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I’m doing it wrong (says the internet).

Many things change when you have a baby. Your body, your hair, the shadows under your eyes, your bank balance, your relationships, and the information dished out to you through your social media feeds.

Based on the types of conversations I have online, the photos or articles I look at and the demographic box I fit into (city dwelling 30-something mother of two), I get quite the cocktail of ads and ‘suggested posts’ served up to me on Facebook and Instagram. Sometimes I imagine there’s a plucky young Facebook executive casting their eye over the data report for the day and thinking to themselves, “based on her criteria, today this lady saw ads for leggings that make you two sizes slimmer, washing powder, toddler shoes, gin, adult slippers that look like shoes, a wine sale, crumpets, sleep consultants, frozen chicken nuggets, anti-wrinkle cream, multi-compartmented lunchboxes, a device you stick in your lady parts that connects to your phone to say how much work your pelvic floor needs, and more wine. WHAT IS THIS LIFE?!”

Sometimes I’ll see an ad for a bar opening, but when I scroll back to look it’s gone. I’m sure that same young exec is saying “LOL! Sorry, our mistake, we temporarily thought you were someone with a life. Here’s an ad about cheap haircuts”.

But my morbid fascination lies with the ‘suggested articles’ containing well-meaning advice from pages where I just know the comments sections will be filled with “I am the best ever parent and person!” undertones. I’m under no illusion that if I dared to comment with a query on the real life application of some of the advice I’d be met with the online equivalent of “YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US!”

Don’t get me wrong, some of the information is genuinely helpful and I’ve learned some awesome life hacks (putting a pool noodle under a fitted sheet to stop toddlers falling out of their new big kid bed = genius), but a lot of the time I wonder if people actually do all of these things, or if they just pretend they do for the internet.

For example, apparently my morning should include:

  • A brief (10-20 minute) session of gentle stretches and meditation to prepare me for a day of mothering
  • Taking 5-10 minutes over a cup of lemon in warm water to stimulate digestion
  • This bit is never explicitly mentioned, but taking the cue from “stimulating digestion” I assume the next step is to go for a poo
  • A mindful shower followed by body lotion application
  • A healthful breakfast, eaten while calmly planning my day.

Cool, sounds lovely, something to strive for in my “house by the beach where everything is white, tidy, and smells like French Pear candles” fantasies. But then the next bit gets me unstuck, because I’m also supposed to:

  • Respond immediately to my waking child so they don’t feel abandoned, but I’m also supposed to let him/her wake and spend time in their own company to learn to be comfortable in their own surroundings (which one, internet, which one?)
  • When I hear my child wake, I’m to put five hair ties on my right wrist, so that if I raise my voice during the day I can move it to my left wrist, then berate myself that evening over all the hair ties that moved (note: I’m gonna need more than five hair ties)
  • I should lie in bed with my child before they get up (or take them to mine if they’re still in a cot) and spend 20 minutes connecting with them and sharing gratitude rituals. I have two children though, so do I just pick a favourite? I guess that’d give them something to feel gratitude about
  • Allow them to choose their own clothes if they’re old enough to do so, because #ChoicesAreEmpowering
  • Eat breakfast together with my children to model healthful choices and #Togetherness (but wait, wasn’t I supposed to eat breakfast calmly on my own?)
  • Involve the children in gathering what’s needed to pack into bags, along with the personalised organic bento boxes you’ve prepared, before you head out the door together (presumably it’s almost dinner time by this point?) for some #MakingMemories magic.

Maths is not my strong point, but a brief tally up of how long everything will take suggests that I’d need to get up at Ridiculously Early O’clock to make this sort of morning come together. I’m not sure I’d get buy-in from the kids on the lying still and doing gratitude rituals bit. Also, we’re out of lemons and if Ricies aren’t considered a ‘healthful’ breakfast then shut up Internet.

So I guess night time is for creating the organic bento snack boxes, washing all the clothes that the children have chosen and unchosen, preparing dinner for the next night, and ‘reconnecting’ with my partner. Oh, and running the home business I’ve started after being fired from my job for consistently swanning in at 4pm saying “sorry I’m late, the children have only just finished dressing and packing their bags for the day, btw does anyone have any spare hair-ties?” (because you need to be something other than just a mother, but please, make it a home business about being a mother, and definitely don’t let it draw your attention away from your children for a single second when they’re awake). Which means going to bed about an hour before needing to get up again. And that’s totally at odds with the next sponsored article that popped up, letting me know that getting 8-10 hours sleep per night is the best way to get back into my skinny jeans.

