The Triple Burden of Working Motherhood by @jesschivers

(written by Jessica Chivers)

Rummaging around my PC looking for an article I thought I’d written, I found something else I started writing several years ago and never quite finished before forgetting about it (that’s what happens when you have two children in nappies. They are now seven and five – tempus fugit). I give you an explanation of what the ‘triple burden’ of motherhood is and why it’s an issue.

The Triple Burden: Bad Behaviour, Broken Heating and a Burgeoning Workload?

I have turned to writing to stave off the tears prickling behind my eyes. For the second time this week I have lost my internet connection, my son is refusing to go to school, I have taken on more work than I can realistically do without losing sanity and jeopardising family relations and to top it off we have no hot water.

Let’s deal with these in turn. The first time I lost my connection to the information superhighway my husband had been digging in the garden close to the Virgin cables. It became apparent that we have lost touch when my computer screen fails to find red pesto on and to cut a long story short we go without the internet (and our Sainsbury’s delivery) from Sunday – Tuesday. I am not impressed but I get over it, look for the silver lining (no pressure to respond to e-mails and no distraction from Twitter) and spend more time with my children. Today I am not prepared to get over it because I have a stack of work I need the internet for and I really can’t face another 2 hour ping-pong phone marathon with an offshore call centre. In short I am ready to weep.

It’s at this point I text my husband to have a small moan. I can see him in his comfy chair at his uncluttered desk getting on with the interesting, clever things he does, totally unaware of my plight. He does not know of the battles with our children this morning. He hasn’t had to coax our son to school; the son who was really, really excited about starting Reception on Tuesday but who now says he doesn’t like all the different teachers (he has two who job-share but now a third has appeared) so doesn’t want to go. And who can blame him when powerful captains of industry won’t entertain job-sharing? Neither has my husband had to drop his daughter at the childminder with tears in her eyes (I know she gets over this very quickly so am not dealing with guilt on that front as well this morning). And my husband certainly hasn’t had to worry about getting dirty school uniform washed or sort out what we’re eating for lunch and dinner.

Then I remember something I read whilst researching my book on working mothers: The Triple Burden – a phrase coined by academics. What I’ve told you about my life is the ‘triple burden’ in action – women earning and doing disproportionately more ‘childcare’ and domestic drudge than her male partner. I don’t claim to handle the triple burden without moaning or occasionally sniping at my husband but I do get on with it as so many women do all across the world every day of the year. To all of you I say, you deserve a medal and if we want to change the world, we need to shape the cultures of the places we work to help men feel able to be active fathers. If you’re curious, read my thoughts on fathers here: Paternity Perspectives – Businesses Benefit from Active Fathers.  Whilst you’re at it, you might appreciate this piece on how to ask for a job-share.


Jessica Chivers is the author of Mothers Work! How to Get a Grip on Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work! (Hay house, 2011). She is the founder and managing director of The Talent Keeper Specialists ( and blogs at (@jesschivers)

There are free maternity comeback workshops available. The next one is Monday 30th June:


Birth Story by @Jo_Planet (Content Note for Birth Trauma)

(Cross-posted with permission from Opinionated Planet)


It’ll be Little Planet’s 11th birthday on Monday, and this afternoon, I was reminded about her birth. To be honest, I try not to think about it too much. ‘Serene’ ‘whale music’ ‘water birth’ or ‘natural birth’ all bring me out in hives when I think about it – they remind me of my (wonderful) midwife who used these words when suggesting I write a Birth Plan. I’m going to tell you the story – but I’ll start by saying if you’re pregnant, don’t read it. Please. If you’re squeamish, it’s probably not for you, either. If you follow me on twitter, you’ll know it had a happy ending, but I’m aware that many women who have a similar birth experience to me aren’t so fortunate. I send you my love.

I’ll start with how I actually got pregnant, (don’t worry, I’ll not be doing an impersonation of an embarrassed teacher!), seeing as I was adamant that I never wanted children of my own.

I met LPs dad in a pub when I was pissed, his friend was going out with my friend. He was funny, and we ended up dating. One weekend, he picked me up from work & had arranged a ‘romantic’ break to Torquay. (I know. The signs were all there!) He’d packed a bag, remembered my hair dryer and booked a B&B so off we went. We had a night out in Torquay, and who did we bump into?! Why yes, his FAMILY who were also there on holiday. Now, LP’s dad wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but his brother couldn’t cut warm butter. I got progressively more drunk in order to drown out their family idiocy, and it actually turned into a pretty good evening. When we got back to the B&B, condoms were missing from his ‘expert packing’. Just once can’t hurt, can it? It actually wasn’t even quite once, so I was pretty sure I’d be safe. <hollow laugh>

A week later, I was thoroughly bored of the ‘funny’ man I was dating, so I decided he had to go. I didn’t see him for a few days, and so I just left it to ‘cool off’. A week or so later, my period was late…. I bought a pregnancy test & asked him to come over so I could do the test. He arrived, following the obligatory ’4 pints with the lads’ and I’d already done the test, fuming in rage that he couldn’t be bothered to be present. (This turned out to be his MO, more on that another time).
I was pregnant. He, you may be surprised to know, was delighted. So delighted, that I didn’t hear from him for 2 weeks, as he was ‘celebrating’ impending fatherhood.
That’s enough about him now, needless to say, he’s not a huge feature in our lives.

Within a few days, I’d started to feel sick – really sick. I spent lots of time with my head over the loo, vomiting up anything and everything that I put into my body. Even water. Even ginger nut biscuits. Everything. When women have ‘morning’ sickness & tell you – don’t offer them solutions unless they ASK. They will have thought of everything, and probably tried it. Twice.

Four weeks later, I was hospitalised with hyperestemis, and spent a week on the gynae ward, on a drip. I was 10 weeks pregnant. ‘Not long now’, the people said. ‘It’ll settle down after 12 weeks’.
I vomited continually until I was 20 weeks pregnant – losing weight. I spent part of the 2nd trimester looking like I’d been dug up. Blooming, my arse.

