Posts

About to get your A-level results? Oh the places you'll go!

Oh lovely teenagers, you are on the cusp of finding out your A-level results and I’m sure you are babbing yourselves. Feeling that you could have worked harder, revised a little more, gone out a little less?

Tomorrow you will be officially finishing school for good. The end of 13 years of education, some of you are off to university or going out into the world of work. You are entering the scary world of grown ups. Let me tell you a little secret though, all those whirling, terrifying feelings that you aren’t ready to be a grown up? We all feel like that sometimes!

20140813-143013-52213861.jpg

Please remember that these results aren’t the be all and end all, they may shape the path you take over the next few years but baby, there are many paths. Some of you may be lucky enough to have a set vision, your path is a straight road with the career and life you’ve always hoped for shining at the end like a beacon.

Most of you will have winding paths, sometimes they come to a dead end and you’ll have to back track and find another road. Some of you will hop from path to path, trying lots of lanes before finding your own. And some of you will look at all the paths and think “fuck, none of these are right for me at all!” Panic not, because you all have the ability to create you own path in life.

20140813-143056-52256850.jpg

Don’t let anyone tell you that your dreams are silly, or that you can’t do it. Work hard, be passionate and get out there looking for opportunities. You want to run away with the circus?! Do it! Do it now! You want to be a doctor but no one in your family has ever even seen the inside of university? If you have the intelligence and the grades, you can find a way to fight for it.

Without going all cliche on you, you only live once. We are here for such a brief time and at your age, with the world at your feet, now is the time to follow your heart, strive to be the thing that you dream to be, have fun, make adventures and get out there and live.

Worry not that you can only have one path, as long as you are passionate about your own life, you will succeed and be happy. I had my first child at 19, it meant I couldn’t go to university or travel the world. I stayed home, got married and raised three wonderful children. And now they are older, I am getting my chance to change my life. I’m doing a writing course, I run a business with my husband and I’m just starting a new business with my friend Violet Fenn (all very secret right now though!!)

Someone else who has had a varied path in life is my friend Curtis Woodhouse. A lad from a small coastal town who dreamed big and made it as a professional football player. When he surprised the world and retired, he decided he wanted to be a professional boxer. He was mocked and laughed at, but you know what? He worked his arse off and this year became the Light Welterweight British Champion! Screw you careers advisor!!!!

So good luck to you, I hope you get the grades you are hoping for. But whatever your results, well done! Good work on getting through your childhood and welcome to being an adult!

It’s scary, it sucks sometimes but with passion, good friends, hard work and a sense of humour you will go far.

I’ll end with my favourite story of Dr Seuss, Oh the places you’ll go! It’s a long one, but well worth the read.

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.

It’s opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.

OH!
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’ t
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.

And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

NO!
That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. there are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.

I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike
and I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

So…
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Love Sam xx

Loving your baby body

This is a post I did for Motherhood Journeys about self esteem and loving your baby body.

I started So Bad Ass last June and began blogging about my experiences, suddenly a lot of people were reading about my journey and the messages I started to receive weren’t just from people with the same problems as me, they were from teenage girls with anorexia, grandmothers who had cancer, mothers who felt they had lost themselves, people going through divorces… All had the same problem at the root and it came down to self-esteem.

And so more and more, I write about positivity, body confidence, happiness and image. And that leads me to my post today.

Before I had children I was a size 8, roll forward nine months and I was a size 16. It was a blow for me and I suddenly felt lost, I felt that the person I was had disappeared under layers of fat and milk filled breasts. I know I had grown and housed a human being for 40 weeks but I was shocked at how my body now looked.

new mother body image love your baby body

Another two children followed in the next four years and I never lost the weight I had gained. It made me feel guilty; I saw images of celebrity mothers who ‘snapped’ right back into shape and the fat shaming of those who didn’t. I was a happy mother, I loved being pregnant, I loved being a mother but I felt a tinge of sadness when I saw photographs of me before, almost a grief or bereavement of the person I once was.

