So, this morning, I got up 15 minutes earlier than usual because I wanted to leave for work earlier, because I wanted to get to work earlier. This isn’t some sort of altruistic move, I work flexi-time, and that means if I get to work earlier I get to go home earlier. There is a period of time in the morning, which I haven’t yet got to grip on, when the traffic is so thick that it takes me nearly double the amount of time to get to work. The crux point is around 8am, and I need about 45 minutes to an hour to get ready, extricate myself from my children, and get out of the house. I usually leave the house at about 8.10. No matter how hard I try I can’t get out sooner than that.
Now the easy solution would be to just get up 15 minutes earlier. This is a problem for 2 reasons. Firstly, even though it is only 15 minutes, I can’t get past the psychology of getting up before 7am, voluntarily anyway. And here’s the other thing: it probably wouldn’t even make any difference anyway! Seriously. A few weeks ago I needed to go into work really early, to rectify a problem that erm, well, let’s say someone caused [hint: I was the one going in early]. Anyway, I got up an hour earlier but still only managed to get out of the house half an hour earlier than usually! And this is why:
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
Even though I know I want to leave the house early, my mind sees that it is nowhere near my usual leaving time, so I take the time to do things I wouldn’t normally do, add a slick of mascara, help DH out by making Betty’s lunch, sticking some cleaner down the toilet, and before I know it I’m only half hour early, so I might as well have stayed in bed an extra half hour. The above quote is known as Parkinson’s Law, and it basically means that the work never ends, no matter how much time you have, or think you have, you will fill it. And there will always be more to do.
Lots of people say to me “I don’t know how you find the time to blog and make all that stuff, I couldn’t possibly do it” and I genuinely can’t tell if I should be offended or feel complimented. Are they saying that I am clearly a superwoman who manages to juggle multiple tasks, or whether they are implying that in doing the things that I love I am neglecting other more pressing duties.
My children are in bed by about 7.30. I’m not being smug, it’s taken a long time to get to this stage, and I appreciate that not everyone has that luxury. But I imagine that the majority of families have at least from 8pm till bed time to do such frivolous activities as blog, Tweet, crochet etc. I mean, my house is just the right side of hygienic, and DH and haven’t been out together since before Iris was born. Oh and I don’t iron. God, life is too short to iron. More crochet, less ironing, that’s what I say.
And let’s talk about Time for Yourself. It’s in magazines, on blogs, forums etc., How Do You Carve Out Time For Yourself? The thing is, I don’t see time out for yourself as something you should have to carve out. It should just be a part of your day, like breakfast time or bed time. What it even worse is when these articles link it to motherhood. How Do Mums Find Time Form Themselves? That makes it even more guilt-ridden. Mums, you are so busy, how do you find the time for yourself, and if you do then you are obviously not fulfilling your motherly duties. Well, I am obviously not busy enough, because I have just spent the past hour writing this blog post with The West Wing in the background. I think is absolutely essential that you spend a period of time doing whatever it is you like to do to relax, wind down, or even energise yourself. Otherwise what is life even about. It is essential for your mental, and therefore your physical health.
Now hopefully the fact that you are even reading this post means that you are having your essential down time. And while I have your attention let me point you in the direction of blog that is about crochet and about time. It is called, funnily enough, Crochetime. As well as the blog she has an Etsy shop selling crochet clocks, and the patterns to make your own clocks. I’ve ordered a pattern from her, got some yarn and buttons, ready, I just haven’t had time to make it yet…
I’ve been a bit quiet of late. That is mainly because I am pretty rubbish at finishing projects, preferring to balance several at once. So, while I have nothing finished to show you you, be assured that I am beavering away.
