Now I’ve got your attention…
and don’t teenage girls know it. Mother and step mum to five girls I see tits displayed over Facebook and Instagram (not theirs – they know I’m looking) like a badge of misplaced honour. Friends ‘like’ and comment ‘so beautiful’, while I’m bumping into their mothers in the supermarket in a moral dilemma: do I mention the fact that your daughter’s tits are currently gathering ‘likes’ on Instagram faster than holes in tights. How do I approach the subject: now I’m in no way, shape or form criticising you, your daughter, nor her beautiful tits, but while I can safely admire that she is growing into a lovely young lady, so can all the stalking 55 year old perverts, who are slathering over them as we are choosing our veg.

I don’t consider myself to be easily shocked and I certainly don’t want to be that person who tuts and says: it’s all changed since I was young, because historically girls have always got their tits out – look at the Tudors and their heaving, corseted bosoms. The difference is that with social media, it’s not just Henry the eighth who got to lust, it’s friends, friends’ dads, their teachers, their prospective employees, old Uncles and all and it really bothers me.

Now I’m no prude, but I am a great believer in more is less: more clothes (and I’m not talking a nun’s habit) means less unwanted attention – because at the end of the day, the message us parents want to get across, is it isn’t your tits that define you as a woman, however bloody amazing they are, they are just one part and if your tits are stealing the show, then the rest of you sure is missing out on a whole lot of ‘likes’.

Teenagers are Cute

Bear with me – I know this sounds really schmaltzy and that isn’t usually my style. However, it suddenly struck me how cute teenagers can be and how this is a word so rarely used to describe them, except in a sleazy sexual context. We don’t think anything of attributing the word ‘cute’ to a photo of a baby, or to something sweet that a toddler does, but not to describe the teens. 

Obviously there are various reasons for this: 

  1. No teenager on this planet wants to be called ‘cute’.
  2. They are quite often not cute: they are selfish and rude and oblivious to others and so we tend to forget the cute bits.

So, in an attempt to readdress the balance, here are some genuinely cute things that teenagers do (and by ‘cute’ I don’t mean all the kind and helpful things that teenagers are, occasionally, capable of):

Teenage boys actually ‘do’ their hair. They actually get up in the morning and style it. This is cute.

Teenage girls buy cheap dress after cheap jumper after cheap shorts on ASOS. They wear them on holiday with you and you spend the whole holiday thinking how cheap their clothes look, but they have bought them themselves and this is cute.

When they babysit for other people’s kids, they genuinely care about the children they are looking after. They read them bedtime stories and tell you about it when they get in at midnight. This is cute. 

They still want Father Christmas to visit. This is cute – but obviously the motive behind their cuteness is getting more presents. 

They still like having sleepovers with their sisters. This is cute – especially when they top and tail. 

They plait each other’s hair. Cute. 

They will look out for each other and give reassuring hugs. This is cute, especially when siblings do it, because you then know that, deep down, they actually do love each other. 

Their awkwardness in social situations is cute. 

They love spending time with their grandparents, especially shopping. This is cute because it simply melts the generation gap and has huge benefits for both. 

Their relationship with their pets is cute – their genuine love for them (which doesn’t mean they will poo pick in the garden, because they don’t find that part of having dogs cute).

There are many, many more examples of teenage cuteness: please add 😃

Great Expectations

Dog 1 is lying with his head right on dog 2’s balls and it got me thinking just how different dogs are to humans and then I was thinking how different, different types of dogs are, which led on to me thinking about how different, different dog owners are and how the sort of dog you have seems to affect the sort of dog owner you are and vice versa ( imagine just how exhausting it is living with me). 

Partner and I are both new to dogs, so we feel like the new parents, where how you react to bad behaviour is judged, the state of their coats is judged, the food you give them is judged. In fact, the puppy manual we had, reminded me of: The Contented Little Baby book – after a few days I wanted to chuck it out the window (sorry Gina) and follow my gut. Which worked on the girls, but I’m not sure it’s always working with the dogs. 

