If your life is anything like mine – dressing in a way that makes you feel glamorous and powerful has dropped way down your to do list – like way below buying a nit comb, and falling somewhere between getting a wax and cleaning out the fridge.
Did something happen to your wardrobe when you became a Mum? Mine suffered something of an identity crisis. My wardrobe became a place for my daughters to play hide and seek and for clothes to pile up like a jumble sale. I can’t find the will to sort them out and colour code them on velvet monogrammed hangers. Or whatever it is glamorous stylish super mums do. I’d hang my super hero cape in there – but I might risk never finding it again.
Do I Need Trinny and Susannah?
I don’t want to worry you that they’ll have to bring Trinny and Susannah out of retirement and throw me in front of the 6- way mirror (can I have a diazepam please?) It’s not that my fashion sense is dwindling – it’s just gone a bit dormant. And been replaced by what our own mother’s generation would have called sensible clothing.
I am ashamed to say that when I’m not at work (where I definitely make an effort), I have a Mummy uniform – skinny jeans complete with a muffin top – the kind of stuff that makes my gay brother gasp audibly and send me off to Harvey Nics with his credit card.
My Mummy Uniform
Long boots and any number of jumpers or tops are my 'at home togs' -which start off looking lovely, then shrink because I’ve forgotten they were dry clean only. Or that suffer such irreversible toddler inflicted damage that Oxfam says they're only worth 50p. Today, they nodded politely and then put them in the box that says SHRED in foot high letters. But it was when I was invited to a photo-shoot for Fairtrade that something clicked. First, the stylist Grace Woodward was there also being photographed and complete with her adorable baby Larkin. She looked glowing and real and beautiful in a not,perfect and matchy way. Like a Mum but also like a person.
I felt inspired; I needed to dig out what I love wearing and feel like me again – even if I’m only going to the park to feed the ducks.
So I performed my own style intervention. I started by wondering what Gok would do? He’d say dress like everyday is your last… Sounds great but in practice a sequined mini dress is not going to hold up in Tesco, in the park, loading the washing machine or doing forward rolls whilst pretending to be in a circus. Just to be clear I have never tried this manoeuvre but I’m convinced it would not end well. Maybe you’ve tried this and can let me know?
So I took a deep breath and started by doing a wardrobe audit. I invited over my brother who is a wardrobe Nazi. He spent 1 hour shouting ‘Hate it’ and filling bin bags. I can tell you it was slim pickings in there when he’d finished but I did feel the sort of calm that goes with being able to see what you own. And I got to fall in love with a few things again.
Back to Basics
So these are the statement pieces I was left with
· A Burberry trench
· Two sequined capes – I WILL do the dishes in these.
· My trusty leather biker
· A beautiful light blue Top Shop Blazer – pastels for Spring apparently.
· My black leather A-line skirt – wipe clean and my husband kisses me extra hard when I wear it.
· My maroon patent stilettos from Top Shop. I can’t say it enough – they're shiny, Spring shower proof and make your legs look LOOONG.
People Tree to the rescue
When I shared my wardrobe audit with Mia at People Tree, she became my Spring fashion Fairy Godmother! She dived into their Spring Summer collection and said pick a couple of things. So I chose carefully, and the wonderful photographer Jean Goldsmith put together our Fairtrade fashion story. My Spring Picks are...
· A soft grey Fairtrade cotton sweatshirt with a beautifully stitched heart – it feels like wearing a hug and you can’t feel down when you’re wearing something so positive!
· A beautiful belted Fairtrade cotton dress by Orla Keily for People Tree – it swishes and makes your waist look little even after all those kettle chips.
· A delicate and hand sewn white shirt with beautiful detailing around the collar – I can wear this on-air reading the news or with just about everything else I own.
Check out the pics to see my newly slimmed-down wardrobe...
Heading into the Studio with Sophia & my Nora Shirt
Reading the news & getting pelted with raisins
Wearing Love and feeling Loved
It feels like wearing a Hug and you can change a life by buying a 'Love' shirt.