I just wanted to pop in to share my fab find from yesterday. A pair of pink geometric pillow cases, 20p each from a local church table top sale. I love these things, they are choc full of tat, but in amongst the glass kitchenware and foiled pictures of horses there are always a few gems, selling for mere pence. As well as the pillow cases I got some lace trimming, a crochet hook (I’m building up a stash for potential classes that I’m considering running), a tape measure for my key ring (great for sizing up potential yarn bomb targets), a couple of picture frames, a basket to make an Easter decoration, and some random crap to keep my kids happy. Sorry, am I boring you? Well, here’s a little music to wake you up and pay homage to my new fabric. Enjoy:
Traditionally in our house on Mother’s or Father’s day the parent in question gets to absolve themselves of all parenting responsibilities for the day. Maybe that sounds not quite in the spirit of the day, however the reality is every day is Mother’s and Father’s day. Parenting is a relentless task, and with a 4 year old and a 1 year old, as well a both of us working, we are pretty much permanently exhausted. Even when they are asleep you don’t switch off as a parent, plus you never know what time you might be woken, so find yourself in bed ridiculously early. If you haven’t read the book What Mothers Do, Especially When it Looks Like Nothing then you really should get a copy ASAP. I must admit I’ve never got past the first two chapters (who has the time) but as I read them I wept. It reinforced what I already knew: motherhood is relentless, you are never ‘off’ being a mother.
So one day of light duties a year seems very little to ask in the grand scheme of things. And actually it means I just do the nice things with my children for a change, no cooking,no bottom wiping or refereeing arguments. I imagine it’s very much like having a nanny back in the 1920s. Perfect! But you know what? One day of it is enough. Yes it is nice just doing all the fun bits of parenting, and I am probably a nicer parent as a consequence, but in fact it is in doing all these menial repetitive tasks with your children that you forge the bonds with them. Betty might wail the whole time I nit comb her hair but for other primates it’s a bonding process. And while it is tough on the days that Iris wants to be held all day, but it means she loves me and it bonded to me. And it is those bonds that are going to ensure that my children come back and look after me in my dotage!
On top of the lovely card Betty made for me in school, breakfast in bed and a lie in, I got a present too! My lovely DH took the massive hint I left on my blog and bought me this gorgeous bracelet from Goddess Jewels UK.
Here’s a better picture:
Not only did she offer a discount but she did a rush job. This one was made to measure for my freakishly small wrists. It’s a beautiful piece of spring time that I can wear whenever I want.
Happy Mother’s Day to you all, and I hope you were as lucky as me
Inspired by the book Subversive Cross Stitch I decided to turn my hand to a new craft this week. I haven’t done cross stitch since I was about 12 and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it is. The only thing is it requires quite a lot of concentration and attention to detail, neither of which are my forte.
First up in my show and tell today is the frame I did for my mum. Now my mum reads this blog so I have to say nice things about her…but seriously, I don’t think I appreciate her nearly enough. Well I certainly didn’t before having my own children, and she raised 3 mostly on her own. She is funny, supportive and a brilliant grandmother. And to top it all off she just bought me an iPad 3 for my birthday. She spends money on this sort of thing rather than a pension or a mortgage, so I’m going to be paying her back one way or another someday… In the mean time I hope she likes this.
Next up is a card for my newly appointed step-mum. Between my rather bohemian parents I have had more step parents than I can often remember, but I think this one’s a keeper. She has none of her own children but has bravely taken on 3 children, 2 of who are teenage boys, and 2 grandchildren. I just wanted to mark the occasion for her. I hope she doesn’t think it is too weird.
Finally I have a card for a lovely aunt who is sadly going through horrific treatment for cancer. There is nothing we can do to really help so at the very least I wanted to make her smile. I just hope she appreciated my sense of humour.
And that’s all there is to say about that.
But happy Mother’s Day, not just to all you women with children, to step mothers, beloved aunts and women who care for anyone else.
So, fired up by the Mumsnet “We Believe You” campaign I decided to take my first foray into craftivism, using craft to promote a socio-political message. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but I’ve found it hard to get fired about anything. I mean, I can get faux-fired up about things, and off course there is plenty in the news to get worked up about, but my political knowledge is limited, and world events aren’t often at the top of my priority list.
But when I read about campaigns like the “We Believe You” and am reminded about the awful abuses people I know have faced, the embers start to stir a little.
I knocked a couple of things up in the space of last night and this morning. Now, normally I am in total awe of most of the crafters and artists I read about online, and what they manage to achieve. Today was my day at home with Iris, and because I have been feeling a little under the weather and running on empty my lovely husband spent the past 2 days emptying the laundry basket, cleaning the house, and making lasagne so that I don’t have to do anything except stop the baby from killing herself for two days and the go on the school run. So with that and the help of Peppa Pig I managed to produce a couple of craftivist pieces.
