My Four Walls

Christmas.

I LOVE it! I love everything about it.

I love the sparkle, the sounds, the smells, the smiles.

I love the kindness. I love how it brings out the best in so many people.

I love the glitter, the happy and the magic…

But what I don’t love,  is the pressure placed on us by the interweb to create magical, Christmas card worthy Hallmark moments.

It’s started already; Instagranny and Bookface are full of pictures of beautiful trees and perfect living rooms.  None of us posted the mess of them being put up though did we!? 

Myself included.  Of course not.  We want to show the world our best smile don’t we? We want to give the general idea that we’ve got our sh*t together inside our own four walls.

And this year, not being able to visit our friends and families has led to more people sharing their images online.  

Any newsfeed is filled with festive fun; trees going up, garlands being made, fancy glasses with tipples by the fire, smiles and joy.  Houses now seem to be “themed”, and showhouse worthy. 

 It’s rather cool to look at in fairness and isn’t it wonderful how we can share ideas and get inspiration simply by watching other people’s posts?

And it’s lovely for us to see inside the four walls of the cousins or friends who we know we probably won’t be able to visit this year.  

Stupid Covid…

The selfies from Christmas shopping trips have been largely replaced by snaps of boxes and packages arriving on doorsteps, accompanied by hashtags joking about the #postmanismybestfriend or #cantrememberwhatIordered.

The staff parties and large get-togethers are whittled down.

It’s all pretty different isn’t it? 

And yet, what stays the same is that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. 

Maybe you have one tree that is still in the attic and will stay there until the 20th?  That’s OK.

Maybe you have two different trees with a mishmash of colours and decorations as old as you?  Fablis.

Maybe you’re quite happy to leave the tree as it is after the kids have decorated it and it warms your heart to see all of the decorations around the bottom.  Class. 

Maybe you let them at the tree, but absolutely fix the whole thing after they’ve gone to bed?  You are my people Mammas.

Maybe you don’t give a hoot if your decorations are multicoloured and not in any way planned.  That’s brilliant! 

Maybe you prefer to put the tree up yourself rather than creating an illusion of family fecking JOY.  Go for it. 

Maybe you don’t see the point in matching Pjs.  Don’t buy them.

Maybe you hate turkey.  Don’t buy turkey. 

Maybe you don’t like mulled wine…or the smell of cinnamon?  Don’t buy those candles.

Maybe you don’t wrap every single present… once again, my people. 

Maybe you don’t get professional photos done.  There is no law in fairness.  

Maybe you can’t face going to see a Santa this year.  Your call Mammy. Your call. 

Maybe you are devastated that you can’t see certain people this Christmas. We all are.

Maybe you are quietly NOT devastated to not see certain people…that’s OK too! 

Maybe Christmas is grating on your nerves and you can’t even begin to process it because of your own personal circumstances.  To you, beautiful Queen, I send all my love. 

If this year has taught us anything, it is that what happens outside our four walls (or outside of our own bubble), really does not matter. 

Christmas will happen, whether it’s quiet and understated, or extravagant and instaperfect. 

On the 25th, we’ll wake up.  We’ll do what we need to do and then on the 26th, we’ll get on with it again. 

I adore Christmas.  I love it. I’m missing some things and some people this year.  We all are. 

I’m looking forward to closing the doors of my own messy four walls and to spending some much needed down time with my own people…

 But I’m very very aware that it’s not the same for us all.  Especially this year. 

Remember that what you see online is contrived.  It is not always real.  In fact, even the most “real” people that you follow, CHOOSE what to show you. 

If you find yourself doubting your choices, or second guessing your Christmas, or feeling poop about yourself, do yourself a favour. 

Hit mute or unfollow. 

Don’t watch people who make you feel second, or less. 

Your Christmas will be what you make it.  And what happens within the four walls of other people, doesn’t matter one iota. 

How Many Hats are YOU Wearing?

Recently, a ‘challenge’ circulated Instagram where everyone posted four different images; How they look on Faceook, Instagram, LinkIn and Tinder.

It was fun and harmless and I happily posted my own. It was one of those silly, fun, giggle-inducing challenges and most of us enjoyed watching the collages popping up.

We all wear multiple hats. As parents, we have eleventy billion hats to wear in a single day; fun Mammy, strict Mammy, cross Mammy, huggy Mammy…the list is endless.

