Don’t get me started on housework………..

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I hate it. Like a smear test it’s a necessity. You have to do it, there are no alternatives. You just have to get it done, or like a good bikini wax find a skilled technician (cleaner) to do it for you.

Household chores, tasks, whatever you want to call it. What a waste of time thinking or talking about it, right? I think I may be the exception. A thousand women, and probably more, clearly love it so much they had time to answer questions about it in a survey. I genuinely think my mother-in-law might have been one of them. After 4 years of knowing me, she is still pushing that I take up ironing.

Women apparently spend twice the time men do on household chores. The survey of working mothers found that, out of 54 common household tasks, women were chiefly responsible for 36 of them, 15 were shared by men and women, and just three were the preserve of men: changing light bulbs, taking the bins out and DIY.

Are the findings surprising? NO. Can I think of 54 household tasks? NO. Do I really care about who does what chores in my household? NO. The words ‘mad’ and ‘women’ spring to mind when you look at the results. In the words of my mother, ‘just get on with it and quit moaning’.

I really thought women were going places. We are now seen as more than just a womb. We have jobs, on occasion a ‘career’, hobbies, opinions and so much more. Yet some of us are still banging on about the household chores? Mumsnet and Woman’s hour I curse thee for taking us back about 100 years to even talk about this incredibly mundane subject.

Miriam Clegg wants what all men want, a profession, marriage, children, and an identity beyond being someone’s other half. She has it. But is she moaning about all the chores she does as well? No. She is cracking on with it like everything else in her life. Juggling many balls so to speak, including being wife to Nick Clegg, head of the Lib Dems. Can you imagine how hard that might be?

Who does the housework in my pile of bricks? Simple answer, the cleaner, me or my husband. A good cleaner is a necessity to keep my weekend as just that, not some sort of military style cleaning boot camp. I reckon the Clegg’s might have one too.

I, like Miriam married a capable, modern man (the little-shit) who does not expect me to be a domestic goddess chained to the sink whilst simultaneously hoovering and cooking. Besides I could not hoover as until recently I did not know where it was kept. I digress. We tend to work as a team, he cooks I chop, he mows the lawn, and I do the weeding. On Mondays I do the school pick up, on Tuesdays it’s his turn. You get the picture.

Sometimes tasks are carried out independently. It’s never analysed like a UN peace treaty, nor is it a source for one up man ship, arguments or any other forms of diva-like behaviour. Well not unless I put the dishwasher on when it’s half empty. This is his pet hate and has been known to cause a small squabble.

However, it is entirely true what they said about man tasks. I actually thought they were the law. Even a feminist such as me. I hold no shame, it’s a man’s world. I learnt the hard way. You see had I met my husband sooner I would not have spent 6 months cooking by candle light due to my total incompetence for changing light bulbs. Nor would I have had letters from the council about my overflowing bin despite my neighbour’s best efforts. And finally I would not have tried to drill a hole in the wall with a screwdriver attachment.

Is household chore management media worthy? No. Should it be a headline winning topic for journalists? No. But then neither should the stories relating to the naming of Katy Prices’ new baby. It’s life.

It’s simple. Household chores are like marmite or sprouts, you love them or loathe them. Either way, it’s best just to crack on and not moan. Channel your inner Miriam. No point playing the burning martyr you could cause a fire, and then how long would your list of household chores be?

Campaign for space – a letter to mumsnet!

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To the editor of mumsnet,

I have thought about writing this letter many times but always stopped. Today I figured why not. So here I am.

I am a stepmother. Unlike the dodo there are a lot of us about. 1 in 3 families in the UK are said to have a step element to them. If I am to quantify that as percentage, we are looking at 33.3333333% of the females in the UK are potentially stepmothers. It’s a high percentage.

Stepmother, the title normally beginning with a ‘wicked’, includes women with or without children of their own. It also covers those sharing pets, fancy china, sofa repayments, medical plans and anything else which already has a place to belong but you have ended up sharing responsibility for through the search for LURVE.

