More Than A Mum
I’ve been reflecting on the word ‘hope’ and the power of it lately. It’s easy to think that hope is a weak emotion – a desperate clutching onto something we desire but are not sure will happen – it’s simply a wish. However, the definition states hope is; a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Still sound a bit flimsy? Well maybe but, without that very simple notion nothing will happen in life.
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Well, you may well know by now that I (Ruth) am an English teacher and am passionate about reading and especially getting children engaged in books and reading from a young age. You may also know that both Loretta and I have really rather active little mites who, although they both enjoy books, are often in need of activities that burn off a little more energy than reading, so I gave some thought to the matter and when we met up with the kids, we went on a bear hunt…
To read the rest of this post, head over to our newly launched website: www.more-than-a-mum.com
It’s all getting pretty exciting at More Than A Mum! By now you probably have a pretty good idea of our mission: We want to support women in being brilliant Mums, AND help them to rediscover their own identity.
Well, we have taken this mission a step further and as of today we have teamed up with Pitter Patter The Hub for Bubs to offer a course for Mums to help you achieve those dual aims of being a great parent and rediscovering yourself as an individual. Oh and you’ll get to meet and chat with other Mums in the area over coffee with some lovely Mummy treats thrown in…
The sessions will run on Saturday mornings once a month, beginning on the 3rd March, at the Grove Pub in Ealing.
Sessions will be in two parts, one to support you as a Mum and one to support you as a woman. Each section will have a range of information, guidance, support and activities for you in your role as woman and your role as Mum.
The Woman section will include a range of inspirational talks, confidence building activities, Mum me-time activities and case studies to help you see the ways you can re-discover your own identity and reward yourself for the role you play in your family.
The Mum section will be based around a particular activity that you can do with your child/children. The activities will all be linked to your child’s development needs, but also be an entertaining activity for parent and child alike.
The sessions are designed to enable you to feel better equipped to aid your child’s physical, emotional and academic progress; to help you to develop strategies to create and maximise Mum me-time; and to revive your sense of personal identity.
We are sorry if you don’t live in the Ealing area, but we are in the process of developing online versions of the course as well, so keep your eyes peeled!
Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or @more_than_a for more information.
Having written last week about being a Mum and working flexibly around your family, I have been thinking about the term “Mumpreneur”. I know that the term made it into the OED at the end of last year and that this caused a bit of a debate to arise. There are many who seem to find the term derogatory, and yet since becoming a Mum and considering my options with regard to working around my family, I have also seen the term used positively by many individuals, communities and companies.
So, what’s the debate all about?
The first post I read, the one that made me think about this at all in fact, was a post by Lynn Harris. Her perspective is that the term Mompreneur (she is writing for the American audience, hence “Mom”) is often used to patronise and belittle the achievements of women in business. “let’s face it: when we are not among other mothers who are prepared to salute and support us, the word “mom” has a different — and diminutive — connotation.” I’ll be honest; I hadn’t really considered this. I am in awe of women who successfully have a family and run a business. I find the idea of working for myself and doing it around my commitments to my family a really beguiling one. But then I am one of the “other mothers who are prepared to salute and support”. I hadn’t thought about those who might not. Those who might use the term to suggest that you were somehow not as serious about your job as a proper entrepreneur, after all you don’t hear of many men being called Dadpreneurs; men are entrepreneurs with a family.
So I searched about a bit and it seems that there are many people who subscribe to the same thoughts as Lynn Harris. Jen Walshaw of Mum in the Madhouse says that the term suggests that “not only do we often run a home, but in between it all we manage to do a little work” Rebecca Jones of Business in Red Shoes says that she has “asked men and women in business what they think and the majority worry that it implies they are a mum first and business comes second”, suggesting that the term may be “hindering their business appeal for those who worry their role as a mum will interfere with their abilities as a business woman.” If this is the perception, then how come so many women in business do use and associate with the term?
I emailed Erica Douglas of littlemummy.com. She is one half of Become a Mumpreneur, so I assumed that she must be able to tell me something positive about the term! I saw Erica and her partner Antonia Chitty speak at the Business and Baby Show 2011 and have taken e-courses both via littlemummy and BAM, they are certainly using the term Mumpreneur to connect with their target market and seem to be encouraging women to embrace the term and use it to move themselves forward as both Mums and business women.
Erica’s response was very interesting. She said that “a Mumpreneur is someone who has gone into business because they are a mum.” She also highlighted the sense of community that there can be with the term Mumpreneur “I think there are many mums in business who do identify with the term, and for them it gives them a group or ‘tribe’ to feel a part of and gain support from.” Interestingly, Erica says that she feels that the term Mumpreneur only describes one stage of business and that there comes a time when your business and lifestyle move past this title; where children become less dependent. This ties in with Rebecca Jones’ point. Perhaps women who identify with the term are women who do put their family first and their business second? I personally would see this as a strength in many ways, although I can see Rebecca’s point that as a client I may be less forgiving.
