Detective Dot, my daughter’s new BFF

Detective Dot, my daughter’s new BFF

My eight-year-old is tech savvy. The Virgin Media ‘masters of entertainment’ advert is an accurate depiction of her – she literally rolls her eyes every time she watches me take what is apparently the “longest route possible” to find my favourite TV show. As someone from generation MSN-Messenger, I’m quite offended when she insinuates that I don’t know what I’m doing. Where was she when we were all making our own websites on Piczo, hey? But clearly, she knows a thing or two that I don’t, so I try to encourage this smart, tecchy side of her where I can.

I signed her up to Code Club, which was great but it was quite far away and just didn’t fit around our schedule so we had to give it up. I didn’t want to stop there though, so I spent a while looking for things to encourage this from home. We have a whole drawer full of spy watches, circuit boards, infrared glasses, the lot. But, of course, all of the boxes they came in all looked something like this:

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Not very encouraging when you’re an eight-year-old black girl, I can assure you.

But all was not to be lost, I somehow managed to find Dr Jess Wade on Twitter who introduced my daughter and me to Detective Dot , a character created by a company who seemed to hear exactly what I had been screaming about since my daughter was old enough to play with toys.

In today’s kids’ cartoons + TV shows, 0% of princesses are coders, boys are twice as likely to take the lead, less than 3% of characters are people-of-colour and 92% of females are underweight? And not one superhero recycles.

Stories teach children what to think about themselves and the world around them. And kids are constantly bombarded with subtle and not-so-subtle messages – for up to eight hours a day. So in a world where silly cartoon princesses are the norm, we set out to create cool, bright, diverse characters that have interesting and challenging adventures across the world. And as we’re techies, we use technology to engage kids in fun, new ways.

detectivedot.org

Could Detective Dot be any more perfect? My daughter is an official member of the CIA – the Children’s Intelligence Agency. Don’t ask me for any more information on it as I’ve been told, in no uncertain terms, that the information is classified and not for grown-ups to hear. All I know is that Detective Dot rocked my eight-year-old’s world. She read the book within a day and has been on secret mission after secret mission since Dot’s arrival. She has been talking to me in algorithms so that nothing can go wrong when I look for my favourite TV shows.

Detective Dot gave my daughter the boost she needed. I can’t wait for the day that characters like her are the norm.

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Actually Adult Mum

Actually Adult Mum

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. Almost four years in fact. In those (almost) four years, I’ve stopped being a “teen mum” and have fully stepped into the realm of Adult Parenting™. (Well, at least to most onlookers I have. Little do they know that I still time myself climbing the stairs on all fours, step over the cracks in the pavement and throw tantrums when my hair just won’t go right.) I’m twenty-five, I’m a teacher and I have added another cub to the clan. I even check how much items weigh in the supermarket to work out if I’m getting a good deal or not, so if that doesn’t make me an adult I don’t know what will.

Yet despite being the portrait of a grown-up, I still feel like a teenager. I remember my grandma, well into her eighties at the time, once saying to me “When you turn seventeen you’ll never feel any older,” and that is one of the truest things ever spoken. It’s funny that seventeen is the age that she used since that’s the age that I was when I first became a parent. The second time around I was twenty-five but I felt no different to the first. No more experienced (you forget a lot in seven years), no more mature and no more prepared than I was at seventeen. Yet I’ve been treated so differently this time around, both during my pregnancy and since.

The first thing that I noticed was the reactions to my pregnancy. When I first started telling people, I felt the same apprehension that I had done at seventeen. How are people going to react? Have I made the right decision? Will they expect me to fail? Of course, none of this happened and it was just my own demons coming back to haunt me. Everyone that I told was full of joy and I even heard the word “congratulations” several times. I was given a maternity massage, thrown a surprise baby shower and sent to the front of the queue in Primark. Being pregnant as an adult is great – who knew? I’d do it all again just for the love I was shown.

I also noticed that no health care professionals asked if my pregnancy was planned or not. When I was pregnant with my daughter at seventeen, I had become so accustomed to answering this question at every appointment that I thought it was just standard procedure. I was never sure why it was relevant, but just answered anyway so to not cause a fuss. It always felt quite intrusive and I was never sure what the “right” answer was – if I said “yes” would I be seen as a fool for planning a family at such a young age? If I said “no” would they think I was reckless and stupid? I couldn’t win. This time around I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed that I didn’t have the opportunity to say that I had planned my second child. I’m an adult with a career, no room for judgement here! How ridiculous is that? Me, someone who has spent the last eight years standing up and demanding respect for young mothers, seeking the approval of someone that I don’t even know for choosing what to do with my own body and my own family. I might as well have asked them “do you think it’s ok for me to have another baby?”