 

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How our mornings often start.

 

 

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A variation of this originally appeared as my column in the August/September edition of Little Treasures Magazine (NZ)

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Don’t worry, baby.

Even the briefest of scrolls through parenting sites indicates that anxiety in children and babies is a hot topic. Anxiety in adults can be difficult enough to identify and treat – let alone in a tiny person who is just learning about their world. I had a chat to registered psychologist, Cate Hey, about  developing emotions. This article appeared in Little Treasures Magazine, and is easier to read here in this pdf: AnxietyinBabies

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No excuses launch-pad day

No one was more surprised than me when I took up running a few months after baby number 2 was born. I was never…sporty, and spent many a P.E. lesson at school hiding in the loos. Don’t get me wrong, I have the co-ordination of a constipated in-bred labradoodle and will never break any speed records – I’m not a PROPER runner. But I’ve loved the personal satisfaction that has come from running half marathons, and *really* enjoyed the personal satisfaction of swigging wine from a drink bottle post-run in a hotel hot pool with a girlfriend on a running trip we did together. This year, I set myself the lofty goal of running a full marathon. Then life got in the way and I haven’t run for months and months because I’ve been full of excuses: “I’m tired because the kids have been up coughing all night, my running top smells funny, I’m getting used to my new job, the weather is shit, there’s just no time, does my thyroid look especially large to you – maybe I shouldn’t strain myself?  it’s too dark, I think I’m getting sick, the extra kilos are keeping me warm this winter, sporty people are dicks” etc. And then it came to pass that my favourite jeans needed a lot of encouragement to go all the way up, my #workwife started talking about her morning walks and Powerhoop in jaunty tones, and one of my best friends gently tabled the notion that if we’re to go on a drinking-wine-in-hot-pools trip marathon trip next year then we’re going to have to start building up to those 42.2kms now. So I decided today was going to be my #NoExcuses launch-pad day. I had the day off work and my running top smelled just fine, so I chucked on my shoes and showed my 6-year old how to use the boomerang function on my phone to record my “I WILL do this!” moment (which you can see here on my Facebook). Marathon goal is back on the agenda, a new playlist is underway, and I’ve already steeled myself for the inevitable, “Mummy, why did they give you a medal if you didn’t even win, isn’t that a bit unfair to the person who actually won?” line of questioning that follows each event I finish. #NoExcuses #ProbablyWillHaveExcusesTomorrow

Is anyone else working on a personal goal (fitness or otherwise)? How do you stay on track?

 

Hold Tight

The good old pelvic floor. Worth thinking about more than just when the kids ask you to jump on the trampoline. My article about this important but often forgotten about body bit, written for Little Treasures Magazine, featuring the lovely Stacey Law from Leto Women’s Health.

The pdf here is easier to read: PelvicFloor 

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Now it matters

At the risk of coming across as a bit neurotic and high maintenance, I think having babies has made me a bit neurotic and high maintenance. Previously mundane or everyday situations have taken on a whole new meaning now that there are two tiny humans in our life. The little things have become big things, and motherhood can feel a bit like one of those reality TV shows where people have to make it through obstacle courses covered in soap while big padded gloves throw unexpected blows. Except there’s no cash prize, and instead of an exciting purpose-built course, the obstacles are things like long queues at the supermarket. For example:

Holiday traffic with the husband before kids: “Oh rats, traffic is at a standstill. Never mind, let’s listen to some music, have a chat, and share the chocolate bar that’s in my small and tidy handbag”.

After kids: “Noooo! I’m down to the last three crackers for the bored toddler, and then there’s nothing but a half-empty packet of crystallized raisins somewhere in the depths of my enormous bag. If the car stops moving the baby will wake up and want to be fed, so we’ll have to pull over and get even further back in the traffic, which means we’ll be late home and late to bed, then the kids will inexplicably wake up two hours early tomorrow, so while I find the Wiggles play list and break the crackers up into tiny pieces to make them last longer PLEASE JIGGLE THE GODDAM CAR TO KEEP THE BABY ASLEEP”.

Choosing a restaurant before kids: “That one looks nice, let’s see if they’ve got a table at 7pm – we can wait at the bar and enjoy a drink if there’s a wait”.

