Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

How do you teach a woman to feel like a woman?

Today I had a meeting with a nurse, who also works in CBT - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It's a interesting technique. Rather than traditional therapy - which I do too :-/ In which it is very much one-sided, you talk, they listen and on occasion they will interject with perhaps links or common themes, often to do with family relationships. CBT is more proactive, you talk together about problems or worries or behavior that you have and the therapist will set you tasks which help you do to understand that behavior and be able to come to terms with it, live with it and which allows you to progress.

So through meetings with my therapist (who is a man... an interesting, but sometimes difficult aspect of our work together) and my shrink (who prescribes my medication and helps me to look at how I want to progress) ALL FREE - FRENCH HEALTHCARE ROCKS!!! We decided that maybe there was room for me to look at the specific issues I have with gender roles, masculinity, femininity, sexuality, confidence and self worth. It's the topic that I have avoided for over ten years. It's not easy to write, think or talk about, as she said to me today, I can see that this touches you in your core, this is the deepest pain as I sat there unable to actually verbalise anything. I just sat there with tears dripping down my face. The issue of being a woman, and what that means is a complete blackhole to me, to try to describe who we are or who I am and where our place is in society, my head goes blank, and I feel like I am swimming through pixalated dots not being able to string together and form a complete being.

The things I don't understand about femininity and women come from painful traumatic experiences, come from broken relationships, come from adolescence, come from depression, come from my mothers relationship with herself, with my lack of females in my extended family, come from porn, come from feminism, come from anger, come from shame, come from lack of self worth, come from no confidence...come from men...But I want to understand why and where these things come from.

When my daughter the other day turned round to me at the age of ten and said... "I don't think I am pretty" a part of me died... How could this be? Can she see within me and know how insecure I am? I have tried everything to show her inner confidence, put myself in bathing suits even though inside I am cringing, walk around naked and being ok with it... So why does she not feel pretty? And what can I do about it???

What does being pretty mean? And is it important?
This is something that I will work on, and want to, something that doesn't have the same conclusions here in France as it does in the UK. That doesn't have the same meaning now in such a hyper appearance based, social media led society, than it did for me growing up in the 90's, or my Mum in the 60's or my Grandma in the 30's.
In the UK we tend to be more accepting of individuality, we have that come as you are, be as you want mentality, which is something that I love. In France beauty and appearance are much more formulated, you groom yourself in a demure, classic French look - something I also LOVE and admire. So where does my poor daughter feature in all this, what should I be teaching her?
I remember asking a friend when my daughter was about 5 and wanted to put nail varnish on, was this ok? Should I let her? Should I not be telling her to be happy in her natural beauty? And my friend was like YES, it's just dress up, like make up, if it makes her feel good, then why not. You see this is where I come unstuck, I have been brought up to believe that make up as well as all the rest of grooming is society putting pressures on me to conform - to 'be beautiful' and what I should be fighting for is not to be judged by my beauty but by my brains. Natural is best (I know most men prefer their partners without make up anyway) SO WHY SHOULD I BOTHER? and this - even from one meeting today has made me realise...that 'bothering' is about self love, it's about looking in the mirror and liking what you see. Be it made up or bare face that is not the issue, but it's about taking the time and allowing yourself the tools to love who you are.

As teenagers my friends and I hated ourselves, some to more or less extent but all in our own ways hated ourselves. When you don't love yourself you feel unworthy and when you feel unworthy, you feel like you don't deserve self love. Some of my friends abused themselves with eating disorders, others with unhealthy relationships, others with man after man after man... Some with alcohol/drug abuse - some with a bit of all of that and the very few managed to just love themselve enough to make it through

Why is it that women give themselves SUCH a hard time?

How can I help my daughter navigate through this all??

How can I repair the scars of the past?

Well hopefully though the next few months I can share with you some of the tips I learn. I joked with the lady today I thought I might have to do the standing in front of the mirror in my big pants Gock style and then be transformed into a new woman, she said haha that bit is still to come. First mascara, then lipstick and then the world!


