Married but Single

Freedom of speech and Equal opportunities – the very definition of the world we live in now. Not quite.

The complexity of these social issues goes beyond the need for change.Within every individual case, there are barriers, different barriers for all. Like the mutation of covid, the fight for freedom of speech and equal opportunities is an up hill battle. You may be thinking, that change is on the horizon, as more people are speaking out and standing up for what they believe is right. However, there are indivduals worldwide who are not aware that there is a fight going on or that what they are experiencing isn’t right or simply they are just numb with fear and unable to put their experience into words.

When we reflect upon the fight to close the gender pay gap, generally we see a rough idea of what we would like to achieve. However, behind many doors there are women who by no fault of their own… or maybe by fault of their own are trapped. There are mothers who fight every day to keep a peaceful home, fight everyday to keep the children well and happy. There is now a great awareness of domestic, sexual absue and even coercive control. Where women who live as Wife, Mum, Daughter and Sister; there you will find untold stories about manipulation and abuse that has occured in different shapes and sizes. The barriers that come up against women are very real but the unique nature of each experience does not simply have the same exit route as society would expect.

At the age of 20, I gave birth to my eldest. 8 years down the line, I am Mum to three wonderful individuals. I have said on many occassions that I have grown up with my children, from a very naive 19 year old to the woman I am today. There is no room here for the blame game, however, there is room for the truth. For the past 8 years, I have been married but single. What this means is that from the birth of my daughter, I have changed ever single nappy, done every bath time, every bedtime, every school concert, every dinner, every…really the list could go on. I’m not here to big myself up (although… Well done Beth, you’re a bloody saint) but I want to share my reality and the reality of many others. From the outside it may look like I am a willing housewife who adores her duties. Well, no. I am a woman who thrives in education, a woman who passionately desires to achieve and a woman who wants to be heard. The psychology behind all of this probably stem from the occassional sting of oppression, a constant reminder that I am just a woman, just a Mum, just a Wife. As I mentioned before, I have grown with my children and like a child I spent many years seeking affirmation from the people around me and it is a habit that has stayed with me. This deep scar is rooted at the centre of me. I fear that the words I say will be wrong, I fear that the wrong person will call my number, I fear that if I leave kitchen in a mess I will be less of a wife or Mum. The reality is, these deeply rooted struggles and scars are present among many. In all honesty most days just look like survival for me, but these kind of days are lessening. I am embracing my opportunity to study, embracing my opportunity to wear makeup, embracing my opportunity to stay up late to watch a series on BBC and finally, the saddest of all, I cling to this blog where I can share my thoughts in the knowledge that no one in my house actually reads it or is remotely interested in it. These opportunities are fulfilled with an underlying fear, however I have realised that I must claim my life back. Life was given by God and belongs to no one else.

To my sisters who do EVERYTHING and more. Power to you, POWER TO YOU! I am with you.

Recognising Mental Health

When we talk about mental health in a casual or in depth way, are we considering our audience?

If we imagine walking into a meeting in the cabinet office, we’ll see a committee of representatives discussing issues that may or may not impact us directly. In that case, we better sit down and try and make sense of the discussion in hand. We leave with a better grasp about what is going on but do that thing when something has been explained five times and we just nod our head in confusion with the fear of looking silly if we ask for it to be explained one more time.

Recently, you may have noticed that there are more discussions and public posts regarding mental health. You may have also heard the phrase ‘mental health effects all of us’, well sure, having a physical body effects all of us, but what is your point? When we post or discuss mental health, most often we assume people understand what we are talking about or agree with us. The reality is that for many individuals, they will not recognise that they are being effected by mental health issues, instead they may put those feelings down to the current circumstances and expect it will all just pass with time. This may be due to many varying factors, such as culture, generation or gender for example.

If this is the case, we must begin talking about mental health in a less general and intimidating way. If we are going nurture and care for our dynamic communities, we must first understand who we are talking to. This doesn’t mean we should generalise as a result about our assumptions about others, but what we should be doing is enable ’empathy’ and ‘accommodating’ mode in our communication.

An example of this (emphasis on example), we may encounter a friend or work colleague who may be acting energetically, excitedly and perhaps erratically towards their work or daily tasks. We may respond by saying something witty like “someone’s in a good mood today”. Okay let’s pause here and understand the concept that excitement and anxiety cause almost identical physical reactions. I’m not suggesting a few energetic days in work or home mean there’s an underlying issue, but it is responsible to recognise those changes that continue over a longer period of time or reoccur.