A Orla Keily dress for going out in...Add a cable knit when it's still chilly.
So what is the secret to Power dressing when you’re a Mum?
· Be practical but not so much that you’d go around in an oil-cloth onesie if you could.
· How you dress affects how you act –if you don’t enjoy what you wear around your kids – that’s a lot of time you’re spending not being YOU.
· Leather and patent are awesome – they are sexy and practical. They come up nicely with a baby-wipe!
· Invest in the best that you can afford – I’ve had my trench for years, and it still looks and feels great.
· Buy Ethical Fashion when you can – there’s no more powerful way to dress than knowing your purchase is truly changing someone's life.
Clothing People Tree, Photographs Jean Goldsmith and Make-up Fiona Rogers
I wanted to let you know why I founded the Daily Juggle and it's quite simple I love Women. ( It's not that I don't love men I do but for now I want to concentrate on the female form)
Travelling all over the world for work one group of human beings has always fascinated me and that's mums. I've seen them walk 200 miles,starving and injured to get their kids to a clinic and I've witnessed them beat drug dealers at their own game with nothing more than a mobile phone and a whistle. Most mums are total, absolute superheroes and I bow down to them and each and every one of you. Wherever I have ventured in the world, mums share one thing in common; they are doing The Daily Juggle with whatever life throws at them, making the best life they can for their kids and for themselves.
BUT despite that mums have so much in common a divide has appeared here in Britain between those who go out to work and those who work at home raising their kids. We seem willing to put on the body armour and pitch ourselves against one another in this sham of a debate. Everyone wants to know are you a Stay at Home Mum (SAHM) or a WM (Working Mum)? And I want to know why I need to pick a team.
Right now the media is creating content up and down the land aimed at pressing mum's buttons and finding the headlines to tighten the knot in your tummies. We love the old Machiavellian tales pitting one group against another. See this article here from businesswoman Katie Hopkins pitting Stay at home Mum’s against Working Mums. And yet, I have never met any of these stereotypes we paint pictures of in the press. Every women I know is so much more nuanced and multi-coloured than these ridiculous media portrayals of women who work and those who don't. What's worse is that we are starting to believe these women are real and we're using this to wage a war with each other. Why?
Motherhood is tough for everybody. Everybody is struggling with something. Parenting is an adventure with no map and rule book and we’re all doing the very best we can. At the risk of sounding like a Miss Jean Brodie Kill Joy - Enough already with judging other mothers and fathers. Sure leaving your kids unsupervised with a box of rice crispies whilst you fly off to Spain to shag Carlos or Carla isn’t on but we're at risk of becoming addicted to this insane commentary. Not only about the extremes of parenting good or bad but with the hum drum minutiae of other parents lives.
By allowing ourselves to get sucked into this phoney debate we are potentially damaging our friendships, our relationships and our self-esteem. We become part of the relentless cycle of pressure that's being applied to women and mums.You only have to trawl the internet for 5 minutes to find swathes of malicious and deeply personal commentary rarely reserved for men. We don’t hate mothers decisions, we hate THEM. Chris Brown who assaulted his partner Rihanna was voted less hated in a poll by women than Gwyneth Paltrow. Sorry ladies but WTF? When did motherhood and sisterhood become an opportunity to degrade ourselves with this self-defeating stuff?
I have been asked to do many a TV piece over the years and I slowly started to see a pattern. Britney versus Celine in Vegas, Cheryl versus Nadine in the charts, one female celeb's body pitted against another. Never did my news editor say let’s compare Elton and Rod Stewart – that’ll really get the juices flowing. Nope we want to take these women and mothers discuss them, debate them , criticise them and squash them – ultimately hanging all our own baggage on them like some bunch of sad ladies with carpet bags full of hate. We set women up to fail.
There is so much frustration out there that despite our education, our freedom to choose our partner and many other rights besides we are still not fully in control of our choices when motherhood beckons. And it's time to stop taking it out on one another.
