Being a Black Stay at Home Mum


My mother delivered her best sermons from the helm of her blue Nissan Micra. Her audience, captive physically if not emotionally, was unchallenging. Usually I was weary from a day negotiating playground politics; often I was preoccupied with oddly, philosophical anxieties, such as what if everything in the world were a figment of my imagination? Anyway, I knew the theme and had heard many other arrangements of the song – the vastness of my untapped potential; horror stories of immense failure, starring the tragic offspring of friends of friends and finally, inescapably, her closing line, her catchphrase - ‘You have to work ten times harder than anyone else.’ By harder she meant faster, smarter and with a bigger smile on my face. By ‘anyone else’ she meant white people.

Although I would roll my eyes and dismiss her as old fashioned (at the time something I regarded as a senseless crime) I believed her. I believed her before I even had a chance to understand what I was believing. I imagine it is what it would be like to be born into a religious household, to be told to have faith in something intangible. In some ways it was my mother’s religion – she believed it and she thought that if I believed, it could save me. My father tried to help; he had a sack full of stories that he would recount over lengthy Sunday dinners - the injustices he was subjected to as a young, black man in an unenlightened London. The girlfriend’s father that wouldn’t let him past the threshold and the over-zealous police officer that had taken him in as he made his way home from a party. He told these stories with a chuckle and shake of his head, they were both menacing and comforting - the Grimm’s fairy tales of my childhood.

Of course my life was not like that. I was born into a brand new integrated London, where I was more likely to receive abuse from the black boys on the bus than the sweet, old white man in the corner shop. Despite my mother’s insistence, I did not need to watch my back or bite my tongue. I did not need to work ten times harder, but I did. I did it in the way that children grow into their parents even when, especially when, they are actively trying not to. Even with her wild words, I trusted my mother just a little more than I trusted the sometimes overwhelming world and, seriously, I never went to any parties so what else was I supposed to do after Dawson’s Creek?

I wonder if it was the decision to heed her words that made me start to see evidence that they were warranted. Unprompted, Mr Mason my year ten teacher, pulled me aside to tell me that I had developed a terrible attitude. I was no longer listening; I was rude; I talked back. The tears sprang instantaneously to my eyes, as they did and still do when I am confronted. My behaviour had been no more egregious than any other hormone riddled teenager – did the colour of my skin make it seem amplified? My school careers advisor was dead inside and very possibly outside, I didn’t check for a pulse. She read my forms and listened to my dreams. I told her I wanted to be a psychologist.  I’d found it in a book, ‘1000 Careers and how to get them’. She suggested I look into nursing, a noble profession but not the one that called me. I thought about all the kind brown faces that had supported my father when he fell suddenly ill. Was nurse on the approved list for ‘jobs black people do’? Perhaps if I wanted something different, I’d have to work harder than anyone else.

Going to university wasn’t a decision, it was a fact. I didn’t even feel pressure because pressure would suggest other potential outcomes. A gap year was a near mythical concept entertained only by white children – I was practically kept under house arrest from the moment I left school until the first day of term. I had two years of fun. I drank violently coloured alcopops, made friends for life; met my future husband and a few guys that absolutely weren’t husband material. It wasn’t until my final year that fear gripped me; out from under the examining eye of my mother had I faltered? Had I forgotten the mantra? I spent my final year working and crying and working, determined not to be one of the tragic tales used to scare young, black girls in Nissan Micras. The day I received my scrappy but official degree was a day of singular emotion – relief.

I went on to work in social care. My parents were pleased enough. It was an easy job to explain with reliable hours and an all-important pension. My mother had moved on somewhat, I think she felt that her job was done and she needed more time to indoctrinate my siblings. I loved my job but I wasn’t overly ambitious. In my twenties it wasn’t really noticeable, we were all finding our feet, taking weird chances and drinking a little too heavily but as the years went by and my friends slowly, almost imperceptibly, began to change; to become serious, to embrace adulthood. At house parties people were no longer temping or travelling but senioring and managing and then one day the house parties just stopped. I was never overcome by ambition. The bit of my work that I liked was the care taking. As a child I had enjoyed mimicking a picture perfect home life. It was always mummies and daddies over doctors and nurses. It should not have been a surprise when the desire to have a baby jumped out from behind the shadows and slapped me round the face ten or twenty times.