At 21 weeks, I had a little bleed, so I went into hospital as instructed, where they declared my blood pressure to be ‘a little high’ and prescribed a week of bed rest. Lovely, I thought. I was off sick from work with the sickness anyway, being instructed to stay in bed was just what I needed.
Until I found it was a hospital bed. I wasn’t allowed out of bed unless I needed the toilet, or a shower.

January ended with me being allowed out of hospital, as they medicated me to control my blood pressure. As I came into February, I started to feel better – more energy, the sickness had settled to just the mornings & late evening, and I felt much better – including the development of a ‘bump’, which made me feel less of a malingerer! At last, I could wear my maternity jeans with pride! See – I’m not putting it on! I’m pregnant AND poorly!

I was put into consultant care, with appointments every fortnight – not much fun, and a wholly medicalised experience that I’d not planned for. Regardless, I attended my appointments, feeling utterly fed up at the way my pregnancy was progressing.

February brought good news and bad – I was made redundant, along with the rest of my team – 3 of whom were pregnant…. I knew I wanted a change of career & the redundancy payout gave me some financial freedom to decide which direction I might head in. I signed the forms & kissed my engineering career goodbye.

The middle of February brought another one of those consultant appointments. I was feeling better, less tired, but a bit breathless – all to be expected, I thought. As I was checked over by the midwife prior to seeing the doctor, she took my blood pressure.
‘Go & have a lie down, Joanne. Let’s see if we can get this BP down’.
The next reading was even higher, so they had another week of bed rest planned. This time, it was absolute bed rest. No wee breaks or trips to the shower for me! My goodness, bed rest is BORING.

March came – and I was allowed home! Yay! The deal was – I had a midwife visit the next morning. I would have agreed to anything, so fed up was I of Ward 14! My lovely community midwife visited the next morning, and took the dreaded blood pressure…. ‘Oh Joanne I’m really sorry. We can’t leave you at home with your BP so high’. I’d not even unpacked my bag, and I came to realise that this was the best way…

To save boring you with the minutiae, this happened a number of times – a few days in, a night at home, a midwife visit, a few days in, a night at home, a midwife visit. You get the picture. Until I got to 33 weeks – when I was IN UNTIL BABY ARRIVED. I had pre-eclampsia. My body was swollen, I had a face like the moon (and like thunder, much of the time!) and blood pressure so high that they thought it might kill me.

Bored, frustrated, hot (it was summer 2003 – bloody boiling!), bored, fed up, furious with the foetus, bored, raging with the consultant and far too knowledgeable about the midwifery off-shift antics!!

Finally the day arrived when my body could take no more. I was 37+3 – I was being induced as I had eclampsia. I saw the consultant, who breezed through the details of ‘induction’, telling me that my cervix would probably take a bit to ‘get going’.
I believe ‘get going’ is a euphemism for ‘need tearing open with metal probes, fingers, manky looking gel pessaries and brute force’. I called my birthing partner Kaz, and got settled in, ready to get birthing.

4pm on the Friday evening – we were off! A midwife tried to sweep my cervix, but it was ‘solid’. I knew this wasn’t good. In came the pessary, and I was sent for a walk. A long one. Round & round the hospital. And again. I had this conversation with a midwife on my way around the block:

M/W: how’s it going, Joanne?
Me: terrible. I’m not having any pains, or anything.
M/W: give it a chance!

Another turn around the block. Kaz bought me ice cream & we sat outside in the sunshine. Then the pains came. Big, long, hurty pains. We walked swiftly back to the ward, certain that this was It. I met the same midwife on the way back: ‘See Joanne?! You just needed to give it a chance!’

They lay me down to monitor the heartbeat, gave me two paracetamol and examined my cervix again. It was still impenetrable. They planned another pessary, then we’d be off to Delivery Suite. Easy peasy!

Ha. If only. 4 women arrived on the ward, all progressing much quicker than me – laying down to have the monitor on had slowed my contractions to a standstill. It was 8pm. The night shift came on, Delivery Suite was full, they decided to medicate me with a tamazepan to help me sleep, and they’d try again in the morning.

Saturday morning came, and I was determined I’d do it TODAY! I was thoroughly fed up & tearful, I just wanted it over and done with.

New pessary, new route around the hospital. I walked and walked and walked. And ate ice cream. It was still Hot.

Saturday evening, minor contractions, more paracetamol, more walking. My cervix was not considering thinning. On Saturday night, there were no beds on Delivery, so they followed the same routine. Sleep-inducing medication, try again tomorrow.

Sunday – this was the day I’d do It! Kaz was really bored by this time, but getting into her role as Birthing Partner. She called my mother to give her a progress update, only to find she was On Her Way. Now, my mother is a whole other story – I was getting this baby out as soon as I could, if she was arriving imminently!

The registrar decided they’d have ‘one more crack’ at opening my firmly closed cervix. I had another pessary and a bed on Delivery Suite. Oh – and my BP was 150/195. Time for action.

I was given another pessary, and some gel – and then I was put on a drip to ‘speed things up’. My slow progress & BP meant that I had to be constantly monitored, so I had to lay on my back. My contractions felt forced, painful, I was tired. My BP was fluctuating & the heartbeat monitor showed baby was a bit unhappy.

Sunday mid morning – here comes the consultant… On a sunny Sunday, I knew it was serious. ‘Break her waters’, he instructed. The midwife gave me the gas & air pipe. What do I need that for? I said, innocently. Breaking waters doesn’t hurt, does it? ‘Just use it if you need it, Joanne.

