Do you think your partner can be your best friend?


So you want to call your partner your best friend? Why not? As the great philosopher Sheryl Crow once said, 'If it makes you happy, it can't be that bad.' When you really think about it what are you saying? You're dating someone you can be yourself with; someone who makes you laugh; someone you like hanging out with more than anyone else. Congrats, you're in a healthy relationship! 

Apart from being a bit too high on the cutesy scale for my liking, I don't think there's anything wrong with proclaiming your lover as your bestie unless... Is there any chance you're giving yourself an easy out from engaging in the world beyond your Netflix account? Socialising is hard work, especially after you enter your thirties and kids and commitments and an ever decreasing stamina get in the way. How much easier is it to declare your partner your best friend when, conveniently, you don't have to leave the house to see them? Adult friendships take a lot of effort but I seriously think they're worth it. When navigating life it's a gift to have access to as many perspectives as possible and to gain that it helps to have a wide circle of friends. A partner will offer endless support but when seeking advice, I find a person who doesn't want to sleep with me can be more objective. And of course if your partner is your best friend, who are you going to turn to when you need to have a good old moan about them?

How can you trust a man when you've had previous horrible relationships? - Ruth


One of my first bosses was a horrible, horrible man. He was 'playfully' misongynistic, casually racist and what I found worse at the time, almost never did any work. He was a walking embodiment of the patriachy, having secured his senior role on the golf course, he distracted from his lack of ability by belittling his subordinates, always younger, most often female. It was a common occurrence to find a woman crying in the loos before lunch; we all accepted him as something to endure rather than overcome. I didn't think I had a choice but to accept him because there were bills to pay and happy hours to frequent and although he made me miserable, I thought I could do little but work hard until I had enough experience to move on to another job. And that's what I did, even though my first experience of being an employee was tortuous, I found another job because the benefits of working (being able to pay rent) outweighed the risks of working under another monster. The same is true for relationships, after a brush with evil it can be tempting to stay away from the dating game entirely but then you may miss out on all of the delicious perks of being in a couple (less bin emptying, night time foot warmer). The key is not in trusting men but trusting yourself, know that with your updated romance CV you will find better partners and opt out of relationships that don't meet your criteria. Remind yourself...

More experience means better positions. With all your life and love experience you will have more to offer a partner and that means you will attract similarly equipped men. Make clear to anyone you what you value in life, a good match will be excited to meet you where you are; don't accept a contract with anyone who dismisses your needs or doesn't understand your goals.  

Ask questions at the interview. We all know a first date is an interview. I refer to my first meeting with a guy as a pre-date. Usually I opt for coffee or a drink, something lasting less than an hour. This is my time to assess their presentation skills, get a quick overview of their relationship history and ensure there is no ick factor. Should a potential partner succeed at this stage they can progress to the cinema or maybe even dinner. Don't wait to be chosen, you get to be the picker. 

There's always a probation period. Films and fairy tales have made us think that the only way to find love is to throw caution to the wind but real life doesn't always have a happy ending and it really irritates me that some people give more thought to their electricity supplier than the people they let into their life. Use the first few weeks of a courtship to assess your dates potential for the position and if they don't meet the criteria don't be afraid to cut them loose - you're amazing, there will be plenty of new applicants. 


If you have a question submit to moderatemum@gmail.com



How do you keep romance alive when you have two kids and little time? - Kim


This question warms my heart so much! I'm sorry you're struggling to find the time to get soppy with the other half but please take some comfort in the fact that you want to. So many couples slip into a state where they're living like disgruntled housemates and wonder why they have nothing to talk about when they do get a moment alone together. You still want to make beautiful memories with your partner and that's half the battle! You are well ahead in the game. Kids are passion killers, it's probably a good thing, otherwise you'd inadvertently fill you house with 'too much prosecco' babies. One day the kids will be gone and you'll have all the time you want to share candlelit evenings together. Isn't that exciting?! Simply keep romance on life support for a little bit longer, doll. 