After kids: “Do they have highchairs? Do they have a kids’ menu so that we can pay slightly less for food that they probably still won’t eat anyway? Is it noisy enough to drown out the sounds of potential meltdowns, but not so noisy that it causes a meltdown? No no, we can’t go to that one – last time we went there the toddler stuck a decorative berry up her nose and I had to block one of her nostrils while shouting ‘blow! Blow as hard as you can!’ until the snot-covered berry shot out onto the table. Ok that place looks good, and they open at 5, so if we order the second we sit down it should be fine. Or we could just stay home”.

Daylight Saving before kids: “Yay! Long evenings! Leisurely walks after work because the sun is still high in the sky! Awww, Daylight Saving is finishing now? Oh well, those first few days will feel like we’re getting a sleep-in”.

After kids:I’ll order some blackout blinds as soon as I’ve finished explaining why it is actually bedtime even though we applied another layer of sunscreen just a couple of hours ago. Daylight Saving is finishing now? Ah, so this is the bit where the kids don’t cotton on to 5 A.M. being the new 6 A.M. or is it the other way around? Either way, it’s too early, please go back to sleep and let me revel in the pseudo sleep-in”.

Procrastinating work before kids: “Wow, I’ve left it a bit late to get this done. I can finish it this evening, though”.

After kids: “This is a bit close to the wire, but if I start the second the baby falls asleep I can get it done by midnight. Wait… is that? Yep, that’s definitely an ‘I’ve got an ear infection and we’re going to going to spend the next four hours at A&E’ cry”.

Hearing neighbours dragging the wheelie bin down the driveway at 11pm before kids: “Must be bin night. Is ours even full? It can probably wait another week”.

After kids: “What kind of monsters bang and scrape their bin right under the kids’ window? Why didn’t they take theirs out when they saw me at the curb forcing the lid down on our overflowing bin well before 7 P.M? Ooo, but now their bin is out and it’s dark, do you think we could sneak in a few nappies that I couldn’t cram into ours?”

 

I’m sure my thought patterns will return to normal at some point, maybe when the girls are teenagers. There’ll be a whole new set of obstacles then, but perhaps we’ll be able to discuss them at a restaurant late one summery evening after being stuck in holiday traffic.

I originally wrote this piece for the NZ Winter 2017 edition of Little Treasures Magazine.

The name game

Before I had my own babies, I couldn’t understand why people would say “still deciding on a name” in their birth announcement. What? You’ve had nine months to prepare for this moment! How hard it is to choose a name? Er, actually harder than it looks, I discovered when pregnant for the first time.

Jeremy (my husband) and I had decided not to find out what we were having, so we needed options both ways. We set perimeters on name-choosing rules, such as checking there were no notorious criminals with that moniker, no names of ex-partners or meanies from school, and making sure it wouldn’t sound silly with our last name (when we got married, I was keen on having one family surname, but filled out the forms somewhat reluctantly because my married name makes me sound like a drunk Irishman).

We both loved the same boy’s name. Sorted. A girl’s middle name would be Clare, after my mother. BAM, we were nailing this naming thing and I was only about eleven minutes pregnant.

But then we needed a girl first name option. My favourite name forever had been Nina, but that’s what all the grandkids call my mother in law, so it was struck off for being too confusing. Both of us loved the name Frankie, but we’d already used that name up (without much foresight) on our cat. Jeremy didn’t like my suggestions, and I didn’t like his. And so began months of conversations that started with me enthusiastically reading from a long list I’d compiled that day, then ended with me huffily saying “well YOU think of a better option then. No, not that one. Not that one either”. We opened the floor to family and friends. Ideas flew thick and fast, but none of them quite right. I started watching the credits of movies and T.V. programmes, in the hope that I’d spot The Perfect Name scrolling up our screen. Nope.

I still held fast to my shortlist of favourite names, and one of my wise friends said, “look, pick your favourite, and then if the baby is a girl, just weakly announce that’s what you want to call her in the delivery room. Jeremy will be so relieved you’re ok he’ll go with anything”. Then we found out I was going to need a scheduled caesarean, so that strategy went out the window.

One evening after talking on the phone to my best friend Amy (while making a vat of porridge for my post-dinner snack), I waddled back to the couch and Jeremy said, “Amy is a really nice name. Have you ever met an Amy you didn’t like?” I immediately looked up the meaning and hormonally shouted, “it means ‘beloved’ or ‘loved friend’! It’s going on the shortlist!”