Friday, 10 February 2017

The working mother

So last night I posted a video on Instagram regarding the fact that I have to justify my absence from work as my son was sick. I didn't want it to seem as if I was blaming my husband. The blame for the unequal care-sharing in couples doesn't come from the father it comes from the system. A system that doesn't work for working mothers (or main carers) or working fathers. For the last 10 years since we've had kids my husband and I have faced crisis after crisis of ill children and the problematic of work (having no family close by to help out). And despite my cries (and often actual tears) about how disastrous it would be for me not to go to work, being a university professor with over 80 students and over 10 different classes a week, taking just one day off was a logistical, stressful disaster. Despite my situation the answer would always be the same my husband working in Industrial sales would say... "I can't take the day off, work wouldn't understand, It would be looked upon negatively, It would be badly seen". This is not equality as much as I was forced to take a day off, he was forced not to. Despite his willing, society doesn't see him as the carer of kids, he must work and I must stay at home.

It seems like societies' excuse - well you wanted to work women, so now you're equal. But life is a bit more complicated than that. Women are supposed to perform as well as men (because we said we could) but we are still viewed as the sole care giver. This results in enormous amounts of pressure, stress, fatigue and guilt, as yes we can perform as well as or outperform men but we also need support. Yes we have wombs, but does make us less capable, worthwhile employees? NO! Intelligent, creative, interesting, strong and important members of the workforce are getting burnt because the system fails to support them, or to allow fathers to share the caring of children.

It fails to appreciate the value us mothers can give.

For me this is what happened after ten years of building my career it crashed around me - not work I kept up my professional responsibilities, but me physically me I was destroyed I had been balancing all these roles and I had NO time left, I was as the doctor said clinically "in burn out". I was exhausted, depressed and broken. I felt that i'd let down women-kind, that I had let down myself, that I was weak. What I realise now was that no one can do it alone and society didn't protect me or my family by allowing my husband to be the same as me an equal, a true partner and parent along by my side and I know I am not alone in this.

So I quit, it was my only answer rather than not achieve at anything, I would concentrate on my children they didn't decide to be born, they deserved better than being left at 8 in the morning and being picked up at 19h in the evening by a burnt out, frazzled shell of a mother.
I tried to play the system but the system failed me, the system wasn't flexible, so I was forced for my own welfare and that of my kids to remove myself from the workforce... (even though my students loved me, I loved my job, I was valued and needed by my colleagues...I had to walk away).

And now because I know I have something to give, I am returning to work, because I have spent time putting myself back together stronger(I hope!) to continue to fight to be able to work and be a mother.

I want my daughter to have the right to shine and excel in whatever she wants to do, let her talent come first and her gender come second. I want my son to want to, and be able to be an equal parent.
It's not easy but we need to keep talking, supporting each other and valuing each other for our individual merit. #weareoneandoneforall

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Today in the news...

I probably should rename this blog the Kate Tempest appeciation and Donald Trump dispairing blog, as they seem to be my two subjects at the moment. Everyday I have this reflection

What can possible happen now.
This video REALLY got me today...
his blatent belittering of the journalist, and the instinct he has to dismiss what is a democratic political relationship is JUST HORRENDOUS... "There goes that relationship" I MEAN WTF!!!

This brings me to Kate Tempest and the video posted on Radio Nova's page, it's bloody depressing... but so much is resonating right now

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

A post from 18/09/2015

I found this post i'd written from last year, man oh man how things have panned out since :-/

Two connected posts on social media really struck me today.

The fact that Donald Trump is even a candidate for the elections astounds me, but when I saw this post it just made me cringe?? :-(

Donald Trump criticised for not correcting 'Obama is Muslim' man

It really makes me worry when people who have such a large political sphere of influence and they are 'allowing' or not reacting to such small minded, ignorant and intolerant views. I will be watching this election with all my fingers and toes crossed - GO HILLARY!

This story being a parent obviously touched me to. Such a sweet kid, such a disappointing story...