Legs akimbo, facing the door, the registrar crouched down between my thighs ‘I’ll try & be gentle Joanne, but use the gas if you need to’. The pain was agonising – I’m wincing now, as I type this. My cervix wasn’t dilated at all, so she forced open with some kind of implement that looked like a crochet hook, and tore at the amniotic sac. I screamed, sucked on the gas like my life depended on it, and the registrar, midwife & wall were covered in bloody mucus.

Kaz had been sitting quietly, in a very hot room, with me screaming & crying. She saw the blood, and made a dash for the door. She pulled it open, crashed into the wall, stood by the midwifery station trying to get out of the ward and fainted. Onto her face.

The door was wide open, as the team caring for me left and rushed to her side – she’d taken the weight of the fall on her cheek.

“Fucking hell you selfish bastard! Way to make everything about you!!” I screamed, as she was put onto a stretcher and taken to A&E.

The midwife patted my hand. ‘Don’t worry Joanne, we’ll soon have this baby out.’

Famous last words.

The shift changed again, and in came the Scary Midwife. I’m not going to name her, but my goodness I’m tempted. SM introduced herself as the senior midwife, and I didn’t like her one bit. My mother had arrived by this point, so I told her I wanted a new midwife. My mother loves nothing more than a ruckus, so off she went to ask.

“Joanne – you are High Risk. I haven’t got any suitably-qualified midwives available to look after you. You’ll have to manage with me” said SM, disapprovingly.

I burst into tears & said I was Going Home. She heard me, and came back to say there was another midwife available, who was recently qualified (see what she did there?!), and she’d supervise from a distance.

The new midwife was lovely, really put me at ease. She took my obs & decided I needed to see the doctor. In came the consultant, no doubt interrupted during Sunday lunch. Frowning, he looked at my file & said I had to have an epidural to bring my BP down. It was 185/215. I was in a bit of pain, but not much, and I really didn’t want to have to lay down constantly. But with my BP the way it was, they were worried I might have a stroke. The Anaesthetist arrived, the needle in my back did its job & off I went to sleep for an hour – with the sound of the snooker on in the background.

I was examined an hour or so later – still no movement in my blasted cervix, despite my waters being splashed all around the room. My contractions were stilted, baby was still a bit unhappy, but then perked up, so I was given some toast & told to ‘relax’.

Later in the evening, news came from A&E that Kaz had a fractured cheekbone, so it was just going to be me and my Mother.

Late evening came, and the registrar checked me over. Yet another check of the cervix, no change. Regular contractions, no pain due to epidural.
The registrar decided that she’d leave me overnight with no further interventions & they’d take me to theatre for a caesarean on the Monday morning at 8am. Because id had an epidural and was high risk, another lovelier midwife was to be my support overnight (I couldn’t be left alone as I’d had so many interventions & had an epidural in).

I was relieved and scared and fed up & exhausted – but I settled down with the snooker, had yet more toast & then settled for sleep. Lovelier midwife talked me down when I was stressed, and I settled to sleep.

I woke up with a start, when the BP machine attached to my arm wouldn’t stop inflating; the midwife checked me over and called for senior staff. It was 2am.

Lovelier midwife: I think we should get the Reg out to look again
Snr M/w: they’re leaving her, do you want to be responsible for getting her out of bed at 2am?!
LM: she needs to be seen. Heart rate is dropping & not recovering.
Sm: be it on your head… But it’s likely they’ll still leave her.
Me: I am HERE you know!

The registrar arrived at 2.45am – and by this time there was panic in the room. She examined me, and shouted ‘CRASH’. Now, I’d watched enough Casualty to know this wasn’t good. I’m shaking writing this – 11 years ago, and yet I have a dry mouth, racing heart, and a feeling of panic that takes me back into that room.

CRASH 2 CORD PROLAPSE the registrar shouted, as the room filled with people.

A nurse came towards me with a piece of paper – ‘sign this Joanne, you need an operation to save baby’s life’. I signed it, with nothing that resembled my actual signature!

A nurse came towards me, waving a razor. ‘DONT CUT ME OPEN WITH THAT!’, I yelled.. ‘I need to remove your pubic hair Joanne, keep still’

‘Drink this Joanne – it’ll stop you from being sick’. As my trolley was disconnected from all the equipment & pushed towards theatre, I vomited up the stuff that would ‘stop me being sick’. All over the only man in the Crash Team. Go me 😉

We arrived in theatre and it was bright – so bright.

‘Joanne – breathe in through this mask’

‘Is my baby going to die?’

‘We’re going to do our best to make sure you’re both ok’

‘This is iodine Joanne I’m going to paint it onto your tummy’


‘We’re putting you to sleep Joanne, your arm will go cold, count backwards from 10′

’10, 9, 8…’

When I woke up, they told me I’d had a baby girl at 3.22am but she was ‘a bit cold’ so they had her in a hot cot. I had been sure I was having a boy (call it my mothering instinct!), so the poor little 5lb 15oz mite didn’t even have a name.

We had skin to skin, and I fed her, then we slept. For hours and hours.

I woke up and asked what had happened – I have to be factual here because it’s still so scary. This is an excerpt from my notes.

Emergency c-section.
GA administered – suspected inter-uterine death.
<drug info>
Apgar 1 @ 1 minute
H/r 40
O2 & compressions
Nil reflex

Apgar 2 @ 3 mins
H/r 60

Apgar 5 @ 7 mins
H/r 80

Apgar 6 @ 10 mins

Apgar 7 @ 12 mins

Apgar 9 @ 15 mins

She recovered, and so did I – after a 2 year bout of PND. She was well, and although the paediatrics team warned me that she might develop differently to her peers, she met her milestones as expected and is as healthy as I could wish for.

I started writing this piece because she’s 11 on Monday, and I’m finally able to write about our shared trauma. Recovering from her birth took me a lot longer than I expected. Although I’m still shaking.

Phew. I think I’ll put the kettle on!