I suppose overall the key thing is that the term Mumpreneur can be useful if you identify with it, if your clientele identify with it in a positive manner and if it says the right things about you and your business. It is not a useful term if it is applied to you in a pejorative way as a means of suggesting that you are not as good at your job as others who are not ‘distracted’ by family. For me, one sentence stood out in Erica Douglas’ email and it was this “If I decide I’m going to do something then no terminology in the world will stop me aspiring to that.”
So, women who work for yourselves and have a family, keep aspiring to be the best you possibly can; refer to yourselves in whatever way you wish and do not be limited by language.
I love books. I love reading. I do not get enough time/make enough time to do it as I should. You can read about the ways I have got back into reading post-baby in my post Book Club Mum. We’ve even started a book club here through More Than A Mum in response to the comments on that blog entry. (Next meeting is 8.30pm, Twitter, discussing Caitlin Moran’s How To Be a Woman under #MTAM if you want to join us. Or drop us an email at email@example.com if you want to join next time)
Anyway, I digress… I do indeed love reading and it is a passion that I share with Emily of A Mummy Too. Her passion has also dwindled and her post My Three Books – What are yours? explains how and why she lost contact with reading in spite of that passion and to rectify this she shares her favourite childhood, adulthood and parenthood book and asks others to do the same. So, here is my sharing!
This is actually quite difficult as although I am an English graduate and an English teacher I didn’t read for myself much as a child. My mother even made a worried appointment with the Head of my primary school about my lack of interest in reading, but was told that I’d come to it in my own time. He was right. The only thing that I can think is that my own reading skill did not match up to my interest level and the fact that my Mum and Dad were happy to read amazing novels to me at bedtime meant that I never wanted to pick up the things I could read. Perhaps for a long time I found reading to be a social, family activity rather than one you’d keep private? I can’t remember my actual reasoning, but I can remember starting to read only when I could manage the delights of Roald Dahl, which my Mum refused to read to me!
So here in lays my first choice. My childhood book is The Witches. I remember sitting outside our house in the sunshine reading that book and making sure I was just far enough away from the door that I could feign and inability to hear my mother’s calls to come inside. I wonder if my Mum knew that by refusing to read books to me it would make them doubly interesting. They’re clever people, you know, Mums.
There are so many books from which to choose here. In fact my husband and I so love books that we used book titles as table names at our wedding. Each table had a picture of the cover of the particular book as the table marker and menu. The amusing thing for us was that we sat people on books which we felt suited them. I am not going to go through the books we used or why people were sat at particular books in case any of our guests are reading, but suffice to say all the books meant something to us and us alone!
Anyway, my choice for Adulthood is hard. I have already written and re-written this post with three different choices here (To Kill A Mocking Bird, Harper Lee, 1984, George Orwell and Popcorn, Ben Elton if you’re interested) but my book for Adulthood is actually one that I have only recently read thanks to one of my book clubs: The Tennant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte. There are many reasons why I have fallen in love with this book. Firstly it reminded me of why I love the Brontes and made me wonder why I hadn’t read poor Anne before. I am a lover of the gothic, romantic style that these sisters use and love it particularly in contrast with the saccharine stories of my most hated of female authors, Jane Austin. I loved it because it reminded me of being an A Level student again, when I read and loved Wuthering Heights, but more than this I was amazed by how modern and pertinent it was. It may have been written in the 19th Century but the lead female is strong independent and brave, and challenges the social stereotypes and taboos of the day in a way many women are unable to even today. She is a single mum, who has chosen to stand up to the male dominated society she inhabits. She is definitely More Than A Mum!
I adore the reading that I do with Munchkin. With children, reading is learning; reading is enriching; reading is powerful. We have read to Munchkin since she was born. She has had books around her since day one and I love the fact that when I was looking after a friend’s toddler for the day and whilst washing up from lunch I wondered why the room had gone quiet I popped my head round the door only to find the two of them engrossed in books!
To choose just one of the books that I have read with Munchkin seems impossible. There are so many great ones. The inimitable Julia Donaldson is obviously a part of the cannon, as are Eric Carle and Lauren Child. I love the old classics of Beatrix Potter and AA Milne as well as they come full circle and remind me of my own childhood. Munchkin goes through phases and we read the same two or three books for days and even weeks on end, driving us nearly potty at points, but still I love reading with her. My favourite book for this category though has to be one of the first that she experienced and one that I have read over and over more times that I can remember: Pants, by Nick Sharratt. It is funny, scans beautifully and has fantastic artwork, and with the line “No Pants At All” it’s a little bit naughty!
So there are my three books:
CHILDHOOD: The Witches, Roald Dahl
ADULTHOOD: The Tennant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte
PARENTHOOD: Pants, Nick Sharratt
I hope this has inspired you to think about your own favourite books and your own reading. If it has, pop and see A Mummy Too and have a go yourself.