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I also haven’t been patronised this time around like I was last time. Rather than telling me to go to “stop smoking” groups (despite being a non-smoker), I have been asked if I’m a smoker or not before the leaflet is shoved in my face. Instead of being lectured on why I mustn’t give up breastfeeding, I have been directed towards breastfeeding support groups (I still gave up within three weeks, age has had no bearing on that.) And, on top of all of that, not one single person has asked if my son “still sees daddy much”! It seems that present fathers are an over-25s exclusive, guys.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still twelve years younger than the perceived “ideal” age for first time mothers in London (according to this Evening Standard article) and three years younger than the 2014 national average for first time mothers, so am still seen as a “young mum” (especially as I’m on child number two) and my entire experience hasn’t gone without people noticing this, but their attitude towards me hasn’t been the same. Less judgement, same amount of surprise.

All of this has made me realise just how much young mothers need support. Of course, having experienced it first hand, I already knew this, but seeing some of the other side of the page has given me something to compare my own experiences to. It is worse than I realised and belittling young mothers does nothing but make them feel ashamed and isolated. Just treat all mothers the same. Please and thank you.

 

I’m a Mum and…

I’m a Mum and…

PROUD.

story of mum exhibitionBritMums - Leading the Conversation

Yes, that’s right. I know I’m a mum and many other things, and I was going to use my Story of Mum mini-exhibition to tell you all about my secret ninja double life, but then it wouldn’t be very secret. I was also going to use it to list all of the fabulously cool and fun things I am aside from being a mum, but I’m far too modest. Besides, you’ve probably already noticed how fanbloodytabulous I am anyway, so I’ve decided to use it to tell you that I am proud. This coincides with both my Story of Mum mini exhibition and the #NoTeenShame campaign that I’ve been reading up on lately.

Until fairly recently, I’ve been ashamed of the fact that I was a teenage mother. When I was pregnant, I got the stares, I got the whispers, I got the lectures. I was told “well that’s the end of your life now then.” I hid my pregnancy with clothes as much as I could, and rarely left the house other than to go to sixth form.

I thought that this might change when I had my daughter, but it didn’t. I told myself that it was because I wasn’t doing anything “other than being a mum”, so I avoided places that I could bump into too many people that I knew.

This would clear up when I finished my gap year and started uni though, right? Wrong. While it did shock the doubters into silence, it didn’t stop me from feeling the shame that had been built up for so long. I realised that I was slightly nervous when explaining to the students of my own age why I couldn’t come out for drinks after lectures. I could feel my face burning as I picked up my daughter from the university nursery and pushed her through crowds of classmates at the bus stop. While they probably weren’t judging me at all, the shock on their faces took me back to being the pregnant seventeen-year-old who was told she had no future. I was embarrassed.

It wore off. I started getting good grades at uni and the nursery staff were forever commending me on how bright and well behaved my daughter was. I was proud. I am proud; I just wish that I had enjoyed motherhood properly from the start.

This is why I was so saddened by @CandiesOrg’s #NoTeenPreg campaign. They are using tactics that will make other young mothers feel ashamed of what should be the most joyful experience possible. Why should a mother not enjoy parenthood just because of her age? Young women and teenagers have been having children since man begun, why has it been made so taboo today?

Using posters with comments such as “You think being in school sucks?” followed by a picture of a bottle is offensive. School didn’t suck, and neither does motherhood. Putting pictures of celebrities who are idolised by teens next to these quotes won’t stop teens from having children, it will just make other teens look down on them more. Having Carly Rae Jepson tell them that they should be “changing the world, not diapers” is not going to stop teens from changing diapers. It will stop many young mothers from feeling like she can change the world though. Bullying and isolation is not going to create brighter futures for anyone. We all have a right to enjoy parenthood.

I’m a teen mum and proud.

#NoTeenPreg #NoTeenShame

I created this:

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I curated this:

As part of my StoryOfMum mini-exhibition, I’m sharing this photo from the Brit Mums tour (I think!) What I love about this is how happy this mum looks. She’s on child number six, and – while she may not be a teen mum – she’s a mum and NOT ashamed! And what a beautiful bump she’s sporting.



 

 

My Fifteen Minutes of Fame

My Fifteen Minutes of Fame

As you may or may or not know, last week I appeared on the panel for BBC Newsnight. Interviewed by Jeremy Paxman. Live. Yes, I nearly crapped my pants.

The topic was sex education in schools, and, more specifically, how it can be improved to reduce levels of unwanted pregnancies. Now, by “unwanted”, you would assume that they meant pregnancies that lead to abortion. No. Somehow, the term “unwanted pregnancies” includes not only pregnancies which lead to abortion, but teenage pregnancies too. I’m not sure whether by “unwanted” they mean “unplanned”, or just the fact that our pregnancies (and, in turn, our children) are simply “unwanted” by the general public. Of course, personal experience has shown this to be true, but it’s still quite brass to say it.

