Hide and Seek

The women had been hiding.

They were quietly fading away like wisps of smoke, eroded almost to nothing, by the roles they were playing on society’s stage.

Their voices were a whisper.

“Sure hadn’t we fought for all of this?” they thought . “To be able to have it all?”

So they played along, swallowing down the lump in their throat and “hustling” obediently like everyone said they should.

They rolled their eyes and accepted the sexist comments from the boys club, because they were modern women.

They listened when their boss told them they were too emotional / bolshy / soft.

They lost their maternal instincts and started listening to fad books and child raising gurus and chat forums.

They lost themselves in the impossible struggle to keep up.

They lost their community spirit and turned on each other and on themselves, hopelessly trying to live up to impossible unrealistic ideals and images. Tearing themselves apart.

Because they were told as young girls “women can do it all these days”…

.

And then one day they stopped and they asked “but do we WANT to do IT ALL” and do we have to do “it all”?

.

You see the women are starting to find themselves again.

They were hiding in plain sight. Thinking they had to play a game, a game that was designed for them, not by them.

They are starting to step back into the light, they are gathering their voices and their courage.

Just keep watching and listening, you can almost feel it coming.

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Blackbird

Early early these mornings, a little blackbird has been singing from the tree outside my son’s bedroom.

We pulled his blinds the other day, just me and him, and watched it sing and flit from branch to branch as the sunrise started to bleed up into the bleached sky in the field behind.

This little bird’s appearance and it’s morning song cheers me in a way I can’t quite explain.

Mornings are not my jam.

Morpheus tries to seduce me into snooze after snooze on my alarm.

But that little blackbird, it makes me smile before my eyes are even open.

Visibilty

I’m Nic. Mum. Wife. Lover of life. Seeker of light.

I’m lucky to be part of the amazing women of Assembly Community I’m sharing some words all about me, in the spirit of our monthly topic, visibility.

So here I am. In all my glory, being photographed by my kid (he’s got skills).

I’m passionate about writing and photography, especially around the topic of everyday life, as a women and mother. I want to give life to the normal rhythms and routines of living. There’s such a focus in modern life on “the highlight reel” of social media and I want what I share of my life to be about more than that. I seek to find the light in everyday, even when it doesn’t burn very brightly. Even when it’s far from perfect.

I want to look back and remember the Tuesday night the electric went out and we all had a chippy for our tea by candle light. I want to talk about the days being a mum feels impossible, or acknowledge the days I struggle with my mental health. I want to capture the simple moments of joy as well as the big ones.

I know that life can be raw and it can be hard. Not everyday is happy, but everyday is LIVED and I want to acknowledge that.

What else?

I want to use my words and my voice. I want to start conversations about how impossible it can feel to juggle motherhood and a career. I want to talk about big things like feminism and inclusion and how we raise daughters – and sons – who will defy the patriarchy. I want to talk about our beautiful earth and how we become guardians of it, not destroyers. I want others to join in these conversation.

And I want to talk about small things as well and to tell stories.

Us women, we like to hide away behind our titles, our roles and our “doing”. We think too often that our voices or our opinions don’t count or that by voicing them, we will face ridicule or criticism.

I believe that by showing our true selves, as vulnerable as that can be, we are reclaiming some of the power we have all too often given away. And you know what – there’s power in numbers.

So here I am proclaiming love and light and beauty and being ok with talking about little everyday things, because they matter just as much as the big things.

The Seashell

You picked up a shell and gave it to your sister.

Gently you washed the sand off.

“Careful you don’t drop it now” you told her, and she nodded back at you her little face serious.

And I took this picture to always remember.

.

For those first sleepless nights, the nights spent cradling you, feeding you with my body, feet cold and arms aching.

For the first steps, the toddler meltdowns.

The first day of school.

The first set of stitches.

The endless nights of worry I had never dreamed possible until I held you first.

The birthday party’s.

The cut knees.

The adventures.

The sandcastles.

The worries over how you were settling into school.

The disagreements over homework.

The sheer joy of your little face when you crack a joke and we laugh at you.

The many (many) sibling rows, but also the small handful of moments you and your sister are united in a world of your own invention.

For all of it.

