should you have kids if you hate children

Can you be a parent if you hate children? It’s a bit of a weird question I guess. Technically of course you can have children – perhaps the question really is should you, or maybe even why would you?

I’ve been thinking about it because of a conversation I had recently on Twitter. I’d been harping on about my midlife unravelling and a man replied telling me that his life wasn’t quite where he had expected it to be by this point in his life. He had never been married, he told me, no girlfriend, no kids, no pets. He spent a lot of his time alone he explained.

I asked how he felt about this – was it that he wanted all of those things, or was he actually quite happy with how things were, but feeling under pressure to tick the boxes.

His reply surprised me. View Post

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I was gifted these treatments in exchange for this review

‘I keep being drawn back to your womb,’ said Lisa, her fingers exploring the soles of my feet, ‘does that mean anything to you?’

It didn’t. But that was a good sentence wasn’t it?

‘There’s also a spot in your lower back, left hand side,’ she said, ‘that feels like it might be painful.’

I started a bit at that, as I actually had my left fist discreetly placed under a spot on my lower back that, ever since my car got hit by an ambulance about 20 years ago, has hurt if I lie on my back for more than about five minutes.

In case you hadn’t figured it out, I was having my first ever go at reflexology, not a session with an overly sympathetic foot fetishist. What neither of us knew was that as she held my feet in her hands, connecting strongly with my womb, Bee was at the maternity hospital having an injection to start inducing labour. Coincidence maybe, but then I do feel sick if Belle has a migraine, so who knows.

The reflexology was part of a selection of treatments that I was gifted by Beaux Health and Wellbeing and Tia Brown Natural Aesthtics. Beaux is a centre on The Crescent in Taunton, owned by a lovely woman called Lauren, and Tia offers advanced skincare treatments at Beaux as one of several locations across Bristol and Somerset.

When I was in my 20s and early 30s I was never really a spa kind of girl. Being poor probably had something to do with it, but I just never found the idea of being massaged or anything like that relaxing. I did get gifted a massage as a birthday present once and I didn’t like it at all – I was so tense, lying there wondering which bit of me she was going to touch next. I don’t think I quite got it. I was always rubbish at small talk too. It’s only recently that I’ve started half enjoying going to the hairdresser.

As I’ve got older though, and perhaps a little less self-conscious and better at chatting, I’ve started to ease myself into the idea of beauty and spa treatments. It turns out that lying down in a darkened room full of lovely smelling oils while someone undoes all the knots in your back can actually be pretty nice.

So, it was with excitement rather than 26 year old me’s anxious reluctance that I rocked up to Beaux.

Beaux Taunton View Post

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Spoiler alert – I WILL give away the ending 

Toy Story has always had an uncanny way of mirroring my own life.

The first Toy Story film came out in 1995, the year Bee was born – an introduction to the world of parenting and children and toys when, let’s be honest, I was basically still a child myself. 1999 saw the release of Toy Story 2 when Bee was four years old and the prime age for imaginative play.

Then we had a break, and in 2010 Toy Story 3 swept in, just as Bee was gearing up to leave school and start college, with a film all about kids growing up and leaving home. Andy was a teenager now, moving on. He didn’t need Woody and the other toys anymore. They were being left behind, their job done, but what next for them? Who were they without Andy?

God. I saw that film THREE TIMES in the cinema and I cried every damn time.

And then Toy Story 4.

I didn’t know what to expect, and initially I was kind of disappointed.

‘I don’t buy it,’ I said dismissively to Belle as we left the cinema. ‘No way would Woody have left Bonnie and his friends, that’s just not his style.’

Nonplussed would have been a good word to describe me. I just didn’t get it. It seemed so out of character for Woody when his whole life until now had been about taking care of others. He lives for being someone’s toy. That’s his JAM.

It was only about an hour later, while I was doing the washing up and thinking about it some more, that it struck me – that was the POINT wasn’t it? Woody HAS spent his whole life looking after other people, leading people, taking care of them, and it wasn’t enough any more.

Woody has had his very own midlife unravelling.

Toy Story 4 midlife crisis

(Catch up with my own midlife unravelling here if you’ve not read it already.) View Post

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Okay, so I’m not going to go as far as a rebrand or anything, but if you follow me on social media AT ALL then you cannot have failed to notice that one week ago today Bee gave birth to a baby boy! Does it seem ages since I teased you with the scan photo? It feels like a REALLY long time to me.

