Thursday, 16 May 2013

I need a new life! Or least a pair of shoes...

Two weeks ago, I stopped dead outside one of my favourite shoe shops. As if I’d never before considered buying myself new shoes. Or perhaps simply couldn’t remember the last time I’d bought some.

Now before I had kids I was known for my shoes. They were mostly high heeled and always divine. They started conversations with people. They attracted attention. They made me feel fabulous.

For me, this passion shared by many women, started with a pair of rainbow-coloured strappy sandals with a high wooden heel. Apparently Kelly Osbourne wanted that exact pair but they didn’t fit. That’s because they were meant for me. Break-up shoes to ease the pain of yet another disastrous relationship. And they were perfect. Not only did they give my dwindling self-esteem a much-needed boost but they were also the catalyst for a new love in my life. A more reliable and rewarding one as far as I could see.  

I started buying shoes every week. Yellow shiny court shoes, green satin stilettoes, knee-high tan leather boots, mid-calf cream leather boots, leopard skin pumps, the list went on.

Buying shoes became my new hobby to fill in the space. And although expensive, it was highly satisfying to have something in my life that was constant, beautiful and always there for me. My shoes made me feel so happy, home alone in my studio apartment on a Saturday night. True love. Or so I thought.

Then pregnancy, childbirth and a mortgage changed everything. No longer was I tripping off to the theatre, work or parties. I was walking around the block to get my baby to sleep. I was walking to the park. I was walking to the shops. I was doing a lot of walking and suddenly all my feel-good heels looked decidedly uncomfortable.

Fancy shoes were left under my bed and replaced with thongs in summer and sandshoes in winter. And it wasn’t just my footwear that was neglected. Thanks to the demands of a young family, a tight budget and a simplified social life, there was little time myself in general.

Until two weeks ago when I stopped outside that shoe shop.

And went in.

And left in a dream with a pair of hip tan leather ankle boots with a Cuban heel. Just enough height to make me feel good but not too ridiculous for the school drop-off.

I felt like a new woman. Until I wore them and got the worst blisters I’ve ever had. I was in a panic. Had I bought the wrong size? Had my feet grown since having babies?

I waited a week and tried again but felt sick to my stomach. Not only because of the physical pain but also the stress of spending money on a pair of ill-fitting shoes. I hadn’t bought boots in four years so the pressure was enormous.

By that night I was in such a state about my catastrophic purchase that I burnt the chicken and completely lost it. My husband hugged me while I sobbed about not even having the skill to cook a simple stir-fry let alone buy shoes. He told me not to worry. He then gently put the offending chicken in the bin and ordered some takeaway, a little bemused at why shoes and chicken were so traumatic.

But it was traumatic. Obviously it was more than just shoes and chicken. I desperately needed to re-find a little sparkle in my life after the past few years of nappies and sleepless nights. And my efforts had been unsuccessful.

In the end my mother came to the rescue with an old recipe for stretching shoes that involved methylated spirits and scrunched up paper. It had been so long that I’d forgotten some shoes need a bit of wearing in. Disaster averted.

Then my husband, worried by my reaction to burnt chicken, suggested I go off for a morning of personal time. And it was heaven to be out and about kid-free, a takeaway coffee in one hand and one small handbag in the other. I wanted to do anything and everything but only had three hours so I bought an iPhone in a hot pink cover and found a groovy A-line skirt in a blue floral.

It was a joy to come home to my excited girls, who had had the chance to miss me for once. The house was a mess but it didn’t seem to matter. I popped on my skirt and everyone loved it. As yet I have absolutely nothing to wear with it but that’s not the point. I now have a groovy skirt in my cupboard that will simply require another shopping expedition to make it work.

I know it will take more than a pair of boots to update a life after ignoring it for so long but it was a start. Those boots, although really just a nice pair of boots, prompted a new way of thinking. They initiated the first few steps in re-building my confidence and re-discovering personal taste. Getting out and about on my own. Realising that everyone at home will probably be fine without me for a while. Simple things, as a mum, I had so easily forgotten.

After that I caught up with a girlfriend for dinner. On my own, after dark. I hadn’t done that for years and it was great. We could actually complete a conversation without the constant interruptions that go hand-in-hand with small children.

As it turns out those ankle boots were just as significant as my gorgeous rainbow break-up shoes and hopefully just as much a catalyst for lots of lovely shoes to come that are not at all suitable for wearing to the park.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Not Quite A Supermum!

The other day I picked up my daughter from school and took her straight to a doctor’s appointment. Just as we arrived I noticed that she had her shoes on the wrong feet. It’s something she does all the time and just as I was just about to tell her that it was high time she knew her left shoe from her right, I realised that this time it was not her fault. It was me who had put her shoes that morning. And they’d been on the wrong feet all day!

