Just one night

Novotel paddington central with kids

There’s something lovely about getting away for a mini break. I’m not sure if it’s the utter luxury of not having to make your own bed or cook dinner, or perhaps it’s something simpler – like watching a very large tv screen in a hotel room – but whatever it is, a short change of scene can sometimes go a long way to helping you reset and feel refreshed.

Tony and I have always been big fans of mini breaks. Before we had Milin and Jasmin we loved to head out of town at the weekend and book a rental home by the sea, indulge in a little luxury break, or even spend a night under the stars in our teeny tent. Getting away from home makes you switch off somehow, and whether we were exploring or relaxing, alone or away with friends, we always enjoyed having that time together away from the stresses of daily life.

Since having Milin and Jasmin, we’ve tended either to do full, long weekends away or short breaks further afield. This weekend though, the four of us spent a night at Novotel Paddington in London and Tony and I realised that we must be through the hardest baby years because we can suddenly go away again for just one night and it doesn’t feel like too much work. (This is very, very exciting for us!)

mini break Pink Lining black cabs holdallNovotel Paddington roof bar

We were treated to our amazing stay at Novotel and while it wasn’t a long way away from home (just a tube ride, in fact), it felt like we really were on holiday. Milin asked me this gem on the Picadilly line on the way there:

“Mummy, what language do they speak in Paddington?”

Which I guess summed up the trip for the children. To them, it was a holiday. It was an adventure. It didn’t matter that we were only an hour away from home. We packed a bag, got on the tube, and went somewhere new.

We arrived to a luxurious suite where treats awaited (the macarons were divine). Tony and I had coffees, the children ate chocolates, and we then had a dip in the pool. We had it all to ourselves, and Tony even found time for a sauna and steam. I felt so relaxed suddenly that it was hard to believe I’d only been rushing around the house sweeping up the kitchen floor only hours ago. When we went down for dinner, I turned off my phone and left it behind. Instant holiday.

Novotel paddington welcomeNovotel Paddington kids bedsNovotel Paddington swimming pol

Novotel Paddington restaurantNovotel Paddington kids restaurantNovotel Paddington Central bedNovotel Paddington central viewNovotel Paddington relax

I don’t think I’ve stayed in a Novotel before, but the little details were lovely. There were gifts for the children on arrival, the huge bath was amazing, the food in the restaurant was superb (prawn tacos were the highlight), and the view from our room on the eleventh floor was enough to keep the kids happy because they could simply watch the trains go in and out of Paddington for hours.

It’s funny how being in a part of town you wouldn’t normally be in can turn you into a tourist. We spent a morning walking along the canals of Little Venice, holding hands, being silly, and generally feeling happy.

Paddington bear statueLittle Venice Paddington canals walk

Back at the hotel, the children joined in with Novotel’s Superheroes day and loved every second. It was the perfect end to the weekend – cake-making, mask-making, general hero-stuff – they were very happy.

When we got home, Tony and I realised we’d not said a stern word over the whole duration of the break. We’d not taken Jasmin’s buggy and the children had done a fair amount of walking, but they’d been superstars. We’d not heard a grumble, they’d not played up – life certainly is getting easier as they’re getting older.

We came back rested. (Black out blinds are amazing – the kids slept in, in their own beds!) And we came back relaxed and refreshed. Life has been busy and stressful recently. It’s amazing how just one night away can help you recharge.

Novotel Paddington superheroes

 *Thank you to Novotel Paddington where we were treated to our stay.

Nurturing self belief (in stroppy toddlers)

two year old nurturing self belief

My two-year-old is nearly three, and her birthday is approaching with a noisy stamping of feet and swishing of princess dresses. She knows it is her “three birthday in July”, and she seems convinced that this milestone will make her as grown up as her (four-year-old) brother. Suddenly her words are full of conviction, her opinions are uttered with unwavering strength. She knows exactly what she wants and she won’t settle for anything less than getting it. Now.

And I love this.

Because at some point between three and 30, my daughter will learn to say sorry. Too often. She will learn that her opinions aren’t always as important as someone else’s. She will learn that what she wants isn’t necessarily hers to get. She will learn to settle.