So it’s here I am confused. Your site is said to be the UK’s largest website for parents in particular mothers. It is also seen as one of the most influential sites for women in the UK. So why is the help for stepmothers virtually non existent on your site? There is a forum. But like the treasure at the end of the rainbow, it’s well hidden.

Society leaves stepmothers adrift like Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway. There are few if any groups to act as a life vest when the proverbial ship springs a leak. We, like Hanks did, often resort to talking to inanimate objects in a bid to make sense of it all. Well it’s this or reading erotic fiction. I kid you not. There are a few self-help books. Some nice fairy-tale fiction even. But mostly this irrelevant genre of fiction is what you find when searching on Amazon, for books for ‘stepmothers’.

Furthermore the taboos are just plain awful. Why are they repeated time and time again despite the fact that most of us are the total opposite? You could buck a trend. Turn the tide. Promote us. Make people understand us. Show the world that the children and small animals caught up in divorce are safe in our hands.

What about a tab to the top toolbar ‘stepmums’? It would be amazing. Like the many great articles written for actual mothers, the same could be written for stepmothers too. ‘Dos and Don’ts of a good stepmother’. ‘How to survive meeting the kids’. ‘The stepmother’s rights’. ‘Disciplining the kids – is it a toe in the water or dive bomb situation?’ The list of things that could be covered for light hearted humour or real-life advice is endless.

Just as mother’s say ‘you do not understand till you have a child of your own’. The same is true for stepmothers. It’s a tough gig. Often thankless. Never popular. We suffer from notoriety but for all the wrong reasons. It would be great to be recognised as more than cruel and bitter women with terrifying hair and severe aversions to children and small animals.

Is it not time to add a new tab to the header and give us some dedicated space?

Here’s hoping.

Yours sincerely
Maggie xx
(Maggie Deville. Cheshiressecretstepmummy@outlook.com)

Brownies accomplished!

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It was a Friday night. It was our social circles answer to ‘Come Dine with Me’. We, as in the ‘little shit’ and I, were on the dessert course. This meant it was me, flying solo, baking alone. Thankfully there was no Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry to assassinate me if it tasted like garbage!

I went to my fail safe cook book, Lorraine Pascale, Baking made easy. Or ‘baking for idiots’ as I call it (no offence Lorraine). As even a baking idiot such as me can make her recipes with success.

Ingredients:
165g Butter
200g Dark Chocolate (I used all 70% Dark Chocolate)
3 Eggs plus 2 yolks
1-2 tsp Vanilla extract
165g Soft brown sugar
2tbsp Plain flour
1 tbsp Cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
165-200g Oreo Cookies (the more the better)
Icing sugar to dust

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.

Brownies can be sticky, crumbly and gooey – here’s hoping – but it also means they can stick to the tin, and fall apart when removed. Greaseproof paper should prevent this! After all we do not want to waste any of this delicious brownie.

The next bit I cheated. I wacked the chopped butter and broken chocolate in the microwave for speed. Stopping at regular intervals to give it a good stir. It did the trick, it melted and combined beautifully.

Multi-tasking like a real domestic goddess I worked microwave melting magic whilst I whisked the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla extract together in a bowl. The whisking was done on sheer gut instinct. Having no idea the consistency I was looking for I just gave it plenty of power for a good 5 minutes or so.

Then came the brown sugar. Well most of it. It had to be added to the edge of the mix, to not lose any air. My poor weighing skills came in handy. As usual I had probably added a little too much brown sugar so the required amount ended up in the bowl. The excess in between my toes. Note to self. Wear shoes not flip flops when baking. Thankfully when I added the melted chocolate and butter mix it arrived at its final destination intact.

Again trial and error so I whisked for a further 5 minutes. Then adding the flour, cocoa and salt. Again whisking a little blind until it looked suitably gooey and mixed.

Then came the fun bit, crumbling Oreo biscuits. Messy, sticky, simply brilliant!

Two thirds of the Oreo’s get added straight away and again mix blind till you think you are there. When complete tip the mix into your prepared baking tin.

