What does being a woman mean to me?

Woman

My first instinctive answer is that it means I am different. I guess this is because I was the only daughter in my family with two much older brothers. My mum had always wanted a girl, was unable to have one so adopted me.

As a young girl, I probably played more with boys than girls interestingly always creating myself a role so I could be part of their games.  I remember my Mum turning away the boys as I got older when they came to ask me to play out. I could not understand why but when I get my first period she announced to all the family that I had become a woman. I was upset that it was no longer deemed acceptable to play with the boys but it did mean that my Dad was dispatched to buy cake to mark this momentous womanhood. I have always loved the fact that my period was seen as a milestone to be celebrated.

I did not really think deeply about my place in the world until I became a teenager. My Dad said I just came downstairs one morning ranting and raving about various injustices in the world with the position of women in society being right at the top of the list.

I continued ranting when I went to Cambridge University where women were very much in the minority. Whilst other girls were seeking boyfriends, I was joining and then running women’s groups. I even invited some hapless blokes to come along to be educated! Back then I was so sure of myself in terms of opinions even if not so brave socially or boyfriend seeking wise. I used my womanhood as a reason to join a group where I knew they could not kick me out. Of course I learned a lot about women and the world through women’s group and those harsh facts just made me rant all the more infamously getting the porn removed from WHSmith for a whole day and  arguing we should not have the Sun in the common room.

In the advice world, I saw so many women in a state through mistreatment by men. Wives left with debts where men had signed their signatures. One woman in  particular is on my mind today from my early days as an advice worker. She was a victim of domestic violence and I could not work out why her hands were black and purple with bruises. I went home and Dad explained why. Police officers know these things that people who have not seen domestic violence don’t have to think about most of the time. I hope this woman is alive and living a positive life today. So many are not.

As a woman, I do not think I should have to conform to some media expectation of how I should look, how many hairs I should have on my bits, my underarms or my legs. I don’t actually trip over any of them you know!

As a woman, I wish some women would not reject the term feminism whilst we still have women killed every weeks in their own homes never mind on our streets. We have bigger battles to fight and we should join together until people of every gender and sexuality are treated with respect.

My mum’s hope for me was that she would have instilled backbone into me. That in itself says she knew I would have my own challenges as a woman and indeed we both suffered assault by men on the streets in our time.

My hope for my daughter is that she will respect herself mind, body and soul.

I am a mum. I am not always sure I should have become one as I struggle with many aspects of it. Having said that, I have released two boys and one little woman who have values that will ensure they do not abuse others moving forwards in life. And just possibly, that makes me woman enough.

 

 

Boundaries

Are you a little short on cash but are in need of a great gift? The best gifts do not have to cost the earth especially if buy from sites such as the deals queen one, and actually, gifts bought on a budget can be a lot more thoughtful! Below, we have a few ideas of what gifts you can give without breaking the bank especially if you use a hot discount code or two.

Homemade Gifts

Of course, the cheapest way to give a great gift on a budget is to make something yourself! Homemade gifts are special due to the amount of time and effort put into them. Whether you just make a card or go all out and knit a piece of clothing, your recipient is sure to appreciate the hard work that you have gone through for their gift. There are so many different DIY gifts that you can make, so no matter who it is you are buying for, you are sure to find something to make that they will love!

Buy Them Artwork

One of the great things about gift giving is that you can purchase something that they might not buy for themselves. Artwork is a great example of this and it does not have to cost a fortune, plus, many of us are not the most creative people on the planet, so a homemade DIY gift isn’t an option! A piece of art can brighten up any room and add lots of character. Plus, every time they look at the art hanging on their wall, it will make them think of you! FineArtAmerica.com is the perfect site to head on over to if you are looking for some gorgeous art on a budget. You’ll find a wide range of wall art here and they are at fantastic prices that won’t break the bank.

Make Them A Meal

Going out for a meal can be a costly affair, however, you can have just as great a time cooking from home! Making someone a meal is a thoughtful gift that they are sure to appreciate and it does not have to cost the earth. If you are not the best cook, look up a few recipes online and have a practice before making it for your loved one.

 

 A Gift Basket

A gift basket is a really thoughtful way to give someone a gift but it can also be done on a budget. Grab a hamper, then start filling it up with all their favourite small things. This is a fantastic way to give a personalised gift as what goes into the hamper really is up to you. A few ideas we would suggest include their favourite sweet treats, candles, toiletries, small clothing items and even photographs.

Gift Cards

If all fails, you can always buy a gift card! Do some research into what their favourite stores are before buying. This is a win-win situation as you don’t have to spend too much picking out a gift and they can purchase something that they want and will love!

Great Gift Ideas On A Budget

 

 

Winnettes

In the run up to International Women’s Day, I am pleased to share a guest post from Tushna Ghadially, Founder of Marylebone Mums.

