DM To Collab…..

Ok so here’s the thing. You’ve recently started growing your social media following and brands are approaching you with exclusive discounts. You think wow someone wants to work with me and bite their hand off for a freebie. Maybe it’s an umbrella from Amazon that someone is asking you to write a review for. Maybe they want to send you an exclusive discount code for recruiting brand ambassadors, or maybe they’re trying to sell you weight loss products because youd be perfect to represent their brand.

You don’t consider your self an influencer so you feel like you’re lucky to have any kind of opportunity for a freebie and you snap each one up eagerly. Next thing you know you have to write a caption bigging up an umbrella in the middle of a heatwave or promote weight loss shakes that taste like sick and give you a headache for a week.

The moral to this story is – Don’t fake it. If you don’t believe in something don’t try and sell it for a freebie. Because in doing so, you’re committing to work for free for a product you don’t even believe in yourself. The reason I’m writing about this now is because I was that girl who tried and failed to promote an umbrella. I hate umbrellas, they’re awkward, they get in the way and almost always break upon second use. Instead of saying that though, I tried to write a catchy caption about why this plain and badly made umbrella was the highlight of my week. I had a better experience when I stole one from the brolly bin on exiting a Cardiff restaurant during an April downpour.

Also noteworthy, if someone is commenting on your picture dm us to collab I can 99% guarantee that they are doing the exact same on another 1000 posts each week. Maybe even several times a week, thus meaning their collab offer is likely to be no more than an invite to apply. Or maybe it’s a discount code and an expectation on you to produce content for them, for FREE.

After learning the hard way that most people’s ideas of collaborations are in fact expectations, I now strictly only work with brands that work for me! Meaning I only promote products I am interested in, or that represent what I’m about. For example I recently collaborated with Royce Lingerie to promote their blossom bra, a non wired bra available in my mega size of a H cup.

Likewise I’ve promoted menstrual cups and self care products that promote wellbeing for women’s health. Being a chronic illness and mental health blogger as well as a mum means there are not always opportunities in abundance for product reviews or PR posts.

However, even if there were, I will never promote products that make false promises such as shakes that claim to contain all the nutrients you’ll ever need to sustain a healthy lifestyle, or pills and supplements that claim to fix health problems.

Be a grey goose in a pond full of swans

Suffering from chronic illness makes you a less than desirable candidate for some brands, as do my personal and often very sweary captions. I recently got offered a collaboration with a well know sanitary production company. I sent them all my insights and they asked me to be part of their latest campaign. I agreed, but upon them viewing my grid I was not deemed appropriate because of some of the language I use. Eg – I say Fuck, a lot! But that’s fine, because I don’t work for these brands. I created a blog as an outlet and a space to share my experiences, if I get offered payment or freebies of products that I’m interested in, I consider it a bonus. I’m not prepared sacrifice my integrity for a tub of Slimfast or some free tampons. If your purpose in life is to be an influencer then this blog might go against the grain. You may be thinking any work is work and that’s absolutely your choice. I don’t look down on people who have #Ads all over their grids, it’s just not for me. I don’t DM to collaborate with brands because I believe if they really wanted to work with me they would in fact be reaching out to me to offer me a collaboration opportunity.

I’m not suggesting you never do the reaching, I think it’s great to network and let people know you’re interested in their products but what I am saying is these secondary accounts commenting on your photos are not likely to make you the next big thing. And remember huns, that being famous on Instagram is the equivalent to being rich in monopoly….. #justsaying

Example caption from one of my recent grid posts

Stockpiling Covid-19 and my unpopular opinion.

I’ve been in bed for a week. With plenty of books and avoiding tele and scrolling as much as possible. I’ve still been on social media but I’ve ignored a lot of the Covid-19 stuff to prevent anxiety that I cannot control, whether warranted or not.
I, like many others, probably most of you, suffer from anxiety, so put a public health crisis in my post code and I will panic.
I’ve seen the jokes about the panic buyers and the outrage at how selfish these people are, I have zero doubt that some of them are just that. Selfish.
But there will be some people who HAVE to stockpile because their mental illness won’t allow them to do anything else.
People with GAD and OCD along with other panic and compulsive disorders.
Not everything is done with a complete disregard for others. Some of this stockpiling and panic is compulsive, not premeditated.
I haven’t stockpiled, mainly because I haven’t left the house and online shops have fuck all in either and also because my panic isn’t borne out of not having any toilet roll. It’s out of fear for the elderly, the young, the immunosuppressed, its fear for the economy, our jobs, our NHS. That’s not to say I won’t feel differently at some point and start thinking about shit differently (literally) I might well do.
The point of this post wasn’t to defend stockpilers, it was just to say, we don’t always know why people do what they do, and it may have absolutely nothing to do with selfishness and more to do with mental health. The message is the same to those that are selfish and to those that presume people are being selfish – just be kind. ❤️☮️🦠 and WASH YOUR HANDS 👏🏽 🚿

Recommended reads #2

My last recommended reads proved popular and useful to some of you, so I thought, hey, I’ll do that again.

Goodreads says I’m on book 15 of my 50 books this year challenge, but that’s an out and out lie. I just haven’t added them all, think I’m definitely closer to 30. After all, I’ve just finished my second CL Taylor book this week and am about to start my third! She is KILLING IT!

