Sunday, 3 July 2011

Being a mum with a 'toyboy' and 2.5 kids - for Mumsnet

My big news this week is that Mumsnet have taken me under their maternal wing as one of their bloggers!

Our new, complicated but happy little family
(ssh, don't tell the kids I've posted this, they'd kill me!)
I feel very honoured to be there, but it also made me reflect on what I could actually offer Mumsnet readers...

I certainly don't consider myself much of a parenting expert. Some years ago I did work for Mother & Baby magazine and I once wrote a book called the First Time Parents Survival Guide - but even then I had to call in my lovely consultant paediatrician friend Cathy Hill, to edit it and ensure that I didn't suggest anything hideously unsafe or downright dangerous!

No, all I can really offer is my own experiences of bringing up my two children, who are now (rather scarily) 14 and 18 years old.. But even then, I have a sneaking suspicion that they have grown into the wonderful people that they are despite of, rather than as a result of, my input.

I've tried to do my best of course, but over the past twelve years they have had to cope with their dad leaving home, their dad coming back, their parents divorcing, living with a single, working mum,  living with a single mum who is dating a much younger man, and then seeing their mum get married for the second time (to said younger man) - plus the numerous associated house moves. It's been rather like living in a bad soap plot at times yet, somehow, they have turned into two happy, loving and sensible teenagers who are genuinely nice to have around.

Ad Man too has had a rather chequered experience of parenting (and now step-parenting) to date, but nevertheless his 12 year old son still wants to make the two hour trip down to us every other weekend, and asks to come away with us in his school holidays. Which I guess all goes to show that, despite our inevitable mistakes and anxieties (and even political pressures), you don't have to be the perfect nuclear family, living in the rose-covered cottage with the picket fence, in order to launch your children successfully into the world.
Demi juggles 'toyboy'
and children

Modern families like ours are extended, complicated and often involve greater organisational ability than the United Nations but, like the United Nations, with a shared aim of co-operation, peace and a fair respect of human rights, we somehow make it work.

So, don't come to this blog if you are hoping for expert advice on parenting. You won't find it here! But do please check in for regular rambling on the ups and downs of living with a 'toyboy' and 2.5 kids.. I can guarantee you will leave feeling happy and smug about your own much more simple, straightforward and successful family life..


  1. I love the wedding pic! The dres is fab.

  2. Thank you so much! And thanks for visiting too...

  3. Guess what i come a country much different and far away from you, and am dating a handsome kinda 13 years younger then me, he proposed me and I am reluctant thinking he will get over and go away but it is now second year he is still there ever loving me like hell. Feel good reading your blog.

  4. He looks years older than you. Hardly classic toyboy material. I wish you all the best but is there anything at all remarkable in the age gap or your story? Francis Andrews

  5. Dear Francis,

    That is my point EXACTLY!! There SHOULDNT be anything remarkable in it.. and yet yet people who know us, and even more who don't, feel that it IS an issue, that is IS remarkable. We are judged constantly - especially me - whereas if the sexes/situation were reversed, no one would bat an eye lid.

    Also, I'm intrigued to know when, in your view, a younger man becomes 'toyboy' or , as you say, 'classic toyboy material'? If you don't think 11 years younger constitutes being a toyboy - what is the required age gap? 15 years? Twenty?

    Or does it depend on the current age of the people involved? ie If a 30 year old to date a 17 year old (13 years age gap) is that worse/more remarkable than a 43 year old dating a 30 year old (13 years age gap)?

    Let me know!

    ps I'll ignore the rude, personal comments about my lovely husband looking older than me .. ! Probably just a bad photo...

  6. And I'd love to know what everyone else thinks too!

  7. I do apologise if you found my comment rude. That was not my intention but people of my generation are famous for what we would call plain speaking. I am puzzled, though. You say it shouldn't be an issue but you are happy to write a column about it. Why not just enjoy yourselves away from the public eye while you're both young? As for the ages, I think there is a difference between the two examples because people are rarely as grown-up as they think at 17, whereas they should be fully responsible for themselves at 30. But my best friend and her partner are ten years apart - she is older - and have been together 20 years, in which time the subject has never been mentioned. I do find it odd when some actor of 80 hooks up with someone of 30, but in general I say each to their own as long as they are doing no harm to anyone. But really is this column saying anything new on a rather tired subject. In my experience I find the people who claim they are being judged are either imagining the judgment themselves, or are rather fond of the attention. Francis

    1. Again, I absolutely agree with you - but only to a point.
      My intention is not to bask in the public attention (!) rather to draw attention to the inequalities that - amazingly - I've found still exist after so long. Men are viewed as a 'success' if they have a young pretty wife on their arm (unless the age gap is so extreme it's perceived as seedy) whereas women are painted by the media as predatory, foolish or deluded.
      I am a journalist and an academic, and have found the media's portrayal, and public attitudes towards, such relationships appalling and intriguing. And I don't mean MY particular relationship!!! It was just that, having found myself in such a relationship, it opened my eyes to what was going on.
      You, clearly, have an intelligent, mature response to such things (ie by saying each to their own etc), but sadly, you are not the majority.
      If the exploration in the blog doesn't interest you, that's fine, but it simply piqued my interest as a feminist and academic, and writer, and I have continued to question people on their responses, as they are forming the basis of the book I have written on the matter. And, before you say anything, NO, it is not about me, nor do I feature in it!!!
      Thanks for coming and commenting though - it's good to get some debate going!