Somehow, in the next two and a half decades, my feisty, strong-willed daughter will lose her complete belief in herself, her conviction will falter and the doubt will set in. Her confident foot stamp will disappear, her statements will become questions and her certainty will slowly be eroded. Her determination, her straightforward understanding of achievement, and her simple acceptance of her own success, will diminish.

This won’t happen because she is just growing up. It will happen because she will become a woman.

two year old nurturing self belief

And so this is my job – for now at least, and as a start at least – to stop this journey into the womanhood I know. Instead, there has to a be a path where she retains the self esteem and belief she has now.

In the next 30 years, I want my daughter to continue to be self-righteous and determined. I want her to keep her unfaltering self belief. I want her to shout about her opinions and not give up until she gets her way. I don’t want her to give in, I don’t want her to apologise, and I don’t want her to think that someone else is more deserving of something which she should have equal access to. I want her chances to be fair, but above that, I want her to believe in herself and her rights.

Somewhere, somehow, after we are two or three or eight or twelve or seventeen or twenty two, we start to see our place differently in the world. Instead of the world revolving around us, we become a spectator with a restricted view. As women, we apologise for getting in the way of the main act, we tiptoe around the edges while doing what we can to support the performance. Our subconscious assigns us these spaces over the years, after years spent quietly absorbing the facts around where/how/what we should be.

So no more.

My two-year-old who is nearly three but thinks she is all grown up, carries inside her a beautiful, angry, insistence on her place as centre stage. And so it shall remain. Because I will spend the next 30 years telling her that she has nothing to be sorry for, and she has as much entitlement to that spot as anyone else. Her voice should be heard, her dressing-up dress should be seen as she swishes it in a strop, and her self belief and confidence should remain with her for always.

This is my job. I have no idea how to do it.

two year old nurturing self belief

Days off…

I work four days a week. It’s a sometimes hard, sometimes easy, sometimes I wish I had more hours at work to get everything done, sometimes I wish I had more hours at home with my children. Actually, I always wish that last thing. But, four days it is. Monday through Thursday, we leave the house at 7am, I kiss the children goodbye at 8am, I’m at my desk at 8.30am, there til 5pm, and kissing the children hello again at 5.30pm. It is our rat-race. But it could be so much worse. I’m grateful for my short commute. I’m grateful that my employer lets me pick up what I can’t do before the run home at night when the world sleeps. And I’m grateful for three glorious days off in a row with my babies.

And then there’s bank holidays. An extra Monday off is blissful. It means four days in a row with Milin and Jasmin. It made up for me not taking any time off this half term. (Couldn’t logistically be away from work, didn’t have much leave owing, wasn’t needed at home as Tony is around, etc, etc).

And in our four days off in a row the children made a point of telling me repeatedly how much they loved it when I was home. “Never go back to work Mummy”, Jasmin said. “I love it when you don’t go to work Mummy” Milin said. I felt guilty and lucky and happy and said in that way that I never knew before motherhood tore me in all directions at the same time.

What did we do that made them so joyful? Simple things. We saw a superb theatre production of Little Red Riding Hood at the Arts Depot in north London – a venue that never fails to amaze me with its pick of shows for children. This one didn’t disappoint and the children loved it. (I felt a little bad afterwards in the bar, two drinks in with a friend, when Jasmin screamed her head off because at 6pm she really was ready to go home, but, it was my Friday too, right?)

Arts Depot Arts Depot

And we went to ballet and soft play and Milin and I talked about Star Wars over a gingerbread biscuit. We went on the commuter boat along the Thames from Vauxhall to Bankside and waved at people on the river cruise – and clapped when they waved back. We had our first barbecue in this home, we wandered round the Tate Modern and sighed at all the stairs and crowds, we had pizzas and coffee dates, we hung out with grandparents, we hung out with friends and while the kids played on the bouncy castle in the garden the grown ups drank too much wine, again, …. so we basically just did stuff. But that one extra day off – it made me feel very grateful of time with my children.