We have so many different sides to us; so many different qualities that we reserve for different versions of ourselves.

This USED to simply be our personalities, our “Identity” and we only showed each identity to the people who needed to see them. Now however, with social media and the necessity of online profiles, we are ALL of our identities at once, to whoever wants to see us.

Once upon a time, we changed our hats as we changed situations throughout the day.

We were ‘Mammy-Me’ at home, ‘Professional-me’ at work, ‘sassy-me’ with partner or when out, ‘fun-me‘ with friends etc.

As the day progressed, we put on whichever hat suited each situation and while most of us wore many many hats throughout the day, we were usually able to wear one at a time.

We still do this in our “real lives” each day.

But now, online, we often wear lots at the same time. It depends which platform you are using. There is an awareness of how you are viewed.

On LinkIn, it’s ‘Business-Me‘ all the way; Trying to come across as professional, approachable, reliable, intelligent and to stand out without shouting too loudly. Aware that any eyes are watching and that possibilities are constantly coming and going.

On Twitter, it’s socially and morally ‘Vocal-me‘… Trying to make a point without inviting every troll from Trollville for tea, trying hard to be heard in a wave of wit and controversy. Trying not to tag the wrong person or use the wrong hashtag. Most of us aren’t quite sure which “me” to put on Twitter.

On Instagram, it’s usually more ‘Fun-Me‘ for most people. To share or not to share? To filter or not to filter? To care or not to care? It depends on why you use it.

Thankfully, I don’t DO Tinder… I don’t think I’d have the energy for that craic anyway!

For me, I have my blog, so on that, I’m wearing my Mammy-hat, my wife-hat, my writer-hat, my friendly-hat, my honest-hat, my sensible-hat, my opinionated-hat and sometimes my Fancy-hat. 🙂

Then on my business page, it’s my pro-hat, my motivational-hat, my fitness-hat, my marketing-hat…

Add on Facebook, where again, many of us have personal pages as well as blog or business pages, not to mention all the groups we might be in for business or hobbies or kids’ activities.

And yet, once again, popping onto one little app for 20 minutes can be exhausting as we switch our hats over and over again depending on who we are interacting with. Often, we flick from app to app, navigating a few different platforms and therefore many different hats at once.

… and suddenly we can see why we can find ourselves wearing so many hats that our neck begins to crane under the weight and sometimes, it all gets too much.

There’s a lot of falsity on the internet. Lots of “Just Be YOURSELF” and “You do YOU!” (I’m all for these by the way), but hang on a second. We are MORE than just one version of ourselves. It’s completely natural. Someone who is only ever ONE way online, is probably the one who is false.

Being different versions of yourself is not false. We have ALWAYS done it. We always will. We ALL put on the phone voice, or speak in different voices depending on who we talk to. (Who’s a cutey witto baby gurl? Where’s a Mammy’s bestest wittle beebee?”)

We’ve all got different personas that we adopt depending on our physical audience; Boss, friends, clients, students, customers, relatives, neighbours, colleagues, family… everyone who knows you in real life, knows a different version of you.

Online is no different, and it’s not fake to show all of your different sides. It’s a must, especially if you have a business. The difference is however that it’s constant and it can be all at once.

In real life, it’s a bit more simple.

At home, I’m Mum and wife.

At work, I’m colleague/friend.

In my classroom, I’m teacher. (and even that depends on the age of the class in front of me.)

In the gym, I’m motivating Maria, trainer and smiler.

In my classes, I’m strong and invincible and Duracell Bunny.

In my rehearsals, I’m loud and bossy and creative, and all the things a Director must be to mould 60 talented adults into a show.

With friends, I’m… well it depends who I’m with I suppose. We have different friends who bring out different sides of us too, don’t we?

And when you combine all of the real life hat wearing with the online hat wearing, it’s exhausting.

Sometimes, when the hats all pile up, we get tired.

Sometimes, all of the hats topple us over.

For most of us, we have to pick up all the hats and keep them on our heads; all are valuable and necessary. Very few of the hats can be removed completely, (not without HUGE life decisions!)

But what we can do to lessen the weight, is to sometimes switch off our online selves and focus on the real life Me.

