GUEST POST: ‘Ignorance is NOT Bliss’, by Samantha Aborowa

 

So I’m finally back blogging. Eek! I haven’t blogged for a few years now. Lots has happened and I just haven’t felt ready, but thanks to some persuasion from a wonderful mum-mate, Musing Mum, I’m getting back into it thanks to her guest blog spot.

I feel compelled to share with you a recent experience where my eyes were opened to just how ignorant some people can be towards the world around them. Twice in one day I encountered prejudice towards people like me with children of colour, without even setting foot out of my front door.

Whilst watching This Morning, Jamelia had a slot talking about toys being aimed at white people; more white dolls on display in toy shops and very few ethnic dolls. In Toys R Us only SIX dolls were available that weren’t white. Disappointingly, there were even less in Smyth’s and The Entertainer toy shops.

The viewer comments were astounding: “These black people are just being racist to white people”, “Even toys can’t escape constant race and ethnicity scrutiny” and “Jamelia is inventing problems”. All these comments were made by white people who were completely missing the point she was making.

Thankfully another tweeted, “These comments highlight how ignorant white people can be to issues among POC [people of colour] as these are issues that will never affect them.” And that is the point Jamelia is making by highlighting the lack of representation in toy shops.

People can be so ignorant towards others who are different to what they consider to be the ‘norm’. I want my daughter to go into a toy store and find a doll similar to her amongst the others, and be able to play with white, black, Asian, Indian, Latinx dolls…why wouldn’t I? I want her to know that not everyone is white and the black doll isn’t special because it is rare to come by. It should be normal to pick up a doll of any colour to play with.

You may think I’m making an issue out of nothing, but as a white mother bringing up a daughter with Nigerian heritage, I feel I need to be prepared with answers I don’t yet have to her questions about her skin type, hair difference and culture background. Sadly, I feel I have to prepare my child for discriminatory comments that will come in her life, to be ready for that nasty kid.

Later in the day, I was looking at blogs and youtube videos on tips of how to care for my daughter’s hair. It’s not like mine and I know I need to care for it differently. I found some really helpful blogs with great tips but I also came across a blog I found quite patronising to “the white mother with a biracial child”. It basically outlined her ‘beef’ of how some white mothers don’t look after their biracial child’s hair and leave their hair looking unkempt in afros and a halo of frizz.

Now being a first time mum is hard enough without the added pressure of having to deal with a hair type that you have never dealt with before that needs alot of work and attention. My daughter is only 17 months old and I’m on a massive learning curve. I’m not perfect in the slightest and I have a long way to go, but I’d like to think that I’m not doing too badly. It’s just annoying that people can be so judgemental about why a kid’s hair doesn’t look ‘perfectly groomed’.

Maybe the particular day that the kid’s hair was unkempt, was the same day the kid had a total breakdown in the bath and wouldn’t let a parent anywhere near their head to wash, condition, detangle and spend 3 hours making it look perfect, so the parents just had to make do.

Life is not always rosy and pristine. I may not get my daughter’s hair perfect and it may be a bit frizzy where I didn’t put enough moisture in it that day, but its a learning curve and I – and every parent in my position – could do with support not criticism.

My daughter is more important than being classed as ‘different from norm’. I will bring her up to be kind, open minded and have a diverse way of thinking, to let her see no one person is the same and everyone is unique.

Gok endorses #DressDownFriday!

At this exact moment in time I’m stood in my kitchen doing a happy dance – We got Gok!

I’m so thrilled to announce that the #DressDownFriday campaign has now been officially endorsed by none other than fashion legend, Gok Wan!

Having seen the campaign online, I was invited to meet Gok last week after his Fashion Brunch Club in Cardiff. Gok has kindly lent his support to the movement to help spread the message of the power and influence of clothing and the impact that this can have on kids.

He said: “Fashion should be empowering, not restrictive. The #DressDownFriday campaign is encouraging parents to opt for clothes for their kids – one day each week – that promote variety, individuality and equality. I’m thrilled there’s a campaign like this out there!”

With the campaign launching just three months ago after I got sick of comments from a range of people about the fact a ‘pretty little girl should be in a dress’, I’m so blown away by how far we’ve come. So many incredibly supportive parents and kids’ fashion designers have adopted the campaign and post photos of their gender-stereotype-busing outfits each and every week.

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know so many of you and I’ve loved bonding over a mutual agreement that our kids shouldn’t be confined by gender norms when it comes to what they wear, what they play with, what they do, and who they are.

