Here is a suggested manifesto for mums.

I think mums matter and do not get valued or supported enough.

Recently, I interviewed a diverse range of mums who all had a striking story to tell. With the General Election coming up, I asked how the next Government could help mums. Listening to what they had to say makes me think this would make a good manifesto for mums.

mainfesto for mums

Manifesto for mums

Value mums

It is important to recognise the contribution that mums make to society whether through employment, business, parenting or voluntary and community work.

Employment

Government should work to make family-friendly working practices a reality and to support employers with this too. Creative use of home-working and ICT should be encouraged. It should also be remembered that isolation can be an issue for women working at home so offline support should be available too. Realities like children being ill from time to time should be acknowledged in the employment mix.

Business

Mums should be given support to establish their own businesses.

Childcare

There should be more affordable and accessible childcare.

Health

Investment should be made in perinatal mental health care and in crisis care for women experiencing post-natal depression.

Housing

Lower housing costs would enable families to function better.

Education

Education should be celebrated and encouraged in formal education settings and at home.

Equality

Rights should be given to non-traditional and traditional families.

Striking Mums values

Striking – stand out as the individual you are

Striking – take some well-deserved you time

Striking – you are beautiful inside and out whether you feel that way or not.

What would you see as the essential elements of a manifesto for mums?

Do you disagree with any of the points above?

My Random Musings

How to move on after abuse is a question on the minds of so many people. They might have experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse. They have scars which may or may not be visible. Moving forwards positively often takes huge courage and a willingness to seek support. Vicky shares her story.

vicky

1. What is the striking story you have to share?

I have been a single mother since my daughter was 3 weeks old and her abusive father walked out on us. I was very lucky that my health visitor stepped in, and sent me to the Freedom Programme, which is group counselling for people who’ve been in abusive relationships. I was scared of my health visitor, convinced that if I didn’t do everything she told me, she would deem me an unfit mother and my baby would be taken away – so I went to the counselling, even though I felt like I was making a big fuss about nothing and just causing trouble.

It took me a while to realise that I had been in an abusive relationship, that I wasn’t just being deliberately difficult, that I wasn’t just difficult to live with and moody and selfish. It took me longer to recover from the realisation; for a long while afterwards I would have flashbacks and memories of things and a dawning realisation, “oh wait, that wasn’t my fault…” or “oh wait, that was probably a lie…”

Very early on, I had this feeling that “it’s fine for you to treat me like this, but you don’t get to do this to my daughter.” I was very protective over her and determined to keep her safe from the life I knew her father’s other children were living. I stopped all contact with him when my daughter was four months old, after he refused to have any counselling for his abusive behaviour. On the day I told him he could not see my daughter if he would not seek help, I didn’t realise he was recording our conversation – but I did wonder why he was speaking so strangely. He said, ” you and I both know that she is in no danger with me.” I said no, that’s not true. He went through his usual “box of tricks” that all abusers have, trying to find the one that would make me back down – I wasn’t a fit mother, I was mentally unstable, he would take me to court. When I said “ok great, take me to court – I’ll bring Social Services with me and see you there” he shut up. I walked away as he shouted at me down the street, “you’re not mentally or financialy capable of looking after my child!” For the first time I thought to myself, “yes, I am – because I know to keep her safe from you.” He has not set eyes on her since – and has barely attempted contact – usually an odd email here and there when he’s had a fight with his girlfriend, or turning up drunk at our door on his way home from somewhere. The last time we were in contact, my daughter was teething and I was studying for an Open University degree. He boasted to his friends, “she’s tired and stressed; she’s never had to deal with a teething baby before. She’ll give in soon and let me come in to babysit so she can study – and then I’m taking my child.” At that point, I stopped answering him or acknowledging his existence in any way. He and his other children still live around here, and he works two blocks from where we live – but the police are aware of our situation, and I refuse to be driven away from the city I grew up in, from all of my friends and family. I stand my ground because it’s the only choice I have.

People tell me I am “inspirational” as if I have done something outrageously brave or incredible by caring for my daughter alone – but for me, it was just what I had to do. I was alone with a tiny baby relying on me for everything – what else was I going to do, but keep her safe and protect her?