Remember that you can switch off. That you don’t have to answer every message immediately. That you can pause platforms for a few hours, or days, or weeks… the internet police are not going to hunt you down.

Keep wearing all of your hats. Wear your favourite hats most and often.

But when the hats get too heavy to wear so many at once, take them off for a while, and just be you.

And remember, every one has their own style and we all wear different sizes. 😉

M x

I “So don’t Dooooo social Media”

“I don’t doooooo Facebook.” 

“I don’t doooooooooo Instagram.”

“I don’t doooooooo social media.” 

Do I have a problem with any of these statements?

Of course not.

There are no rules to say that we have to do any of the social media platforms we chose to sign up to, are there?  And I know many people who have signed off social media, for various reasons, and who simply and politely say “I’m not on Facebook anymore” if I make reference to it.

But see, when the “dooooo” is accompanied by a ‘duh’-sneer, then, I “doooo” have a problem.

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Because if you are involved in a conversation about something that was on social media, and you announce that you “don’t doooooooo social media”, with a snarled lip and a rolled eye, then what you are dooooooing, my Darling, is being mean.

Because your inference is that the other people in the group are silly or sad or even pathetic for still partaking in the odd scroll.

Now, I am the very Doll who warns often about the ability that Social Media has to suck us into its wormhole; of the powerful effect that it can have on our mood and on our lives.  I give talks on reading Instagram and recognising the falsity of it.

I’m pretty adept at knowing myself if and when I need to ease up on my own scrolling. 

And yet, I enjoy the interaction I get online.  I read interesting articles.  I see people I like doing well in things.  I’ve met lovely people (and a few loopdies too!) and I enjoy when content is clever.

I can keep up with news and current affairs and I enjoy the conversations that I have; both ONLINE and ABOUT what is online.

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It’s becoming quite frequent to hear people say that they’ve deleted their FB app from their phone, or that they’ve logged off Instagram, but many of those who say that they “don’t DOOOOOOO” social media still have their accounts and still have a snoop every so often.  Nothing wrong with that is there?  No.

And indeed there is nothing wrong with deciding that you are no longer going to share stuff on your social media profiles.  If I’m honest, I rarely use my own private account.  I write and post on my Blog’s social media.  But as for my own personal accounts, they’re pretty quiet.

But do I ever snub or scoff with a “I don’t doooooooooo facebook” or “I have better things to be doing than scrolling thank you,” or “That social media is such a waste of time”? 

No.

Because I’m not a judgy pants. I don’t feel the need to demean your decision.  And I don’t think I’m better than you because I DOOOO Doooo social media.

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Imagine if I did it next time I’m in a restaurant.

Waitress –  “Did you see the dish with the tomato?”

 Me –  “Eh No, I don’t DOOOO tomato?”, raise my eyebrow as if the waitress is the most stupid cretun I’ve even encountered and then dismiss the rest of the conversation as irrelevant, given that it’s based on tomato, (which I don’t dooooo…)  How would that go down?

Not well.    Because whether I do or don’t do tomato is really not that big a deal, is it?

I’d imagine she’d think me a rude cow actually.

She might even post about it on Facebook…

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I wonder how it would work if those of us who do still partake in the scrolling and socialmedia-ing were to say things like

“Eh NO, I don’t doooooo Netflix binges” or

“I don’t dooooooooo gardening. How sad!”  or

“I don’t dooooooooo watching TV”.

I wonder how the people who can talk for hours about the TV show they love to watch, or the podcasts they like to listen to, or indeed the books they read, or the crosswords they like to do, would feel, if I looked at them as if they were deluded, and sympathetically announced that “I don’t understand how they could be bothered” or that “I have better things to be doing than colouring in”?

And sure, I probably wouldn’t get an answer would I?

Because I’m posting this on social media and so they’re  all too busy off “NOT DOOOOOOOING social media” to see it, aren’t they?

Or are they?

We’ll see!

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Speaking of Social Media, are you following me over on my platforms?  I’m on Facebook and Instagram and sometimes, on Twitter.

 

The InstaMammy Reality

I like social media.
I like how it allows me to stay in touch with people.
I like how it helps me to connect with old friends.
I love how it allows my family members who are scattered like glitter across the planet, to see what’s happening at home.
I love how it lets me see my niece’s little face and how she knows who I am even though they live abroad.
I love how one comment or image can spark conversations that are both heated and entertaining; sometimes even intelligent!
I like to see photographs of the people I like, smiling and happy.
I enjoy it and I get it I suppose.

