Married to Feminism? 

I’m watching the Royal Wedding and feeling a bit conflicted. 

Whilst I love a wedding, and all the traditional touches, there are a few parts that, these days, make me feel really uncomfortable. As I’ve got older and my feminist awareness and opinions have grown I’m now looking at everything with a new lens – one of equality. 

Do the traditions allow us to treat the Bride and Groom as equals? As I just heard the words ‘man and wife’ for the umpteenth time, I rolled my eyes and thought ‘fuck this shit!’  

I find myself confused about what I would do if I were planning a wedding today – would I make the same choices as I did 10 years ago?

More and more people are ditching traditions to make weddings more personal. I saw this during my days as a wedding photographer. It’s lovely and it makes your wedding YOUR wedding. I did the same, and at the time I thought my wedding was perfect. I still think that. And yet…. let’s just add that equality lens. 

Starting with the Bride’s entrance – all eyes are on the Bride, she looks beautiful, she feels special, she smiles and takes it all in. She enjoys feeling beautiful and people recognising how lovely she looks. But hang on… 

The Groom doesn’t make that same entrance – he waits at the front, and he sees everyone in advance. This tradition of having the Bride arrive last, builds up an expectation, that the Bride has an extra role – to be seen – to look her best – to make ‘an entrance’. 

We keep our dresses secret so it’s a surprise. Often we do our hair differently than we would ever normally wear it.

As guests, we lap it up. “Doesn’t she look beautiful, what a gorgeous dress.” 

And as a Bride myself, I wanted that – I wanted to look beautiful. The preparation was not just what I’d wear, but weeks of extra attention on looking after my skin, trying to lose weight, getting new make up. Because if all eyes are on me, I must look my best. Because how you look on your wedding day is one of the most important aspects of planning it. We are taught this through experience of attending other weddings. And in life – how women look is always important. 

My husband didn’t do any of that preparation. I doubt he thought much about it all. He got a nice suit and had a hair cut, like he would for any event – he dressed appropriately. He looked nice, but not that different. He looked like the man I spend every day with. He just farted less. Well, we both did – farts are equal too! 

Next is the tradition of the father of the Bride walking her down the aisle. I’ve been to many weddings where it’s mum rather than dad for whatever reason. In fact I nearly did the same. But in the end, I asked my shy, Step-dad to walk me, because I knew it would mean a lot to him to be recognised as my father – which he is. 

So, let’s just check… does anyone escort the groom down the aisle? Of course not, because… I know you can see it coming:
Who gives this woman to this man?”.

OK what the actual fuck?? Why are we still doing this? I did it myself. But now, instead of thinking of it as a gesture to show my dad how much I love him, I’m annoyed that I was ‘given’. Clearly I wasn’t – I made that choice. 

No-one was expected to ‘give’ my husband to me. We just chose to be together. Equally. We chose to be a family. 

And then to the reception and the speeches – probably the most obvious one that many people are already pushing against the traditions. 

Traditionally speeches are by The Men. I’ve always been delighted to see a Bride make a speech, although I didn’t do it myself. I’m still not sure why. 

People now ask a Best Friend, rather than a Best Man, and a Parent of the Bride, rather than always the Father. And yet, I’ve not so far seen a Parent of the Groom take up the equal opportunity. 

And so, even after writing this (I write to help me think) I find myself still conflicted. Is that because I regret decisions I made at my own wedding? Nope – the problem is, despite my strong opinions, if I had to do it all over again, I would do exactly the same again. I’m conflicted because it turns out that my feminism has boundaries. 

And I’m really fucking annoyed with myself for that!!
#feminism #equality #wedding #royalwedding

Getting Organised?

This time last year I was super organised for once in my life and bought photo Fathers’ Day cards well in advance. I put them somewhere safe – so safe I completely lost them, and in doing so also completely lost my shit!

Six months later, I had a Tidy Freak day. The kind of tidying that only happens when levels of untidy get SO bad that you feel you may lose an actually family member in the mess. And guess what turned up?

I found the place I had classed as ‘safe’ – a box with a lid, that I bought to store (hide) the pile-of-crap-I-keep-for-some-reason, like stuff your kids make but you don’t want to put on the walls because essentially it’s just a scribble on a piece of paper, but you can’t throw it in the bin… just yet. It usually forms an ever-growing pile on our table, but instead I was going to remove it to a less visible location, upstairs, and in a box. Hence making me more Tidy and Organised. Yay me.