Every heartbreaking, heartaching, run of the mill, out of the ordinary, everyday moment.

I get to watch your story unfold.

I’m so glad that you are mine and I am yours.

True Colours

You can try to tone yourself down.

You can try to live your life in a palate of neutrals or pastels.

You can try to do what everyone else does. (or to do what those you admire do).

You can follow the crowd.

Follow the blueprint.

But you will never ever be anything but you.

Your true colours are beautiful (thanks Cyndi Lauper)

I don’t think many of us women can honestly say that at some point in our lives, we haven’t tried to follow a trend, fit in, or hide our true selves. It’s human. We crave acceptance.

I think in todays online world of IG and social media, it’s even more challenging.

I see it so much in people’s IG accounts and their businesses (my own included at times). My goodness, even when you are trying to be original, there’s so much influence floating around it can be hard to know what is cultivated from consumption v your own ideas. You look at a coat online, suddenly you are bombarded with images of that coat. Who decided you liked it to begin with? The same can go for your pictures, your captions. And there’s a temptation to be “seen” in a certain way. I’m not knocking it. I have been known to post a picture of a peony on my grid. I even experimented with pale colours for a brief period of time, it just wasn’t me.

I recently listened to @lucylucraft brilliant podcast What She Said, the particular episode was with Dominique from @allthatisshe Hilariously, Dominique spoke about a time earlier in her IG career where she bought clothes that weren’t her style, that she would never wear outside of the house, purely to be photographed in, to appear to have a certain style. She also pretended she didn’t watch “the telly” on IG. She was so funny, candid and self depreciating and ultimately it was refreshing to hear that even a women with mega success online, and who seems to have it all together has fallen into the mindset of feeling she has to fit in.

This is really about IG / social media, but applies to our lives as women in general.

In life, in school, in our careers, in our businesses, in our motherhood, in our faith, in our fashion, in our home decor, as well as in our flipping Instagrams, there is a temptation to follow a prescribed set of what is right, rules for “success”.

I stopped that a while ago. It’s hard to let go of all convention, and I’m working on it, but I’m seeking the me in all I do.

And for the record, I love neutrals (so cool) and pastels (so pretty) but sadly, try as I might, I couldn’t pull them off – I’m a big messy colour gal at heart, so I’m letting it out.

This is me…isn’t it?

Here I am.

A mother, a lover, a daughter, a friend, an employee. A lot of things to a lot of people. A lot of labels. A lot of expectation and a lot of pressure.

As women (maybe even as humans) it’s easy to be defined by the roles we have. It’s easy to let those roles define us. Rule us. Ruin us.

I wonder why that is?

It’s so easy to feel that all these roles own me. To feel I’m coming up short. To feel overwhelmed. And lately I have. And lately the ME in all these things has faded away.

I’m not sure how to explain how I have felt. But the words pressured and overwhelmed definitely feel appropriate. And I know that a LOT of working mums I have spoken to feel this way. I think there’s a real danger to separate all of our “roles” out and treat each of them like a job. Then when things go wrong, you can feel like you are failing.

Voices in your head

It can go something like this:

“Being a good mum is the most important thing to me, and I screwed up today, so I’m failing”

Or maybe something is going wrong in work and you allow that one thing to define you. In my head it goes a bit like – I’m good at what I do, I don’t fail. so when the shit hits the fan, I judge myself harshly, use it as a stick to beat myself….”There’s another area of your life you are screwing up and failing in” my inner voice says to me.

Then the snowball comes. A row at home. A cranky kid. A cancelled plan with a friend. You feel like it’s all just GOING WRONG.

You aren’t getting things right anywhere.

So what do you (I) do? You (I) compartmentalise. You (I) don’t want to bring work stress home, or home drama to work. So you (I) switch the emotion off. You (I) play the part. But for you (me), that’s where the part starts to play you (me)….

Influences

There’s a lot of pressure, from society, from social media, from the world, to be a certain way, to deliver life on certain terms and it can be TOUGH.

Social media is a wonderful resource but there is another side. Even if you can avoid the comparison pitfalls and you can accept that the pictures only tell part of the story, even the positive influence can be overwhelming.