You'll be pleased to know I've had questions along these lines before - you are not alone. I don't know what people are expecting after introducing a screaming, crapping, attention-hogging, emotional and financial parasite into their relationship but this 'kids are killing the romance' problem is a common one. So here's some previous posts that in summary encourage you to make the most of the little time you have:


Alternatively, you can do what I did - get divorced, move out, struggle to support two households, divide time with your children, start the soul destroying process of online dating, weed through dozens of cretinous men to find the one respectable dude left on the planet and invite romance into your life every other weekend! Things don't sound so bad now do they...

Does anyone find themselves wondering why a partner cheats? - Tracy


Does anyone else find themselves wondering why a partner cheats and then blaming themselves? The last FOUR bf's I've had all cheated and I am now wondering if it's my fault?

***
Whenever a relationship ends you find yourself wondering, was it me? My marriage has been over for some time and I still find myself getting distracted from the food shop because I'm analysing the things I said and the decisions I made, wondering if I'm living out the real-life Sliding Doors and not sure if this is the shitty life or the good one. It's natural, not always useful, but natural. We can learn from all our experiences but especially the negative ones and the end of a relationship is a good time to consider what, if anything, we would do differently. That being said, when it comes to cheating, I'm pretty hard line - the fault lies with the cheater and never the cheated. Your exes might have tried to convince you otherwise but cheaters are very often liars, so I'd probably disregard what they had to say. 

It's not you it's me is a cliche because it's true. When a person cheats it's about their choices, their insecurities, their fears - nothing you would have done could justify it. I know the things you have running through your mind because I've thought them too - I wasn't fun enough, I wasn't pretty enough. None of it is true but what if it was? That would be like firebombing your local newsagents because they gave you the wrong change. 

I can't imagine your friends and family have told you anything different, so I thought I'd try and back up my stance with some cold hard facts. Research by the organisation Trustify reveals that 55% of men are willing to admit to cheating. Let's look at that. More than half and that's the men who are willing to come clean. The odds are not in your favour. The study also examined the reasons why people cheat and to be honest, I got bored. All the reasons boiled down to one thing - they wanted escape. And who doesn't feel like that sometimes? We all feel lost or trapped or confused from time to time and some people respond to that by betraying people they love. Sadly that's life and bad luck. 

That being said four partners in a row is very bad luck and whilst I hope I've made clear that I want you to absolve yourself of any responsibility for the cheating you have experienced, I'm wondering if it's a coincidence that you've found yourself with a string of cheaters? You see, the kind of men who cheat feed on one thing - insecurity; they can smell it like sharks smell blood. A woman who doesn't completely love herself will let the little things slide, those small indiscretions that hint at the greater disrespect to come; she'll be willing to put in the other eighty when she's only getting twenty percent; she'll be accepting, so very accepting, that the wrong man will take advantage of that and she'll persevere with the wrong man because she can't quite believe that the right man is waiting around the corner. If any of this sounds familiar, I urge you to take a break before your next relationship and the only love affair you should be having right now is with yourself. 

3 Little Buttons

Confessions of a New Mummy

Fear is a f***boy


Over the weekend I spoke at Wildfire Women and I'm still overflowing with sisterly love. Head over to the community if you want some of your own. Here is an abridged version of the talk I gave, Fear is a f**kboy.

***

Fear is too petty to let get in the way of your goals. Fear is not valuable enough to rob you of joy. You need to ghost fear because fear is a f**kboy. 

For the uninitiated, I'll explain what a f**boy is. There's these men and they have a goal and they sense that if they offer enough affection and affirmation they will reach that goal and if they cannot offer this genuinely, they will lie. To be clear the goal is to get their leg over and after they achieve this, they run and hide like a child. 

F**k: The act of false intimacy 
Boy: Acknowledgement of the pre-adolescent behaviour that follows. 

I was unlucky enough to encounter some of these specimens when I started dating a couple of years ago but very quickly eliminated them from my rotation because they didn't feed me spiritually or practically (They don't buy dinner.) Similarly, I feel that fear has outgrown its usefulness. It used to serve the practical purpose of protecting us from actual physical harm; you're not going to get eaten on the high street, so we need to stop being scared. 

Some of you may be thinking, fear is my friend, fear motivates me - that's some f**kboy shit right there. That's fear saying, you need me, you're better with me, don't give up on me. But make no mistakes, fear will trash your opportunities and when you're home watching XFactor, scraping the cream out of Bourbons, it's nowhere to be seen. You're left with his buddies regret, disappointment and shame. 

