I’m a Sh*t Parent – A Mother Ruined

Oh my word, there are a lot of parenting blogs. And articles. Tutorials, books, forums, pages, groups, networks, magazines, TV programmes and websites. All dedicated to telling you how to raise your beloved spawn. Whole series are written purely to show you how to discipline your children and websites created entirely to manifest anxiety about everything – from a rash your mini human could get from just looking at the wrong piece of fruit, to ruining your kid’s life by not throwing the Kim Kardashian-West of all birthday parties.

And it has turned us into Arseholes.

In fact, after nearly 8 years of this exhausting and mind-melting maze of panic-inducing drivel, I call Bullshit.

Sorry for the language, but it is mummy time and she gets a bit sweary after hours.

I am pretty sure (with no actual research to back me up), that the levels of maternal anxiety were much lower before we all had access to literally millions of others, giving each other shitty, uninformed, subjective and snotty judgmental advice.

In fact, I think back in the day, you had your mother and grandmother who pretty much ruled the roost on the advice front and told you what to do about everything… A matriarchal system of ‘This is how it is done, so now you do the same.’ No questions asked… how bloody marvellous. (It generally involved a lot of thimbles of alcohol to knock the baby out.)

We are now at a stage where we take in so much of this shit, we are riddled with pressure, guilt and shame for not being the perfect parents. We are so insecure about our abilities we have to take Instagram pics of our #InstaKids #ParentsofInstagram and HashtagBloodyBlessed just so we have some evidence that we are OK and all is well. Proof that we are not constantly worried, broken and stress eating Doritos and Guac in bed.

Right from the get go, with feeding, nappy choices, buggy brands and the dummy dilemma. Whether to Makaton sign, use flash card systems or use a series of clicks and treats to get them to f*cking understand you. Sleeping rituals are like daily report cards and the rules on introducing food has become Pinterest’s most successful money-making scheme EVER! Skipping ahead all the way to my now present dilemmas of a suddenly hormonally charged 7 year old who has realised his willy hardens, education and that whole mess, social interactions, bullying, hobby choices, gaming and internet access, when to let them start choosing their outfits, even though they will look shit and people will stare, discipline and behaviour issues and how to tell your son it is inappropriate to pull down your swimming costume in the middle of the pool and shout ‘I just wanted to see if they would float!’ – I mean, we’ve all been there, right? (FYI: They don’t – Should they?)

I have a headache just remembering some of the stuff I had to think about when Noah was a baby and all the google searches and scrolling through Mumsnet threads. So many hours…

I mean, it is a minefield. A never-ending cycle of ‘Am I doing this right?’

No wonder we are all self-medicating on Gin and creating endless memes about it… I mean, Gin is great, but it was called Mother’s ruin because it caused infertility… we are all subconsciously closing up shop because it has literally become harder to win at parenting than getting a PhD in Neuroscience.

I am not saying that these resources are not helpful. In fact, they saved me a great many times, especially the single parent forums. And I am a huge advocate for being able to find out literally anything I want at the touch of a button and am, of course, a self-confessed You Tube addict.

But, as well as the anxiety, it just seems that this information overload has caused a wave of judgement and shaming that is still very much alive and well. So many people are telling us how to do it, a million different ways and no one actually has a fucking clue. We all are just scraping by, hoping for the best and praying they stay alive long enough to put us in a nice retirement home.

I repeat – no one is right!

But, by gosh do we think we are.

I know, because I do it too. Because I do know best. Because I am awesome and so well-meaning. No seriously, I still do it. I catch myself sometimes, knowing full well I am being a complete dick and judging someone else’s choices. But I am trying. I am a product of this over-analysing, guilt-ridden and mummy shaming culture, so I have to work really hard to keep it in check.

I watched someone be mummy-shamed the other day and it made me so violently angry and sad for that mum, I had to walk away before I pitched a fight.

So mothers of the world (and bitchy dads too), next time you feel the urge to regurgitate something you saw on a Pinterest Infographic, take a minute. Take pause before you give your stance on little Johnnie’s dummy habit or backhanded comment on Betsy’s uncoordinated and clashing outfit and go give yourself a hard smack in the face won’t you dear. Forget for a minute that you are The Baby Whisperer or a certified child psychologist and just remember back to when you were sat at home, scrolling through the forums at 3 am at your wit’s end, wondering whether adoption might have actually been a valid option.

Don’t be a dick. Parenting is hard enough. We all do it differently. Get off that high horse of yours, you are drunk, on Gin – again!

Welcome to my Fort Kids – It has unsolicited advice, parenting wisdom and sinking tits in it!

 

33 Life Lessons from a 33-Year-Old!

So I haven’t written on here for a while, because, well, life-busy-excuses-blah-etc. So I thought, what better day to come back, than my Birthday?

In honour my return to weekly rambles, I thought I would treat you all to 33 of my top tips in life! Buckle up Buttercups, you is about to get schooled!

(Having written this out now, I feel like it is more of a health and safety PSA.)

  1. Teeth do not make good bottle openers. Just because you are high, does not mean you are the Hulk. I repeat – you do not have extra special drunk person powers! You will regret this 10 years later, when you have a chip in it, to remind you of this fact.
  2. Spoons cannot be microwaved. Check that it has not sunk into the porridge before you close the door. You WILL need a new microwave. But cool indoor lightning show… so…
  3. Do not try to placate an angry Goose. You are not Ace Ventura and stating that you want it to come to you and that it is your jungle friend will only make it madder. (They don’t come from the jungle – apparently, that’s racist.)
  4. When embarking on a juice cleanse, do not, I repeat, DO NOT attempt to leave the house, unless you have an adult nappy on. Also, don’t do juice cleanses, they are stupid!
  5. Read the warning signs on hairspray cans. Lighting a cigarette near your circa 1999, liberally coated fringe will cause a fire to blaze on your head. (Side note: Do not let your friend throw her Vodka drink at it, this is NOT advised.)
  6. Make sure you are prepared when taking a shower. Running naked across tiled flooring to get a clean towel out of the tumble dryer whilst wet is a hazard.
  7. NEVER leave a prawn sandwich in a hot car.
  8. When attending family weddings, please refrain from trying tequila for the first time. You will end up passed out in the toilets and have the entire wedding party looking for you. They will also never let you forget it.
  9. Know your limitations part 1 – If you attempt to push a king sized mattress up from the basement on your own, at midnight, you may get trapped behind it. If this happens, make sure you take your phone with you so you can call for help…
  10. Know your limitations part 2 – If you know you are afraid of heights, do not climb into the loft and then not be able to get down. Repeat instructions from No 9.
  11. Try to avoid hangovers. However, in the event of one occurring, pickled onion Monster Munch, strawberry Yahoo and bacon will work 99% of the time. The other 1% – you have alcohol poisoning and you fucked up… go lay down on the bathroom floor and wish you were dead.
  12. When calling your colleague to bitch about your boss, do the following: 1) Make sure you are not on speaker phone. 2) Make sure your boss is not in the room. I recommend signing on the next day in the event this happens.
  13. If house-sharing, be advised that if you continually use your housemate’s shampoo, they will put Hot Sauce in it and make you feel like No 5.
  14. When purchasing condoms, ensure you do not have something caught in your eye. Winking at the check-out BOY is inappropriate, creepy and may cause alarm.
  15. Frogs play dead when scared. Be certain it is dead before picking up with kitchen utensils.
  16. FROGS SCREAM when picked up with kitchen utensils!
  17. On flirting during your workout: A) Do not faint. B) Do not slide down the guy’s body when he is in downward facing dog, whilst fainting. C) Do not wake up and vomit beside workout Bae. In conclusion, don’t flirt during Bikram (hot) Yoga, you ridiculous red hot sweaty inadequate mess.
  18. DO pretend you know magic card tricks at a party. Everyone will think you are some sort of magical wizard, give you free drinks and you will become a legend. No one will know that you are just looking at their card because they will be too wasted to notice. You can now put this on your CV.
  19. When attending an acting job, refrain from binge eating Polos beforehand. (They have laxatives in them.)
  20. Never lick a steak knife.
  21. Check your surroundings. If you decide to pole dance around a lamp post on school property, ascertain whether there is CCTV in the area. If you don’t, you may be called in by the entire Senior Leadership Staff and made to watch it as they laugh at you, before putting you in detention.
  22. When unblocking a toilet, do not use marigolds. They are not long enough. Trust me on this.
  23. When auditioning for Chekhov’s The Seagull and asked if you have any special skills, I wouldn’t proceed to give them your best seagull impression. You are not what they are looking for. You will never be asked back to the most prestigious Theatre Company in the world again. This may have ruined your career. But you can be proud that you really do make a great seagull voice.
  24. If you jump on the back of an old Routemaster bus, make sure your bag does not swing around the pole. If this happens, do not attempt to alight the bus, as you will be dragged around Picadilly Circus until you have no skin left and need crutches.
  25. Do not tell your best friends of terrible experiences with buses. They will laugh at you, even when you are crying. This will traumatise you forevermore. Hateful, hateful people. You know who you are.
  26. Check that you have underwear on when Irish Dancing. Always. Those high kicks…
  27. Stop ordering small popcorn at the cinema. You are lying to yourself and everyone in that cinema knows it. JUST STOP! Live your true life.
  28. Don’t go swimming with Sharks whilst on your period. They get REEEAAAL friendly!
  29. Don’t steal and drink a bottle of Cointreau from your Dad’s drink’s cabinet and then go ice-skating. Things will not go well for you. You WILL be grounded.
  30. Don’t trust anyone who eats Jellied Eels. They are the food of Satan.
  31. Don’t let your sibling shave your eyebrows. You will look like Effie from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay… It will never grow back the same.
  32. When deciding to write a list of all the stupid shit you have done, make sure you drink wine to numb all the PTSD flashbacks.
  33. Laugh at yourself. Everyone does stupid shit, you are not alone. Embrace your cringe-worthy tragicomedy life. It’s all good!