I am so unbelievably grateful to Gok and his team for taking the time out to learn more about #DressDownFriday and offering to help promote it to a wider audience. Here’s to many more empowering Fridays ahead!

If you’d like to learn more about the campaign and take part, click here.

GUEST BLOG: Winging It With Two Boys

Here’s the second in my now regular ‘guest blogger‘ feature every Monday. I’m thrilled to introduce you to Hayley Riane-Diplock, who runs the ‘Winging It With Two Boys‘ blog. Having dipped her toe in the kids’ pool that is the blogging world with guest posts on This Welsh Mother, Hayley took the plunge down the mini-slide and set up her own blog in March. And wowzers, has she been a busy Mama! There are already over 20 posts on her blog!

A big part of why I set up the Musing Mum page was to give any and all Mamas a helping hand, in whatever ventures they’re currently pursuing. My guest blog spots are available to new and up-coming parent bloggers (dads – this means you too!), as well as those tentative parents who are thinking about starting a blog, and want to give it a try. So get in touch! Mi casa es su casa!

Winging It With Two Boys: Why I Want To Give My Kids Free Choice

There are some big decisions in my kids’ life that I want them to decide for themselves.

I’m a vegetarian and have been for the last 14 years, but my kids aren’t veggie – they eat meat and veggie substitute meals at home.

When they’re old enough they’ll make the decision for themselves once they understand where their meat comes from, and I’ll support whatever decision they decide to make.

I’m not religious, despite going to a secondary school which was a church school – I stopped going to church after my brother died in a car accident. But just because I’m not religious doesn’t mean to say that my boys can’t be.

Although I don’t go to church I’ve tried to expose them to religion. They’ve attended a church wedding, where they’ve seen people praying and singing hymns. They’ve taken part in a nativity at our old toddler group too. Religion is everywhere – Christianity, Islam, Buddhism – we live in such a diverse society now, you see it everywhere.

I want them to see it, and ask questions, and if they tell me one day that they want to go to church then I’ll support them – it’s their decision at the end of the day.

My eldest has just started at gymnastics, and he’s loving it, but if he decides he doesn’t want to do it anymore, then we will stop taking him.

Likewise if the boys say they want to try a particular activity or club, then we will take them so they can try it out (even if it is football, we are totally a rugby household!).

When it comes to their schooling I want them to have a say too. So when we have to apply for their secondary school places I want them to say which school they like and which they don’t. The last thing I want is to send them to a school they absolutely hate.

I want them to choose their own GCSE options and to be happy with the decisions they make.

I don’t want to be a pushy mum, I want them to have a say in what happens in their lives. I want to support and encourage them to make decisions that will potentially affect the rest of their lives. Free choice – with love and support from their parents all the way.

Visit the Facebook & Instagram pages for Winging It With Two Boys to read more.

Sticks & Stones and the Power of Words

Occasionally, I swear in front of my child. My husband hates it. My mum hates it. But I’m a swearer, that’s who I am.

I’m aware there are many parents that think I’m wrong to do this, and occasionally I do feel guilty about dropping an ‘f-bomb’ in ear-shot of the playroom. But after an encounter with a particularly unpleasant grandparent at the local soft play, I realised that the influence of language on young children goes way beyond basic semantics.

When I was flailing about in the ball pool with my daughter, I noticed a little girl who was mid-strop by the entrance. Nothing out of the ordinary, just your run-of-the-mill three year-old tantrum about putting shoes on. Her grandfather, who was overseeing this tantrum, managed to show her which foot goes into what shoe, and escort her out of the play area.

On their way back to their table, when the grandmother asked what all the fuss was about, he said wearily, ‘I’m going to beat her to within an inch of her life.’

Now I’m not one to judge anyone’s parenting techniques, and to save their embarrassment I usually don’t even acknowledge another toddler tantruming, but this comment was enough for me to stop what I was doing and look around at them in absolute horror.

He didn’t swear at her. He wasn’t angry. He said it in a calm, off-the-cuff way, whilst holding his granddaughter’s hand. And judging by the grandmother’s reaction – or lack thereof – this kind of comment was not out of the ordinary for him. The comment didn’t even register, and they all sat there happily eating their lunch.

What alarmed me most was that it was merely a throw-away comment for him. But to his granddaughter, what he said could be life-changing.

To grow up in a world where it’s normal for a man to say he’ll beat you, regardless of whether they actually beat you or not, is normalising brutal and devastating behaviour to an impressionable young child. It’s showing them that language like that is acceptable to hear, and acceptable to say. It tells them that a logical response to frustration is violent action – violence done to other people, or violence done to them. And in this instance, this language is far more damaging than the use of ‘swear words’.