Opinionated Planet: a radical feminist blog by women for women on male violence, women-only spaces and sports

Motherhood is a Feminist Issue by @Firewomon

(Cross-posted with permission from FireWomon)


I keep reading about how much trouble kids are. About how they disrupt your life, about how you’ll never sleep again for the rest of your life, about how you’ll be knee-deep in baby milk, vomit and shitty nappies. And I keep thinking: it isn’t actually that bad.

I have two children a few years apart so I’ve done the shitty nappy thing twice over. They have each vomited a few times, I suppose. For about six months the first one woke me every night; with the second one, it was every night for three years. Yes, I often got tired – I still do. I have always been a single parent so have never had anyone to share the load with. However, it just isn’t that bad.

I am by no means perfect. I am selfish. I would much rather read a good book, or mess about on the internet, or sleep, than I would play a game with my kids. I leave the playing games (mostly) for them to do together. Before now, I’ve thrown lovingly-crafted Play-Doh in the bin because I couldn’t be doing with the mess. I once took the batteries out of a toy guitar because the noise it made was driving me up the wall (my child strummed it mournfully and I told her it was broken). I don’t read a bedtime story every night, because sometimes at the end of a long day I just can’t be arsed. I really can’t. Are my kids going to grow up emotionally scarred because I didn’t read to them every night? I doubt it.

Same goes for bathtime. There are evenings when one of them has needed their hair washing and I, well, just couldn’t be arsed with the bathtime rigmarole. There are parents at the school who claim to bath their kids every single night. We’ve never been a bath-every-night kind of household. Does this make me a bad parent? No, I don’t think so. Doubtless some would disagree.

Maybe you’re reading this now thinking I have a somewhat laissez-faire attitude to parenting. I wish I could say I have, because that sounds rather cool. I don’t. In some ways, I am super-strict. For example, my kids sit down in restaurants. They have never, ever been allowed to run around (unless they’re in a playground or similar). I just wouldn’t allow it. That’s just me. I bumped into an acquaintance recently and her two kids were rolling around on the floor of Tesco, wrestling each other. She seemed completely unperturbed by it – but then, perhaps she ensures her children have a bath each night, regular as clockwork? I don’t know.

Similarly, I am super-strict (and an enthusiastic helper) when it comes to homework. This interests me, see. Reading fucking Topsy & Tim doesn’t. I am relishing my eldest choosing her GCSEs. I can’t wait to discuss this with her, to help her, to provide advice, guidance, support. However, what she would like – I mean really, really like – would be for us to go to Alton Towers over the Easter break. I won’t do it, no matter how much she wants it. I can’t be arsed. Crowds, queuing, other families? – sod that for a game of soldiers. I’d rather scoop out my own eyeball with a spoon (yes, I watched Utopia) than go to Alton Towers, especially during school holidays. In fact, I’d rather take the kids out of school one day to take them to Alton Towers, under the pretext of ‘sickness’, just so we could go there when other families/kids were less likely to be there. Oh, and yes, I have done this before too, more than once – phoned in sick for one or more kid when I actually just couldn’t be arsed getting out of bed to take them to school. Maybe I was sick myself, or tired, or on occasion, hungover. Before you all start phoning Social Services, more often than not they are in school. But sometimes I’ve pretended they were sick when they weren’t. Yep.

There is no doubt that becoming a parent changes your life irrevocably. Sometimes, I entertain myself with the ‘I wonder?’ game, as in ‘I wonder what my life would be like now if I’d never had kids?’. Well, I would still have a spare bedroom. Heck, I would still have the biggest bedroom. I would have much less washing and ironing to do. I wouldn’t have (as I glance about me now) miniature plastic Smurfs lined up on the coffee table, five stuffed toys sitting on my living room floor and Doc McStuffins on the fucking telly. I wouldn’t be typing this in between trips to the toastie maker (toasted cheese/ham sandwiches – Nigella, eat your heart out). In fact, I wouldn’t be typing this at all, because if I wasn’t a parent I’d be doing something less boring instead (yes, I watched Why Don’t You?). Quite possibly, I’d still be in bed. Quite possibly, I’d have someone in that bed with me.

If I hadn’t had kids I would have much less to worry about. I wouldn’t spend half my life worrying myself shitless about some terrible accident befalling them (I shudder even typing that), or about some shit doing something shitty to them. I love them so violently it scares me, so much so that I often envy people without kids, people without that worry. So much so that – and here, I am going to upset and/or offend a few people – if I had the choice, that is, if I could have seen into the future and see how very much I would love and thus worryendlessly about these little people, I would probably choose to remain child-free. There, I’ve said it. I don’t want rid of them – far from it, there’s no turning my feelings around now – but if I could go back X number of years, before I got pregnant with the first, and somehow known how much the thought of one of them being hurt would distress and panic me, I would probably have chosen never to have known them. Probably.

Feminists, of course, have long critiqued motherhood. Undoubtedly, it can be physically and emotionally draining (but not always – at least not in my experience). Undoubtedly, it is for the most part a thankless task (but not totally, in my experience – no.2 has just thanked me for her toastie, after all). I understand feminists who, putting women first, point out that motherhood involves lots of hard slog on the part of a woman for comparatively little gain. What I do not understand is why some feminists treat mothers with such disdain, or refer to their offspring as ‘little brats’ (or similar). One woman’s ‘little brat’ is another woman’s baby, and she has toiled long and hard over that baby. Even worse, perhaps, is the practise of some self-proclaimed feminists to refer to a mother as a ‘breeder’. Calling another woman a ‘breeder’ is so anti-feminist that I really don’t see why I should waste my time trying to educate such a woman; and yet, here I am, writing this. Similarly, as a lesbian, sometimes I meet other lesbians who, as soon as they know I am a mother, literally do not want to know me. It’s as though I am letting the side down in some way, by having children. A faux lesbian and a faux feminist.