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In this time of New Year’s resolutions and making promises to “do better this year”, don’t forget you. You are probably aware by now of the mission of More Than a Mum (if not, click here!) and therefore I’d like you all to look carefully at your New Year’s resolutions and check that you’re not using them as a stick with which to beat yourself…
It is easy to get into a negative frame of mind with New Year’s resolutions. Looking at the ‘bad’ things you do and trying to improve them is important, but don’t dwell only on what you do that you shouldn’t and don’t do that you should. I advocate (and have a few of my own) resolutions which fit with the ‘giving up …’ ‘trying to stop…’ ‘making more time for…’ ‘Getting round to…’ themes, but I also think that we should all have at least one resolution which is based purely on a positive and gives you some of that all important “Me Time”.
That is why this year I am going to learn pottery.
I am a learn-a-holic. I’m a teacher by trade and last year I completed my Masters in Education. This completion has left me somewhat bereft. Doing my MEd kept me sane at many points during the last few years (No honestly, it did!) and the flexible study of the OU was perfect to fit around family life. I love education and enjoy learning for its own sake, but this year it is OH’s turn to start studying, so there is no way that there will be enough time for two of us in the family to be working on academic stuff and frankly I should take a break from essays and all that jazz. But, I couldn’t take a break from learning, hence the pottery.
I really think that learning something new is a great gift to yourself. It challenges your views of yourself. It gives you a goal and who knows, it could open new avenues for you. Watch this space for my online pottery catalogue! You could learn a language, take an eyebrow threading course, try burlesque dancing or learn to sew. It doesn’t matter what it is; how big or how small; it doesn’t matter if it is academic, practical or even pointless, learning something is all about focusing on you for a bit.
As a Mum it is also great to share learning experiences with your kids. You will be better placed to understand their trials and tribulations in school: they may be struggling to understand algebra and you trying to get to grips with ice-skating, but you’ll remember what it feels like to be learning. You’ll be able to talk to them about strategies you use to help you learn. You can discuss ways of overcoming difficulties and sympathise about how teachers and/or other students can really get on your nerves!
The things you could learn are endless, the places you could learn them diverse and the costs varied. For first inspiration you could try googling your postcode and the word courses, classes or learning. I tried and found a photography course, a reki and natural healing course and Spanish lessons in less than a minute. Libraries and local council websites can also be a good place to start looking for ideas, as can local pubs and clubs (my local has Salsa classes in its function room on a Wednesday evening) or shop and community hall noticeboards.
My OU masters cost a fair bit (though some was paid for by employers as it was relevant to my job – always worth asking your boss; the worst they can say is no.) The pottery is run by the Arts Centre at a local University, and costs just over £90 for the term, including materials. Our local Children’s Centre runs various free courses from drawing classes to job interview skills, from yoga to bhangra. Many universities run free taster courses in both academic and professional development courses. If you don’t fancy or can’t afford taught courses there are so many things you can learn for free online. Just google “learn to knit online” if you need an example.
Why not make this year the year that you learn something new? It might be something you’ve always dreamed of, or something you spotted on a whim on a flyer, but go on, make a resolution to spend some time on you this year: learn something new.
Having just read Caitlin Moran’s ‘How to be a Woman’ (don’t worry I won’t spoil it for you book clubbers who haven’t finished it yet!) I now know how impossibly silly it is being a woman. Moran has a brilliant way of showing us how idiotic we can be while allowing us to laugh at ourselves at the same time – all in the name of being a woman!
One such thing is the whole notion of high-heeled shoes! Ooooh how we love them, covet them, crave them, save for them, buy them…..and then not wear them! Not just because we have no occasion to wear them to (though this is a strong and poignant factor) but ultimately due to the fact that basically we can’t walk in them! I had to laugh out loud as I absorbed the ridiculousness of some of the shoes I have worn and tortured my feet, back, knees and pride in!! I have many shoes, which you basically need to be transported to a spot in them and then stay there all night. Forget walking, let alone dancing. I’m posting this now as the Christmas season of parties and get-togethers is a common excuse for indulging in a bit of shoe purchasing.
Oh but we love them so much and as Moran pointed out, we firmly believe they make our legs look slimmer and longer. However, Moran also remarks that the real effect is actually more like a pigs trotter than a supermodels limb – and I’m afraid I have to agree!
Then there is the waste: The shoes worn once or not at all. I believe this is, like many unworn items of clothing, us women stowing away for the fictitious woman we will one day be (or want to be i.e. same thing) when we have more time, when we lose more weight, when the kids are older, when that fashion comes round again. We know deep down that day will probably never come but, it’s nonetheless a reminder of the woman we believe we can be. She is powerful, sexy, not tired and without baby sick or a child’s dinner down her dress. Ah, how wonderful she is *sigh*
Right ladies, if we are ‘More than a Mum’ which indeed we are – then let’s start wearing those shoes. Even if it’s to surprise hubby when he arrives home from work, or under your desk in the office, or while you’re doing your housework – Why? Because we can, and that woman does not need to be fictitious, neither does she need to be skinny, childless, young or anything else you may sometimes wish you were. It may at least make you feel good and bring a smile to your face – that is before the pain kicks in of course.
High heels are one of the things that intrinsically makes us feel ‘Woman’ and to me that is all good.
You are more than a Mum!