Surely it's simple - the choices mum's make about working or not come down only to what works for each individual family. For some personal choice is out of the question because the cost of living is so high they need two salaries even if a mum does want to be with her kids. Some mums want to return to work and the cost of childcare prevents them from returning to the job they love. And then there are some like me who love to work and those who love to be at home. But allowing a woman to make decisions based on what fulfils her is still not something we seem comfortable in doing.
It was only 15 years ago that we left school and waved each other off into a million different professions and life decisions. Never did we question that different things fill up the hearts of different women. So what's happened? Why since the babes dropped are we suddenly questioning the rights of of our fellow mums to do what works for them?
Because shockingly here in Britain a women's ability to CHOOSE her future when it comes to family is almost as limited as it was half a century ago. And ladies we resent that. After all our education and travel and talk of women in business and smashing the glass ceiling we are still trapped by the idealisation of motherhood relentlessly pursued by the media, by business and by ourselves.
They are setting impossible standards for 'motherhood' and many of us are putting our families and relationships at risk by chasing these standards that don't make us happy. So every-time you pick up a magazine and a celebrity mum tells you how fabulous motherhood is, engage your cynical side and say Screw That. Don't compare your inside to their outside which has no doubt been carefully crafted by a PR expert.
You are not failing, very few mums are. You are not alone, we all feel the pressure.
Let's stop lying to each other and let's work at supporting one another instead.
Ultimately we are all struggling with this juggle and how to make it work and in the media maelstrom the real debate is being missed. For all the talk of shared parenting women still bear the main responsibility for raising their kids with room for little else in their lives. Dads get the title of main earner as if it's a badge of honour but many of them become distant from the families they love and from their own hopes to be an involved parent. Ultimately we live in a country that underpins this state of affairs and we feel paralysed that we are not able to change things. We continue to put our energies into 'perfect parenting' and not into political and corporate change to support familes.
Some employers are waking up to the idea of work life balance and that it might be good to have a mixed work force with more in their lives than commerce. There's now shared paternity/maternity leave which is a baby step forward but still one that's beyond the reach of many as the man is often the bigger earner.
So let's not make this 'debate' about undermining the 'choices' of other women. And let's start having a conversation about how to change the fabric of our country so that a woman truly can chose her future and we can support and respect her whatever she decides.
The Daily Juggle's - A Working Mum's Guide to Staying Together, 7 Essential Rules for a Sexy Satisfying Relationship when you've got kids.
There is a wonky path that goes around our house. It's been there since the 1900s; it's worn and knobbly and doesn't go in a straight line. Some of the bricks have become so beaten by time that they're almost non existent. The path would be a useful metaphor for my own marriage which at just 5 years old is definitely 'worn and knobbly, not always going in a straight line and like those old bricks sex is also sometimes non existent too. But when I look at the path it's not a romantic picture I'm seeing; instead I'm wondering if it could turn out to be a good place under which to bury my husband.
The bricks wouldn't be too hard to move and the ground is quite soft so I reckon I'd have no problem digging a husband shaped hole! I don't think it will be too hard to find someone to help me move the body as they'll know that I endured a husband who talked in spreadsheets and once complained I didn't contribute to thinking enough about ISAs. (I was sponging his shoulders in the bath, 3 weeks after the arrival of our first child who was sleeping down the hall.)