It is possible to be a radical lesbian feminist and to be a mum – look, here I am! *waves* (disclaimer – there are more of us, of course). In online discussion groups on Facebook and similar, feminists are allowed – nay, encouraged – by other feminists to discuss their collection of animals/insects, but try discussing children and you’ll be met with a brick wall. I don’t bore anyone with tales of how I don’t bath my children (apart from here but, hey, you’re still reading, aren’t you?) but now and again I mention them. Of course I do – sometimes I can go entire days when they’re the only other human beings I speak to – but I always run the risk of being called a ‘breeder’, or being put down in some similar way by a woman who, having chosen to remain child-free, can’t abide another woman having made her own decisions about her own life.

That said, there are many of us radical feminists with children who, through the internet, have been able to connect. Motherhood can be isolating, especially single motherhood (and most of the radical feminist mothers I know are single). You can leave your cat or your stick insect home alone for the evening while you go out and get wellied; not so with children. The internet has given us the opportunity to connect with other mothers, and thus have some semblance of a social life, in a way not previously possible. One such woman, feeling as keenly as I do this problem of not being able to discuss motherhood in feminist circles, has started a blog Motherhood is a Feminist Issue. On this blog, mothers who are also feminists and sometimes lesbians, will be able to come together to write about and discuss our experiences of motherhood. You can take part just a little or not at all, or you can become fully involved, without worrying about discussing something which doesn’t affect the woman you’re discussing it with. You can write a piece for the blog and/or join in with the comments section(s), as and where you like. Motherhood is a unique experience. It is nice to have somewhere to discuss that, without worrying about boring anyone shitless. We don’t want any special treatment just for being mothers, but nor do we want to be outcast just for being mothers. Motherhood is a feminist issue because it is of course unique to women.

I need to end this piece by saying I’ve just looked around and half a cheese-and-ham toastie is sitting forlornly on the plate (I told you I was no Nigella). Still, Doc McStuffins has been replaced with Dr Who so it’s not all bad. Bathtime tonight? *looks at watch* Nah. I really can’t be arsed.


Firewomon: A Radical Feminist Blog [@Firewomon]

Teenage Mothers, Domestic Violence and Shame by @God_loves_women

(Written for A Room of our Own: A Feminist/ Womanist Network by @God_loves_women)

I have a confession to make. I have been totally prejudiced against teenage mums. As a young person myself I imagined they were seeking a council flat, had no aspirations and were lazy and from families who had obviously not cared about them. The usually smoked, abandoning their children wherever possible to go out clubbing. They didn’t know how to discipline their children, were incompetent and slept with lots of different men.

All of them except me of course. I was 17 when I found out I was pregnant and had my daughter when I was 18 years old. I refused to go to any “young mum” groups, because I wasn’t like “them”. Of those least likely to get pregnant or even have sex before marriage I ranked probably highest in my school year. I’d met the father at a friend’s party; he was dangerously charming and within six months he had gained total control of me, including his convincing me not to use contraception. Having a Catholic secondary education (contraception is evil) and a Daily Mail reading mother (contraception gives you cancer) contributed to the ease with which I accepted his view that “it’s not real without a risk”.

I married him within months of giving birth. Growing up as a strongly committed Christian left me feeling marriage was the only way forward. Plus the need to not be “one of those teen mums” left me feeling I must get married. At least then I could pull the “marriage card” (or ring as it’s usually known), “See, world! I’m not like the others, I’m married.”

My ex-husband destroyed me; sexual and emotional abuse left barely able to function, constant undermining of my parenting and ongoing sexually relationships with other people. We were both 19 when his abuse of teenage girls led to him being put on the sex offenders register for five years. Yet I couldn’t leave him. Alongside the reality of trauma bonding and his devaluing of me to the point I knew I was worthless; there was a deeply held fear of becoming “one of those teenage mums”. I needed to stay with him otherwise I would be failure; because fundamentally that’s clearly what I thought all those other teenage mothers were.

At 21 I escaped when my son was born three months premature after my ex-husband assaulted me. My son’s birth and subsequent hospital treatment led to me and my daughter living in a hospital over an hour from our home town. This forced separation and my son’s ongoing treatment left me knowing I must speak out, so I reported him to the Police and legal proceedings began.

Many of the doctors and nurses who cared for my son would ask, “Are you on your own?” “Where is the father?” I couldn’t only say, “Yes, I’m on my own. I’m no longer with his father.” I always had to quantify it with, “His father is a registered sex offender.” I had a premature child who frequently almost died, I had a traumatised toddler and we lived in a hospital an hour from anyone we knew and yet I desperately didn’t want anyone thinking I was one of those teenage mums.

I’m now 29, my children are 11 and 8.  They are amazing, intelligent, creative and kind people (I know I’m biased, but still…).  I married my now husband (the good one) over six years ago.  The journey I have walked, sometimes crawled and sometimes been dragged through has and continues to be full of wonder, the mundane, of brokenness and beauty.  Through much counselling, prayer and many miracles I am still standing.  I am now proud to say I was a teenage mother.  I relish the opportunity to stand with all those who I once othered, to challenge anyone who tries to talk about those teenage mothers.  I was wrong.

I stayed with an abuser for four years in part because of the messages I received.  I was conditioned by the media, society and comments from adults I knew to think that those teenage mums were less than fully human.  Media outlets, writers, politicians, schools, musicians, business leaders, each and every person, has a responsibility to consider the consequences of how our prejudices may impact others.  Because there is no those, there are only us.


God loves women: A blog sharing my love of God, the love He has for women and my frustration that the Church often doesn’t realise this (@God_loves_women)

The Cobblestone Path – raising a child with a disability


What does it mean to raise a child with special needs?


The short answer is that it is a lot of hard work. But you knew that already anyway. For me, it has involved a lot of soul searching, career plans that have had to change, aspirations forgotten. Let’s not beat about the bush. We all know that in the vast majority of cases the onus is on the mother to change her life and take on responsibilities of caring for children, and in the case of special needs, doubly so.