My husband and I made plans. When the baby came I would stay at home, babies need someone at home we’d heard. After that we’d see what he or she needed and what we needed. It didn’t take me long, perhaps an hour after the drugs wore off, for me to see that what I needed was to be with my son and nowhere else.  The first year was relatively easy, a lot of women take a year. It was as my baby, stretched and morphed into toddlerdom that the discomfort started. It was a growing feeling of being an imposter. This position was for privileged, white woman, not girls with something to prove. We went to visit my grandmother – mother to eight, fools suffered zero. She asked me when I planned to go back to work and I dodged and weaved, implying a not so distant future with me behind a desk in it. She nodded briefly and said, ‘Good.’ Don’t grandmothers have a way of saying so much with so little? To me that good said, don’t disrespect me by sitting on the bum that I gave you, after all the work we’ve done.

At the toddler groups my uniqueness highlighted my betrayal. As mothers admired my son’s bouncing curls I felt like a traitor rather than a pioneer. In the duller moments of stay at home life I imagined an alternative realm where I was beating a path through the corporate jungle, an inspiration to young, black people. Whilst washing plastic cutlery I’d imagine myself recruiting a black girl with a relentless black mother, saying to her fondly, ‘you remind me of myself.’ In reality I was doing nothing to fight back against the beliefs that immigrants are unmotivated. Beliefs that may have been given a fresh coat of political correctness but still shone through in the crime stats and the media or as a hot topic for internet trolls.

My mother just wanted me to be happy but I know she would be happier if what made me happy was smashing through a glass ceiling, a glass ceiling made from reinforced glass. I cannot hide from my truth that I feel I am letting them down. My parents did not tag team shifts so that I can get enchiladas made before five.  My grandparents didn’t migrate from a warm, inviting island to a cold and hostile one so that I could pick up after a man, a white man at that. I choose to make things harder for every young, black girl today being told by an underinvested careers adviser that maybe she can’t. 

Being a black and female in a predominantly white society is a curiously awkward burden. It’s like holding a drink and a canape at a cocktail party. When the host comes to greet you do you take pains to balance both precariously or hold on to them steadfastly and refuse to accept a handshake? I can’t tell you the answer, I’m still working on it because all my life I’ve had to work ten times harder than anyone else.



How to look like you've got your business together at drop off


Recently Roscoe's dad told me that our boy had reached the top of the reward chart at nursery! I was shocked, not (just) because he's a little tyke who thinks he has an exemption from the rule of sharing, but because I had never heard of this chart. I was a little embarrassed, had I missed another letter? It turns out, for once, I had not. I didn't know about the chart because none of the staff had told me about it. It didn't take me long to work out why. I didn't look like a parent who would care about charts. I sloped in in the morning with sleep in my eyes and an outfit that screamed 'I woke up like this' and I guess it doesn't inspire the lovely nursery workers to keep me updated on all the classroom intracacies. It wasn't just the staff, the other parents seemed to give me a wide berth too. Don't give me that 'don't see colour' crap. My son is the only black kid in class, so I know they know who I am. It's sad really, we all know we shouldn't judge a book by its cover but the reality is when we only have the cover to go by, what else are we to use? No one is going to look at me and think, she's probably a lovely, vibrant lady with a touch of depression and a strong aversion to morning activities, let me start a convo. They're going to chat to the mum with the fabulous lippy. I needed to make a change. For my boy's sake I needed to get engaged because whilst I will never be the type of woman who makes things for the bake sales, I can look like the type of woman who might bother to show up to one.

BE SORT OF ON TIME
One major barrier to my ability to converse with staff and other parents was the whole turning up half a minute before the end of breakfast and hustling Roscoe in shouting, 'Can he still get toast?!' Naturally lateness is associated with lack of organisation and (in my opinion very wrongly) lack of organisation is associated with lack of caring. I now make an effort to show up early on a Monday, I feel like it sets the tone for the week and the tone is, I got this.

SEEM EVER SO SLIGHTLY HARASSED
Polite but brisk is the best way to describe it. No time for mindless chatter, please just pass on the key information. This might seem counter productive but it works, it's why we all have a couple of frenemies on our phone list - people are drawn to important people who have stuff going on with their lives. I remember one morning when Roscoe was a little unsettled and his key worker took him and said, 'Mummy has to go to work now.' I laughed and told her that I planned to go back to bed and she looked at me with sadness in eyes. I was actually, extremely excited about having the opportunity for a little siesta but I now understand not everyone views inactivity with the same joy I do. 