More than 80% of women who are raped know their attacker*. Putting these out tonight was a bit of a whim, I drove until I found somewhere to put it. I chose a fence just outside the University campus. I have no research to back this up, but my gut instinct say that University students are pretty vulnerable to sexual attack. Young, sometimes naive adults, with their first taste of freedom, finding their way in the world, coupled with copious amounts of alcohol, close living quarters are almost a perfect storm for sexual exploitation.
The next one I fear hasn’t quite met it’s potential…
Laid out flat it looks cool, but I ended up dumping and running with this one. I drove into the nearby city which I rarely go to because I used to live in the nearby town which I ‘naice’ and the city is not. But the city is now closer and I should really get used to that rather than schlepping 6 miles into Naice Town. I parked my car at the station without paying for a ticket as it was 7pm and I thought I’d chance my luck, but already I was nervous. This was a difficult one too as I had no idea where this yarn bomb would fit so I just picked a post that I thought was suitable and got sewing, conscious of the men standing outside the nearby pub. I wonder if I will ever not feel stupid doing this?! But here is is anyway:
Well, if one person reads it and checks out the hash tag then it has served it’s purpose. Maybe I can inspire some other people to give this craftivism thing a crack. The stupid feeling only lasts about 3 minutes!
So, for those of you who read my blog just for the craft you might want to skip this post. This is where I get a bit serious, but I am not going to apologise because this is important to me, and what is the point in having people’s ears (or eyes) and not using it for good.
1 in 4 women have experienced rape or attempted rape. How many women are in your house? How many female friends and family do you have? Think about that statistic 1 in 4 women have experienced rape or attempted rape.
So, there are so many issues that I could tell you about rape, about how in no other crime is the victim grilled about what they were wearing during the crime, what their sexual predilections are. I could remind you that last year the Coalition started talking about anonymity for men accused of rape, when there is no evidence that false allegations of rape are higher than for any other crime. But for those of you who are concerned for those men at the mercy of all these women out there they have The False Rape Society advising them how to avoid being falsely accused of rape, including avoiding sex with young girls who may want to hide it from their parents, group sex with just one woman several men and sex with a woman who has a husband or boyfriend. Now, I’d like to reiterate those warnings to men, but not because you may get accused of rape, but because they are morally repugnant.
But I am going to skate over those issues, serious as they are. I am joining Mumsnet’s “We believe you campaign” to try and bust some common rape myths some of which I have copied here:
MYTH: Women provoke rape by their appearance or their behaviour
It’s never your fault. No woman ‘asks to be raped’ or ‘deserves what she gets’ – only the rapist is responsible for the rape.
REALITY: Dressing attractively, or flirting, is neveran invitation to rape. Rape is not a ‘crime of passion’ – it is an expression of power and control.
No woman ‘asks to be raped’ or ‘deserves what she gets’ – only the rapist is responsible for the rape. Rape happens to all types of women, from the very young to the very old – physical appearance is irrelevant.
There is no ‘typical rape victim’. There is only one common factor in all rapes, and that is the rapist. So when someone says to you “You’re not going out dressed like that” it should be because they have toilet roll stuck to the bottom of their shoe, or are wearing a Jedward t-shirt.
MYTH: Women are most likely to be raped by a stranger, outside, in dark alleyways
REALITY: More than 80% of women who are raped know their attacker; 53% of perpetrators of serious sexual assaults are current partners or ex-partners.
In fact, over two-thirds of rapes take place in the victim’s home, the suspect’s home or the victim/suspect’s shared home. This myth can mean that women who are raped in these circumstances don’t identify their experience as rape, and therefore don’t report it.
It also puts blames the victim, and limits women’s freedom of movement by implying that rape can be prevented by avoiding certain places.
The exemption for rape in marriage was only abolished in England and Wales in 1991. Until then being married held an ‘implied consent’ to sex. This isn’t meant to scaremonger people to be be afraid of their friends and family. It is meant to stop women having to be afraid of every stranger they pass in the stress.
Now, I am lucky enough to have never been the victim of rape or any kind of physical sexual assault, but I know people who have, and I am the mother of daughters so I want to show my support to this campaign and get people thinking a bit more about the facts and realities surrounding this awful crime.
