In How To Be A Woman, Caitlin Moran offers the following explanation for women’s absence from historical records: “women have basically done fuck all for the past 100,000 years”:

Come on – let’s admit it. Let’s stop exhaustingly pretending that there is a parallel history of women being victorious [...] I don’t think that women being seen as inferior is a prejudice based on male hatred of women. When you look at history, it’s a prejudice based on simple fact.

These lines really pissed me off, as I imagine they pissed off many women reading the book. At the time I thought they pissed me off because it was such utter nonsense. It’s only looking back, having spoken to other women about feminism and theories of oppression, that I realise that what really pissed me off was worrying that maybe Moran was right.

It’s a thought that’s always been in the back of my head ever since I noticed women and girls were treated unfairly. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because we really are a bit shit. From an early age I’ve known that we come second. Boys and men need more time, more space, more resources, more praise, more money. We, on the other hand, exist to offer up the time, the space, the resources, the praise, the unpaid labour. That is our role and regardless of the vastly different experiences of women on a global scale (due to race, wealth, culture, religious belief, location etc.), it’s remarkable how similar the overall pattern is. Man does and is, woman reflects, absorbs and supports. That’s what we’re for.

But why? (more…)

I realise I’m late to the party when it comes to discussing Lily Allen’s new video, or even discussing how I’m not going to discuss it. Therefore I’m going to discuss it a bit, then discuss people discussing it, and then not discuss it any more. I reckon overall that should do.

Like many people, I liked the balloon bit in Allen’s video but thought the rest was rather like punching someone in the face while telling them you were only offering an ironic commentary on face-punching. I’d like to think it’s possible to encourage people to be critical of sexist, racist culture without simply re-creating it in order to say “LOOK! LOOK HOW BAD THIS IS!” (more…)

One of the many things you learn upon becoming a mother is just how important “me time” is. Believe me, it’s really, really important. Without it no mum would ever survive.

In case you’re wondering what “me time” is, it’s what other people call “time” or, to give it its full name, “time when you’re not at work in which you do other stuff”. This is not to be confused with “free time,” that is, time in which you do anything you like (i.e. get drunk). “Me time,” or “time” as it was once known, is filled with activities which are kind of okay. You wouldn’t go so far as to call them interesting but hey, they help while away the hours. It’s stuff like having a bath, washing your hair, doing some sit-ups, walking the dog. Fine, but not exactly noteworthy. Unless, of course, you are a woman who has had kids. Then it’s a different story. (more…)

This week the Telegraph ran a piece that purported to ask the question “has motherhood ever been so political?” Beneath the obligatory “pregnant woman in boring, inexplicably tidy office” photo, Judith Woods outlined the hard choices faced by mothers in today’s deeply unequal society.

Few people realise, for instance, that when mothers choose to stay at home “it’s not about luxury”. Nor is it about not having a job, or only having one that’s too poorly paid to cover childcare expenses. According to Woods, for these mothers “it’s about replicating the secure, traditional upbringing they had”:

In the process, they forgo holidays abroad, avoid glossy magazines full of the latest fashions they can’t afford and drive battered cars worthy of Only Fools and Horses.

I know, I know, it’s heartbreaking. But don’t use up all the tissues — there’s worse to come: (more…)

This weekend I attended Britmums Live 2013. What’s more, I enjoyed it. There, I’ve admitted it. Now excuse me while I watch my imaginary status as “not one of those mummy blogger types” disappear down the drain.

It’s not that I ever used to hate mummy bloggers, or even that I didn’t always consider myself to be one of them. Certainly, I have some discomfort with the term itself. Adding what Pamela Haag calls “the mommy modifier” to words like “blogger” or “porn” instantly seems to render them trivial and cutesy. While this might say more about patronising attitude towards mothers than the things in themselves it’s hard not to be affected by it. When I tell bloggers who aren’t parents that I write about motherhood and childcare, I always feel a little regretful that I’m not saying “world politics” or “art and literature”. I might write the odd post criticizing the low status of mothers yet sometimes I find I’ve bought into it myself. (more…)

Until this week I had no idea that Hugo Chávez formally recognised the economic value of traditional “women’s work” . To be honest, I didn’t know much about Chávez. The one Venezuelan I know didn’t like him, but then none of us like our political leaders, do we? The most I’d assumed was that Chávez didn’t like women overly much, given the state of abortion law in Venezuela. Seems I was wrong, at least where a certain type of woman is concerned. It appears Chávez acknowledged that women who, to use the terminology of the average pay gap apologist, “don’t work because they’re raising children”, were bloody essential to a country’s welfare. Even if things were a bit more complex than that, as a basic principle that seems brilliant. Globally, we pay lip service to the devotion of mothers, yet so often stop short of saying you could actually put a price tag on it.

