Posts Tagged ‘guilt

The Hair.

Posted on: 16/12/2014

Um. So I coloured my hair a month or so ago.

I’ve done this before. A spot of purple for a party once.  Another spot of purple I won in a raffle.  Some purple streaks a few months ago.  And oodles of highlights over the last two decades.

My normal appearance, until recently, would be something along the lines of the following three pictures.  Colour varying from mousy brown to blonde highlights.

Me in April this year

Me in April this year

profile pic november 2013

Me in November last year

profile pic march 2011

Me in March 2011

Since mid November, though, it looks like this.

Me on 1st December

Me on 1st December

Me on 3 Dec after a night out

Me on 3 Dec after a night out

Me on 6 Dec having fun with the kids

Me on 6 Dec having fun with the kids

So it’s quite a change.

There’s been a lot of comments, and most of them have been very nice. Those that weren’t were gentle teasing and, if there’s one thing I learned from the experience, it’s that people will almost certainly say something.

A lot of people asked, what made me decide to do it?  In all honesty, I’m not sure.  All I know is that I got to a point where I really, really wanted to. But if I look back over the year I can sort of see how it came about.

2014 has been quite a year.  In the first 6-7 months I ran a marathon (runner 44234 if you want to look up my time!), ran a local branch of a charity, taught some lovely antenatal groups, went on a lovely holiday to France, returned to being a professional musician, saw some good friends and poured a lot of love and attention into my micro business.

The marathon, while I was training for it, took over everything.  I had made a commitment and I had to do it.  I felt better than I’d ever done before.  All this exercise was new and exciting, if quite hard work and very time consuming.  The marathon happened in April.  It was harder than childbirth, but I did it somehow and raised over £2000 for the NCT.  It now feels like it happened to someone else.

After the marathon, I tried my best to catch up with everything I’d been neglecting.  But over the years I’d been piling up my obligations and there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to give everything the attention it needed and deserved. I found myself pruning things to the bare minimum, house, job, business, kids, everything but the music in fact, and feeling terribly guilty about it.  And in the meantime I wasn’t really exercising any more.

By July I was feeling massively overwhelmed with all my obligations and, the moment I had dropped the kids off at school (almost always late) and shut the door on the world, I would burst into tears from the stress of it all.  If I didn’t burst into tears, I would eat to mask the issues, or go and take a long nap which avoided it entirely.   None of which was especially healthy.

This is where my antenatal teacher training came in handy.  We learn to be reflective practitioners, so when this had been happening a while and clearly wasn’t just a blip, I did at least recognise that it was a serious problem and realise I had to do something about it.  So I got in touch with a CBT counsellor I know.  Over the summer and early autumn, we worked through a lot of issues.  And I mean a lot.

In July and August I did as little as possible.  I let other people take over some of the things that couldn’t be ignored for a while, and left the rest.  In September I did the same, but became more active, taking Zumba classes, and rehearsing for some gigs coming up the next month.  It was a fragile month. I was still quick to tears, but I was feeling a lot better.  In October my music commitments took over. It was very busy, but I was loving being a musician again, and the fragility was starting to fade.

By November I felt GREAT.  I had literally forgotten what it was like to feel normal.  I hadn’t felt this OK in years.  Not since smallest one was born back in 2010.  And this time not just feeling normal and OK, but feeling actually happy.  I have always felt happy when in good company or doing things I love, but prior to this summer I’ve had various feelings of guilt and obligation hanging over me, preventing me from being particularly happy the rest of the time. Stemming back from my senior school. For the first time, I’m feeling happy and content generally.  I’m feeling like a huge weight has been lifted from me.  I’m back into the housework (though it does give way when I have music or antenatal work on the go), I’m not needing to nap, I’m not feeling stressed all the time. So it’s a new, super-squeaky-shiny happy.  I’ve been liberated from all the baggage that was weighing me down and knocking my confidence in myself.

So maybe it’s not surprising that by November I felt motivated to do something that showed the world I was a present and active participant in life, and not hiding from anything.  I felt a strong urge to do something more noticeable.  Eventually those feelings came out in vibrant, pillarbox red hair.  And I have to say, I love it.

I’m still pretty busy.  The house still looks like a tip most days.  But that’s fine.  Because when I do clean it up, I actually enjoy it. I’m loving spending time with my children when 6 months ago I felt guilty doing so, because I felt I should be catching up on everything else. I’ve had to make some serious cuts to the things I love doing.  I’m no longer volunteering in a senior role. my micro-business is in hibernation, and there’s been a number of smaller things I’ve given up on too.  I’ve finally realised I can’t do it all, and that that’s OK. Everything I have done has brought me closer to people, helped others and also been part of my journey to where I am now.

But I feel good. I feel happy.  I feel connected with my family.  I feel fully engaged with my teaching and my music.  I feel alive.  And (especially with my new hair!) I am feeling present in the world.  Maybe in some way, the hair is a celebration of the return of my mojo.


Since the change my hair has had a separate identity.  I no longer refer to it as ‘my’ hair.

And yes!  It’s my first blog post in many, many months. And it wasn’t even a funny one.

I’ll continue to blog sporadically. No promises on timing.  

Peace and love. And other festive wishes too!


Saving face

Posted on: 26/01/2011

There’s something in us – well, me at least – that harbours a strong, almost animal instinct to preserve our pride.  I read a book about it once; a Michael Crichton novel about Japanese corporate types who go to extreme lengths to save face.

In my teenage days, I was too scared to admit I was wrong to my peers.   I was too much of a coward to say sorry even when I knew I should.   One time, it was hours and hours before I could work up the courage to apologise.