There is a difference between the use of language as an exclamation, and the use of it to denote violent intent, or negative action. What he said to his granddaughter will have a far greater effect on her than my daughter hearing me shout ‘shit-waffle!’ when I can’t open the child lock on the kitchen cupboard.

But this horrible encounter has made me think more carefully about the type of language I use around my daughter, whether it’s swear words or not. You can have a monumental impact on your children without even uttering a swear word at them. Language is powerful, and all words have meaning. Apart from shit-waffle. I’m not sure that one does.

Gok Wan Fashion Brunch Club

Sponsored Post

Lordy, it’s been a looong week. The toddler is staunchly sticking to her ‘sleep is for wimps’ mantra at night, and she’s pushing boundaries and all of my buttons during the day. It’s weeks like this that I’m so grateful to have something to look forward to come Saturday, and this weekend, I’m extra buzzed by what I have planned.

After a mini (and much-needed) pamper-sesh, I’m heading to Gok Wan’s Fashion Brunch Club in at the Country House Hotel, Cardiff.

The one thing I’ve always thought that most fashion events miss is a bloody good brunch. My two loves are finally being united and I get to fill my boots in both respects this weekend. Country House Hotel catered my wedding, so I’m super excited to try their food again. As an added bonus, I’ve always loved Gok and Fashion Fix was a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine for ages. I still live by the mantra ‘zhoosh it up with a statement bag’. Plus he looks like he gives a really nice hug.

A morning of unadulterated fashion, frivolity and fun is just what the doctor ordered after being hit in the face with a Teletubby at least thirty times in the last week. Apparently, the event includes a catwalk show, a ‘dress for your body-type’ talk and a Q&A with Gok – which might be my chance to see if I can prove my theory that he’s a good hugger by asking him at this point. Either that or I’ll be politely escorted out of the building.

If, like me, you’ve had a tiring few weeks and you’re in need of some time away from the kids, this could be just the thing for you. Tickets are available here for Cardiff, Leeds, Worcester, Northumberland, Nottingham & Sheffield.

GUEST BLOG: Amy Powell

I’m thrilled to be able to launch the monthly Musing Mum ‘guest blog’ spot. I’ve been running the blog for nearly six months now and I’ve loved sharing my random ‘mum musings’ with you guys. Ever since launching, I have wanted to eventually use my little nook of the world-wide-web to help new parenting bloggers find their voice. It’s all about mamas supporting mamas in this store, baby!
So without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to gorgeous mama, Amy Powell, the first Musing Mum Guest Blogger.

The Guilt Factor – Amy Powell

How on earth do the Instamum set manage it? Perfect hair and make-up, suitably stylish clothes sans baby puke, children dressed in fresh white linen and a perfectly clean and insta-friendly home. I’m sure there’s witchcraft at play, as I consider myself to be winning if I shower in the morning – usually with at least one child declaring their indignance. Loudly.

I am of the school of thought that life’s too short to live in an immaculate home. Couple that with a severely messy husband and two children and what you have is a perpetual shit-tip. Generally we’re fine with it; it’s a happy and loving home. That doesn’t mean there isn’t always an element of guilt and frustration at the mess though, especially when you can see the opposite every day flicking through Instagram.

And these mums also manage to blog, too. This is the bit that gets me – I have wanted to blog for a long time and am finally finding the courage to go for it. The big technical hitch? Time. How do you find guilt-free writing time? I’m jiggling the baby on my lap whilst typing this with one hand, there’s about a month’s worth of washing up to be done and the laundry pile is threatening to overtake all remaining floor space. And this is during maternity leave. Yikes.

The easy thing would be to not bother; there’s no reason for me to blog other than for my own enjoyment. So it feels like a selfish use of time to sit trying to work out the ins and outs of a website, and frustrating too as I never seem to make any real progress. Frustration feeds the guilt – shouldn’t time with the babies be enough right now? There’ll be plenty of me-time one day and I’m dreading that!

What’s struck me over the past few weeks, though, is how much happier Louis and Phoebe are when I’m happy. Seems pretty obvious but I guess it’s taken me a while to catch on with that one. I’m usually one for lazy days in PJ’s but I don’t find sitting around said shit tip with a velcro baby hampering progress on the chores enjoyable in the least at the moment. Louis has reached an age where he’ll ask whether I’m cross and really up the bad-parent anxiety levels. I know you can’t be smiley all the time, but it’s good to have a little reminder that you might actually being a bit unreasonably crabby.