If you haven’t checked her out yet you absolutely need to immediately! I read The Fear last week and loved it. The strong stand against paedophelia and the ever present link between predators and their victims was really brought to life in this book. Definitely not a light ’round the pool’ read, but then I am a thriller lover. Main character Lou is both unhinged and likeable, making it easy to follow and equally captivating.

I’ve since just finished The Missing, much like my own WIP manuscript, this book is set in my (now) home city of Bristol and that only makes it all the more relatable. A tale of a mother’s anguish as her son is missing and their family secrets are revealed. South Bristol vibes throughout, the leading protagonist could easily be your best friend, auntie, mum or neighbour. Honest and gritty, this again, not for you if you don’t like graphic realism. However if you’re a thriller fan and love the psychological pull of drama, get involved. You won’t regret it.

Prior to starting on my CL Taylor binge, and after patiently awaiting its arrival; I read Victoria Selman’s second novel Ziba Mackenzie Book Two: Nothing to Lose. I have to regretfully say it didn’t blow my mind like the first book. As often with sequels characters become predictable and I personally found Ziba particularly annoying in this book. She’s known for her quirkiness and love of abbreviations, but when she abbreviated ‘my house gets cold often’ to MHGCO I almost stopped reading. She also repeats her favourites often like BFO A.k.a Blind fucking obvious. Just a little irritating if I’m giving it an honest critique.

Whilst the storyline still has a perfect thriller ideal, it kind of gets a bit jumbled towards the end, with two huge dramas weakly intertwining. Leaving you, or in my case me (the reader) feeling a bit anti climaxed and frustrated. I think I could be at fault here as a reader too, as I just get irritated by over the top personalities (irony isn’t lost on me) but maybe when book three comes out I’ll give Ziba a final chance. Third time lucky and all that!

Whilst I’m binging books till my literary heart is content, I’ve been neglecting my own work and writer’s block is a concrete embedded chicane in my peripheral vision at the moment. I need to get back in the zone, even the blogs are some how land sliding away from the top of my to do list. So if you’re reading this, please…. send motivation.

A big thanks to one of my besties, sending me a boost this morning and a much needed kick up the ass to carry on. I now have a self imposed January 2020 deadline for finishing Book1. Watch this space.

My huge boob struggle – it’s no joke!

I know you read that heading and thought ‘STFU Steph, stop moaning about your ample bosom’ But you my friend, aren’t carrying them around 24/7! I’m only 5 feet tall.

Some days, when my fibromyalgia is flaring, or my period is due, I have to physically hoist one arm under each tit and carry them because it hurts to wear a bra.

I suffer from a secondary condition called allodynia which basically means your skin hurts at the slightest touch. This can occur anytime but more so during a flare up, clothes irritate me and it’s been known to leave me in tears when having to put on a bra.

I weighed the ‘girls’ last year, kneeled on the floor and hoisted them up on to the coffee table, then onto kitchen scales. They weighed over 3kg each (almost 6lbs each) my best friend’s twin babies only weighed 10lb between them, born.

I know some people would kill to have boobs and I empathise, but 32HH is way beyond a couple of coconuts. These are more like watermelons filled with sand!

I wish there was a thing where someone who wanted a boob job could have a share of someone’s who wanted a boob reduction. Sharing is caring, after all!

I’ve listed a few of the ‘cons’ of having huge boobs, because the world and it’s wife seems to think they’re a necessity to prove your femininity. They really aren’t! For me they are nothing but a pain in the back!!

1. Bras are ridiculously expensive and only come in shit colours. Sometimes I can’t find my size at all unless it’s in nude and has a fuck off separater in the middle. Cleavage? Not a chance.

2. They weigh a shit ton! Mentioned it already but the struggle is real.

3. They sag. Yep, they might look all plump and perky with a decent T-shirt bra but wait until that fucker comes off.

4. Tops have to be bought 3 sizes bigger than your actual size.

5. They make you look bigger than you actually are. Especially if you’re short like me, you just tend to look round.

6. Pregnancy makes them even bigger, and the pain!! O.M.F.G!!

7. I found it really hard to carry Ciara when she was small, especially in a sling, as they can’t snuggle into your chest very well. The suffocation risk is real.

8. I can’t sleep on my back or front.

9. Even with an amazing sports bra, exercise is really uncomfortable. The weight alone makes movement hard.

10. If you wear the slightest V-neck you get accused of having your tits out.

11. You literally NEVER eat a meal without getting some stray gravy down them, or lose a grain of rice or 6 to your cleavage.

12. Sometimes men don’t look at your face when they’re talking to you.

13. Lumps and malignancy can be harder to spot as big boobs tend to be ‘lumpy’ by default.

Below are some of the questions I get asked often. Why don’t you….

1. Lose weight? A: My boobs have never, in the history of any diet I’ve ever been on, shrunk in size. But yes, I could make more effort to lose a few lbs.

2. Wear a sports bra all the time? A: Well the allodynia wouldn’t cope well for starters, but also have you seen how ugly those things are? I’m already resulting to nude or black bras given that it costs over £50 for one bra, give me a break.

3. Get a boob job? A: I can’t afford one. My doctor isn’t that understanding of the big boob thing being an actual problem (even though I’m only 5ft tall and completely out of proportion) probs because she has small tits. Basically, I’d have to go in there every week for a year to be considered for NHS work. Also it’s a really invasive op and given that I have a disease that affects my body’s ability to recover, I could become really poorly. That being said, if someone offered to pay for it or I won the lottery I’d have it in a heart beat.

