Old gender Frontlines endure in Todays Suburbs: Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk

This novel was suggested to me by my PhD supervisor as I began my research in to the impact social media is having on experiences of motherhood. The women and mothers in this novel don’t make use of social media, nor does their author to communicate who they are so it wasn’t for that that my supervisor suggested the book. Rather it was for its precise anatomy of the struggles of women with the daily divided tertories of men and women’s work. they way Cusk describes lives where the politics of gender should be alive, kicking and screaming – but isn’t. These women are bright, intelligent but most exist as if feminism hasn’t happened. As if The Feminine Mystic, Female Eunuch, A Room of One’s Own and the many other conscious raising tracts of the politics of sexual inequality hadn’t happened nor the movements they inspired. Cusk and her characters are dissatisfied in their housework and child rearing duties and wonder what’s changed for women now compared to the past. Certainly not much as far as they see. Some accept this as the way of things. Some find it less easy to stomach. But what to do? Crop your hair the only answer one woman comes up with. Cusk relies on a conventional third person narration to detail the thought, dreams and actions of her characters with a genome scientists precision. The shopping trips, school runs, neighbourly dinner invitations that make up their seemingly similar suburban lives  in desirable  Arlington Park the landscape in which they must thrive or sink. As we move over the lives of these characters Cusk gives us a wide tracking shot of their lives, intercut with well place close ups – but she keeps us at a distance and at times I found myself reading on as a matter of duty rather than desire. I think the distancing effect of her writing is due it part to its eloquence. Dare I say over eloquence? Although I admire and enjoyed her prose the impact of the characters lives feels backgrounded as a consequence of Cusk’s prose style somehow. Cusk writes with acuity and if you are a wife and/or mother it is likely you will find something to recognise in these pages. But don’t expect any solutions to the problems of domestic life it raises.

Mum’s use social media more regularly than general population…

Just came across this report on parenting website babycentre.co.uk. Some interesting findings clearly presented.


This report was commissioned to analyse the social media habits of mothers and how that impacts on purchasing habits. It demonstrates what you might suspect – that social networking does indeed drive purchasing decisions – and in particular the consumer habits of mothers. Well why else would advertisers pay popular bloggers, you tubers  and social networking sites to advertise on their pages? Despite this obvious finding there’s much to mull over here. For example [p10 of the pdf] how women adapt their social habit when they become mothers – for instance finding themselves having less in common with friends who don’t have children and feeling more comfortable with friends that do or new friends who are mums because they can talk about their children without fear of boring the other person. Is the world really divided between those who have and those who don’t have children. I’d like to think not but i have to say this point rings true in my experience. What’s your experience? Do the eyes of your friends-without-children glaze over as you discuss little johnny or jana? Also how mothers use social media to enhance their well being by posting about personal, health or professional goals and achievements. A positive thesis. A more negative thesis – one I’ve been reflecting on these past few years is how social media increases social anxiety and stress. Perhaps these are two sides to the same coin. The anxiety or stress we might feel by seemingly not having such beautiful, ambitious, achieving lives as our peers is placated by purchasing the product and services so conveniently placed next to our social activity… mmm.

Anyways – lots more to digest so take a look and if you see anything of a similar nature on your interweb travels do share. THis is all grist to the mill of my PhD.

For a summary:


Found anything else like this? Please share and help me broaden my PhD research net!

Post a link in the comments sections below – or if you’re seeing this on my FB page share with link with #socialmediamums.


Petals – Supporting Those Suffering from Pregnancy Loss

Loosing a child at any stage of their or your life is a tragedy. Loosing a child you never met or felt is a strange event. Like missing something you never had. mourning someone you never knew – but to which have a completely visceral connection. After my third miscarriage [trying to have my first child] I was referred to a consultant who made the routine investigations and suggested medical answers to my situation. If it hadn’t been for the service Petals Charity founder Karen Burgess provided at my hospital’s birth centre I might still be searching for the answers to more difficult questions. the ‘why me’s?’ How can I grieve for someone I never knew?’  ‘How long will I feel like this?’  It was a deeply isolating and sad time where everywhere i looked happy mums laughed with their healthy newborns, women blooming in late pregnancy gracefully sidled around every corner and the realisation that something I had taken for granted but now knew to be as uncertain as everything else worth having in life – having a safe and healthy pregnancy – seared, raw and relentless. My sessions with Karen helped me to come to terms with the loss and galvanised me to look to the future with a positive and mindful attitude.