2. What were the joys that this experience brought your way?

Being a single mother means that I am not being second-guessed or belittled by my daughter’s father. I am immensely proud of my daughter and the amazing person she is growing to be. No matter how bad my day is, I get into bed at night next to my gorgeous daughter (yes, we still share a bed!) and everything is ok. Being a single mother is not a bed of roses, but it brings me immense joy and pride to know I’m capable of doing this alone

3. What challenges did this situation bring your way?

Every day is a challenge, to a certain extent. Teething wasn’t much fun, and night feeds were tiring – but I find that when I’m feeling stressed and “challenged” as if I just can’t cope any more, the best thing is to call it a day and accept that my work/blog/housework/whatever just won’t get done today. Once I remove the pressures of trying to get something done, and just accept the situation, it just gets easier.

4. How do you ensure you get time to yourself and what do you do with that time?

I am self employed and work from home – so “time to myself” is generally translated as “time working on the business or the blog” – luckily I enjoy both!

My daughter goes to nursery four days a week, which gives me time to do my work and get basic housework done. She also has a bed time that is kept to all of the time, unless she is ill or it’s a special occasion. Sticking to our routine means that things run more smoothly for both of us. At the moment she is in the process of dropping daytime naps. She naps at nursery, and then goes to bed at her usual time, but when she’s home with me she doesn’t nap and goes to bed earlier – which works out well for me, in terms of having time to myself!

5. Have you ever redisovered or reinvented yourself? How?

When I met my daughter’s father, I was recovering from a massive nervous breakdown. When I became pregnant I had to come off my medication, and took the decision that I would never go back to it. Once she was born, I think something just clicked inside of my head and I was so incredibly lucky. I am painfully aware that there is no backup – if I fail, my daughter has nobody else. So I do not fail. Becoming a mother has reinvented me; I have a confidence I never had before because I know I’m doing a damn good job, and that I have no choice but to do so. I’m self employed now, something I never thought I could do before – and I am prepared to argue my point if I believe I’m right. A large part of this was setting up the blog.

6. Describe at least one physical feature you have that you consider to be beautiful

This is such a difficult question! I’ve never considered myself to be beautiful but actually, when my Timehop throws up selfies of myself and my daughter, I think my smile can be quite beautiful, given the right light – and the right gorgeous baby to smile at!

7. What makes you stand out?

I’d like to think I stand out because of my strength. I don’t feel particularly strong from day to day, but I know if someone else told me this story as their own, I would think them quite strong.

8. Is it important to you to support other mums?

Absolutely. I feel like new mums are bullied into all sorts of everything: you must do this, go there, your baby must wear this, sleep this way. A lot of the time we’re told this by self proclaimed “experts” who half the time don’t even have experience with their own children! I think we should all support mums to trust their own instincts with regard to their children and what is best for them. The best thing any of us can learn to say is “thanks for your input, but I’m going to do it my way.”

9. Which mum inspires you?

All mums do – we all have our own battles, our own struggles. When my daughter was first born I thought all mums with a husband at home had it easy but a close friend with a husband also suffered terribly with postnatal depression – something I was lucky enough to avoid. Another struggled with a partner who was physically present but didn’t help with nappy changing or night feeds – and I know from experience it’s easier to just know there’s no help and get on with it yourself, than to have someone there who’s not helping. Babies get colic and reflux and constipation and they teethe and they cry for no discernible reason; we worry they’re too hot or too cold or not feeding enough or their head doesn’t look quite right or they’re sleeping too much or we’ve put the wrong colour babygro on. All mums have that; all mums are inspiring in their ability to care for a small, screaming creature that can’t tell us what to do to make it better.