Pizza Express South Bank babycinno London River cruise Thames commuter boat barbecue Jasmin

(And on the nights they’re only going to sleep at 9pm because there is no nursery tomorrow, I must remember these peaceful and good times.)

We deserve to be safe here

Working mum on laptop with child sleeping

Reclaim the internet…

There’s a slow and horrible realisation that creeps up on you when you’re trolled. First, it’s the sensation of feeling a little bit dirty – as if you’ve been tainted by someone else’s filthy words. When you can shake that off, there’s the anger that comes with knowing that someone has been so cowardly they’ve targeted you anonymously. There’s also sadness and frustration, because it does hurt, no matter how many times it happens. And even though the perpetrators are usually anonymous, it’s deeply personal, because it’s an intrusion into the space you had made your own. It makes you question yourself, even though you know it shouldn’t.

The first abuse I received for my writing wasn’t online. As a young, female news reporter with brown skin I was always easy to find in newsrooms. There was the skinhead who came to the office of the first daily paper I worked at. He came to find me after I’d reported on the racist murder his brother had just received a life sentence for. And it wasn’t always about the colour of my skin. It didn’t matter that I’d won a national press award and been named environment reporter of the year – climate science, or the impact of dairying on waterways were apparently too complex for my brain. The smears and personal attacks came in the form of letters addressed to the editor, to me personally on the newsdesk, and then, of course, in forums and comments online.

The worst of it came after I wrote about feminism. Among the trolls was one who told me that he’d like to tie my tubes with barbed wire. He isn’t worth me remembering him. But I do. Because neither he, nor anyone else, will make me change my mind about how important it continues to be that we call this behaviour out and refuse to let it silence us.

As women, we are subjected to an onslaught of abuse online. New research by Demos and cited by Reclaim the Internet showed that in a three week period last month, 6,500 users received 10,000 misogynistic and abusive tweets, just in the UK. That’s phenomenal, and disgusting, and horrific. We are targets for harassment, purely because we are women. This harassment we have always seen has moved over to the web, and on this infinite cyber playing field, we cannot afford to lose this fight.

Figures like these show that we are not safe. They dispel completely the myth that online abuse is rare or confined to specific sites or areas. Still, we cannot allow any level of this abuse to be considered in any way acceptable. At its very, very least, it denotes a complete lack of empathy, it legitimises the denigration of women, it extends our treatment as objects, it builds on a cycle that presents us as targets. At its worst, it can have horrendous consequences on its victims. It can perpetuate the abusive behaviour it seeks to normalise.

We all have an equal right to the internet. We have the right to a space where we can make our voices heard, free from fear, free from abuse. We haven’t had the freedom to make our voices heard for too long. We have to ensure that it is ours to keep now. We have been marginalised and quietened and pushed in some ways into these corners of the internet where we are talking. But we have to keep using our voices, here in these corners for a start – because if we don’t won’t be heard outside them. And if we’re not heard, we’re not equal.

So how do we do it? We keep on talking. We keep on telling our stories. We keep on sharing our stories. We keep on calling out abuse. We keep on.

My children don’t know what the internet is yet. They’re adept at swiping their fingers on the iPad to watch another YouTube rendition of Let It Go, but their understanding of the web doesn’t go much further than that. In the next few years though, they will discover an entire virtual world at their fingertips. My two-year-old and four-year-old will in a few years time, I have no doubt, be using apps and social media platforms that I have never heard of and am unlikely to ever get my head around. I want my son and my daughter to use them without fear. I want them to live online, not in the edges, in the quiet corners, but in the spaces they choose and in the ways they choose. I want them to talk loudly, to share their views, to find a platform that is theirs, and that is free from abuse.

I want them to be safe here.

 

Motherhood: now I am lost

Milin and Jasmin

There were delays on the Northern Line when I found them. I’d shoved my arm into the depths of my handbag; I was in up to my elbow, and rummaging around for my headphones. But I pulled out Jasmin’s Finding Nemo knickers instead. And at that moment, which was the same moment that the tube pulled in and I realised I’d need to push my way on because of the delays, I also felt like I was in pieces.