Are my family eating enough organic food? Should our home be plastic free? Do we have enough date nights? Why cant I find time to write more? Why haven’t I smashed that glass ceiling? Am I consuming too much fast fashion?

There’s a real guilt and FOMO situation going on for me at times. I’m an ideas girl. I get inspired. I get passionate. But then I flounder, because I can’t possibly do it all, be it all and again it can feel a bit like failure. Tell me I’m not alone on this? I feel like I could write a whole other blog on this topic alone…

ME

Here’s the thing I have realised recently though. I am ME. I own my motherhood. I own my part in my marriage and in my relationships. I own what I am in a work sense.

All of those “roles” have ME at the centre of them. They are mine.

I think it’s easy to let the “Me” in all of those things get lost. And there’s the danger. I cannot possibly be any of the things to any of the people unless I am ME first and foremost.

I wouldn’t be a mother or a lover of any of the other things if I wasn’t first and foremost myself. And I really want to challenge myself to see how much of my true self I see in my many roles. I want to push back on society, on notions of what I should be in each of these roles and think about who I WANT to be in all the areas of MY life, to all my people. I want them to have ME. I want my life to feel authentic (sorry I know that’s such an overused word – but it’s appropriate, ok?)

My kids don’t need a mum, they need me. My husband doesn’t need a wife, he needs me. My parents, my friends, it’s me they want. And my job, well I hope I’m employed there because of ME, but if someday that’s not why I’m there, then I hope I have the courage to find a job where the real ME is at the heart of what I do.

Owning it

Writing this has been quite therapeutic and I want to challenge myself to really stop separating my life into one giant to-do list. I want to avoid the temptation to rush through life going through the motions to tick off some imaginary list of achievements. I want to give myself a break and I also want to put myself front and centre. I want to own my life, with all its various roles and I’m pretty sure everyone in my life will be better off for me being the best version of myself. Are you with me?

I want to encourage you tonight to think about the roles that you are struggling with. If you feel like things are running away with you. If you feel like you are failing. Stop. Ask yourself to look for the YOU at the heart of it. Recalibrate. Be gentle with yourself. You are human. Real. Flesh and blood. Not a label. Not a function. YOU.

Honest


Instagram. Those squares get a bashing sometimes. “Don’t believe everything you see on insta”. “Life isn’t insta perfect”. Yes I agree BUT there’s some real life honesty right there too. That’s what keeps me there. To share, to listen, to be real. I am a huge believer in looking on the brightside 😉 but I also firmly believe in woman being honest about life and especially about motherhood.
I read a post the other day from the lovely Anna @blossomingbirds on Mum guilt and it really resonated with me. I’m talking working mum guilt. 

As a Mum, there’s always guilt and mostly it’s unnecessary, but sometimes, you have to stop and listen to it. Lately I have felt overwhelmed, stressed and generally like I’m about to drop ALL the plates. Work has been incredibly busy and by June, coupled with all the end of year school events I needed to be there for, sports days, concerts, fetes etc. I was like a crazy lady trying to be all to everyone.
Our break couldn’t have come at a better time. I needed some time to just be mum. To gather myself, to unwind and let myself enjoy the slow days of simply being there and doing very little. Our days have been gentle and easy and rich and wonderful. I haven’t shouted or ranted or felt like “I can’t cope”. Its been more needed than I ever realised. 


I made a decision this summer NOT to over schedule or try to cram too much into our days. I realise now, that was as much for me as it was for the kiddos. 

I’m back into the office tomorrow, but with a determination to change my mindset. To leave the stress at the office door. To look after myself and keep this chilled out mood alive a little while longer. Sometimes trying to do it all seems impossible, but I’m gonna keep in trying, I ain’t got much choice (unless those lotto numbers come up). If anyone else has the answer to how to make it all work – send answers on a postcard please.
So all my recent #beachspam may have seemed excessive but I’m sorry not sorry. It’s been a tonic. And I’ve loved snapping away and capturing simple little moments. I feel like a slightly better version of myself after 2weeks of rest. Now watch out world – tomorrow I’m taking you on.