It turned out to be even more exciting than I was expecting it to be, as Bee hadn’t realised she’d be allowed two people in the delivery room, and so when she found out, she asked me to be there.

Casually, like ‘if you fancy it.’

I definitely DID fancy it.

I’ve actually always wanted to see a baby be born. It’s weird, because although I’ve done it twice obviously, you don’t get to really SEE it. You’re so involved in the searing pain, ripping of flesh etc, that you can’t exactly concentrate on watching and marvelling at the miracle of birth.

Bee was absolutely amazing, as I knew she would be. Although I know she worries a lot about things, she has this incredible way of handling stress or pain, where she just seems to focus inside herself and go all quiet and calm and powerful looking. She did it when she had her skull drilled into, and she did it again last weekend.

Bee’s partner was an absolute star too – they make an adorable couple and he couldn’t be a better daddy.

Anyway, here he is, on the day he was born:

 

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I was on the brink of joining an amateur dramatics group and auditioning for a role in the Christmas production of Aladdin when I finally concluded that I am in the midst of some kind of midlife crisis.

I’d volunteered as a Brownie leader a month or so before, which I’d let slide because I actually like making peppermint creams and hanging out with children who still find joy in life, but pantomime? No.

The trouble I’ve had is that at no specific point do I feel like I am actually IN crisis. No switches have been flipped, I’ve not lost it in Waitrose and swept a shelf of artisan artichokes onto the floor or anything, and yet… for quite a while now something has been OFF.

When I tried to explain it to a friend at the weekend it sounded kind of lame.

‘I just feel kind of BLAH,’ I said, ‘like the stuff that used to feel meaningful just doesn’t. Every day is FINE – I get on with things and I enjoy stuff on one level, but I have no idea what I want to do or where I want to go. I kind of thought by now that I would KNOW, that something would have clicked in. But what if it doesn’t? I used to feel like I had time to decide things and make stuff happen, but what if this is it? I feel like I’ve trapped myself.’

I sighed a bit.

‘I don’t know,’ I said, ‘I just don’t know. I swing from the urge, albeit brief usually, to make a grand life plan and act upon it, to just wanting to run away in a mobile library.’

It sounded kind of whingy to be honest.

Midlife unravelling

Mood courtesy of Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Luckily it turns out that I’m not alone in feeling like this. My friend confided that she’s felt the same for a while now, like she just wants to jack everything in and move to France and write novels and not think about anything. What I found really interesting is that although we are similar ages, we are at very different life stages with our families, and so it can’t be just about children growing up.

‘Maybe I’m having a midlife crisis,’ I said.

‘It sounds,’ she said, ‘like more of a midlife unravelling.’ View Post

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Advertisement is association with Thicker Fuller Hair™

I’ve always had fine hair.

As a teenager I would read hair tips in Just Seventeen magazine and spend ages lying on my bed with my head hung backwards over the age, trying to encourage blood to flow to my scalp. At the same time I’d be reading the problem pages and looking at the ‘Position of the Fortnight’ in More and wondering what it would be like to actually have sex with another person. Like how would you even go about it? You’d have to actually talk properly to a boy for a start. I couldn’t get my head around it, hung upside down or otherwise.

(Funnily enough, not long after I drafted this post I found myself talking to some women about More and Position of the Fortnight. How is that feature the only thing people ever remember from the whole magazine?)

Over 25 years later and I do less of the head dangling, although I do still wonder sometimes about how to talk to (now grown up) boys, and my hair is still just as fine. In fact, if anything I probably have even less of it now, what with the impending *whispers* menopause. Hopefully I have few years yet, but I’ve definitely noticed my hair getting dryer, so it’s probably only a matter of time before it starts thinning too.

(Yay! Life is so kind.)

Fortunately there may be something that can ease the thinning hair crisis at least, if not help with the men thing – a new naturally-derived haircare range called Thicker Fuller Hair™. Clue’s in the name with this one isn’t it? While I can’t afford a personal stylist waving products and a professional hair dryer at me every morning, this is the next best thing.

How to get thicker hair

If you have thin hair, or are worried about hair loss, you’re not alone. View Post

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I’m going to tell you an embarrassing secret – when I was younger, I used to count my friends.

When I say younger, I don’t mean like eight or anything, I mean into my early twenties. And when I say count I mean actually count, on my fingers.

I wasn’t what you’d really call a popular child. I was precocious and bossy and a bit of a know it all if I’m honest. Adults liked me, my peers, not so much. Even into my teens, if I knew the answer to something in class, I wanted the teacher and my classmates to know it.