How is fear like a f**kboy? 
1) It's seductive. It offers support and protection but it's all lies
2) It doesn't care what you want. It only thinks about feeding itself. It doesn't give a toss that you want to make more money or have a better relationship or ask for help. 
3) Your friends know fear is no good for you. They'll tell you not to listen to it, that you can achieve your goals but later when you're alone together, fear will tell you they're all lying. 
4) It's shameless. It will mess up your life and come right back to your door like nothing happened. 

How to block fear's number
1) Fear crumbles under scrutiny. Sit and have a face to face with your fear; ask it how it's last relationship ended. You'll soon learn it's not the one for you. 
2) Fear hates openness. It wants you to have a seedy, secret  little relationship. Talk about your fear with those you trust and it will lose its power
3) Don't follow fear on social media. Have a detox from accounts and people who reinforce your negative beliefs. 
4) Set fear small tests. Before you let fear mess up your big goals, set it small challenges. It will give you practice for pushing it aside when you need to. 

I know this because over the last couple of years, I've tried to kick fear to the curb. When I started my novel fear said, you can't write. And I deleted fears email. When I applied for WriteNow fear said, everyone will laugh. And I erased fears voicemail. When I was offered a publishing contract fear said, who do you think you are? And I said, piss off fear. 

Fear still bells me. Usually in the middle of the night and I answer because I'm sleepy and it calls from a withheld number. I listen for a minute and then take a deep breath and say, 'Fear, you need to stop calling me. I'm seeing hope now and it's getting serious.' 

3 Little Buttons

Is it possible to fall in love more than once? - Catherine


What is love? (Baby don't hurt me.) One person's love is another's tolerance; yet another's infatuation. I remember those girls that got engaged in sixth form college and were utterly convinced, despite all evidence to the contrary, that they had succeeded in finding the love of their life and that as luck would have it he attended the boys school down the road. When I was sixteen I had the soul of a wizened, cynical divorcee and silently mocked their life plans. Now that I am a wizened, cynical divorcee I think, who am I to judge? 

Many people argue that until you meet THE ONE, that great love, anything before is practice; a kind of love proxy as you bide your time waiting for the real thing but honestly I think all love, even the so called real thing, is simply an evolutionary advantage that stops society unravelling into a mass of writhing bodies. This thing called love is a psychological cage of our own making and that's not a bad thing. On some level we all desire to be contained; love keeps us safe. And luckily I think we can have an infinite number of cages, such is the capacity for love. Ask anyone with more than one child if they have enough to go around - the heart just expands like a balloon. But I don't think you mean bog standard, I'd sacrifice my life for you love, you mean romantic, often sexual love - the good stuff. 

Can this kind of love occur more than once? In my opinion, yes but not always in exactly the same way. Think about eating the same meal every day for a week, the experience wouldn't ever be exactly the same. Some days you'd overcook the veg; on others you might be famished and this would make the meal more satisfying. The food is the same but you are different. This ties in with a theory I've heard that everyone gets three great loves. The first is that crazy, passionate, infatuation based one, usually with a really painful ending. The second is a love that teaches you about yourself and what you need from a partner and the third is a meeting of two people who understand themselves and each other and have learned patience and acceptance from the previous two relationships. What in life do you get right on the first try? Nothing worth having. So, is it possible to fall in love more than once? Perhaps not but I urge you to try. 

3 Little Buttons
Confessions of a New Mummy
Cuddle Fairy

How do you get someone to open up? - Margaret



Thanks to everyone who submitted an entry to my giveaway! And thanks for your queries about everything lurve and relationships. In this post we're gonna talk about getting someone to open up, something I know a great deal about because I have often found myself in relationships with people who have far less capacity to express themselves emotionally than myself and by that I mean that I am a woman who has been in relationships with men. I'm kidding, I'm kidding* but it is true that I've found myself frustrated by what I've seen as my partner shutting themselves off from me emotionally and I've learned from it. So, here are some tips I hope to take into the future. 