4. Just embrace them. A: been doing that for years and the older I get, the heavier they get. I’m tired of embracing, I want to be free.

5. Cover them up!! A: Ok Sue, why don’t you try covering your head? One of my tits is bigger than your noggin so it’s no easy feat.

I try really hard to be ‘body positive’ but there’s so much I wish I could change, not everything, but boobs would definitely be the first. I preferred them when I was younger and pre parenthood, because at least then they were perky and gravity hadn’t defied me.

Shaun (my fiancé) isn’t even a boob man, I won’t tell you what his preference is, nor does he dislike boobs, but he says he’d love me with or without them (I didn’t have a gun to his head either.)

Imagine the pleasure in not having to wear a bra, or at least being able to take a trip to La Senza for some ditsy two piece, instead of a matron contraption from a plus size store. Did you know most shops only stock large cup sizes with large backs? Being that I’m only a 32 back can make it an impossible haul, there’s no joy in underwear shopping her! Ann Summers don’t even stock my size!! Lingerie shopping for me is the equivalent of food shopping on a diet. Soul destroying and bland.

I wish to every god everywhere there was a boob bank, but sadly we don’t have the option to swap like football cards. Maybe one day in the far away future, but for now, looks like ‘putting up’ in the literal sense, is what I’ll continue.

31, frown lines and saggy Bristols.

Thirty one. 31. Thirty-one.

Thirty-fucking-one.

That’s how old I am now. I didn’t expect to get to this ripe old age and be unemployed, overweight and cleaning up toddler piss on the reg, but there was also a time, during the dark days, I wasn’t even sure I’d make it to thirty one at all.

On my twenty first birthday I was in Portugal smoking 30 fags a day, arguing with an ex boyfriend about my top being too low cut. I was a size 8 (yes really) with FF boobs. Mate, I couldn’t wear anything that didn’t look low cut.

Now I’m a HH boob and a ‘too big for the tape measure’ waist’ so when I wear low cut tops now I just look fat and slutty, instead of the sexy and slutty I once was. Oh well. Those size 8 days never did gain me the kind of attention I needed.

Back then, I didn’t have to worry about gunts and cellulite, just depression and anxiety, along with a side of one too many hangovers, to ramp it up a bit. The last 10 years have been rough on my body, I’ve developed an illness, I’ve carried a child that damn nearly killed me, and I’ve been reliant on medication that makes you fat. So here I am, overweight, gunts galore, frown lines for dayssss and a tits that hit my belly button without a bra.

Whilst I’m here complaining about the inevitable ageing process I’ve missed out all the other bits that have led me to being here today, writing this here blog.

A relationship breakdown, another one we don’t mention because it was so royally fucked up and soul destroying that even to this day it angers me to be reminded of it, a couple of arrests, a suicide attempt, a few jobs, a fluctuating number on the scales…. and then came the turning point that was meeting my Shaun. (Queue corny insert) When I met Shaun I’d kind of sorted myself out, but only because rock bottom was higher than where I’d been. There was still an anger inside me though, it’s always been there, bubbling away, ready to turn into molten lava the minute someone barges me in the post office queue. If we’re being totally honest, it’s still there, but don’t worry, I’ve learned (most of the time) to keep it under wraps.

Shaun took me on a journey I hadn’t been on before, one that was kind, without the need for ferocious insecurities and full blown barneys down the local on a Friday night. I was feeling positive and ready to be better.

My step on the career ladder was under footing and life was good.

Then came Ciara, and for a while the insecurities were back with a vengeance! So forceful were they, I didn’t know how to control them, so I went into counselling, I took anti depressants and papered over the cracks, because as mum’s that’s what we do right?

It was only last year when nearly losing my own mum, life taught me lessons I didn’t know I needed to learn. One of them that really sticks in my mind is ‘life’s too short‘ cliché huh? That’s as maybe but to me it’s never been clearer. I needed to get happy and feel it! I mean really feel it!

So that’s what I did! Sure not everything was a choice, some of the decisions I’ve made in the last 6 months have been forced upon me, but how I react to those unwanted scenarios has changed. I’m finding the best bits and holding onto them. I’ve relieved myself of toxicity and I’m surrounding myself with genuine people, I’m doing things I enjoy, like writing more and learning new things, I’m parenting better and I’m genuinely happier than I’ve been in years. So whilst I’m a bit on the chubby side, the frown lines are legion, Bristol’s are sagging, I’m making small steps to a better life and instead of just sitting back and wishing, I’m trying hard to put all these feelings I’m full up with, to positive use. Yes I’m still a bit psycho, especially this week as I’m hormonal and pretty sure fibro is rearing its ugliness, but most of the time I’m levelled up. I’m almost medication free, I’m actively looking for work that fits around us as a family regardless of salary, and I’m trying to find ways everyday to be better. I can lose the weight (I hope) but I can’t lose sight of what’s important and that’s every single day, each morning I wake up to a beautiful (if a little moody sometimes) Ciara, and a lukewarm cuppa from Shaun.

I know it’s corny as, but I feel so lucky. Thirty one maybe my age, but I feel like my life’s only just getting started.

Living my best life with fibromyalgia.

Cough, I know you’re thinking Jesus, Steph has finally decided to get out of her funk and help herself.