 

My youngest is now 9. I still haven’t regained my pre baby body, and you know what? I couldn’t care less! You see when I had surgery last year, they cut me from just under my chest bone down to my pelvis, they removed my large bowel and made a hole for a small piece of my small intestine to poke out of, then the sewed and stapled me back together. I came out of the surgery feeling horrified at the state of my body. It felt mutilated and ruined.

During the last six months of cathartic writing on my blog I have learnt not only to accept my body, but to rejoice in it. My body is AMAZING. It keeps going despite illness and surgery. It looks after me and it is SO bad ass…

It got me thinking about my post baby body and how I wish I had thought more of my body then. I grew three human beings. My body made a home for them; my blood pumped through them and nourished them. My womb filled with fluids to keep them safe. My vagina pushed them into this world. My breasts fed them.  How dare I have hated my body??

As women, we give ourselves such a hard time; we rarely congratulate ourselves or make positive comments about our own appearance. Why is that? Are we so brain washed that we really believe that only size 0 women with rock hard abs and pert breasts are beautiful?

This is in no way against slim women, it is about celebrating and loving our bodies whatever our size or shape.

Last year I photographed Corinne with baby Arthur and was over the moon when she asked me to take a few images of her post natal body. She looked beautiful. I was able to look at her in a detached way, thinking from a photographer’s point of view. I saw her full breasts that became the perfect pillow for her baby’s head, the softness of her waist and gentle lines of the stretch marks were lit beautifully. The width of her hips made me think of the journey her newborn baby had taken from her womb.

new mother body image love your baby body

At first she was a little self conscious, but after relaxing, she stopped thinking about her body and the look of pure love in her eyes as she watched Arthur was stunning.

We need to stop using such negative language about our bodies and start rejoicing. How many times have you said to yourself “I’m so fat” “My belly is disgusting” “My stretch marks are GROSS!”

That is not ok.

You wouldn’t hear someone say that to your best friend, so why is it ok to say it to yourself?

We are all different shapes and sizes, not one of us is perfect, we are all deliciously imperfect.

new mother body image love your baby body

If you are a mum reading this who berates your body I want you to just remember the magic that your body performs. You made a human being. You are a goddess… you brought life into this world. That takes a lot of doing, so don’t be down on your poor tummy, that sag is because it made way for those awesome little beings you call children. Don’t be sad when your breasts sit a little lower, all that milk making can take its toll.

Be kind to your body, it’s the only one you get.

 

To the imperfect mothers…

I was 19 when I had my first child and I felt the weight of the eyes of society watching me and waiting for me to fail, the pressure of being a teenage mother statistic sat in my chest like a bowling ball.  I was throwing my life away, they said.  I was foolish, immature and had no idea what I was getting into, these were the whispers that surrounded my trimesters.  The sly glances from the ‘proper’ mums in Mothercare as my bulging stomach stretched out my Oasis tshirt and over the jeans I had borrowed from my boyfriend.  Maybe some of it was in my head, perhaps I imagined the looks, the judgement, the eye rolling.

teenage pregnant mum at festival

It made me want to be a perfect mum, I would make no mistakes, I would dedicate every waking hour to being the best mum in the world.  No one would be able to judge me because I would give them no reason to, I’d change the perception of young mothers and Id show them all.

Only all that pressure, on top of the sleepless nights, the crying, the breastfeeding, the nappies, the sheer tiredness, it got too much.  I was paying so much attention to being perfect that I was forgetting to enjoy it.  The stress of appearing to have all my shit together meant I became a swan.  Gliding serenely on the surface, but peddling like fuck under the water.

The doctor saw through it.  After he dutifully gave me a prescription for the reason for my trip to the GP, he said gently, almost sadly “and how are you doing?” I burst into tears and said that I wasn’t a good enough mum, that maybe my baby would be better off with someone who knew what they were doing, that I loved him more than anything but what if that wasn’t enough?

