Updated on July 10, 2016
When a sentence begins with ‘As a mother…’, it’s generally a bad sign. This rarely heralds an insightful observation, as Andrea Leadsom demonstrated. The discussion will continue around the political wrangling, but I wanted to pause for a moment and consider the idea that motherhood grants a woman anything other than the ability to cook meals one-handed while holding a wailing baby.
As a Mother…
I’ve changed. It would be impossible not to. The focus of my life has shifted, and the opinions and feelings of others need to be taken into consideration. I’m sure this is true for most parents, not just mothers.
As a mother, I became aware of different aspects of life that I hadn’t considered. When my kids were babies, I noticed that dropped kerbs and accessible buses meant that I could get around the town easier. It made me pause and consider that the inconvenience of using a pram or buggy was a temporary one, unlike those in wheelchairs, who are often prevented from using a bus because the buggy space is full.
As my children grew, their needs changed. From searching for restaurants with bottle-warming and baby-change facilities to ones with a play area or colouring books, to ones with free wifi as the kids reached their teens.
I noticed the differences in pre-school child-care between UK and Germany where we lived when the kids were little, and became aware of the high costs that were a burden to many families in UK.
They started school and I became more interested in the education systems in the countries in which we lived. The way in which the world treated my daughter in comparison to my son affected me and encouraged me to become more feminist, more politically active.
In the coming years, I’ll take more of an interest in further education, colleges, apprenticeships. We are already starting to think about paying for the college years, how to enable our kids to buy property, giving them a good start in life.
Parenting is not a science. Sure, there are studies about breastfeeding, attachment parenting, education systems and more, but there is no ‘right’ way to parent children because every child has different needs.
My experiences have given me insights into many aspects of life. Maternity provisions, child-friendly products and services, child-care and education, housing requirements for families, feminism… but this is all from my perspective, as a educated white woman with a comfortable home life and loving family. Other parents will have taken a very different view on life, based on their experiences.
And others base their world-view on experiences in other walks of life. I can’t speak with authority on what it is like to work as an academic or a researcher. I don’t know what it feels like to be so poor that you don’t know how to get through the week. As much as I can empathise with the struggles and support the rights of people of colour, I can’t walk in their shoes. Why should my life experiences be any more valuable just because I am a mother?
The insights gained as a mother shaped my opinions; they don’t make my opinions any more valid than those of the next person. And they certainly don’t make me more suited for political office than a childless person.
Updated on June 25, 2016
Fans of the TV series West Wing will recognise the catchphrase of President Jed Bartlet. ‘What’s next?’, he’d exclaim as he solved one tricky political conundrum and moved on. Sadly, real life politicians don’t have the option of wrapping everything up nice and tidily before the end credits roll.
Real life is messy, and by God it doesn’t get any messier than the clusterfuck Brexit.
Updated on May 24, 2016
Another summer, another list of rules for women on what they should and shouldn’t wear. From the ‘how to get a bikini body’ articles (top tip – buy a bikini, put it on your body, done!) to this incredibly stupid list of rules for women over 40 years.
Here are my dress rules for women over 40.
1. Problem Zones
I try to hide my problem zones. This is generally done by throwing a dish towel over the un-washed dinner dishes or shoving the ironing basket into a cupboard when visitors are due.
If you have bits of your body that you don’t particularly like (and let’s be honest, most of us do) treat them the same way. Hide them if you want to and don’t if you don’t. Don’t feel obliged to shield innocent children from the sight of your wobbly arms, but if it makes you feel more confident to cover them up, go for it.
Updated on March 8, 2016
“While I breathe, I hope”
This morning Rebecca from Artemis Mindset asked a question on her Facebook Group. Which women inspire you?
Inspirational … it’s a word that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to women. To inspire someone is to ‘ exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on‘ them. Millie Slavidou breaks down the word inspire:
in = Latin prefix meaning ‘in’.
spire = from Latin spirare meaning ‘breathe’.
And suggests that we ‘think of it as a breathing in of ideas, or atmosphere, a filling with the air of imagination’.
This was a hard list to write because I was conscious of the women who would not be included. What criteria do I use when compiling such a list? The women who offer love, support and advice in my daily life are too many to mention and deserve my thanks and appreciation. I struggled for hours, before realising that there are a couple of types of women who inspire me.
Updated on March 21, 2016
Do you make New Years Resolutions? This year, I’m taking a leaf out of the book of Rebecca from Artemis Mindset Coaching, and not bothering. Or rather, I’m making changes but not thinking of them as NY Resolutions.
But… I don’t really believe in New Year Resolutions.