Rewind to last June… I had brought the box home and placed the box at the bottom of the stairs while I sorted out other shopping, intending to take it up on my next trip. I then added other stuff-to-put-away-when-I-go-upstairs items, for ease of carrying.

But I assume that instead of taking it up on my next trip and immediately tidying the various items, I probably left it a while, and just walked passed it a few times, but kept adding more items, making the box a transportation device, departing for the Land of Upstairs – a destination that’s only 13 steps away, but apparently a journey worth putting off a while.

I also assume that I eventually forgot that it contained many items of stuff-to-put-away-when-I-go-upstairs, thought it just contained the pile-of-crap-I-keep-for-some-reason an smugly tidied the whole box into a cupboard, hence achieving my original Tidy and Organised goal.

Learning point: I have great tidy intentions, but poor organisational execution. Must work on that.

Anyway I had the cards in my hands again, and decided that I could :

  1. Use them now (November) and laugh heartily with my dad and husband about how daft I’d been. “Better late that never… ha ha ha!” *sigh*
  2. Bin them, in shame of how fucking daft I’d been
  3. Make a second attempt to keep them in a safe place until Fathers’ Day 2017. I’m Unbalanced, but I’m also optimistic.

I chose 3, and this time, I only sodding managed it! I cleared out a whole draw and dedicated it to cards, wrapping paper and gift tags. And that’s where the cards have lived until this morning.

Shit. I think I am officially an Organised Person. Seriously, someone needs to give me a sticker.

Here’s the blog I wrote on the day I lost them – Ah such a happy memory!!: https://unbalanced-woman.com/2016/12/30/organised-disorganised-or-unbalanced/

I didn’t know (poem)

I didn’t know when I was a child,

what it meant to be a mum.
I didn’t count how many times
you wiped my shitty bum.

I never asked just how it felt
to be deprived of sleep.
I didn’t think my hungry cries
would make your nipples weep.

I didn’t know hard it was
to feed me through the night,
And never get a moments peace
to even have a shite.

I didn’t realise when I learned
to crawl and walk and speak,
That your knees and back and patience
would soon be up shit creek.

I didn’t know the sacrifices
a mum makes for their child
I didn’t see the work it takes
to stop us going wild.

I didn’t know the heights of stress
kids put their mothers through.
I never checked the effect
my selfish actions had on you.

I didn’t know my happiness
was always your priority.
I didn’t know how much kids take
their toll on mum’s sobriety.

It took a while for me to see
that you were more than ‘Mum’,
My feisty female role model,
like I hoped I could become.

Now that I’m a mother
in a family of my own.
I feel the power of loving your kid
with every frigging bone.

And some days it’s ok to think
your kid’s a little shit,
I’m sure you had those thoughts of me,
when I look back on it.

Now I can appreciate
the crap I put you through.
I can marvel at the lengths you went
to make my dreams come true.

Now I know just how much help
my Granny must have been.
Now I’m a mum, I need you
as the Granny on my team.

Now it’s my turn to sing your songs
to a gorgeous child that’s mine
But you should know
‘You are (and always will be) my sunshine’.

i didnt know 2

#mothersday #poemsformums

I am THAT parent

Muttering every sodding swear word under the fucking sun. 

Today I am THAT parent. The one who totally forgot that it was non-twatting-uniform day and took their kid to school in their twatting uniform. 

I bet the look of horror on both our faces when we arrived in the playground was comedy for others. Followed by “Muuuuuuuuuuuu-uuuum!!!”  

Panic run. Panic phone call. Panic clothes exchange. Panic sprint back to classroom. Quick change in the toilets. 

Out of breath and very thankful that my mum was at my house. 

Red Nose Day. Red Face Day. #nontwattinguniformday

Nothing to do

I regularly look around my house and think of a thousand things I will finally get round to doing if I ever get a weekend with no plans – because weekends are always full of kids’ parties, or a special shopping expedition, or a hangover. 

I just don’t have time to….