You may think that I am fortunate in that the nature of my work means that I can work from home. However, in reality, it is next to impossible to work while caring for my son. I spent the first three years of his life taking him to appointments, to physiotherapy, to occupational therapy, to see the paediatric psychiatrist, to see the neurologist, to the mental health centre, and so on. I took advice from the physiotherapist and performed the exercises with my son myself every day. It was a lot of hard work, and it affected me physically as well as mentally. I started to lose a lot of weight, and people would congratulate me and ask me if I had been on a diet and what my secret was – something which I found quite ridiculous, as I was already thin to begin with, and losing weight was starting to make me look ill. What does this say about our society, I wondered at times, that here I am showing the signs of the strain taking its toll and affecting my health, and all people can do is comment on how nice it is for me to get even thinner! It isn’t nice, and it made me worry about my own health too, on top of all the worry about my son!

Perhaps you are wondering where my son’s father is in all of this. Well, he was there. But he went out to work every day, and caring for my son, doing his physiotherapy, was not something that could just wait until the evenings. Of necessity, I did the lion’s share. I thought deeply about this. Was this unfeminist of me? Should I have tried to arrange our lives differently to give my husband a greater share of the care work, and myself more chance at employment? No, I concluded, it was simply the best arrangement for us. Simple biology decided matters in the beginning: my husband could not breastfeed the children. Far better for me to take the time I needed with them, and for him to enable that by continuing to work as normal.

So what about now? My youngest son – I have two other children who do not have any special needs – has now started school. You might think that this is an opportunity for me to breathe a sigh of relief and relax a bit. You would be wrong. The first few months presented a constant string of problems – dealing with special needs in a school environment is not a simple matter, even when the child is enrolled in a special integration unit. I went back and forth from the school, I took in things from home to help my son settle in, I donated books and toys to the integration unit, I made suggestions to the teacher, who clearly didn’t know what to do with my son. I took him to educational assessment committees, to specialists, and at every turn I had to hear that I was making a mistake, that I did not have my son’s best interests at heart, that I was doing it all wrong. I researched matters myself and went against the advice of the professionals to do what I thought best for my son, both in his daily life at home and with regards to his education.

Not once has anyone suggested to my husband that he is doing it wrong. Not once has he been told that he is making a mistake. In fact, on one occasion, when we went to the educational assessment committee, the chairperson turned to my husband, after I had explained our position, and said, right in front of me: “Do you really agree with her on this? Perhaps you see it differently?” I had already made it clear when I was speaking that we had agreed on those points together. Conversely, when my husband did the talking, no one questioned what he had to say.

So, I have told you about the hard work and the appointments, the insults from professionals who are supposed to be helping you. But that is not all life is when bringing up a child with special needs. It is also about laughing and having fun with my son, about playing with him, teaching him nursery rhymes, singing songs to him, all the normal things you do with your children. He may have special needs, but he is still just a little boy who wants to play! I may never see him write his own name, or even hear him say it, but he has a beautiful smile that melts my heart, his infectious giggle makes me laugh too, and seeing him wave his arms in time to music, especially after all the physiotherapy that has got him to this stage, brings tears to my eyes. He plays pretend games and likes to throw a ball or play on a swing, laughing away as he swings to and fro.

That is why I call it a cobblestone path – it is a bumpy ride, but the road goes on, we are not standing still.

I don’t deny that it is hard work. I will not claim that it is all plain sailing. But it has its rewards, and I do not begrudge a moment of it.


The Cobblestone Path

The fiddler takes a bow before performing,

She dances onto the cobbles,

Drawing the bow lightly over the strings.

She flits from pebble to pebble, playing gently.

A soft melody hums in our ears and we lean towards it.

With quick strokes, the fiddler plays a discordant sound,

But we are strangely drawn in,

Onto the unsure footing of the cobbles.

The music beckons us with its unevenness,

We follow it over the rough stones.

The fiddler plays faster now, a wildness to her tune,

And dances over the stones before us,

Leading us ever forward,

To tantalising promises of more,

Sounds of sweet music ringing in our ears,

While we stumble on the cobbles in her wake.

It’s only 9 months to save a life, by @Herbeatittude

(Cross-posted with permission from Herbs & Hags: Meanderings of a Hag)

“It’s only nine months! Isn’t that worth it, to save a human life?”

So goes the argument made by those idiots who are in favour of forcing girls and women who get pregnant with an unplanned foetus, to continue with the pregancy and give birth to it against their will.

As anyone who has actually been pregnant knows, it’s not 9 months, it’s 40 weeks, which is actually nearer to 10 months. The reason tradition has it as 9 months, is because in the old days most women didn’t know they were pregnant in those first few weeks.

There is a modern myth abroad which declares that “being pregnant is not an illness” and that it is in fact, nearly exactly like not being pregnant. Again, as anyone who knows anything about it knows, that is simply not true. However for many of us, we have NO IDEA, not a single conception, of just how unlike not being pregnant, being pregnant can be, unless we ourselves experience some of the risks and side-effects or know someone who has done so.

I did a little bit of research on this. Oh all right, I didn’t, I went on Mumsnet and asked them – this should not be taken as a comprehensive list or a serious meta-analysis. It’s just a list of things people on Mumsnet have had happen to them as a direct or indirect result of being pregnant and giving birth. Some of them are relatively trivial, some are vair serious indeed, like Death. Anyway it’s my starting point for a list of potential risks that women undergo, when they decide to keep a pregnancy. Or when somebody decides they have to keep it whether they want to or not. When you see it written down, you wonder how much hatred pro-forced-birthers have for women. For the real hardliners, none of this means anything, they hate us anyway and don’t believe our lives have any value. But for the thoughtless knee-jerkers who aren’t that committed to the forced-birth arguments, this list might be a useful thing to contemplate. Anyone wanting to add anything, I’d be interested to hear from you.

