of Sofia the First. It was the first time I’d sat down and watched a show about the Disney princess who is just a little girl (as opposed to the young women before her.) Milin absolutely adored it and watched it on repeat three times before going to bed. It was a world away from our earlier dalliance with a difference TV channel. Yet Milin had loved both shows.

sofiadreaming

And I guess that’s the thing about two-year-old boys. They don’t know if they’re watching a gratuitously violent depiction of masculine strength. They don’t know if they’re watching a character in a beautiful dress created for the purpose of selling princess-culture to girls aged between two and seven. ( I know Sofia the First is a progressive Disney heroine as far as they go – but the fact remains that she’s still a beautiful, white, skinny little rich girl…)

Which, now that Milin has gone to bed, has left me thinking. When do I teach my son to be a feminist?

Is it when, at two, he catches a glimpse of animated action heroes fighting the baddies to save a damsel in distress? Is it when, at two, he sees that Disney’s version of beauty to aspire to usually involves sparkly dresses, a clinched in waist and a blessed existence (even when you’re a young girl).

There is so much I’ve planned to do to ensure Milin grows up firmly believing in equality. On the crudest level, all toys are for boys and girls, as are all colours and behaviour traits and sports activities. Yet an afternoon of TV has thrown me.

What do I tell him? When he is just two? I want him to grow up speaking out for equality, I want him to do more than his fair share in quashing gender inequalities. I want him to grow up championing the rights of men and women, girls and boys, no matter who they are and where they are from.

If I don’t say anything at all now, while he is two, am I losing a battle as soon as it has begun? The reinforcement of gender stereotypes, of class prejudices, of racist ideology – it is too important to me that I bring Milin up seeing beyond this. If I don’t prompt him to question it now, if I don’t explain how things should be now – surely it will be too hard later?

My little boy is two. I can dress him in what I want, buy him the toys I want, send him to ballet lessons if I want. But he’s still going to see the stories our mass media tells the world.

When can I teach my son to be a Feminist? I guess it starts now.

Fisher-Price Crawl Around Car Review and Video

Jasmin has been having so much fun reviewing the new  Fisher-Price Crawl Around Car that it’s been an absolute joy to watch her play with it. As lots of you know, Jasmin is hypermobile – and just started crawling recently at 13 months. She’s loving her independence and mobility, and she’s become even more inquisitive and keen to explore since being on the move.

The Crawl Around Car is the perfect baby learning toy for her at this stage of her development. It’s a really impressive product, and – as I now expect from Fisher-Price – a lot of thought has gone into making it extra special. As far as toys go, it is on the large size. As far as Jasmin was concerned – this was a good thing. She was excited as soon as she saw it assembled. It’s a sturdy, stationary car with one door that opens. She crawled right up to, opened the door, and sat inside!

Fisher-Price crawl around car

The inside of the opening door features a shape sorter, while the other side of the car has a kind of ball ramp in it which Jasmin loves sending balls down. The dashboard is where all the lights and music happens. You can move the steering wheel, turn the key, change gear – and Jasmin has figured out quickly how to do all of this. I love watching her having a play while bopping along to the music!

There’s a spinning wheel on the back of the car and also a scene which changes from rain to sun at the front – these are little extras Jasmin also has fun playing with. The car has also made me realise how good her comprehension is. She understands simple directions such as ‘go to the car’ or ‘open the door’ – and I’m looking forward to starting to play games based around the shape sorter with her too.

Fisher-Price crawl around car

The car doesn’t go anywhere, and so I thought it wouldn’t really interest Milin who is two and three quarters. I was wrong. Milin loves the car as much as Jasmin. He gets in and sits inside and starts telling me stories about where he is driving too. It’s brilliant for his imagination and his imaginative play. He’s less bothered by the lights and music – but is really incorporating the car into role play games which is brilliant to see.

I’d highly recommend this car – there is so much too it, and the fact that it works so well for imaginative play gives it longevity from baby days right through to older years. Jasmin and I have reviewed it here on video too, so take a look to see it in action!

 

Family Fever

What does later mean to a two year old?

“Can you  play trains with me mummy?”

This must be Milin’s most-repeated phrase. In his lovely, soft, pleading two-year-old voice, this is his favourite request. It’s a question he starts asking before 7am. And it’s something he repeats throughout the day.

He says it, usually, while I’m doing something with one-year-old Jasmin – feeding her, dressing her, or changing a nappy. He says it too when I’m quickly replying to an email on my phone, or clearing away their lunch plates, or packing his bag for nursery.

And what are my most common responses?

“In a minute, Milin.”

“Just wait a bit Milin and I’ll come and play when I’ve finished this.”

“Milin I can’t play just now – I’ll play trains later.”

But what does “later” mean to a two-year-old?

It means “no”.

Trains

I’m not sure what made me realise it, but I’m suddenly saddened by the way I respond to Milin’s requests for a playmate.

He’s just a two-year-old boy wanting to play trains with his mum. And too often, I’m not there.

When did life get so busy, I wonder, that I can’t make playing trains the first thing I do – instead of the last?

When is it ever fair on my son that I get every other job finished before I sit down on the carpet with him and make a track using all the pieces?

Perhaps it was hearing the sadness in Milin’s own voice the last time he asked me to play. Perhaps it was hearing the knowing in his voice that I wouldn’t be there. Perhaps it was hearing the resignation that he would have to play by himself. Again. While I did something else.

Whatever it was, something made me realise that actually, it’s not fair. Milin is two. I’m his mummy. It’s time to play trains.

I don’t want my son to have to ask me again and again and again all day to play with him. He shouldn’t have to ask. I don’t want my son to have a kind of resigned sadness in his voice that gives away that he fully expects me to say “later.” I don’t want my son to give up on me playing with him.

There is, of course, nothing more important than spending time with my babies. The rest – the emails, the dishes, the errands – can wait. Somehow, things seem to have got busier, there seems to be a never-ending list of tasks to tick off. Well I’m done with the list. Milin won’t want to play trains with me forever. He won’t always need me to help him fix the bridge so Thomas and Percy can get back to Tidmouth Sheds. I never want him to feel like I’m to busy to play. I need to make more time. I need to shift things around sometimes and change what happens first. Everything else can wait.

Because I don’t want to hear that sadness again. Not from a two-year-old boy who just wants to play trains with his mummy.