Mums

After giving birth to my daughter in March 2013, I gave up work as a fund manager. However, within the first few months of motherhood, I soon discovered that although Marylebone Village is a very family friendly area, it wasn’t easy to find information about children’s activities or mums groups that were available in the area. Having left a very male-dominated City environment, and not really knowing anyone who had children let alone babies I wanted to meet other new mums. I had chosen not to do an NCT course as there were none in the local area so I was feeling rather isolated. I realised I could solve both problems easily so I set up Marylebone Mums to connect with others and to help people exchange information about the local area. Learning how to edit a website and searching for information made me feel like a functioning adult again as I emerged from the haze of the first 6 months after birth! I run Marylebone Mums for free in my spare time for the benefit of our local community. It has been so fulfilling seeing what a difference it has made.

I run a blog where news and information about the many local events, classes and coffee mornings taking place are posted. It’s gradually grown over the years and we now have around 1600 mums and dads following the Facebook group and over 1000 followers on Twitter. Every day I get member requests from women who are pregnant or who have just had a baby who live in the area. Funnily enough, I’ve also had an increasing number of dads wanting to join the group and be involved with the community so I’ve renamed our Facebook group Marylebone Mums (& Dads). Sometimes we also get requests from Marylebone residents who don’t have kids but see the group as a good way to stay informed with local issues as well as fun topics such as new restaurants and shops opening in our area. Parents spend a lot of time walking pushing prams around and we love sharing new finds with our group!

The great thing about the group is that we have such a mix of people who help support each other. Some like me are born and raised in London, but many are people who have moved to the city for the first time. We have so many expats in the area who turn up here knowing nobody and end up meeting so many other people through the various events on offer. I understand how isolating it can be when families move to the city for the first time and how important it is to have a support network. My involvement in Marylebone Mums helps people connect with others so they don’t suffer from loneliness. I run a monthly coffee morning which is an easy way for Mums to introduce themselves to the community and to put people in touch with one another.

I love the fact that there’s a community of people in Marylebone who are settled here and are long standing residents, or who see themselves staying here for a long time, so you do get that real community feel, but at the same we’re right in the centre of London. When living in the heart of a big city I’ve also realised that it’s important to reach out and connect with others, or start a conversation with other mums in the local playground, you soon realise that they are in the same boat and appreciate a bit of extra support.”

Find out more about what’s going on in Marylebone and the local area on the website: www.marylebonevillage.com

 

Run Jump Scrap

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

A porch is the perfect space to use a halfway point between people visiting and entering your home. From the moment you start to decorate your home, the main aim is always to have a warm and welcoming atmosphere that makes people feel at home and comfortable, and this applies to the porch too. Many people overlook the porch and see it is a wasted space, but it actually has a huge impact on the overall image people have of your home. First impressions always count, and your porch is the first point people see before they enter your home properly, so it needs to be as inviting as possible!

Keep Things Fresh

The benefit to having a porch is that more often than not, you have a small space with large windows that enable plenty of natural light to filter through and brighten the area beautifully. You want your porch to be a space that feels fresh and bright, and your décor choices will help you with this. For those porches large enough, introducing a chic oak console table in the corner to position a fresh display of flowers will instantly add that crisp, clean feel you want to achieve. This is also a great way of utilising the space, giving you an area to keep post, place your dirty wellies underneath and so on.

Be Bright and Bold

If your porch is a space that has a nice balance of windows then you can guarantee you’re going to have a lovely flow of natural light passing through from morning to night, but the moment the sun goes down this area can become a little dark and daunting. Whilst the porch is still classed as your interiors, many people overlook this and forget to add sufficient lighting to keep the area lit through the evening time. By adding a stylish lamp to your porch, you can create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for your home, giving it the perfect entrance. The moment people look at your home they will see a delicate glow from the entrance area which will automatically make your home seem cosy and inviting.

Make it Practical

Having a porch is ideal for dedicating a space for keeping shoes, coats, umbrellas and other random items safe and neat, without having to bring them into the main part of your home. There’s nothing worse than someone walking through the house, over your lovely cream carpets with dirty boots on, and this is where the porch comes in very handy. To really utilise the space within your porch and make it as practical as possible, you want to include plenty of storage space, some durable hooks and even some drawers to keep items neatly stored away. This will really help to keep the rest of your home neat and tidy, whilst still having everything easily accessible.

Open it Up

Whilst the majority of people use their porch as an additional room within the home, there is also the option to open it up and create an outdoor space that’s unique to your property. To give yourself an open-style porch, you can create an enclosed space that has no door or windows but contains a couple of seats and a stylish plant to add to the character of the space. This is perfect for those who want to enhance their gardens overall look and introduce a unique touch of landscaping to their home.

