Archive | September, 2011

Harnessing the Power of PMT

30 Sep

I’ve been reading this Mumsnet thread about whether or not joking about PMT is sexist. As an aside, I think it is sexist because references to women’s menstrual cycles are often used as a way of dismissing or minimising women’s thoughts, feelings and actions.

Premenstrual tension, also called Premenstrual Syndrome, describes a collection of physical and emotional symptoms ranging from irritability to headaches. At the more devastating ends of the scale, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder sounds as if it could seriously reduce a woman’s quality of life, while hormonally augmented migraines are no walk in the park either. I don’t dispute that PMT exists, or that it can cause a high degree of unpleasantness.

However, I think we need to be more aware of what constitutes actual PMT, and the popular culture version of PMT which is a trope frequently used to put women in their place. The diagnosis of PMT puts more emphasis on the emotional than on the physical symptoms. The same is true of its popular perception. But putting all our negative feelings down to hormones is a slippery slope to becoming a perpetually cheerful Stepford Wife.

My ‘yes!’ moment reading that Mumsnet thread was a comment by a poster called ‘sunshineandbooks’ who voiced what I have been pondering for a while:

“Maybe the hormones are responsible for shaking off all the social conditioning. Maybe all these ‘hormonal’ women are actually thinking more accurately while they’re menstruating and that’s why men find it so threatening and like to use it to undermine women.”

I know it might be slightly ‘out there’ and I’m risking offending lots of women who suffer horrifically from PMT (and I don’t mean to deny that hormones can cause all kinds of awful symptoms and feelings at different points during the menstrual cycle), but this is exactly the conclusion I came to last time my daughter’s dad dismissed my displeasure at something he had said or done.

What if we start seeing PMT not as a disorder that makes women irrational and unreasonable?

What if, instead, we stand by our anger/sadness and say ‘yes I’m pissed off. Because I am. Because this is just unreasonable.’

Perhaps hormonal changes allow us to access our real views and emotions and force us to articulate them with no fear of reproach.

Of course we are afraid of reproach, that’s precisely why we say ‘ooh, I’m feeling a tad hormonal today’, and we’ve all heard at least one pregnant woman or new mother explain away her emotional vulnerability; most of us have probably been that woman. But these hormones serve a purpose. Crying at the news or an advert which deliberately tugs at our heartstrings is a side effect of experiencing massive hormonal changes which will also allow us to bond with our babies and make us feel an emotional imperative to look after them.

So perhaps the hormones which make us feel ‘irrational’ equally serve a purpose. Perhaps this is a time when we see and think most clearly. Would it be possible to ‘own’ our feelings during this time and embrace them as a source of energy to make our lives go the way we want?

Pocket of conkers

17 Sep




Summer’s almost gone…

14 Sep

Having a runaround at Holkham Hall

Intriguing New Book About Mothering

11 Sep

During our undergraduate days my then-fiancé and I had a tradition of spending one weekday morning every week sitting in our university’s guild of students reading the paper. At lunchtime we would have a pannini (then a novel and highly exciting foodstuff) and then go to our seminars. Nowadays, sadly, I don’t have time to read newspapers, so when I have a minute here and there I catch up with the Guardian on my phone.

That’s how today, while waiting for my soup to warm up, I came across this article about Naomi Stadlen‘s new book. I’d been intrigued by her previous book What Mothers Do Especially When It Looks Like Nothing for a while as it usually comes highly recommended by Mumsnetters and, again, the Guardian. Of course the title is just brilliant, making you wonder if reading the book will finally give you an explanation as to why you feel so knackered all the time.

What I really like about the review of Stadlen’s new book is that the significance of mothering is highlighted while the necessity of a father’s love is also acknowledged. Annalisa Barbieri, who wrote the review, notes the curious popularity of the term ‘parenting’. It might be easy to slide down the slippery slope of generalisations when talking about what mothers are like, what they do, and what they should do compared with fathers. All families are different. But I’m really glad that attention is given to the role which mothering, a mother’s love, plays in a child’s life because while most Western societies have evolved past the nuclear family of a SAHM/WOHD, in my view, mothers still play a special role, and this shouldn’t be forgotten (Stadlen has more detail regarding this on her website). I think I’ll have to order both of these books to find out more.

Room Prettification

11 Sep

It’s already been almost three months since we moved house, and while most of our possessions and furniture have found their place, room decoration is still a work in progress. At the moment this progress is hampered by a lack of money, so my wish list keeps getting longer and longer. I decided to focus on my daughter’s room and the reception rooms for the time being. Before we moved, I found some curtains which I had been coveting had been reduced, so I bought them, and it turned out they’re too short for the window in daughter’s room. So now I have to find a way of making them longer. I thought of buying some contrasting fabric, perhaps green (the curtains are pink and dotty), and sewing it on the top and bottom of the curtains.

A tree made up of 46 wall stickers

Because daughter has the front bedroom, I needed something to make the big chimney breast look less bare. I decided on some kind of wallsticker-type arrangement because most of them can be repositioned and don’t mark the walls, very important in a rented house! I like this tree because it’s not too girly, and as she gets bigger we can cut animals out of cardboard and stick them around the tree.

Then my mum came to visit and witnessed my fruitless hunt for sitting room and dining room curtains. So she offered to send me my parents’ 1980s Laura Ashley curtains which were sitting in her attic. As I had been lusting after those curtains for years I gratefully accepted! Now I jokingly call them my ‘vintage Laura Ashley curtains’ when I want to feel poncey.

I think they might need some ironing...

At the moment daughter really loves The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr, so I was overjoyed when I found some illustrations from the book for sale in the V & A shop.

Isn’t it lovely?

We call this one 'Tiger Cuddle'

So the house is a little more homely now. What I’m still looking for is a big round rug for daughter’s room. The carpet in the whole house is brown (typical institutional/student house choice), which means rugs are sorely needed to liven up the colour scheme! I really love the rug Meg from Sew Liberated made for her sons’ playroom, but I’m not creative enough to make one myself, and if I tried it would likely become a higgledy-piggledy mess. It’s really worth checking out her blog because even though her family has just moved house, the spaces she creates for her children are an inspiration. I don’t have the room or the financial means to make our house as pretty, functional and true to Montessori ideas as hers appears to be in the amazing photos, but it’s good to have something to strive for.