1. Make sure what you're looking for exists
Here's a typical conversation with my ex: 

Me: What you thinking? 
Him: Nothing
Me (Shifting closer): No really tell me what you're thinking?
Him (Big sigh): I was thinking about whether snails have penises

And despite this I still insisted on prodding, prodding, prodding - searching for the emotional depths I was certain he was keeping hidden from me. When I started dating a couple of years ago, I did a lot of reading about relationships and discovered the five love languages. These are - words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, quality time and physical touch. When we say we want someone to open up we often mean, TELL ME I'M GREAT! SAY HOW MUCH YOU LOVE ME! And maybe your partner is telling you this in other ways? Maybe they're showing you love by cooking dinner every night and you're overlooking this because you haven't had a book of sonnets written for you. 

2. Take into account individual limitations
People can only work with what they have. If someone tells you they're an open book and six months later you still don't know their home address, you don't want to try and get more out of them, you need to get the hell out the relationship. This isn't usually the case. A person who struggles to express themselves emotionally will most likely be up front about it; so you need to judge them on their effort and not their output. I'd tell a stranger at a bus stop about my post birth bleeding, getting me to open up is not that big a deal. If someone who finds it difficult gives you something, anything - recognise that and thank them. 

3. Approach them like a horse
A friend once told me that you have to approach a man like a horse. If you come at them head on they'll become threatened and flee,  you have to come at them from the side. Don't sit your partner down and fire questions at them, everyone is more open when they're relaxed and an interrogation is rarely relaxing. Think about those sideways situation - driving, walking, before you fall asleep at night or if even that's too much try text messages, at least then you get to keep the evidence.

4. You're not asking questions because you're afraid of the answer.
If you think your partner isn't opening up it's because there's things you need to know - do they love me? Are they happy? Are they going to watch the next episode of 'Suits' without me? When you're lost you ask someone for directions, so why not ask your loved one to point you in the right direction? Is it because you're afraid of what answers you might receive and frustrated ignorance is bliss? If you want someone to open up, you better be prepared to be open with yourself first. 

*I'm not kidding


What My Fridge Says
My Random Musings

Ten things about Martha Ross (Win a signed copy!)




I started this blog as a place to offer advice to parents. The internet is full of judgement and I wanted to create a space to let mothers and fathers know they were doing OK. My motivation was mainly sparing my friends from my unsolicited opinions but also, with over a decade working with families, I knew I had learned a lot. Over the past few years, I’ve ended a marriage, thrown myself into the dating world and learned a lot about love. I have many, many thoughts on love. So many thoughts that I wrote a book about it.

My novel, The Reinvention of Martha Ross, was published by Transworld last month and charts the messy weeks after Martha ends her marriage. Martha decides to look for love and creates a ten-point list of the qualities she wants in her ideal man, so I thought I’d share ten reasons why you might want to read her story.

1. Martha’s list was inspired by my own. Encouraged by my friend and love guru Nina, I put my romance goals on paper before I re-entered the dark waters of the dating pool. A little of my list made its way on to Martha’s but exactly what, I’ll never tell.

2. The story is set in Brighton, a beautiful place to fall in love. Also, a great place to get drunk and make a show of yourself – there’s a lot of that in there too.

3. Martha’s life becomes pretty chaotic and many of the scenes were inspired by true events. One of Martha’s mishaps is borrowed directly from my life and it was as awkward as it reads.

  4. My journey as an author began when I applied for Penguin Random House's WriteNow scheme, a process designed to promote the writing of underrepresented writers. The project created an online fracas when Lionel Shriver implied that diversity could lead to a decrease in quality – I’ll let you be the judge.

5. Martha is a mother but motherhood isn’t as dreamy as she thought it would be. It was scary to write about some of the truths of parenting.

6. The book is dedicated to my ex-husband who was super supportive about the fact that I was writing a novel about a divorce. That being said he has no plans to read it.

 7. The first item on Martha’s list is red hair and blue eyes. After finishing the novel, I met my current boyfriend, a man with red hair and blue eyes. He says he's not concerned about my life imitating art but he’s very keen to know the subject of my next novel.

8. The first version of the book didn’t include the final chapter and it’s totally cool if you want to stop there.

9.  Bestselling author Jane Fallon described the book as one of the best and funniest debuts she’s read in a long time and Sara Lawrence for the Daily Mail described it as beautifully written and emotionally intelligent.