Not long after, our beautiful daughter was placed on my chest, and we immediately agreed she was an Amy. Best-friend-Amy was thrilled, promptly got a puppy and named it Jeremy.

Second time around, I understood why one of my friends got an official government department letter stating they had to register a name for their third baby or one would be allocated for him. We still had our boy name up our sleeve, but not an agreed-upon girl name to be seen. I’d pulled out my old shortlist, but all options were rejected. We started pondering if having a cat and a baby with the same name would really be such a bad thing.

To further complicate things for ourselves, we realised that all our names (including the cat’s) ended in an “ee” sound. Would child #2 feel left out if theirs didn’t, too? Something to ponder as I ate my nightly tub of ice cream.

A few nights before baby #2 was due to make a nameless appearance, as my latest suggestion had just been rejected for sounding like a stripper’s name, I sat down to read a new book to Amy. I didn’t have a whole lot of energy (or ankles, for that matter), but I was totally into the main character in the story – a little cutie called Tilly. “Hey, ‘Tilly’ is a really nice name,” said Jeremy as he walked past on his way to find me another bag of chips, “if the baby is a girl we should call her Tilly”. And so we did.

Several days later, I was explaining to the hospital midwife prodding my breasts that Tilly’s middle name was Judge, after my Granny (that was her last name), which I hoped would balance out the cuteness of a name like Tilly. “Oh love”, said the midwife, “I don’t think you’re allowed to call her Judge – there are rules about giving names that indicate a ranking – like King, General, and Duke”. “Nooo!” I shrieked, “I’ve already announced it on Facebook!”

Fortunately the pleading letter I sent to the department of Births, Deaths and Marriages outlining the family history of the name was accepted. I also threw in that I’d probably only use her middle name when she was naughty and I needed to use her full name for effect…I’m pretty sure if they knew how often I now shout “Tilly Judge McPike!” they wouldn’t have let it through.

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This column was originally published in the NZ Autumn 2017 edition of Little Treasures Magazine.

Review: Dawn O’Porter, ‘The Cows’

COW [n.]/kau/ A piece of meat; born to breed; past its sell-by-date; one of the herd.

Recently I had the sheer pleasure of taking lone flight to see my best friend. It was too early in the morning to summon the drinks trolley, but the in-flight entertainment app seductively touted season one of ‘Big Little Lies’, which I’d been meaning to see for ages, so I was as happy as a temporarily childfree woman on a trans-Tasman flight at 6.30am could possibly be. Alas, the entertainment app gave the middle finger to all passengers by refusing to work. The technology fail turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I had an uncracked copy of Dawn O’Porter’s ‘The Cows’ stashed in my bag (there were no blessings, disguised or otherwise for all the parents on the flight who had to find other forms of entertainment for the next four hours), and five pages in I was wishing the plane could just fly until it ran out of fuel so I could read the whole thing.

I won’t give too much away, because since reading ‘The Cows’ I’ve looked at a few online reviews, and holy shit, some of them are like that dick person on Facebook who announces someone else’s pregnancy before they’ve even told their own family, or all those people who tweeted “Dumbledore dies!” There are surprises in the book that are much more confronting and alarming when you don’t know they’re coming (you know, surprising surprises).

Kristen Wiig is quoted on the front cover (the cover art is striking, btw) as saying, ‘Funny and excruciating. You’ll think about it for weeks!’ And she’s right. Dawn O’Porter injects a special take on the themes of social media’s impact on our lives, online trolling, the cross over between public and private, families, friendships, the right to owning your own choices, how society views female sexuality, and how things are just better when we try to understand other women instead of judging them. As I’ve said before, women who take a dig at other women from behind a fake feminist shield really gets my knickers bunched up, so there was a lot in ‘The Cows’ for me to love.

The driving force behind the plot is that women don’t need to fit a stereotype, “cows don’t need to follow the herd”. The story centres on Tara, Cam, and Stella who don’t know each other but become linked as the plot unfolds. Tara is a documentary maker and single mum navigating the world of misogynistic workspaces and judgemental school mums, Cam is a successful blogger who publically lives her private life online to promote positive body image and show how not conforming to the ‘normal’ goals of marriage and kids is really awesome thankyouverymuch, and Stella who is PA to a photographer while dealing with grief and having to make choices about her health.

