Book Review: ‘Mum, What’s Wrong With You?’ 101 Things Only Mothers of Teenage Girls Will Know by Lorraine Candy

I’ve followed Lorraine Candy’s writing and social media for years – and more recently become a listener to her ‘Postcards from Midlife’ podcast that she presents with fellow glossy magazine editor alumni Trish Halpin. Lorraine and I both have 4 kids, 3 daughters and a son (although in a different birth order – I’m sounding like I’m in serious stalker territory I appreciate!) and a similar age range (9 – 18 in this family, I think it’s one year to the right in the Candy household). Consequently I’ve always been interested in Lorraine’s take on a busy family life. The podcast has been massively informative on many issues – particularly the perimenopause – but it’s also been interesting to hear Lorraine and Trish’s take on parenting teens. When I knew Lorraine had written a book, I immediately pre ordered it. Here’s the blurb for non podcast listeners:

Mums: are you feeling lonely, confused or worried? Are you panicking that maybe you’re getting everything wrong? Does it, in the words of Lorraine Candy’s own teenage daughter, ‘suck to be you’ (Mum) right now?
Welcome to the most challenging part of your parenting journey: the teenage years.
It was all going so well and then, out of the blue, the little girl you love to the moon and back turned into an irrational, fire-breathing dragon. She lives in a messy pit of wet towels and sticky mugs, hoarding other people’s phone chargers and eyebrow tweezers, while rudely rejecting maternal intervention or affection.
Do not worry. You’re not alone. Parenting columnist Lorraine Candy, a mum of four (including three teens), is here to help. Her warm and witty family memoir will lead you to a more harmonious parenting place. Alongside a wealth of hilarious personal anecdotes, Candy offers you useful, easy-to-follow, well-researched guidance from experts.
This is a survivor’s guide for mums. This book will help you connect with your daughter and feel good about your mothering as you raise the bright and brilliant young women of tomorrow.”

I have to say that due to the title of the book and the cover, I was expecting a list of 101 things then padded out – but that was not the case at all! In fact I’m not sure there were 101 things – but there was an awful lot of content. Early on Lorraine acknowledges her middle class white privilege – and I’m in a similar position and thus her experiences were fairly relevant to mine – but I do think people of different ethnic backgrounds and socio-economic positions might find this is not necessarily the book for them. Having said that – there are many recommendations for extended reading that do cover other issues of race etc.

I think I’m also lucky that I have lots of friends with teenage girls a similar age to mine – and so some of the ‘OMG it’s not just my daughter’ have already been discussed and dissected with them – but that was a really important element of the book, realising that the weird teenage behaviour is totally normal and the same for others the globe over. Teenage girls in Birmingham, UK and Chicago, USA just don’t see the mess in their bedrooms, for example!!!

Lots of big topics are discussed – but it’s filled with light hearted anecdotes as well as heavy hitting professional advice.

I actually recounted one part to a friend recently – about being a pot plant parent – sitting quietly in the room without making yourself known, but you’re always there if needed.

Having ‘big conversations’ whilst side by side is a tactic I’ve long employed – car drives being the optimum – but is something Lorraine recommends too.

It provides a lot of food for thought – and confirms you are not alone (yep, I did break into song as I typed that…………). I’d definitely recommend it for people with teenage – or pre teen – daughters, and in some areas for sons too. It was interesting reading it with a recently adult daughter (legally at least) and two other pre teens – not that I’m saying the first one was a practice run or anything!!

Book Review: Left To Their Own Devices?: Confident Parenting in a World of Screens by Katharine Hill

Left to Their Own Devices

Recently my parents came over for coffee, and Mum gave me a book to read that  she’d already lent to both of my sisters.  One of my sisters found it particularly useful both as a parent (although her teenagers are pretty grown up now) but also in her work as a family support worker.  She even asked Mum to send her some of the details in the Appendix to give to a family she was working with (as an aside – Mum was well impressed with herself for taking the photo and Whatsapping it to my sis – not bad at 60 something!!)

Anyway – despite me being 43 and the mother of 4, when my own mother says I should read a book then I feel like I have to (even if it won’t fit into a category on my 2017 Reading Challenge!)

