Will 2017 be the year I finally make it as a superstar blogger?

I can picture the scene already.  Single Mum Speaks, superstar blogger, waving to the adoring masses from a glittery plinth.  Being invited onto the breakfast shows of the commercial television networks and arguing on a sofa with Katie Hopkins whilst Holly Willoughby stands by, doing her Sympathetic Worried Face.  They say visualise your goals and you will achieve them.  What was that book about the positive mindset?  The growth mindset?  The Secret?  Whatever it was I know it was about not giving up; not throwing in the towel even when you have fourteen page views and that includes those bots that allegedly trawl your site for reasons unknown and probably malicious.  I know it was about keeping going even though you’ve been going four years (happy blog-versary to me on January 1st guys!) which is at least three longer than most, and still somehow seem to have missed the boat when it comes to fame and fortune and didn’t the universe get the memo?  What was that about asking the universe and the universe will give?  I don’t know.  I only know that it was probably written in a book by someone who writes all their sentences

on separate lines.

Just like this.

For effect.

And who repeats the same mantras over and over again about how they too were stuck in a rut.

Things didn’t seem to be working.

And then.

Then they discovered the mighty Secret whereby you ask the universe and the universe gives, just as long as you have the positive mindset and can visualise your goals, and write them down, and stick to them.  And now they can give the Secret to you too, and all you have to do is hand over a couple of hundred dollars and your soul, and probably stick post-it notes on the bathroom mirror or something, to remind you that you’re Worth It.

Just like you stuck to that resolution you had been making every year since 1995 about finally finding true love this year.

And so this is the year.  Not for true love.  That one got so old I don’t even know if I want it anymore, and anyway, they say doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the first sign of madness.  Or was that talking to yourself?  I don’t know.  A blog is a bit like talking to yourself.  Especially when you only have fourteen page views and most of those are bots.

What do those bots do anyway?  Are they the ones that post those comments in the spam folder?  The ones that say “I have been reading your blog long time and there have useful information.  If you are not famous blogger yet than (sic) you should be!” and kindly offer you a link to a website selling Viagra.

But I am not a famous blogger.  Yet.  And my sense of entitlement is angry about this.  So could 2017 be the year?  Could it be the year that I finally step onto that podium and receive my award; “Superstar Blogger,” or failing that “Best writer,” or even just “The Award For Being a Blog Some People Read Sometimes.”  Could this be the year I finally get that book deal?  Could this be the year I say goodbye to teaching and hello to being one of those internet millionaires who writes all their sentences on separate lines and promises the Secret of instant success?

What do I really aspire to anyway?  I really did write down my goals.  They are stashed away secretly in the notes section of my phone, never to see the light of day, as if by sharing them someone might steal them away.  “Oh yes!” they might say.  “I want to win a blog award too!”  “I want to grow my Facebook following!”  Clearly these things cannot happen if someone else also wants them.  To think about the competition is unbearable to me.  We are told constantly that we should collaborate and build communities, but still we are all in competition.  Competition for those few coveted awards and those few places up there on the Mighty Plinth of Superstar Bloggers.  Entry to the star-studded firmament where you will be invited on a Mark Warner holiday and given a car to review.  Not that I want a car to review.  I can’t drive, but I’ll take the holiday if there’s one going.  NOT IN TERM TIME THOUGH.  SOME OF US HAVE JOBS. Jobs that are not related to blogging, and which provide a handy excuse for why we are not superstar bloggers yet, even after four years.

But then again, you never know.

2017 could be the year.

I’d better make sure I’m red carpet ready.  You know, just in case.

#SchoolsOut linky: Bumper Christmas Edition!


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Christmas, I have noticed these past two years, seems to be a time when bloggers slow down, switch off, and concentrate on packing their Instagram feeds full of cosy snapshots of family life-board games, paper hats and long walks in the countryside with children and dogs and festive knitwear.  In short, it’s the essence of hygge.

But it isn’t a time for blogging, for writing lengthy and heartfelt posts about postnatal depression, feminism, how much you love your kids or even that brand new video you made showcasing the grand unboxing of the latest freebie.   In fact, it seems to be a time when many bloggers switch off entirely and spend time with their actual families, as opposed to merely writing about them.