We sat down in the waiting room and immediately changed the shoes. Which piqued the interest of a woman sitting next to me. Maybe my age. Perhaps a bit younger. She might have been a mum but she was on her own at that moment.

‘Oh she had them on the wrong feet did she?’ she said with a laugh.

‘It was actually me that put them on this morning would you believe,’ I admitted (stupidly) also with a bit of a laugh.

To which my new friend replied, “Wow, Mother of the Year!”

No longer my friend and obviously not a mum. We laughed a bit more; initially her comment seemed funny. Then I stopped laughing and thought to myself, hang on, you don’t get to say that to me. I’m allowed to make a joke at my own expense. I get to make fun of my dubious parenting skills. Not you.

What about all the good things I did that morning? How I successfully encouraged everyone to have breakfast, get dressed and get out the door in time for school. What about the fact that I made the lunches, got a load of washing on, made the beds, prepared a casserole for dinner, cleaned up the kitchen and hung the clothes on the line – what about all that? Everything done so that when the toddler went down for her sleep, I could write furiously to meet all my deadlines.

Not as interesting as putting my daughter’s shoes on the wrong feet.

And to make matters worse we were at the doctor’s because both girls had a bad case of worms. Even though we had treated them both (and us) the week before.

So not only did I dress my daughter incorrectly possibly causing future feet problems, I allowed her to become infected with worms. Mother of the Year!

I know the woman in the waiting room wasn’t a mother because most mothers know better than to criticise each other. Before children, I was always ready with an opinion on parenting. What you should and shouldn’t do. But now I’m actually a parent, anything goes.

Being a mum is hard enough. Trying to do everything right is near impossible. You just do what you can to get by and naturally every now and again you drop one of the many balls you’re juggling so precariously.

Unfortunately for me it’s usually when someone is watching.

So Happy Mothers' Day to mothers everywhere. Congratulations for all the thousands of things you get right that no-one ever sees. And for knowing that when things occasionally go wrong, it simply doesn't matter.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Thank Goodness for my Gynaecologist (in more ways than one).

Most people feel pressure from their mother to find their perfect match. For me it was my gynaeocologist. I’ve been going to the same one for years now and she’s fantastic at her job. Just a bit pushy. And I don’t mean ‘down there’.

Every check-up she would fire the same question: ‘So are you having regular sex at the moment?’ And every time I would sheepishly mutter something about not being in a relationship and still getting over my ex. In other words lurching from one inappropriate fling to the next in a sort of ‘sleeping around’ irregular kind of way. Not something you want to admit to your gynaecologist.

‘Oh you girls,’ she would always say. ‘That relationship ended years ago, move on!’

Then I would explain how there were no nice men left and I preferred to be single anyway. Which would be met with silence, an eye roll and a pap test.

Whenever my mother tried to discuss my lack of relationship, I would scream that ‘there were worse things in life than being single!’ and she would change the subject and pop on the kettle.

But my gynaeocologist was different. Tough, honest, unrelenting. Great qualities for a doctor specialising in women’s health but unnerving when you’re on the receiving end and haven’t done your homework.

I didn’t want her to think I was a complete loser so I avoided the whole issue altogether. Check-up reminders arrived but went straight in the bin until I realised I’d better get some regular sex and fast. Finally I started seeing a guy for longer than two weeks so I promptly booked an appointment. And when the question came I could hardly contain my excitement. ‘Yes, yes, YES,’ I said a little too loudly. ‘I met a guy and we’re having REGULAR SEX!’

She stopped and looked up. It’s not often you can surprise a gynaeoclogist but it’s satisfying when you do. Suddenly we had something of interest to discuss. Something different. Something new. Like birth control. Which lasted for a while but then she wanted more. She started showing me hideous charts displaying the gradual dissipation of a woman’s fertility as she approaches 40. And older than that, well apparently it’s a bit like ‘a 60 year-old man with a triple bypass trying to climb a mountain’! Too bad if you didn’t manage to meet the right person in your 20s and you wanted to travel, study, pursue a career or just hang out. Nature doesn’t care.

Fortunately I stopped seeing that guy. Not so much because he was completely wrong for me but because I didn’t want to hear any more frightening facts and figures about how I should have started breeding at 22 despite the fact I was blissfully living in Paris studying acting and acquiring fabulous life experience.

Eventually I did find someone who has stuck around. My gynaeocologist was delighted with my choice. In fact I think she likes him more than she likes me.

I never thought I would get married. Neither did my mother. But here I am. A husband and two beautiful daughters. I would like to think I arrived at the inevitable conclusion that bad boys are so-called for a reason and don’t make great boyfriends. But the credit has to go to my bossy gynaeocologist whose ‘take no prisoners’ attitude was doing little for my self-esteem. If it meant finding a lovely and potentially lifelong relationship just to get her off my back (and continue with necessary check-ups), it was a small and actually quite a pleasant price to pay.