10. The true love story is the one Martha has with her friends. Martha may be focused on finding a man but the story is a celebration of sisterhood.


If you’ve got this far and you think you might like to read Martha’s story, this is your opportunity to win a signed copy; it’s also my opportunity to spout more of my thoughts on love. To enter, leave a question about love or relationships in the comments. Two winners will be chosen in two weeks. Your question can be about breaking up or making up, dating or divorce; make it personal or philosophical – there are no rules when it comes to love.

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Pink Pear Bear

What action should I take when a father refuses to attend mediation?


I am exhausted! I am up in the night! I am single mum! Yes, I'm a superhero and my super power is co parenting. My son has two homes but both his parents have one goal - to raise a reasonably healthy, relatively happy human. Not much else matters. We achieve this through trust, respect and a lot of Whatsapp messages. In fact I couldn't be a co parenting hero without my trusty sidekick, so I can't say I have any experience of trying to raise a child with an asswipe (which in my opinion someone who refuses to go to mediation is) but asswipes in general? I've met plenty and I've found they can all be lumped into one airtight box.

At the outset I'd like to state I have absolutely no legal training. I haven't even done jury duty so this post isn't about legalities, it's about emotions, which are much scarier.

Question one: What do you have to gain? Do you really have to do this? If this man doesn't want to come to mediation what makes you think that he will agree to any decisions that come out of the process? If you are in a situation that inconveniences you but works for your child/children, think about sucking it up. Focus your energies on the things in your life that you can change. Can you enlist more help from friends or family? Can you change your working life to include more flexibility? One of the best (and hardest) lessons of single parenting is learning to do it all yourself.

Question two: What are the asswipe's motivations? It's one of three things...
1. He's not ready for it to be over. Mediation can symbolise a pretty hefty nail in the coffin of a relationship. If your ex is still harbouring fantasies of a reconciliation he may be avoiding the shits got realness of the mediation session. Women especially can be so polite in their interactions that they send mixed signals. Make sure you aren't giving him any hope by being too vague in your communications - don't be too supportive, too quick to listen to his problems or ever (ever) indulge in the way too easy sex with the ex. If necessary invent a significant other to bring home the 'I've moved on' message. 
2. He's petty AF. The only way to deal with a petty person is to hit them where it hurts - their wallet. Don't bother explaining the rational, mature reasons for mediation just tell him you're going down the legal route. As soon as he finds out how much a solicitor charges to pick up a phone he'll be begging for mediation. 
3. He's controlling. You'll probably know if this is the case because it will be something you've had to live through. In this case, you'll need to let him think it's his idea. I would never recommend being manipulative but don't do anything that makes his life as a parent easier, if pick up's at six arrive on the dot and not a second before. Communicate important information by email and ask him to refer to your messages if he has questions - control what you can control and if he wants your flexibility he may decide that mediation is the route to use. 

Ultimately you can't make someone do anything they don't want to do. Refusing to attend could have negative consequences for your ex; comfort yourself with the knowledge that you're willing to do the right thing for your child. Soon enough your ex will learn that you're not the bitch, karma is. 

How to Set and Reach Your Savings Goals



Setting specific goals is a great way to make sure that you're more focused on your spending and savings habits. When you have a specific goal in mind, it's easier to stay motivated when times get tough than if you're just distributing money into a bank account.

If you're just throwing your money into a current account and trying your hardest not to spend it, sometimes it can be tempting to simply withdraw that money and tell yourself that you're going to pay it back. On the other hand, if you know that every penny in your account has a purpose, you'll be less likely to use cash for different reasons. Here are a few tips to help you set and reach the right savings goals.

Choose a Reason for Saving Money

The first thing you need to do is figure out what you're saving money for. Though the simple purpose of trying to be more careful with your cash can be motivating enough for some people, others need a more short-term goal, like going on a family holiday, or replacing a kitchen.
If you're planning on saving as a couple or family, make sure that you sit down with the other people involved in your household to discuss the goals that will appeal most to all of you. Everyone needs to be committed to the same targets, otherwise your whole budget can dissolve into chaos. However, it is possible to have more than one goal, particularly if you have both long-term and short-term targets. 