Partner and I have observed that it is sheepdog owners who are the most judgemental. This is probably because their dogs are so incredibly well trained and ours, well, aren’t. When dog 1 or dog 2 bound over to the sheep dog, the owner tells it to ‘sit’. This is the equivalent of refusing to let your child go on a play date with mine. You immediately feel judged. Why don’t you want my dogs to play with yours. Do you think they will be a bad influence? Dogs 1 and 2 react to this rejection by circling the beautifully behaved dog, seemingly taunting it with jeers of: you’re not allowed to play! Sheep dog owner then crosses his or her arms. Dog 1 responds to this sense of humour failure by jumping up and barking: let him play, let him play! By which time, I’ve told partner to run over with treats and sheep dog owner stomps off, muttering what awful parents we are. Partner and I are left looking at our gorgeous, happy dogs, now sitting perfectly in front of us, wondering if we are bad parents. 

Of course, it all comes down to expectation. Partner and I need to raise our expectations of our dogs. I look back down at them. Dog 1 has removed his head from dog 2’s balls, but by way of a thank you, dog 2 is now licking dog 1’s nob. I always had high expectations of the girls, but dogs really are so different. 

Dear daughters, Please give me back enough head space for me to remember your names

I find that the hardest thing, above all else, about having kids, is the lack of head space they leave you with. For me, this comes above the money they cost and the heartache they cause. They are human white noise, that as well as playing in the kitchen, the sitting room and the bedroom, it carries on playing in the toilet.

It doesn’t get any better when they get older. They still shout: mum, where are you? This is just seconds after you’ve darted into the loo, to try to get a moment on your own to gather your thoughts. If you don’t answer them, they text you and if you ignore the text, then they’ll ring. ‘I’m in the bloody loo, trying to escape the incessant drone’, you want to scream. ‘I’m not even having a crap. I’m just sitting here, on a half comfy seat, staring at the lino and trying to clear my head.’

Sometimes, your head feels as if it is literally going to explode. In fact, it does explode and out of your mouth comes a whole day’s worth of white noise frustration. It’s like a banshee wailing. Words come out that make no sense, so it does absolutely nothing to improve the situation: you lot are driving me…uuuurrrrggghhhh…I’m just so…grrrrrr….it makes me feel really…angreeeeeee…and the kids all stop what they are all trying to tell you at once for exactly 5 seconds, wondering what the hell you are going on about, which would give you 5 seconds of head space, but you are now filling that 5 seconds with your own screams.

When my kids were all much younger, I devised a plan. I would always strap them into their car seats 10 minutes before we had to leave to go anywhere. I would leave them each with a book or a toy and scarper back into the house, where I would get my shit together, both mentally and literally ie all the paraphernalia that was required for the day. This plan only worked because I had a driveway, but it was my only way of staying sane. Even now, I try to follow the same plan. However, after 10 years they are wise to it and resist. No longer able to strap them in, I am thwarted.

This human white noise also accompanies me to supermarkets. When the girls were little, I could shove them in the trolley and if they were pissing me off, I could leave them at the end of the aisle I was in. Nowadays it is pure hell supermarket shopping with teenagers. Their incessant dialogue of what they feel is missing from our cupboards, makes focusing on the weekly shop impossible. If a toddler throws a tantrum in a shop, people either try to ignore it, or give you looks of sympathy. When a teenager tantrums because you won’t buy her the latest type of superfood to have been discovered in South America, people look at you as if you are both freaks. It is literally exhausting. I leave the shop with half of what I had intended to get still on the shelves and an armful (because we always forget the bloody bags: see blog: Crackerjack!!) of two extremes: organic goji berries for some godforsaken recipe from google that daughter 1 wants to create and mars bar cookies, because they were reduced to 10p.

The three most annoying things about the human white noise, are firstly, it results in nobody in the house being called by the correct name. Invariably, the girls are called by a sort of hybrid of all their names, until I reach the correct one and partner has gone by Fatcat’s name, on a couple of occasions. I frequently have entire conversations with the wrong daughter, because I have started the conversation with another daughter’s name. Secondly, that it turns me into a teenager myself: all I end up hearing is: bla, bla, bla. This frequently leads me to miss out on some really quite vital information, such as where they are going to be staying for the weekend and I then spend the weekend wondering where they are and sending text messages that aren’t directly asking: whose house is it you’re at, because then they will know that I wasn’t listening. Thirdly, when the human white noise isn’t there, I miss it and that irritates me much more than the noise itself.

