Wednesday 26 March 2014

Bare faced mothers: the naked truth.

mini malteser, parenting blog, make up, breast cancer selfie, no make up

I sometimes wonder at what point in history women felt the urge to beautify themselves. I mean, has the desire to exaggerate beauty always existed or have we made it what it is, desperately seeking out the next anti ageing cream or cosmetic nip and tuck. I've no doubt that men feel an expectation to look a certain way but I still think that women get the greater pressure to be aesthetically pleasing; pressure to have thinner waists, youthful looking skin, bigger eyelashes and pert bosoms.

We're so up to our eyeballs in hug-in pants and eyeliner that we fail to see the problem. You see, it's one thing titivating ourselves to impress others or feel good about ourselves, but when children come into the equation we are their role models and they tell us more about ourselves than anyone else could.

My son saw me putting on makeup the other day. He saw the way I added colours to my face, like colouring in a picture - and it looked like fun. "Can I draw on my face too mummy?" he asked. "No," I said, not really knowing what my reasoning was. Why do I feel uncomfortable with my child wearing makeup? Is it because he's a boy? No, because I imagine the scenario with a girl and feel equally as uncomfortable. Despite the obvious reasons of having my nice makeup trashed by a three year old, I actually felt a deep sense of unease about it as I tried to wriggle my way out of the question by explaining that mummies were just silly and don't make any sense.

And we don't.

The latest social media campaign to raise awareness for breast cancer posed an interesting dilemma for women. The no make up selfies filled our Facebook pages, most taken in darkly lit rooms or from a distance that would limit the view of any blemishes or wrinkles. Others resorted to adding special lighting and Instagram filters to enhance their bare-faced, moisturised cheeks, which made me want to write a big fat 'CHEAT' underneath. We felt vulnerable. Naked. I'm glad that the campaign proved successful and raised lots of money for breast cancer but my meagre £3 donation actually gave me a lesson that is priceless.

The majority of women are not happy with their faces.

Even the most beautiful.

In fact, it's interesting that the most beautiful seemed to struggle more, as though physical beauty in itself leaves a constant dissatisfaction, striving for things of no substance. At times I'll admit I've spent far longer worrying about what I look like than being kind. We adorn ourselves with lipstick but we forget to text our mums, we take the time to put on mascara but we forget to tell our partners we love them.

What has made us become so vain, so self conscious, and is this belief system what we want to pass on to our offspring? I hope that my child grows up to love the skin he is in. If my son only sees me with makeup on then what am I teaching him about the women he should date in later life? If I had a girl, I would want her to love the way she looks without the need for makeup and if she were to tell me she couldn't go out without make up on I'd feel saddened. I'd want her to feel free to wear it or not as she pleased, not rely on it.

I still wear make up.

I like wearing makeup, actually. And that's okay. Appearances are important but they're not what makes a person. I shouldn't feel embarrassed if I choose not to wear it on a certain day and I shouldn't have to defend myself on either occasion. At the end of the day it's what's inside that counts, but how much do we believe that about ourselves? If we are to empower women then we need to encourage one another to develop depth of character, not depth of foundation.

Saturday 15 March 2014

Party Pooper

All children like parties, right? They spend most of the year asking asking about when their birthday party is, and in the months before the event you are up to your eyeballs in flyers from the very kiddie centres that you spend the rest of the year trying to avoid. Or is that just me?

The first time I took Albie to a friend’s party it brought back bad memories for me – the distinct smell of the church hall, the shrill screams of children echoing off the walls, the soggy egg sandwiches and the dread of not knowing how to play all the party games. Funnily enough Albie had the same look of apprehension on his face as I scouted out someone’s mum I knew well enough to talk to. Albie went and hid in a corner and refused to play with anyone. A group of little girls came up to him to ask him if he wanted to join their game of ‘kiss chase’ and he shouted ‘no’ at them and everyone thought him very rude. As an adult he will no doubt still feel like shouting ‘no’ at people but will have learned to suppress these honest outbursts. We teach our children to ‘fit in’, to deny that they need space, to please others.

Now, as a mother, I have two choices; I either force him into a game of musical bumps to a disco version of ‘If You’re Happy and You Know it’ or I take him aside and let him have the space he needs to observe for ten minutes.  The problem is, the ten minutes is usually 30 minutes and by the time he is ready to engage it is nearly time to go home, which brings on the waterworks anyway. I can’t win.
After a few disastrous attempts at parties one little boy’s party saved the day when he had it at a rather large play centre. Albie was gone within 2 minutes, excitedly climbing and playing on his own, leaving the other children far behind, and leaving me to introduce myself to random parents. There comes a point where I’ll admit I use my child as something to hide behind, but no matter how many times I tried to pretend Albie needed help on the climbing frame, the fact that he shouted ‘go away’ at the top of his voice meant I had no choice but to talk to Sammuel’s mother about her recent bout of nipple thrush.  Would it be rude if I shouted ‘no’ in her face?!

All was going well, despite the topics of conversation of course. Albie seemed to be having a whale of a time for once - or so I thought, as I hadn’t seen him in nearly twenty minutes. I figured I’d better prize myself away from the riveting conversation and casually walk around to try and spot him amongst the mass of the multi-coloured play equipment. He was nowhere to be seen. This meant only one thing; that I would have to get on the play equipment myself, resulting in taking my boots off and revealing to the world that I was indeed wearing bright pink fluffy socks with piglet all over them. Worse still, I was wearing an orange top and I soon became aware that I looked like I had indeed dressed myself in child centre camouflage.

After searching for Albie for ten minutes I eventually found him right at the top with a look on his face that I knew all too well. This look meant that we had to get him to the nearest facilities. Fast. The problem was that Albie did not want to stop playing and the more I tried to catch him the more he ran away from me, resulting in 10 minutes of playing ‘chase’, or more appropriately named ‘follow the smell’. When I eventually caught the escapee I looked like I had fully entered into the spirit of things, with bits of Velcro stuck to my leg, my hair slightly damp with sweat and one of my piglet socks half off. I rushed Albie to the nearest facilities but it was too late, meaning we had to leave early.

What a party pooper. Literally.

Soon came the time for Albie’s own birthday celebrations, resulting in - albeit a less messy result – a traumatic one nonetheless. The moment when all eyes were on him with the ‘happy birthday’ song, he burst into tears. Everyone tentatively waited until he had summed up the courage to blow out the candles with parents awkwardly trying to explain to their children why the little boy was crying.

Sometimes you just have to admit that what is expected of your child or your family is, well, slightly unhelpful. Would I have looked like a selfish mother if I didn’t give my child a party, despite being invited to all his friend’s extravagant celebrations and despite him asking about his own party week after week? Maybe. But deep down I knew that a trip up and down the escalators in Debenhams would’ve been more appealing to him than a room full of screaming kids. A man after my own heart.

Sometimes we don’t do what is best for our child because we are clouded by the opinions of others. I’m not a bad mother if I don’t throw extravagant parties. Just call me the ultimate party pooper.