He told me his wife had just had twins.  He said she feels the same sometimes.  He said HE felt the same sometimes.  He told me that being a parent was so hard, but all you can do is get through every day, that what a baby needs is food, warmth and so much love.  That it was ok to feel overwhelmed, it was matter of course.  I wasn’t feeling this because I was a young mum.  I was feeling it because I was a mum.  Full Stop.

teen mum red hair struggle

That conversation sparked a change, I became more honest and spoke to those around me about how I felt.  I opened up to the mums at the baby groups and found the woman who terrified me the most, a doctor who had a little girl the same age as my son, who was so together and wore the right mum clothes, drove a nice car and had a husband and posh house was as terrified as me.  She held my hand and burst into tears and said “But it’s all so HARD!”

Becoming a mum is scary. At any age, it is such a huge change that you can’t be prepared for it.  You love your baby and though the physical aspects are tough, the feeding, lack of sleep, you don’t count on the emotional aspects being so hard.  The sudden realisation that you are entirely responsible for this tiny person, the pressure of trying to conform to societies notions of the ideal mother.  You are surrounded by other peoples opinions constantly.  This rehashed argument of working mums versus stay at home mums… There should be no argument, we are all just trying to do our best.

It’s this whole new world and it is filled with ‘experts’ who seem to know it all.  They all seem to have studied for this test and you are still flipping through the text book and needing a dictionary to just know what the words mean.  Its a world of those who know and those who don’t, your new mum friends know it all, your old childless friends don’t care!  You are stuck in the middle feeling overwhelmed.

I suppose the purpose of this post is that it is easy to lose your way in the quagmire of emotions and opinions, my assumption that I needed to be a perfect mother was so flawed, you see, no one is a perfect mother.  We all just try and get through the tough days and relish in the good days.  In my quest for perfection I forgot about enjoyment.  I worried so much about following the ‘rules’ that I misplaced the notion of enjoying my baby.

That baby is 13 now.  I tell you, those baby days pass so quickly, I look at my 5′ 9″ son now becoming a young man and smile as I remember his tiny soft hands and that new smell of his  newborn head.  When he winds his hair around his finger when he is tired I see how he has done that for all of his life.  I rejoice that I didn’t waste too much time worrying what others thought and revel in the knowledge that we were happy.

teen mum difficult imperfect so bad ass sam cleasby

My house was messy but we played.  Dinner wasn’t organic but it was fun.  He didn’t have matching socks but we didn’t care in the park.  My attire was 90s indie tshirts and things from charity shops but there is no dress code in my garden.

I love to think of all the fun we had, that dirty faced little boy and I.  I got tons of old wallpaper and we painted it with poster paint and our bodies. The hours spent with the wooden train track that he insisted I left for weeks and had to step over it to get in the kitchen.  Bath time together where there were more toys than water in the tub.  His giggles when he was on a swing.  His made up words (agosha meant I love you).  Building dens.  Quiet bed times as he lay in my arms and we fell asleep together.  Watching him learn new things.  His imagination.  Fun.

teen mum difficult imperfect so bad ass sam cleasby

Forget perfect.  Forget public perception.  Think fun.  Laughter.  Excitement.  Silliness.  Wonder.  Love.  Love. And more love.

Mums, you are enough.  You may not be perfect by the unobtainable standards of some, but you are perfect for your child.

Enjoy it because in the blink of an eye they grow up and that time is gone forever.

 

baby hendersons hendos sheffield

 

 

 

Love Sam xx

Tales of the embarrassed…

This is for Corinne from the ever awesome Motherhood Journeys who told the twitterland about her having to stick a cardi on as her shopping arrived and she was in her jamas with no bra… (Sorry Corinne but if I’m sharing then so are you!)

Anyway I thought I’d make her feel better by sharing this story. Anyone who knows me is aware I have a million embarrassing tales as in general I am a bit of a fuckwit…

So shortly after the birth of my third child, with my husband working away and my other kids being 2 and 4, we all came down with a tummy bug. I abandoned our usual cloth nappies as there was just So. Much. Shit.