Create Timelines for your Goals

When you've decided what you want to save for, and how much you need to save to reach your goals, it's time to start adding more depth to your saving strategy. Providing yourself with a timeline that tells you when you want to achieve your goals should help to give you additional motivation when you're struggling to accomplish your aims. Some timelines might be short-term, such as when you want to go on holiday next year, whereas others might be more vague. For instance, you might just want to save as much cash as you can before you reach retirement.
Although it might be impossible to give a solid end date to every goal, you should at least try to set benchmarks and milestone dates in place that will help to let you know whether you're moving in the right direction, at the right pace. For instance, you might decide that you want to have about £20,000 in your retirement account by the time you reach 30.

Look for Savings Money in your Monthly Budget

With the details of your savings goals laid out, you'll need to start looking for the money you need in your budget. Sometimes, it can feel practically impossible to find extra money for savings when you're struggling to make ends meet. However, the good news is that there are plenty of ways to cut costs that you may not have thought about yet. For instance, you can look into switching your providers for gas and electricity to a vendor with a better deal.
Alternatively, you can search for places where you can cut down your spending. For instance, you might be able to reduce the amount you spend on restaurant meals if you commit to eating at home more often and cooking your own food. You could also cut costs by getting rid of subscriptions you don't use - like gym memberships that sit in a drawer at home, gathering dust.


Get the Right Savings Tools

Finally, you'll need to make sure that you have the right resources to help with your savings strategy. For instance, you can download budgeting apps onto your phone that help you to track your spending habits and figure out where you're having the most trouble with your money. At the same time, it helps to make sure that you have the right account to make the most out of your money at the bank.
If you're thinking of saving money for a period of longer than 5 years, then you might consider looking at mutual funds, or you can search for a savings account with a high rate of return. Although interest rates on savings accounts aren't great right now, they can give you more than you would get by simply placing your money into a current account.
What's more, using a separate account for your savings means that you'll be less tempted to tap into the money you save, because you won't see it on your statement every month.

This is a collaborative post 

Adventure - Just add child


I was not looking forward to the weekend. And I felt bad about it. Because two days with my child would be joyful, would it not? It was supposed to be joyful. Everyone says it is J.O.Y.F.U.L. I was not full of joy, I was full of dread. The weekend meant two days listening to the Paw Patrol theme tune and rescuing my flat deposit from the the reckless hands of a small child; a weekend meant the same arguments about bedtime and peas, I didn't want the same. I knew I needed something else and so I found it. I scoured Google for last minute breaks. I managed to narrow it down with the logic that when you live by a beach the next best thing is a sandy beach and booked a room at the nearest one - Pontins, Camber Sands. 

Roscoe was so excited. We've recently added the book 'Maisy Goes on Holiday' to our library. Maisy is a mouse of undetermined age, who attends nursery but is also a home owner and in this particularly book she is in need of a minibreak. I told Roscoe we were going to pack a bag and catch a train and go to the beach. 'Just like Maisy!' He cried. Indeed, just like Maisy. 

Except not like Maisy because her train wasn't cancelled but determination and a non refundable room rate had us hopping on and off trains along the coast. We made the last connection, an hourly service to our destination, with seconds to spare. As our train pulled in I clutched Roscoe's hand and said, 'We have to run.' 

'Like the gingerbread man?' He asked. Yes, just like that. And we ran and jumped on and fell about giggling with 'just made the train' exhiliration. 

'We're having an adventure,' said Roscoe and we were, we totally were. Cause an adventure is anything that takes you out of your routine; an adventure is being willing to go with whatever is thrown at you. Anytime you need an adventure - just add child. 

Pontins, Camber Sands is the resort that time forgot. It definitely needed a lick of paint and maybe a bulldozer but to Roscoe it might as well have been a five star hotel - with his own new bed and a teeny fridge for our sausage roll dinner, it was the height of luxury. After we had unpacked he asked for a cake and some sweets; automatically I told him to choose one but then I reconsidered because this was an adventure. Could he have the tacky windmill and cheap bucket and spade? Yes! Could he have ice cream? Yes! Could he watch TV after dinner? Why not?! We spent hours digging holes in the sand and we didn't bathe and we ate chocolate muffins for breakfast and it was wonderful. And what was so wonderful about it was it made me remember that we didn't need to go away to get away from it all - we can turn off Paw Patrol and discover somewhere new in our home town; we can have muffins for breakfast whenever we please. Life can always be an adventure. 