SPORTSWEAR
The thing about getting dressed is that it takes vital minutes away from snoozing. My original system was to grab the first thing that came to hand which resulted in my school run style not being very on trend. Then I discovered sportswear. Primark have a particularly jazzy range. When you wear sportswear people naturally assume you're going to do sport! People who do sport are healthy and active and motivated! Also if you're going to do sport it makes total sense that you haven't done your hair and have no make up on. 

SUNGLASSES
Is she tired? Is she hungover? Has she been weeping? No one knows because she is shielded behind a barrier of fierceness. It's probably rude to leave glasses on indoors but it's also rude to allow others to experience your haggard face. 

Since making these changes I have graduated from 'Roscoe's mummy' to my given name and Roscoe has a play date this week and it's been a wonderful experience to know that life isn't always about getting your shit together just looking like you have.

OMG I wrote a book: The Execution


What does a blogger do when they're not blogging - sleep, eat, binge watch Celebs Go Dating (have you seen it? It's wonderfully horrifying) and I have been doing all those things and more but also, I finished my book! As I mentioned I was selected for mentoring by Penguin Random House as part of their  amazing Write Now scheme. I was matched with Francesca Best, senior commissioning editor at Transworld Publishers and she pulled me through two hundred pages of fiction and this summer, you'll be able to read it! 

After writing a book I learned that a lot of people (a lot) also want to write a book, it seems it is the number one (PG) secret ambition. A few people have asked me about the process and I told them the truth: Sit down and keep typing for as long as it takes to write 100,000 words. However, as I get stuck into my second novel, I thought I should give a little more thought to how I do things and to share some of the journey because another truth about writing a novel - it's frickin' lonely. So, lets start with the basics, how I got the completed book from my head to my hands.

PREPARATION 

1) Tell people you're making time to write. You don't actually have to make time, if you've ever seen an episode of The Great British Bake Off - you have time. However, saying this out loud means that people will periodically ask you how the writing is going and if you don't actually write anything this becomes awkward.

2) Write a chapter. Following this you're allowed to ask for feedback. Many people will say your book is garbage, ignore them and plough on. 

3) Entertain dreams about how you will be published and what it will feel like. This is very unlikely to be how you will be published and it is certainly not what it will feel like, this is irrelevant. What is relevant is that dreams are amazing creativity fuel.

EXECUTION

1) Think of a title. This will not be the title. This title is very likely a steaming pile of crap but a thing isn't really a thing until it has a name. Give your book an identity. Make it real.

2) Find a very successful writer who (for whatever reason) you cannot stand. When you don't feel like you can do anymore have their words close. Dive in and remind yourself that there's room for all of us.

3) Use alcohol for the first draft, caffiene for the second and sugar for the edits. If these vices aren't your bag, you're just gonna have to run with self discipline - good luck with that. 

DELIVERY

Well, this part is new to me. My book is scheduled for release in July and I'll be learning as I go, I'd love you to join me. 


The Reinvention of Martha Ross (Not the working title) is available for pre-order.
Are you writing a book? Tell me how you did it.

To the one I'm learning to love


I've got a new routine. After nursery drop off, I head to a local coffee shop in an attempt to evade the pull of procrastination. However, when a girl has her laptop, she still has a million and one discractions at her fingertips. Yesterday, I found myself cruising around online, looking at sentimental trinkets that might convey my adoration for a special someone. The exercise left me feeling empty, I was pretty sure no one wanted to be the recipient of a gaudy mug or embarrassing keyring and I realised that my true aim was not to make someone else happy but to trigger an outpouring of affection towards me. Today, during the celebration of all things lurve, I have decided to cut out the middle man (or in this case just the man) and offer some appreciation to someone I'm learning to love - myself. 


I like that you share your stories, even the gross ones, because you know that it might help someone feel less alone

I love that you listen because you want to understand, even when the situation seems unkind or unreasonable

It's great that you try to be organised and you never stop trying in the face of repeated failure 

I adore that you sing and dance spontaneously and that you never worry about looking stupid or giving people earworms

I think it's good that you're such a low maintenance friend and that you don't let time or distance affect your bond 

When you make an effort, you have really nice handwriting

You forgive the important people and that's great

It's fab that you always have a pep talk ready 

I love that you call people out when they're treating you like crap but that it doesn't happen often because you don't often let it

It's cute that you give so many kisses to those that will let you 

I adore the joy you get from making others laugh and that you yourself laugh so easily

It's wonderful that you're willing to own up to your failings 


I't great that when you call people beautiful you mean it




Happy Valentine's, show yourself some love!
