Misinformation breeds ignorance, and ignorance breeds fear.

It's such a shame that someone's enthusiasm to explore and to invent was taken in such the wrong way.

My kids were talking about WW2 the other day, as they wanted to know why their school is called as it is (named after a leader of the French resistance movement). I caught A saying 'Yeah I don't like Italians' to his sister. I was like WHAT? WHY? 'because they helped the Germans in the War' This opened up a great discussion about acceptance and understanding, which led them to talking about the Charlie Hebdo attack, which was discussed at great length in every school in France, which I thought was really positive. We talked about individuals and how a group can't be blamed for their past or for people within their culture.
We talked about making their own opinions, we talked about organised religion and what I don't agree with. I tried not to indoctrinate them in my own beliefs (An atheist) - I am trying to allow them to formulate their own spiritual beliefs.
At the moment A says he believes in God which is fair enough and M always one to sit on the fence says she isn't really sure - which is fair enough to.
Through this discussion I realised the kids don't know any of the stories of the Bible. So I am currently looking for a good children's book on the History of Religion.
I felt very proud at how interested and open they were. We talked about difference and Racism/Homophobia it was really great. Someone once said aren't they a bit young to know about Gay people... Ummm WHY?
M x

Sunday, 29 January 2017


As a language teacher, words and how we use words is something that I love. The nuances, the turn of phrase - how emotive words can be... and how the phrase "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me" makes no sense to me at ALL!

Having bilingual kids brings a whole new element to language use and misuse - sometimes super cute! "Mummy my hands feel all sparkly" (tingly)
"Oooo yes I love cardigan potatoes" (Jacket).

I suppose this is why I have always been drawn to spoken word, performance poetry, hip hop and song lyrics. I used to work in a pub in Brighton and we used to have an open mic night every month and it was my most fav thing, especially spoken word - when people stand up and lay bear their feelings, bring knowledge to an issue or speak from the heart just blows me away.

I have chosen two poems below as two that really struck me.

This first one resonates personally, sexual assult and rape are so omnipresent in our lives as women, I know within my friends more than a handful who have been attacked, then if I asked their friends it would be another 2/3/4/7/10 and if they asked their friends the numbers would build and build,and as a friend said to me the other day - one is too many...


Those women kick ass!!!

The other poet I wanted to present is Kate Tempest, I love her (one of my many girl crushes, power women)

Hope you enjoyed! x

Friday, 27 January 2017

Man Up!

I saw this video today and thought I would share it with you. Gender stereotyping and stigmatisation works on both sides. As much as I see the ideals and goals and role models for my daughter streamlined for a world of pink and glitter and princesses, I see for my son the ideals, goals and role models suppressed into a fighting, gun touting, emotionless macho.
I feel so blessed to have two kids and a boy and girl, they are such different people, they're their own people, and my relationship with them is so different, they have different needs and different desires and I as a parent need to respond to them differently.

If I had to pigeonhole them as the world tries to make me, I would say 100% that my son is the "weaker" he is the "girl" he is extremely sensitive, he sometimes has a sad thought and will burst into tears, we were listening to the soundtrack to Les Miserables the other day and I was narrating the story and at the end when Jean Valjean dies he cried because he was moved by the music. He lay down on the floor of the cinema last year beating his fists and covering his eyes shouting why did I want to watch this film, both in Star Wars and the Jungle Book when a character dies. My daughter is also sensitive (Poor them... they both inherited that from me...) But she seems to have an inbuilt support system within herself where she can rationalise, she can compartmentalise, she can move through her emotions, he just hits a wall at full speed.

These are just my kids they're individuals, but the fact that already my son is being told by exterior forces that he should 'man up' he shouldn't cry, that he's 8 1/2 that that's not what 'boys' do. That he should like watch, play certain things breaks my heart..!
SO as much as me being a women I am hypersensitive to all the BS my daughter will face, that, I witness and feel and battle against these stigmas my daughter will face day in day out...
My son, i've got your back and you can always cry and have a hug x