There are a wealth of resources available to us now regarding mental health, including blogs. By reading, hearing the stories and reflections of others, we can educate the judgements of our subconscious to see that mental health is more than depression and anxiety. Mental health is as dynamic as our physical bodies are. You know that intense pain that occurs when you stub your little toe on the coffee table, well we wouldn’t say days later “I’ve got this really bad pain in my arm… it must be from when I stubbed my toe”. We need to approach our own mental health and the mental health of others creatively and dynamically. As a result, we cease trying to fit into societies understanding of mental health and begin to accept that areas within our health existed before the pandemic and we can react accordingly.

Read a blog, visit the NHS website, write a journal, speak to a counsellor… wherever you are at there is no harm in expanding our perspective about mental health. If not for ourselves but for our families and communities.

Create, Educate, Encourage and Inspire

Have you ever been in the countryside as evening is drawing in, minimal artificial light and that kind of peace that makes you feel like you’re breathing for the first time.

While on a camping holiday in Pembrokeshire as a child, I distinctly remember waking in the middle of the night needing to use the bathroom, which was on the other side of the site. Quietly walking through the field with my Dad, avoiding bumping into tents. We gazed upwards to the midnight sky, which was like nothing I had seen before. Twenty years later the vision replays in my mind.

That night, the sky was weighing down over us like a vast canopy with layers upon layers of stars. I felt dizzy as I attempted to walk and permanently gaze. It took my breath away then and it takes my breath away now as I describe it. A natural phenomenon that prompts stories and inspiration.

When I contemplate how the light of a star reaches our tiny visual perspective here on Earth, it’s hard not to be impacted. It is said that the stars we see most probably still exist but what we are seeing is the state of the stars a few years ago. If this is true, the stars further away but still visible within our universe could potentially be billions of years old. Unfortunately or fortunately for us, there is no way of proving this. We may continue to bask in the great beauty of our solar system, as the light blasts through generations.

My friends in the sky, how can you be so many but so individually significant? Wherever my eyes choose to rest on your beautiful canvas, I will feel as tiny as you look to me. Your light is powerful, your community is vast. You’ve created stories, educated us, changed perspective and encouraged belief. Can we as humans, grains of sand over generations transform our story into one that will create, educate, encourage and inspire thousands of years later.

Our responsibility is clear, create testimonies where we are, love others who surround us, maintain our roaring identities that pave a way for the future to join. Because whether you like it or not, today will be visible 50 years from now.

“You’re a star, baby!”

I couldn’t resist…

With a grateful heart & determination for life

As we move into December, there’s the usual sense of winding down, pressing pause and signing off another year.

Yet this year has been a rollercoaster of pausing and winding down… with not much of the life we know in sight. 2020 has been defined by… well you know, I don’t even have to say whatever you’re reading this from.

It’s all sort of shaken up my perspective of the way I’m approaching my time and the things I do with it. There is a common view that the start of the year is where we place our annual goals and the end of the year is where we start thinking about the whole process again.

With a year of so much negative potential, we may feel like not much has been achieved. The new normal is definitely made itself at home but there is a sense of determination to push through, back to the normality we knew way before 2020 began.

In this season when workplaces would be on Christmas outings, schools performing live Nativities and families gathering to eat, drink, laugh and celebrate together… we have the prospect of a slow end of the year. For someone who is an introvert; I can deal with a quiet season but even for me… I’m craving the frantic buzz of last minute shopping, busy restaurants and the comedy of the school play. In the back of my mind, I’m aware that in a year of so much suffering for many many people, we are prompted by our own good human nature to be grateful for each day as it comes.

With a grateful heart for life and breath and thoughts of “I wish we could…” we have an opportunity to view next year, next month, next week, tomorrow in this new normal that I believe many of us are experiencing. Whether we like it or not, we’ve all been exposed to the reality that we are not invincible and have had real moments of fearing for our lives this year whether that be physically or mentally. Being grateful doesn’t have to lessen our goals, there’s no need to undermine our dreams just because our conscience is more aware of the value of life. Instead, we can use this understanding of value to enrich our short and long term goals.

