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pro choice AND pro life: is it okay to be both?

30 Oct

The older I get the less comfortable I feel about abortion.

There I said it.

I’ve struggled with this one since I had my children, and I’ve felt too ashamed to say it out loud.

The problem is – pro life campaigners with blood dripping from their screaming placards? – this isn’t me.  I am wholeheartedly behind a woman’s freedom of choice in all areas of her life. And it really is only through sheer luck that I never had to go through something like this myself.  There would have been no question what choice I would’ve made in my teens or early twenties.

But ten, twenty years later and a mum to two boys?  Having experienced two pregnancies,  felt a life grow inside me, giving birth to that life and seeing them develop, from beans to sentient beings with their own quirks and mannerisms and thoughts? I find this really really difficult to reconcile in my head with the idea of termination.

I am not against abortion, I know that.  I also know that hand on heart the situations where I find it acceptable as an answer to a lifestyle problem has become more and more limited as I’ve got older.

This is a difficult post to write, because I have many, many friends who I know have been through this, and I did, and still do support them 100% in the decisions they’ve made.

It’s all a bit of a mess – in my head and in my heart. I feel something but want to feel another.

But that’s okay, isn’t it? Would it be easier, or more acceptable, or more believable to be one way or another? I’m not sure a decision like this should EVER be as simple as that.

Mummy’s dirty laundry: A week-long M2M confessional

19 Sep

When I started this blog I was ready to bare my arse. I was tired of thinking everyone else was always doing a better job. Of endlessly cataloguing all the things I “should” have been doing, the cakes I “ought” to have been baking, the hours of television I “shouldn’t” have had my kids watching. I was ready to just be who I was, to come clean, to bare all. So I wrote this.

Recently I decided it was time to recapture this essence of Milk. To talk about all the corners we cut as mums, women, wives – the unquestionable, unthinkable, unhygienic things we do behind closed doors. So I have enlisted the help of some of my reprobate favourite bloggers.

So welcome to a week-long M2M confessional.  And absolutely no writing from me. Enjoy!

*****

The lovely Very Bored Housewife describes herself as “Plodding (her) way through Catalan life, waywardly straddling three languages, 2 cultures and a lack of decent cheese.” Now, anyone with a penchant for decent cheese is okay by me, plus her writing is funny, honest and blunt.  No nonsense is good nonsense in my book….

Laid Back Parenting:  It’s a lot less bovver than a hover(mum)

When Henrietta asked if would like to write a guest post for her, I immediately said yes.  However, when she said it was about slack parenting I was deeply offended.  Me?  Cut corners in the parenting department, what on earth made her think that I do anything like that?

Anyway, indignant I swallowed the last of the biscuits that I’d hidden from my son and put the wrapper in the bin (underneath the empty rice packet so he wouldn’t spot it), and wondered briefly where he was.

It was OK, he was in the middle of a marathon session on the Wii, he was on level 6.3 or 63 (I kind of vague out when he talks about such things) on Donkey Kong.  “Fish fingers all right for your dinner?” I enquired, poking my head around the corner.  “I had fish fingers last night Mummy” he replied “Can I have spaghetti and meatballs?”

What, a dinner that needs preparing from scratch?  erm…. “We’ve ran out of meatballs.”  I reply, firing up the oven.

Yeah OK, so shoot me, I am a terrible mum.  I don’t so much as take short cuts, I’m just of the idle persuasion.  I hate doing crafty things, board games bore me, and pushing my son on the swings makes me want to stab my eyes out.

Thankfully, due to a combination of nature and non-nurture my son is a fine boy who can happily amuse himself, the time we do spend together is spent laughing and giggling and doing things that we both enjoy.

I don’t think that this is because I cut corners; to be honest cutting corners would demand that I stop and weigh up the pros and cons of my choices and who the hell has time for that?   I just do what comes naturally and the path of least resistance, least work and least stress is the path that I find myself walking down.

I could no more be a helicopter mum than I could be a perfect housewife, stuff gets done when it needs to (or more likely if it’s to be seen by visitors), the rest of the time I let things slide.  Sure, I’d love to have a show home that’s sparkling clean at all times, but we’d all have to live in the garden and only come in the house if we’re wearing those plastic jumpsuits and shoe covers that you see forensic crime scene experts wear on the telly.

I don’t hover over my child, watching  his every move, hell God blessed me with a adequately stuffed ass that’s just perfect for sitting on, why disappoint him?  My boy has structure at school, at home he can be more feral.  He gets fed when he’s hungry, cleaned when he’s dirty and cuddles and kisses on demand—mine and his.   The only clocks we go by are the ones run by his stomach and his tired eyes.