As a Mummy, it provides some escapism. When the kids are asleep or you find yourself with 5 minutes to sit with a cuppa, there’s something nice about hitting the little blue F  and seeing what’s happening in the real world.

You know? That place where exciting things happen? Where Peppa Pig isn’t in charge and where people live wonderful lives?

Where everyone has terrifyingly precise, painted eyebrows and sparkly white teeth and where people look naturally happy, all of the time?

You get to look into the lives of your “friends”: see their exciting nights out, admire their fabulous clothes, wonder where they get the time or money to visit that salon again.

We see happy families, smiling for the selfie.
We see who’s at the gym, who’s out for dinner and who’s heading away on holiday.

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And while there is no harm in this really,  the key is to know that what you’re looking at is not reality.
It’s virtual.
It’s fabricated.
It’s lies.

No one’s life is perfect all of the time.  We know that, but let’s face it…who is going to voluntarily put a shitty photograph of themselves up for the world to see?

The natural selfies are probably one of 23 shots.

There are magical filters that apparently beautify! (Note to self…find out more about these.)

The reality is that regardless of how careful you are, if you look through your list of friends, you’ll possibly come across at least 2 people about whom you have to ask yourself “who is this?”

And while it keeps us connected, a huge issue for many new mums, is the isolation caused by social media.

Yes, we can see what’s happening and stay up to date with our friends.  We post photographs and status updates about our children and about our lives, to let our friends and families see how cute they are and how entertaining life is with kids.

But when this means that our friends feel that they don’t need to visit, or meet for coffee, or pick up the phone, then… we have a problem.

When seeing everyone else having fun, makes you feel boring and frumpy in your busy, unglamorous world of feeds and nappy changes, then…we have a problem.

When you know the story before someone tells you it, then…we have a problem.

When someone you haven’t spoken to in 2 years only realises that you’re no longer friends when you finally unfriend them on social media, then…we have a problem.

When every conversation  you have includes the line “Yeah, I saw that,” then…we have a problem.

And it’s our own fault.  We see it all on social media so we no longer feel the same need to ring someone up to ask how they’re doing.
After all, we know they’ve been to dinner this week, had the dog to the beach and that the baby has been puking.
We read it on Facebook.

We no longer consider a coffee date important as we know what’s going on with them.
We read it on Facebook.

But of course, Facebook doesn’t give you the same satisfaction that you get from good conversation over a cuppa.
Facebook doesn’t give you a hug before you go back to the whirlwind of your life.
Facebook might help you feel connected to the world outside your home, but only for a second, and only until it doesn’t.

Last week, I met a good friend for dinner.

She’s not on Facebook.

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It was refreshing. She was interested in my stories, in how I was, in how the girls were doing… she hasn’t seen it on Facebook. I was delighted to hear about what she’s been up to since Christmas. It was real conversation and it was lovely. We actually had so much to catch up on.  There were no lies about how perfect life is.  It’s difficult to lie to someone’s face.

We were able to talk about the difficulties we have with our respective Mini-Mes. We laughed at things we remembered from our nights out BC. Stories were interesting because they hadn’t already been told or seen. It was good, old fashioned catch up and it made me feel fuzzy and loved and ridiculously real again.

So while this isolation I speak of obviously doesn’t just apply to mums, that’s the angle I’m seeing it from.  I’m lucky that I have a wonderful family and some very good friends, but sometimes, just sometimes, being a mummy in the presence of two fabulously fun princesses 24 hours a day, can be a lonely place.

And while social media is fantastic and helps us stay in touch, it isn’t real.

So if you know someone; a mummy or daddy, or friend or cousin, who you have to really think about the last time you actually spoke to them, do you and them a favour.

Pick up the phone and say hi.
Or call to visit and actually hold the baby, while she makes you a coffee.

Rather than sharing sentimental quotations or memories on our friends’ pages, we really need to try to make more of our reality… not our virtual reality.

So there you go.
Social media is fabulous.  I get it.  I enjoy it.
But sometimes, it just isn’t enough.
And that’s the truth.