We can do better than that.
We can do better than signing up to a gym and going three times.
We can do better than going 3 days cigarette free then just having the one.
And we can do so much better than randomly deciding that January the 1st is going to be the start of a whole new you.
I’ve never been good at NY resolutions. It wasn’t until Rebecca started coaching me last year, that I learned to plan ahead and visualise my goals, and to break these goals into shorter chunks. It’s so much easier to plan 3 months in advance than a whole year. And it’s so much easier to implement small changes that to try and re-arrange your entire life.
A year ago, I was searching for a solution to my improve my organisational skills. I’d tried using the calendar on my phone. I’d downloaded apps that promised to transform my life. I’d signed up to online programmes that aimed to make a organisational super-fairy out of me. Somehow none of this worked, and I was still always in a muddle. That’s when I discovered the joy of a simple paper diary, which this year led me to develop a paper planner for mums and dads.
Updated on January 19, 2016
You roll your eyes and I bite my tongue. It’s normal, I tell myself. She’s a teenager. She needs to detach. Still, it hurts my heart.
‘You may give them your love but not your thoughts’
I was the centre of your world. Your rock. Your oracle. You looked to me for answers. And now your gaze has turned outward. Read More
Updated on June 2, 2016
Rebecca is a Mindset Coach at Artemis Mindset Coaching. You might wonder what on earth that is, and who would see a mindset coach (and what exactly a mindset coach does differently to other coaches). I admit, when I first heard of it, I thought it sounded a bit woo (and I’m totally not woo!). She’s also a friend, so when she asked if I’d agree to be coached by her, as part of her training and certification, I agreed. Not only out of friendship, but also because I was inquisitive. What is this coaching thing, and what would I get out of it?
Updated on June 2, 2015
If you enjoy my posts on parenting, and the recent guest posts, then please do pop over and check out Jump! Parents – a new website for parents of tweens and teens.
Salt and Caramel will continue, but as my personal blog for reviews, reflections, opinions and more Secrets of Scotland (and perhaps other areas too!)
This weekend, we travelled up to the Highlands of Scotland to Mhor Hotel, and their annual MhorFest. We’d intended arriving in time for the Raft Race on Saturday morning, but underestimated the travelling time on the wee roads, and missed it. All was not lost, as the festival was just getting underway. With free entry for kids under 14 years, it was clear that this was going to be a popular event with families, and already there were a fair number of people milling about.
‘Steve and Mary from Nuneaton are following their dream, of buying and renovating a period property in rural France. The cottage we are showing them needs a bit of work, but we think that with a bit of updating, it could be stunning. Neither of them speak the language, but they came to this area on holiday last year, and fell in love with the natural beauty and the carefree lifestyle. Mary is an artist, and Steve is a graphic designer, and both hope to set up thriving home businesses in France.’
I quite like watching property shows, particularly A Place in the Sun, but usually spend the episode shouting, ‘NO! Don’t do it!’ at the screen. In part, this is due to watching the series on catchup, and knowing that the adorable finca that the couple are buying in 2007 is going to plummet in value within a year of the show being filmed. Having lived abroad, and moved many times, I know a bit about the process, and the pitfalls. So, this is my ultimate post on what you need to know before moving overseas!
It was my first visit to Ziggys Restaurant in St Andrews, and I was intrigued to see it described as a family owned ‘themed restaurant’, decorated with rock and roll memorabilia. I was guessing it would be a bit like Hard Rock Cafe, but more personal and individual. If possible, I try to support local businesses, rather than national (or international!) chain restaurants. Read More
A guest post by Coach Rebecca Pintre, from Artemis Mindset Coaching, on recognising the signs of low self esteem in a child, and what parents can do about it.
Self-esteem is the sense of worth a person has about themselves, the value they put on themselves. It is important to have a good balance of self-esteem and a positive yet realistic sense of self-worth. As a coach, low self-esteem is one of the issues I come across frequently. As a mother of two young girls I know that fostering good self-esteem in my daughters is one of my key tasks. Read More
Updated on November 24, 2015
It is my daughter’s 13th birthday today. At last, she is a TEENAGER! She’s promised that she won’t suddenly turn into a stroppy, hormonal monster. Check back in a year to see whether she’s been able to keep that vow!
I was thinking back to my teenage years, and what I would tell myself, if I could go back in time and give myself some advice. Read More
Updated on November 24, 2015
For the March Writers’ Workshop
The prompt I chose was, ‘Reluctantly, she let the flower fall from her hand, watching as it spiralled down’.