Not really, I don’t know, maybe I’ve just been lucky. Since I left my job my health has improved tenfold. I believe this to be because I have more time to rest when I need to, but it could be due to a lot of factors, or it could just be good old coincidence.

Mentally, I am stronger than I have been for some time. I’m off of antidepressants for the first time in years, and I’m not feeling constant impending doom. This is a really big deal for me, and I’m feeling positive about the next chapter.

But it’s not all cupcakes and rainbows (yes that was a Trolls quote) Pain has got a lot to do with mood, low mood can exacerbate pain. Especially when suffering with a condition that effects your central nervous system, as that’s when it’s on high alert. Psychological pain can bring on physiological symptoms. I’m not a doctor, but I have spent a lot of time researching my condition. I’m not going to sit here and spout that positivity cures illnesses as that’s untrue and offensive, but when you feel happy it makes pain more manageable. That much I do know.

Today I woke up earlier than usual due to Ciara’s new found love for 6am. I felt terrible, my body was heavy and I can feel pain deep inside each joint. This is not imaginary, this is real pain, and I’ve had to take some heavy duty painkillers to combat it today. Despite being in very real pain today, I feel good. Good, because I’ve had a decent run of late, without this kind of debilitating pain. I’ve had pain, but the kind of pain I’m in today, is what reminds me I have a disability. In short, it sucks.

However moving on to the positive bits again. I’ve been doing little things that make me feel better. Small things like, having a tidy living space, getting enough sleep (when I can and Shaun’s snoring allows) but generally doing things that make me feel good. Avoiding toxic people, not analysing every little thing, not comparing myself to everyone, and trying to accept my pain without beating myself up. All these little things help. They aren’t a cure but they do make a difference. I went through such a battle with myself to accept this illness without it breaking me. To allow myself time since my formal diagnosis to grieve for the old me. I’ve spent two years grieving, and I still suffer! I won’t play it down, but I’m in a place now where I can accept it without it breaking me. I can move forward and still live a good life. I can have bad days but they aren’t all bad. Some of them are fucking brilliant!! You too can have good days again. It’s not going to be easy, but even without an illness or disability life isn’t easy.

But I have all my faith in you. You can do this, you can live your best life too. 💕

Recommended reads

So I started a book read challenge this year. It’s to read 50 books during 2019. Considering I’m already on book 10 and it’s only February, I think I’ll be fine. I know what you’re thinking, she has too much time on her hands, right? Well some would argue yes, but I am trying to write my own novel so it’s important I read a lot for ‘research’ I also suffer terrible insomnia so most of my reading is done in the deep dark of the night when I’ve given up on tossing and turning.

Since I announced I’d started my own novel a lot of people message me about books. I’ve even got chatting to established authors and have been given some great advice and book recommendations. I’m going to list my favourites books that I’ve read this year so far and why I love them. My favourite genre is psychological thriller, but that’s not all serial killers and detectives as people very often think. It’s whatever keeps you guessing, on edge, turning pages right to the end. You know that phrase ‘couldn’t put it down’ that’s what I get from thrillers. That need to keep reading even when your eyes are struggling to stay open. The below list is not in order, it would be too difficult for me to decide on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so I’m just going to list them in no particular order.

  • Little White Lies by Lucy Dawson – This was the first of Lucy’s books I had read and I’d come across great reviews. The reviewers weren’t lying. It was gripping. From start to finish I was constantly questioning the characters and their motives. You read this from a first person protagonist only to then start reading from a different perspective. It’s extremely well written and the storyline is believable and in parts, quite chilling. I would highly recommend!
  • The Daughter by Lucy Dawson – Again this is another great and gripping book by Lucy, written in the first person. The story begins with a mother losing her child and the events that follow are scary and also emotionally traumatic, being a mum myself I could really empathise with the main character. Another 5* ending too and one I didn’t see coming.
  • Bad Blood by Victoria Selman – This is Victoria’s first novel and introduces the larger than life character that is Ziba McKenzie, a detective profiler. Victoria has clearly done her research as throughout the book Ziba’s character was relatable and interesting, again mostly written in first person you really got to know her character right from the first page. It’s the right amount of chilling and graphic. It did keep me up a few night’s and some weird dreams followed. I have recently learned that Victoria is due to release book two in March with Ziba as the protagonist again, I’ve already got it on pre order.
  • You let me in by Lucy Clarke – I am a huge fan of Lucy and have read all of her books to date but this was definitely up there with the favourites. She manages to combine normalcy with spine chilling and this book is no exception. Any Claire McIntosh fans out there definitely need to get behind Lucy Clarke. Picture English seaside meets Bates Motel, quite brilliant in it’s own right.

Well I hope that’s enough for you to be going on with. I am currently reading ‘Behind Closed Doors‘ by Kathryn Croft. I was up until 2am desperate for just one more chapter so I hope for a hell raising conclusion. It’s my first Kathryn Croft book, but if the ending is anything like the beginning it definitely wont be my last.

Snoring is ruining my life

It’s 2am and the drilling has started. You wake with a start and want to wake your fiancé up to tell him he’s going to have to go next door and talk to them about the noise! And that’s when you realise, it’s not the neighbours drilling again at all, it’s coming from him, he’s snoring.

So you punch him in the shoulder, probably harder than intended but you know, snoring! He then wakes with a start of his own, moans and rolls over. For all of 30 seconds it’s quiet again. 30 seconds isn’t very long. Repeat above steps until you can cope no more, so you go downstairs and join the cat on the sofa instead.