There are no more nappies. Not stuffed into drawers in the hall, in the bathroom, in the bedrooms, in the lounge, in the emergency bag in the car, in the nappy bags, in the nursery spare clothes bags.

I should be glad, I know, that we can pass on the 200 or so size fives I’d bought and never needed. And, I imagine, I will be once I appreciate how much easier life is without a nappy bag to pack and carry around. For now though, these signs that show me how much my children are growing up have knocked me a little off balance.

Milin, without us noticing, has stopped taking his beloved bunny to bed. He’s not been able to put himself to sleep without it since he was eight months old. Until this week. What will we do with those seven, faded, threadbare, bunnies? I always put one in the washing machine each morning. But this week, there hasn’t been any need.

I can’t, at the moment, escape the big and little markers such as these. They are the objects and forms and events and actions which are tangible proof of life with a two and four year old. Jasmin is doing an extra session at nursery each week, Milin tells me about the rallies he and his friends can manage at tennis, they can both dress themselves. We’ve accepted a school place for Milin, Jasmin will move into the ‘big children’ class in September. They are not babies.

But it is these two big milestones that have thrown me. Saying goodbye to nappies and to bunnies has made me realise – I might not be new to this thing that is motherhood anymore, but I will still be shaken by it, every day, as life changes and we grow.

I’m still able to be left feeling bereft when they barely say goodbye at the nursery door. They’re too busy, ready to go and have fun. As I watch them feed and dress themselves I want to delight in their independence – but instead I’m alone. I wish I would celebrate that they are growing and becoming braver. But each new feat brings a longing for what we’d come to know.

It’s around five years since I found out that I was pregnant with Milin. In those five years, life has revolved around my children – it always will, but our positions are shifting. Soon, I’ll add on an extra half day at work, they’ll add on hours at school and nursery. They’ll become more of their own people. Without me. But this is not just about their independence. Because really, every day of the last five years has involved a crumbling of the pieces that hold things together.

Motherhood has left me grappling at what’s left (of me). As much as I embrace that I am a mother, as much as I know that my identity will forever be intertwined with the existence of my children – I am lost.

With Jasmin’s Finding Nemo knickers in my hand, I stood on the tube platform this morning wondering, searching. I couldn’t find the stable ground. I am a mother who misses her babies but is overjoyed at her growing up children. I am a woman who no longer has the drive or career that defined the decade before her pregnancy. I’ve come to fear mortality, worry about the future, stress about stability, question myself endlessly. I’ve lost confidence in what I know, what I can do, and what I am.

Five years ago, life was lived in a naive state of optimism, of excitement for future achievements. I had ambition, dreams – I still do – but the successes are harder, the battles are not mine alone. They feel beyond me, too big for me and far outside my reach.

Motherhood did this. I was just getting to know who I was when everything changed. Five years on, it’s still changing, and I’m just about keeping my head above water, grabbing at the strands that resemble the things I know. They’re moving though. Now, they always will.

Milin and Jasminhttps://www.facebook.com/mummysaysmusingsonmotherhood

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Our week in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

Corralejo beach main town

The Canary Islands have never featured on my ‘places I want to visit’ list. I’d never even considered them for a holiday, in fact, until a few months ago. But when I started looking for family-friendly holidays in Europe for a one-week break in April, they seemed like an obvious choice.

With Tony away for the whole of this month, I wanted to take the children somewhere to distract them a little from missing him. I wanted somewhere warm, easy to travel to, not too far away, and somewhere we could have a relaxing, stress-free break. It needed to be relatively inexpensive too.

I could have picked any of the islands really but Fuerteventura stood out because of it’s stunning sandy beaches. There are miles and miles of golden sand dunes, and calm shallow and clear waters as well as surf spots.

The island is only a four-hour flight away and there’s no time difference – this made things really easy for the children. The flight was long enough to be exciting, but not too long for them to get fed up. And being on the same time zone meant we had no jet lag (or early mornings!) to contend with.