First let me preface this post with the admission that I used to be a complete magazine junkie. Since my grandma used to send me Fast Forward in the post when I was younger I have devoured magazines. I worked in a newsagents for a couple of years when I was younger too which gave me even greater access to all the latest magazines, Mizz, More, J17, 19, Cosmo, Company, Elle, Eve, Marie Claire, Vanity Fair, Easy Living, Red. I’ve dabbled in them all. I’d even occasionally be tempted by Woman and Home, but that just made me feel really old. And yes, I am ashamed to admit my habit stretched to Heat, Closer, and other gratuitous tabloid type magazines. Mine and DH’s favourite pre-children weekend activity was to go to the newsagents and pick up stacks of weekend papers and magazines and spend the weekend lazing around reading them.
But even at the height of my addiction the gorging of the magazines would inevitably be followed by that slightly nauseous feeling. I’d keep ploughing through, even when I’d had my fill, like being at an all-you-can-eat restaurant where you are so full, but you want to get your money’s worth so you plough through yet another plate of noodles and stir fry chicken. Somehow though, I managed to break the habit. I’m not sure which came first, finances or children, but I realised that I wasn’t getting anything out out of the magazines. I was reading the same old articles, sometimes even seeing the same pictures, and spending a small fortune. I also found as I got more into reading Mumsnet and blogs I didn’t need magazines. Online I get beauty tips, real fashion ideas, I learned about other people’s families and careers. I get news and opinions, humour and reality. Most of all I get community and interaction.
This weekend I succumbed to the draw of the magazine again. However this time my motives were more mercenary. Inspired by a thread on Mumsnet I checked out the glossy mags for the freebies and picked up Marie Claire: £3.70 with a free full sized Neal’s Yard Remedies Rose Moisturiser; and Glamour: £2 with a free 100ml tube of Percy and Reed Hair Mask. I thought I’d have a flick, for old time’s sake. As I flicked I got more and more frustrated and cross, and after firing off a couple of indignant Tweets that were duly ignored I thought I would distil my grievances into a blog post.
So I flicked. And I flicked. And I flicked and I flicked. And 38 pages of adverts and publishing credits later I got to my first page of content in Marie Claire: Best High St Buys, some lovely looking women in some seriously unflattering and disgusting outfits. 6 pages of more ads and there is a page on the Marie Claire Runway Launch Party, a new magazine that Marie Claire is launching. Because that’s what we need, more trees felled for a vacuous, narcissistic, masochistic, misogynistic industry. Another 6 pages and it’s the letters page. Surprisingly none of the letters are asking why the reader bothered to fork out money on this crap. More adverts and women in ridiculous outfits, then there is the spread on the 1950’s housewife look. The geometric prints and tailored styles are gorgeous actually, but the spread shows the model in various poses, alone by the pool, alone drinking cocktails, alone sitting in various retro chairs. I don’t know if the model is a good actress but she is certainly pulling off that lonely housewife look; a woman who’s only occupation in life was to bear children and have dinner on the table. Maybe modelling is also a lonely business.
The 1950s is fairly unique in that it is the only era that is ever used to qualify the word housewife. I think that is because the 1950s epitomises housewifeliness. The decades before were marred by World Wars, and few people’s sole job was to look after the home. Women took in evacuees, they worked the fields and the factories. Before the wars the rich women had servants to do housewifely work like cleaning and cooking and looking after the children, while poorer housewives were literally on their hands and knees scrubbing, mangling, cooking, growing veg, while older siblings tended to the younger ones. This vision of the housewife is not nearly quite as romantic and involves fewer cute outfits than the 1950s, and almost no pastel cake stands. The 1950s saw the rise of domestic appliances, which in theory saved the time of housewives and saved them from manual labour, but in reality just raised standards and in fact barely dented the time spent on housework.
But enough talk of frivolities, back to the serious topic of Marie Claire, where on page 167 Christian Louboutin tells us the 10 shoes every woman should have in her wardrobe. He “knows best” apparently. In case you were uninformed as I was, some of the shoes you must own include a high heeled peep-toe nude shoe, an evening boot (which presumably can’t double as the Classic Boot at no.8, or the ankle boot at no.9), and finally at no.10 The Uber Heel. For this shoe Mr Louboutin recommends one of his own which stands at a towering 16cm. It shows toe cleavage, which is supposed to remind people (I assume by “people” he means men) of the boob cleavage and the arse cleavage. Now his shoe – the Daffodil it is called – is perfect, not because of the toe cleavage but because if you are bored “you can stare deeply into the crystals for hours!” Yes, that is really what it [he] said. Put down your Proust girls, stop bothering your pretty head about world affairs, or coming up with ideas for female domination; stare at the shiny, shiny shoes instead.
