How’s your body image?

Are you happy with your wobbly bits? At peace with your wonky nose? Or do you cling to the dream that if only you were a few pounds lighter, a little bit taller, that all would be well with the world?

I wish I could say that I didn’t care about body image, that I was totally happy and accepting of my body, but it would be a fib. Like the majority of women, I too hanker after thinner thighs and tighter triceps. Not enough to actually do anything about it of course, but that’s really not the point, as the issue is clearly not a physical one.

The most worrying thing is the increasingly young age at which body image becomes an issue for girls and young women, as I talked about recently. I say recently… I just looked it up and the post I wrote about conversations overheard on a school bus is nearly two years old! Blimey, unnoticed aging clearly an issue for me here.

There has been a trend recently in the media to try and redress the balance, and change the way we feel about our body image, but to be honest I’m a little cynical. Take the Dove Real Beauty campaign for instance. Now perhaps it’s just me, but aren’t all of these women actually rather attractive? Some of them may be larger than traditional models, but none of them are fat, they’re all well proportioned with smooth skin and pretty faces:

Dove models

Not exactly munters are they?

Dove’s latest idea for improving our body image and raising levels of confidence among girls is the Dove Self Esteem Programme, a series of workshops being held in schools throughout the UK, with the aim of reaching a million 11-18 year old girls by the end of 2012. My cynical side says ‘what a great market for them to tap into’ but at the same time I can’t help but think that one million girls feeling even just a little bit better abut themselves has to be a good thing right?

Dove models

Again, not exactly munters…

Worryingly, it really is this young that body image starts to become an issue. Dove found that over half of the girls they surveyed thought they were ‘average’, ‘ordinary’, ‘plain’ or ‘unattractive’, and the stats I found when researching my post on pornography are even more shocking:

  • Over half of all women around the world say they first became aware of the need to be physically attractive between 6 and 17 years of age.
  • 66% of teenage girls would consider plastic surgery and 20% would do it right now.
  • Polls suggest that 63% of young women aspire to be glamour models or lap dancers.
  • One in three people believe a woman is responsible for violence committed against her if she is wearing ‘revealing clothing’.

Have you seen the Dove ad about all the little girls giving up their hobbies because of their body image? It’s pretty scary stuff:

Further research by Dove celebrates the fact that over a third of girls cite their mothers as their role models. Great, you might think, it’s good that girls have someone real to emulate, but then you look down the rest of the list, and it’s the usual suspects – Cheryl Cole, Jessie J, Rhinanna… And we all know how I feel about Rhianna as a role model. Where are the political figures? The writers? The scientists? Why are young girls so focussed on role models famous purely on the basis of their looks?

Which leads me to my key question – do campaigns like the Dove Real Beauty campaign, or their self-esteem workshops really do anything to tackle issues around body image, or is it a much deeper rooted problem? Are programmes like these just a drop in the multi-million pound ocean that is the beauty industry, or are Dove trailblazers, leading the way for others?

Answers on the back of an anti-wrinkle cream box please.

You can visit the Dove facebook page for more information on their initiatives to improve body image among young women.



I am always fascinated by what my children think of me as a parent. Whenever we watch Wife Swap I make them place me on the line from one freaky parent to another, always wondering which way my mothering scales are tipping.

It can be hard to get the right balance.

Being a single parent makes it especially hard, as you somehow have to blend the two roles into one – good cop and bad cop become one flakey, inconsistent cop, who will let you eat M&Ms for lunch one day, (peanuts = one of your five a day surely?), and then go mad at you the next when you don’t eat your wholemeal bread crusts.

It is probably a sign of some deeper rooted insecurities, reminiscent of the hours I spent as a teenager fantasising about giving the whole school a compulsory questionnaire to find out exactly what percentage of people liked me.

(That sounds far more disturbing now I’ve written it down. Let’s move quickly on.)

This week though I got the chance to see, quite literally, how Belle sees me, as she drew me this:

Slummy Single Mummy portrait

I rather like it. It has a casual seriousness to it, the peering over the glasses, concentrating hard on who knows what. I love the expression she captures, not bad given we were in a cafe and she was sketching in felt tips.

Do you ever wonder about how your children see you? How would you like them to think of you?


Welcome to a week in tweets. Last week I tweeted as Bee, the week before I was Belle, and I don’t really fancy going back to being boring old me just yet. Monday: did some work, Tuesday: did a bit more work and ate a hobnob – no one really wants to read that do they?

