How do I talk to my 8 yr old boy about private time without embarrassing him?

Here's the thing, I'm not sure what you mean by 'private time'. Do you mean sex? Do you mean masturbation? Do you mean lying in a bathrobe eating family bags of Skittles, cause that's my idea of private time. The fact that you have asked the question in this coy manner suggests it is not your son's embarrassment you need to consider but how to keep your own self consciousness at bay. Children are born pretty much immune to embarrassment, have you seen a toddler? They scratch, fart and pick their bogies with abandon. It is us grown ups that teach them to be ashamed of their thoughts and their bodies; sometimes this is a good thing but not always. 

I have always known about sex or more accurately, I have no memory of learning about sex because there was no fanfare, no sitting down to have THE CONVERSATION. I believe sex and relationships talk should be littered into daily life in the same way one talks about the benefits of eating your greens - not necessarily the most exciting subject and in no way off limits. You want the tone to be honest, frank and really matter of fact; you don't want your child to think this is something to be fearful of overexcited by, the facts of life are indeed just a fact of life. 

You might want to practise this, think about some of the more common questions your child may have and consider an honest but child centred answer you would feel comfortable delivering. Most of the awkwardness is generated by the shocked silence following a child's question about sex, be prepared and you can eliminate this potential pitfall.

A child is usually ready for answers when they start asking questions so in the meantime I think it's best to just show yourself to be an open, approachable parent. Have regular dialogues about friendships and feelings and make it clear that your child can ask you anything. If you are forced to confront an issue before the child is ready (say they walk in on you and a partner) simply stick to the facts necessary to avoid confusion. Again I would try and make it low pressure, you don't want the child to feel that they have done anything wrong. A friend once told me to approach awkward conversations from sideways, in the same way you would approach a horse (not that I ever have or would approach a horse but I can imagine). So activities that create connection without necessarily having to make eye contact - driving, cooking together, taking a walk - these can all be great opportunities to drop some knowledge on your kid, without them really noticing. 

If you find that no matter how casual your approach your son shuts down and as he approaches his tweens relies on counsel from Google, buy a big notebook and tell your son that you want him to be able to come to you with any questions and if there is anything he wants to know to jot it down in the book and leave it in an agreed place. You can then take your time to deliver him a positive, empowering message that he can take in in his own time. He may never use this notebook, and that's okay, the important thing is that he knows that it's there. 

Why I couldn't find the shame in breastfeeding

In the parenting blogging community there is a lot of noise made about the shame breastfeeding women experience. Constant judgement from others forces women to hide in toilets and wrestle with elaborate cover ups to disguise the task. I decided early on that I wanted to breastfeed my son and after a difficult initial month we did so happily for almost a year. I fed him in the bustling crowds of East London, where we lived and in quiet leafy suburbs when visiting his grandparents. I fed him in supermarkets and restaurants in planes, trains and automobiles. In fact I would schedule my feeds to be in public. If we were heading somewhere I would plan my trip to include a feed on the train, this would keep Roscoe quiet throughout the journey and meant he would be content on our arrival. I figured given a choice between a screaming child and a flash of my nipple the latter would win for most commuters. Of course I was aware that I might be offending people but I was ready, I had planned a handful of one liners to rebuff anyone that would dare question my decision to breastfeed my child. I was ready and yet what I experienced was...nothing. 

I'm sure some people did a double take but from my experience British people are very skilled at politely ignoring the obvious. The only stares that I noticed were from children watching in unbridled fascination, which made me very sad - they literally could not comprehend what I was doing. In the many months that I breastfed in public I received two comments:

1) A man in a health centre waiting room asked if I'd like to move to a room with more comfortable seating.
2) A woman in a pub saw me feeding as my chips went cold and when I had finished she smiled and said, 'Now he's eaten, you can.'

So why are so many women expressing that they find the breastfeeding journey so complicated and shameful, when what I found was a whole heap of nothing? These are my thoughts:

They're not ready for it. I was so firm in my belief that I was doing the right thing, that I was completely ready to give what for to anyone that would dare to question me. To be honest, I kinda secretly wanted it. When you're secure in what you are doing, I think people can sense it. Bullies pray on the vulnerable - believe in yourself and your boobs.

They don't love their body. I'm no Kim Kardashian, there's plenty about my body that I'm really not okay with but I accept it as the body I've got to work with. I think I'm lucky that I grew up in a pretty naked household, boobs and bottoms weren't seen as shameful things. If you believe that your boobs are something shameful you will subconsciously seek out confirmations of this from society.