Anal fissures
Anal incontinence
Anaesthetic mistakes leading to permanent disability.
Asthma – 1/3 of women who have it finds that pregancy makes it worse.
Back pain
Bell’s palsy
Blindess (tearing retina during delivery because of pressure of pushing)
C-sec wounds getting infected, haematomas associated with C-sec wounds, keloid scarring.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Cascade renal colic
Change in digestive system
Change of body shape – breasts and hips do not return to form prior to pregnancy. There are implications for psychological harm there alone.
Coccyx problems – some women have difficulty sitting down forever after.
Constant nausea sometimes for the whole 10 months
Cutting of bladder during caesarean
Decreased suppleness (particularly bad for women who do sport).
Dental problems
De Quervain’s Syndrome or Mother’s Thumb?
Diarrhea and vomiting lasting for 2 or 3 years after the pregnancy.
Eczema can be made worse
Episiotomy wounds can open up
Eye prescription changes.
Gestational Diabetes. About 8% of women are affected by this.
Guilt and self-loathing from giving child up or not bonding if kept.
Gum disease and wobbly teeth
Hair colour change
Hands and/ or feet can grow and not go back to their old size.
Hip pain
Hormonal effects on pre-existing conditions ie psoriasis, acne, etc
Hyperemesis, with severe dehydration
Increased risk of gallstones and kidney stones
Increased risk of osteoporosis
Increased risk 12 months post partum for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (inflammation of the uterus, ovaries, FTs) – can leave permanent scarring, cause infertility, ectopic pregnancy etc
Iritis (a horrid auto-immune inflammation of the iris, which leads to blindness if not treated quickly and efficiently. A sudden change in hormones can cause an attack).
Less intense orgasms
Lochia can be retained, causing distention of the uterus.
Lowering of the immune system
Memory implications
Mental Health conditions are often exacerbated by pregnancy.
Months of sleeplessness. Sleep deprivation recognised as serious health risk by most medical authorities in the world.
Muscle tears
Multiple Sclerosis has been known to be triggered in pregnancy
Negative impact on finances that will affect mental health, lifestyle, access to jobs.
Nerve damage
Nipple thrush causing nipples to permanently invert. Leading to lack of confidence, lowered libido etc.
OCD can be triggered/get worse post partum.
Pain of the milk coming in.
Permanent increase in blood pressure
Plantar fasciitis
Post partum hyperthyroidism, leading to the need to take thyroxine for the rest of ones days.
Post-birth complications. Poor stitching followed by repair operation months later.
Post natal psychosis
Pre-existing conditions like Arthritis, need drugs to control them. These drugs are harmful to foetuses and need to be stopped, leading to the woman with arthritis ending up in constant pain for years, possibly life and needing to use a wheelchair.
Pre-natal anxiety and depression is generally not discussed but common.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Sexual problems (libido, sensations)
Skin changes like patches, spots etc. Sometimes patches never clear up.
Snoring and sleep apnoea
Spinal migraine
Sore and painful joints, sometimes lasting months or years.
SPD – a syndrome which can lead to serious disability and pain, no cure.
Splitting of chest muscles (can’t remember term, but colleague could fit a fist in the space between her muscles)
Tears into urethra and clitoris as well as vaginal and anal.
Thrombosis- deep vein and superficial vein
Urinary Incontinence – stress incontinence, urge incontinence and both. This would be considered a major effect in a man, but for some reason women are supposed not to mind. This can lead to lack of confidence, depression etc. (Which since this is how patriarchy likes women to feel, should possibly be seen as not a side effect at all, but a lovely womanly enhancement.)
Varicose veins
Women who suffer Gestational Diabetes are more likely than average to develop diabetes later on in life. Sometimes gestational diabetes will be permanent.

Only 9 months eh? I don’t think so. Now imagine telling a man that he should risk any of the more serious things on this list (or even some of the less serious things), in order to save the life of a child, because human life.

It just wouldn’t happen would it? Because unlike women, men matter.

HerbsandHags: Meanderings of a Hag: I have no fixed subject matter for my blog, it tends to be whatever grabs me, but for some reason lots that has grabbed me has been about rape or other male violence. It’s all with a feminist slant though. [@Herbeatittude]

Feminism and Motherhood – On Choice, Criticism and Self-Confidence by @JumpMag

The organisers of Mumsnet Blogfest set the question, ‘Can Feminists be Mummybloggers’ at a rather volatile panel discussion yesterday. I won’t say much about the events of yesterday, as I didn’t attend, but did want to look at the feminism and motherhood issue. If you want to read a bit of the background, you can find a list of blogs on Louise’s post on this matter.

This post is going to be a game of two halves, and if you like football, do follow the shameless plug to find out about Jump! Mag‘s search for an aspiring journalist to cover the UEFA U17 Women’s Championship Finals.

An event such as the Blogfest is an amazing opportunity for women to get together and discuss topics that interest them. This might be how to take better photos for your blog, or how to attract more readers, it might even be a discussion about staying safe online, and dealing with trolls. Widening this discourse to talk about feminism and how it relates to the blogging community was a great idea, and despite the upset, I am glad that Mumsnet opened this particular can of worms.

Something that occurred to me when reading Louise’s post, and in particular the comments on her blog, was the way in which women were engaging with this issue. While the feminist bloggers were discussing this in relation to feminist theory, the mummybloggers were relating it to their personal lives, and taking offence.

When the feminist theory of ‘lack of choice’, as described by Louise is dismissed because an individual actually quite likes wearing high heels and making jam, then the actual point is being missed. We are not talking of the choice of an individual, but the society in which we live, which limits our options. I am not a radfem, and don’t always agree with Louise. I confess that I am not quite convinced of the idea that we have to overthrow the patriarchy, but I do believe it exists, and that it limits women.