Dawn O’Porter takes care to make each of the women perfectly imperfect. Cam is intelligent and sexy, but has gangly limbs, man-hands, and a few social phobias to keep her from being too 10/10. Tara is professionally shit-hot and fiercely smart, but also sounds like a bit of a scruff, and goes about smelling of cheese after The Terrible Thing happens. Stella is the darkest of the characters, intriguing, unsettling, and probably the one I’m least inclined to go out for a drink with or ask to cat sit for me.

A few reviewers have commented that the male characters in the story are one-dimensional. I can’t say that’s something that stuck out for me, and um, *uses gentle voice*, the story isn’t about men. It’s about women and the way they view themselves and other women. The male characters might seem a bit secondary, because they are secondary in this case. I don’t know Dawn O’Porter personally (although I feel like I do, now that I’ve relentlessly stalked her via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter), but I get the feeling she’s the kind of person who rolls her eyes so hard it hurts enough to pop two paracetamols when she reads that sort of criticism.

The value society places on women as breeders is a theme that really sang out. My own path to motherhood wasn’t completely straight forward, and I adore my kids (mostly), but I feel very stabby when women patronisingly tell women who’ve chosen not to have children that they don’t know what they’re missing out on, their life isn’t complete, they’ll change their mind one day blah blah. Cam receives emails throughout the story from Samantha, the representative of her main advertiser, who says things like “we were thinking maybe it is time to recruit some guest writers for the site? We would like to suggest a mummy blogger, to set a balance between your childlessness and normal women?” Samantha is pretty much every sanctimonious “know better, do better!” mother in an online parenting thread. Fuck OFF, Samantha.

Further to my mention of online stalking Dawn O’Porter (can I just call her Dawn now? I feel like I could, now that I’ve seen a picture of her kissing her cat who looks exactly like my cat), I’ve got a not-insignificant crush, and a deeper understanding of her connection to each of the characters. Dawn has made a whole host of documentaries (Tara), has dealt with significant loss (Stella), and is a successful columnist/blogger (Cam). She has amazing hair (no connection to the characters is immediately apparent), and does good things for charities.

Upsettingly, she’s married to Chris O’Dowd and they’re about to have their second baby. I say “upsettingly” because he’s been second equal on the list of men I’d like to be my next husband ever since I saw him in ‘Bridesmaids’. In case you were wondering, first is David Walliams, and second equal with Chris is Manu the French chef from My Kitchen Rules Australia (hey, we love who we love, and I seem to love men who’ll either make me laugh or feed me). But if I can’t have him, I’m happy that Dawn does.*

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‘The Cows’ is printed by HarperCollins.

*I should note here that I really, really love my actual first husband.

Leave it on the playground

 

With the weather sending out flirty sunny signals by way of apologising for the recent flooding in our city, we decided to get together with some friends and their kids for a combined family lunch and play. Given that there were nine of us in total (four adults, five kids), there was a bit of a wait for a table, but with a fantastic playground adjacent to the restaurant you could buy wrist bands to play on, the wait was no bother at all. The kids got stuck in to the busy playground, and the adults chatted while keeping an eye out for any potential flight risks, and an ear out for any “I’ve fallen off this thing here and something is probably broken!” shrieks.  A good waiting time was had by all. Or so I thought.

Just after we’d sat down and all disputes over coloured cups had been settled, my five year old daughter whispered “oh no, here comes that mean girl”, and shrank back into her seat as a little girl who looked to be a couple of years older than mine approached our table with her mother. “Hello”, I said to the little girl, who was wearing a rad cardigan. Mother and daughter stared at me silently and I offered up an awkward smile.

Eventually, “your daughter was really mean to me on the playground”, said rad-cardie-wearing-girl. Oh shit. I thought to myself. If she’s hit this kid or said something really nasty I’m going to have to take her home right now, but I’ve just ordered kumara fries and I really, really want the kumara fries.

My five year old is a lot of things, but she’s no bully, and exclusively reserves all threats of violence for her little sister. She genuinely wants to be liked, so only unloads assholery onto me or her dad, which studies show is because kids behave better for other people, then unleash All The Feelings when they’re with their parents because they feel like that’s their safe emotional place. I’ve read about these studies in at least three articles on the Internet, so it must be true. I like to smugly think “my child is being a major dick to me – and ONLY me – right now because I’m a really, really good parent”. That thought carries me through the tanties with my sanity intact.