So this week I thought I’d jazz it up a bit, and tweet as the one person whose life I would most like to lead apart from my own. Nancy Drew.

I’ve always loved the titian haired girl detective, and have a shamefully large collection of Nancy Drew books. I love her independence, her sense of adventure, and the fact that she really prefers to solve mysteries in a matching hat and gloves. It’s like a grown up Famous Five with a greater attention to accessories.

Nancy is always full of great advice, whether you’re looking for crime-busting support or relationship guidance, and so this week I’ve put together seven days of top tips from the girl herself, all genuine lines from Nancy Drew adventures. Enjoy!

Monday – When your chum goes undercover, a nice set of calling cards with her alias makes a nice gift. #bff

Tuesday – Though getting stuck at the top of a Ferris wheel can foil your sleuthing plans, it’s a great excuse to enjoy some quality time with your boyfriend.

Wednesday – You can rile up a villain by pretending to throw a treasure off a cliff. 

Thursday – If someone’s trying to buy a house and it suddenly becomes haunted, it’s probably not a coincidence. #justsaying

Friday – You know he’s the right guy for you when he can dismantle a mad scientist’s powerful transmitter and save the world!

Saturday – Sometimes pretending to go into a trance and reveal secrets from the past can elicit a confession from even the most high-handed types.

Sunday – It’s fun to take five from sleuthing for a little swim and a rousing diving contest. #chillaxing

Now it’s your turn. Write your very own week in tweets, add it my linky, and read the others by clicking here. You can tweet as yourself, one of your children, your favourite literary character, (Nancy Drew is literature, I don’t care what you say), whatever takes your fancy! You can even get a  week in tweets badge to go with it.


A few weeks ago I opened the door to someone trying to sell me electricity.

“Can I talk to the person you pays the bills please?” he said.

I was immediately on the defensive. Do I not look like the person who pays the bills? Do I look financially irresponsible? Is it that I’m a woman, and therefore inherently incompetent when it comes to managing money?

I took a breath, realising I was probably being a tad paranoid. At least it was better than a year or so ago when I was asked “Is your mum or dad in?”

“I pay the bills,” I replied, doing my best to look sensible and fiscally wise, “but I’m not interested in changing suppliers. I regularly compare energy prices online thank you.”

“But don’t you want to save money on your gas and electricity?” he asked me, clearly not about to be put off by that old chestnut.

“Yes,” I replied impatiently, “yes I do, which I why I use uSwitch.”

“I think if you give me a minute you’ll find I can save you hundreds of squillions of pounds and make your life more glamorous and arrange for Paul Rudd to be your postman…”

I don’t think he actually said that last bit, but by this point I had tuned out to be honest. I don’t have a problem with sales people in general. It’s a job, I understand that, it has to be done, but why don’t they bloody LISTEN? Yes, try once to persuade me if I give a vague ‘no’ and look easily manipulated, but when I’ve actually given evidence that I’m already getting it cheaper elsewhere, WHAT’S THE POINT?

Give up quick, go to the next door, don’t waste your time on a lost cause like me. Go for elderly women living alone, pretend you’ve just seen a burglar escaping over their back fence, do what you must, just leave me alone.

That’s my advice anyway. Now off you go. That’s right, take your foot out of the door, bye bye…



Do you ever feel like you’re the victim of everyday sexism?

Have you ever been wolf-whistled in the street, or leered over by a gang of builders? Maybe your boss has attempted a drunken fumble, or you’ve been passed over for promotion at work because you have a young family?

Where do we draw the line?

At what point does harmless banter become sexual assault? When does discrimination at work become the stuff of tribunals?

Complain about a wolf-whistle and you risk being labelled a prude, or uptight, admit that you have a problem with normalisation of porn, as I have, and you’re labelled narrow-minded and frigid, but just because soft porn has become so mainstream, and incidences of sexism occur everyday, doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. If anything, its proliferation makes it even more pressing.

Anyway, I’m blathering on. All I really wanted to do was tell you about a new project called ‘Everyday Sexism’, created to draw together women’s daily encounters with sexism. Go and read the stories from other women, add your own, and let’s not be afraid to stand up and say that sexism still exists, and that speaking up about it doesn’t make us all frigid man-haters.


I’ve never really thought of myself as a natural scooter. (As in somebody who scoots. Obviously I know I’m not made of metal, annoying to meet on pavements etc. Although the latter could be true.)