Cover the mix with the left over cookies, most of which will probably still be attached to your fingers, and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Et voila. Mission accomplished. I served the brownies with vanilla ice cream and a few strawberries whilst still warm.

Perfect brownies with an Oreo cookie twist. A decadent chocolate taste with a light texture makes them an ideal dessert at the end of a filling 3 course meal.

Verdict – empty plates all round.

Blackpool – not quite the gem of the north!

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I lost my virginity on Saturday night. My Blackpool illuminations virginity. With hindsight I should maybe have kept hold of it and died a virgin.

We returned from our visit to Blackpool in one piece. The left over ‘eau de log flume’ on the girl’s clothes may lead to our house being fumigated, a washing machine disposed of and a young girl being put in quarantine because of a very unsightly rash, but you know no real drama!

The lovely promenade which is sandwiched between the sea and a very impressive tram line guides you to the real Blackpool. Aside from the kamikaze seagulls attempting to crap on you at every possible opportunity it is a very pleasant entrance to a different world. Once you pass the giant glitter ball you know you are nearly there. The noise increases, the smell of grease, curry sauce and raw sewage becomes stronger and all that can be heard are high pitched squealing voices, and that was just the first of the many passing hen do’s!

The clientele combines the residents of the alien bar in Star Wars with Las Vegas, the dole office, hendosareus.com, stagdosareus.com and a large dose of shameless. Pink tutus, veils, L-plates, Borat style mankini’s, cheap UGG boots and dogs in muzzles are essential to be on trend in Blackpool. Without them, as we were, you stick out like a man with two heads.

It was grim. There are no other words to describe it. No, wait there are more.

Smelly, think fast food, body odour, raw sewage, sea water and very long haired wet dog mixed together.

Dirty, there appeared to be a layer of something coating everything. It’s either the grease deposited in fume form from all the fast food restaurants crammed into a small space, or the residue off the many people who visit there who have not had a wash since birth.

Cheap and nasty, sorry that is two words. The number of stuffed toys, cheap toys, crap toys, flashing and spinning toys, crap machines, noisy machines, cheap tat souvenirs, dodgy rides, brightly coloured teeth rotting rock, candyfloss and more crammed into a small area must be a world record. Henley’s toy store and Willy Wonka have nothing on Blackpool.

Life threatening
, sorry that is two words AGAIN. It boasts rides that were built before the First World War and have not seen a screwdriver or can of GT85 since. Furthermore the log flume to the South Pier, which must be one of the smallest ever built, has the ability to drench people and leave them with a nasty rash, all in the space of two minutes. Value for money at least.

Expensive. Yes that is right it may be filled to the rafters with people who resemble the cast of shameless or worse benefits street. But they are all there spending money on all sorts of crap like tomorrow may never come. At least I know where my taxes are going. In the bottom of a large portion of fish and chips, covered in curry sauce, eaten whilst simultaneously riding the big one! Again at least its value for money.

I must point out that we only actually ventured as far as the first pier, the South Pier. We had a baby with us who has not had all his basic immunisations and we worried for his health. Well this combined with joining the slowest moving fish and chip shop cue I have ever experienced in my life. Sadly, unlike the rides at Blackpool when screaming makes you go faster, the same rules do not apply. I do not think an atomic bomb could have got that cue moving. Small mercies. It meant there was no time to go much further. It was late, dark and full of even scarier sights than in daylight hours.

We left a short while later. We had two children turning blue with potential hypothermia, on the brink of making their skin fall off with incessant itching. Getting on the tram heading back towards our start point felt like an escape to match that of Clint Eastwood from Alcatraz. Like him we had to travel through a lot of crap to get there.

The long awaited Blackpool illuminations were about as impressive as a dog taking a dump standing up. As exciting as watching a painted wall dry and had all the allure of a gnat. Unlike the McDonalds sponsored lights I was indeed not ‘lovin-it’ and would rather chew my own arm off than go there again if the opportunity arises. The kids loved it. So it is true that with every cloud there is a silver lining.