Now there are so many things wrong with this I don’t know where to start. Don’t get me wrong, I love shoes, tall ones, shiny ones, comfy ones, red ones, classic Mary Janes, and a good ol’ ballet pump. But I resent being told what shoes I and all women should be wearing by a man, and a man with an agenda at that. Of course he’s telling women they absolutely must have three different types of boot as a minimum, he bloody sells them for a living! But the real kick in the fanjo for me is that he is telling me I am not a true woman without 16cm heel. You know, no-one is telling men they need to risk their necks, backs, bunions and basically torture their feet into submission all for a bit of toe cleavage! Marie Claire, you are facilitating this misogynistic bollocks.
Now, let’s have a look at the adverts in this magazine. Obviously there is the plethora of designer brands flogging ugly, over priced clothes, and perfume. I don’t understand this craze of scrubbing away our natural smells which aid in bonding with our partners and children, and replacing them with synthetic copies of natural smells. Oh, and in case you were in any doubt that you smell, lady, there is an advert for breath freshener. My hair, the adverts tell me, is either too straight, or not straight enough. But it is ok, I can buy various products to counter whichever aspect at being a woman my hair is failing at. I am also reminded that my skin should be soft and wrinkle free. There are also products for this that I must buy.
But the real gems are the adverts for various cleaning products in this magazine; dishwasher tablets, washing detergent, fabric softener. A gentle reminder, women, not to neglect your domestic duties. But, don’t worry, I’m sure your husbands are being subjected to similar adverts as they flick through GQ and Men’s Health magazines.
What did I expect, you could ask me? Well, perhaps not much given that the Executive Director and Deputy Director of Marie Claire International are both men. But this is the 21st Century and I expect a little bit more than this. I’m not the only one. There is a whole marvellous blog called Glossed Over which highlights the crap spewing from these magazines.
When not angrily reading these magazines this weekend, I have also been reading a book I picked up in a charity shop yesterday called Strong Minded Women & Other Lost Voices from 19th Century England, an anthology of writings, by both men and women, from the 19th Century. I am barely a few pages in, but the first chapter is devoted to Woman’s Mission. One writer, Sarah Lewis, who wrote a book called Woman’s Mission, puts forward her argument thus: men are clearly inferior to women. They cannot keep their tempers, they are profligate and they are selfish. It is a failing in their education. It is our job as Good Women to quietly influence our husbands and sons. We are morally superior to men, even if we cannot equal them in social and political status. So we must quietly, and selflessly do God’s bidding; influencing the men, though we must be sure not to do it a way that they will notice.
Harriet Taylor Mill, in The Emancipation of Women, vociferously repudiates this view, stating that it very much suits men for women to be mere appendages to men. “It is agreeable to them that men should live for their own sake, women for the sake of men; and the qualities and conduct in subjects which are agreeable to rules, they succeed for a long time in making the subjects themselves consider as their appropriate virtues…” Lewis’s pro-female but anti-feminist stance just did the men’s work for them. Yes, we know we are better than men, so let us just suffer in silence in a goodly way, which makes us even more selfless and morally superior.
And yet nearly 200 years on from Lewis’s work we are still doing men’s work for them in repressing ourselves and creating virtuous, smooth, wrinkle-free, uber heeled women who believe they are better than men but are powerless to do anything about it. And while a woman trapped in an abusive marriage, or a young vulnerable teenager may be powerless, YOU MARIE CLAIRE are not. And not just Marie Claire, the media all over. You have unlimited power, you have the ear of women young and old, and you choose to waste it on instructing them on the must have shoes or how to mask their natural beauty with aspirational cosmetics. Shame on you. And shame on me for buying them just for the products that I feel I need in order to smooth soft skin and shiny hair. I will not have my young daughters influenced in the same way that I have been for the last 20 years. My love affair with magazines has been over for a long time. This last fling just reminded me how disgusting and disgusted they make me feel.