As a result, I didn’t have a lot of friends. Basically two – one at school, one out of school.

Things did start to pick up when I was 15 and my mum inexplicably let me have an outrageous house party, (possibly pity?), and then I turned 16 and somehow, out of the blue, got a boyfriend. (He didn’t go to my school, which definitely worked in my favour. I met him quite literally sat on the street.) Then a few months later I was at college, and pregnant, and probably had a certain mid-90s teen pregnancy glamour about me, sat in the common room, my charity shop Bob Marley t-shirt stretched across my bump. View Post

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Advertisement in association with Smart Home Week

Can you believe it’s a whole year since I bombarded you on social media with a load of gadgets as part of Smart Home Week? It feels like only yesterday that I was showing you how I could switch the heating off from the middle of town, or make a thunderstorm with my lightbulbs.

It was a really interesting week to take part in actually as I’m not a natural when it comes to technology and I was curious to see how easy the various gadgets would be to set up and use and whether or not they would really add value to my life. As part of the week I had a go with a Ring video doorbell, a tadosmart heating system, Philips Hue lightbulbs, a Yale Conexis L1 smart door lock, a Yale Smart Home Alarm, the Samsung SmartThings system and Google Home.

I know right? My house was officially smarter than I was.

Smart Home Week

It looks so innocent doesn’t it?

What I discovered though, which is kind of the whole point of Smart Home Week, is that smart home technology doesn’t have to be scary or difficult to use. In fact, most of the technologies I tested were incredibly simple – pretty much you switch them on and they install themselves. Some things, like the smart lock and the heating system, needed a bit of actual, physical installation, but once you’ve done that, you’re good to go.

(I actually really enjoyed installing the tadosmart heating system myself. It involved doing a bit of wiring to take out the old thermostat and put in the new one, but the instructions were VERY clear and I felt a huge sense of achievement at the end.)

I wrote a pretty comprehensive introduction to each of the technologies at the time, so that’s probably a good place to start for an overview, but of course one year is a long time in the world of smart homes, so it’s worth having a quick look at what’s changed. Then I’m going to focus on a few of my favourite products, to tell you a bit more about how we’ve used them over the last year. Also, a quick side, I didn’t get to try a smart alarm clock but they’re worth a look too – check out the best ones here. If you’re thinking about indoor cameras, check out this Nest Cam Indoor Security Camera review. View Post

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It’s a couple of weeks now since Playgroups and Prosecco came out in paperback and whenever I see people I know they want to hear all about it.

‘How’s the book going?’ They ask. ‘How are sales?’

‘I don’t know,’ I tell them, and they look confused, as though I should be getting hourly updates from supermarkets up and down the country.

‘Oh right,’ they say, ‘how do you find out then? Haven’t you asked?’

‘No. I haven’t.’

And that’s that.

To be honest, I don’t think I want to know. But then also I REALLY want to know. Only if I know ONCE then I can’t go back and NOT know, and what if no one likes me? I’d want to not know that. It’s so stressful.

It feels very much like getting a new boyfriend.

For the record, I am BAD at having new boyfriends. I’m an absolute sucker for it mind – the thrill of a new relationship, falling in love, cups of tea in bed, the excitement and newness – and I think I’m a decent girlfriend – thoughtful and fun and kind and what not – but I also find it quite difficult. I’m normally very laid back and relaxed about stuff, definitely not a worrier or an over-thinker, but relationships trigger a vulnerability in me and can feel quite overwhelming.

I swing wildly between desperately wanting to know how someone feels about me EVERY MINUTE, and then ignoring them because who cares, I don’t need them anyway. (I’m a CATCH.) In fact, when I was at the Swindon Spring Festival last week, I met the lovely Laura Mucha, who has written a book about love called Love Factually* and she sent me a copy afterwards so that I could read up about my potentially ‘disorganised attachment style.’

(‘Don’t Google it,’ she told me, which sounded ominous.)

Jo Middleton

‘Haha! No of course I don’t care that it took you 2 hours and 37 minutes to reply to me, even though we were in the middle of a conversation.’

Where was I going with this?

Oh yes.

My point is that while in most aspects of my life I am very secure and confident and generally awesome, love is not always one, and it seems that publishing might be the other.

It’s weird, because I’ve been writing here for 10 years and never particularly been bothered about who reads it, but there is something about the fact of the physical book, being in real life shops, that makes it different. You can’t change it – you can’t go back and edit it once it’s on a shelf – and that can be unsettling, even when you try your best to be super cool and professional.