I picked an all-inclusive resort because I wanted a real break – and cooking their meals and tidying up after them was exactly the kind of reality I wanted to escape. As neither are great eaters, all-inclusive hotels take some of the stress of dining out away. It’s funny how an all-inclusive break in Kos two years ago changed my perspective of this as a way to holiday. It’s still not my first choice, bur for now and possible the next couple of years, it does make life easier.

I was sad to miss out on the local bars and restaurants this time – but the break was about doing things the easy way, and this meant eating at the hotel mostly. It also meant more time for the children just to have fun. (I did, however, manage a little shopping trip without them one afternoon, and a decent walk to explore the town alone one morning. I also fitted in a good few hours of book-reading as the sea air and swimming tired them out each day.)

My parents came along (there’s no way I wanted to negotiate a trip on my own with Milin and Jasmin – I would have needed a holiday to recover!), and we had a perfect week in the sun. It wasn’t too hot – the temperature on Fuerteventura in April is surely the pick of Europe – between 22-25 most days, with mornings and evenings cool enough for me to wear trousers and a cardigan and nights cool enough for comfortable sleeps. Sea breezes kept us from getting to hot in the day too.

Milin and Jasmin made the most of the children’s pool and Jasmin showed me how she could swim with just a ring around her. I never take her swimming as she goes when I’m at work, so seeing this was amazing for me. Milin spent the entire week squirting people with a water pistol and running around the pool, in and out of the water, having adventures.

A beautiful lovely sandy playground at our resort was also a hit, and Milin loved the kids club and mini disco each night. I loved his moves – and will never forget his ‘chicken dance’. I blame Tony’s genes though for that! They made friends and basically spent the week being happy. They came home knowing how to count to three in Spanish too, as well as say a sprinkling of words. I wonder how long they’ll remember them for…

The sea was perfect swimming temperature for me, although to cold for the children. But the amazingly clear waters meant they could see fish swimming near the shore as they paddled – which they thought was brilliant. Most of our beach days were spent exploring rock pools and looking for treasure. They thought this was the most exciting thing. And, actually, it was fun, hanging out with them and being adventurers.

They managed to fit in the ice cream buffet almost every day, twice a day – and I figured that since we were on holiday, why not? We stayed at Corralejo – a pretty little fishing village with beautiful sandy beaches and rocky areas as well for exploring.

I felt so lucky by the end of the week that we’d been able to have such a relaxing week. I’d never have imagined, even a few months ago, we’d go to the Canary Islands for that – but actually it was almost perfect. We just wished Tony could have been there.

Corralejo town beach photo Corralejo town main beach photo Corralejo fishing boats photo Corralejo yellow houses photo Corralejo kids pool photo Corralejo rock pools photo Corralejo fishing village photo Corralejo family holiday photo Corralejo cactus photo Corralejo beach

Primary school applications and a little boy growing up

It’s just over a week until we find out which primary school Milin will go to in September. I desperately want him to go to the little school up the road. We’re in the catchment area, but it’s always very oversubscribed. There’s also a slightly bigger school down the road. We’re in the catchment for that too. But I like the little one.

And so as the date approaches, my dreams about primary school applications have started. He never gets into our first choice on the form in them. I cry, feel like it’s my fault for even putting the bigger school down, and then I wake up sad and cross with myself.

I’m expecting more of the same for the next week. And I’ve realised this is just the start. Because whatever that email says, it’s not long until September when Milin’s independence will move up a gear. I’ll see him less, I’ll miss our Friday’s together when we’re both off from lunchtime, and he’ll have a little life of his own that I’m not a part of. He’ll make new friends in a new school, love new teachers, experience new dramas – and they’ll be all his.

Milin has been at nursery since he was 16 months old but when he’s four and three quarters he will move on to ‘big school’, as he calls it. He’ll need me less. He’ll learn to read and write, he’ll join sports clubs and practice for the school play and line up for assembly. He’ll wear a uniform and walk up the road or down the road with his buddies each morning, packed lunch in his bag.