And that’s fine, of course.  It’s more than fine.  I take my hats off to these people.  However, it isn’t my reality.  I love my family time as much as the next person.  I love writing lengthy and heartfelt posts about all of the above (although I cannot claim to be an expert on any).  Hell, I’d even unbox a freebie on video if someone gave me one (maybe).   But I sometimes feel as though I am not of their world.  Like I sometimes feel like a fraud when it comes to motherhood, the same is certainly true of blogging.  Blogging, it can often seem, is a job for stay at home parents; unemployed but over occupied with demanding children and endless chores, looking for a way to be creative when the day job doesn’t allow it.  Or it’s a job for work at home parents, those who quit the rat race for a more flexible career-usually, I presume (although not always) with a husband’s salary to tide them over whilst they got going.

Of course, I am completely stereotyping here.  I don’t have access to the inner minds or family circumstances of others who tread the blogging path, and maybe the real reason that no one has heard of me and I am endlessly unsuccessful (although what is success anyway?  I don’t see myself as successful at blogging because I haven’t achieved my personal goals, but that’s not to say that I wouldn’t appear successful to others) has nothing to do with my usual excuse about having no time because, like, job and all that, but because I am just not very good at it, but (and I appreciate I have rambled right off topic here) I do work full time, and that does sometimes make it feel like an uneven playing field.  When other bloggers switch off and enjoy their family time, I am spending that family time wondering whether I should be turbo-charging my blogging.  Like now, at Christmas.  And that is why the #SchoolsOut linky is a thing.  It is a thing, ladies, gentlemen and bloggers.  Not all of us are having a Christmas break, and anyway I have a lot of mock exams to mark so what’s a break anyway?  Let’s join together and share our posts in the linky for when all other linkies are closed:  the #SCHOOLSOUT linky!

Yes, now I have thoroughly depressed/outraged you all with my random thoughts on the parent blogging sorority (I cannot call it a fraternity when it’s 90% female.  Soz guys), I am going to cheekily ask you to link your wondrous posts below.  They do not have to be Christmassy (although they can be).  My only criteria is that you want to link them up in the absence of all other linky options and shout, hey world!  I’m still blogging!  Someone is always here on the internets!  MERRY BLOGMAS EVERYONE!

Argh hold on, wait a second.  The rules!  I nearly forgot the rules!

Yes, so obviously don’t break the precious rules, which are:

  1. Comment on the host’s post (please.  That’s what I pay my $2 Inlinkz subscription for peeps.  I need your comments to make this worthwhile).
  2. Comment on the post before yours, then we all get a little bit of the #SchoolsOut linky lovin’.
  3. Add the fabulous #SchoolsOut linky badge to your post.
  4. If you want a retweet, feel free to tweet me your post at @singlemumspeaks
  5. That’s it I think.

 

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Single Mum Speaks

The Terrible Twos: This is Normal, Right?

My mother is convinced that Piglet is afflicted with the developmental curse generally known as the Terrible Twos.

I am going to assume that in ordinary parlance this means that toddlers are expected to have a lot of tantrums.  Now tantrums I can handle.  I think I understand them.  I definitely read some stuff on the internet about it, which may or may not be accurate.  Something to do with said toddlers being unable to manage their emotions, so having a total meltdown.  That I can understand.  It can’t be easy when the extent of your vocabulary consists of shouting “CHOO CHOO!” at real and imaginary trains, and a repertoire of animal noises, mostly domestic animals plus a generic “RAAARRR” for everything else.  Despite having a vocabulary I consider somewhat satisfactory, and the ability to make myself heard most of the time, I’m pretty sure I only grew out of the tantrum stage myself a few years ago, and there are times when I think I might still be in it.  What I am more worried about is the defiant behaviour.  I’ve written about this before, but it seems to be escalating with each passing day, especially since mastery of the word “NO.”  Is Piglet destined for a career as a master criminal, or just a common or garden ASBO-collector?  Either way, I am looking for you all to tell me that this is normal, right?

Now, it’s difficult for me to judge whether Piglet is above average, average or even below average in terms of behaviour “episodes,” because besides my aunt’s constant reminders of That Legendary Tantrum I had whilst in her care once in 1982 when I refused point blank to use a toilet and held in my effluvia until a suitable potty was duly purchased, I have no useful benchmark of toddler behaviour with which to compare Piglet’s relative performance on this score.  However, I do know that my mother is increasingly worn out at the end of each day she spends looking after him, and today, one of those rare days when I had the privilege of his company all to myself, the tantrum line up was as follows:

  1. Lying down on the floor of the bus in protest because I wouldn’t let him climb onto the back seat and look out the back window without my holding him there in case the bus came to a sudden stop and he went flying.
  2. Persistently running around in circles during an outdoor carol concert, to the point where I judged that he was increasingly likely to get either run over on the nearby main road or lost in a crowd of people, so I had to swiftly take him home.
  3. Refusing to sit in pushchair (various times throughout the day)
  4. Refusing to go to bed.
  5. Refusing to climb into bed, and hitting me repeatedly when I suggested he do so.
  6. Refusing to put on clothes.
  7. Refusing to take off clothes.