Here’s the blurb:

“How do I connect with my fifteen-year-old whose phone needs to be surgically removed from her hand? “How do I stop my five-year-old from throwing an iPaddy when screen time is over? “How do I help my child to stay safe online?” Ten years ago, we didn’t need to ask these questions. But today these questions are very real. And we need answers. Katharine Hill explores the impact of the digital world on teenagers and younger children, giving practical advice on screen time, social media, and consumer culture as well as how to tackle some of the more serious issues such as cyberbullying, grooming and pornography. Whether you are cradling a newborn or riding the rollercoaster of the teenage years, a stranger to Snapchat or have 500 followers on Twitter, this book is for mums and dads who not only want to ‘cope’ with bringing up children in the world of digital technology but to be on the front foot – confidently parenting in a world of screens”

I have to say I really enjoyed the book.  I’d expected it to be all ‘the internet is awful, keep your children away from screens all the time’ etc etc – but it wasn’t at all.  It talked about how the internet can be a force for good – if used properly.  It was also good at explaining the different social media – I’m a reasonably savvy internet user (hey, I’m reviewing this on my blog – which I will share to my Facebook and Twitter accounts) – but it gave some great background on all of the different apps etc that ‘the youth of today’ enjoy.  I also found it really useful to hear the author’s stories of her one son being completely engrossed in a game and the ‘I can’t save it so I can’t come for dinner’ things  that come out of our son’s mouth almost word for word  – it was nice to know we’re not alone.

It is written in a really humorous way – and some of the cartoons in it are hilarious. But it also deals with really serious issues like grooming and pornography – and it’s definitely given me food for thought for talking to all 4 of my children about these things.

It’s got sensible advice, and sources of additional information and support – exactly what any 21st century parent needs to help them in this often tricky journey of parenting.

I have to confess I’d expected it to be a bit preachy (the foreword was written by Rob Parsons OBE who I know has had connections with my parents’ church) but this is in no way religious at all.  There’s one reference to a biblical proverb – but I’m not sure I’d even have noticed that if I wasn’t looking for it.  It’s just a really sensible guide to anyone wanting support with their parenting around the subject of IT.

I would thoroughly recommend this to parents of kids of all ages – different bits were applicable in different ways to mine aged from 14 down to 5 (in fact I did wonder if the first couple of sentences in  the blurb were written after observing our house?!?)

And I still have to ask my Mum how she’s got a signed copy!!




Parenting ‘Treats’

I’ve been a parent now for 13.5 years.  If you’d told me a decade and a half ago what I would now consider to be a ‘treat’ I would have laughed hysterically – but here goes!

Going to the toilet on your own.
Sounds simple – but happens rarely when your children are in the same house.  It’s like as soon as your bum hits the seat there is something that needs opening / closing / refereeing / discussing in great detail.

This Rosie Made A Thing card sums it up perfectly (she has some other EXCELLENT cards too, ideal for Mothers’ Day or my birthday next month!)


Sleeping in your own bed with just your husband.
I drafted a large chunk of this blog post in my head last night whilst sharing a bed with a wriggly 5 year old who was really unsettled (last night before returning to school after half term probably being the main reason.)  In the last 13 years it’s been pretty rare to have an uninterrupted nights sleep where both the husband and I stay in the same bed ALL NIGHT.  On the rare occasion this does happen – it’s pretty much guaranteed that you won’t get 2 consecutive nights…

Wearing clean clothes.
Thankfully I’m pretty much past the vomit / snot / breast milk on clothes stage – but it was around for a long time.  I remember being asked in the hairdressers which was my coat – and I pointed out ‘the one with baby sick on the shoulder’. #classy

Going to the supermarket on your own.
Most of the time the weekly shop is conducted online – sometimes even from on the loo if you get a spare 5 minutes to yourself in there (see above!).  But on the odd occasion I get to wander around now it feels like I’ve been let out! And supermarkets now sell EVERYTHING – so you can pick up a nice, longline ‘Mum’ top with the kale and blueberries (ok, nuggets and oven chips!!)

Driving on your own
If we’re going on a family drive there has to be negotiations about whether we’re watching a DVD (Trolls is the incumbent at the moment) or listening to the radio.  Then there’s negotiations about what radio station it has to be.  None of this matters to the 12 year old who will be pretending he’s Stormzy listening to his phone and rapping along in the back anyway.  The 5 year old will have a melt down if anyone starts singing as she hates loud noise – and there will undoubtedly be a breakdown because a toy / snack / drink has been dropped and can not be retrieved. If the phone or Sat Nav dares interrupt a critical scene in the film or the chorus of a favourite track – then there is also likely to be stroppage.
So the BLISS of driving along alone with your favourite music blaring (generally Heart – don’t judge me!!) and the windows down is just fabulous.

[ETA – I was driving the big 2 home from the station tonight when Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey came on the aforementioned Heart  – and the 3 of us sang along at the tops of our voices. It was one of those real #winningatparenting moments – and better than being on my own most definitely.]

Not having to share your food
It doesn’t seem to matter what my kids order – they then decide what I’ve ordered looks way better.  The current case in point being chicken and cheese rolls from our local Chinese takeaway.  They are LUSH – so I ordered myself some as a treat.  The children had been asked what they wanted and at no point had mentioned chicken and cheese rolls – but of course, when they arrived they wanted them!  And being a good Mum (sometimes anyway) I let them have them.  So on the occasions I get to eat what I’ve ordered, it does feel like a treat (especially if I can actually savour it and if I’m not hiding in the utility room stuffing my face before anyone spots the food !!)