Stepmothers – some seem to love a good moan…

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I am a happy stepmother. I am not a descendant of the Stepford wives nor does my husband ply me with sedatives without my knowledge. I am generally just happy. Glass half full. Optimistic. Yes – highly annoying!

As annoying as I am, nothing can be annoying as what I have seen of late courtesy of a number of stepmother forums. You know those places where people share their views, look for advice from experienced others and generally go to RANT.

Why if my clear hatred for forums is so clear did I venture on to one? Simple I was wondering, as many do, if anyone had been through a situation I experienced recently. I must also add it was a desperate one. Extreme measures and all that.

In short I discovered a lot of, not all, stepmother’s frequent forums like a drug addict visiting the methadone clinic. Constantly moaning, pointing out negatives and complaining it appears is a new addiction of my sisters in pseudo-parent life. JOY!

The life of a stepmother is like living near a volcano. Often, for periods of time they live quietly and lay dormant. But inevitably at some stage they erupt. The consequences can be a nightmare. The heat is intense. Unlike getting out the kitchen, there is no escaping the heat and the damage left behind can be extensive. But like most things in life, as with volcanoes too, the heat subsides. The situation resumes a dormant state. Things are fixable, and life can go back to normal.

There is a positive about volcanoes. They are never on permanent eruption mode. So why do so many stepmothers talk and act like this is the case? Always a drama. Always trouble brewing. AAAARRRGH.

Stepfamily life is what it is and nothing will change the bizarre dynamics it can bring. I get all the frustrations they share on forums and with whomever else will listen. I have been there. I am there every day. Yes I am happy, but not perfect or void of any natural emotions. Many things I concerned myself with and allowed to upset me would never change or at least not for a long time to come. Think the next millennium. So what do you do? GO MAD! NO THANKS.

It’s too easy to keep moaning about it. The negativity will spread as fast as the Ebola virus. People will avoid you. I got so bad, that once, a very good friend suggested her ears were starting to bleed listening to me. Enough said!

At times nothing will make it easier no matter how hard you try. In the words of Billy Ocean, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough gets going’ and that should not be on to a forum to share your personal woes, with some sad individual who loves to encourage people to moan. It will not help. It will not solve any issues. It will only make it all seem worse.

The women on the forums, I mean why are they there? Have they exhausted all their own friends and need to make fresh ears bleed? Yes a problem shared is a problem halved but only with the right type of person as a sounding board. A problem shared with fifty other bitter women is more like pouring oil on a fire. It multiplies the issues. The women seeking advice go from angry to ready to kill. From slightly sad to clinically depressed.

The solution is to quit moaning, seek out some positives and take proactive action to keep them ongoing. Buy a punch bag and give it a beating every time the frustration gets too much. Maybe join a club one night a week to get some ‘me time’ back. Try different tactics in reoccurring situations to ease or even eradicate them.

If you need to vent find some sane people to do it with. You will need to do it sometimes, you are human not a Stepford wife. Thank goodness! I boast some great friends who give sound advice and a slap around the face with a wet fish to wake me up when I start to go bitter. They are, might I add, not stepmothers but have common sense and positivity in abundance. Just what the doctor ordered when the road is bumpy.

I am it seems the ‘lucky’ stepmother. My volcano does not resemble Mount Vesuvius. It’s more like Krakatoa, not actually erupting just occasionally spitting hot lava into the sky. But we all can be this way if we wish. Remember the words of the boys of Monty Python, ‘always look on the bright side of life’ and this is very true. After all, there are worse jobs out there…..anybody for giving an elephant a Brazilian wax?

Bryony Gordon – The Wrong Knickers………

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I recently married. After years of being useless with men, and as an adult in general, things fell into place and I emerged from the stupidity tunnel. I married a lovely man whose nickname is ‘little shit’.

Before you break into a cold sweat. It is an ironic nickname. He is so not a ‘little shit’ in any way shape or form, well only on selective occasions as all husbands are. Any way around the time of my nuptials a book came to my attention, ‘The Wrong Knickers’ by Bryony Gordon. It was described as a little like Sex and the City but with more realism. I liked the sound of it.