If you live in the Cambridgeshire area you may need Petals services or know someone who will so please support their work by voting for them in the Lottery Good Causes. Winning would raise the profile of this charity, its work, acknowledge the emotional impact of pregnancy loss and if they win they also receive a cash award. Money that would enable even more parents to receive the support they need at a difficult time.

Please Support this charity by following the link below and voting by July 23rd.

Thanks Sx


7 reasons to get married – part 2

Why do I say being married is a good way to be? Being married for me to the particular person who is my husband has provided me with a healthy life stability – both emotional [love and support] and practical ( I could never have afforded to buy a house on my own). Something I never really thought I missed but looking back clearly did. Obviously marriage isn’t for everyone and people find themselves married for all sorts of good and not so good reasons but for this particular person it’s been a deeply rewarding and affecting experience that will be a part of who I am forever – regardless of what the future holds.


7 reasons to get married

Today is my 7th wedding anniversary. Although my husband and I have been together for 13 years (and celebrate our ‘getting together’ anniversaries too) the wedding anniversaries are special in a different way. In answer to the question posed on the header of this blog: how should a person be? I’d give ‘married’ as one – perhaps rather unfashionable (?!) – answer. The public commitment my husband and I made to each other this day 7 years ago in front of family and a large cohort of friends is still something of which i feel proud and hold dear. Sure, as we were living together for 6 years previously and had bought a house we’d already made a commitment but the act and event of celebrating this publicly still feels great today. There is a bond of love and life-journeying that deepens with each year and as we enter this 8th year with the family of 2 children we wanted finally a reality I feel as excited and as loved up about our future as I did in 2007. Being married is one of the best things I have done or will ever be.


16 Days on the Post Natal Ward

Mothers and their newborns usually spend on average 1-3 days recovering from the physical and emotional experience of birth on the post natal ward at the Rosie Hospital in Cambridge [part of Addenbrookes]. They enter the unmistakably NHS blue of the disinfectant smelling rooms with shiny floors and beige fittings bearing various signs of the hours that went on before.  Some walk, most are wheeled in on beds or chairs, clutching their fragile, hard earned bundles, faces fixed in a dazed cocktail of pain, relief and elation. As I was wheeled in 18 hours after being admitted I hoped for the same. 2 maybe three days tops. No one wnats to stay any longer than they have to. The post natal ward contrary to the beatific primal image of mother and child unions it may conjour –  is a kind of hell. It’s instruments cruel and unrelenting- sleeplessness, the constant shrill cries of babies as exhausted mothers struggle to breast feed their new charges for the first time – . However that was not to be the case. My second son Orin was born on Friday 25th April and we didn’t leave until May 11th – 16 days later.

It was a difficult time. Aside from the usual physical challenges of birth recovery [mine encumbered by a traumatic surgical procedure to remove my placenta which refused to self eject following a fairly controlled and according-to-plan birth experience – pool, no pain relief [just a little gas and air towards the end] – their were other difficulties. Firstly we both tested positive for a bacterial infection – Group B Streptococcus harmless to adults but not so for immune-weak new borns. The doctors set to work testing Orin for a number of other possible related infections – tests that included various bloods being taking and 2 attempts to remove spinal fluid via a lumbar puncture. The doctors were serious but reassuring and immediately put him on antibiotics while we waited for the results.  A few days later it transpired he had a meningitis infection, they adjusted the prescription and told us we’d have to stay for a further 11 days to complete a 14 day course. My heart sank. I had had no sleep to speak of, I was in considerable pain and going through a fever as my milk came down. after a few teary meltdowns, exhausted and stressed about the prospects of having to spend a further 11 days on the sleepless ward of hell a sympathetic midwife found me a single occupancy side room which turned things around considerably. i was able to sleep albeit in 2-3 hour slots due to Orin’s needs it at least gave me that and quiet and privacy and enabled us to get into a rhythm – something like what we’d be doing at home –  4 hourly observations, 12 hourly antibiotic and pain relief administration interruptions aside.