I think I am supposed to admit to a catalogue of mothering errors, OK so there was the time he fell off the bed as a baby (onto a hard tiled floor), I am a year behind his inoculations because I clean forgot to look in his little blue book for the dates, quite often a large part of his daily fruit and veg allowance comes in the form of dried fruit which he snaffles from the kitchen himself and he regularly get his outfits from the bottom of the ironing pile.  I’m sure I make text book parenting mistakes on a daily basis but I doubt I could change the way I parent if I tried.

Anyway, it’s all character building stuff, wouldn’t you say?

Thanatophobia

5 Aug

A couple of years ago I went through a period of acting a bit strangely.

I’d been in the middle of a third life crisis for a while , and I think in hindsight I was also struggling after becoming a mum the second time round. Little Milk had been testing to say the least – “a big character” some might say. “A frickin lunatic” I’d proffer.  Off the career ladder and looking after pooing/screaming kids 24/7 and I found myself asking “is this it?”. Somewhere in the midst of all that soul searching and quizzing and introspection the subject of my own mortality came up, as if it was the only major milestone left I could think of. Not exactly rational. But I was hooked.

I just couldn’t stop thinking about what it was going to be like when the time came, how it might happen, and when.  I also became unhealthily fixated on obituary sites. Now if you’ve never visited a site like “Gone too soon” (my favourite) let me explain. They’re a chance for people to write memorials to the recently deceased, or to commemorate the anniversary of an old passing, or to mourn the loss of a baby born pre-term.  The title is a clue to the fact that most of the deaths are unexpected, sudden, shocking; due to illness (usually cancer), accidents (fires, car crashes) and a really surprising amount to murder. Many are described in horrific detail and many put to music, most commonly “Every breath I take” by The Police. Needless to say they are heart-wrenching, deeply upsetting and reflect a horrible part of life that you usually try to ignore.  That is, evidently, unless you are me.

For a while it was all I thought about, and it scared the shit out of me.

Thankfully there was some forced intervention this obsession slowed and I got on with living.

In any case, when my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer I was a bit worried to say the least. I expected my fear of death to my dragged up again and to find myself rocking back and forth in a darkened room, curtains billowing and Police on the stereo at full blast.  But I didn’t, and I haven’t.

Actually I’ve been pretty sane. In fact I was thinking today, it doesn’t scare me anymore, the death stuff. I think the thing is, the more you cope with, the less you fear. It’s somehow easier to put it in perspective and be stoical. Now I just find myself thinking – “Either there’ll be nothing and I won’t know any different (in which case, duh, get over it), or I’ll get to see my mum again”.  And that last bit just makes me smile. Wouldn’t that be something.

Thanatophobia “An intense fear of death”.

Next post: Not about death. I PROMISE!

Generally bad knowledge

9 Jul

I have no general knowledge. That’s slightly untrue. I know the exact calorific content of various bakery items, the name of all of Keith Sweat’s albums in the 1980s, the capital of Outer Mongolia, oh, and the mating ritual of the brown garden snail. But that really is pretty much it.

I’ve shamed myself on too many occasions to mention. I thought Jamaica was an island off Africa, that Bing Crosby was a black dude, didn’t know HP sauce was named after the Houses of Parliament (despite the big fat logo on the, erm, front), and certainly never guessed that pineapples didn’t grow on trees.

And these are the ones I’m prepared to mention.

I usually avoid intellectual conversation for fear of looking stupid. I’m okay with logic or philosophical thinking, but fact-based knowledge? World geography or European history? I’ll suddenly develop a severe case of weak bladder.

So I’m on a mission to get high brow. Might have had something to do with not being able to keep up with my 5 yr-old’s schooling.  I even picked up a copy of The Economist yesterday. No i didn’t buy it, someone had left it with their half drunk flat white at Caffe Nero. I wonder if THEY got past the first page.

So what embarrassing things did you only learn as an adult? What crucial pieces of world geography did your class learn while you were snogging Tony behind the bike sheds? Clearly I was off smoking in the toilets when they covered herbacious perennials of Southern America.

Oh, and the snail? The pair caress each other with their tentacles and then the male snail pierces the skin of its partner with a ‘love dart’ to provide a favourable environment for his snail sperm.  Ah sweet.

Pot.Kettle.Black.