Updated on November 24, 2015
No, don’t worry. I’m not going to advise you to throw a First Period Party for your daughter. I can only imagine the sheer horror that my daughter would greet this suggestion. It is probably up there with ‘Mum-dancing with my guidance teacher at the school disco in an effort to get all the kids to dance’ on the 1 – 100 scale of embarrassment.
Talking to kids about sex is an important part of parenting, and a part of this is talking to girls about getting their first period. One of the best ways to help your daughter prepare, is to make a First Period Kit.
Updated on November 24, 2015
A Guest Post for World Down Syndrome Day, by Emily
Updated on January 11, 2016
In my life I have lived in many cities and villages, but the cities I consider “home” are the twin towns of Dundee and Würzburg. I was born and brought up in Dundee, and have recently returned to bring up my children here.
I moved to Würzburg in Germany when I was 19 years old, to work as an au-pair for a year. On the day of my arrival, I met the man who I would later marry, but that is a story for another day. Today, I am thinking of the upcoming 70th anniversary of an event that almost destroyed the city, but instead led to its re-birth.
While the destruction of Dresden is common knowledge, many people don’t know that other German cities were targeted for destruction in the closing months of the war. One of these cities was Würzburg.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A gripping tale, that kept me awake into the wee hours, as I couldn’t put it down until I’d finished it.
It is done! Months of research, and hours of agonising which of the many wonderful women to include – today 12 Awesome Women Explorers was published. Initially only on Kindle, but soon to be available in print, and on iBooks.
One of the challenges of writing this book, was finding women who were explorers in a positive sense. Not rich, entitled white women who ‘explored’ countries where people had been living quite happily for many years, but those who actually brought a deeper understanding between peoples, or who made exciting scientific discoveries.
Updated on April 9, 2015
The lovely Millie Slavidou and I were chatting today about collaborative writing. She suggested we write a story together, but I fear I am too much of a control freak to enjoy that. What if she took the story in a different direction, to the one I had in mind?
I suggested that to preserve our friendship, we could do a monthly Writers’ Workshop instead. When I lived in Geneva, I joined a wonderful group at the American International Women’s Club. In fact, it is due to the support and encouragement of the women in that group, that I began to share my writing, both online and offline.
Millie and I would like to invite you to join in our Online Writers’ Workshop. This is open to anyone who would like to take part.
Once a month, I will post a writing prompt on this blog. You write an article or story – fiction or non-fiction, poetry or cartoon – and at the end of the month we will share our work online. We will link up our blogs, so that readers can hop from one to the next, and we will give each other constructive and supportive feedback.
Sign up here and follow the discussion on the Facebook Page
Updated on January 11, 2016
It’s been a while since I wrote a Secrets of Scotland, so I thought I’d catch you all up on some of the glorious areas of the country I am lucky enough to call home. The suggestions on this blog are many, and you won’t be able to do them all in a day, so pick the ones you like best, and don’t forget to let me know the ones I missed!
A lot of tourists land in Edinburgh and drive straight past Fife to head for the Highlands. Or if they visit the area, they drive to St Andrews, and then onwards. When we pick visitors up from the airport, we always drive around the coast road of Fife, and our guests are stunned by the beautiful views.
Updated on January 11, 2016
According to Planned Parenthood, teens who had good, honest conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity, have fewer partners and use condoms or other contraceptives when they do have sex.
So how do we go about talking to the kids about sex and puberty, so that they are informed of the changes ahead, know how they can protect themselves, and how to react to the pressures from others? Without euphemisms or embarrassment.
When a friend recently talked about ‘Gentle Parenting‘, or parenting without punishments or rewards, I will admit to first having to look up the term, and second thinking that can’t possibly work.
After reading the list on this blog, I realised that I’d been practicing a version of this parenting philosophy, without knowing there was a name for it. There is no blueprint for successful parenting, and I wouldn’t say that I am an expert, but these are the tactics that have worked for me, and my family.
Times are tough for writers. With too many people willing to work for nothing, freelance writers are finding it difficult to survive. I know many talented writers who work hard, both in creating and promoting, with little to show for it. Rejection follows rejection, as publishers are reluctant to take a chance on an unknown writer, when they could sign up a celebrity or a YouTuber with huge existing fan base.
I am not knocking Zoe Suggs, also known as Zoella, but I do understand the frustration of many writers today, who looked at the headlines and sighed wearily. A relatively unknown vlogger who outsells JK Rowling – impossible!
Ever more writers are turning to self-publishing, cutting out the middle-man and selling directly to their readers. Particularly for bloggers, who already have a network, this can be a sensible option.