They have experienced too much privilege. Living in this wonderful country many of us live a pretty blessed life. We all have our challenges but for a lot of women breastfeeding is the first time they have experienced negativity from complete strangers and that must feel pretty affronting but to be honest it's not that big a deal. There are idiots everywhere, it's not about you, it's always about them. The other day I was called n*gger in the street (thank you Brexit) and I thought, I'm so happy I live in a place where that numpty is an anomaly. I'm not saying to dismiss the negativity, I'm saying there are women in the world that are worrying about protecting their children from war and famine, not a dodgy look from a lady at the bus stop. We owe it to those women to keep on breastfeeding in public and doing so with pride. 

Did I just get lucky? What were your experiences of breastfeeding in public?

Admissions Of A Working Mother

The Sluttish Girl's Guide to Glamour

I'm a bit of a slut. A lot of a slut actually. Meant in the original sense of a woman with low standards of cleanliness. Actually this is a lie, I have high standards, I just can't be arsed to do what needs to be done to achieve them. If you're someone that feels the same - you would like people to see you as a cool, sexy, accomplished women, without actually putting in any graft, here's my sluttish girl's guide to glamour.

White Sheets. White sheets look divine even on an unmade bed. If you know you're laundry habits can't accommodate white, grey is an acceptable alternative.

Nice underwear. Glamour starts from the bottom up. Even with saggy tracky bottoms on you feel gorgeous if you know you have nice lingerie underneath. Also if anyone is lucky enough to get under those joggers, what a fabulous surprise.

Clothes hamper. A nice wicker clothes hamper hides a multitude of sins. If you have space to go for two, one for dirty clothes and one for clean. We all know 50% of mess is discarded laundry. This system works just as well for clothes, shoes and small children.

Toenail polish. So your friends and family greet you thinking, man is she a hot ol' mess and then you slip off your shoes to reveal perfectly polished toes. Everybody instantly reconsiders the birds nest hair and eyebags, if you've got a good pedi you must have your shit together! This doesn't work with fingernails as they chip too easily and reveal your inner slut.

Mismatched crockey. If like me you break a  piece of kitchenware at least once a week, keeping a full set together can be a hassle. I circumnavigate this problem by buying individual pieces from vintage markets - its not chaos, it's curated clutter.

Great perfume. Apparently smell is the most evocative of all the senses.You might look like trash but if you smell like a goddess that's what people will remember. Go for something really decadent like sandalwood so that people imagine you spend your evenings sipping fine champagne rather than horlicks.

Febreeze. If your hamper is hiding all your clothes you might not get round to washing. You can fix this fast with a spritz of Febreeze. This miracle in a spray will give your skinny jeans an extra day's *cough* week's life.

Soft furnishings. The devil's in the details. Get yourself some gorgeous throws and your living space will always look sumptuous. You can also chuck them over mess and hide stains in emergencies.

Red lips. Is there anything more glamourous than red lips? I don't think so. Spend some time finding a shade that suits you perfectly and you will always have a quick glamour fix right in your handbag. 

Do you have any other tips for keeping your sluttish ways under wraps?

 photo credit: Lipstick via photopin (license)

My 7 year old thinks bedtime is a personal sleight - Jennifer

What do I do with a stroppy 7-year-old girl who truly believes bedtime is a personal sleight? I let her stay up until 9:30 last night and when I came to tuck her in she said "I wish I knew what I'd done wrong so I know why I have to go to bed." Upon telling her it was just late, she said that wasn't her fault! - Jennifer 

Imagine you're at your best friend's wedding, the whole day has been a wonderful, joyful experience; you're drunk on life and then just before the cake is cut the bride approaches you and asks you to leave. You protest of course, 'I'm just getting started', you say, 'I still plan to do shots and teach all the twenty something's the moves to Saturday Night!' The bride continues to insist that you've had enough and you're forced to go home - you'd be confused, you'd be hurt and you'd be really, really pissed off. This is what children experience every night at bedtime. For a child the world is still an amazing place and every day another adventure and you are the centre of that world. She may never admit it but you are her best friend and so bedtime feels like a loss no matter how you dress it up. I remember sitting at the top of the stairs in my Care Bear pyjamas listening to the sound of my parents laughing and Babycham bottles popping and thinking, how could they leave me out! During the day I was the main attraction and then the sun would go down and I became irrelevant.

I want you to approach this issue from this headspace, it might not change much but it could help you experience the situation with a little more understanding. She's right, it's not her fault that day turns to night and humans need sleep to regenerate. If she fusses a little this is a good thing, it means she loves her life. Just give her a cuddle, keep it light and reassure her you love her. If you really want to try and reduce the sense of injustice why not try these tips.