With Mother’s Day coming two days after International Women’s Day, I can’t help wishing it was more about that – genuine, heartfelt recognition – and less about a bunch of flowers, a pat on the head and yet another year of being horrendously undervalued. Don’t get me wrong, on a very personal level I love it. The card my five-year-old has written for me (“Thank you for all the love yoof givan me”) is just marvellous and I’ll treasure it forever. But as a cultural event, I wish Mother’s Day kicked a bit more arse. The commercial focus of it these days all feels rather KFC “Mum’s Night Off” in how it values what mothers do, bigging up inequality as a noble sacrifice in return for which you get, if not a bucket of chicken, then the only marginally better box of Thornton’s Continentals. It celebrates a particular type of motherhood – twee, self-effacing, repressed, waiting for that one day of the year when it can truly let rip with a half-bottle of rosé wine and a Lush bath bomb. It has got, let’s be honest, fuck all to do in appreciating what a wide range of mothers, all of different backgrounds and with different needs, do for their own children and society at large. If it did have, it would at least offer some form of meaningful response to all the things which piss us off.  (more…)

Most people really don’t like mummy bloggers, do they? By this I don’t mean that the latter are facing intolerance on a daily basis. It’s not as though there are crowds lining up with pitchforks outside Mumsnet Towers (having said that, I’m not sure whether that’s even a real building). Anyhow, I just think that, if you asked most people what they thought of mummy bloggers, those who bothered to have opinions at all would not be expressing positive ones. 

You could say it stands to reason. To the outside observer, mummy bloggers are like Private Eye’s Polly Filla, only with less successful writing careers. They’re whingey middle-class moaners, who think their children are the centre of the universe and that everyone else should be gripped by the trials and tribulations of parenthood. They write whiney posts about potty training, behaviour management, cake baking, childcare guilt and cleaning products. They even write whiney posts about whining. Narcissists of the hearth, they’re unable to see beyond the domestic sphere and engage with what really matters. What’s more, they’re so self-obsessed that they’re even aware that this is going on (in case you didn’t check – why ever not? – all of the above links lead to posts written by me. I’m so vain, I’m pretty damn certain this post is about me). (more…)

Top tip for partners: If you and your partner have children together and there’s one bit of parenting you don’t usually do – let’s say it’s getting everyone ready for the school and nursery run – and it just so happens that one day you get to do it – let’s say you’re setting off for work a bit later – and it turns out it’s really, really difficult, do you:

  1. think “crikey, this is stressful” and make a note that while your partner may not have to start work as early as you do, that doesn’t mean life’s necessarily much easier?
  2. stomp about wondering why no one has got a better routine established, intermittently asking the kids pointed questions that start with “but don’t you usually …” or “doesn’t Mummy get you to …”?

The correct answer is of course (1). The second one does NOT accurately describe the way my partner behaved this morning, but it just felt that way. Because I’m stressed and tired and so is he. We’re really, really tired and even though our children are lovely, they don’t half whine about irrelevant crap. (more…)

Becoming a mother has brought with it many unexpected perks. I get my own special “mummy” porn. Proctor & Gamble are proud sponsors of me. And now, as an added bonus, TV presenter, classical musician and Hear’say survivor Myleene Klass is designing clothes for me. Honestly, will the treats never end?