 

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I am Stuck in our Phones Mum

As a writer and blogger, I am often guilty of depending on my phone a little too much. But I am very, very aware of how much time I can spend flicking through social media and I am well able to leave the phone down.

Like everyone, I sometimes find myself constantly checking it; needing to know if people had responded or reacted or replied to me, especially as my summer holidays set in and I was able to be more active on my social media platforms. Unlike during my working day, I had access to my phone all day, every day. But then I realised that it was taking up more minutes of the day than I cared to admit. And those are minutes that I really have more important things to be doing.

So a few months ago, I made the simple, but absolutely life-changing decision, to switch off notifications on my phone. Such a basic, quick solution to an ugly problem. Rather than constantly feeling obliged to click on the little red number beside the Facebook or Insta icon, I am more in control of when I do (and more importantly, when I don’t) pick it up.

Is it working? I think so. It’s certainly made me think twice about my own relationship with my phone and I’m enjoying the mental freedom of no longer being a puppet to the beeping puppeteer. But let me tell you. I only THOUGHT I had a problem.

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In the past few months, I’ve been in two massive cities; firstly London, then New York. (I’m not usually that jetsetting and exciting, but it’s been a busy one!) And one thing that I noticed in each, was how ridiculously stuck to screens people are.

Now I’m not just talking about people ignoring each other in bars and restaurants for virtual conversations on their screen. I’m not just talking about the woman who is so busy flicking through videos about drawing eyebrows, and fake smiles and backsides on Instagram, that she doesn’t see the person who might be interested in hers across the table.

I’m not just talking about the man who says “in a minute” eleven times before actually looking up to answer his friend, or partner, or child. Because while all of these things are sadly a daily occurrence in most cities, what I couldn’t get my head around was the fact that in the larger cities, people now are taking their phone to a new level.

Because now, it is unsafe to walk on a street.

There is a new generation, or species perhaps, who genuinely do not realise that when they are walking, they must LOOK AHEAD. Or at least look at the ground in front of them.

They possibly think they are living inside the virtual reality of whatever computer game they like to play, and that if people walk into them, they will simply dissipate and dissolve and disappear like the avatars in their games do.

They don’t GET that if you don’t look ahead of you, you can not see where you are going and therefore, you will bump into people.

Perhaps these are a new-age type who have actually evolved to deal with the banal act of walking in the real world. Perhaps I am mistaken and they are ACTUALLY looking at a clever app on their device which is warning them to step left, or manoeuvre right or to stop at the road.

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Maybe it is I who is so sad and deluded. Or maybe, just maybe, I am simply old and these young’uns have actually evolved to such heights that they can now see from the top of their heads and therefore don’t HAVE to look up, like we oldies. Never mind our mothers who had eyes in the back of their heads, these guys have them on the top.

Am I being sarcastic. (God yes. And if you are genuinely unsure, perhaps YOU need some more human interaction!) But in all seriousness, the number of times I got shouldered or bumped into or actually pummelled while trying to walk through the already crazy gauntlet of the modern city streets, was unbelievable.

And I’m not referring exclusively to young people here, although the majority were possibly of the snowflake generation, possibly genuinely believing that other people quite simply must MOVE out of their way. Heaven forbid that they would be distracted from the importance of their screen.

Many of these crowners (for they looked like what a midwife sees at a birth, approaching hair or bald head first), were older. And yet, age or gender aside, they were not one bit concerned about the other, real people, who they were ploughing through.

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I remember sitting in London with my brother a few years ago, aghast at the way people were dependent on their phones; uber, food orders, directions everything… And then our own wee country caught up. And that is both fine and terrifying, because judging by the bigger cities right now, we have a zombie society emerging. And what starts in these cities, eventually reaches us. It’s bad enough that we have to deal with dummies driving while looking at their phones. (Seriously dude, no one looks at their crotch and smiles…)

But judging by what I saw this summer, we shall soon be walking through throngs of headbutters, hunched over like question marks.

We all need our phones. We all use them more than we even realise. They are part of our culture. But when they are simply extensions of our hands, into which we place more importance than human interaction and actual physical awareness, then we have a problem. And when the only communication and words that we pay attention to are being fed by a wire into our ears, we run the risk of becoming deaf to reality.

Imagine if we all looked up? Imagine what things we would see…

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