This is all perfectly normal toddler behaviour, right?  For the love of God somebody please tell me this is all perfectly normal, because I am currently worried that I have ruined Piglet by not getting him into a routine by the age of three months that involved a bottle of expressed breastmilk before bed, a nightly bath and bedtime at 7pm on the dot, to be followed by a night of uninterrupted sleep, as prescribed by Gina Ford.

Am I supposed to be giving him time outs?  Am I supposed to put him on the naughty step?  Am I supposed to be a gentle parent and do some gentle parenting shizzle I haven’t quite worked out yet that doesn’t involve either of the first two options?  All I can do is repeat the mantra that this too shall pass, and hope that it passes soon, rather than continuing into his teenage years leading inexorably to the dreaded weekly call from the head teacher’s office, as I am called upon to defend him in the face of yet another exclusion.  What was it this time?  Hitting?  Kicking?  Lying on the floor wailing?  Is he still refusing to wear clothes and having to be chased around screaming with just a vest on, draped around his shoulders like an obscenely short toga?

Just tell me this is all perfectly normal, and I have not birthed a monster, right?

Ignoring the News: Sensible Plan or Foolhardy and Immoral?

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a new obsession.  And it’s not good for my mental health.

I literally cannot stop reading the Guardian on my phone.

The Guardian has not, it has to be said, had a good 2016.  First David Bowie died, and then everything else the Guardian holds dear disappeared into a giant sinkhole, never to return.  And as the Guardian is my go-to messenger of despair for the demise of the liberal world, it has taken all my hope with it too.  Daily I find myself lapping up news stories from across the globe which seem to become ever more terrifying with each passing day.  Brexit, Trump, the fall of Western civilisation, the inevitable future collapse of the known world into an apocalyptic Dark Age.

I try to remember when I was last this miserable about the state of the world.  Was it in 2001, when I moped around Japan for about six months after September 11th thinking World War 3 was starting?  Was it during that Religious Studies lesson on war and peace in 1996 when I learned that the Russians had nuclear warheads pointed right at us and put together an urgent plan of action that involved hiding underneath my cabin bed and hoping for instantaneous death?

Was this what it was like in the 1960s, I wonder, as the Cuban missile crisis loomed, JFK and Martin Luther King got shot and Vietnam raged?  Or more terrifyingly, the 1930s, a decade which provides enjoyable viewing through the rose-tinted prism of period dramas about the well dressed and well connected, but which must by anyone’s reckoning have been a scary time to be alive.

Or is the moral of the story here simply that bad things happen.  They happen all the time, have always happened and always will.  It’s just now we have to live it all, in real time and glorious technicolour, thanks to the wonders of the internet, and with it we all consider ourselves to be roving reporters, capturing images on our smartphones, providing the commentary on the age like a tech-savvy modern day Samuel Pepys.

So what does one do?  How does one counter the sneaking suspicion that not only is modern life rubbish, but it always has been, there was no Golden Age, no matter how charmingly attired everyone was in the olden days, and all life is going the way of the dinosaurs anyway.  Should we live like there’s no tomorrow?  Hold our loved ones close and hope for the best?  Or do we just grit our teeth, batten down the hatches and ignore the news?  To do so seems somehow morally suspect, as if making a conscious decision to look the other way as atrocities rage, like the proverbial priest and lawyer who walk past in the parable of the Good Samaritan, is to allow our inaction to give its blessing to those who offend us and our humanity.  Yet for the sake of my own mental health I have to believe that things will be OK.  That things are always OK in the end.  Even the dinosaurs have been jauntily resurrected in Hollywood movies and on children’s pyjamas.  That must have made the last great mass extinction all worthwhile, right?