The Unwanted Pregnancy Inquiry: A cross-party inquiry intending “to produce a series of recommendations to Government departments on ways to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the UK.” The concern is that abortion rates are rising in some age groups (note: this age group is women between 30 and 34, not those under the age of 20), and that teenage pregnancy rates are too high (although rates actually decreased by around 20% between 1999 and 2010, and are continuing to decrease). To be honest, I’m neither pro-life nor pro-choice; I’m just pro-do-what’s-best-for-you. For me, abortion was not best. The idea had crossed my mind on finding out that I was pregnant when I was 17, but once I really thought about the fact that I had a child growing inside of me, my decision was made. And now that decision has become the best thing in my life. So, obviously me and thousands of other females out there just like me, are going to be a little more than offended when we’re being told that our pregnancies are “unwanted”.

Of course, I can see why in the current economic climate many may see unplanned teenage pregnancies as a problem; often young parents have no choice but to rely on state benefits, which does cost money. This is not an issue generalised to teenage parents. Thousands of families of all ages rely on benefits to support them. The difference is older families have had the time in their lives to gain work experience or qualifications, or both. Young parents have not. All of the young mothers that I know are in education, work, or both. If they are receiving benefits, I doubt that they will be for long. And, if they’re not, why was their pregnancy so unwanted?

However, I can’t be too anti towards the entire inquiry, as Amber Rudd, the Conservative MP running it, actually made sense. Yes, I agreed with a Conservative MP. She concluded that sex education in schools needs to have more focus on relationships. It also needs to bring in the role of the male more. I couldn’t agree more. As I mentioned, the only issue I can see people really having with young parents is the financial implications on the country. Perhaps if young people were guided more on relationships, there would be less young single mothers. With both parents around full-time, having a stable income would be far easier, and shock horror, young parents would rely on benefits less.

Being taught about relationships in school probably does sound absolutely absurd, especially to the older generation who were just about taught about sex in school. But I’m sure that seeing people have sex on television programmes like Geordie Shore would sound absolutely absurd to the older generation too. Which would they prefer?

I’m aware that my view won’t be one which is shared by many. I’m also aware that, for some teenage parents, becoming a parent can turn their worlds upside-down. Better sex education with less biology and mechanics and more relationship and emotion focus can and will also reduce teenage pregnancies. Things in the real world are changing when it comes to sex, things need to change within schools too.

I was going to post a link the the show on BBC’s iPlayer, but unfortunately it is no longer there. Yes, my fifteen minutes of fame is over. When I get my hands on a copy, I’ll put a clip up.

What I have included though, is a few screen shots of nice things people tweeted about me during the show. What? It’s not often a teenage mother has people say nice things about her you know…

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My Cheeky Child

My Cheeky Child

I got through the screaming nights of the newborn, the “grabbiness” of the one-year-old and the tantrums of the two-year-old. Three has been a nice age. She’s old enough to know right from wrong, and young enough to be fun and cute.

Three-and-a-half-but-I’m-nearly-four is becoming a new age all together. My child is rude. What sets other people off in giggles (usually family and friends without children, may I add), makes me want to scream into a pillow and lock my daughter in a Rapunzel-style tower until she has learnt some manners.

It’s probably my fault, I admit. The first time my daughter made a cheeky remark, I giggled too! I said “no, you don’t talk to Mummy like that” through a tittering red face and watering eyes. It was funny, I couldn’t help it. But my oh my, do I regret it.

I’m told “Watch the television, not me”, “Am I talking to you? No.”, and “Fine then, I won’t eat my dinner.” I’m seriously considering putting a few boarding schools on my 2013 primary starter application form.

Now, I know there are a few factors that are contributing to my madam’s diva attitude. The first being my inadvertent encouragement of diva-like behaviour during the early stages. I wish I had realised how much my laughing at her was affecting her ego… Another contributing factor is my inability to not nag. She hears me nagging at, well… everyone, and thinks that it’s acceptable. It’s my fault. I know! Another problem is her nursery is absolutely full of children just as cheeky as her. She’s there full time, there’s just no getting away from it.

I’ve tried many approaches to nipping this attitude in the bud. I’ve scorned her. I’ve ignored it. I’ve told her in my “nice voice” that that’s not the way we speak. I’ve put her on the “naughty step”. I’ve confiscated toys. I’ve sent her to her room. I’ve banned Peppa Pig. I’ve tried everything. All of which have worked instantly. And all of which have had lasting effects of about one hour.