7 Jul

Image courtesy of http://3.bp.blogspot.com

As you know, I love to write. It’s my hobby, my passion, my solace. Problem is, I’m rubbish at reading. I haven’t read more than a handful of books since I left university over 10 years ago. I did an English Literature degree and all that forced reading, analysing, summarising – it just took all the enjoyment out of it. So since then reading has felt like a bit of a chore.  Shame really.

Embarrasingly, it’s the same with reading other people’s blogs. If you haven’t grabbed me in the first few sentences you’ve lost me. Even when I’m pretty interested in the subject matter, I’m always prone to a bit of skimming. My attention span is rubbish. In fact I can think of only a handful of posts I’ve actually read word for word. Taken in the detail of the language, the complexity of the argument.

The thought of someone skimming MY posts upsets me. Carefully crafted, meticulous in word and description – it’d be like someone smothering my home-cooked meal in ketchup. (Something Mr Milk IS prone to doing). But I’m not stupid; of course people skim my posts, many won’t even be arsed to open them.  I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, especially over the past few months. “I didn’t sign up for this depressing shit!” (an actual reason given by a work colleague for unfollowing me within 2 days of joining). And it’s painfully obvious when someone hasn’t read your posts properly. They’ve guessed the subject matter from the title, and totally missed the mark with their comment, sometimes with cringeworthy results. “Well done on the weight loss!” when the post was actually about the agony of putting it all back on 2 months later.

And I know I’ve done this a few times myself on other people’s blogs. I think it’s quite unforgiveable, and I hate it, and I do it all the time.

This kind of total hypocrisy follows me round quite a bit.  I frequently have greater expectations for other people than I ever manage to meet myself. Like being appalled at the childminder when you pick your kids up and they’re glued to the television AGAIN, like your own house isn’t a bona fide movie theatre. Or you go tutting at your husband for failing to wash the dishes before stacking them in the dishwasher, and then he points out that he was in fact out for dinner the night before and this was all your handiwork. Or wincing in disbelief at seeing another mother fly off the handle at her children with a bit too much menace, before your own raging banshee is unleashed later when you spy a chocolate fingermark on your cream blinds.

So come on, what expectations do you have of other people that you frequently and miserably fail to reach yourself?

What kind of mother?

23 Jun

As I find myself running down the street, book bag in one hand, drink, drawings and dirty socks in the other, desparately trying to keep up with my two sons on scooters as they career down the road with brick wall on one side and bustling traffic on the other, all I can think over and over is “What am I doing? What kind of mother lets her sons do this?”

Am I in control? Only just.

When I catch sight of their mud splattered hands as they eat chips and beans with their fingers, delightedly licking the grimy ketchup from the tips. When I see my littlest disappearing into the shed in his bare feet, or the eldest poking at the toaster to free his “just can’t wait any longer” crumpet. What I’m thinking is “This is dangerous. Just what kind of mother allows this?”

Is there enough discipline in this house? Rarely.

But the truth is, I’m a normal mum; far too honest probably, clinging onto acceptable motherhood with my knickers on inside out, and frequently falling short of my own expectations. But totally unexceptional nonetheless.

Bored to tears

13 Jun

I don’t think there’s anything worse than being bored. Boredom destroys me.

Incidentally I also can’t stand waiting. I’ve been known to declare the end of a friendship over being kept waiting for 15 mins. Boredom and impatience; not the easiest of bedfellows.

Boredom is the reason I overeat, the reason I make lists when I’ve nothing pressing to do. It’s why I think too much, overanalyse things, invent catastrophic endings for scenarios that haven’t even happened yet. I just have to fill in the gaps, somehow, or all hell seems to break loose.

I’ve had my fair share of jobs where I’ve been paid to pretty much do nothing. In the early years anyway. A working day wiled away with the repetitive click of a mouse – click-refresh, click-refresh – like some OCD computer monkey. Other people would have bitten their hands of for a bit of time as an overpaid primate, but not me. I was utterly miserable. For me, boredom = torture.

I’m a doer, like my mum. She never stopped. Single parent, 2 jobs, dog, cats, big house. I feel extremely uncomfortable when there’s nothing to do. In fact, I’m at my happiest when doing at least 3 things simultaneously. It’s not unusual for me to be found sat on the sofa watching television while tapping away on the keyboard while simultaneously reading a newspaper or texting a long, indepth message to a friend I’ve not seen in ages. It’s like if my whole brain isn’t engaged all at the same time, if any part is left unoccupied, then I start to get very anxious. I get very low very quickly.