Whenever the going gets tough-and it’s sure to get tough-I remind myself that this too shall pass, but then so will the comfort, the happiness, the good times.  It will all pass, so I guess all we can do is make every moment count, be good people, look out for each other and be the best we can be.  Like the baby Jesus in his crib getting a disturbing gift of myrrh from the three wise men, the spectre of death is always upon us.  It’s just that most of the time we are able to conveniently ignore it.  Like I will be conveniently ignoring the news when it all gets too much.

Parenting: The Olden Days vs Now

Is it normal to have some sort of imposter syndrome about being a parent?

Sometimes I’m not sure I can even say I engage in any actual parenting, since I seem to spend most of my time either at work away from my son, or being micro-managed by my mother who seems to think that I need to be taught how to parent by an expert in the field (her), using the Join-the-Dots-Guide to Parenthood.  Indeed, our increasingly divergent parenting styles-hers “strict” and mine “louche” apparently-along with an article I recently read online about gentle parenting and avoiding the kind of outrageous parenting fails that lead to a lifetime in therapy for the sprog (“forced affection,” “being made to say please and thank you” and, most disturbingly, “saying “Good job!” as a form of praise”) got me thinking that not only has parenting in general become an utter minefield, but it must have been very different in the olden days.  So different, in fact, that I think it must have been something like this.

  1. The Olden Days

Children were seen and not heard.  Think of the scant appearances of Lady Mary’s son in Downton Abbey.  Children were to be formally presented to their parents in the drawing room each afternoon, wearing a sailor suit with a starched collar.  They must be decorative mutes, available on request for showing off to passing dignitaries, possibly with a genteel accomplishment such as piano playing, pious embroidery or rudimentary French to be showcased on request.

Now

Children are both seen and heard.  Heard to trill “BEEP BEEP!” repeatedly at a high decibel level all around the pub on a Sunday lunchtime whilst the dignitaries eat their lunch and mumble about the olden days when children were decorative mutes; and seen running around, hiding under furniture and ducking under the legs of passers by.

2. The Olden Days

Tantrums are dealt with by a lot of shouting and a slap round the legs.

Now

We have seen the error of our ways, thank goodness, so tantrums are now dealt with by a combination of strategic ignoring, cuddling, breastfeeding and whatever we think won’t end up with us being recorded by a passing Smartphone and sent to social services, or worse, judged by the Daily Mail.  Articles about gentle parenting spring up all over the place, largely to make us feel eternally guilty for bribing with ice cream that one (every) time, whilst members of the older generation hang around tutting about how everything was better in the olden days when children were all so perfectly behaved that they didn’t even have tantrums, at least not during the half an hour each afternoon when they were being formally presented in the drawing room.

3. The Olden Days

Everyone just muddled along, hoping that no one’s head got caught in the mangle or trapped in the spinning jenny at the cotton mill.  Jumpers for goalposts, everyone had their doors unlocked and prolific sex offenders marched around the BBC with impunity.  None of this nonsense about children having feelings and stuff, and perhaps not wanting to give the elderly neighbour a kiss or choose whether to eat their greens without being sent to bed with no dinner.

Now

We are all terrified we are scarring the little bairns for life every time we utter a cross word or walk past a dead fox in the street.  We’ve gone soft, apparently, and the kids are walking all over us.  And I for one am happy about it.

Now I just need to make sure I don’t commit any Crimes Against Parenting, like saying “good job!” instead of giving “descriptive praise,” whatever that is.

Am I doing this right?  Someone please tell me I’m doing it right.

Mumzilla

Sorry Not Sorry: A Never-Ending Story of Guilt

This week, my A level students and I have been discussing guilt.

As we debate over whether or not using someone else’s mug in the common room is a matter for a guilty conscience, my own mind keeps returning to the question of parental guilt.  I feel guilt on a daily basis.  Some of it, like the guilt of working full time and sometimes not thinking about my child whilst I am there, I have learned to live with.  Others, I’m not so sure.

This week it was an advent calendar.  Advent calendars were an integral part of my childhood.  They were always there, usually several weeks in advance, hidden in the back of the wardrobe until the time came for it to be December, when we were finally allowed to start thinking about Christmas, albeit only incrementally, and not complain too much about the tree not being up, at least not until the end of the school term, because FATHER CHRISTMAS IS WATCHING, young lady, and there will be no presents for you.

I had, of course, forgotten to buy Piglet an advent calendar.  One more notch on the chart of below-par mothering.  Gina Ford is out there somewhere keeping score, and she’s got a hotline to Father Christmas, and there will be no presents for me.