Staying in is the new going out


The biggest night out of the year will soon upon us and I think I already know what I'll be doing this New Year's Eve. I won't be crowded around a significant monument nor will I be dancing on a table in a funky club. I'll asleep long before midnight as I have been for the past few years, because after motherhood New Year's Eve becomes just another night before a very early morning. And to be honest, I don't really miss it. I don't long for pushing crowds and triple priced taxis and, always, the heavy sense of disappointment. There are many positive things about parenthood but perhaps the most wonderful is a consistent excuse to stay at home. Still, even at home a girl's gotta have fun and this is how you do it. 

Spa  - This is all about soundtrack. For the most authentic atmosphere you can find that creepy whale music they play on Youtube but anything soft and relaxing will do. Break out the expensive bath bombs and wear your dressing gown for the evening, you'd never know you weren't in a fancy hotel. 

Cinema - Movies are all about the snacks. Get yourself some popcorn and pic n mix and it will be like having the best seats in the house. Okay, you won't get to see the latest offerings but who cares when you're free of the anxiety of rushing home to relieve the babysitter. Just make sure you eat all the treats before you start the film though. 

Bingo - My grandma introduced me to Bingo, she used to go every week. For years I didn't understand what the appeal was; then I went along with her and it was about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on. But if you really want to play with your clothes off you can do it at home playing online! I don't think there could be better entertainment than one that might actually gain you money? 

Pub - The pub is just a living room you have to walk to, you can save your energy and your pennies and buy a bag of nuts and a box of wine when you do your big shop. Chuck a bit of beer on the carpet for that rich public house odour, just remember to leave quietly - the kids are asleep. 

What are your New Year's Eve plans this year?

This is a collaborative post

Christmas is here but so is Uncommon Goods

I can no longer deny it, Christmas is coming. I like the music; I love the food but the anxiety inducing part is the gifts. Generally I spend eight weeks in denial and then try and buy the perfect thing for everyone in a mad, sweaty dash, a couple of days before the big event. It's always unsatisfying and I always keep the receipts. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could find something beautiful and unique for everyone special in your life, without getting out of bed? With all the amazing goodies on offer at Uncommon goods, you can do just that. Here's a sneak peak of my favourite picks from their current selection. 


I always struggle with present ideas for the men in my life, my Dad especially, usually ends up with socks. I figure there's no reason to break tradition but this pair is both sophisticated and fun and would be a great stocking filler for any guy.



Mens Favourite City Socks 


My mum uses her mobile phone as an address book because she can never actually find it to make a call. Whenever she finally gets back to me she tells me she was out at the shops and I have to remind her that mobile's are called mobile's because they are just that. Maybe if she had a place to keep her phone, she would get more use out of it. Which is why I'm thinking this stylish phone holder would be great for her (and me) this year. 


Beside Smartphone Vase


On every night out I go on, one of my girlfriends ends up begging  me for a hair tie. That lovely blow out never seems like a shrewd move after a few turns round the dance floor. How cute is this hair tie bracelet? I'm getting one for all my girls, so they never have to wonder where all their hair ties have disappeared to.

Hair Tie Bracelet


I don't have a baby to buy for this year but can someone have one so I can give them this! I mean who doesn't want a teensy, tiny mermaid or man in the mix on Christmas day! 



Baby Mermaid Tail

For all these fabulous gifts and so many more, head to Uncommon Goods all your Christmas shopping needs. You can thank me later. 

This is a collaborative post




Avoid Getting Ripped Off With These Valuable Tips

No one wants to be taken for a mug. Spending your hard-earned money, only to find out you paid much more than you needed to, is enough to make your ears steam. You feel angry, and a bit humiliated that you were taken for a ride. Fortunately, there are ways to address is afterwards, as well as things you can do to prevent it happening in the first place.

Be Aware of Scams Firstly, be aware of the ways that people try to scam you and take your money. Some of them might be obvious emails from Nigerian princes, but others come dressed up as ways you can make money in your spare time. Watch out for scams in all their forms.

Knowledge is Power The more you know about the things you spend your money on, the more money you can save. If you don't know what you're buying, someone can easily take advantage of you. So before you spend your money, make sure you know what you're getting - from car repairs to a new computer.

Take Your Time One of the worst things you can do is rush your purchase. Companies will try to make you panic and believe you have to buy right away, but there's almost always time to make a calm decision. In fact, sometimes going away and coming back can help you save, like when you buy a car.

Bargain for a Lower Price How good are your haggling skills? If you can talk the price down on something, you certainly won't be taken for a ride. In fact, you could get the upper hand.


Infographic Design By Sunny Good Vibes

This is a contributed post