So, I was fairly confident neither punches nor hate speech had been thrown, but wanted to get to the bottom of why there was a mother/daughter restaurant intervention underway.  “What happened?” I asked. “She said I was being stupid”, said rad-cardie-girl. Rad-cardie-girl’s mother stood glaring at me and my aura of substandard parenting ability. At this point, my daughter burst into tears and said “I didn’t call her stupid, I said ‘wait, this is my hole’ because I was already climbing into a hole and then she tried to climb into it before I had finished climbing through, and Mummy can we please just leave? I don’t want to be here”.

“Oh dear, it sounds like these two might have had a disagreement on the playground”, I said pseudo-cheerily, “it doesn’t sound like it was too serious”. By this stage I had a sobbing five year old on my lap, and the eyes of the eyes of the restaurant were on us, but rad-cardie-girl wanted an apology (for what?!) goddam it, and she and her mother were going to stand silently over us, using The Force to dredge it out. My kid started sobbing harder, because it really sucks when you’ve been accused of something and you feel like everyone is looking at you. It’s like a maître d’ coming to your table and loudly announcing, “I think your credit card might decline even though I haven’t swiped it yet! I shall now cut it up theatrically in front of you, your friends, and all these other patrons!”

If working in the corporate world taught me one thing, it’s how to proffer a passive aggressive non-apology-apology to diffuse a situation without actually admitting any fault. So, “I’m sorry your daughter is upset”, I mumbled, “I think that’s the end of it now thanks”.

Rad-cardie-girl and her silent scowling mother finally slowly moved away from our table, I think mainly because they’d clocked that my friend (who is one of those amazingly loyal friends who’d absolutely cut a bitch if you asked her to) was starting to spit and hiss like an ally cat on meth. She limited her simmering explosion to growling, “that was completely inappropriate!” in silent-mum’s direction #SoRestraint #MuchCompose etc.

When tears had stopped and the fries had arrived, my friend’s 10 year old (he and his brother are the kinds of boys that make me want to immediately race out and have dozens of sons, just like them) backed up my kid’s version of events in PlaygroundGate. He added that rad-cardie-girl had gone and gotten her mum and the two of them had chased my daughter while demanding an apology.  Before anyone suggests I wasn’t watching my child, I’d just like to disclose that this was when I was literally peeling my three year old off playground equipment to get her to the restaurant before we lost our long-awaited table. I thought my five year old was running toward me because she was just as excited as I was about ordering fries. I hadn’t noticed the mother/daughter combo in pursuit.

In a major plot twist, my friend’s 10 year old said that the rad-cardie-girl wasn’t even wearing a wristband! She was illegally on the playground in the first place! I can’t confirm if this information is factual (perhaps it was hidden under her cardie sleeve), but I admire his unwavering commitment to following protocol at all times. The 10 year old was incensed by the whole palaver, and sagely said, “I think that mum is a helicopter parent”.

And he is absolutely right, because what the actual fuck? It’s a pretty intense parent who tracks a five year old down and humiliates her in front of her family and friends over a tiny tiff.

Yes, Silent Mum did a disservice to my child by accusing her of something without knowing both sides of story and ruining what had been a happy day, but the greatest disservice is to her own child, who is learning that she needs someone else to step in and fix every situation she’s not 100% happy with.

My daughter maintains she didn’t say, “you’re being an idiot”, but even if she did, she’s not wrong. You don’t try and force yourself into a space someone is already half in without expecting some sort of verbal backlash. In the same way I say “you silly sausage” when someone doesn’t merge like a zip (if my kids aren’t in the car, it’s less “silly sausage” and more “shitting fuckcake”), telling someone they’re out of line isn’t…well, out of line. A low-key verbal dispute over ownership of a tunnel in a playground is not something you need to call in mummy reinforcements over.

What happens when rad-cardie-girl faces all the disappointments that life is going to throw at her?

I failed a test?

I didn’t get my dream job?

Adele tickets are all sold out?

I can’t drive like a shitstick without people honking at me?

Someone just outbid me on an over-priced ‘renovator’s dream’ in Grey Lynn?

WAIT RIGHT HERE, IMMA GET MY MUM TO COME AND GLARE MENACINGLY AT YOU UNTIL THIS SITUATION IS RESOLVED.