I had also forgotten to buy Piglet a new toothbrush for several days, after he flung the last one wilfully out of the window at the end of a tooth cleaning session; which, by the way, left me in a quandary.  As someone with a no-shouting policy, what does one do when one’s toddler hurls their toothbrush out of a window?  How does one convey the seriousness of the issue?  And what could this lead to?  A successful career as England’s next fast bowler, or a future spent confronting riot police as a professional agitator with a keenly aimed molotov cocktail?  Banning the use of toothbrushes would definitely not win me any points from Gina, so all I had was the admonishment that no he would NOT be permitted the privilege of standing on the toilet seat to clean his toothy-pegs in future.  He would have to stand on the floor, chastened, and hopefully well out of the range of any open windows.

So to summarise, the last two days have been ridden with guilt.  Guilt at not buying a toothbrush straight away, guilt at forgetting the advent calendar until all the local establishments had sold out (a run on advent calendars as all the good parents buying advent calendars on time, obviously) and guilt at Piglet having a full-blown meltdown at bedtime for the third night in a row and my mother making disapproving noises at me as the voice of a woman I once spoke to at a conference echoed in my head, warning that if you “have a good three year old, you have a good thirteen year old.”  I fear I may have failed on all fronts, and I by the time Piglet is thirteen he will be in borstal.  All thanks to me of course.

There are some parents who do not appear to be afflicted with the Guilt.  Parents like the young man on the bus today, who sat there with his three year old in an easily foldable pushchair, apparently oblivious while the bus sailed past two women in wheelchairs, one of whom argued with the bus driver pointing out-rightly to my knowledge-that she had priority in the eyes of the law.  Meanwhile Piglet and I were sat at the back of the bus, without a pushchair at all as I now feel so guilty about taking it on the bus that Piglet has to walk to and from swimming.  The last time I was on that bus with a pushchair and a wheelchair wanted to board, I immediately rushed to the front to fold the pushchair like the good citizen I try to be, so that she could do so, only to be criticised by another passenger who apparently felt I was being unreasonable because I had failed to fold my pushchair before I even boarded the bus in the first place, despite the fact that my not doing so at that point had affected precisely no one.  I had to fight the feelings of guilt that washed over me, and remind myself that I had done nothing wrong.  I was on the bus, a wheelchair user got on, and I folded my pushchair as any decent person able to do so would.  Yet there was still someone there trying to make me feel as though I was some sort of ogre who should never have been allowed to procreate.

I have no wish to be like that young father on the bus.  Better to have a guilty conscience for no reason than to be entirely inconsiderate.  Perhaps it is my gender, for us women seem to feel the guilt so much more than men do.  Perhaps it’s our years of conditioning; that it’s our fault if we get raped, or assaulted, or catcalled, because we shouldn’t have worn a short skirt or been out late at night.  It’s our fault if our children grow up to be less than model citizens.  We were too harsh with them, or too soft, or too cold, or said the wrong thing once and those words must have stuck.  Or perhaps we worked too much, or too little, or not at all, and our children were too cosseted, or we were too aloof and we didn’t love them enough, or too much, or we simply did the best we could and it all went wrong.  It was our fault, us mothers.  We should have been better.

So I went to the shop today, and I bought that advent calendar.  They were reduced to clear.  Piglet was happy with his bumper crop of three chocolates in one day, and he’ll never know the difference.  Until he’s thirteen, and in borstal, having counselling for that time his mother forgot the advent calendar.

My Petit Canard

When Your Child Has Dozens of Siblings

I once heard that there was once a woman, long ago, who became known as the primordial Eve.  Not by her own people, presumably, as they cannot have known what her descendants would become, but by modern scientists; geneticists who spend their lives in laboratories, examining the immense data of the human genome.

We are all related to her, this Eve, all of us who made our way out of Africa all those thousands of years ago at the dawn of human existence.  She, like her biblical namesake, is quite literally “the mother of all who live.”

I sometimes wonder about her, Eve.  I wonder what her life would have been like back in the cave days, and most of all, I wonder how many children she actually had, that they would later survive to take over the globe as if in the fulfilment of some ancient prophecy.

I wonder if she had more children than Octomom with her Octo-brood; than King Solomon with his seven hundred wives and concubines; than that peasant couple in the 1700s who had 62 children (it’s in the Guinness Book of Records, peeps.  That was a thing).