10. What would you like the next government to do to improve the lives of mums?

I am lucky in that being a single parent, I had a genuine choice as to whether I returned to work at the end of my maternity leave, or claimed Income Support and stayed home with my daughter until she started school. Other mums do not have that choice; some stay home and care for the children out of choice; others do it because they can’t afford to pay for childcare but would rather be at work. Some go to work because they’re desperate to have a conversation that doesn’t revolve around nappies or CBeebies; others do it because they can’t afford the rent if they don’t. All mums should have a genuine choice and government funding should be used to level the playing field in terms of Tax Credits, subsidised nursery placements and general assistance.

What I love about Vicky’s story is that she recognises her own qualities. Her story if presented in her own words and if you would like to know more about Vicky, please visit her blog.

Vicky shows us how to move on after abuse but every individual will do it in their way and if you have a story to share, please leave a comment.

Winnettes

asharedparentalleave

As April arrives, the question is how will shared parental leave work for families?

You may be entitled to Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) if:

your baby is due on or after 5 April 2015

you adopt a child on or after 5 April 2015

Until 4 April 2015 fathers may get Additional Paternity Leave and Pay instead.

SPL and ShPP must be taken between the baby’s birth and first birthday (or within 1 year of adoption).

You can start SPL if you’re eligible and you or your partner end maternity or adoption leave or pay (or Maternity Allowance) early. The remaining leave will be available as SPL. The remaining weeks of pay will be available as ShPP.

You can share the leave with your partner if they’re also eligible for SPL, and choose how much of the leave each of you will take. This means you can look at your contractual maternity and paternity rights and see what pattern of leave would be most advantageous to your financially.

SPL also lets you suggest a flexible pattern of leave to your employer. You have the right to take SPL in up to 3 separate blocks but your employer can agree to more. They can also let you split each block into several shorter periods of work and leave.

Check out your eligibility to leave and pay on having a chld.

What I like about the new regulations

There is an implication that fathers should be actively involved in the care of a child in its first year. I am one of those mums who believes that if a man has conceived a child he should be willing to step up and do nappy changes, night feeds and whatever the mum is expected to do.

I always like things that offer flexibility to individual circumstances. I wish more policies offered that as life is made up of individuals and changing situations.

I am pleased to see the regulations apply to employed, self-employed and agency workers.

When finances are tight, it may be best for the higher-earner to return to work quicker whichever parent that is. There may be projects at work that one of the parents particularly wants to be involved in at a given time.

I also like the idea that parents could be on leave together for a period building up that family unit.

Where it works best, parents will understand each other better and that could contribute to a lower risk of relationship breakdown in what is a wonderful but challenging year.

What are my concerns?

There may be a low-take up. That might be because it of no real interest to some families. It might be because some dads just don’t want to step up. It might be that some mums think it is only their role to be heavily involved in the child’s first year. It might be that people do not know about or understand the regulations.

There is also the key point that not all parents will be eligible and if one is and one is not I can see that leading to tension.

As with most family-friendly initiatives some employers will not like the idea and do things to prevent parents taking advantage of the regulations. Bad employers may use bullying tactics to put pressure on parents not to benefit from the regulations. It two employers are involved and both of them are not family-friendly, that could be a very troublesome situation at a time when a family needs all the help it can get.

My experiences

When my first son was born, his grandparents were very keen to do daily childcare to enable me to take up an exciting new job and for my husband to continue in his work.

When my daughter was born, my parents were not able to offer the same due to their age and infirmity. My husband worked and I stayed at home. I hated not having a work role and was blighted by post-natal depression.. My husband had a very long commute and I felt totally cut off from the world. He was so tired when he got in that he never saw how much I was struggling. Shared parental leave could have helped us so much on this one I think.

When my third child was born, my husband was redundant so he took care of my son while I took on a well-paid job.

This goes to show that circumstances can and do change rapidly as I all three of my children in less than five years.

Conclusion

It would be great if shared parental leave could work well and not just for a few families.

Lots needs to change for it to work at its best including our culture being less sexist when it comes to who should look after children and less discriminatory against men who do want to stay at home with the kids.

We need regulations to insist that employers are family-friendly. You cannot in all conscience say you back hard-working families if you do not put rules in place so that employers have to be family-friendly. Most people have children and a society should do all it can to ensure those children are well cared for and enabled to be great adults in due course.