What gets me though, is she doesn’t behave like this with anyone but those living in our household. When I speak to her nursery nurses about it, I get “Really? No! We’ve been really impressed by her manners actually.” When I visit my grandparents, I’m told “Isn’t she well behaved! All the children in our family have good manners, don’t they?” (Erm.. Yes Grandma, I’m sure they do…) And when I ask her aunties how she’s behaved when they’ve babysat, I get “she’s been very good, until you got here and the cheekiness started!” I would really, really love to delve into her mind and find out why this is.

I’m probably painting a terrible picture of both my child’s persona and my parenting skills, especially if you who are reading this doesn’t have any children of your own (“but I have loads of nieces and nephews” doesn’t count! They behave differently, to all of you backseat drivers out there…) She’s not an awful child, nor am I an awful parent. What she is is bloody cheeky and what I am is bloody stressed!

I hope it’s all a phase. And I hope the phase passes before she turns into a little prima donna forever…

I Feel Guilty

I Feel Guilty

As a young parent, I’m always questioning myself as to whether I’m doing the “right thing” or not. I’m sure that’s the same for parents of all ages, but I can only speak for us youngsters out there, and we also have the eyes of the world on us – can you say “pressure”?!

As I’ve said before, my daughter is now three (“and a-half”, as she keeps reminding me). So that means that it has taken me three (and a-half) years to realise that everything I do is done to prove a point. I took a year out of studies after I had her to prove a point (“OMG are you leaving her in nursery already? She’s only a few months old!”). I spent a year reminding everyone that I was going to university in September, to prove a point (“So now you just stay at home all day?” “Well yeah… But I’m starting uni in September!”). I then stressed over uni to prove a point (“Ahh, you only got a 2:2 on that assignment? I suppose you would have done better if you didn’t have a kid.” “…Wanker.”) And now, I’m working full time to prove a point.

Quite frankly, I’m sick of it. And I know there’s no one else to blame but myself. I really should not give a damn what others think or how they look at me. But the truth is, I do. And now I’ve got myself in a situation where I really don’t know what’s best for my daughter or what I even want anymore. And I’m starting to feel like I’ve made the wrong choices.

Since starting work, I’ve been leaving home at 7.30am – sometimes before my daughter’s even awake, and getting home at about 6.30. This means that my Mr takes her to and from nursery before going about his daily business. It also means that I only get about one-two hours with her between sleeps, Monday-Friday. It’s shit. Really shit. I feel like one of those parents you always hear about – the ones that are never actually there for their kids because they’re too busy working. Again, it’s shit. (Let me stress that, before you all judge me).

But, by the same token, when I wasn’t working, I felt like a lazy-layabout teen mum that you always hear about too. Even though I was just on summer break from uni, that’s still how I felt. And I also like the fact that I’m working. I can save money for my family’s future and also treat us all now and again.

It’s been getting to me a bit. A lot. I really don’t know what the right thing to do is anymore. I’m worried that my bond with my daughter will be ruined. I’m also worried that I won’t be a bad mum if I don’t do anything with my days. But what I worry about more is that I may be putting all this stress on myself and my family for the sake of appearances.

Aside

The Perfect Mother

Before I start on this post, I’d like to state one rule. Each time you read the words “perfect mother”, please imagine it to be said with as much venom as possible. Because she is our enemy.

Look at her, with her perfect smile, her happy, well behaved children, and her perky little boobs and ironing board stomach. The Perfect Mother: She. Is. Evil.

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So, if she’s so evil, why do we all try so hard to be her? You don’t? Oh, I think you do! Put yourself back here: you’re just getting used to motherhood, your child is about five months old, and has been up all night for four nights in a row. You’re shattered, but you know you need nappies so you rush out to the shop with your hair in a state. As much as you know that this is perfectly normal, (after all, you’re a mum now), you still hope you don’t bump into anyone. You don’t want them to say “well she’s really let herself go since she had a baby!” But, typical, you do. An old “friend” who you’ve barely spoken to since you were preggo. She asks “How’s motherhood?” And what is your response? YES! You said something along the lines of “Oh, I’m loving it”, or “it’s amazing!”, didn’t you? I knew it. You put aside the fact that you were on the verge of tears, or even already in tears, last night because you were just so bloody shattered, didn’t you?

Now, it’s not that motherhood isn’t “amazing” or that we’re not “loving it”, but, let’s be honest, it is hard work. And that hard work often overshadows the fun parts. And that’s the harsh reality.

So why do we do so much to try and prove ourselves to be like… Her? We pretend like everything is fine, when it’s not. We avoid asking for help, because we don’t want people to say “I told you so!” And, in general, we try to do too much. 

Let’s kick the Perfect Mother to the curb. If we love, our kids, do our best for them and put them first, is that not enough to make us better than her?

She’s not real!