What am I complaining about? For the love of God woman, everyone snores sometimes! Yes, that’s true, but this isn’t sometimes, darling, this is Every. Single. Night!

For us, snoring has come close a number of times, to destroying our relationship. I have a chronic illness and sleep is crucial for my body to repair nightly and reduce symptoms. I cant function on less than 8 hours. Minimum. Gone are the days I can stay out until 4am and get up at 9. No, I NEED sleep. I have a child, I can’t afford to be faced with the daily fatigue that follows around Fibromyalgia sufferers after a sleepless night.

So what can I do about it you ask? Well, I do a lot of punching, and a lot of sofa sleeping. We don’t have the luxury of a third bedroom in our house, so fortunately or unfortunately, we don’t have the option not to share a room. I know, that sounds an extremity, but I know a lot of couples that have their own bedrooms based on the fact that one of them incessantly snores. In my Fiancé’s defence, he’s been to see his GP about our little but loud problem. More than once, and do you know their advice? To go on a website and read the tips. Like we haven’t read every fucking tip there is to read about snoring, online already!! Sure, thanks Doc, why didn’t I think of that? He’s already tried, nasal strips, throat spray, throat foam, even a fucking chin strap to keep his mouth closed, didn’t work. The only thing that sometimes allows me sleep is if I go to bed an hour before him and get to sleep before him, so that when he starts, I’m already asleep. Sometimes it works and sometimes he STILL wakes me up. Not to mention the fact going to bed an hour before him makes our sex life impractical and irregular, but also you lose a closeness between you. You lose the cuddle that comes before you roll over to sleep. You lose the leg over that cocoons you during the night, and although annoying makes you feel safe.

It sounds like a real first world problem, and is I guess, but it’s one that really does test our relationship. I wake up some days so resentful that his snoring has kept me from the sleep my body so desperately demands that I don’t want to talk to him. Other days he wakes up resentful that I’ve banished him to the sofa for something that’s not his fault. Out of his control. To be honest I can still hear him from the sofa, but it’s a welcome dulled down version when he’s not sharing a bed with me. I don’t know what the answer is, maybe surgery? But sleep therapy isn’t well funded by the nhs and it’s another expense we can’t afford to invest in at the moment. What’s the cost to our relationship if we don’t though? I know it’s not his fault but it makes no odds to the despair I feel nightly. Buy a bigger house? Wear ear plugs? (Tried them, can’t hear toddler in the night then though) put a pillow over his face? Maybe! The irony is apparently that I also snore pretty loudly, but I don’t keep him awake so if we’re competing then he’s still in the lead for the loudest and most annoying!

It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to live with, but I also don’t think I’ll ever be able to live without him. So here I am preparing for another shit nights sleep, and getting the pre bedtime cuddle in, just in case I have to abort the master bedroom before sleep hits, again!

My experience so far as a SAHM

Really, another mother fuck load of washing? Really? What did we do when I was at work, wear dirty clothes? Looks like we did, because I sure as shit didn’t do this much washing on the 9-5!!

Oh look a sea of crumbs, but I have literally just fucking hoovered damn it. Knock knock, it’s my neighbour at the door, telling me they are about to do some renovation works, should only last three weeks though. So whilst I’m trying to write a fucking book, I can be sure to concentrate at the sound of hammering and drilling, throw in a whiney toddler and we’re away.

Wow those tiles are grubby, no worries I’ll watch a Mrs Hinch video, then get on with it. Oh is that the time? Time to go and pick the little lady up from preschool, better get something for tea on the way home too, oh shit and I need to post that parcel, it’s that dress I paid over the odds for but am selling on eBay for $3, because, well I need a clear out, better than it going to waste….. Get home, cook tea whilst intermittently shouting at toddler, or rather getting shouted at, for not meeting her unreasonable demands. You know, like she wanted a blue cup instead of a pink one!

Fiancé walks in, serve up tea, eat tea, clear up tea, bath toddler, put toddler to bed, and COLLAPSE.

My point is, I used to look at mums that stayed at home and think they had it easy. They don’t. I used to look at their life and imagine Jeremy Kyle on repeat. I used to think they sat around, smoking fags waiting to pick their kids up. Why was I such a judgemental asshole? How did I judge people I knew nothing about? The people that are the adhesive holding their families together. Running around, cooking, cleaning, walking the dog, doing every single errand asked of them, because of course if they didn’t it would look like they really did have too much time on their hands. God forbid they sit down and actually drink a hot coffee. And when they do, on queue comes the question, what have you been doing all day?

Now let us not take away from working mums. They sure as shit have their work cut out too, and this is by NO means whatsoever, trying to belittle what those Boss Mama’s have going on. I just wanted to shout out a little to the ones that stay at home, and basically back track my earlier thoughts of them. I couldn’t of been more wrong!!!

For me, giving up my job was supposed to be a new start on the road to my writing career taking off, whilst giving me time to manage my illness and save on childcare. Of course it has it’s pro’s, I get to spend days with Ciara, and on the days I’m not with her I get to pick her up and hear all about her day first hand. I also get to make sure there aren’t any whites hidden in with the dark wash. It’s like anything, of course, pros and cons. Loads of pros, equally as many cons, but anything a mum does is HARD!! A mum’s job is a hard one. Whether you spend every waking moment with your babies, go to work all day, or sit in your pj’s watching Jeremy Kyle. When you’re doing what’s best for you, you’re doing what’s best for your kids. A happy mum is a happy kid.

Time To Talk

Every year on Time To Talk Day, I write a post about mental health. Every year it gets lots of likes, and people reach out with their own stories. But year after year, mental health post, after mental health post, people still shy away from talking about mental health, or more often people shy away from listening to people talk about their mental health!

I still get ridiculed for posting about my mental health. I still get judged for being ‘mental’ or ‘dramatic’ or an ‘oversharer’ (self confessed by the way, no fucks)

Why is it that we still can’t accept people speaking out?

Obviously it must surely mean they’re attention seeking if they post how upset they are on Facebook or instagram right?

They only post for the likes. They’re not depressed, they bring it on themselves, blah blah blah, yada, yada, yada!

Year after year, people are still committing suicide because they were too afraid to speak out about their mental health problems, or they did try and speak out and were shunned or called one of the names of mentioned, or worse.

Social media is great for spreading awareness, but what about real people who reach out and are made to feel stupid, or are judged? Those people are where we should be directing our listening resources. You can repost anxiety references or share mental health charities all over your page, but if you’re ignoring your depressed or anxious friend when she puts up yet another cry for help, you could be missing the opportunity to support someone in need. Donating £5 is fab, but did you text your sister back after she poured her heart out because her boyfriend is a bastard. Or your friend who’s recently postnatal and desperate for 5 minute to have the shower she’s avoided for 4 days. Or your friend who cancels every 5 minutes because her anxiety prevents her from leaving the house? Or the one you rescheduled 5 times because you didn’t want to listen to them go on about their problems?

Of course some people will post for attention, it would be ridiculous to assume otherwise, we all post on social media to ‘share’ and for the ‘likes.’

So what though, if she’s posted something that’s a bit cringe, she’s your mate and she’s asking you to listen.

She’s reaching out.

Nobody expects you to sacrifice your own mental health to save someone else’s, and triggers are very real, but sometimes all it takes is a text to say you’re thinking of that friend in need. Don’t just scroll on by or avoid answering. It could change someone’s whole day and sometimes even their life. Make Time to Talk day a reminder to make not only Time to Talk, but Time to Listen. ❤️

Stop saying sorry.

Given that this blog is for the most part, sweary rants about life as a mum, as well as being about a fiancé whose snoring makes me consider our future, and whether I can fit a bed for him in the shed, you’ll probably find it hard to believe that I spend a lot of my time apologising. But the fact remains, I do.

To my daughter:

Sorry for shouting earlier darling, Mummy is very stressed today.

Sorry you ate fish fingers for tea 4 days straight because I couldn’t deal with the fall out of offering you something else.

Sorry I give you the iPad to shut you up sometimes.

To my fiancé:

Sorry I don’t have a job and therefore am not bringing much by way of fruition to the table babe.

Sorry my anxiety means sometimes I’m irrational and worry too much.

Sorry I have a chronic illness and it affects 99% of the plans I make with you and our friends.

Sorry I talk too much about said illness.

Sorry I’ve come off my antidepressants and you are having to deal with non SNRI infused, Steph.

Sorry I’m not skinnier.

Sorry I swear too much in front of the in laws.

To my followers and friends:

Sorry I bore you with toddler spam on your news feed and in our real life conversations.

Sorry my opinion isn’t favoured always by the masses.

Sorry I speak openly about mental health even though it makes people uncomfortable.

Sorry I didn’t enjoy being pregnant and I share my horror story with you.

Sorry I keep sharing boring blogs on the same old topics because they’re important to me.

Sorry I moan about being fat then eat McDonald’s twice in a row.

Can you see now? That’s a lot of ‘sorry’s’

When I apologise, I do it with sincerity, I mean it. But sometimes I wonder if I should be saying sorry at all. I seem to spend my life apologising for my very existence. Then I have a mental breakdown and apologise for not being normal enough. Is it a wonder mental health problems have hit an all time high.

The facts are these:

I’m not sorry I have anxiety, fibromyalgia and mental health issues, because these all bore from situations that have shaped me and made me a strong woman, and despite my insecurities, I am a strong woman.

I’m also not sorry I’ve stopped taking medication so I can decide whether or not even I like the ‘Real Steph.’

I’m not sorry for getting upset and being honest about why I am upset, because all ‘we‘ do is tell people to open up more, and then we shy away from listening, or criticise them for being ‘too honest‘ or for ‘airing their dirty linen.’ People commit suicide everyday because nobody listened. So when I’m airing my shit, I’m healing. Not sorry for that.

I’m not sorry I shouted at my toddler who threw her 3lb plastic dinosaur at my head because I wouldn’t let her have her third chocolate biscuit. Or that I gave in and let her have an hour on the iPad and a fish finger tea on the sofa because I needed a break.

I’m not really even sorry I don’t have a job, because I do have A job. I’m a mum, I’m managing an illness, I’m trying to study & follow a passion too. I’m not making any money at the moment, but I’m making a whole load of memories, and laying down foundations, ones that my daughter will hopefully later remember too. When and if we struggle financially, I will go and clean precinct toilets to put food on the table. So spare me the ‘get a job’ speech I only resigned last month.