So in an effort to not sit around the flat feeling glum we have explored new places and enjoyed fab days out instead. While this isn’t helping the mess, we’re all happier and it gets the blog ideas flowing every time. We live in a beautiful part of the country and I want to write about our adventures. This will mean more fun days out for the kids and in all honesty I don’t think they care whether I’m washing up or writing when I get a spare moment, so I can perhaps ease up on the guilt on that front.

So while it feels selfish to want a project of my own I think it’s actually quite important, otherwise it’s literally all nappies, washing, failing at housework and feeling inadequate. The kids definitely benefit from a happier mum with more energy when I’ve had time to focus on something for me, even for ten minutes. We all need something that’s just for us, whether it’s a hot bath – sometimes my butt barely hits the bottom before I have to get out but it can still turn my mood around – or a quick walk around the block when your partner gets in. Do something for you and don’t feel guilty, you’ll all feel the benefit.

Emily’s first Record Store Day

Emily got to partake in her very first Record Store Day today. I’m immensely proud of the great British tradition of independent records stores. Where I grew up in Yorkshire, the coolest place to buy your music was Jumbo Records in Leeds. Then, when I was in Wales during the school holidays, I’d ask my grandparents to take me to Spillers Records in Cardiff. My grandad was a huge musical influence on me. There wasn’t a thing he didn’t know about big band orchestras and swing musicians. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Matt Monroe we’re played constantly. Whenever I hear a band standard, I’m immediately transported back to my childhood.

Because there was always a musical backdrop to my upbringing, I’m keen for Emily to have the same. When I was pregnant – and my hormones were raging – I’d spend hours playing music to the ‘bump’. I became obsessed with the idea that after she was born, she would instantly recognise the soothing sounds of Kat Power, or the Eagles, and be overcome by a wave of serenity. Needless to say, after she born, I was so completely overwhelmed, stressed and way too busy to remember to play her anything most of the time, and when I did try it, it seemed to have little effect!

Now she’s a little older though, she really reacts to music. One of my favourite things to do with her is to jump around the kitchen dancing. She’s obsessed with singing ‘Love is an Open Door’ from Frozen, the struts her stuff to Beyonce and she head-bangs to Courtney Love!

With her newly-acquired interest in music, we headed to Spillers Records today to soak up some of the atmosphere and browse the rows of vinyls. She was so well-behaved! Wide-eyed and taking it all in, she even had a bit of a boogie to the DJ playing on the first floor.

When we got home, we danced again, this time to my new copy of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’, bought on her first Record Store Day visit. It might not have been a song I played to her when she was in the womb, but we’ll certainly dance to this one over and over for a long time to come.

Dude, where’s my drive?

It’s been a strange few days. I’ve lost motivation with my writing and a few blog opportunities that would have been huge for me, have fallen flat. It’s left me feeling really de-motivated. Blogging and writing as your primary occupation can be tough. There’s often little to no pay, you rely solely on your drive and your ability to be self-starting, and on top of that I have a house and a demented toddler to take care of.

I sat in front of my laptop last week and cried. I have always loved writing and for the first time I couldn’t bring myself to touch the keyboard. I just didn’t want to stare at the screen for another second.

The problem with being in a funk when you’re writing is that the more you stress about it, the more of an issue it becomes. I started questioning everything. Why am I doing this? Why the hell did I give up my 9-5? I’m plugging away at this for nothing etc. etc.

The best remedy? I shut the laptop lid and walked away. As hard as it was initially, I tried not to give it a second thought. I started a new TV show (Big Little Lies is, BTW, insanely awesome), and I read. A lot. I hung out with my family and friends and I recharged by brain-batteries, or rather, let them soak in gin to revive them.

Eventually, new ideas and new creative avenues began to open up in my mind, and I began to miss tap-tapping away on my laptop. This morning, after the Easter holiday and a real break from anything work or blog-related, I came back to my desk (in a local café. Their coffee is WAY better than the shite at mine), and felt refreshed and ready to slay some copy and boss some words.

Time away is like a big, sugary spoon of work-funk medicine. Yes, some of my issues are unresolved, but I now feel like I have the brain-power and the determination to face them head-on.

The flat-white has started to kick in. So bring it, I’m ready.

Baby / Blogger Insomnia – A New Online Epidemic For The Digital Age?

Our household is in a bit of a sleep-funk. Emily was always a fantastic sleeper as a baby, she’d generally sleep 12 hours a night all the way until she was nearly 12 months old. Since then, the last six months have been hit and miss. Copious winter viruses and the adjustment to part-time nursery seem to have scared away the Sandman and have punctured our full night’s sleep with endless pacing up and down on the landing corridor.

