To My Younger Self – Everything is not always as it seems….

When I was younger, much younger, early 20’s say. I used to look at Mums with young children walking down the road, mostly in horror.

It just looked an awful thing, the Mum always looked harassed, tired and unkempt. It didn’t look enjoyable at all, in fact, it looked miserable.

I made up my mind then that I didn’t ever want to be that person (I know, I know….)

*10 year’s pass*……..

Now that I have unavoidably been that person and still am now (thankfully slightly less tired & unkempt) to a toddler and a nearly-at-schooler, I naturally feel quite differently about the scenario.

I know these people now, we are in the same big tribe. I know we shouldn’t feel bad, embarrassed or sorry for them because the majority of them are ok (most of the time). They’re OK with sometimes looking a bit ropey, not having time to brush their hair or the mental ability to coordinate their clothes. Because they managed to get their sh*t together enough to leave the house this morning and get fresh air, they managed to pick up a few bits from the shop and they managed to deliver an older sibling to school on time. I now know how much of a big deal this is and that levels of achievement and measures of success are set only by you and vary greatly depending on where you are in your life.

And although back then, I walked around the corner thanking the Lord I wasn’t them and their life wasn’t mine, when I turned my back, I now know what I missed:

  • I missed the mum with the newborn, leaning into the pram and smiling adoringly at her peacefully sleeping baby (finally). She still can’t believe that she created this whole new person, nurtured them and brought them into the world. And although she cannot find the words to tell you how tired she is, she also cannot describe how much in love she is with this tiny human being. A love like she has never felt before.
  • I missed the mum with the toddler, who after having a meltdown in the middle of the street about wearing socks, took his Mums’ hand and started to sing. They sing Twinkle Twinkle together as they walk down the road and they don’t care who hears them. They do the diamond shape with their fingers and giggle at each other. Her annoyance about the irrational sock incident has melted away.
  • I missed the mum dropping her daughter off at the school gates. Who catches sight of a friendly smile through the crowd and although the friend has to get to work, she stays for 5 minutes to chat because she knows that 5 minutes of adult conversation is what her friend needs today. A caring and encouraging embrace means more than any on-looker could imagine.

For my younger self and other onlookers, these moments, these small moments, that often go unseen, are enough to get her through the day. Enough to power her to bedtime when she can finally have half an hour to herself.

I’m not implying that Motherhood is some kind of idyllic fairytale and your children look like they stepped out of a Benetton catalogue, because quite clearly it’s not.

Motherhood is messy, smelly, relentless, frustrating and tiring. It doesn’t care that you put on nice clothes this morning and now they are covered in unmentionable gunk or that everything you had on your To-Do List for the day has gone to sh*t by 11am.

BUT, it is also full of love, cuddles, pride and laughter. It can draw a day-rescuing smile at any unexpected moment and the strength of love you feel as a parent is really quite extraordinary. A love that can forgive the most ridiculous of misdemeanor in a second, can increase your embarrassment threshold to level – ‘Unbelievable’ (the equivalent of – ‘Bearly Acceptable’ to normal people) and a love that means, on most occasions, there is just enough good in every day to get you to the end and then recharge, before you have to do it all over again!


The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback




Crisis In Confidence

Self-doubt can be crippling. Call on friends, you know which ones, to help you fight this battle.

This week has not been a good week. Out of 10, I’d give it a meagre 3 and 2 of those points are just for not falling over or something equally as embarrassing in my first client presentation.

After being away from my job for a whole year, coming back and just ‘getting on with it’ is actually quite hard. Lots of things have changed, the world didn’t stand still whilst I populated it with one more person. My confidence has taken a real knock. What if I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore? What if someone asks me a question I can’t answer? Can I still deliver what everyone expects whilst managing a busy family life as well?

And then I thought about this blog. Should I carry on writing? It actually takes quite a lot of effort and therefore time. It’s not like it’s been a lifelong passion that I’m finally living out or anything like that. This just happened, I started writing 6 weeks ago, having not ever previously considered it. So I could just let it disappear into nothing, as quickly as it arrived.

Urgghh, but something inside me doesn’t want to let go of it, like a child with a new toy. Mine, mine, mine MINE! Back off self-doubt.

It has ignited something in me that I didn’t know existed. It gives me a real buzz, much like photography does. For me, photography is about capturing a moment, which means anyone can do it, on any kind of equipment. But when you get that shot, the shot that tells the exact story you want it to, it’s just an immense feeling. And to my utter surprise, this is how I’m also feeling about writing.

I’m not winning a Pulitzer prize for my photography anytime soon and it’s the equivalent with words. I know my writing is not ‘technically’ good, as I use an online editing tool that insists on frequently telling me so. It says things like:-

6 of your 20 sentences are hard to read

2 of your 20 sentences are very hard to read

6 adverbs, aim for 5 of fewer

I don’t know what to do with that? I will endeavour to learn of course. I want to be better but I also don’t want to stop whilst that process happens.