I’m definitely not sorry I swear too much, because I actually Fucking. Love. Swearing. I find it such a useful tool to express myself. Fudge nugget in replace of Wanky Fucktard just doesn’t cut the mustard for me. It’s 2019 don’t tell me it’s not ladylike, or I’ll remind you that according to the Stone Age you seem to be from, nor is women going to work, or being able to vote.

If like me, you find you too are constantly apologising for being who you are, it’s time we stopped. We are not sorry, we’re brilliant and eccentric and in our own way, bring loads to the fucking table, shit, I lay the fucking table.

Can you make a pact with me that we agree to say sorry less, accept when it’s genuinely necessary.

That we agree to feel shit about ourselves less, and to focus on our strong points more. So much more!

Well can you? It’s not as easy as one would think to love yourself more. I have spent a lifetime loathing so many parts of me, that I now feel a bit cringe when I try and ‘sell myself’ I instead, wait for someone else to provide me with positive endorsements, as if it means more when someone else says it. But it doesn’t. Not really.

When you can say it yourself and mean it, when you can tell yourself you’re brilliant, that’s when it means the very most.

I’m not anywhere near that place yet, but I encourage us as a collective, to get there!! We can do this.

Share with your friends, let’s start an epidemic of #Not Sorry Divas 💝🙌🏻

Also published on SelfishMother Blogazine.

The Snotty Toddler

First published on Selfish Mother

Strands of toilet roll scatter the area around you, paw patrol is on its 5th loop and there’s a whiney noise coming from the other end of the sofa.

That’s the toddler, the one who’s been up 3 nights in a row with a hacking cough and a snotty nose.

She’s been up 3 nights in a row sneezing and insists you say ‘bless you’ after every single one, even the 3am ones.

You’ve not slept for those 3 nights and you’re pissed that your hubby seems to be getting all the sleep, so this time, you send him to bed with the snotty toddler instead. Now all you can hear are his snores in between her coughs, and it sounds like a dysfunctional metal band without any real tune. The vocals coming through as the occasional whimper from the toddler.

You know tomorrow’s going to be much of the same. After all, it’s winter and everyone knows toddlers are renowned germ carriers, spreading them like Chinese whispers amongst their little friends, occasionally passing them on to their parents too.

You wish, as the snotty toddler kicks you in the back for the millionth time, that she’d just go sleep. For the love of god, go to fucking sleep.

Tomorrow is going to be worse actually, not the same as you’d first thought. Worse because, you’ll be on your 4th day without sleep by then. Whilst you curl yourself around your baby wishing them to sleep you also take in a deep breath, breathe in their scent, and remind yourself that one day they mightn’t need you to stroke their hair when they feel unwell, they might start to like sleeping in their own bed instead of yours, and that’s when you accept, even with their bogeys under your fingernails, that sleepless nights are, for all intents and purposes, actually magical moments that you may not look back on with total fondness, but you’ll look back on nonetheless. Nothing lasts forever. Hang in there Mama’s.

Winging it

When I decided to resign from my job I was excited, full of hope at all the spare time I’d have to write. Truth is I have absolutely no spare time, there’s ALWAYS something to do at home. At work, it’s just your job that needs doing until you get home, at home all day and it’s the dishes, the washing, the dust on the skirting boards, the charity shop clothes bags, the shopping, the planning and prepping dinner from scratch etc.

How did I manage that before you ask? I didn’t.

Before, I didn’t do the shopping, well not physically anyway. Amazon pantry was my bff along with whichever super market had the best BOGOFF deals. Before, I didn’t clean the skirting boards or do the sorting for the charity shops, I just lived in a mess. So why am I doing it now? Because it does need doing, and now I don’t have a hard day’s work an as excuse as to why I’m not getting it done.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining, it’s great that I have time to do all this stuff, but I have found little if no time at all to write, study, or do any of the things I said I was going to do.

When I was working, my mum did the school runs, Shaun did the washing, we ate from jars, and the shopping was delivered at a time of my choosing. But I find, rightly or wrongly, it’s expected of you to get things done if ‘You’re at home all day’ remember though, we’re still doing school run’s or looking after little people, we’re still trying (at least I am) to get some work done.

I can actually take an oath that I haven’t watch a SINGLE episode of Jeremy Kyle since leaving work. I have however, caught up on Lose Women on more than one occasion.

I really miss the social bustle of working for a large organisation and I’ve gone from feeling excited to feeling scared and at times lonely.

I want to be successful in my work, my parenting, my social groups, managing my health. I want people to believe I have it all covered from the every angle, but of course I don’t. I’m 100% winging it, with little guidance accept the online world of other mum’s who’ve followed their passions and my family and friends. The few people in my life that truly have my back, the ones that want to see me succeed are at the forefront of my mind every time I feel like quitting.

I may never succeed in my dream to write a novel, but I sure as shit won’t, if I don’t even try.

So it’s with a slight wobble I’m reminding you (and myself) to keep going. To let your creativity drive you in whatever form you find it. To keep at it because mama’s don’t quit and diva’s don’t lie down.

I will tell myself and you, everyday if I have to, that WE have got this.

And when we don’t got it, there’s always Guinness.

The road to threedom

So, Ciara’s been going through some developmental challenges lately. In just 6 short months she’s gone from barely stringing sentences together, to chatting NON STOP!