The Pelvic Floor

The Wednesday morning Ladies’ Taekwon-do class is always a good craic. There is just something about getting a group of women together that generates a good laugh. Nuns must have a cracking time, although the lack of sex may be a deal-breaker. 

Today, we got into the subject of pelvic floors. Partner, as the only male in the room, looked queasy. This only served to fuel our fun. If there’s one thing women are good at, it’s telling a ‘one time…’ story: one time my friend pissed herself during an exercise class, one time I pissed myself during an exercise class…can that be topped by anyone…one time…yes it can – when I was working at a leisure centre, the manager told me that after the over 60’s Aqua aerobics class they have to double the chlorine levels. There is very little content of ‘one time’ stories that is too graphic for a group of women. I discovered this when I ran a toddler group with my sister. There is nothing I now don’t know about a traumatic birth. I wasn’t squeamish until I ran that toddler group. The NCT classes had me believe that birth happened in soft focus and a huff and a puff and you blow your baby out. Nothing prepared me for what I was to learn in that church hall: horror upon horror was regaled to me with graphic imagery, with no consideration whatsoever of what level of detail would be publicly acceptable. No, these conversations were woman to woman and I very quickly realised that anything goes. 

Back in the class this morning, I asked the ladies to make a block: your reaction hand must be in front of your chest, I told them. Harassed mum’s arm was a little low: you’re not 80, I said with a grin. That set us off: arm up too high, you are obviously wearing a wonder bra, arm in the correct position you are obviously wearing a good sports bra, arm too low, you’ve bought your bra at Primark. Partner is shaking his head: give me the three year olds to teach any day, he groans.

Age is…


The Cursory Wipe

Ok, so hands up and admit it – who else lives with: The Cursory Wipe? Come on, it can’t just be me…is it? Sitting on the loo, you glance around the bathroom and spot some grime on the tiles in front of you. Pee done and you give the tiles a cursory wipe. Kids off to school in the morning, packed lunches made, you give the kitchen a cursory wipe. Into the conservatory to water the dead cyclamen that was reduced to 89p because it was dead, but you thought you could save it anyway and you spot the dust on the top of the sofa – you give it, yes, you guessed it – the cursory wipe. This makes my cleaning skills extremely superficial. Half term is now over, a time when I could have made more of an effort to clean, but the kitchen cupboards finished me off early on in the week and now it is Wednesday and we’re well into another term of cursory wiping. 

Now I wouldn’t accept this half hearted attempt at cleaning when daughters do their chores. I run my finger across surfaces and peer into the showers as if I am the Queen Bee of cleaning, but somehow I myself manage to get away with the CW. 

I blame my lack of attention to detail on my early forays into cleaning with number 1 friend, when we momentarily worked for a cleaning agency to supplement student grants. On a 3 hour job, we had an agreement with each other, that we would go in and do an hour’s cleaning and on the dot of 60 minutes the kettle would go on and we’d raid the client’s cupboard for food. This worked like a dream and so set my standards at a fairly low level for future life. 

The bottom line is, that the CW actually works. If the house is fairly tidy, if the weekend papers have been folded, if the shoes have been shoved in cubbyholes and if there are a couple of vases of fresh flowers sitting about, then you get away with it. Add a candle and/or a room diffuser into the mix and you are laughing. 

So go on, be honest. Put your hands up and say, without fear of repercussions: I admit to being a slave to the cursory wipe.