Our relationship is one of strong personalities - we're often power struggling our way through our marriage. Think North and South Korea (I’m South Korea, obviously). I love him madly and he drives me mad and yet somehow it works. He accepts me completely and makes a good sausage sandwich, which in the daily grind of family life seem like pretty good qualities. We're learning everyday how to do the Daily Juggle and Keep the Love and so far these are my top tips…
1. LET HIM KNOW YOU HAVE A PLAN FOR HIS DEMISE
It does no harm whatsoever to let your partner know just how irritating they are. We have these discussions on a regular basis and take much glee in choosing just how we'd pop one another off when it gets too much. It's worth considering Kathy Lette's book 'How to Kill Your Husband'. I always considered myself a woman with a sort of Switzerland-esque passive view on life but since I got wed I have regularly thought about bashing him over the head with Henry the hoover. It turns out that my own mother did not let me into this Motherhood Omertà that she too often thinks of killing my father. Poison she reckons would do it. How my husband has gone form being the man who made my heart thud in desire to the man who buys me a mug saying 'I love Spreadsheets' is anybody's guess. We're muddling through and shouting and laughing in sort of equal measure. He thinks it would take 3 people to move his body into the garden and isn't sure I have even two friends who believe I am being so unjustly treated and who would be prepared to break the law. If only he could hear the pow wows at my friend Aoife's house then he'd know there are no shortage of wives who would sign up for the task. And we would return the favour in kind. So when it's good in our house we have sex and hug each other and talk about the future and when it's bad we know he would strangle me and take me to The Recycling Centre in the old carpet from the spare room and I would impale him on any number of his sporting accessories and bury him under the old path.
2. GO OUT AND DRINK A LOT OF TEQUILA AND GO DANCING and DO KARAOKE AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN
Do you remember the days of dancing until 5 in the morning and doing shots and feeling like your partner was the sexiest person in the room? Beyonce and JayZ just writhed aorund the stage together at the Grammy's as she sung 'Drunk on Love'. Apparently it was smutty as she's a mum and no longer around to express herself in a sexual manner. But what that song says and what she was doing on stage with her husband is what I'm getting at. Getting drunk is a good way to feel like you're in love again. ( I am not recommending alcohol dependency as a life choice of course)
I do remember the drunken dates but in the manner of someone who has had several diazepam and who may have imagined it. On our first date I dragged him dancing and then to karaoke and when he bleated at 4am about having to close a deal later that day I winced at his weakness. He also refused to do anymore than kiss me on the cheek which was a bit strange, but hey that's another story.
When our kids came along the number of opportunities at which to mosh and sink jaeger bombs somewhat depleted. Thankfully, so too did the hangovers, but it's the fun I miss. So we made a pact. He will come and sing karaoke with me - actually let me qualify that - he will listen to me belt out some songs whilst getting a kick out of pressing the button that says 'Call the Waitress', and in return, at least every couple of months we'll dress up, go out and drink too much. We'll snog in the taxi on the way home and try to be kind to one another when we're hungover. Trust me, you will feel young and close to one another and not remotely like you do when he says 'On Saturday - I'm going to prioritise cleaning the gutters'
3. SPEND TIME WITH YOUR FRIENDS WHO HAVE KIDS - WITHOUT THE KIDS!
Have you noticed that when you have kids you spend a lot of your social life with other couples and their kids? A lot of the time this is fun, if a bit mental, as the kids are running around all feral, but it also means you spend most of your life seeing your partner as a parent and not as a person. I think this is bad news for sexual relations and for your friendship with your partner.
Sure we want our kids to get to know our friends’ kids and to have a bond and all of that, but it gets a bit dull after a while. The dads tend to migrate to a rectangle-shaped thing showing sport while the kids hang out with the mums and we chatter about them and what they're doing. Last Friday my husband and I hung out with our friends without their kids and it was such a total treat. No interrupted conversations (unless we're talking about the call for who wants more booze), and no chromosome related divisions of labour. Well I did make my husband wait outside in the rain for a cab while I finished my glass of wine…AND your other friends who don't have kids can come too and they don't feel like an exhibit in a museum. Simply soaking up the atmosphere of a pub that's not about place mats you can draw on and highchairs stacked in the loo makes you feel like you’re back outside of the limiting (but sometimes lovely) bubble that is your life with little kids.
4. LET EACH OTHER HAVE SPACE FOR YOUR OWN FUN
At our wedding we had a reading by Kahlil Gibran - it goes a bit like this:
'Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
And stand together yet not too near together.'