Watching an adult film at the cinema
And by ‘adult film’ I’m not meaning anything risque (hey, I’ve not even seen a Fifty Shades film!) – but anything that isn’t animated! A girls’ night out to see Bridget Jones was great – as I didn’t have to referee my friends as to who sat next to whom, there was no fighting over snacks, no wanting to swap seats or sit on my lap – and I didn’t have to take anyone out to the toilet half way through.  Perfect!

Packing for one
Usually my packing is for a family of 6.  The 13 year old will need to take at least 2 pairs of shoes per day.  The 12 year old will want to take his most recent remote controlled purchase.  Whilst the 6 and 5 year olds suddenly *NEED* every cuddly toy they’ve ever owned to come away with us. And the husband always packs loads of toiletries and belts (why anyone needs to take as many belts as him on holiday I do not know!)   Therefore I’m left with a corner of the case for my own things.  So packing for just me and the husband (and his belts) is great – but just for me is so decadent (and pretty rare!).

Reading a book
I remember ‘holidays past’ where half of my case would be taken up with books.  Obviously this is now a no-no (see above re packing!) and thank goodness for a Kindle which is a much more efficient use of space.  But many times the Kindle will return from a holiday fully charged due to lack of time to actually sit and read! The odd stolen afternoon with a mug of tea (or glass of wine) and a book or Kindle is just AMAZING!

I reckon most parents are pretty cheap dates now – with ‘treats’ not needing to be being wined and dined somewhere exotic, or splashing the cash wildly.  In fact based on the above I’d be happy in the Sainsbury’s cafe with my book for an hour, maybe stopping for a peaceful wee before heading home with the tunes cranked up in the car!!

Any ‘treats’ you’d like to ‘fess up to??






Book Review: Girls Uninterrupted by Tanith Carey

Girls uninterrupted

I don’t often read non fiction – in fact, this is the first non fiction book I’ve read since I started doing book reviews on here.  This was recommended by the Head Teacher at my eldest daughter’s school (the author is a parent from the girls’ school she was previously head of) – and ever a girlie swot, I always do what I’m told – so I purchased it to read over Easter.

The full title is ‘Girls Uninterrupted – steps for building stronger girls in a challenging world’.  Snappy eh?!  But I totally agreed with the sentiment – so thought I’d give it a go.

Here is what the Amazon blurb has to say:

* Why are girls self-harming and suffering eating disorders in record numbers? * Why do girls feel they have to be ‘little miss perfects’ who are never allowed to fail? * Why are girls turning against each other on social media? * What should we tell girls about how to deal with challenges of every day sexism and violent, misogynistic pornography? * How can parents, teachers and grandparents inoculate girls so they can push back against the barrage of unhealthy messages bombarding them about what it means to be female? Whether they are praised for being pretty rather than smart, or accused of being ‘bossy’ rather than leaders, teaching girls how to be comfortable with themselves has never been more challenging. Laid out in clear simple steps, Girls Uninterrupted shows the practical strategies you need to create a carefree childhood for your daughters and ultimately help build them into the healthy, resilient women they deserve to be.

Now, it wasn’t a page turning ‘can’t put down’ of a book – but I did find it really interesting.  With 3 daughters (and a son) at different ages from pre-teen down to toddler – it was very appropriate.

A lot of it is common sense – or, common sense when you think about it – but how often do you take the time out of your busy life to sit down and think about stuff like this? I know I don’t. It was great to take that time out and think about how our actions – and the actions of the world about us – impact on our daughters’ lives.

There are some interesting facts and statistics that it was good to see too, on a whole myriad of relevant topics – eating disorders, viewing of porn on the internet and bullying to name but 3.

It has already impacted (in a good way!) on my own behaviour. Even my husband noticed I’d put my phone down when we were all out having lunch after going swimming as a family last weekend (normally I’d be checking emails / updating Facebook / tweeting – but decided all of that could wait!)

Then today, the 11 year old and I had a conversation about her exams this week, and how all we want is for her to do her best – and how they’re not the end of the world. Thankfully she seems to be taking them in her stride really well – and can see that some of the girls in her class who have cried over getting one question wrong and getting very stressed beforehand is not healthy, and definitely not what we as her parents want her to worry about.

Some of the recommendations I’m not sure are totally achievable for us as a family (for example, we can’t turn the wifi off to stop the kids accessing it in the evenings after their bedtimes, as that’s often when the husband and I are catching up with the day jobs!) – but we can remove their devices from their bedrooms and set them to charge on the landing instead.  There are lots of other suggestions to be inspired by too.

I would really recommend this to everyone with daughters.

But now back to some reading as escapism from reality for a bit!!