Wanting to step in and do everything for your child is really, really tempting, especially when watching them trying to master a skill or emotion themself is frustrating or heartbreaking. My eldest child still outsources shoe tying to the nearest adult for this very reason. But constantly hovering and intervening creates a rod for your back, and does nothing to prepare your child for Real Life.

Learning the difference about when to encourage them to involve an adult is also a delicate art. I want my children to know that if they’re hurt, sad, in trouble, bullied, confused, or worried then I’m their first port of call. On the other hand, if they’re steaming up because someone else has the green pencil they want, I want them to negotiate that state of affairs themselves.

This particular tiff really should have been left on the playground. But, if rad-cardie-girl’s mum had discreetly pulled me aside and said, “hey, our girls had a slight disagreement over tunnel ownership, I don’t really know what happened but my kid wants to get something off her chest, do you think we could take them somewhere quiet and get them to talk about it so she doesn’t whinge at me about it for the rest of the day?” I would have totally been into that. #LifeSkills #ConflictResolution #ByTheWayILoveYourCardigan #LetsBeBFFsNow etc.

Staging a mother/daughter stand-in over a sobbing five year old wearing expressions like constipated Stormtroopers wasn’t a shining beacon in the stormy sea of teaching kids how to process emotions. Me offering my daughter ice cream to help her feel better probably wasn’t my best parenting choice either, but at least I didn’t spoon-feed it to her.

Rachel’s Boob-boo

On Valentine’s Day, Rachel Smalley used her ‘Rachel Smalley’s Opinion’ slot in the NZ Herald to have a substantial crack at women who’ve gone under a plastic surgeon’s knife or needle.

Boob jobs, in particular, have really gotten Rachel’s natural tits in a tangle. Rachel takes a stab that she thinks plastic surgeons like to call ‘boob jobs’ ‘breast augmentation’. Great sleuthing! Plastic surgeons DO like to call boob jobs ‘breast augmentation’, because that is the medical terminology for the procedure. Enlightened by the first few paragraphs that small nipples are in, and a B-cup is the new D-cup, I started getting a bit antsy when Rachel waded into “just be happy with your body; plastic surgery is for weirdos” territory.

“Ooooh, careful, Rachel”, I thought to myself, “have you forgotten #LardoGate? Remember that one time you accidentally left your mic on during the ad break in your radio show and said that New Zealand women are all a pack of lardos and heifers for having an average weight over 70kgs? People got pretty cross about that”.

So, the woman who looks down her nose at any woman who isn’t sub-70 also won’t abide anyone who doesn’t just accept how she is. I wasn’t alone in my brow furrowing over that paradigm (although the fact I can actually furrow my brow kind of makes me okay in Rachel’s Book of Looks), and found a welcoming community of fellow “What-The-Fuck?!”-ers in the Herald Facebook comments section.

And then shit got weirder. Rachel, the journalist who has brought our attention to topics such as the Syrian conflict and the state of the NZ health system, made a cringe-worthy leap by suggesting anyone who faffs about with their body is giving up their right to be taken seriously. She goes as far as to say it gives her grave fears for the future of women. Equality and a non-natural figure are mutually exclusive, apparently. Um, Rachel? Donald Trump called and he wants you to lead his team of speechwriters.

By that token, am I, with my chemically lightened hair, to be taken less seriously than my naturally hued or male counterparts? Careful with that one, Rachel, because those sun-kissed tresses you rock don’t look 100% god-given. And should a common utterance in boardrooms across the country be, “that’s an excellent idea, Janice, but could someone with thinner lips and a less perky pair of tits suggest it so we can put the plan to our shareholders with some credibility?”

I know some highly intelligent, confident and successful women. Some of them have fake breasts, and some of them don’t. Sure, it’s not a flawless, peer-reviewed scientific study, but I’d like to table my theory that the breasts do not maketh the woman.

A core component of feminism (or a supporter of equal rights for women, if the term “feminist” makes you clutch at your pearls and say, “oh but I’m not an ACTUAL feminist – I shave my armpits!” Side note: men can be feminists, too) is the right to freedom of choice. Implying that it’s anti-feminist for women to make decisions about their own bodies is about as anti-feminist as it gets.