I used to feel so much sadness at how quickly time passes. But now, although I would give anything to have those newborn days with him all over again, I’m more excited for him than sad for myself. Whichever school he goes to, he’ll start the term excited and ready for adventures. He’ll have years of learning ahead of him, years of making friends and doing new things. I’m trying not to spend these months before school worrying about all the harder parts of schooldays and growing up – those we will deal with as they come. For now though, I want to look forward to all the happiness ahead of him, and feel glad for all the fun and laughter and goodness he has known along the way to this point. He’s already so much bigger than the little boy who cried every at drop-off for three months when he started nursery. He’s so much more independent and fierce and strong and wilful.

My little boy is on the verge of growing up and while part of me wishes he wouldn’t, another part of me is so madly happy for him because of all that he has to come. Whether it’s the little school up the road or the big school down the road, we will do everything we can to make sure he is happy and knows we are here when it’s time to come home.

We will ask about his day and what he learnt, we will talk about his friends, his football games at lunch break, his teachers, his discoveries and his adventures. He’s growing up. Part of my job is to hang on to the precious memories of the baby days we’ll never get back. But the other part is to help him get ready for the excitement of the future. I’m still figuring out how – but hopefully as we get closer to September, whatever the outcome of our school application forms, I’ll have figured out how.growing up

When your husband goes away for a month

I spent nearly a decade away from the UK before returning home to London. I’d visit every year or so, savouring the days with old friends and family, walking down familiar streets, reminiscing over places that had changed, reliving happy memories. Those trips home made living so far from home manageable.

Now it’s Tony’s turn – and he is away for a month. He needs to see his family, to spend evenings laughing with old school friends, to walk along the shoreline in Wellington and look over the harbour to the valley where he grew up. I wish I was there for fish and chips on the beach, for swims in the too-cold sea, for walks up the hills and for days and nights with people I miss so much. I miss the big horizon, the big sky, the big weather. I miss the stars and the crashing seas. A month’s visit would barely be enough.

This is one of the hardest things for us. New Zealand – Tony’s home – became mine. When we left Tony’s home and family and friends, we left mine too. I’d come to love that land and I only knew once I’d left that I’d belonged. Now though, or rather, for now, we live so very far away. And as much as we want to be there, we can’t be. Not just now.

Maybe this will be what we do for the next few years and years. If Tony goes home every now and then, maybe he will manage the heart wrench of being away.

Falling in love with someone from the other side of the world has made our lives complicated. And this month apart will be hard. But Milin and Jasmin have amazed me with their resilience. I’m not sure we’d cope without Facetime, but they’re little troopers, doing ok. Milin tells me every day that daddy is his best friend and he misses him. Jasmin wants to see him on the phone whenever she can. Jasmin tells Milin that mummy can’t fix broken toys and he has to wait for daddy to come back. Milin gets out his Lego and pictures of what he wants to make and tells me to try my hardest to make things like daddy does. They’re sad and don’t understand how long he is away for – but really, they’re amazing because they’re also busy and distracted and just getting on with playing and being happy and doing all those things that four year olds and two year olds do.

And me? I miss him. It’s a long time to be without your best friend. But this is what it is to love someone from the other side of the world. We’ll find our way. Somehow, with Milin and Jasmin making sure we don’t dwell on the tough stuff, we’ll get there.story time reading books

Dresses for Spring and Summer

Monsoon dress

The children spent an hour just scooting up and down the street outside our house today. They didn’t have coats on, we left the front door open, and they only stopped because they got hungry and thirsty. For the first time in months, we were outside, without coats on, in full sunshine under a bright blue sky – and we were warm. Spring is finally here.

I can’t wait to update my wardrobe with a few bits for the warmer weather. I’m on a *very* tight budget though, and so when High Street Outlet got in touch and asked if I’d like to pick a few items to review, I felt very lucky – what perfect timing.

I’d not heard of High Street Outlet before, but they buy in factory surplus stock from high street stores – and then sell it for a fraction of the price. Often, the brand’s labels are cut out but since I don’t really care what the label on the inside of my clothes says or doesn’t say – this doesn’t bother me at all!