Another reason I don’t want to stop despite the aforementioned disapproval is that I remembered something a client said to me about 2 years ago. He said, “You’re funny Michelle because you write emails exactly the same way as you talk”. I think he meant I am informal and I will often, for people I know well, forgo any kind of greeting and get straight to the point. Unlike my Dad for example, who still starts every email to me with ‘Dear Michelle’. And then precedes to send me a text message to tell me he has sent me an email (which makes me smile, every time). Sorry, I digress……

The point of bringing that up is because it’s exactly what my blog is, it’s just me talking, I am starting a conversation here. This is just me, talking to just you and that’s what I like about it. This isn’t fictional writing where I’m trying to create a new universe for you to immerse yourself in and forget about normality. It’s quite the opposite in fact. This is just normal life. I want to write about things that people can actually relate to because real life provokes real emotions.

Whilst it’s not perfect, (I am quite self-aware, don’t worry) if we were having a face to face conversation I’m not going to stop half way through to Google synonyms to make myself sound clever am I? So I won’t here either. This is as clever as it’s going to get people!

I spoke to a good friend in the week whilst wading knee-deep through self-doubt. The kind of friend that you don’t talk to really regularly but when you do they give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside. We have the type of conversations that are worth waiting for.

He told me to “get out of my own way”….What a brilliant analogy, I am banking that for later use.

It’s a good point though and I do need to be told occasionally. Because it’s true isn’t it, sometimes you are the only person stopping yourself.

So for now, I am giving Michelle a swift elbow to the ribs. I am re-reading some of the positive comments I have had so far as they are affording me just enough momentum and confidence to carrying on.

Stay with me…….?




Back To Work – The End Or The Beginning?

Returning to work after maternity leave can provoke many emotions – this is my story

So here I am. On a train to London, for the first time in a year. I have tears in my eyes and fear & guilt in my heart but on I go from Sussex to central London for my first day back at work after our second child, ‘The Boy’ as we affectionately (if not slightly obviously) call him.

I am now an ‘experienced parent’ this is my second go at this, you’re supposed to be better at something second time round aren’t you? But I am failing miserably, trying to hide my tears from fellow commuters in several fake nose blowing sessions (in the epic bag packing session that took place last night, extra tissues were deposited in mummy’s bag), I secretly congratulate myself on my forward thinking.

I contemplate getting off at East Croydon, going back the other way and rescuing my babies from their nursery hell and the mild-mannered nursery practitioners that they quite clearly adore. In my head, I’d just sit and hug them for the rest of the day, squeeze them, breath them in, promise I will never leave them again. Until the big one protests with a polite but angry ‘no thank you Mummy’ and the little one wipes snot on my shoulder and wrestles from my clutches, scuttling away to find something infinitely more interesting (and dangerous) to do. At least this thought makes me smile.

And so we continue, it’s a lovely sunny morning so I grab tea to go and walk slowly (so very slowly) to my office. The tea costs nearly £2 and it’s disgusting so I throw it away half way through. Jesus, I’m a woman on the edge, I don’t need a tea related crisis right now! I walk on, feeling sick and nervous praying to myself that I won’t breakdown in front of my colleagues. Every single step vibrates through my body, boom boom boom. Just a few metres to go and the world I have known for the past year will cease to exist. The world I have worked so hard to create & nurture and finally after weeks and weeks of practice got really good at has to completely change.

I get through the day but it’s hard, I talk about it, which is good. The other mums offer unreserved sympathy which I appreciate and the younger folk laugh at me, which I also appreciate.

I’m not busy, people are not sure what to do with me yet, so in amongst sorting endless IT issues my mind wanders. I think about what I would be doing on a ‘normal’ Monday (in my other world). I’d be at my mum’s (Grandma’s), with my sister and my nephew, we just hang out, doing normal family stuff. Our children eat too much cake and sweets and fight over ridiculous things and my sister and I enjoy mum’s cooking. It’s nothing special but sort of is at the same time. It’s part of our routine and I miss it already.

How I feel is not hard to explain really, it’s a mixture of guilt & sadness. Like grief I suppose, missing something so much it physically hurts. I’m not ok today but its ok to not be ok for a little bit as long as you find a way to pick yourself up. I know tomorrow will be better and in a few weeks our brave new world will be in full flow and I’ll look back with fondness and smile and each time I do it will hurt a little less.

I make it through the rest of the week, I get to pee alone and drink whole cups of tea, hot tea, right to the end of the cup. Things are unexpectedly slow so actually I end up having a lot of time to myself, something I am unaccustomed to. I gratefully accept this small gift and I use it to breathe and think and adapt.

By the end of the week, I am feeling far less fragile and much more emotionally stable. I rationalise that whilst this wonderful period of our lives has drawn to a close, this is not only an ending but it is also a beginning, the beginning of the next part of our journey.

And for that I am excited! Deep breath, here we go……