I read several reviews. It appeared the book was a little like marmite. You either loved or hated the whole thing and what it stood for. Opinions of the writer were either placed below that of sewer rat or as high as what one might put on the shoulders of Emily Pankhurst.

When I started to read it I had a sneaking suspicion I would love it as much as I love the fore mentioned funny brown spread that always splits opinion. I had read a few short extracts which made my sides split with laughter. They also made me feel far more comfortable and less embarrassed about some of my incredibly stupid behaviour with men or anything else for that matter whilst in my twenties.

The press have focussed on the sex. I was expecting a dodgy version of fifty shades of grey featuring men who were not hot or ludicrously wealthy. It was a lot like this. The sex was a highly entertaining side to the story, and offered scenarios which any twenty something girl might relate to. But she was also frankly honest about her issues with alcohol, drugs, money and anything else which needed more than an ounce of common sense to deal with in an adult fashion. I was a bit that way, but without the drugs. They terrified me. I think a lot of girls were like her, they just never admitted to it. She gave the appearance of the young career woman, having it all, when actually she lived very near to the edge of it all falling apart.

SPOILER ALERT COMING. PLOT OVERVIEW. Which might I add has been well documented by many so I am not letting the proverbial cat out of the bag. The story is a fairy tale, but written warts and all ending in a happy, normal and realistic fashion. This includes, thank god, no ‘HELLO’ magazine wedding photo shoots with thrones and doves. Simply, she wakes up and smells the coffee. She ditches the drugs and booze, manages to pay back her debts, acknowledges the need to pay council tax and finally meets a normal example of the opposite sex.

She was manic, the writing style mirrors it. A twenty something full of life-stress, angst and neediness, combined with a blood supply continually over powered by a mix of alcohol and drugs would not talk sense in a short punchy fashion so why write it that way? The lengthy, ‘short sentence rule’ breaking sentences were cleverly crafted. She is a great writer, funny, honest, brave and most importantly wiser for the many mistakes she has made, hence why the book is so good! Life experience and hindsight brings writing brilliance.

So why did I love this book? I, like so many women out there, related to it. I am now deemed responsible enough to be a wife to the ‘little-shit’, and stepmother to two impressionable young women. Ten years ago I definitely would not have been. However, like her, I managed it eventually. The road to this point was far from easy, or without great personal pain and regular bouts of severe embarrassment. Severe flatulence was also a constant after living off beans on toast ALL THE TIME due to my Bryony Gordon matching poor approach to finance. It’s good to know someone else went through similar experiences, with or without the severe flatulence, and wanted to share it.

Would I bare all like this myself? Probably not. I do not want to send my dad to an early grave nor are my stories nearly as funny as hers. Will I share some of my stories with my stepdaughters as a means to knock some sense into them? Yes definitely, as I am sure Bryony intends to let her daughter read her book one day. This book might not win literary prizes but if you want a laugh, to feel human about your past mistakes and impart some guidance to the younger women in your life then this is the book for you. You just might never look at a tub of butter in the same light again.

KEEP IT HANDS-FREE KIDS

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It’s a short one this week.

‘Hands-free’, what’s that all about? Mobile phones right? Wrong. It is actually something completely different.

On Saturday afternoon at the new location of mortification central, that’s my new home, I encountered my teenage stepdaughter in a very passionate embrace with her boyfriend. My mortification seemed to last an eternity. Luckily, unlike their embrace, it lasted a matter of seconds before I exited stage left at the speed of light.

All I could see were two flushed teenage faces staring at me. Their hands, bodies, everything was concealed. I shudder to think what was actually happening on the sofa under the covers. Cue a very cold sweat on my behalf.

That difficult conversation was going to have to happen. Sooner rather than later. As her stepmother was it my place? I would have previously said not. But as I encountered the behaviour, and experienced a full IMAX style cinema view of it, I figured I was allowed.

So what did I say? It was straight forward. She needed to ‘keep it hands-free’ when canoodling with her boyfriend. She needed to pretend there was a car to drive and make her hands available to do so. In short hands should be visible at all times, not MIA like fruit in a cheap mille feuille style desert.