She can now count in sequence, she is potty trained, even waking up in the night and demanding a new pair of pants because:

‘I don’t want a nappy mummy’

She’s been specifically asking for people she hasn’t seen in a while, so memory is not an issue for this little dot. She’s asked for Auntie Becky and E, Nanny, and Grandad with the paw patrol bike, and often talks about her friends at preschool David, Chester and Lana with the pretty hair. It’s amazing isn’t it? How bloody clever is my kid! My heart could burst.

But… all of this extra feeling, knowing, and awareness must be a pretty crazy place in this little one’s head. I know this, because mummy is getting the brunt of it all.

‘I don’t want to’ is her favourite phrase.

‘No mummy’ is the second.

Whilst she’s doing all these amazing, magical, things, I find myself getting frustrated with her outbursts. I feel terrible about it but I can’t help sometimes wishing she’s just put the fucking blue pants on, instead of demanding rainbow ones. Or eat the damn toast you asked for 10 minutes ago kid! Who gives a flying fuck if the corner has come off, you don’t eat the crusts anyway!!!

So there’s a bit of wee in your potty already, sorry Mummy hasn’t had chance to rinse it out whilst dealing with your other 10,000 demands in the last 5 minutes.

I love you, but if you scream in my face one more time about having to put your coat on I’m gonna set the bastard coat on fire!

(Disclaimer no 2 – I don’t actually say this to her, I just roll my eyes whilst thinking it)

Then I take a deep breath and start the process of answering why Marshall has a red hat, Chase on the case has a blue one, and explaining that it’s a ‘Pumpkin’ and not a ‘Cuntpin’

I even allow the ingratitude that I got her an ‘Everest pillow’ instead of a Skye one. The world hasn’t ended my dear child just say ‘thank you Mummy’

Then I go to bed at night feeling so bad about wishing she would do as she’s told, I feel bad for not taking in the fact she’s learning, and her inquisitive nature is what might make her a Detective Inspector one day.

I feel bad that I tutted whilst having to kiss both knees when there wasn’t even a ‘baddie’ on either of them.

But guess what? I’m not the only person in the world to feel utterly fucked off and guilty all at once, and neither are you.

We’re human. It’s demanding being a mum and we don’t always get chance to take a deep breath and take in everything that’s going on, because we’re too busy trying to get tea on the table that you know your kid won’t even eat, and 20,000 pairs of pants washed ready for nursery tomorrow.

Every night before she goes to bed we have half hour chill time. We have cuddles, we read stories and we sing twinkle twinkle, and every night I tell her how amazing she is and how much I love her. Even when she’s tested me to the absolute limit.

I don’t always get it right, but I’m confident she knows I’m doing my best and that I love her more than life itself and that is enough.

Sometimes Kids Are Dicks

This funny, beautiful, happy child is also sometimes the devil.

Like this morning before I turned up at my friends house in floods of tears, when I should of been smiling as we we’re just about to book a weekend away with the kids for £9.50 each! (Sun holidays, booking open, don’t miss out I’ll add the codes to the blog after this post) but before all of that, my 2 year old reduced me to tears. It doesn’t happen often but when it does it’s always the same, she kicks off and cries and I cry about her crying.

This morning, she woke up later than usual, she was unusually tired yesterday so I assumed she needed the extra sleep. I woke her up and we went down stairs for our milk/tea fix, same as always. Ciara can be very lazy, she will avoid walking up or down the stairs if she can, and when Daddy’s home she usually can, but my illness means some days I physically can’t lift her, today is that day.

So that was the first tantrum, which ended in me giving in, lifting her onto my lap and sliding down on my ass. 🙄 Number 2 was her not wanting her nappy off.

Number 3 was her point blank refusing to be wiped and have clean pants on.

Before we hit number 4 of actually pulling her pants up over her thighs, she pissed all over my hand.

Number 4 was another meltdown about the wipes (even though she was covered in piss)

Number 5 was not wanting her boots on.

Before number 6 (Which was about her coat) I had lost my patience and really told her off. She still carried on making a fuss. I put her on the naughty step where she usually calms down. But she just got up and carried on screaming at me like I’m some kind of monster with 6 heads.

By the time we got to school (late) she was hysterical and I thought I was about to malfunction and my head was going to physically explode.

She wouldn’t walk into class.

She wouldn’t carry her lunch.

She wouldn’t kiss me goodbye.

I left in tears and by the time I turned up at poor old Mrs Bowler’s I was a mess.

This is another reason you need mum friends when you’re a mum.

Just listening to my pal tell me she’s been there and sometimes kids ARE dicks. Turned my tears into laughter.

I still feel horrendous for shouting and leaving her without a reciprocal kiss goodbye, I’m still counting down the minutes until I can pick her up and hope she’s in a better mood, and smother her in snogs, but I don’t feel so alone with my thoughts anymore.

We righted the world based on how good and in my case badly behaved our kids can be. We then booked a weekend away that includes said shittily behaved kids, and vowed to console each other when they undoubtedly push our proverbial buttons that weekend.

If I hadn’t had that conversation this morning I may have come home and curled up in bed and cried more unnecessary tears. I might of still been feeling irrationally upset by the time I arrived to pick Ciara up.

Now though, I’m enjoying a cuppa, I’ve done my (budget) food shop and I’m ready to tackle whatever mood she comes home in. Because she is 2 and a half and I’m her mum. I can do this. And it’s ok to lose my shit occasionally and it’s ok to dislike your child’s behaviour. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them with every breath you breathe. It just means some days you need to be able to breath a little deeper before you can boss it.

Xoxo