There are many reasons a woman may elect to star in her own personal episode of Nip Tuck. Maybe it’s a breast reconstruction following a mastectomy, a breast reduction to stop chronic neck pain, a spot of Botox so people will stop saying, “why do you look so angry all the time?” a bit of filler to pad out wrinkles caused by a past life of smoking or sucking on sipper bottles (watch out for that one!), having ears pinned back, a breast augmentation to reclaim a bit of pre-motherhood pertness, or a breast augmentation just because she really fucking wants one. Is everyone who has dabbled with the dark arts of plastic surgery to now hide away, shamed by the knowledge that Rachel Smalley disapproves of their life choices? Or, should non-natural ladies be rounded up and burned at the stake for their selfish disservice to the advancement of womankind?

I’d like to know where her editor is in all of this. Did they not say, “Hey Rach…wait, can I call you Rach? No? My apologies, you’re a professional woman who can choose how she wants to be addressed, so Rachel it is. Hey Rachel, don’t you think your column delivering solid burns to anyone who has surgically spruced themselves is a bit on the body-shaming spectrum?”

I want to like Rachel, I really do. She’s intelligent, she’s successful, she supports charities, she’s written some incredible pieces, and delivered some hard-hitting interviews. She’s a mother (I noted the #humblebrag about reading Dr Seuss to her son in the Boobs article), a committed runner, and a woman who has climbed the ranks in her career. Inspiring. Noble.

So why did Rachel take a misguided stab at the synthetic-sisterhood? Spoiler alert: it’s not because she has “grave fears for the future of women”.

Rachel is in the enviable position of being able to reach a great number of New Zealanders, via multiple media forms. She has the nation’s ear, if you will. Instead of using her platform to deliver a thought-provoking or uplifting message, she used it to take a deliberate bite out of a woman who used to be her friend.

Rachel refers in her column to “a woman” she saw in her social media feed over the weekend who had recently had a boob job. Rachel doesn’t like That Woman’s boobs, oh no she doesn’t, because they’re fake and too far apart. She goes on to accuse That Woman’s boobs of not even liking each other because they’re SO far apart. She reckons That Woman’s boobs might even be having an argument, because they’re SO far apart. They’re SO far apart, you could drive a Mini Clubman through the middle of them, she tittered.

I know That Woman. She helped Rachel integrate into a new community several years ago. They had shared interests (That Woman even inspired Rachel to take up running. Go, Sisterhood!), kids of similar ages, and mutual friends. Kids’ birthday parties were attended, ladies’ getaways were shared, lasagnes were delivered during times of sickness, all good friendship stuff. Then they had a falling out. It wasn’t a particularly spectacular falling out – Julie Christie isn’t clambering for the rights to turn it into a series – but feelings on both sides were hurt, and the friendship was laid to rest. Relations were frosty, but then last year I was with That Woman at a marathon event and we bumped into Rachel. Smiles and running results were exchanged. It seemed that the frost had thawed and the two of them could happily exist around each other at mutual gatherings without any blood (or Chardonnay) being shed. Because moving on and letting go is what grownups do.

Apparently not, judging by Rachel’s Valentine’s Day column.

I get it. Friendships end, and that’s really sad sometimes. But passive-aggressively pissing in the nation’s ear about it and body shaming many others by way of collateral damage is a dick move at best.

There’s a lot of sadness and uncertainty in That Woman’s personal life right now, which made the “yo titties SO bad” jibes a bitter pill to swallow (and having seen them in the flesh, I can confidently state that those boobs are things of beauty). Another friend and I stood beside That Woman as she worried her unintentional #PersonalProblems weight loss made her chest look too bony for the dress she was about to wear to her 40th birthday party (which she’d just almost cancelled). We assured her she looked amazing, because she did. Celebrations ensued, fun times were had, and guests peppered their social media with the party pics that Rachel found oh-so-offensive.

Rachel’s boob shaming column tried to take the shine off That Woman’s 40th (seriously, it must be a special kind of bitterness that drives someone to choose a woman’s 40th birthday as the ideal time to start ankle-nipping like an inbred Jack Russell). At first it did. That Woman felt humiliated, hurt, and angry. But then she decided that she’d take this particular lemon life had lobbed at her, slice it up, and pop it in a gin and tonic.

So, That Woman has commemorated Rachel’s sanctimonious drivel with a custom printed t-shirt. She’s had two made, and has sent one to Rachel in the hope she’ll remember to use her privileged platform to build women up instead of picking them apart.

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That Woman is an awesome woman indeed.

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