I wonder if she had more children than Piglet’s donor.

Yes, Piglet is a sort of member of a sort of family that spans the globe, but unlike Primordial Eve, we didn’t need to walk out of Africa on the heels of a retreating ice sheet. We could just log onto Facebook and see them all there; the worldwide family of similar looking children across three continents.

Before having Piglet, the potential implications of using a donor registered as remote flickers of panic on a timeline that already seemed riddled with obstacles.  It didn’t seem worth dwelling on thoughts of tangled family relationships when the possibility of making it even to pregnancy was far from certain.  I had seen women in my situation struggle-sometimes for years-just to get a positive pregnancy test.  I had seen miscarriages, failed fertility treatments and even, in one case, a hideous off the grid operation with no anaesthetic aimed at improving chances of pregnancy.  I was prepared for a long slog, a lottery, an expensive gamble with no guarantees.  And then suddenly I was pregnant.  Fears of failed fertility treatment quickly turned to the terror of miscarriage, stillbirth or something else going hideously wrong.  I hardly dared to consider what the future might hold.  I was taking it one day at a time.

And now, two years on, I still don’t spend my days and nights worrying about what to tell Piglet about his unconventional family set up.  He is happy, and he is loved.  What else could he want to know?  That unlike his friends at nursery, he doesn’t have a father, but instead has thirty-odd half siblings that might one day fill the void?

Fortunately, these siblings are not local.  I say this not because I have any wish to keep them at arm’s length, but because the idea of feeling bound to people I’ve never met by convoluted blood ties is just a little bit too complicated for my brain at this point; my brain which is still coming to terms with motherhood as a concept, and with myself as a member of the Worldwide Sisterhood of Mothers, a sorority that I sometimes feel a fraud to be representing; me, the single mother with no troubled backstory of doomed romance ending in a bitter custody battle, and the breadwinner relying on my mother for childcare, and feeling no sense of kinship with the stay at home mum brigade whatsoever.  Where do I even fit in?  Not with the married mums or the single mums, and certainly not with the stay at home mums.  But that is a story for another day.  Another day where I look at the faces of the Worldwide Siblinghood of Mini-Piglets, and wonder, will he ever fit in with them?  Will they meet up one day, in some neutral location in the middle of an ocean, and swap stories of uncanny similarities and coincidentally parallel life paths, or will they discover their siblings unintentionally, like in a schmaltzy story from a women’s magazine, during a fresher’s week party at university or on a gap year, and suddenly wonder why this new friend looks so remarkably alike?

Or will they simply not care?  This kind of set-up will all be normal by then, right?

One Messy Mama

Five Blogging Tips That Are a Load of Old Balls

Every blogger loves a blogging tips post.  We absolutely lap it up, seizing on anything with the word “blog” in the title as we scroll through Twitter.  And every blogger has written one.  Not a day goes by without someone spouting forth their wisdom on what they’ve learned in two weeks of blogging.  But sometimes, the tips get a little too, well…samey.  If I’ve heard one, I’ve heard them all, and I definitely don’t need to hear from someone who’s been blogging two weeks and knows even less than I do (which I can assure you is remarkably little).  So, here they are, my top five least favourite blogging “tips.”  You’re welcome.

1. Just keep writing great content.  The rest will come!

From this, I can only conclude that my content must be rubbish, because The Rest is not coming.  It is not coming in droves.  It is literally not running from the hills to be part of my miniscule online empire consisting only of me.

2. Don’t expect overnight success.

I do hope you’re not looking at me, O ye paragon of blogging greatness with your lofty tips, because I KNOW it takes more than five minutes.  I’ve been spouting forth into the unknown wilds of the internet for nearly four years on this here blog, and I’m still waiting.  That’ll be longer than you, then.

3. Comment on other blogs

Interesting one this.  In an ideal world, we would comment on other blogs because we enjoy reading them.  In the real world in which we unfortunately live, many of those comments are of the reciprocal variety.  It’s a dog eat dog, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours, sort of world.  Altrusim is dead.  Long live pragmatism!