Focus on tomorrow: Make the main goal of sleep to get to tomorrow faster. Remind your daughter of all your fab plans; promise her a fancy hairstyle upon waking. Think of Christmas when kids want to fall asleep as fast as humanly possible, bring a little bit of Christmas to every day.

Make bedtime boring: Your child needs to get the sense that at bedtime the day ends for everyone. You might want to go the whole hog for a week or two and get ready for bed yourself - let's face it you could probably do with a few early nights. If you don't want to do the pantomime make sure the house is quiet and activities are kept low key until later on in the night. If your kid gets out of bed she needs to find you listening to a podcast on war crimes not watching TV and mainlining chocolate hobnobs.

Say it with stickers: I'm always amazed by how much can be achieved with stickers. It's not the sticker themselves, it's what they represent - acceptance, approval and tangible evidence of how well you've done. Your girl might be a bit old for stickers (although I am of the view that one is never too old for stickers) but I'm sure you can come up with an incentive for a fuss free bedtime and don't forget to reward yourself, can I recommend cake. 

photo credit: Daddy-David After a long weekend of camping... via photopin (license)

10 Reasons Why I Ain't Gonna Stop Whinging About My Kid

A lot of the birth of my son and the early days of motherhood are a bit of a daze (thanks entonox) but I have one memory that is especially vivid. A friend was visiting and I was doing the new parent thing of pretending I wasn't going slowly insane. My boy was having one of those, there's nothing particularly wrong, I'm just gonna scream my lungs out moments and I was desperately trying to jiggle him into submission. After several minutes I muttered to no one in particularly, 

'Why won't you stop crying.' My friend took my son from me and said calmly, 
'Because he's a baby.' She had not meant to be accusatory but that's how I took it. I carried the guilt for a long time. This was supposed to be the most joyous event of my life, I had no right to complain.

Fast forward several months and a friend of mine had had her own child. We met for a coffee in a local cafe, she arrived twenty minutes late with a grizzly baby and a glazed look in her eyes, 

'Why didn't you tell me,' she hissed at me, 'Why didn't you say how awful it is!' In that moment I decided I was gonna start whinging about my son - about the long sleepless nights, the food battles and the sheer bloody mindedness of him. I love him but occasionally being a parent does my head in and here are the ten reasons why I'm not gonna stop whinging about it.

It's the truth. Can we all just start being honest? It's something we all want for our children, why not practice what we preach? It's not always easy telling the truth but in the long run everyone reaps the rewards. 

It's supportive. One of the primary concerns of mothers with postpartum depression is that everyone else is getting it right. Why not help alleviate some of that concern by making it clear that everyone struggles. If I had told my friend what she was letting herself in for she might have felt less blindsided or made the decision to become a lion tamer rather than a parent. 

It's bonding. When you meet up with other parents of course you should share your joy but how fun is it to bond over the trials and tribulations. Add a glass of wine and you've got a good old girls night in. 

Kids need to be comfortable with criticism. Life is full of knocks and if the first time little Freddie hears anything negative about himself is his first day at work, it might just set him on the road to ruin. Teach your child that life isn't easy but that the best thing to do is face up to the crap bits.

It makes praise more significant. If children only hear positive things about themselves it can become a white noise of 'good girls'. Being told you've done brilliantly is even more wonderful if you can compare it to how you felt when you were told that you were a little tyke. 

It makes me a better parent. The odd little whinge is very cathartic. Getting it out of my system allows me to let it go and start the day afresh. If I bottled it up, it might all explode, probably in the cereal aisle at Morrisons.

His flaws are my flaws. Let's get real your kids are you. They are a reflection of your hopes and fears and if you're finding their behaviour troublesome, it's probably something that's come from you. Whilst you're complaining about the fact that your child won't eat his greens you can take some time to consider how often he sees you sitting down and enjoying a healthy meal.

It makes me confront challenges. If you sweep everything under the carpet eventually you're gonna trip on a lump. Dealing with difficulties head on leads to healthier, happy families and the first step to doing this is to let everyone know just what you've got a problem with. 

It's rebellious. I was raised to toe the line and not stand out from the crowd but I've since learned that it's the risk takers that get good outcomes. Don't bow to pressure to represent yourself as a perfect parent, the best parents are real ones and real parents whinge.

It's British. I'm very patriotic and if there's one thing us Brits can do it's whinge. Show your dedication to the nation - stay calm and keep grumbling.

How do you limit the amount of time your children spend in front of screens? - Ellen

My older brother went through a stage of being obsessed with Snickers. By the way, this was so long ago I think they were called Marathon but that's by the by. Anyway he would save a bit of his lunch money and wolf down at least two bars on the walk home from school. Inevitably he wouldn't be able to eat the nutritious dinner prepared by my mother (and occasionally not so nutritious - Findus Crispy Pancakes anyone?) which would leave mum, who was working and raising children and trying to maintain a healthy soap habit, annoyed to say the least.