So next time that awkward situation arises and you feel like you have stumbled upon a teenage version of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ playing out on your very own sofa, keep it simple. Shout out the magic five words and one hyphen: ‘KEEP IT HANDS-FREE KIDS’.

WIFI – the real holiday X Factor.

WIFI

It was 8am. We were on holiday.
Stepdaughter – Where is my ipad?
Me – Morning.
Stepdaughter – Can I charge my ipad I am only on 30%.
Me – Morning.
Stepdaughter – it’s so annoying we get no reception in our room.

We were on a glorious holiday. A luxurious resort in a beautiful part of the world. We were baked in glorious sunshine, surrounded by great friends, every day for a fortnight. What more could anybody ask for? Can you guess what it was causing annoyance?

Simple. One word. 4 letters. Takes a hyphen in the middle. Boasts a two colour logo. Are you there yet? WIFI.

My stepdaughter is a teenager. So it all becomes clear I am sure. It is the norm for this age group to be constantly on their phones and social media enabling devices. Without WIFI they cannot access their world. The constant search for it and need of it is a plain, old fashioned, addiction which they have all succumbed to.

I was shocked and slightly appalled to discover during the holiday that the WIFI was all that seemed to matter. She needed it, two or three times a day like clockwork. Like a fidgeting junkie she could not settle without it. Without it she felt she was ‘missing out’.

Just as a male orientated world is often a big d**k contest. For teenagers it’s foremost a world of approval addiction. Teenagers have always been programmed this way. They probably always will be. But modern life and the invention of social media has made it all 1000 times worse. The approval is accepted from anyone, whereas historically it was just your peers you looked to. Teenagers boast hundreds of followers on their social media accounts. But whom do they really know? They need the most followers, likes, assurances on their appearance, smiling face emojis and confessions of love possible. The latter often being vomit inducing and a little concerning as it does not matter who it all comes from. Their concept of the world is scarily naïve.

Alongside this runs a need to know everything that is going on in people’s lives as well as sharing every detail of their own. They are a cross between a blood thirsty journalist bordering on needing investigation from the Leverson enquiry, meets Kim Kardashian the queen of self-publication and selfie-taking and sharing. In short there is no mystery about them or their peers. Thank goodness scratch and sniff social media has not been invented as those with severe flatulence or body odour issues would be in trouble.

It all left me pensive and sad. But she is the norm I am the exception. The over crammed WIFI zones in our beautiful location proved it. Some adults, it appear suffer from the same addiction. What hope is there for their children when that is the example set?

Food poisoning can be excruciating, but the guaranteed weight loss is something I never complain about. So it’s true that every cloud has a silver lining. This WIFI obsessed scenario proved the same for me. By being embarrassed by someone else, I became far more aware of my own behaviour and made a concerted effort to go as much as possible ‘cold turkey’.

Now like a true junkie I did endure some sweats and irritable behaviour. It was a very hot climate, and as always there were a few work issues I had to rectify on e-mither. But I kept my contact to an absolute minimum. Hypocritical? Maybe it was, to be checking emails but needs must. After all they do pay me which enables me to go on said holiday. Once the emails were read, the data roaming was turned OFF.

It was refreshing and enlightening. I noticed so much more on holiday as my attention was not focussed on a small screen. I felt relaxed and energised. Returning home to fresh news from family and friends not through pigeon English in under 140 character tweet fashion was amazing. The holiday blues were miniscule as I had loads to catch up on.

Many of us are losing the ability to lead independent, self-sufficient lives. Without the WIFI, key to the universe, we are apparently missing out. How looking at pictures of someone else’s breakfast, another morose face needing approval or worse still a picture portraying some unknowns misfortune can better your own life is beyond me.

I have experienced the light bulb moment, and am going against the norm. I will continue to encourage my stepdaughter in the same vein. She may hate me for it now, but one day hopefully she will see sense. Why obsess over the lives of others, you will only miss what you really have. We only have one life, so live it, in the present, not through a small electrical hand held device.