Introducing her new clothing range for Littlewoods, Myleene explains that it’s “designed by a mummy for mummies”. Thank heavens for that. I am so sick of forcing my mummy-shaped body into all these “normal” clothes. Finally, someone has listened to the voices of mummies everywhere and catered to our highly specific needs. (more…)

“If working parents didn’t feel guilty enough about leaving their children at nursery, now new research has found …” starts the 1,00,695th Daily Mail article on the crapness of “working parents” (aka mothers in paid employment). Yes, fellow “working mums”, it’s our turn again. Just when you thought all eyes had been turned on stay-at-home mummy bloggers, it appears we’re back in the firing line. Bring it on! (more…)

As a parent, with five full years of parenting experience behind me, I’ve come to hate one thing in particular: people who refer to being a parent as though it offers them some divine insight into the meaning of life. “As a parent …”, they will begin, before going on to tell you how the arrival of Jake and Isabella totally changed their worldview, finally making them aware of what really matters. These people don’t mean to suggest that non-parents are inferior, but they do so anyhow. In addition to this, they make all other parents feel crap, since if we don’t agree with their “as a parent” positions, this somehow suggests we’re not doing enough to rise to the parenthood challenge. It drives me mad, this fake parental insight; just the sight of one Calpol “if you’ve got kids you’ll understand” slogan is enough to have me spitting feathers (as if non-parents are incapable of understanding that giving kids pain relief might mean they’ll be in less pain). Yes, I’m a sodding parent, but I don’t need this constant ego-stroking. Give me cheaper childcare and I’m happy. (more…)

Earlier this year my partner, kids and I stopped for tea in a Little Chef.* For reasons I cannot explain, my boys were being exceptionally well-behaved, so much so that one of the waitresses came over to compliment us, the parents, on this. For further reasons I cannot explain, my youngest then decided to hold his chicken nugget aloft and pronounce “I’m like a dog eating poo off the floor”. I can totally see him as a future Sunday Times restaurant critic. He has that way with words. Back then, however, it was less than impressive. Thankfully the waitress took the feedback in far better grace than it deserved.

There are times when my kids have been total sods in cafés. Real little fuckers annoyances. I mean, they’re ace and everything – this morning I even over-egged the positive parenting pudding by calling them “the best little people in the world” – but now and then they turn to the Dark Side. And when that happens, there’s no reasoning with them at all (okay, I tell a lie – there sort of is. But it’s the kind of reasoning that ends with someone going “waaaaaahhhhh!” and it’s not always me). (more…)

I am a mummy. I have small people living with me – I like to call them “children” – and I am obliged to take care of them. I am also really fucking stupid. After all, that is what being a mummy is all about.

It has taken me quite a while to admit to the “being stupid” element of motherhood (that’s possibly a symptom of the stupidity itself, but I wouldn’t know). Technically what happens is your brain turns to mush, or porridge to be precise (if you happened to be a fuckwit to begin with, then it’s Ready Brek). Thereafter you might be left with a helpless human being who’s entirely dependent on you, but best steer clear of doing anything remotely responsible. From now on you’re only capable of working on “instinct” (don’t worry if you haven’t a clue what that is – you’re not expected to rationalise it, or anything else for that matter). (more…)

My son goes back to school tomorrow. Alas, I’d assumed it was today. So there we were at the school gates, with him in his uniform and me all set to drop him off and make a dash for work, when … Well, actually, that last bit was a fib. I found out I’d got the day wrong the night before, so managed to palm him off on a classmate’s mum. But that’s not as good an anecdote. As far as parenting’s concerned, if you’re going to mess up, you really should do it properly.

As a parent I’m really quite competitive when it comes to making a balls of things. What’s more, I don’t think I’m the only one (which is something of a relief; there’s nothing more pathetic than being desperately ambitious when no one else is arsed). Like most mums and dads, I realised long ago that being the best parent ever is totally out of reach. On the other hand, being the most ridiculously, comically incompetent parent feels much more doable. And hey, it’s an achievement of sorts. It shows you’re not just coasting when it comes to this parenting game. (more…)

On Sunday my eldest child will turn five. To put this another way, on Sunday my eldest child will be halfway to reaching ten. To put this yet another way, on Sunday my eldest child will be one quarter of the way to reaching 20. In short, give or take a decade, my son is practically an adult.