There’s so much choice on the site, but the first thing that caught my eyes was this lovely Monsoon Aztec shift kaftan dress. In sheer navy, this beautifully embroidered dress comes with an underslip and is super comfy and easy to wear. It’s classic Monsoon – something a bit different, a bit smart, a bit boho, and works in so many situations. So far, it’s a work dress, an evening dress, and a dress I’m definitely packing for our holiday in the sun later this month for warm evenings chilling at the hotel. I still can’t get over that such a stunning dress is only £22.50 – it really is something special!

 

Monsoon dressMy other favourite was this Boden Lupin maxi dress. At £24.99 it’s another fabulous bargain and something I know I’ll get lots of wear out of from now until at least September. I’m only five foot two, but I love a long dress because they’re so easy to wear all summer – and, like the Monsoon dress, this will get worn on lots of occasions and definitely be coming with me on holiday. (It’s also SO lovely to find a maxi dress that doesn’t need hemming. Hurrah!

The very pretty and extra comfy gold strappy flats from Monsoon/Accesorize were my final bargain from HighStreet Outlet. They were only £12.99 and I plan to wear them with everything!

 

Boden maxi dressIf you’re near Poole, Dorset, make sure to check out Highstreet Outlet ‘in real life’ as they open their doors once a month to the public. And if you’re not, enjoy having a browse online – there’s lots to choose from, and if it’s a bargain, you can justify getting something else as well… right?

*Disclosure: I was sent the above items for the purpose of this review. 

For our daughters

no ordinary dayThis is not how I wished it would be: this being a woman, this being a mother, this showing our daughters that this is how to be.

I would like to show them that I am strong and brave and content. I would like to show them that this is what it is, to be a woman: it is fair and equal and life is just. There is no fear, there is no constant regret over not matching up or constant frustration over giving in. Because it’s easier.

But, despite all my wishes, when we wake up, we are so damn tired and yet must start another day. We are exhausted by not being able to do it all, by telling ourselves we can’t do it all, and by years and years of just not managing to be good enough. And, on this morning, we are shattered because all night, we held them while they cried or we worried about them while they slept. We feared that we weren’t good enough, to show them how it could be. Then, we went out into the world and didn’t let anyone see our sadness. We looked over our shoulder and got a taxi in the dark and pretended we took it all in our stride.

And in the years between our daughters and us, we berated ourselves for not being that one we’d built in our minds, that one who haunts us each birthday and never was real anyway. In those years, we did everything wrong, but how were we to know, because we didn’t know we had any choice. Did we?

And so on another tired morning we wake and dress, not for ourselves, but for every single other person who will see us today. We wear the clothes we have bought over the years to hide our scars and bones and roundness and woman-ness. We look in the mirror and there is sadness as we try to cover up the guilt. We have become accustomed to gathering up our armour, which gives us a blanket to hold up against the world and crouch behind with our mistakes. Somehow though, sometimes, still, for our daughters, we try to walk with our heads held high. But first, this is not for them, but for every other person who would not notice us if we didn’t.

Then, when we speak, we try to erase the self-doubt and loathing that we have grown to live with, because we believe we don’t measure up. We listen to our words and hear in them decades of not being enough.

Our daughters will embark upon the worst years, the years we want to forget, to erase, to one day stop crying over.They should know that these years will pass, that they can be stronger than we were, that they can be not-broken. They can know choice and courage, and turn their backs on fear. Yet, after living those years, I don’t know how to tell them that. Those years, I now see, are lived by knowing that there’s something to prove or to succumb to. They are lived in a constant state of blame, that points only to ourselves.

I don’t know how to fix it. But maybe this will help: to our daughters – it’s not your fault.

It’s not because you are weak that you cry broken-hearted tears in the dark, it is not your fault that you can’t find a way out.

I wish, for our daughters, things were different now. I would take away the hurt and the fear. These things have been built on a world we aren’t changing quickly enough. I would take away the loathing, the brittle and fragile sense of self, the mistrust and misunderstanding. I would make it all better.

I thought, by now, I would know how to do that for our daughters. I was wrong.

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