I’m not sure if it’s boredom or just the lack of something. But why does a gap, a break in the proceedings, a pause for breath make me so totally and disproportionately anxious? I’ve wanted to figure that one out for a very long time because a bit of relaxation, indulgent “me-time” would be quite nice once in a while. And no more so than now. But unengaged brain or body = boredom = run a frickin’ mile until you find the nearest pile of washing up.

A psychiatrist once told me it was to do with personal drivers, those pesky things that are set in place by the age of 3, are almost always destructive in some way, and seemingly impossible to change. Apparently “being busy” rates quite highly among mine. Nothing to do = bored = waste of space or something like that anyway. It has no value to me.

I think that’s why I’m struggling at the moment. At first there was an unbelievable amount of stuff that needed doing. Funerals, tax forms, property, people to advise, friends to thank. It was even kind of, dare I say it, exciting. Life wasn’t normal, mundane. Every 5 mins had a purpose.

Now, suddenly, there is nothing to do. I am bored out of my skull. I feel empty, rudderless, abandoned even.

I have so many gaps – suddenly – in my life, and I’m just not sure how to fill them.

exclamation smirks

3 Jun

image courtesy of writers-edge.info

I’m a bit of a grammar nazi.  I don’t like it, it’s  a prescriptive and anal way of thinking.  I’d like to think my university days studying english language had paid off,  that I could see language as just a tool to fit a purpose,   a product constructed through its cultural usage.  Evolving, morphing, adapting.

But the truth is, I can’t.  I can still  hear both my parent’s voices in my head scolding me when I misuse an apostrophe, choose incorrectly from “more” and “less” when  expressing quantity, failing to follow Tony with I when proceeded by anything verblike.  It kind of ires me because I like the idea of the evolution of language, that the use of words or phrases should never be wholly dictated by rules and convention, but be fluid and playful. Christ, I’m a writer after all.

And my distaste is not just limited to grammatical mistakes. I can get disproportionately offended by punctuation too.  Take exclamation marks for example.   I just don’t like them. To me, at best, they should only ever be used to denote humour, and even then it feels as if I’m being told to find something funny before I’ve even made up my own mind.  A bit forced, cocky even.  I suppose they might clarify a statement’s mood – “I’m saying this as a joke, not an insult” – but then what is a smilie for? Surely they’re a lot more cute, less “in your face”.

Technically I think exclamation marks can also be used when conveying shock or suprise, the impact of something. But it always feels inappropriate to me, offensive even.  To me they are laughing marks, used with something serious it just feels like you’re belittling its gravitas, worse, taking it as one big (bad) joke.

“I’m so sorry you’ve broken your leg, it must be really frustrating!” or

“That’s dreadful, I can’t believe that someone nicked your car the day you lost your job!” or more recently for me

“I’m so sorry you’re mum died, you must be a real mess!”.

And what is it with some bloggers or commenters that seem pathologically incapable of writing without punctuating every single sentence with one?  Sometimes I wonder if it’s a kind of defense mechanism – they’re worried other people might think their writing or attitude stinks, so it’s a way of poking fun at themselves before anyone else does. Kind of like the extrovert chubby lady.

God it really is all a bit anal isn’t it? And this is all coming from someone who started her blogging journey refusing to capitalise i at the start of the sentence, thinking it was a bit quirky or something.  Bless.   Well my nazi self quickly put paid to that one thank god.

closet fattest

7 Jan

As some of you may know I was “sacked” a while back from an eating disorders charity for publishing a post they believed reflected a bad attitude to people with weight issues. I still maintain that the post was against the evils of nationalist bigotry, but to be fair, I do have to admit I was banged to rights on this one.

Me: “What exactly in the post did you find offensive?”

Charity lady: “The bit where you referred to the stranger as a “fat lazy bastard”.

Me: “Oh that one.”

You see what I mean? In any case, at the time I did feel it was just a poorly chosen turn of phrase rather than a reflection of any kind of deep-seated prejudice.

However, that experience did make me start to question myself. It’s forced me to really start to question the conclusions i jump to, the thoughts I have in my head, the ways I talk about people, and I’m afraid to say, i think I might just be a teensy bit fattest after all.

Now I’ve admitted to prejudices before, so it’s not come as a shock that I have them, just that i never realised I had this particular one.  I’ve spoken before about being a bit of a fatty myself, and even I’ve had to put myself on a New Year’s diet. (big fat yawn). I do believe that I am sensitive to how difficult the issues are around weight, and to people who struggle with it. However, i’ve starting to realise that when it comes to the very obese, judgy mcjudgealot might just be rearing her ugly head again.