Obviously he’s excited about his birthday, and especially enthused about the Jabba the Hut cake which I have no idea how to make but will somehow magic up in two days. Every day he remind us that his birthday is coming (and, to his younger brother, he will add with particular glee “and yours isn’t!”). As his mother, I have to say I’m less pleased than about this forthcoming event. It’s not because I think he’s missing his milestones (since I haven’t a clue what the “turning five” milestones are). It’s not even to do with the flipping cake. It’s because the older he gets, the more likely it becomes that I will have to cease being Mummy. (more…)

I have never read a Maeve Binchy novel. They have always struck me as a tad “mumsy”, which is ironic since today, three days after her death, I found myself reading an article which argued that while Binchy “didn’t need the experience of motherhood to write about love and friendship in a way that charmed millions” (i.e. in a way that a cultural snob like me would dismiss as “mumsy”), had she actually been a mum “she might have dug deeper, charming less but enlightening more”.  Hmm. Allow me to put on my literary analysis hat. Now, I realise this is all hypothetical and that we’re still saying “might”, but even so, what a great big steaming pile of crap. (more…)

This evening my eldest threw a massive tantrum about the fact that it was my turn to put him to bed. His father and I do alternate nights, but Eldest always likes to claim it’s Daddy’s turn, every single time. Youngest is exactly the same. No one ever wants it to be Mummy’s turn. It’s a fate worse than having no Star Wars time.

You may wonder what can be so terribly lacking in my putting-to-bed skills. I wonder myself. I run Matey-filled baths, dole out beakers of tepid milk, read the same Horrid Henry stories again and again, but still it appears I’m useless. I’m just not the same as Daddy. Daddy is ace and I’m not. Daddy’s the favourite and Mummy – well, in a good mood, we’ll humour Mummy, but in a bad one we’ll just scream and scream and scream. (more…)

How do you read your news in the morning? Do you scan down the headlines, looking for what’s important? Do you gravely read the articles matter, even if they’re boring as hell? Or are you like me, heading straight to the opinion section to alight on something trivial yet annoying to set you up for the day? (Tip: start with the Guardian online, and if all else fails, work your way right down to Femail.)

This morning I didn’t need to look far for my morning grump. Over in the Guardian Hannah Betts is writing about the “Peter Pan Generation”, aka “Generation X-ers”, people whom she describes as “the true squeezed middle”. It’s yet another of those pieces which rants about the previous generation, the baby boomers, having enjoyed unprecedented privilege before pulling up the ladder behind them. Betts has got a point, certainly. Still, like her, I was born in the 1970s and I don’t think our generation have had it all that bad, certainly not as bad as young people today. Not only was a university education still free in the early 1990s, but we’d been raised in the age of Ross burgers, Supermousse and Cheggers Plays Pop. Looked at from this perspective, we weren’t really all that deprived. (more…)

Way-hey! It’s the start of the holidays! School’s out, the sun’s shining, so let the fun begin! Well, it’s fun for the kids, anyhow, who’ll be at home all day, getting under everyone’s feet and turning the place into a complete and utter madhouse. To tell the truth, I don’t know how I’ll cope. Or rather, I don’t know how my partner will cope. Me, I’ll just be going to work as usual. And I hate to say it – and feel a tosser for doing so – but I’m feeling a bit left out.

One of the many reasons why my partner retrained as a primary teacher was so that he’d be around in the holidays for our kids. It was a good decision, but not one that I could have made (I am monumentally awful in front of a class of thirty). This summer is my partner’s first as a qualified teacher, and our eldest child’s first following a year at school. It’s a special summer for both of them. They deserve it – they’ve both done so well — but I can’t help thinking hang on – I want in! How can they be having an idyllic Cotswolds summer without me in it? (more…)

Being the type of person who’s always up for a freebie, I’ve always thought I’d like nothing better than a sponsorship deal. Imagine my surprise when one finally comes along and I find out that actually, these things aren’t remotely as good as they’re cracked up to be.

Along with all other mums, for the last few months I have been “sponsored” by the company Procter and Gamble. I don’t remember signing an official contract ; perhaps we have a named “spokesmum” who’s done it on behalf of the rest of us. Anyhow, turns out someone didn’t read the small print. It’s actually a rubbish deal. I for one haven’t seen so much as a branded T-shirt. (more…)

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