As anyone who's been cheated on by a guy knows - they never hide the evidence; so when my mother found all the snickers wrappers stashed in my bro's school trouser pockets, she realised her corned beef hash had been usurped by nougat and marketing. My mother is a canny lass and she has always believed that revenge is best served cold and the next evening it was. Instead of meat and two veg she served my brother three snickers bars fresh from the fridge. He thought he had won the lottery! The next evening she did the same and he ate his peanut and caramel based meal with a little less gusto; by the third evening he was begging for spaghetti bolognaise. To my knowledge he has not eaten a Snickers since.

You know where this is going right? If you're concerned about how often your kids choose to be parked in front of a screen, pick a period of time you're comfortable with (I'm thinking at least a weekend) and declare it a screen feast. Tell your children you trust them to self regulate and you never know you might find they can.  Our greatest fears are usually only terribly poor predictions, who knows with unfettered access sitting in a virtual world might not be as desirable? Perhaps not, maybe they'll play Minecraft for 48 hours but the beauty of that is when you next impose a cap you can say, 'Darling, when I let you choose you forgot to eat, so I think I'm gonna need to help you with this.' Kids have an inbuilt fairness barometer, nothing sets that thing off more than being told to do something just because adult says so. Being able to give them a tangible reason for denying them what they want can make things a lot easier.

Finally make sure your own house is in order. Are you asking your kids to do something, you can't do yourself - do you send them off to bed  and then settle down for three hours of mindless telly? Are you providing healthy, fun alternatives to screen time? Are you trying to sell homework over Super Mario Kart, coz even I'd rebel with that choice!

If you find a screen feast does nothing to alleviate your tension remember that you're a parent, not a psychic - who knows how your children's passions may shape their future. Perhaps your little addict, is a budding TV producer and what if your boundaries stop them from achieving their dreams and making the millions that will keep your heating on when the government has run the county into the ground? Okay this is very unlikely but the thought might stop you from tearing your hair out.

My Petit Canard

The real reason you're a bitch

I know what you're thinking, I'm not a bitch, I just know a little bit better than everyone else. Get real. If you ever speak negatively to anyone or about anyone and feel a frisson of satisfaction, you're a bitch and that's okay, most of us are. Perhaps bitchiness is an evolutionary advantage preventing us from focusing on our own inadequacies; certainly some people have made quite a success of being a bitch and more power to them. The key thing you have to acknowledge is why you're a bitch and the answer isn't because the world is full of idiots.

You're insecure. And aren't we all a little bit low on stock in the self worth department sometimes? However, if your self esteem is so low that the only method you have to address it is pulling other people down to your sad little level - you're a bitch

You hang with bitches. Lie with dogs and you get fleas as the saying goes, just like biting your nails or leaving the tiniest scraping of butter left in the tub (what is WRONG with you people) bitching can be a bad a habit we pick up from the people around us. I experienced this when I first started reading blogs and discovered the site GOMI. The site was started to call out the of bloggers for their often shady practices. I always applaud a bit of accountability and soon I was logging in daily; before I knew it I was joining in with the commentary and to be honest it felt pretty good. Then a story surfaced about blogger Emily Meyers, who had shared a post about her husbands cancer diagnosis. The GOMI girls accused her of fabricating the illness for cash money and page clicks and the site users became a virtual hate mob. Sadly it was only at this point that I realised that I was not involved in idle gossip but that I was playing a role in attacking vulnerable families and I moonwalked out of that shit. Months later Emily's husband passed away. If you have found yourself in the situation at work or amongst friends where bagging on other people has become par for the course, it might be time for a bitch cleanse.

You don't know any better. The Apple doesn't fall far from the tree and sometimes it just lies there and rots. The people who shape our early years shape it for the good and the bad. Do you remember your mother sniping about the neighbour's front garden? Or feeling gleeful as your grandmother expressed how badly behaved your cousins were? You can end the cycle. Let the next generation know that positivity reigns.

You're bored and you're lazy. If you can't be bothered to shake your booty and create positive change in your life don't make that someone else's problem. I have been known to have a little swipe at people that like long distance running - how boring to spend all that time alone, just putting one foot after another. Of course it's so much more stimulating to watch episodes of Judge Judy that YOU HAVE ALREADY SEEN. If you have an itch to bitch don't ignore it. It probably means there's something in your own life that needs a fixin'. Why not put the energy you would expend being negative into sorting your own stuff out. 

If you liked this you might like this: Accept you have an inner mean girl
photo credit: Hello there! via photopin (license)