So be together but not so together that you can't each thrive. It sounds like really good advice and I think it is.
My partner likes to enrol in these insane sports challenges - the ones that require you to train for months (he doesn't), buy a lot of kit (he does) and spend a lot of time complaining about his injuries and plotting routes on his newest gizmo. It's tricky when they crop up because it means less family time and I often feel resentful about hanging out on my own with the kids, again! BUT without these challenges he goes bonkers. He's like a Collie with no sheep to chase. It's part of who he is and we make space for it where we can. My needs aren't physical, they tend to bemore about having space for my friendships and making films. Without being creative I start to become a bit Norma Bates.
BC (Before Children) we had the luxury of life being all about us, but now we've swung the other way where family (or children even) are everything and our needs are put somewhere on the list near putting the bins out. I guess the middle is what works for us. We try to make sure both of our 'cups are full' whilst understanding that sometimes your needs do fall to the bottom of the pile. But you can't let them languish thereforever or you'll wake up one day and be so far away from who you are that no amount of dates or dancing will fix it.
5. HAVE SEX EVEN WHEN HE SMELLS OF KEBABS OR BABY SICK.
Maybe you've got kids and you’re having loads of sex and I take my gimp mask off to you! I found an old card I'd written for my husband the other day and it said 'Well done us, we’ve had sex 6 times so far this year'. I wasn't even joking! To be fair to us though, we'd just had our second baby, a change in jobs, made a TV series and tried to grapple with The Daily Juggle. When I told my mum, she shrieked and panicked and signed up for a weekend of baby-sitting. 'You need Sex darling, it's the glue that holds things together'. Yeah I can see that, but we never seem to want it at the same time! So here's what we decided: the other person would allow themselves to be open (sorry) to the possibility at whatever time and just go with it. It works most of the time but what works better is just living a full life and feeling like the sort of person that another would like to dry hump on sight.
6. KEEP TALKING - HE FEELS AS DAUNTED AND LOST AS YOU BUT THE XY CHROMOSOME PREVENTS HIM FROM SAYING IT.
Women are blessed in so many ways and our ability to say things out loud is (most of the time) a good thing. Sometimes we talk way too much and it makes us indecisive and mental, but we do tend to say out loud what's worrying us about our lives. I guess where it goes wrong is if we're not talking to the right person. One thing I've learned form my partner (who came from a family where everyone's acting like they're in a Tamil soap opera) is this - get it out in the open; most things are much less scary out of your head than in them. And if you only talk to other peoplea bout the things that are bothering you, then you're missing part of the picture and could be creating a whole big drama out of nothing. I can't tell you how many clients of mine have wanted to change things in their relationships and thought they could do it alone. In the immortal words of Elton and Tina, “It takes two”. Sure it is scary putting things out there and asking for changes to happen, but when I say (mostly shout) that I am upset, I quite often find that my partner is upset too and it becomes a bit of a bonding experience to try to sort it out. When we don't talk, we don't have sex, and we don't like each other.
7. ACCEPT EACH OTHER.
God this one is tough. I'm not saying for a minute accept any sort of abuse or violence. What I'm talking about is the stuff you cannot change. You know he likes to be hyper organised and loves financial planning (and is a grumpy sod who shouts too much). You are disorganised and whimsical and buy shoes that are both too expensive and cannot be worn except with a whole packet of plasters ready in your bag. Or maybe, like me, you love to work and go away to places to shoot films and you can't be available to be someone's wife whilst making stories about other people's lives. We do not always get this right but we are trying not to make every little hiccup about ourselves. Maybe he did just forget to put the dishwasher on - not because he thinks it's your job but because he's knackered too and he just forgot. Maybe you didn't put the cheque in the bank, not because you never put him first, but because you too are hanging on by a thread.
We are learning all the time about what works for us, I'm guessing if we manage to stay married until we're 70 we'll still be learning....