I can’t put hand on heart and swear that when I see someone struggling down the street with no visible ankles I don’t make some kind of judgement, even if it is just to breathe a sigh of relief that it’s not me, for without question they must be miserable. I know I frequently pass judgement on obese children and what their parents must be like,  and I most definitely don’t choose the bench in the park that is already half occupied by someone sweating and overspilling its edges.

Rereading that paragraph back to myself, and reflecting on my choice of language just proves my point.

Sometimes I think that we spend our youth trying so hard to be “okay” with everything – liberal, open-minded – that we fail to appreciate that we may carry some innate, ingrained beliefs hidden below the surface. We may think we are open/flexible/non-judgemental because that is how we want to be, but ignoring our little prejudices or pretending they’re not there doesn’t make it so. They surface in small, hardly perceptible ways – in the language we use, the looks we give, the people we choose as our friends.

My sister has always said to me that you cannot always control the thoughts in your head (I call them my “mental tourettes”), but you can choose to be aware of them. To be mindful that, considered fairly and rationally, you are wrong to believe or think that thing, and to change your behaviour accordingly. My own dad struggled to accept homosexuality as a lifestyle equal to any other, and frequently described people as “camp” with a downward flick of the wrist. Yet, what redeemed him in my eyes was that he had come to understand that his attitudes and opinions were wrong, unacceptable, and outdated. Surely we are better to acknowledge the preconceptions, judgements, attitudes that fail us rather than simply pretending they don’t exist?

Without honesty, there can never be positive change. Let’s take our heads out of the sand, stop believing that Jade Goody’s indiscretion was a one-off,  put out hands up and admit we might just need a little bit more guidance.

Wild at heart

30 Dec

“As tradition dictates I’ll pass it on to these five lovelies to see how wild they are..”

And so it came to pass that I was tagged in the meme “Guilty pleasures” by the naughty Scribbling Mum. Holy Christ, is this where everyone realises how boring I am?  It reminds me of Single Slummy Mummy who once replied to one of my serious, heart-felt comments with surprise, saying she’d previously had me penned as a bit of a hedonist. Hedonistic, me? Excuse me while I change my pants.  I’m the one who had the reputation for leaving student parties early without telling anyone, because I felt too drunk to have the “I’m leaving” conversation.  I’m also the one that slides off to bed during MY OWN dinner party.

So quite obviously this post is going to shame me into trying to think of 5 4 really random things that make me seem exciting, mysterious, a little bit kooky, but ending with me coming up with 5 4 dull scraps that make me look, well, just very very sad. So here goes….

No.1 – I sometimes substitute real dinners for “chocolate dinners”. This basically means I get to stuff my face with chocolate, but without all the tortuous guilt. So I stockpile – usually a large bag of Revels and another large bar of chocolate (well what great dinner has just one course?) – and then I sit on the sofa eating chocolate and watching crap tv until I feel sick. Really really sick. And then I go to bed and sleep it off.

No.2 – school dinners. Tinned macaroni with ketchup, squashed ham sandwiches, soggy fishfingers, arctic role. Put the equivalent of a school dinner in front of me and I’m like a pyromaniac in the Aussie outback.

no.3 – Britney Spears – well not Britney Spears exactly – as one of the most trashy, excrutiatingly bathetic (kerching, new word alert) records she’s ever made. The kind that would make any sane person feign puking and mock hanging simultaneously while rolling their eyes and whining “cut off my toes and stab me in the eyes”. I say this so I obviously, rationally, know the song is frickin’ awful, but I just can’t help but love a bit of a tragic story put to music.   Watch it here.

No. 4 – tracky bottoms pulled over my toes – ooh it makes my toes curl in anticipation just with the thought of it. 2 minutes in the door and I’ve changed out of any decent clothes and into the adult version of a babgro. Forget sexy or sassy. Frickin’ snug as a bug in a rug. mmmm..

So there you go, unrefined, with really questionable taste and appalling dress sense. Bit more guilty secrets than guilty pleasures, and about as “wild” as a tree in blossom on a sunny day in a cottage garden.

Oh well, Happy New Year, Happy New Hedonism?…..roll on my roaring 30s….

(And yes, I did have to go back and change this post to include 4 guilty secrets, not 5. Well I couldn’t think of a 5th, I’m that sad. So shoot me. )