 – make that trip to the charity shop with the bags of clothes that have been in the boot of my car for weeks

 – creep into the pig sty that my son calls his bedroom with a massive bin bag, like a reverse Father Christmas 

 – deal with that pile of papers that I should ‘file’ in some sensible folder like my mum says she does 

 – fix that skirting board in the kitchen that fell off six months ago

 – get in the garden and pull up all the dead plants that have been rotting there since last summer. 

Now I actually have a free weekend, and guess what…. I don’t want to do any of those things. And no one can sodding make me. 

I’m going to do nothing

I’m going to achieve nothing

and it’s going to be fucking brilliant.

#balance

Pair-enting

It seems that in most households where there are two parents, there’s one who does the lion’s share of parenting*. For some this is by choice, and for others it’s through circumstance because the other spends more hours at work. It’s physically possible for one of them to be with the children more than the other. But alongside that physical ability comes a mental responsibility, and it’s that part that is exhausting.

Let me give you an example – taking kids to school. The act of moving a child from Location A to Location B. Easy. Just like a taxi service. But hang on, there are a few other elements to build in, because the person who regularly carries out that task of Taxi Parent also takes the responsibility for knowing everything else about school:

  • The Taxi Parent checks if they have homework, reading, a project, a spelling test
  • They read the notes put in their bag, remember they need to take in money for a trip, for some charity day, for lunch
  • They are the person who makes sure they have the right clothes ready – their uniform is washed, new gym shorts bought, coat and wellies actually come home
  • They make sure the child turns up in a costume or non-uniform clothes on celebration days, and on class photo day they dig out the whitest shirt, comb their child’s hair and perhaps clean their shoes.

And so on. And fucking so on.

AND they also become the person who gets to know the other parents; plans time to get the children together outside school; organises helping each other out so one of you can go to an appointment or a meeting that clashes with the school run. The Taxi Parent becomes part of the life saving network we need to call on from time to time, or every Wednesday. They help each other out when one forgets the £1 for a red nose, or that a costume is required TOMORROW and they offer to lend you stripy tights or a magicians hat (they are luckily not using that day).

The other parent, who goes to work very early and comes home very late, probably doesn’t even ponder on these things for a second. Even on the odd occasion they take their child to school, would still ask the Taxi Parent if the child has everything they need because ‘you just know these things’. Because you usually do that parenting task, it is therefore assumed your responsibility even when you’re not there. You’re just temporarily delegating the delivery.

But here’s a really crazy idea. What if it wasn’t? What if the preparation of tasks wasn’t invisibly tied to the delivery of tasks. What if, we could split the responsibility for each task in two?  Let’s try some non-parenting examples first….

  • A pilot flies the plane, but doesn’t build the plane, plan who sits where, or serve snacks to the passengers.
  • The waiter who serves the meal in a posh restaurant didn’t cook the meal – and actually the chef who did cook it, probably didn’t peel all the potatoes.
  • The rock star who sings the song doesn’t necessarily write it and play every instrument.

There are teams of people and they work together.

Sometimes the rock star does write the song, because they want to, they can do, and that’s their choice. That’s wonderful.

So can we apply that to pair-enting? It might be possible….

  • The parent who puts dinner on the table could be supported by another who plans the meals, does the shopping, or even prepares and freezes a meal at the weekend.
  • The parent who dresses the child could be supported by another who puts a wash on, or empties the washer or perhaps irons some clothes.
  • The parent who bathes the child could be supported by another who cleans the bathroom (or organises a cleaner if you can afford it)
  • The parent who makes sure homework is completed could be supported by the person who talks to their child about their homework topic of Romans or practices spellings while on a car journey.
  • The parent who got up early with the kids on Saturday to take them to a sports activity, could be supported by another who gets up with the kids the on a Sunday and gives them an extra hour sleep or a bedside brew.

I know not all of these work for every couple or family, we’re all different. Single parents, I fucking salute you if you carry all this on your own. But are there maybe other ways we can ask each other, friends and extended family to help us with the supporting roles?

Sometimes the parent who takes on the responsibility for tasks doesn’t even think to ask for help from the other, who therefore don’t know it’s a problem until they are sobbing by the washing machine screaming that they just can’t do any more sodding washing – I have definitely been guilty of that in the past – “but he might do it wrong and shrink something!”. Yep, he might. But so might I – actually there’s no ‘might’ about it, I’ve ruined loads of clothes over the years. We learn from experience, and so will our partners.