How will shared parental leave work for families? I guess only time will tell.

Here is something I do on the blog every year. It is good to look back and reflect on a whole year. It helps to put things in perspective. I always tag people to do a post using the same questions but anyone should feel free to join in. Just take the questions and answer them in a way that makes sense to you and preferably although it is not a rule say that the idea for the post came from this blog.

Here is my 2014

1. What was your happiest event?

Seeing my husband get back into work so we could move forwards with our lives and discover a new area.

2. What was the saddest thing to happen?

Seeing my daughter hating herself after bullying by staff and children in her new school.

3. What was the most unlikely thing to happen that actually went ahead and did?

Me becoming a home educator. I have always fancied the idea but gave up on it as Him Indoors was very against the concept. Then 2014 showed me that sometimes home education is a necessity rather than an option.

4. Who let you down?

My daughter’s new school in blaming her for being shy and sensitive rather than looking for tools to help her settle into her new school.

5. Who supported you?

My husband. He always believes in me. He has made mistakes as have I but we are fundamentally a formidable team.

Auntie S.

Bloggers. So many do this throughout the year. I look back and remember so many encouraging tweets, offers of telephone numbers, emails and comments. I appreciate them all. They sustain me.

Home educators and also teachers who have helped me find my way on what is a very exciting but also daunting journey.

The Professor – a steady reminder that someone watches from afar and wishes me well.

Facebook friends from school, college, working life and places I have lived. I got more into Facebook this year having always looked down my nose at it before.

My half-sisters. I must try and make meeting them one day a reality.

My children – three amazing souls who take me as I am and love me all the same.

6. Tell us what you learned

That I spent 10 years in darkness when all I needed to do was go and get some anti-depressants.

That you should never give up hope.

That security is an illusion but that there is freedom in that very fact.

That I should have been far more vigilant about the education system.

That I need to look after my physical health better.

7. Tell us what made you laugh

We laughed more this year generally as things started to settle down for us.

My teenage son telling me over and over that a girl was “just a friend”

My sons covering their ears as my daughter continues to sing at any given moment.

Spending more time with my children allowing us to be daft and crazy sometimes.

Memories.

8. Tell us the things that made you cry

I cried when I empathised with others this year.

9. Tell us three things your child or children did to make you feel proud.

My oldest son is growing into a lovely young man. He treats me all the time and wants to spend time with me. He has settled well into his new school and made friends. He has developed a keen interest in philosophy and questions everything.

My daughter stuck to her guns leading to her becoming very unpopular with her Head Master. Like myself, she may not always be easy to be around but she is genuine and hates unfairness. I am so very proud that she stood up to authority. I love how she has committed herself to learning at home.

My youngest son being so supportive of his Dad. Also his interest in cooking and how he teaches me as much as I teach him.

10. Tell us the things that made you proud of yourself.

Finally going and getting my depression treated.

Entering a writing competition and putting some real effort into my fiction.

Keeping on keeping on through challenges.

Taking on home education and knowing that my daughter’s mental wellbeing had to come first.

Losing weight.

Reaching out to suggest social events with others.

11. Tell us the challenges you overcame

Depression. This has blighted my life for a decade. I felt it was OK for others to seek help but not me. In the end, all I had to do was see a GP, get some happy pills and see myself in the mirror again. Simples.

12. Tell us the things you would like to change about your life in 2015.

1. To continue to make progress in work.

2. To continue to lose weight and get fitter.

3. To forgive myself for the things I am not perfect at. Why should anyone be good at everything?

4. To do better at blogging and also to actively seek other writing and social media opportunities.

5. To get involved in home education meetings.

6. To continue to build on friendships and have some fun.

7. I quite fancy seeing if I would be any good as a visitor to a lonely old person.

8. To not stress about the goals I do not reach.

Over to you. Any blogger can have a go at this one if they fancy reflecting back on the year. What were your highs and lows of 2014?