But first, skin care


I am loving my skin. That’s a weird thing to say right?? It is definitely weird for me, as I have never felt that way though. As you may know if you have been following along for a while, here or over at thebrightsidediary, I decided at the start of the year that this would be my time, to get my skin sorted, healthy. I’ve always had issues and grumbles with it. Spots and blemishes. Oil. Uneven skin tone. Being the busy person I am, however I allowed any kind of skin care to drop to the bottom of a very long list. It’s wasn’t a priority. 

I think as we get older though, we start to think and feel differently. Enter The Skin Health Clinic. You can read some of my previous blogs on my journey here and here, but essentially for me, my goal was to have healthier, clearer skin so I could wear less make up / even go wild and make up free the odd time. I also wanted to educate myself about skin, sun damage and, yes, aging. Those fine lines and wrinkles may be a privilege and a sign of a life well lived, but I still wanted to know how to take proper care of my skin as I get older and prevent premature aging (is that possible with kids like mine….???)

Victoria at The Skin Health Clinic told me when I met her that skin care should be simple. She also said that good skin comes from commitment and ongoing care – not an overnight miracle. Her knowledge, expertise and passion for healthy skin above all else convinced me from day one that I was in safe hands. After a few months of visiting her for treatments and following a simple skincare regime at home with minimal products, I was already seeing huge benefits to my skin.

So when Victoria suggested stepping things up a gear and having some Microneedling, I didn’t hesitate.

When carried out by a trained professional who has taken time to prepare your skin and get it healthy first, like Victoria did with me. Microneedling has enormous benefits for all skin types. Many people turn to it to help with scarring or pigmentation. It promises to help reduce fine lines and the appearance of pores and to help skin recover volume.

Unlike other “trendy” skincare procedures such as lasering or chemical peels which actually damage the skin’s dermis, Microneedling causes no damage and on a basic level (not too much of a science lesson I promise) it works by helping stimulate the production of fresh collagen which in turn helps your skin become renewed, rejuninated and all the good stuff that comes from that.

I’ve had two treatments now, so I feel able to write about my experience with some confidence, having already seen the results after just one treatment.

So what actually happens?

Upon arrival, Victoria prepped my skin with a gentle enzyme treatment, then we moved on to the main course.

So having needles repeatedly jabbed into your skin…does it HURT? I have heard of some pretty unpleasant outcomes from Microneedling, but believe me blood shouldn’t be dripping from your face. A well trained professional will not damage your skin. The team at The Skin Health Clinic will ensure your skin is prepared and healthy before they begin treatment and are careful to explain that this isn’t a one off, miracle treatement; the prep work must go in before hand and the follow up care is important.

I’ll be honest it didn’t tickle, but it was mildly uncomfortable at worst. Afterwards, Victoria applied a soothing cooling mask, then applied a serum to restore moisture and calm my skin. After my second session I also had some LED light treatment, which helped boost the impact of the treatment and helped settle my skin.

Immediately afterwards, my skin was pink and felt a little hot to the touch. You can’t wear liquid foundation or ideally any make up immediately after, but Victoria applied a little mineral make up after my first session as I had to be out and about that day. On my second visit I went home and keep my skin make up free for the next 36 hours. 

The science behind it all means you will start to see results after 14 days, when the new collagen is produced. 

I can already see great results from my first session so I’m excited to see how things will have progressed in another few weeks when the effects from session two start to show.

Ultimately, my goal is to have healthy skin I don’t need to worry or think about. To be able to run out to drop the kids to school make up free, without feeling self conscious or feeling the need to cover up blemishes, and uneven skin tone. This is really helping me and I’m so glad I have taken some control back over my skin and taken this time to prioritise a little time to look after myself. Goodness knows with a busy life and small children, it seemed impossible to think I had the time or energy, but it’s been effortless after my initial worry and I am so grateful I did.

For more info, contact The Skin Health Clinic to find out more, or book a consultation.


My skin imaging after just one session -shown above. Look at the improvement in my forehead lines and general skins tone.


A cooling mask, post Microneedling.



*I’d like to add here, for the sake of full disclosure, that I was lucky enough to be gifted some of the products and treatments through this journey. I haven’t been paid to blog or share this, but do so from a place of genuine and honest opinion. I rarely work with brands or companies and have chosen to do so on this occasion because I firmly believe in the results. It’s important to be transparent.