We also can’t ignore the sense of community that has occurred from this year. In everything we do, we are encouraged to respect each other and be safe. Although this may differ from country to country, we can grasp this idea of looking up and recognising that we’re not the only ones going through this. What can we give back into our communities? Whether this is county wide, in the school yard, in work or even when we’re out and about. What difference do you want to stay or design into tomorrow?

With a grateful heart and determination for life, what is your tomorrow going to look like?

Making moral citizens

When I was growing up, high school was the place I came first in contact with the term ‘banter’. [an exchange of light, playful, teasing remarks; good-natured raillery.- dictionary.com]. Walking the corridors, passing the youngest and the oldest kids… this was the time people would shout their one liners to the crowds pleasure!

At times it would be quite amusing but after a while, it began to grate on me, on others too but even so it persisted. As mentioned before I was a quiet soul in my younger years and for some reason this was the perfect banter target. So many occasions it was implied that “it’s always the quiet girls who are the naughty ones!”. I felt embarrassed and irritated by a label that tried to define me as a joke.

Obviously when I was younger these realisations didn’t dwell on me, I wish they had. I would have stood up, kicked banter up the arse and told it where to go, because let’s be real… banter is a nice home for harassment. At the time, I thought it would make me look like a kill joy if I stood up for how I and many other individuals probably felt.

A few years later… (okay quite a few years later) here I am, I’ve been harassed for being a women since my teens. Now, for me that’s a scary thought being the Mum of two girls. Those years have just gloated by, being called a bitch, being mocked by the term “bitches” that attempts to define a population of women. Being made to feel uncomfortable to dress a certain way or to even be in a certain room. I shout at my younger self to gain more sense about what is going on. It’s not a compliment its degrading!!

We all have experiences that we should definitely analyse and understand… and then figure out a way forward. How can we use our experiences to educate the next generation and the generation after that how to stand up and not tolerate banter, flirtation, teasing, jokes, bullying… harassment. However minor or major they may seem to you, your story can educate and equip so many young people to understand what it means to be moral citizens.

Integrity is key

During the moments of life when we feel our opportunities are being stripped away by our responsibilities, we create an opening for negativity to dwell.

Imagine being in work and a patient, client, customer or system has a complaint… we’ve all thrown a mental tantrum wanting to tell that complaint where to go. But imagine if we lived out that “mental tantrum”, a grown adult kicking and screaming because that complaint messed up their plan for the day. Well, you’d probably get sent home, probably embarrass a fair few people and probably would result in a disciplinary meeting.

When responsibility and integrity stand in our way, we sometimes feel hard done by. As if we deserve to do what we want, we deserve that promotion, we deserve that day off, we deserve that cup of coffee! When we carry this deserving belief around with us, we give ourselves a complex that is damaging to our life experiences and to those around us.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be motivated in reaching our goals but by taking aspects of being selfish and selfless, we may just get the right balance. One of the challenges I have faced since having children is finding time for myself… but rather it’s more about finding a way to accept that there will be times when I will be disrupted, I won’t get to complete tasks and overall have little control over my “break time”. And do you know what, that’s ok with me! It took time and developing maturity to get to this point. I no longer freak out if the kids don’t go to sleep on time, I care more for being a patient Mum who engages in conversations my 4 year old (even if I don’t know what’s going on!) It has taught me to value the everyday moments and I am learning more and more about myself and what I am capable of. It’s cliche to say this, but by living for the now… we don’t just get to value the experiences but we nuture our character to be patient, in control and focused on the needs of others.

Integrity is key.

“The power is an illusion” – AOC

I want to build up an image for you…

There is a school, with on average two hundred and fifty students, teachers, teaching assistants, caretakers, administration staff and of course the headteacher and deputy.

Imagine then, this school has a number of naturally excelling students who need little support. Then you’ve got children who need a bit more support and children who need consistent support. What happens when the headteacher says “I want only the students who excel to receive rewards for their work.” they have instantly created as divide among the school. Does this now mean that the children who require more support will be less motivated and lack confidence? Quite possibly. Now imagine, the teaching assistants resources have been limited, not only can’t they recommend rewards but they are being directed to split their time with other students who do not need support, in order to back up the students who are excelling.

In reality, a school like this would be called out to be dysfunctional, unequal and in the most extreme terms, corrupt. Just by writing this last sentence, my mind has sparked images of so many establishments, countries and governments.