4. Grow your social media

I’ve tried, I really have.  My Twitter game isn’t bad.  Not quite Kardashian level (there’s still time), but satisfactory.  My Instagram is pleasing but forgettable.  Who wants to see a picture of my commute to work?  It’s a good one, I promise you, there’s a river and everything.  Second highest tidal range in the world, apparently.  Looks great in nashville (do I capitalise that?  Or will people think I’m talking about the one in Tennessee?  Ye-hah me country hearties!) and jefe, and even #nofilter, although the light’s a bit sketchy at 7am at this time of year.  Facebook?  Well, the less said about that one the better.  I secretly always preferred MySpace anyway.  Whatever happened to MySpace?  Please don’t tell anyone I had a MySpace blog in 2007.  The yoof of today already think I’m a long-dead fossil from the Pre-Cambrian with no Youtube channel.

5. Interact with other bloggers

I love you all, I really do.  I have read many gushing posts about the friends that have been made through blogging, and I can categorically say that they are not the bare-faced lies I initially thought they must be.  The blogging community is great, but it’s just that, a community.  A group of like-minded individuals who for all their differences have the same shared goal of becoming the next slummy mummy sensation.  It’s great to interact with other bloggers, and to read their posts, share their highs and lows and the minutiae of their lives; but what it isn’t is a shortcut to literary fame and fortune; so yes, by all means get involved with the community.  It’s fun, it’s rewarding, and you will never be short of friends to drink real wine with in a virtual world as you confess your woes to someone in Essex down the fibre optic broadband at 11pm on a Friday night, but it won’t give you the million-pound book advance you most intensely desire.  Sorry about that all, but just #tellingitlikeitis.  Linkies ain’t gonna make me no money.

So there we have it, a truly edifying list for any blogging newbie, and another post from me that threatens to send my own blog spinning towards a catastrophic implosion as it crumbles under the weight of meta-blogging commentary that’s of no use to anyone but my dear friends in The Firm.  The Blogging Firm. #Peace *performs serious-faced fist bump*

You all love it though.  And so do I.

Pink Pear Bear
The Pramshed
One Messy Mama
Life with Baby Kicks

Five Things People Say to Single People That Essentially Translate to “Thank God I’m Not You.”

When it comes to being single, I am the most experienced person I know.  Tedious online dates where you get talked at for hours?  Check.  Turning up to discover a date who is unrecognisable from the photos they posted online?  Check.  Escaping halfway through because “something bad happened”?  Been there too.  And the only thing worse than a truly diabolical date?  The patronising reminders from well-meaning acquaintances that there really is no cause for alarm; after all, it’ll happen when you least expect it.  So I’ve gathered together the five most irritating statements that are supposed to make us singletons feel better because, well, maybe if I just put it out there that I never want to hear any of these statements ever again, I won’t have to.

  1. “It will happen when you least expect it.”

Really?  Why, thank you.  This must mean that it will happen right now then, as I’m certainly not expecting to meet anyone sitting at home in a pair of milk-stained pyjamas breastfeeding a toddler.  Is that a look that the eligible young men about town are going for these days?  By this reckoning, there’s no point ever making any effort at all-with online dating, with real life dating, with leaving the house at all, as it’ll happen when we least expect it.  Someone get me a DeLorean so I can go back in time and tell the fifteen year old me sobbing into her pillow feeling unloveable that IT’S OKAY, IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN RIGHT NOW, while you’re not expecting it!

2. “You just need to stop looking.”

Please see above.  Now, I’ve never been entirely trusting of the self-help industry, but I’m pretty sure that this goes against all known advice about putting yourself “out there.”  After all, as I may have said above, no one ever met anyone sitting at home watching re-runs of Sex And The City whilst shovelling Ben and Jerry’s into their cakehole.  Unless, of course, they were on Tinder at the time, and, flawed as the online dating business model may be, I’m going to assume that doesn’t count as “not looking.”

3. “You’re too picky.”

OK, let’s break this one down here.  There are certain things that people say, especially in the shark-infested waters of Plenty of Fish, that are clearly euphemisms for “I don’t fancy you.”  Most people, unless they are dicks, don’t like being unnecessarily mean to other people’s faces, and I’m going to assume for the sake of argument that most people aren’t dicks, not even the single ones who spend their lives being “too picky.”  However, if this phrase isn’t a way of your friends telling you that you just aren’t attractive enough to be dating that guy/the other guy/anyone, so you should just lower your standards and marry the first person who shows a speck of interest, even if he’s fifty stone overweight and has the personality of a goldfish, then I don’t know what is.  THANKS FOR THAT, WORLD.

4. “You’re too intelligent/stylish/alternative.”