Generally I lack co-ordination. Give me a plate to put away and I’ll manage to bang it on at least three surfaces along the way. I also lack the desire to make any sort of physical effort, apart from netball now of course, and given the choice, would always rather have a little sit down with a cup of tea and a penguin bar.

When I was first offered a mother and daughter toddler scooters combo then, you can imagine my reaction. I was never good at balancing, let alone balancing on a moving board with a tiny steering bar. I thought, no, it will never happen. A short derisive snort, tea sloshed over the keyboard a bit, crumbs everywhere. But then Bee happened to complain about her walk to college and was wishing she had a scooter. What are the chances?

“Wait!” I said, seeing an opportunity to cast myself as caring, attentive mother, ready to attend to her every need, “I will get you a scooter!”

And so my fate was sealed.

Bee hasn’t actually ridden the grown up version to school yet, what with the holidays and all, but Belle and I have been out for many a wholesome family scoot together. OK, that’s a bit of a lie. We have scooted round to the Co-op though to recycle the plastic, (what kind of stupid city council doesn’t have kerbside plastic collections??), but to be honest I’m not sure it was wise to balance two full bags on my handlebars on my first outing.

“HOW DO I STOP??!!” I screamed at Belle as I approached my first kerb.

“Use the brake!” she cried back, rather unhelpfully I thought, from miles ahead already.

The brake apparently is at the back, but taking both feet off the ground at exactly the moment I wanted to have both of them on it seemed foolish in the extreme, so instead I attempted an undignified sort of intermittent scrape with one foot, like you do on a swing when you’re little and want to slow down but are too scared to jump off.

Finally drawing to a halt, I lifted my scooter up the kerb, only to be met with a sharp crack of metal against my ankle bone. Belle meanwhile was loving it – her scooter has three wheels through, and doesn’t attack your ankles when you’re not looking.

Scooting home, without the encumbrance of a dozen empty four pint milk containers was easier, and at points I’d almost go as far as to say I enjoyed it, but I think I might stick to strolling along behind Belle on hers. I realise this makes me officially No Fun At All, but I am 34 and have nearly grown up children, so that’s as it should be.

I’m sure for Bee it will prove really useful, as she does have a bit of a trek to school every day, and Belle was delighted to at last be able to replace her rusty old five year old scooter that frankly, she had become too ashamed to be seen with. I fear though that if I continued with my screaming, foot scrapping, ankle bashing routine it could be me who ends up the embarrassment.


As regular readers may know, I was a teenage mum. Pregnant at 16, I gave birth to Bee a few months after my seventeenth birthday. And I got a degree and everything. Honestly, who’d have thought it?

Today, to prove that yes, there is more than one teenager in the UK who has managed to have a baby and not end up leaving school and relying on Jeremy Kyle as her sole source of income, I have a guest post from  a young mummy called Elle. Her story is pretty shocking, but incredibly moving. When I first read it I actually cried, which was a bit awkward as I was in a cafe at the time, but it bought back such powerful memories for me, and made me so proud, even though we’ve never met. It was all a bit overwhelming.

Please make Elle very welcome, and go check out her blog, Tales of a Young Mummy, if you want to read more teenage mum stories. We’re not all bad you know.

I’m seventeen. Just over a year ago I found out that I was pregnant. 33 weeks pregnant. This, of course, came as a shock. I didn’t know what to do, where to go. If it wasn’t for the support of my lovely form tutor at school I’m not sure what I would have done.

I suppose my story begins within the innocence of a Triple Science lesson. My form tutor knocked on the classroom door, “Come in!” my science teacher called.

“Can I have a quick word with Elle?” She asked, “Grab your stuff El and follow me”. So I did as I was told and totted off behind her. A few moments later I found myself being offered a chair in the company of the student services ladies.

“Elle, there’s no easy way of saying this, but we’re worried. You’re meant to be flying to America next month, but we’re concerned you won’t be able to go…”

“What? Of course I can fly…” I was confused, the following month I was supposed to be going to Florida with my boyfriend and his family. Why did these ladies think I wouldn’t be able to go?

“Elle, we think you’re pregnant.” Of course, in that situation I didn’t know what to say. So I said the obvious: “How?” I didn’t mean how did I get pregnant!