We can spread the load, we can be part of a team. We might even learn to trust each other – given lots of time and a few mistakes made on the way – but wouldn’t that be worth it?

  • I’ll pack the clothes in the suitcase, you make sure we have all the toiletries.
  • I’ll buy him new swimming shorts, you take him swimming at the weekend.
  • I’ll buy the birthday present, look up directions to the party venue and make sure there’s petrol in the car, and you can take her to the party.

Pair-enting is a gift we can give to each other. Our kids see everyone being part of a team, and of course as soon as they are old enough they can do their own bloody washing. Then hopefully they’ll grow up to create families of their own where pair-enting is just, well normal.

*I’ve not done any scientific research, I’m too lazy. These are just my own observations, and you should absolutely feel free to think I’m talking out of my bottom. Or share your own blog with actual evidence that proves me wrong.

A biased review

Do you mind if I go a bit off piste today and instead of talking about me and my Unbalanced life, talk about a band that I went to see this weekend? I know that’s unusual. I’m certainly no music reviewer or expert. If I tell you that this band is really rather good and you may want to have a listen, you should know that I am completely, utterly biased.

I’ll tell you why… you see that ginger guitar player on the left…? Well I’ve had him! More than once. In fact, he’s my husband and father of my ginger child.

So here’s the background story. When I met my husband I was already 32 and pretty sure of who I was and who I wanted to be with. Compromises were now unacceptable (little did I know how many compromises you actually have to make when you are married with kids – but that’s another story). I was upfront and laid down two important rules:

  1. I will ALWAYS have a cat. I am crazy cat lady and you’ll have to live with cats forever
  2. I am not cool when it comes to music, I’m a pop monkey, and you will have to live with that too

You see, Ste is pretty cool (by comparison). He plays guitar in a band, all his friends are in bands, or write songs, or at least love listening to ‘proper’ music. They discuss bands I’ve never heard of – how ‘dirty’ the sound of guitars are, and compare the features of hundreds of pedals and amps in depth, while I gaze on remembering how this morning I was dancing round my kitchen to Katy Perry (with my cat) and looking forward to going to see Take That in the summer.

I could pretend to like the same music, and be more cool, but I’m just not. I watch the X factor style TV programmes they slate as commercial shite, and when I sing along to Ed Sheeran on the radio, I don’t even know it’s Ed Sheeran at first, it’s just a song I like. I am the opposite of a musical snob – I actually have no idea what is cool and what is not. I just like what I like. Fuck the judgement.

Anyway, last year, Ste joined a new band with a weird name, ‘Control of the Going’, and a weird sound. They play ‘Psychedelic Rock and Roll’. I had no idea what that was, and at first when I listened to him play I quoted my grandma, and Alan Partridge, “That was just noise.”

Clearly I was not their target audience, and that’s lucky, because it turns out there are a growing crowd of people who do like Psychedelic Rock and Roll – enough for them to start getting radio plays and now a record deal. A chuffing record deal!! They have released their first single today, and start recording their album next week. I may soon be married to an actual Rock Star!

Even better than that for me – because it’s still a bit about me! – now I really like them. I promise I’m not just pretending to because they’re getting a bit of success! You can tell from what I said earlier that I am honest about these things. It turns out that I do actually like psychedelic, dirty guitars when there’s a tune I can sing along to over the top. Gary Barlow could perhaps build that idea into Take That’s next album.

So here’s the shameful plug… Do you fancy having a listen?

Visit Control of the Going on Facebook  or Twitter as @COTG_

You can listen to their new single ‘She’ for free on soundcloud (just click to play) or on Spotify,or you can buy their single on vinyl – because that’s what the kids are doing again these days.

And here’s a review of the single launch – where Ste gets a special mention.

Alright yes, I’m really fucking proud of him. I warned you I was biased. The rest of the band are bloody brilliant too.

Have a listen, like their Facebook page, spread the word if you can, maybe even go and see them when they tour!

Perhaps I’m widening my musical taste and getting slightly more cool than I used to be, (even though I say ‘cool’ which is probably not cool either). At least I will always have a cat or two though.

Being married to a rock star wont change me!