So with two kids in nappies I just tried to muddle through the days. One morning I had changed both kids and lay exhausted on the sofa breast feeding the baby when I heard the bin van.

“Oh shit!” I thought, I haven’t put the bin out!!! So I laid the baby on the mat and went to dash out to drag the bin to the roadside. I was still in my nighty but I didn’t care, the bin was full of nappies and had to go.

As I went to run I stood in a shit filled nappy I had put beside the sofa after I’d changed the kids and then quickly fed Thom as he was screaming. I skidded across the floor, shit shooting UP my leg and ran outside like a maniac.

The bin men looked up in shock at a mad woman running towards them dragging a wheelie bin with shit up her leg!

“Don’t judge me!” I shouted. “The kids are ill!! There’s shit everywhere!!!!”

It was at that point I realised my left breast was hanging outside my nighty swinging in the breeze for all the world to see.

I slowly popped it back in and with my head held high walked back to the house like it was the most normal thing in the world…

Worst. Day. Ever.

Ok, now I’ve laid my soul bare, please share your worst embarrassing story so I don’t feel like a total moron alone.

Sam

Objectified or flattered?

This is an article I wrote for parenting website Bad Mothers Club a few years ago, for more information see my PR friendly page.

funny parenting quote

The age of innocence seems to be ebbing away in my house. When asking my seven year old son what he thought of his new teacher, I did not expect him to answer:

“She’s OK, not as fit as Miss Smith though.”

My poor naive brain thought he must be referring to the amount of time she spends on the treadmill and I mumbled a sheepish reply that Miss Smith did indeed seem quite sporty. After bursting into giggles he put me right by letting me know that the general consensus at school was that she was a ‘Fitty’.

When did my sweet innocent child turn into this hormonal creature?? He’ll be reading some God awful lads’ mag and wolf whistling at girls in the playground next.

The left wing, lentil munching hippy came out in me and I tried to discuss how we shouldn’t objectify women in this manner, how Miss Smith was a highly trained, intelligent woman who was a wonderful, caring teacher.

“I agree mummy, but she’s still a hotty!” Charlie happily replied.

This contrast between the grown up phrases coming out of his mouth and the little boy stood in front of me who cried yesterday because he couldn’t finish the last level on his Spongebob game is confusing to say the least.

I thought I was doing so well at sex education, my husband and I decided we would be open and honest and answer any questions they may have with no embarrassment or fibbing about storks. We have talked about how babies are made, about vaginas (though I still hate that word) and penises (or is that peni??). We have looked through a variety of sex ed books aimed at children with the minimal amount of pointing and giggling. I have also had the pleasure of explaining to my then five year old why his willy gets hard sometimes.

But I hadn’t even thought about the social side of sex. Yet in an age where they are completely surrounded by sexual messages, and when they hear older children imitating language they hear on TV, is it any wonder we have a generation of seven year olds who are teens before their time?

So we sit down for a chat, he senses immediately that something is not right and wriggles restlessly, casting a yearning eye towards his games console.

“Son” I say, “when you get older you may start to feel attracted to girls” (The thought that he may be attracted to boys crosses my mind but let’s not complicate things for now.)

“Don’t worry Mummy, I’m always going to live with you,” he says.

“Well, no, you probably won’t,” I say. “When you grow up you will find a girl who you fall in love with and you’ll might want to get married and have your own house. And er, well, the point is that you may find girls attractive but you must treat them with respect. They may not like being referred to as ‘Fitties’.”

“Mummy” he sighs, looking at me as a patient father would an idiot. “Is this because I called Miss Smith a fitty?”

“Well yes. I understand you may hear these phrases but they are not really appropriate.”

He gets up, pats me on the thigh, kisses my cheek and says,

“Don’t worry, Mummy, I think you’re a fitty too!”

Did I feel objectified or flattered? I’m still working on it.

Love Sam xx