Orin Robert Philip Yates b.25.04.2014

Orin Robert Philip Yates b.25.04.2014

with brother Morley [b. 16.03.2011]

with brother Morley [b. 16.03.2011]

28 doses of antibiotics, 2 lumbar puncture procedures, too many blood tests, nappy changes, breathing/heart/temperature checks  to count later, having been given the all clear, we were discharged. Looking back the hardest thing about it all was being apart from Morley. The longest we had been apart before this was 48 hours-ish  – 2 nights/2 and a bit days at his Grandparents – at safe and known environment peopled by people we loved. This 16 days absence at the beginning of a huge life change was a challenge for both of us. Anxious he might resent his brother for keeping his Mummy away from home and him I just wanted to get the newness of this situation dealt with and normalised – to reassure him [and me] that all would be well. I missed my husband too. I missed his solid  presence and everything he stands for in my life. My anchor and true north. I relied on him for a large measure of my sanity. He came every day sometimes twice to bring Morley after nursery or visits to grandparents. He brought me Marks and Spencer ready meals when I could no longer face another helping of unidentifiable NHS mince dishes. Without him keeping things together at both ends I’m not sure we’d have made it through in such as good shape as we did.

We had it easy. Except for a brief high temperature Orin was never actually ill. They’d identified the bacteria before it had time to do its work. So many parents and their babies have a much harder time. Much harder. At the moment I can barely even hear about a hurt or injured child at the moment without welling up. So raw is my empathy valve for their suffering and that of those who love them. The experience has taught me something of the sense of isolation long term hospital care can make a patient feel. How ill health isolates you and sets you apart from ordinary life. The hospital is a world of its own with its own cycles, patterns and moods. it is the people who work there that kep you sane. Their professionalism filtered through an idiosyncratically British form of good humour and understatement – or ‘chipperness’. Seeing so many women come and go and uncomplainingly travel through such journeys of birth and pain, of physical and emotional challenges is truly inspiring. I don’t expect anyone who I met there will read this post but I will use tis space to say a huge heart felt thank you to all of the staff in the Lady Mary Ward. You made a difficult time less so and I will always remember you.

40 Weeks

It’s been 40 weeks. Today is the due date for my second boy. 40 weeks coursed through with various degrees of nausea, poor sleep, deeply aching back and hips, brain so blank from tiredness that makes you wonder if you’ll ever be able to put your thoughts together again,   [that nothing-else-makes-you-tired-like-pregnancy-makes-you-tired  feeling] fully cognisant that you are soon to enter  the glorious ‘ordinary’ sleep deprivation stage of newborn’s sleep and feeding demands and breast-feeding. In france you are not considered full term until 42 weeks. I will spend the next 2 weeks feeling overdue simply because in Britain we choose to call 40 week full term. Funny how some thing so biologically universal can be socialised in such culturally specific ways. from the end of today I will have to inform enquiring friends and family and strangers [nothing invites a random conversation so readily than being a heavily pregnant woman]  i am over due with the concomitant rolling of eyes, and sympathetic ‘nearly there!’ Baby is moving like a Kung Fu pro most of the time but my blood pressure is calm this time, so i’ll stick it out for as long as I can. As usual husbands prefer an end date and talk of inductions have taken place but after my last experience I want to give this boy every opportunity to show up in his own time. Of course a part of me very much wants to get on with it too  – childbirth is such a momentous, life altering and unpredictable thing that various degrees of apprehension are unavoidable – but seeing as this is likely to be my last journey on this particular biological trip a part of me also just needs to take my [our] time. Status update – as and when…