We may have already heard of the corruption within African countries, today I want to talk about a beautiful country called the Democratic Republic of Congo. This country represents every kind of energy, the energy of love, suffering, culture, physical and mental. Once you have experienced this culture, you see what true patriotism is. My extended family are from DRC and when I say extended, I now have family in France, Belgium, Africa, the UK and USA. My children will have so many opportunities to travel and experience the diversity of their heritage.

How does a country with so much energy be exploited by the rest of the world? DRC is one of the richest countries in the world, it powers this laptop, it powers the phone you are reading this on and it has beautiful treasures that we can only imagine. The depth of the land, the vast ground holding so much potential that just needs to be left alone by the unwanted help. Surely we all understand that it is easy to look like a do gooder if we change the narrative of what’s actually going on and turn it into a more pleasing story for the westerners. I can’t count the amount of time I’ve spent fiercly discussing with my husband the changes that need to be made. I said so many time, the DRC government is corrupt, it’s got no solid foundation because of the past… this is the narrative I’ve been told by so many appeal shows on my UK TV.

Yes, many men, women and children are suffering world wide as a consequence of dysfunctional governments but do we stop there and accept that as the overriding reason? Obviously the information of what is really going on will not be handed over to us by Google that simply. Neither would visiting the areas where the landscape is being torn apart give us much more than a devastating insight into the hard work and unfit working conditions and pay the workers receive. This isn’t some conspiracy, it’s a reality that is ongoing. As the AOC said “the power is an illusion” until we start looking further into the roots and breaking that down, the face value of these international stories will continue to deceive us.

There is no quick fix for any of this, but I believe we have to start by educating ourselves, emerging our families into other cultures, understanding the ways of our neighbours and most importantly making sure the youngest members of society know that their voice has power. Their skills and character have the potential to impact communities and comfortable governments who lack definition.

Part time work and Motherhood

Part time work and Motherhood seem to go hand in hand in this generation and those part time jobs are not always suited to the skills of the woman in that role. Do we open our eyes a little bit wider to see that actually, many women are being undermined in the workplace because they are seen as the primary carer for their children and require flexibility?


At 27, I have spent many of my years as a Mum being told that I will have plenty of time when the kids grow up to do what I want. In all honesty, now is the time I was to progress, now is the time I want the equal opportunities to earn that better wage and for it to fit around my family. And do you know what, I know I can do it because I worked 32 hours a week walking around a hospital ans then returned home to two children, all while heavily pregnant. I’m now on the sick because the rigid nature of my work place has torn me apart. I questioned family or work? So many times and my answer has not changed, I want both.

People are always going to procreate and family costs money, so I will need to work. But it’s not just about the money, its embracing the diversity of our abilities, the skills we have gained from school and from motherhood, we have so much to offer to so many different roles. On many occasions I’ve heard Mothers being described as individuals who pour out love and sacrifice their own wants and needs… Sounds like an angel. In the right context I agree with this statement (I’m not talking about sacrificing nights out for multiple orders of milk and story books), we give up a lot of things we would have done if we didn’t have children and that’s personal to each individual. I challenge the reassurance that “you’ll have plenty of time when your kids have grown up”. Actually I want my sons and daughters to see Mummy sat at the table with a pile of books. I want them to see me balancing life with bags under my eyes. I want them to see me jump up and down when I get that job I’ve worked so hard for. I want them to see the better days when we’ve spent the last month scraping the barrel in order to pay the rent. Why do I have to wait until they have left home to display to them the realities of life. I need them to see what type of person their Mum is because one day they will look back on these every day moments and understand a little bit about who they are and what they are capable of.

Now
I want to ask you, how do we move forward with gender equality?
How do we make it possible for families to care for their loved ones but also have a job that is fulfilling personally and financially?

Half term for Mums

We are now coming to the end of half term, it’s been seven days of rain, seven days of tantrums, seven days of “I need a snack” immediately after a meal. To top it all off we’re currently in lockdown and with the prospect of two inset day…(two!!) I am frazzled.

But despite all of this, yesterday we had one window of dry weather. I chucked clothes on the kids and we ran over to the park, which was the same idea of many other families in the area. I have to be honest, with three kids I’m past that point of being eager to make Mum friends at the park but just being around other human beings and having brief conversations we realise we need social interaction to survive this.