 

Welcome back to my fort kids – it has presents, birthday candles and that song that you have to listen to people sing to you… awkwardly… for ages… every year… just sing me a show tune instead!

I failed as a teacher!

I never wanted to be a teacher.

In fact, I used to think there couldn’t be anything worse. I was a nightmare at school, why would I want to deal with all of that? Especially being an actor! They say “Those who can’t do, teach.” It was like calling time on yourself and admitting FAILURE! It was worst case scenario stuff for me. I was never going down that road. NOPE!

SO I BECAME A TEACHER!

Well, this is awkward…

I fell into teaching, by chance, fate or sheer bad luck.

There I was, in the local swimming pool, with my then 2-year-old. In the showers after a great morning as we usually did once a week, just me and the boy having splash time. Opposite, a lady with her little girl, is staring at me!

You know when you know you know someone, but you can’t quite pinpoint why or how. After what seemed like hours, (but was likely only minutes) she smiled. “I know you, don’t I?” And there it was, the thick northern accent that brought it all flooding back. I had gone to drama school with her, had spent 2 years knowing her. A blast from the past indeed! Within seconds we were bear-hugging each other, wet and dripping in our mum swimsuits, under the showers, laughing and shouting obscene memories at each other, while the league of elderly flower cap brigade looked on horrified.

She was living in Kent and was teaching drama and music in the school across the road from my house. But she was leaving. She asked what I was doing with myself. I told her we had just moved to town and I was thinking about getting a job but had no idea what I was going to do…

A week later, I am in the office of the Head Teacher’s office, shaking hands and being offered a contract.

I walked away, looking back, hoping no one would find me out! Surely that did not just happen?

Then it dawned on me! What am I doing? This is exactly what I didn’t want to do. This meant the end of my acting career. It meant I was admitting failure. That I was resigned to giving up everything I had worked for my entire life! What had I done?

But then it started.

