Are you Shirley?

I thought writing my first post would be difficult. I was baring my soul and sharing my darkest secrets. The thought of it was so scary. But actually, writing it down was easy. It just kind of wrote itself, really. But writing this, my second post. Now this is daunting. Now I feel the weight of expectation.

You see, the feedback and comments I received after posting my Getting Acquainted piece 72 hours ago have been incredible and eye opening in so many ways. People, lots of people as it happens, agree with me and they understand. They more than understand. They are living with the depression I admitted to having in my last post. They agree that comparing their lives with Facebook images of picture-perfect parenting is making them feel inferior. They feel pressure to compete with or to fit into cliques of mums. They often feel inadequate.

Here are some of the comments you kind and lovely women have left, here and on Facebook :-

“I can totally relate to your observations about how reading other people’s status updates can give a very one sided picture of life! Also, I totally agree that us mums should be nicer and more supportive of each other and we should all be kinder to ourselves!”

“There is a huge stigma regarding antidepressants, but once people come out about being on them it’s amazing how many others take them too.”

“I suffered with depression years ago, before kids, and it took me four years to dig myself out. None of my friends understood what I was going through either, I didn’t really talk about it. To be honest, I didn’t think anyone would understand it unless they had been through it.”

“I suffered in silence. I didn’t even tell my parents. My mothers empathetic response would have been “get over it”. I wish I could have. That was all I wanted!!! It’s a dark time and now I’m through it I feel so sad I’ve missed out in those years with my kids (hopefully they were too young to remember it!)! Unless you’ve been through it I also believe nobody will understand. The more people talk about it the more those suffering will realise they can get help and they are not alone!”

“I think as mummies we struggle with feelings of being inadequate regularly. The honesty of your blog is refreshing.”

” I feel like you’ve gone into my brain and written about my life. Describing PND and being ‘in recovery’ is the the way I always describe it, too. It was lovely reading this and knowing there are others out there feeling the same, so thank you.”

We’re all different, with our own unique set of strengths, weaknesses, and let’s face it, insecurities. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to overcoming our issues. But I think I know where we can start and it’s quite simple, really. We can be kinder to ourselves and kinder to each other.

I know I’ve said this before, and I’ll undoubtedly repeat myself countless times when it comes to this point. Here’s an example…

You’re on a play date at someone’s house and your baby has just started to walk. Suddenly, your little explorer has a whole new dimension of things to touch and they’re all about a foot and a half off the ground. At coffee table height. You enter the lovely, tidy room (your house is never as tidy as this) and your heart sinks a bit. Oh look, you think, a coffee table. With lots of pretty and fragile things on it. You can see this ending badly. So you speak to your hostess, and ask her if she minds you moving the breakables out of the reach of your newly vertical offspring. A straight-forward request, you think. You’re not prepared for what happens next. Your hostess frowns, tilts her head to the side and utters these fateful words:

“Oh! Will he touch them, then?”

Your mind begins to race. Should your one year old child already know not to touch breakable things? How on earth has she managed to train her child to obey so quickly? Will your child ever listen to you? She must be a much better parent than you, surely? Look how tidy her house is! And she is still breast feeding, and you’re not. And last time you got together with this woman she told you the reason your child doesn’t sleep through the night is that you didn’t breastfeed him for long enough! Aaaaargh!!

We’ve all encountered her. The Mother Who Makes You Feel Like Shit. For ease of reference, we’ll call her Shirley (just because I don’t have a mummy friend of that name so there’s no danger of offending someone). Let’s deconstruct this situation for a moment. You’d got together with Shirley before. She had made comments previously that brought you down. But still you got together with her again. We’re all guilty of this and I’m not sure why…. If it was a date-date and not a play date, there would be no second chances if the guy you went to dinner with was inappropriate, rude and offensive, would there? There’s a lesson there if you think about it.

But anyway, we were talking about kindness. We can maybe practice some kindness to our fictional Shirley here, giving her the benefit of the doubt by assuming she was just tactless with her words. But let’s be honest. We’re grown ups. We need to take responsibility for our words and think about the affect they can have on others, especially mums, who if the responses to my last post are an accurate depiction, are a very vulnerable bunch.

That being said, we also need to practice some kindness to ourselves. In an ideal world, we’d avoid “Shirleys” like the plague, but that’s not always going to be possible. So, when a Shirley makes a comment, you have a choice. You can decide to let your inner “Anxious Annie” run rampage. You can let yourself believe that you’re a terrible mum, with uncontrollable offspring, a filthy house, deficient boobs… (((insert your own complex here))). Or you can practice some kindness to yourself. As I said in my “about” page, you can’t control what others say, but you can control how you react to it. You can have faith in the fact that you are absolutely best parent for your child. That you know them better than anyone else. That one day they’ll know not to touch stuff that they’re not supposed to, but for now, you’re there to protect them (and the innocent ornaments that inconsiderate Shirleys leave within their reach). In case you missed it the first time, I’ll say it again. You are absolutely the best mummy for your child. Please let that sink in.