Take this as an example

‘I took the decision to leave work and stay home with my children. It made this decision with my partner because it was the best option for our family. No one forced me to do this’

I would ask this hypothetical woman, ‘If you were earning the same as your partner, would you have made the same decision? If you had the option of leaving work for a year, then returning to the same position with no loss of earnings and no loss of status in the company, would you have made the same decision? If you were able to rearrange your work life, perhaps working from home, or on flexitime, or job share – would you have made the same decision?’

The decisions we make are influenced by the society in which we live. If we lived in a society that valued women more, and saw them as equal to men, then we would have better maternity leave provisions, and more options for women who would like to continue to work.

To deny this, and state that you like  to make jam, or love to knit, but are still a feminist is missing the point by a mile. It is not about the jam, it is not about the high heels, it is not about YOU. It is about the way our society is, and how we can change this.

The second part of this discussion, is the reasons that women feel that their choices are being attacked. When Sarah Ditum talked about discovering she was pregnant, and deciding to continue with her degree, she said it made her a better person and a better mother. She did not say that anyone who didn’t have a degree is a bad mother, so why was this they way it was understood and subsequently reported? Compare Sarah’s version of events, with this blogger’s version of events

Sarah: [said] that motherhood should not be a full stop on a woman’s life, and that I am glad that I went back to university and finished my degree after having my first child, partly because I think having interests and ambitions that were not my child has made me a better parent

CrazyWithTwins: Outrage fully tore up the auditorium when one speaker proclaimed that if she hadn’t finished her degree, she’d have been a bad mother. That was the cue for all mothers without degrees to object fiercely and the debate heated up a few hundred degrees.

I didn’t include the quote from CrazyWithTwins to ridicule or slate her take on the events, but to point out that there is a huge discrepancy between what was said and what was heard. It has been said that the acoustics in the auditorium were not great, and that there was a lot of shouting, hissing and talking going on, so perhaps that was part of the issue. Booing or hissing at someone because you disagree with them is not a mature way of discussing an issue, and the women who did this should apologise to Sarah Ditum.

How did we get from ‘the decision I made, made me a better mother’

to ‘if you didn’t do as I did, then you are a bad mother?’


feminist vs mummyblogger

Women are used to being criticised. You might even say that we are conditioned to being criticised. Pick up a newspaper or a women’s magazine to find out what we are doing wrong. We are too fat, too thin, too rich, too poor. We are helicopter mums, or neglectful mums. Barbara Ellen asked this week, ‘What part of a woman’s body will we be taught to hate next?’ 

When I was researching this post, I found this article. Check out the ads at the side of the page – even as we are told that we should be more positive about our bodies, the advice is to exercise and diet!

This week Great British Bakeoff finalist Ruby Tandoh talked about her lack of confidence, and how she wishes that girls today receive a different message than she did when she was a teen.

“I really struggled as a teenager, but every magazine or website I turned to for reassurance suggested that the way to improve my confidence was by changing my outfit or my hairstyle… It was all terrible advice, and it really set me back”. 

Women are trained from a young age to look at themselves critically, and to look at each other critically. I am not sure if this is worse in UK, but I also find the constant putting down of one’s achievements wearying at best, and enraging at worst. I have lost count of the times that I have read tweets like this, or heard friends make these comments

‘Here is a little thing I wrote, it’s a bit rambling but have a look’

‘Sorry that this post is a bit rushed, but here it is’

‘Thanks, glad you like my blog. It is a good outlet for my ramblings, lol’

‘Thanks. I don’t normally look like this, its all just make up!’ (on receiving a compliment)

It is ok to be proud of your work, and the correct answer to a compliment is a simple, ‘Thanks’. Bite your tongue and don’t add a self-deprecating remark. I know it is hard, I have had to train myself to do this, but it is so important.

Women are also held to a higher standard than men. Look at the photo above. Do we tell men they should have a designer penis jab? Do we berate them for allowing the kids to sit around all day? Mums are too busy to cook, but Dads are off the hook.

Until we hold fathers to the same standards as we do mothers, we will always be on the defensive, as the blogger HeadinBook so rightly states.

Thinking about it, what it boils down to is this:

I am tired of having to justify and explain “my” lifestyle to every man and his dog, when so far as I am aware, no-one has ever asked my husband to do the same.

I searched the Daily Express website for examples to use in the above image. It may not surprise you to know that the search for ‘dad’ came up with far fewer articles of a berating or blaming nature, than those with the word ‘mum’.

No wonder we take offence when none is actually intended, as we are so used to defending ourselves against the constant barrage of insults, demeaning comments and accusations.

So where do we go from here? I would suggest that opening a discussion is the way forward. Not with recriminations, but with the aim of understanding the position of the others.

I confess that I don’t understand how someone can say ‘being a mum is everything. It is the be all and end all of my life’. I have written about the Cult of Motherhood before, and will revisit these thoughts in the coming weeks. I don’t understand how anyone can put a full stop into the middle of their life, no matter what they are talking about. We don’t stand still in life, we move on, we learn, we adapt to new situations.

I imagine that the coming weeks will see a flurry of blog posts about feminism vs mummyblogging, and I would hope that it remains civil and honest.


Salt and Caramel : is a blog about the sweet and the bitter side of life. Freelance writer Lynn Schreiber shares tips on Social Media, blogging and parenting, reviews products and events, and highlights issues surrounding the rights of women and girls. [@LynnCSchreiber]


More articles on Mumsnet:

“It’s only 9 months to save a life” by @Herbeatitude 

Right, Listen up everybody by @TheSamDavis

“Deeply Romantic”: Hemingway, Domestic Violence and Romance by @LeStewpot

The Signs of Controlling Behaviour: Red Flags and How to Spot them by @LynnCSchreiber

How Mumsnet put some fire in my belly and why I hope my boys embrace feminism by @mummytolittlee