I have always been the type of person to throw myself into something full throttle and this was no different. I had been sat home for 3 years talking to a baby and watching Mr f*cking Tumble on repeat. My brain was fried and needed some intellectual stimulation other than learning recipes from I Can Cook!

So that’s what I did. I threw myself in, determined to make it work, to be the best I could be, to learn, to train and to be a success. I had energy, enthusiasm, passion and was loving it! I was buzzed and so excited to be a real grown up, with a real grown up’s job and to be in the world of respected professionals. It felt good after the last few years of just surviving.

It didn’t last long.

That feeling left after the second term… and the rest I shall leave for another time.

I worked there for 2 years and a further few months at a Secondary School as a Music, Drama and English teacher – and then I left. It was a bold and risky move, but it had to be done, and it was the best thing I could ever have done.

You see, in 3 short years I had learnt what the education system was really like. I watched teachers crumble in tears and have nervous breakdowns with the workload. I watched as teachers were shoved out of their roles to make way for fresh meat who could be easily moulded to the new system. I watched the politics of data vs. human children and learnt about budgets, Ofsted, criteria and learnt all about observations and changing marking systems every 3 months. I sat up for hours, laminating, cutting and designing maths games, spent holidays redecorating classrooms and building book corners. I spent hours worrying about lesson plans, objectives, outcomes, starters, plenary activities differentiated 15 ways, print outs, power points, marking in 3 different colours, traffic light systems, behaviour management, and sat laboriously marking useless SATS papers and entering data into spreadsheets, watching them turn orange and red and seeing the fear in grown women’s eyes as they were called for appraisals.

To be a teacher is not just to teach a million things you are not an expert in, but so much more. To teach is to be an analyst, an office manager, a psychologist, a public speaker, a wrangler of wild animals, a diplomat, an artist, an actor, a juggler, an editor, a policy maker, a nurse…

You get the picture!

I was in awe of the people around me. You cannot do that job if you don’t love it with all your heart.

But the system is BROKEN!

I loved being with the kids, I loved inspiring them, I loved seeing their eyes light up when they finally got something, when you blew their tiny little minds with science or to see the joy on their faces when they discovered something new. I loved the process too… from the beginning to the end and watching the progress, from not knowing, to that little light bulb moment. I loved the bonds we made, the characters I met and the fun we had! I LOVED teaching. But teachers don’t get to teach anymore.

I hated the industry. I hated the politics, the red tape and all the other stuff that went with it. I hated that something that I wanted to be a part of was becoming something that was being ripped apart. It was painful and I couldn’t help but be emotionally invested in it. It was exhausting. And I had only just dipped my toe in…

I left for several reasons, but an overriding factor was that I figured out why I had been led to teaching… and it meant that I HAD TO LEAVE!

I created a company based on my love for learning, but delivering it my way – as an Actor! An adventure where topics are experienced, history is brought to life and books are lifted out of the page and into the room! A world where Storytelling is the key, using our bodies and voices is celebrated and not silenced in a chair, where knowledge is embedded in emotional connection and social skills are more important than an exam paper question. A place where energy is used to it’s potential, imaginations are free to expand and awareness of ourselves as humans is the forefront of the journey.

Teaching led me to what I was supposed to do. I found my purpose – and I am forever grateful!

As I celebrate another birthday of my beloved Bindlestick Theatre Company, I look back on that time with mixed feelings. Full of gratitude that it led me to my calling, but also because it made me realise that my ability to walk away from things that I don’t believe in and my opinions and moral code are much stronger than I ever thought before.

Teachers have always been a huge part of my life. From the year 6 Teacher who told me I would be a Storyteller one day, to my Secondary School Teachers who I am still in touch with today and the Teachers I work with on a daily basis throughout my work – I thank you! You are all heroes and perform miracles daily.

I may have failed at being a teacher in mainstream education, but as Tim Minchin says;

“Be a teacher! Even if you’re not a teacher, be a teacher!”

Welcome to my Fort Kids – It’s got balloons, cake and party hats in it!