Tagging some lovely bloggers

@AutismMumma @OjosWorld @sarahjchristie @messedupmum @CupcakeMumma11 @usthreebythesea @IndigoChlo @dragonsflypoppy @Glasgow_Mummy @needaphone @pndandme @SonyaCisco @TheBeezleyBuzz

If you choose to take part, please tag at 3 or more other bloggers.

The phenomenal woman and blogger Sonya has tagged me to answer some questions.

I have been poorly sick over Half Term so decided to take this tag to get my blogging mojo back a little.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I did used to enjoy dressing up as a nurse and injecting people.
Any ambitions to join the medical profession changed when I started watching Crown Court on the telly. At that point, I liked the idea of dressing up weirdly and mouthing off with everyone instructed to listen to me. A barrister was the life for me or so I thought and I intended to specialise in defending criminal cases overturning injustices.

At university, I obtained my law degree but got cynical that it all seemed to be about making rich people richer and powerful people even more powerful. That and the treatment of women by the legal system made me leave ideas of joining the legal profession behind.

I have made very few grown-up choices and my life shows that really so now I am hoping to become a published writer when I grow up. I would also like to work in a shop and have a fantasy of owning a floristry business.

How many children did you imagine you would have – and how many have you got?

I used to have a clear image of myself with three tall boys and a willowy girl. I ended up with two sons and a daughter called Willow. I keep expecting the other tall guy to turn up at some point to make sense of it all.

A palm reader also told me I would have 3 children.

Who or what inspired you to start blogging?

I think most people know this story. As I went slowly insane and miserable with the demands of parenting and the blight of post-natal depression, my Mum suggested that I should write even if I just kept a diary. She said this at about 4am on Boxing Day fuelled by Bell’s whisky. A few weeks later she told me she was terminally ill so for me blogging is the greatest gift she gave me and is in a way her legacy.

What’s your favourite blog post you’ve written?

It is impossible to pick one. My best in my view are those where I share openly and honesty, showing the warts off to good effect. I also like the ones where I analyse things and show that I do have quite a fierce brain still. I also love trying to remind people that we have so far to go in women getting a fair deal still.

What is your greatest achievement?

Being the first person from my school to ever get into Oxbridge.

Choosing the harder life option of charity work over the Law. I did make a difference to people along the way.

Putting myself back together after a relationship breakdown where I became aware that I too could be fooled and get things very wrong.

Keeping on keeping on through relocations, redundancies, infidelities, depression and isolation.

Reaching out to help others.

Surprising myself sometimes by walking on fire and travelling overseas on my own.

I am despite being fat and it seems quite possibly diabetic hoping the best is yet to come.

What is your biggest regret?

Allowing fear of rejection to hold me back way too much leading to me not taking risks in personal relationships and therefore ending up at 45 fundamentally friendless at least in the real world.

Not looking after myself physically or emotionally.

What makes you laugh?

Lots of things – word play, ancedotes, some comedians and I also have quite a ribald and black comedy all of my own. My children saying funny things and pulling funny faces.

What makes you angry?

How we are not on the streets saying it is wrong that so many women are battered in their own homes, attacked when they have the audacity to go out and generally treated like the proverbial.

In my home, I get angry that some power that be has decided it is my role to do most of the housework however rough I might be feeling and that I am too often silenced leading to me disappearing a little.

Do you ever break the rules and which ones do you break?

I break rules that Him Indoors sets because I think some of them make no sense and also that I should get a choice in things. Things like me having a blanket downstairs or a duvet if I am feeling in need of extra comfort.

I once submitted a funding bid when a boss said not to. Noticeably when the bid succeeded he accepted the money and the credit!

I question authority naturally so there will be more examples I am sure.

What are your top three books?

I don’t read as much as I would like.

The Hobbit has a special place in my heart always.

A book about New Zealand and a lighthouse by Keri Hulme called The Bone People because it was such a one-off and because I half-imagined the main character was myself and because it was a gift from someone special.

There are lots of others and I will go for gold and say the Bible as I find it times of crisis, it usually has something good to say.

It turns out I have done this all wrong and answered the wrong questions so I guess that goes to show that I break the rules often inadvertently.

I will now write a post based on the questions I was really asked.

Cuddle Fairy