After they explained to me that they had seen me gain a bit of weight and had noticed that my boobs had grown I was still confused and wondered how they were so confident that meant I was pregnant? One of them was trying for a baby herself and had been reading all the baby books.

So now that was cleared up in my mind, what was I to do? My form tutor made me call Tyler, my boyfriend, who was on home study that afternoon. I met him and we walked into town to Superdrug. We were overwhelmed by the amount of pregnancy tests on the shelves – which should we chose?

Sat on the edge of the bath, wondering what the hell I was meant to do with this stick in my hand was the weirdest feeling I’ve ever experienced. I can’t explain it. I did the test. Within seconds, I didn’t even get a chance to get up off the toilet, the colours changed. It was true. I was pregnant. “Tyler, look.”

“But it’s not 5 minutes yet…SHIT” I wasn’t ready to be a mum.

The next 3 weeks are a blur in my mind. So much happened. Went to doctors, I was told 20 weeks pregnant. Went for scan, I was told 33 weeks pregnant.

3 weeks later, at 36 weeks gestation, I was sat in a labour suite at 4am. At first I was told I wasn’t in labour. Just as water was being run for the birthing pool the midwife asked if she could just check if I was dilated. I didn’t much like the sound of that! Minutes later, my waters had broken and I was pushing. By 6.20am I was laid with my beautiful baby girl in my arms. Willow Lillah Beere, weighing 7lb 2oz.

A year later and we’ve been through a lot. We’ve spent a total of about 2 weeks in the children’s ward at our local hospital. Willow has had whooping cough, bronchiolitis 3 times, a swollen abdomen which was thought to be a gluten intolerance, a burnt hand and a perforated ear drum. The list is never-ending, but she’s as beautiful as ever.

I went back to school when Willow was 3 weeks old to study for my exams. I sat all of them, except for drama as Willow was in hospital with whooping cough!

I came out of my GCSE’s with 5 A grades and 4 B’s. So anyone that assumes all teen mums are useless might want to think again. We’re not all like that you know!

I now studying for my A-levels. It is hard with a one year old to look after as well, but I’ll get through it. I want to build the best future I can for myself and Willow. And yes, I am still with Tyler. He’s been through everything with us the past year, he’s been my rock. Well, my Mum has too, I’m still living at home with her, and I’m so grateful for that. Without my parents and Tyler around I wouldn’t be coping anywhere near as well.

I have a huge support network around me, and I am so thankful for everyone. I wouldn’t be where I am today, on my way to success, without my family.

Tyler is working full-time as an accountant and gave uni a miss so he could be at home to look after his daughter, and work to provide for her. He doesn’t live with us, but he does live just down the road so we do get to see him every day, and he gets to see his beautiful little Willow.

We have our first family holiday coming up in July, and oh I’m so excited! It’s only to Butlins, but we get to spend the whole weekend together!

Much love,
Young Mummy xxx


This month, as I was just reminded on twitter, not that I’d forgotten or anything, I am hosting a Mental Health Carnival.

The Mental Health Carnival is a monthly round-up of mental health related blog posts, started by Carol from Dance Without Sleeping and hosted by a different blogger every month.

On April 27th I will be publishing a selection of the best posts from across the blogosphere, which makes it sound terribly exclusive, as though I will be reading EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD and then choosing my favourites, but actually it’s not like that at all. If you have written, or plan on writing, a relevant post before April 25th and would like to see it featured, all you have to do is email me the link, and I will include it.

You see, not that exclusive after all is it?

Even if you’ve never written about mental health before, this could be your chance. Perhaps you have a personal story you’d like to tell, thoughts you’d like to share, random words you want to jot down on a scrap of paper and scan, it’s up to you.

Just drop me a line before April 25th* and leave the rest to me.


*This is my birthday by the way. Just saying.


Happy Easter everyone!

I hope you’re having a lovely day, and that getting up in the middle of the night the hide the eggs you’d forgotten to hide last night wasn’t too much of a wrench.

As you sit relaxed on your sofa, Lindt smeared across your face, why not check out these slightly less tasty treats, courtesy of Pets Lady.*

These are a few of my favourites:


Yesterday I read back through some diary entries from last year. I use ‘diaries’ in the loosest possible sense of the word – unpunctuated ramblings would probably be a better description.

What struck me though was the variation in my handwriting over just the space of a week. I can remember how I felt in this particular week, and my handwriting, even without reading the words, gives you an instant picture of my frame of mind.