Now, one final thought for you. I’ve talked a lot about Shirley here, and what we can do to control our reactions to the thoughtless, insensitive or judgemental things she might say or do. But consider this. Could you be Shirley? Without even realising it? This is why I’d like us all to practice speaking with kindness to each other. Remember the comments at the start of this post and think about whether the person you’re speaking to could have just written one. I try to see the good in people and I sincerely hope that the Shirleys out there aren’t intentionally trying to make the rest of us feel inferior. Let’s choose kind words, for our inner voices as well as our outer ones.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, please do leave me a comment if you can.

Much love

Ps.. I’ve now set up a Facebook page to accompany my blog. Please hit “like” to share the mummy love with your friends.


Getting Acquainted.

Hello! My name is Rachel. Welcome to my blog!

My.Blog. Two words I’ve never said aloud or written before. How exciting!

I’ve given much thought to how much I want to divulge here. I’ve thought about using a pen-name, as there are things I’d like to discuss that will come as a surprise to friends and family reading this. I’ve decided against that. I’ve got several reasons for writing this blog, but one of them is that I think mums need to practice more honesty with each other. Parenting can be so incredibly hard. I strongly believe pretending life is perfect at all times serves only to help fester insecurities in other mums. By being honest with each other, we can help banish those feelings of inadequacy perpetuated by the somewhat boastful Facebook status updates and perfect pictures of immaculate smiling children. I’m working on reminding myself that comparing your life with someone’s Facebook pictures is like comparing your behind-the-scenes mayhem with their edited, showreel of highlights. So hiding behind a pen-name in this case would feel insincere. It’s time to be brave and own my own story. Someone out there might need to read it. (FYI… My pen-name would’ve been Sylvia Simmons, after my Grandmothers. So much cooler than my real name!).

My Facebook status on new years eve a couple of weeks ago said “Let’s be good to each other this year, the rest will work itself out” and that’s something I plan on sticking to. I’m a big believer in kindness, both to others and to yourself. Kindness to myself is a constant work in progress. I’ll go into this in more detail later. If I have any goal for this blog, it’s to inspire mums (and everyone else, really) to be kinder to themselves and to each other. We’re in this together.

So, in order to get ourselves acquainted, here are some interesting (and some not so interesting) facts about me);

1) I’m a thirty-three year old, married mother of two from Essex. Monkey is three and a half and Madam is eighteen months old. My husband P and I have been together almost eight years and married for five.

2)I worked in media for twelve years before having children. I don’t miss it. Not one bit.

3) I am from a step-family and as a result my children have ten grandparents which include four great-grandparents.

4) I have incredible friends and I consider myself very lucky indeed. Most of those closest to me have come into my life since having children, and I am so grateful for them. We hold each other up, and if ever there’s a competition, it’s for who had the worst day or whose child has had the most embarrassing public meltdown. I have made a conscious effort not to be around the type of mum that makes me feel inferior and inadequate. I do a good enough job of that without anyone else’s help. More on this to follow another time.

5) Six weeks after giving birth to my daughter I was diagnosed with post-natal depression. I didn’t tell any of my friends for about a year, and many of them won’t find out until they read this. I had a relapse in the summer of this year and it was the darkest time of my life. I couldn’t confide in even my closest friends and I thought I was losing my mind. You often hear about depressed people being unable to get out of bed, but when you’ve two small children, staying in bed is just not an option. I put on a brave face and hid it from the world but inside I was screaming. I constantly felt like running, screaming from the house. One of the things I’m proud of is asking for help. I was prescribed anti-anxiety medication and underwent cognitive behavioural therapy alongside my anti-depressants. I’ve come to think of depression as a bit like addiction, in that I consider myself to be “in recovery” as opposed to recovered. It’s an ongoing process that I need to be constantly aware of and I hope this blog will help.

6) I am Jewish and I’m currently trying to work out what this means to me. Although both of my parents are Jewish, they divorced when I was about four and my brother and I went to a school with very few Jewish children. As a result, I never had a circle of Jewish friends growing up. By chance I met and married a wonderful man who is Jewish too. Since having children, my closest group of friends are all Jewish and this has grown my Jewish knowledge a great deal. I’m in the process of learning more about the Jewish faith, currently through books but also hopefully through discussion groups. My (very limited) understanding or perception of Judaism has been that, generally, it’s based on following very old traditions and following strict rules. The strict rules have been a big turn-off for me. I’m not the type of person who can blindly follow rules without knowing what purpose they serve. I’m hoping to educate myself more in the Jewish faith as I want to know what life lessons my children and I can learn, in terms of treating people with kindness and doing good. To me, how you behave towards others is more important than defining who your God is. More on this another time, too.

7) My main hopes for my children are that they grow up to be happy, healthy and kind. I know Jewish mothers are supposed to pray that their children grow up to be doctors or lawyers, but me? I just want them to be happy in whatever they do and kind to those around them.

So here have been seven things that not many people know about me. Thanks for reading them! I’d love for you to subscribe or comment. I’ve got lots more to say!

Bye for now!
Rachel x


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