The Looks on their Faces and the Festive Gift of Disappointment


Aright. I’m a sucker for Christmas. I love the wooden Advent calendar. I adore dressing the tree with the kids. I melt when they sing Away in a Manger. Cor blimey, they’re just lovely.

It’s the look on their faces that gets me. The magic. The anticipation. The innocence. The joy! But this year, I sprinkled something left-field. Disappointment.

We don’t do the Elf on that Shelf (I could launch into how the damned Imp is a manifestation of greater and greater extraction of unwaged female emotional labour at Christmas time. How an old bearded white dude gets all the credit for hours of toil, thought and effort of mothers around the world. But I’ll spare you).

No. This year, they had a dose of festive disappointment when the ‘elves’ didn’t bring a sweet for the Advent calendar one morning*.

But it’s ok. I improvised.

Lucky you! You got the gift of giving!

When the elves don’t put a sweet in the box, that’s your cue, sweet children. Go fetch a toy or a book or a game that you no longer play with. And think about how some children don’t have very much. 

What? You mean you can’t possibly choose something? You mean you love all your things so much? You want to start playing with that plastic thing for the first time in 15 months? 

Well, my children, you’ve had the gift of gratitude, then, too. 

It took an hour, but they got there in the end. I’m going to make this a festive ‘thing’ each year.

Merry Christmas everyone x

*I fell asleep on the sofa. Then stumbled to bed without dutifully placing Christmas-themed icing sweets behind door number 16. Parenting fail #623


Liberating Motherhood, Birthing the Purplestockings Movement is out now.


Christmas tree image credit:


The Question of Maternal Loneliness. The Answer is Connection.

Lonely leaves don't get to ride the carousel
Over the past couple of days I’ve posted about the issue of isolation and lack of support of mothers.
Channel 4 has prepared a documentary about loneliness. And becoming a new mother is up there.
I will say this. There are struggles when we become mothers. Our ‘seat’ may have been in a city away from our homes – so when we have babies, we are thrust into a social environment where we know n.o.b.o.d.y.
We may not have family locally. Our partner is ‘out at work’. Children’s centres are closing. Pressure is on to ‘get back to normal’ and ‘get back to work’. More of our contemporaries are doing just that.
The fact is, becoming a mother is a life-changing event for many women. We deserve a period of recovery in which we are nurtured, in the ‘fourth trimester’ for the benefit of our babies and ourselves.
Yet, many of us are left in the immediate care of a male partner who, quite frankly, will have not a clue about what we have been through. Neither of us may be familiar with the intimate and relentlessness of caring for a tiny babe. We may be struggling to breastfeed. We may well be carrying physical and/or emotional wounds from labour.
And it is a big one.
It shouldn’t be this way. We are not supposed to do this alone. However, this is usually translated to ‘we are not supposed to do this – hand the care over to someone else’.
Post-partum support of mothers, and skilled breastfeeding support and sensitive compassionate care of new mothers is shown to reduce the rates of post-partum depression. If we feel that we are ‘part’ instead of ‘separate’ from the ‘real world’, that would be a start. If we have a circle of practical and emotional support around us, that would be justice.
For many, being a mother is not oppressive. It is the conditions in which we are expected to mother which can make it so. Financial pressures, social pressures and isolation and lack of support.
Once I found ‘my tribe’ my sense of shell shock eased. Over time, I have found a real vibrant, supportive, accepting and warm circle around me. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I experienced such connection beyond my immediate family and close friends. And I am grateful for that. It has made a difference to me. I know that I am not alone in feeling that way. Motherhood has relieved something in me – individualism.
Loneliness in our modern culture is not a symptom of motherhood. It is a symptom of disconnection. We thrive in communities. Women can thrive in the company of supportive women. We all need to be cared for at some point. New mothers are no exception.
Liberating Motherhood, Birthing the Purplestockings Movement, is out now from Womancraft. Get your copy online or from lucky indie bookshops.
Image credit: