Apr 102015
obnoxious behaviour

I’ve been hearing stories all week of obnoxious behaviour from children towards their mothers. I’ve heard stories about kids of all ages, boys and girls, from toddlers to teenagers, and it kicked off with a piece I read in the paper by Rachel Cusk, about teenage girls treating their mothers with contempt. It was this sentence about overhearing their conversations that jumped out at me: “Their mothers are known as “she.” When I first heard about “she,” I was slightly puzzled by her status, which was somewhere between servant and family pet. “She” came in for a lot of contempt, […]

Apr 032015
sons and daughters

I had three sons in a row and then a daughter. During my fourth pregnancy people would say to me (in front of my three little boys!) things like: “I expect you’re really hoping for a daughter this time.” People have assumed that I carried on having babies just in order to get a daughter, which was obviously what I really wanted. I have had comments like: “If you hadn’t had a daughter this time would you have tried again?” As if! As if having four children was part of some kind of plan! (Rather than just plain carelessness). And […]

Mar 272015
will shared parental leave work?

When I had my four babies my husband and I were both self-employed working mostly from a home office so we had the perfect situation for sharing childcare (bar his frequent trips away). We were both able to spend time with the children while they were little and we could both escape to the office (mutually acknowledged as the easier job). When I had to go to outside meetings I would take the latest breast-feeding baby along in a sling. I was once in a meeting of all men, my baby was slurping very noisily on the breast and every […]

Mar 202015
nine ways we're made anxious

I haven’t always been this laid-back, easy-going and cool as a parent, I don’t want you to think I just landed here like this. It’s taken a lot of sheer effort, determination and hard work to reach this place of carelessness. Sorry, confidence. I started out, just like every other parent, overwhelmed with the sudden massive responsibility of keeping another human being alive, and by nature I worried endlessly. Worrying about our kids and being anxious about getting it right is probably an intrinsic part of being a parent, but I think there are certain factors that make it more […]

Mar 132015
top 3 gifts for mothers day

According to a poll by homes4media, the most popular gift for Mothers Day – as voted for by mothers themselves – is…a hug. 59% of mothers voted for that as their top gift, followed by a card at 58% and a lie-in at 41%. When did our expectations drop so low? Getting away with just a hug for mothers day, that’s not very aspirational is it? Isn’t a hug just one of those things children give you anyway, during normal day-to-day life (usually in apology for something). Isn’t it just part of any relationship, not even particularly remarkable? And isn’t […]

Mar 062015

I have been debating for a while about writing a blog about transgender issues for parents. This article, Parenting a Transgender Child, which recently appeared in the Huffington Post, has pushed me into action. It’s about an eight-year-old boy who likes to be called by a girl’s name, and it made me thank my lucky stars that when I was growing up people just didn’t know the term ‘transgender.’ I am a heterosexual woman who lived most of my childhood wanting to be a boy; for a few years my sister and I would answer to nothing except our ‘real’ […]

Feb 272015
I won't worry about my daughter

I refuse to worry about my daughter. Point blank refuse. She’s fifteen so there’s lots I know I should be worrying about but I am not going to. I refuse to worry about my daughter because of the unequal society she is growing up in. I refuse to worry about my daughter because of online porn. I refuse to worry about my daughter because of media representation of women. I refuse to worry about my daughter because of unrealistic expectations of perfect bodies everywhere we look. I refuse to worry about my daughter because of the low representation of women […]

Feb 202015
do we have to play with our kids?

I just read a blog called Why I’m Afraid to Play With My Kids which reminds me of an article in the paper I read a couple of weeks back, daringly and shockingly entitled ‘Playing with my daughter is so boring it melts my brain.’ Credit goes to Esther Walker for gleefully saying the unsayable in that article, and to psychologist Peter Gray for backing her up with lots of common-sense Official Expert reasons. I suspect that I have such a strong memory of spending an afternoon playing with my second son when he was about three because that was the only […]

Feb 132015

I’m not a fan of strategies and techniques of behaviour-management and discipline, I never have been, partly because it all sounds too much like hard work to me and I’m basically lazy. I’m also uncomfortable with the words themselves, they remind me of boardrooms, or war, they don’t seem applicable to normal messy life. So whenever I’m asked the question ‘What’s your strategy for getting children to..?’ (fill in the blank: go to bed, eat their greens, show respect…) I’m always flummoxed because I don’t think in terms of strategies and techniques, I think in terms of relationships and communication. […]

Feb 062015
what not to say to twins

I’m an identical twin so I know. Here goes. What’s it like being a twin? What’s it like being a singleton? Which one of you is the leader? We’re not a company. Or a cult. Or whatever. Oh my god! You look EXACTLY the same!! No, we actually really don’t. Hey twinny! That’s not my name. I wish I was a twin, it must be such fun. You’d think. You’re lucky cos you’ve always got a best friend. Meh. How on earth do people tell you apart? They get to know us. Do you fancy the same boys? Probably to the […]

Jan 302015

Separation and divorce can lead to a lot of guilt for parents, it’s not what anyone wants, nobody plans for it. And it’s traumatic, it’s the loss of the future you’d imagined and you don’t yet know what the replacement future looks like. From an adult perspective, our hearts may be breaking not necessarily for the loss of the relationship but for the loss of the family unit. We imagine that our kids feel the same way, but they don’t. Children don’t have that wider deeper perspective that adults have, children live in the here and now and what they […]

Jan 242015
want a copy of my book?