One entry, wich I remember writing late at night in a mild state of anxiety, is barely legible. Letters are scrawled, racing to get onto the paper, tumbling over each other to make themselves heard and getting muddled, unsure of which words they are meant to be forming.

The spaces between each word are blurred and haphazard, and the pressure is uneven – big splotches of ink in some places, faint traces of letters in others. The words themselves form nervous, short sentences, frequently stopping and starting, changing their mind and starting again. The message is clear, both visually and in the language itself – I am uncertain. I do not know how to proceed.

What does my handwriting mean?

Another entry, a few days later, is completely different. It is as though the words have said to themselves ‘right girls, we need to pull ourselves together and stand up straight. No more running about all over the place, let’s get things sorted.’

Letters are formed with slow careful strokes, like an eight year old writing in best. Many of the words are written in clear, bold print, none of the letters joined together.

The entry is less a stream of consciousness and more of a list, setting myself tasks to achieve, wanting to proves that I am in control, of my handwriting if nothing else…


A couple of weeks ago I was tagged in a meme by The Fabulous Mom Guide. The subject of the meme was ‘ten things I tell myself every day’

This was a tricky one for me. My internal monologue witters on incessantly, but is it consistent, does it tell me the same things day in day out? I had to listen for a while to find out, and this is what I came up with – ten things I think about at various times most days:

1. When I first wake up – “OK chubby, today is going to be the day you show a bit of self-control and don’t eat any crap.”

2. On walking up to my study – “Gosh, there really is a lot of dust on those skirting boards. I should do something about that.”

3. About 11am – “Just one biscuit really wouldn’t hurt, you have worked very hard today so far.”

4. About 11.05am – “Step away from the biscuit tin. No, not one more. OK, one more, and then put the lid on and walk away. WALK AWAY!!”

5. At intervals during the day – “I really must write that post today about the ten things I think about every day.”

6. On hearing the washing machine beeping but being in my study and too lazy to walk down and switch it off – “I will just let it beep once more and then it will stop. Gah! Once more. Pause. Gah! Once more. Pause. GAH!”

7. On walking back up to my study, having turned the washing machine off – “I wish I hadn’t had a biscuit while I was down there. Those skirting boards are really dusty.”

8.From 3.30pm onwards – “I probably should go downstairs and do something wholesome with the children. I’ll just have a little look on twitter first.”

9. Around 5.30pm – “Goodness, what happened there? I really must go downstairs now.”

10. Lying in bed – “Tomorrow will be the day I clean the skirting boards and don’t eat any biscuits.”

As you can see, my mind really is a thrilling place to be.

Now I have to pass the meme on, to other people with more interesting thoughts than mine. I’m going to tag three very lovely new friends – Bristol bloggers who I have met for the first time in the last couple of weeks – Ella at Purple Mum, Hilary at Bishopston Mum and Kath at Knitty Mummy.

What thoughts dominate your brain on a daily basis? Please tell me they’re as dull as mine…


I bought a scratch card this week.

The urge comes upon me every few months. I try to resist, as it feels like a bit of a common thing to do*, and I fear it’s a slippery slope then to playing bingo online during the day and appearing on Jeremy Kyle, but I only ever do it in secret, with only me in my company, so I think it’s OK. That IS what makes things OK isn’t it?

Maybe it’s the secret part that makes it more exciting, but there is something about those few minutes before you scratch that are totally detached from reality. Suddenly your life is at a crossroads. Under that shiny coating could be £100,000. A whole new future could be waiting for you.

I sat on a wall on the way home to scratch it. (Another rather a common thing to do surely?) I imagined for a moment what I might do with £100,000, a million pounds, ten million pounds. I know you can’t win that much, but I feel it’s good to aim high.

What sort of house would I buy? Would I retire to the country, and fill a beautiful rose covered cottage with pine furniture and doilies? Or would I jet over to New York and spend my days sat surrounded by shoes and cocktails, gazing out over the city skyline through my floor to ceiling windows?

Just for a minute, the world is my oyster.

And then I can bear it no longer. I get out what is surely the luckiest penny in my purse and start scratching.

£50, £10, £1,000. That would do me.

£100,000, £20, £100,000. Yes! I’m going to be rich!

£5, £5,000, £1,000. Oh. No I’m not.

I shove the card in my back pocket and go home. Maybe next time.

*Apologies to regular scratch card buyers, I can’t help it, it feels chavvy.