No more pain


I work twenty four hour shifts at my care job. I sleep for a good portion of that but never completely switch off. When you finish an eight hour shift you need a couple of hours to transition into home mode, so when you work for a day it takes three times longer. When I finished my last shift I knew that if I went straight home I would eat carbs, nap and lose a sunny day; so I headed to my local park. It's this tiny little patch tucked away between houses, you'll miss it if you don't know it's there. It's never busy, even on the warmest days. 

I sat in the park and and read my book, Jen Beagin's 'Pretend I'm Dead'. It's astonishing and I had to keep taking little breaks to let it settle. During one of my rest periods I noticed a man watching his son doing laps of a small concrete track on his bike. Each time the boy passed him he would call out a time and an acknowledgement when that time was quicker than the last. The boy peddled more  and more furiously and on the last turn of what would be his personal best, he skidded. There was a thump and then that terrible silence before a child cries and man did he cry. His father leapt to his feet, as any good parent would.

'You're OK. You're not hurt. Lucas stop crying. It's OK,' he said as he ran towards him. The man examined the wailing child. 'It's just a graze. You're OK. Stand up.' Or don't feel what you feel or at least don't express it. I'm sure the man was right, it didn't look that bad. As the boy continued to sob his father showed him how to lean into curves. The boy nodded and sniffed and nodded. He would lean to be better, to be faster, to not let emotions get in the way. Achievements get attention, pain does not.

I know why, when Lucas is fifteen, he won't try out for the school play, afraid he won't get a part.

I know why, when Lucas is twenty-five, he'll say he's fine when the love of his life leaves him. And she'll believe it. 

I know why, when Lucas is thirty-five, he'll tell his kid to stop crying and their hurt. 

And I know why I'm the same. I say, 'You're OK.' When I mean - you're embarrassing me, you're making me feel guilty, I'm too tired. And each time I do I show him that his feelings aren't important, maybe because I believe that mine aren't either. 

I never want my son to feel hurt but I know that's an impossible goal, so next time I witness it I'll say, 'I know it's not OK. I can see you're hurting and I'm hurting too.'

3 Little Buttons

Get on the therapy van


I'd love to start a service to make therapy accessible to all. I'm thinking an ice cream van with comfy chairs inside; that plays REM's 'Everybody Hurts' when it's in the area. When you hear it you can run out and jump in for a quick session (fifty pence extra for a chocolate flake). I want people to say, I went for a therapy session the same way they mention they've had a manicure because I don't know anyone who hasn't at some point made me think, Ooh baby, you need you some therapy. Actually I know one person - an ex colleague; a beautiful, self possessed sister with her shit so together she was damn near constipated and for all I know she had already had a truckload of therapy because that's how it works.

Therapy is good. I'm not even gonna tiptoe round that. It works. I recently finished Dolly Alderton's, Everything I Know About Love and in it she charts a course of psychotherapy. She includes how challenging and fortifying and life changing it is and I was so gutted I didn't have someone to high five as I read it because it was so on point. Of course therapy works, if you've ever broken stuff down with a friend or prayed to God or cried to your mama you can see the reasoning behind it but it gets so much backlash. It's whispered about in corners and declared shamefully only when deemed necessary. I'm not about that life. I'll be honest with you, I need me some therapy. The culmination of a couple of years of major life changes and embarking on a new (exciting but also terrifying) line of work has resulted in a spiritual burn out. And I really don't have time to be burnt out - I have a four year old child and I want to be able to celebrate the good things that are happening in life, so I started to look for someone to talk to. The one downside of therapy it's not a quick fix and although I recognise the benefit of taking your time, time is not a luxury I have right now. So I've opted for therapy's younger, hipper cousin - life coaching. I'm having a few sessions in the run up to my book launch in an effort to embrace change, get organised and learn how to make self care more than a hash tag. Come along if you fancy. 

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!