For accidentally stepping on a tube of moisturiser.

Well, quite.  But, having not had the instinct to apologise in the first place, my pride prevented me from apologising – particularly when the other girls in the room started telling me to.  I eventually got out a muttered apology, but not before drowning in a heap of verbal abuse, and quite right too.

I suppose the adult equivalent, if there’s any real difference, is where you know you’ve made a mistake.  You feel backed into a corner, and you instinctively lash out rather than let your pride take a knock. Somehow we feel we have to be aggressive instead of passive, and defensive rather than embracing.    This can have very unpleasant consequences if we refuse to back down in this grown-up world. I was reminded of this today.

But that moisturiser incident stuck with me.  I realised I couldn’t go through life denying responsibility for my mistakes, and still like myself.

It took a long time to try and reverse the instinct, and I know I’m still not perfect, but these days I’m much better at apologising.

And you know what?  I sleep much better at night.

Amazing what a tube of moisturiser can do.


These days the moisturiser is smaller (and nicer)

Well, let me introduce you to the guilt fairy.

She pops into existence the moment you conceive your first child.  And she never goes away again until you die.

She sits on your shoulder.  She watches everything that you do, every decision you make about your child, and makes you feel guilt for doing something wrong.

Even if you didn’t do anything wrong, she still makes you feel guilty somehow.  This is her special power.

Nobody tells you about this before you have children.

But I’ll let you in on a secret.  If you want her to go away, just drink vast amounts of alcohol.  You’ll be guilt-free for an entire night.

But she’ll be back with a vengeance in the morning…

I prefer the tooth fairy myself.


Next time – the House Fairy!

Ask any vaguely environmentally conscious mother about nappies and she’ll either launch into a tirade about how horrendous disposable nappies are and how wonderful cloth nappies are…

Or she’ll go quiet and quickly change the subject.

You see, we pretty much all know that disposable nappies are probably the most environmentally unfriendly things out there. Well, with the possible exception of concrete.  Anyway, what nobody seems to talk about is the FEAR.


Disposable nappies

Disposables. Both the semi-friendly and unfriendly varieties.

Every mum will tell you how hard it is to even think straight after having just had a baby.  New mums tend to go for disposables because that’s what they know, and it’s there. In the supermarket.  Mums of more than one tend to do whatever they did before to save complicating things unnecessarily.  And everyone knows disposables. Everyone can use one without needing to be told how to do it.

Though incidentally, there’s an ancient episode of 90210 where the humour hinges on Jason Priestley’s inability to change a disposable nappy. Sorry, it’s been etched on my brain since 1992.

People don’t KNOW about cloth nappies.  They have no experience of it unless they have either sought out information on them or have a friend who’s taken the plunge.  So they are ignorant.  And, as many wise people have said many times, ignorance leads to fear.  And in my own experience, fear leads to procrastination at best, and avoidance at worst.

Not to mention the counter-argument that washing cloth nappies actually leaves just as much of a carbon footprint as disposable nappies.  (I don’t know who put that argument forward, but I bet the big nappy companies are particularly pleased.)

I do think, though, that there are loads of interesting pockets of information about this subject that people don’t realise. Let me tell you about two of them.

Firstly, the argument about the carbon footprint being roughly the same?  Only true if you wash your nappies at home, at 90 degrees (celsius), and tumble dry them.  If you wash them at 60 degrees, and/or you hang them on the line to dry, all of a sudden cloth nappies are edging ahead.  If you use a nappy laundry service, even better, though the fuel the delivery van uses doesn’t make this an obvious option.

Secondly, let’s stuff the environment for a moment and think selfishly instead.  What people don’t realise is how much money can be saved by using cloth nappies.  Apart from the early days when you can get through up to a dozen nappies in a twenty-four hour period, you generally get through one small pack of nappies a week.   Which can be around £4.00 for a supermarket own brand and £6.00 for a premium brand.  Assuming you are unlikely to potty train before the age of two, you will spend a minimum of £416 on disposable nappies for that baby, and the £600 threshold is easily reached.

Now, ultimately all you need for cloth nappies are some terry squares, some wraps, some liners, some boosters, a bucket to put them in and nappy nippas if safety pins scare you as much as they do me.  If you shop around you can get these for around £60 all in (yes, new ones).  The cost of washing these nappies (ideally once every two to three days for a full load) at about 60p per wash including powder, over the same two years, costs around £175, making it cost around £235 in total.

So the minimum saving is£176, probably more.   And if you’ve just dropped from two salaries to one, that’s a lot.  Especially if you have more than one child and don’t have the outlay of more nappies.

Cloth nappy

The surprisingly cheap ingredients for a cloth nappy

Realistically though, cloth nappies can be a real drag if you’re out and about.  My nappy bag is quite full enough without trying to squeeze in space for cloth nappies, though I know some impressive mums who do manage this.

So I compromise.  If I’m at home, we use cloth.  If I’m out for the day, we don’t.  If I’m shopping at the right supermarket I choose the eco brand.  If I’m not, I don’t beat myself up about it.

And I’ll let you in on a secret.

I, too, had the FEAR.

It took me three months to psych myself into using cloth nappies at all.

And I know all this stuff already and have no excuse.

Yes it’s easy.

No, it’s not quite as easy as disposables.

And I’m not going to jump down anyone’s throat if they don’t do cloth.  It’s quite hard enough being a mum already without the guilt fairy pouncing on you about this.

Next post – more on the guilt fairy….watch this space.