Being outside in nature is also essential and when I say nature I do mean the road side path on our return from Lidl. All four of us looked up and saw these magnificent trees that we had not noticed before. We collected pine cones to decorate and spoke about what little christmas character decorations we could produce from these common treasures found on cars and the pine grass.

We all have different coping mechanisms for times of stress, some of us are extremely disciplined when it comes to dealing with stress… others of us lack motivation. Whatever person you find yourself to be, don’t be restricted by the pressures that we hold in our chests. Like ripping off a plaster, close your eyes and run into the opportunity to be outside with no plan or expectations. Always have a coat with pockets, with a bottle of hand sanitizer and water for the kids. No baggage, no concerns about forgetting something. Survive a mini outing with minimal resources, this will train you to let go of a few minor concerns. Nature heals and so does incorporating doable activities into the daily routine, this could be as simple as putting your phone or washing up down and singing silly songs with the kids for 10 minutes. The kids will probably want to do activities all day or evening then but don’t be ashamed to pause and explain that it’s time to move on to something else now. We need to manage our own limits and similarly teach our children to manage theirs.

Right to education, right to life

With many parents across the world currently homeschooling their children, we are exposed to the great responsibility of teachers; this is to provide a high standard of education to our children and young people. While touching base with my daughters school teacher over the phone, the delight of speaking to a fellow adult had never been so prominent! I’d been waiting for this moment, the moment to confess… that in fact, my homeschooling knees had given way by day 4. Like a deer in the head lights I was stunned by the fantastic array of activities that were to be completed, all were socially, ethically and academically sound. But wait, where are the books full of mathematics and handwriting practice that would occupy my inquisitive six year old while I sat with heavy eyes, bagfuls of postnatal anxiety and a luke warm cup of tea. This was never going to work.
After my brief confession, I covered for my daughter as her teacher complimented how enthusiastic she was to engage and learn. Well, let’s just say she is fully engaged with a bunch of cheesy Netflix series and has learnt an extremely irritating game called the ‘pause challenge’. The truth is, my beautifully unique daughter is indeed enthusiastic but her Mother is not. Thankfully I was reminded by her school teacher that “they won’t remember how much work they did or why they did it, but the positive memories we make with them will be something they keep forever”. However corny that may sound, it’s completely spot on and should be the motto for parents worldwide. So thank you Mrs Google, Miss YouTube and Mr Netflix, you have yet again saved this millennial Mums arse. While this experience is both challenging and frustrating for all of us, we can’t underestimate the importance of the education we can give our children. By sending them to school, extra curriculum clubs and by creating a safe home environment we can be sure that they will have a positive start in life.
Among my rumbles about having to home school, I’ve become so much more aware of how fortunate we are in the UK.

We are able to offer many opportunities and options when it comes to our children’s (even our own) education and social life. I recently watched a TED talk by human rights protector Rabiaa El Garani, who described her story of investigating the atrocious crimes committed by ISIS against the Yazidis, a community of people based in Northern Iraq.
The way she described the experience of these people was vivid; although I don’t believe words could ever describe the devastation these communities face. Delving deeper into this, the individuals who are involved have no control over their destiny, education is just a dream. As a Mother in one of these communities the unimaginable emotions and anger that must weigh over them would bring any one to their knees. Children are born into corruption, where having options in education, career prospects and life choices are extremely limited/non existent.
Every child has the right to an education and in many countries it is a given that no one falls through the net, but not everywhere. The mental and physical pain parents and children go through just to fight for their communities and lives is relentless. So, before we question our governments “when can the kids go back to school?” why not treasure the endless supply of educational resources we have, this is more than just books; it’s the people around us and the opportunities that are there for the taking; opportunities to speak up and be heard. Let’s be zealous about what good may come of this pandemic, whether it’s by personal growth, a new found love for community spirit or just recognising the importance of being able to connect with others. Pray for those communities around the world, where freedom is being wiped out. Pray that they never give up the fire that keeps them pushing forward every day. Finally, let’s be consistent in reflecting on the fact that uncertainty or certainty of peril is an everyday feeling for these beautiful individuals. Whatever ‘pray’ means to you, we must unify in thought and action to hold up the weak; a true international community.

Our words may be small and may even be over looked but someone somewhere is listening.

Photo by Valeriia Miller