The real modern stepmother….

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So I am a stepmother. Apologies for the AA meeting style introduction but that is how society labels me. I am not a rare occurrence, in fact us step mummies are quite the opposite. They believe that 1 in 3 families in the UK have a step element to them, so there are a lot of us about.

I am not a wicked stepmother, contrary to the much believed urban myth. There is no hint of Cruella DeVille, Miss Trunchball or other child hating character about me. I am not getting into the arguments that people throw my way on this portrayal, it’s just a waste of my tight 900 word limit. What I will say is this, personally I am yet to meet a stepmother who hates her stepchildren or does not care for them in a suitable manner. Yes there may be a few out there, hiding children’s toys, burning family photos and generally looking a little bitter, but on the whole they are very caring women who embrace and enjoy the role they play.

One of the most annoying things I am asked is if I want children of my own. I will be honest, I am childless and have chosen to remain that way. But this is an entirely separate thing to marrying and embracing a life with a lovely man and his children. It does not affect my ability to be a good stepmum just because I choose to not have one of my own. If anything it allows me to do my bit even better. I can have tunnel vision with no distractions. It does however raise a valid point that needs to be acknowledged. Being a stepmother is nothing like being a biological mother and vice versa. You cannot compare women in either role as each is so different.

So what is it like to walk in my shoes? Well for a start it’s never dull, I own 57 pairs of fairly outrageous shoes so rarely, like a life with children, are two consecutive days the same. Like my Carrie Bradshaw inspired, shoe loving life, it’s never dull, often colourful and that’s just the language muttered by me under my breath. On occasion like you do for fashion you have to suffer a little. Thankfully though, like all fashionable shoe wearing induced blisters, the marks quickly fade.

So let’s get down to the reality of the kind of person you have to be. A realist is a good start. You have to be under no illusions of movie like happy endings and non-stop love, fulfilment and enjoyment on your behalf. If biological parents do not experience this, you cannot either.

You have to be many things to different people simultaneously, and be able to take the rough with the smooth. This is all whilst importantly, being kind to yourself. The latter sounds selfish, and maybe it is, but on occasion it’s a necessity.

Having to be so many things simultaneously can lead you to do one of two things. You can don a suitable cape, and pretend to be a superhero, only super powers seem the solution some days to get it all done whilst still smiling. The alternative, become an octopus. Eight arms will definitely get the job done. Right? The latter, slimy, tentacle covered, deep sea bound animal has little or no sex appeal nor do they wear shoes, mores the pity! So I personally like to channel my inner ‘Wonder Woman’. She was sexy, successful, always got the job done and had fabulous red boots. What’s not to love?

Wonder woman outfit on, you can become anything from a peace keeper, to mass organiser. An on the fence spectator, with the inner calm of the Dalai Lama, to a bravery medal winning soldier, surviving many intense battles and on-going wars. Chef, award winning cake baker, chauffeur and all round domestic goddess. Excluding hoovering of course, as I have no idea where the hoover is kept. All these skills and more are required, whilst having skin as thick and durable as a very old crocodile. You see you have to learn to not let anything directed your way penetrate the skin. Make like Gandhi, have a sense of humour and take nothing to heart.

Now everything I say is personal to me. Like getting the right shade of make up for your skin, it can take a few attempts to get your approach to ‘stepfamily’ life right. We have all had moments of an orange pallor from going a shade too dark, so step parenting mistakes are inevitable. As long as you live it, love it, and learn from it you cannot go wrong.

I could write all day about all the things that go on. But in a nutshell it’s simple. It works for me. I love it. I have stayed the same person I was at the beginning, an independently minded, shoe lover. But I have equally embraced my new job with a sense of realism. I no longer have Hollywood movie style expectations as I did in the early days. After all I bear no resemblance to Julia Roberts, nor does life pan out as it does in the movie ‘Stepmom’. Emotions run too deep, and well no real life situation ever needs a life threatening illness, no matter how bad things can get.