Sunshine & showers


I’m sitting as I write looking out at a grey June morning, there’s a light mizzle of rain drifting down. I’m sipping coffee and I have wrapped a blanket around me to ward off the unseasonal chill in the air. It’s a while since I last blogged. Life’s been busy and we have been enjoying some unusually lovely weather here in little Northern Ireland. There’s been plenty of outdoor activities and exploring with the kids and making the most of it. Little time to put my thoughts down on paper. As I look out at that damp, gloomy morning though, it’s hard to imagine the glorious sunshine was here just a few days ago. It got me thinking how much life can feel the same.

Sometimes it’s glorious, but then the storm clouds gather. The rain bursts through. It’s hard to imagine or believe, in that moment, that the sun was ever there. But if you close your eyes and stand still, you can smell life in that sweetly scented rain. It’s cold but it washes and cleanses and brings new life.

I say I’ve been busy lately, but I’ve also had some down days. A bit of a dip. My old friend anxiety took over a little and made my days feel hard. I’m ok. Nothing to write home about really, but it has made me realise how important it is to look after myself and that I can’t take feeling great for granted.  

When the sun proverbially shines on us, its wonderful, but I’m coming to understand that the showers are necessary, even the odd storm is inevitable. When it comes, baton down the hatches and look after yourself.

The sun will come back out and when it does, you will feel stronger for it and all you weathered to get there.

I have stood my ground. Rested. Kept a lid on it. Talked about it some. Carried on. There’s no right or wrongs I am learning, just trying –  and remembering to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

We all hear how important it is to talk about these things. To make them the everyday. Well this has been my everyday for a while now, not many know or have noticed – I’m a typical plodder on-er. To the world I’ve just been my usual self. And maybe I didn’t want to admit it to myself, I have this notion when I am in the grips, that if I talk too much about it, if I give it “life” then I am allowing it more power than it deserves. So I keep a lid on it. It’s my coping mechanism. I am feeling much stronger (hence maybe feeling ready to let it “out” there).

Here’s something I am learning though. If you can feel the storm clouds gathering around you. If you are standing in the rain right now; all is not lost. Know that it’s ok and it’s temporary. It will pass. And what comes next will be beautiful. Just keep going.

For the Weekend


Jeepers I’m so glad to see you Friday. It’s been another franticly busy week in work. I’m really looking forward to slowing down and getting some much needed rest. 

Tonight, my girly said all she wanted to do was watch a movie with me and snuggle. How could I refuse? So it’s Moana and pj’s for us. Rock and Roll

Speaking of rest, the uber wise Mel Wiggins wrote on her blog recently about turning the notion of rest into a mindset rather than something we ration. Worth a read for sure!

Another of my favourite blogs right now is Amble & Ash from the beautiful Emma @littlewoodlife her blog post today embodies some of my very favourite things, as she explores our beautiful country with her kids and captured the most stunning photos as forever memories.

Have you been following along with my home girl @mylittleduke? She has created the most special collaborative journal Mighty Mothering bringing together stories of motherhood to raise up, celebrate and share stories of motherhood. It really is something special.

Another mama worth checking out tonight is @blossomingbirds a girl after my own heart, working and doubting and juggling and maybe just taking a few minutes tonight to celebrate her own achievements.

If you are a fellow explorer like me and love nothing more than an adventure on home soil, finding hidden gems or celebrating some of our best know spots, then join in the new hashtag over on instagram from Alex @thefullshilling #thelocalwayfarer and maybe even find some new spots to venture to.

Don’t forget my readers can still claim a £20 voucher to use when booking a skin consultation with The Skin Health Clinic just quote BS2018 when booking. What better way to rest and look after yourself.

And finally on the theme of rest, I’m addicted to these beauties, sent to my by Annie from @birchandbay The Deep Sleep Aromatherapy Spray and soy Massage Candle are filled with essential oils of Lavander, Roman Chamomile and Vetiver. I’ve been spraying it on my pillow all week to help me relax and sleep deeply. Organic, Handmade, Ethical and AMAZING, made by a mama and perfect for all us tired mamas out there.

So whatever you are doing this Friday evening and for the rest of your weekend, enjoy and don’t forget to find time to rest.