Um, I thought these were compliments?  Oh hang on, this is another euphemism isn’t it?  What you’re really saying is “you’re sarcastic to the point of meanness and dress like you’ve just escaped from Bedlam circa 1790.”

5. “You’ll find someone eventually.”

This one is usually said by someone deep into the throes of The Perfect Relationship.  You know the one; sat there with her hand entwined in that of her beloved, other hand resting on his knee, the left hand, of course, sparkling engagement ring prominently displayed to its best effect.  All they’re actually saying is, “I found someone eventually, and boy was it tough, being single until the age of eighteen.  I went on TWO terrible dates as a teenager, so I know EXACTLY how you feel.  You can’t even imagine the trauma!  He wanted salted popcorn instead of toffee, would you even believe it?  You’ve probably missed your chance, but at least I can live vicariously through your dating disasters and feel vindicated in my own life choices.”

So next time you, yes you the married one who found someone eventually when you least expected it, are tempted to say even a tiny fraction of one of these statements, please don’t.  Trust me, I’ve heard it all before.

Just Another Tear-Streaked Election Post

This morning, as I imagine many others around the world also did, I awoke and reached immediately for my phone.  Not, as is my usual custom, to simply turn off the alarm.  Not this morning.  I don’t generally make a point of going straight onto a news website at 6am.  I’m usually more interested in simple pleasures such as sleep, but this morning was different.  I remembered only too well that fateful morning in June, a morning similar to this one, albeit a little warmer and lighter, when I had done the exact same thing, only to see the jubilant face of Nigel Farage all over the morning’s front pages, surprised but elated that he and his vision of a Ye Olde England when the commoners may have had to doff their caps at their betters, but at least they could get a job for life in a coal mine had prevailed against the onslaught of lefty neo-liberalist twaddle that passes for The World these days.  And I remember all too well the feeling of heaviness in the pit of my stomach, the nauseating stench of right-wing nastiness, the suffocating feeling that I might actually be living in a dystopian, less well dressed version of the 1930s, but with smartphones. This morning, I was prepared for the worst, but hoping desperately for the best.

Hoping that instead of a victory for fear and loathing, I would wake instead to see the proverbial glass ceiling literally and figuratively shattered, and the face of the newly crowned most powerful woman in the world looking back at me.

I don’t need to tell you what happened next.

But it was what happened after that that truly shocked me.  I turned to my sleeping child in the bed next to me and I was grateful.  Grateful and relieved.  Afraid, of course-the doomsday clock had surely edged a little closer to midnight for all of us-but still relieved.  Relieved that I was looking at a little boy and not a little girl.  A boy who is white and not a person of colour.  Because I feared that what had just happened was that life had just got a whole lot tougher for anyone who isn’t white and male.

The previous night, as I had watched the early election coverage unfolding on Channel 4, optimism had been high.  Democrats seemed assured ofa Clinton victory, and the one Republican they had wheeled out for the occasion was forced to protest feebly that Trump “still might” win.  She was a woman herself, although not, according to Jon Snow, one that agreed with Trump, surely?

“This election is not about political correctness,” she stated, “it’s about something much more important than that.”

Oh of course.  Silly me, I had forgotten that political correctness was unimportant.

What is it to be politically correct?  To be berated and patronised by those who tell you that if you think all people are equally deserving of basic respect; of having a voice and an equal say in society, regardless of race, gender, social class, disability, sexuality or gender identity then you are a whimpering, lentil-weaving hippy who needs to get back in the kitchen and start caring about stuff that really matters, like money and power.

It’s the sort of stuff they say to silence us, the conservatives and the demagogues alike.  It’s the Jeremy Clarksons of this world denying climate change because they like to drive a big car; it’s the patronising put-down of an old man who refuses to say “humankind” rather than “mankind” because everyone knows men are the default gender and those feminazis are so shrill with their high-pitched whining lady-voices; it’s the battle cry of the Angry White Man as he rails against a world that no longer lets him grab women by the genitals and call it “bantz.”

No, this election was not about political correctness.  Political correctness would not have elected someone who has routinely degraded and demeaned women, Mexicans, Muslims, “immigrants” and all manner of others who are not, yes, you’ve guessed it, white men.  Political correctness is about trying not to offend people unnecessarily because doing that just makes you, well, a bit unpleasant.  Political correctness is about challenging societal norms that assume that to be white and male is the default narrative.

Today I was relieved that my son is the world’s default setting, but I was fearful for a world that was so desperate to reassert that it still is.