I have totally felt like the suffragette mother in Mary Poppins this week, although I haven’t actually left the house singing ‘Votes for women step in time!’ I haven’t actually left the house much at all in fact. As well as running courses, organising book-readings at book shops and dealing with publicity for my book which is published on Wednesday, I have been on full-alert action stations for the No More Page 3 campaign. NMP3 HQ this week has been like those scenes at Houston Mission Control in my favourite film ‘Apollo 13′ when they find out there’s a problem. […]

Jan 162015

In all my work with parents, the most shocking and upsetting stories I hear are those about teenage boys treating their mothers with contempt, and I am hearing more and more of those stories.  And far too often I hear about physical violence and abuse: pushing, hitting, knocking to the ground, pinning down, grabbing by the throat. The mothers coping with violence from sons are not some breed apart; the ones I know of are intelligent, otherwise confident, funny, thoughtful, ‘normal’. They are not bad mothers, they are not doing things markedly differently to anyone else. They are generally single […]

Jan 092015

Whenever I read about different types of authority, the two extremes are always represented as authoritarian and permissive. I think that’s wrong; being permissive is an ideology, not a kind of authority. The permissive parent allows the child free reign out of a belief in the benefits for the child of total freedom, and this has nothing to do with the kind of authority they exert. Permissive parents are just as likely to resort to an authoritarian approach when they’ve had enough. (It always used to surprise me when I would ask my kids where so-and-so was, referring to a […]

Jan 022015

WordPress kindly sent me my blogging stats for 2014 and I thought I would present the top 5 posts here in my own personal Hit Parade. In case you missed any, you understand, and not because I have a mind so fugged with chocolate over-consumption that there is no chance of me writing a new witty and engaging post until at least half-way through January. These are my Top 5 viewed posts during 2014, and not necessarily my 5 Top Liked posts (this will become clear when we get to number 3) so here we go: 5. Mothers Are Role Models […]

Dec 182014
first world problems

It took me a while to realise that a lot (all) of the problems I used to worry about with my children were not problems at all, they were just..um…life. Is it because our kids these days have all their basic needs met that we feel the need to invent problems to worry about? One day, in the middle of worrying about one of my children, it suddenly hit me that billions of children before her had experienced the same thing and survived it, and that maybe I should stop assuming that she alone was uniquely ill-equipped to deal with […]

Dec 122014
trusting our teenage daughters

My fifteen-year-old daughter went to a party last Saturday night, after which she had a ‘sleepover’ at her friend’s house. She does this so often I’m wondering when she’s going to stop calling it a sleepover and just say she’s crashing at her friend’s. At what age does this crossover in language happen I wonder? My seventeen-year-old son popped in on Sunday afternoon with the dramatic news that he had seen her at dad’s, and she was covered in bruises. ‘I did my big brother stuff Mum’ he said, ‘I asked her if she’d been beaten up but she said […]

Dec 052014
a handy christmas guide

There you go thinking it’s only November, plenty of time yet, and then December starts and it’s always already a week in before you’ve noticed what’s happened. Time for a Christmas blog!   I’ve written a handy guide to Christmas for parents just in time to catch you before the real stress sets in. Based on many years of experience, here are the important points to remember:     Don’t buy your kids too many presents. No, really, DON’T. You can always increase the number later but you can’t decrease Cut corners wherever possible. Do you really need to make […]

Nov 282014
my new parenting book is out!

My new parenting book is out now, it’s called Communicating with Kids and that’s what it’s about, which is ironic really because during the year I spent writing it I barely spoke to mine. They seem to be OK though, I’ve dedicated it to them and apologised in advance for the content. They do feature quite a lot. It’s quite a slim volume but every word counts. It’s all killer no filler. I like economic prose, in fact I’d like to think that I’m the Kazuo Ishiguro of parenting authors. I’ve written this book because I’m fed-up of reading parenting […]

Nov 212014
mothers: best drivers in the world

I passed my driving test when I was eight months pregnant with my fourth child and because of that my examiner didn’t make me do an emergency stop. Which was nice, and sensible, but I had to do the more difficult stuff instead (I liked emergency stops, they were easy, you just had to slam your foot on the brake – like, duh? Who can’t do that?) I then took a Pass Plus test which involved driving at night, on the motorway, and on winding narrow country lanes, in really bad weather (I remember it well, lashing torrential rain, rolling […]

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