The last couple of weeks though, have seen us enter a whole new level of insomnia. She hasn’t slept through the night once. Aside from a bit of a runny nose, she’s not sick, she’s happy through the day and she’s eating well. But every night without fail, for almost three weeks now, she’s standing in her cot crying at least once in the middle of the night, and needs to be soothed back to sleep.

She settles to bed without any problems; I put her in her cot as usual around 7pm and she gets herself to sleep without so much as a whine or a whimper. I’ve read about the elusive ‘18 month sleep regression’, but I’ve always just felt that labelling any sleep issues as a ‘sleep regression’ is sometimes a way to help parents justify why their baby inexplicably won’t sleep. And I totally get why, when you’re so tired that you find yourself hunched on the sofa dribbling down your own cleavage at 2pm, you’d want to search for any reason as to why your baby won’t just go the fuck to sleep. I’m almost getting there myself. But I just think some kids are good sleepers, some aren’t, and most go through little phases or experience sleep ‘speed-bumps’ as they grow up. It’s just finally getting to me that these ‘speed bumps’ are turning into nightly catastrophic debris blockades on the road to sleep.

My husband seems to be able to settle her quickly, but whenever I try to do it, she never wants me to put her down. We can be up for hours until she finally settles. This has given me a nifty get out of sleepless jail free-card for the past few weeks, as Daddy seems to do the trick and we can all quickly get back to sleep.

All of my chickens have come home to roost in a major way this week though, as Super-Sleep-Dad is away all week with work. And last night was brutal. I think I managed five hours’ broken sleep after what felt like decades sat in the rocking chair trying to settle a sleep-phobic toddler. What seems to make matters so much worse is that even when I do finally settle her back down, I’m so wired and awake, that it takes me around another hour to finally get back to sleep. When your wake-up time with a toddler is inevitably before 7am, that leaves very little time for restorative sleep. In fact, that’s barely time for a disco-nap or even 40 winks.

I have laid in bed for hours before giving in to temptation and checking my phone out of sheer boredom. When your active mind won’t shut down you can’t help but be curious about the strangest things that pop into your head. My most recent 3am Google searches have included:

  • How can I make my eyelashes grow faster?
  • Why is my dishwasher making so much noise?
  • How to fold a fitted bedsheet
  • Bloom married?
  • What is a baby cheetah called?
  • Alexander Skarsgard shirtless pics

And when you’re a blogger who has a major narcissistic social media obsession, the temptation to while away hours on your phone, or even the iPad or laptop, is often just too great. Sometimes I find myself thinking, ‘I wonder if anyone has unfollowed me on Instagram since I went to bed? I’ll just quickly check the app’, or ‘I wonder if I could just quickly photoshop my crows-feet out of that picture of me I want to post tomorrow…’. Before I know it, I have spent 45 minutes writing a post on the notes app on my phone, about something that could only be written by a victim of sleep torture, like ‘why my baby reminds me of Baby Sinclair from the 90s Show ‘Dinosaurs’’. Needless to say, none of these posts have been remotely coherent in the cold light of day, and have only cut-short my valuable sleep time.

Given how many parent bloggers there are out there, surely this inability to literally ‘switch-off’ after settling the baby must be a common phenomenon? I can’t be the only person that insta-stalks a mum-crush at 2.30am whilst simultaneously co-ordinating a blog site re-design when I should be trying to get back to sleep? Does anyone else experience this?

I’m trying to make a promise to myself that after settling the baby tonight if / when she wakes, I’ll leave my phone in the hallway so that I don’t feel the temptation to scroll through social media when I can’t get back to sleep. Given how shockingly tired I am today, I’m going to have to try to stick to this promise so that I don’t look like an extra in The Walking Dead tomorrow. I’m literally amazed that I got through this post without falling aslee…………….

My Daily Dose of Reality Courtesy of My Toddler

You can always rely on your toddler to keep it real and tell you exactly how it is. Recently, Emily has been fascinated by watching me put on make-up. This is a fascination that hasn’t in the least been dampened by the fact she once bit off a chunk of lipstick and spat it out with a grimace.

The other day, I finished up with the final touches of mascara, turned to her and said, ‘what do you think?’. Emily, in all her 17 month-old glory and with a limited vocabulary of just a few words, glanced at me for a few seconds before saying, ‘more’.

Looks like the under-eye bags and crows-feet have not escaped her notice. Tough love, kid. Tough love.