So in short, keep smiling and stay happy, it’s all worth it.

TWITTER……friend or faux?

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Twitter, some say social media at its best. It could advertise itself with a slogan that reads, ‘Free speakers and bullies welcome’ as that is what its members appear to be made up of. The latter, trolls as they are formerly known, sadly, seem to get more press, and are present in a higher proportion. I must say, why they are compared to the cute dolls from the nineties with brightly coloured hair and cute faces I will never know.

If we had to truly visualise a troll, it would resemble a cross between a naughty child, who is attention seeking and very needy and one of the evil reproductions from the movie Gremlins. Think cousin Spike. A sole purpose, to be unpleasant and terrorise people. Sadly unlike the movie, daylight does not get kill them off, nor does a good verbal bashing as any good parent would dish out.

As with naughty children, they want the biggest audiences possible hence why celebrities are their prime targets. Anybody from A-list movie stars, to Olympians, to TV personalities have all been on the receiving end. Even our beloved Great British Bake Off evictees do not escape unscathed as was proven this week. All for what? For no other reason than to satisfy some sad, deluded weirdo’s need to be completely vile and gain attention.

It’s old fashioned bullying with a modern twist that any verbal attack has to remain under the strict 140 characters limit. Be under no illusion, the low word count does not make the attacks any less vicious. After all to say ‘drop dead’ for instance, is only a mere 9 characters long. And let’s not forget anything up 645,750,000 twitter users can read anything that is directed at the victim. The potential for #globalshame for anyone on the receiving end is both huge and easily done.

The victims can be mortals like you and me too. I can tell stories of a number of friends who have gone through it. They are commented on like a piece of meat which has no feelings or even worse has no right to any.

Now many believe that if you are a) a celebrity or b) someone who dares to bare on twitter, you have to accept the flack back at you. Sorry, NO, NEVER. Similar to the ridiculous concept that a woman wearing a short skirt can cause rape. There is similarly never a justifiable excuse to issue an individual with death threats or the like on social media. Furthermore what is the purpose of free speech, a primary reason for twitter, if we are all terrified to make use of it in fear of a bullying backlash?

Knowledge is power. For twitter this is far from the case, as we have no knowledge of who is actually on there. You can after all, make like Paul O’Grady or Barry Humphries, and have your very own drag queen comedian alter ego on twitter, and nobody will be any the wiser. There are no ID checks or request for proof of address. Nothing is logged to register who you really are.

So for those who wish to be bullies, it’s a dream. They can remain anonymous, and get away with behaving accordingly. For the victims there is little or no way of stopping it, as there is no real way of tracing the culprits. We are some believe if it happens, powerless against it.

Or are we? We can assess the risks and protect ourselves as we would in a normal daily situation. It’s very simple as I continually tell my stepdaughters. It’s just about using common sense.

Would you open the door to a stranger? No, so why accept a follower request from one? Click decline. Keep it strictly to who you actually know and have seen in the flesh. They might know you from the pub or have had the pleasure of sweating next to you in spin class. Who cares, but you actually know them in a 4D, high resolution, living and breathing sense.

Dare to not bare, be an anti-exhibitionist and keep your profile, like your knicker drawer, strictly private. Find the closed profile, private profile or any other vow of secrecy button you can find and click it. It’s one of the simplest and most effective way of being closed to the potential for harassment and bullying. Who really needs to know about you beyond your small world? Simply, nobody. If they do, they are probably a little odd and to be avoided like a very aggressive, skin eating, infection.

Worst case and all this still does not work and you end up a victim. Walk away from the abuse, or rather block the user and delete the tweets. Like the playground bullies these guys are no different, so should be treated accordingly.

So it appears that twitter and real life are parallels. As with life in general, tweeting successfully is about engaging the brain and behaving with common sense. Just like flashing your knickers on the local high street on a Saturday afternoon might get you noticed for all the wrong reasons. Tweeting your most personal thoughts and pictures can now do the same if you are unlucky.

So go forth. Tweet with your eyes wide open and a knicker drawer under tight lock and key.