Summer Lovin’

I didn’t have a hope in hell of being healthy this week. Yesterday was an inset day. Daughter 1 had friends around to bake. I love the fact that she is 16 and doesn’t have friends around to have orgies and take drugs, so I actively encouraged it. My only stipulation was that she used up the bananas that have been rotting in the fruit bowl for two weeks. She had ticked that box before her friends arrived and produced a loaf of banana bread. Hot and delicious straight out of the oven, partner and I couldn’t resist. Over half was gone by lunch time. No problem, as her friends arrived and spent the afternoon baking marshmallow cookies and ice cream cake. That was still only Monday. On Wednesday it is daughter 3’s birthday. She has requested a salted caramel cake, pain au chocolats for breakfast and Dominoes for tea. I am going to buy her cake this year. I didn’t feel guilty until I was flicking through last years’ photos and saw that I had created a cricket pitch, complete with stumps. I can’t remember what had possessed me. Daughter 1 reminds me of the year that we ate all her birthday cake, without her having had any. I am reminded of this regularly and I have no defence – I just like cake. On Thursday it is number 1 friend’s birthday and tradition has it that we have cake in the office. On Friday it is step daughter’s 21st. She isn’t actually going to be here, but just imagine if she was! 

We have summer bodies and winter bodies, partner remarked, helpfully, as I was expressing my worries to him about our week of excess, and Summer is months away, he continued, reassuringly. 

We had to go to Homebase to buy a new loo brush (see blog: Loo Brush) Men in fluorescent jackets were building a display, on top of which was perched a deckchair. It must be in the sale, I said excitedly to partner, as I had wanted one last summer. I’ll ask how much it is. This is the Summer display, the man told me cheerily, we’ve got 24 hours to build it. 24 hours, I repeated to partner. Summer is coming sooner than we thought. 

The Best Things About Having Daughters

When I was pregnant with number 4, so many people said to me: trying for a boy were you? I would smile and shake my head, as the true response wasn’t what they would have been expecting and would have taken too long: no, actually I have just got back from the World Championships and I was feeling the need for another challenge, as the next Worlds isn’t for two years. I looked into Iron Man, but it’s really hard to fit in all that training with 3 kids under 4, so I suggested to my husband that we try for another baby and we were so incredibly lucky that I fell pregnant and we are really excited about the probability – well over 80% – of it being another girl. Partly because we have a shed load of girls’ clothes and mainly because I can wipe a girl’s bum really well now and find boy’s bits trickier to whizz around with a baby wipe.

And another girl she was and still is. So, for all those people who presumed that my husband and I would have wanted a boy, here’s why having daughters rocks!

  1. You can share tampax when you are out and about and get caught out (well, not literally share)
  2. You can watch rugby with them and comment on the players’ bodies, as well as their fantastic ball skills
  3. You can put bunting everywhere (I LOVE bunting)
  4. You can share pants (this isn’t strictly true, but I have put it in because daughter 2 has just bought 5 pairs of pants from ‘PINK’ and I want them
  5. You can drop hints that you want 5 pairs of PINK pants for Mother’s Day
  6. You get bought body butter for Mother’s Day…birthdays, Christmas…
  7. They share your body butter (this is listed as a good thing because I now have so much of it, my only storage option is sharing)
  8. You can share clothes (but see previous blog: Feeling Young Again, for pitfalls)
  9. You can ask their advice after you have asked partner’s advice, on what you look like. This is because teenage girls cannot hide their disgust, whereas partner will lie to get me out the door
  10. You can consult them on what partner looks like, when it’s time for him to get a haircut and he thinks there is at least two weeks of growing time left. Their looks of disgust usually prompt action. Ditto trimming his beard
  11. They bake a lot of cakes and granola and dinner when I leave out a note saying: before you start your homework/GCSE revision/A level project, please can you cook a spag bol, love Mum xxxxxx ps walk the dogs, feed the cats and record a programme at 9pm BBC4 (I cannot fathom how to record)
  12. You can rely on them to understand why you had to spend £10 on a moisturiser, when partner is exclaiming: how much?!, as they know that being a female is not cheap.
  13. You can watch as they grow into mini me’s and listen to number 1 friend telling them stories of what I got up to at their age and worrying at the thought that they may do similar things

So yes, for these reasons and many more, having daughters rocks! Step son was too old to be my boy guinea pig when he lived with us and as he traumatised me with maggots (see blog: If Maggots don’t get you, the Alcohol will), I will reserve judgement on whether having a son rocks – you tell me.


MHM Sisters