Cuddle Fairy

Mother’s Day is almost upon us bringing with it all sorts of thoughts and feelings as big days often do. I am delighted to share an guest post with you today from Hannah Chamberlain, Mental Health Expert by Experience & Founder of Mental Snapp

Mother's Day

“In the run up to Mother’s Day I’ve been delighted to see that a gem of a comedy has come back to the BBC for its second series. Stefan Golaszewski’s funny, tender sitcom Mum stars Lesley Manville and Peter Mullan in a masterpiece of understatement. Each time I watch Mum I’m in awe at the range of emotions that pass over Lesley Manville’s face as she plays the leading role of the eponymous Mum. What is striking is the depth and subtlety of what she thinks – and of how she almost never voices the conclusions she reaches. The supporting cast are brilliant in their self absorption, and they all circle round Mum, who is a miracle of self restraint. As I watch, I’m itching to speak for her, but I don’t need to, her face says it all.

 

It makes me think about Mother’s Day and storytelling. It makes me think about the importance of what we say and what we don’t say. I’m thinking about Mother’s Day in the context of mental health as I’ve been making videos about mental health and helping people tell their stories on film for the last twenty years. My startup, Mental Snapp, also enables people to actively manage their mental health using private video diaries. Mental health and Mother’s Day are a potent combination, and it’s a day on which emotions can run high, as I know only too well myself.

 

I have a story from Mother’s Day. On the first Mother’s Day after I became a mother, I wrote my mum a card. In it, I put what I’d realised after nearly a year of being a mum – not for me, but for her. I put that this wouldn’t be a perfect message, that this wouldn’t be a perfect card, that she would get again, as she had done for many years – what I could see I would receive myself now from my son throughout his childhood and maybe throughout his lifetime. What she would get is a botch of smeary words, a tangle of sellotape at the edges of the card, a thumbprint in the corner of the envelope and if she was lucky – and I hoped to be so lucky – a cake that had just about escaped being burnt. What I wrote to her was about the perfectly imperfect – or the imperfectly perfect. I cried as I wrote the card, imagining my botches of Mother’s Days to come and how I would treasure them, and hope to hold back my words as well as my tears.

 

Mother’s Day isn’t perfect. Kids aren’t perfect. Mother’s Day can take a toll on mental health, perhaps in some ways even more poignantly than Christmas or Valentines. There are mothers and not mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, up and down the country and around the world who have their hearts pricked to tenderness at this time of year when a single bent daffodil with a bit of ribbon around it might be given to them at a community event. It can hurt, it hurts me, mother of one, sister of one, daughter of one. No, Mother’s Day isn’t perfect.

 

What I’ve reflected on this year however, is a different type of storytelling. There are ways to tell stories that can feed us and some of that is to do with the kind of self restraint that Lesley Manville brilliantly portrays. As you would imagine, as the creator of Mental Snapp, I am a keen diarist, believing in the power of telling stories. This year my resolution was to do it in a slightly different way. My mother gave me a five year diary for Christmas, which has just enough lines in it for a bit of detail each day, but not too much. Since January 1st, I have used it to keep a gratitude diary. Some days it is easy to be grateful, some days it is hard. Each morning I describe what has happened the day before that I am grateful for. On hard days, sometimes I slip and something creeps in there that I am annoyed about or stressed with. I still surround it with gratefulness, but I have noticed on those days my gratitude is marred and I don’t start the day as well.

 

There are many ways of telling stories. There are ways to tell stories that nurture you and ways that don’t. Sometimes you have to be a wise editor. After all, you know yourself what is in the gaps. Perhaps you don’t need to say it. It is what I don’t say in the gratitude diary that is a major part of the story too. The good thing is that when I read the diary back, following each day I’ve completed this year with next year’s entry underneath, I won’t remember all the gaps, or maybe I will. Maybe I’ll decide that they didn’t matter so much after all.

 

I want my Mother’s Day to nurture me, so it can nurture those around me. So if I receive a card with a thumbprint, perform a botch myself, or if I know someone near to me is hurting that day, it will be what I don’t say as well as what I do that will be the making of the day. I hope to make those choices in a mentally healthy way, assuming generously, editing judiciously and carefully creating my stories of Mother’s Day. Stories are what we tell ourselves, they are about living artfully. Much like the ripples of emotion over the face of the kind of wise mum that Lesley Manville plays, they are more than words can say.

 

If you’d like to tell your Mother’s Day story to yourself, do download Mental Snapp, press record, enjoy telling your story – and most of all, choose the words that feed you. Happy Mother’s Day. “

 

Hannah Chamberlain is the founder of Mental Snapp, a free to download app that helps you actively manage your mental health using private video diaries and mood monitoring.

 

See more at:

http://mentalsnapp.com/

https://twitter.com/mentalsnapp

https://www.instagram.com/mentalsnapp/

https://www.facebook.com/mentalsnapp/

 

 

Download the app for yourself:

The App Store

Google Play

 

Availability and pricing:

Mental Snapp is free to download and can be used with limited storage for free. To unlock unlimited storage and extra features, users can subscribe for £4.49 p/m.

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clairejustine