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This week I went to Swindon.

I know, I’m so glam.

I actually went to speak at the Swindon Spring Festival – my first literary engagement since publication day – and it was very exciting because I had a dressing room with my name on, with lights around the mirror, and I stood on a STAGE and showed off with my book.

It was a lot of fun.

Playgroups and Prosecco Jo Middleton

Image by Fernando Bagué, via Swindon Spring Festival

One of the questions I was asked though, the first question in fact, kind of threw me for a minute.

‘I’m interested to know,’ said Matt, who was hosting the session, ‘why you write?’

Well. That’s a big question isn’t it? View Post

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I’m not honestly sure why I added ‘read a Mills and Boon’ to my list of 50 things to do before 50. I guess because I would consider myself a wide reader, and yet here was a massive chunk of writing that I had completely ignored. I may as well admit that it was pure snobbery – I imagined they’d be bad, and I didn’t want to waste my time with them.

I didn’t want to be that person though, dismissing something without even giving it a try, so I did a bit of research, (i.e. spent three minutes Googling ‘best Mills and Boon writers’), and settled on this second hand Regency Christmas trilogy. (I love Christmas.)

Mills and Boon reviews

As you may have deduced from the title, these are historical romances, which I’m imagining basically means a lot less sex that the modern ones. In one of these stories the hero has to marry the heroine simply because he’s caught touching her leg in a medical, if unorthodox, capacity.

I was okay with this though, as I’m not massively into reading erotic fiction. I think it’s REALLY hard, (pun intended), to make sex sound sexy when you’re describing the nuts (again, intended) and bolts of it. I’d much rather something a bit subtler – sexiness implied – and use my imagination. I do think too that there can be just as much erotic charge in a meaningful exchange of looks as in a throbbing member being thrust vigorously anywhere – in real life as well as in writing.

So there I was, Regency Mills and Boon trilogy in hand, ready to be unimpressed. View Post

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As you may have noticed, but probably haven’t because, let’s face it, you have more important things to think about, I’ve been pretty quiet on the old blog front over the last few weeks.

It’s because last week – Thursday to be precise – was the paperback launch of my novel, Playgroups and Prosecco. For a month or so beforehand I’d been feeling a bit weird, kind of unmotivated and despondent and like I wasn’t really sure what I was doing with my life. I was spending quite a bit of time imagining myself dying alone, surrounded by cats, and was worrying that I didn’t have a LIFE PLAN.

It turns out that this was just pre-book launch stress, because as soon as that was done, suddenly I didn’t care any more that I didn’t have a 5 year plan or an investment portfolio or anything – it was enough again just to have pretty hanging plants in the garden and nice shaped mugs. (I am quite particular about the shape of my mugs, but I take a lot of pleasure in that, so it’s fine.)

You’d have thought really that the book launch anxiety dreams would have given it away, but I am rubbish as REALISING things, even when they seem obvious. I’m like it every month with my period – ‘oh THAT’S why I wanted to kill somebody yesterday’ – and have even been surprised in the past a couple of times by people telling me they loved me, like I was apparently meant to know we were anything but friends.

Anyway, basically I’m kind of slow on the uptake, and I was worried, but then loads of people turned up to the book launch event and Waterstones sold out and had to dismantle the window display to get more copies, and everything was okay again.

Hooray!

So, I just wanted to say thank you really. Thank you to everyone who came along and made me realise that I probably won’t end up actually getting eaten by my cats after my death, and thank you to everyone who has bought Playgroups and Prosecco or posted pictures of it spotted in supermarkets and bookshops, or said nice things on Amazon. Or any things at all actually, because I don’t expect everyone to think it’s amazing, and I appreciate people just taking a chance on it, and the time to share their thoughts.

Thank you to Mandy and Keiran at Waterstones in Taunton for hosting us and making it such an enjoyable occasion, even though we overwhelmed them slightly with the amount of prosecco we were able to get through in such a short amount of time. Thank you to I Heart Wines for the prosecco, thanks to Ebury for publishing me.

Thanks for coming guys!

(That was basically the full extent of my ‘speech’ in case you were worrying that you’d missed some kind of Olivia Colman style extravaganza.)

Here are some photos so that even if you couldn’t make it, you can imagine me mingling, clutching a glass nervously, trying to look glamorous.

And no, no sponsorship deal with McVities, but believe me it’s not for want of trying.

Playgroups and Prosecco Jo Middleton View Post

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