THE CASH FLOW

It seems like only yesterday we were all on a level playing field.

Only really able to afford H&M, Primark and bits from the ASOS sale. We’d drink to get drunk before heading out and we’d have a similar amount of pennies in our purses.

In the last couple of years, however, although we’ve all definitely moved on from bargain bins and can each afford at least one drink in a real life bar on a Friday night, things have changed. We’ve taken different career paths, life has thrown some of us all the luck in the world, and others, a good few curve balls. We’ve travelled, we’ve temped, we’ve climbed ladders. We’ve joined wallets with boys. We’ve changed direction. The result of all the twists and turns of our twenties has meant we now don’t all have the same amount in our pockets as before. It’s all gone a bit sort of ‘The One With Five Steaks And An Eggplant‘ episode in Friends. At times it can be frustrating, at others it can be awkward.

Luckily, my friends and I aren’t stupid. We acknowledge that our salaries range from modest to hefty. We cater for somewhere in the middle and we shop, eat and drink within our means. We lend each other cash if we need to and celebrate when the money comes a flowing. Finances are rarely a big deal, but the divide is there, and I’ve a horrible feeling it’s only going to become more obvious as time goes on. I know nobody’s talking about it, but with destination weddings in abundance, babies popping up left, right and centre, and many buying houses in the city, I can’t be the only 28 year old wondering where all the money came from, can I? And if I am, perhaps I should’ve started to think about my finances a little sooner than now.

In truth, money has never meant a great deal to me. In fact, I’ve never really given it more than thirty seconds of thought, if I’m honest. Probably because I’ve never really had it. I didn’t place any importance on it and have always spent every penny of what I’ve earned, which has been fun, but not a particularly sensible decision.

I won’t go into detail about what I’ve learnt about money in the last few months right now, because I’ve written a little something for The Coven about how I’m feeling about the current cash flow situation, but I thought it might be helpful for those of you who are also feeling this way right now, to know you’re not alone. To know that there are still some of us who can’t afford that popular designer handbag, the fancy car or a house in London. And that’s okay. As long as you’re keeping enough aside for a rainy day.

Turns out, by simply saving a little each month, cutting back on take out coffee and not buying that pair of boots you think you can’t live without can make all the difference when it comes to the big stuff.

People tend to avoid to talking about money, but I’m starting to think we’d be much better off if we did.

So let’s start today.

If you have any money saving tips or advice, get in touch. I’m all ears (and empty pockets), ready to learn.

THE BILL

Is it just me or is expecting the guy to pay for dinner on a first date a little… outdated?

I watch Channel 4’s First Dates religiously and can’t help but have noticed that so many of the women who appear on the show expect the guy to foot the whole bill. They get turned off when they don’t automatically jump to it or insist on paying. Twitter goes into meltdown, condemning him to eternal singlehood for treating her as an equal, and it really frustrates me because, at a time where we are fighting for – and actually getting somewhere with – women’s rights, we are undermining our entire cause by picking and choosing when to enforce the rules. Equality shouldn’t only be something we fight for in the workplace or in the House of Commons, it should be something we pay attention to in our personal relationships with the opposite sex, too.

I, for one, would not be caused offence if someone I was dating didn’t pay for my meal. If, since the day we met, we split what we ate, drank or did together, equally. Because after all, we are equal and should behave as such. Granted, it would make it a little easier on the old purse strings if women were being paid the same wages as men, but you can’t blame the guy sitting opposite you for that (unless he’s your boss, of course).

There are obviously instances where I’m not averse to letting him pay. If it’s a birthday treat or a congratulatory cocktail for bagging that dream job, then sure. But for the love of god, I don’t expect it.

Before you even think it, you should know that chivalry, to me, is as outdated as your nan’s curtains, so don’t even bother flying in with that one as an excuse. I like to be wooed as much as the next girl, but the best sort of wooing comes in the form of good manners, making me laugh and wearing an excellent pair of shoes, not someone’s wallet.

From what I know, same-sex couples have it down. Whenever they appear on the show, they split the bill without question and, to me, it just makes perfect sense. You both applied for the show, you are both there because you want to be, so pay your way.

The truth is, if we want men to understand feminism, we need to make it clear for them. So ladies, if you call yourself a feminist and want to be treated equally, then behave as such and pay your way or alternate who picks up the bill each time. Don’t just pick and choose when the rules suit and when they don’t.

My boyfriend and I take it in turns to pay for meals, which works for us, so to the waiter who handed my boyfriend the card reader at brunch on Sunday with such certainty: it’s not your fault, and sorry for snatching it back, but please don’t assume in future; we’re feminists.

THE SLIP UP

I vowed to post every day throughout lent.

Throughout April.

The busiest month of 2017.

So it has come as no surprise, then – between heading back to London every five minutes, jetting off to Paris and spending the bank holiday weekend up north, all the while tending to my 9-5, celebrating a birthday and generally adulting – that it didn’t happen and I failed to post every day, for forty days.

I’ve decided to convince myself that 99% of you didn’t stick to not eating chocolate, crisps, carbs or remain T-total anyway, just to cope with my own inability to commit. But anyway, blogging every day is a full-time job, no matter what they say. And also, quite simply, shit happens. Or in this case, didn’t happen.

One good thing that did come out of trying (and failing) to post every day for forty days was that I was finding it difficult to think of topics in the same vein I have been posting in for years, which in turn made me realise I wanted to change what The London Ladybird is all about. This also comes as no surprise seeing as I started this blog when I was 22 and, six years on, I am nothing like I was back then.

So, just a heads up: although I am going to continue to blog about career, love and all things feminism, I want to try and incorporate a little more style, tech and travel pieces into this space, with a little sex and relationships thrown in, too. Just so the space grows with me, you know? After all, I am 28, iron my bed sheets and own house plants now…

What do you think about this change? If there are any topics you would like me to touch on, do let me know.

Until then, keep your chin up, it’s almost Friday.

Sort of.

THE MOTHERHOOD

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Motherhood has always fascinated me.

From the mums who have managed to carry something that heavy inside them for nine months, enduring chubby feet, flatulence and raging hormones, to those women who invite children in need from around the country and across the world, into their homes and love them as their own: I honestly don’t know how you do it.

I’m lucky to have one of those amazing mums you hear about in storybooks. A woman so small, yet so powerful and strong, I am sure she defies some sort of scientific theory. Not only a pillar of strength and hope to me, but this little lady treats everyone who comes into her life with as much care and attention as she gives me and my brother. So much so, I’m convinced she’s Mother Nature herself, disguised as a pocket rocket with great hair and a penchant for Paolo Nutini.

When we were little, donning dungarees and a flamboyant hair tie (it was the 80s), mum used to pound the pavements of London; me in a pram and Alex by her side, wanting us to see and do everything possible, undeterred by the dangers of the big city. As I’ve grown older, she has become the sort of mum I call on an almost daily basis, to ask for sensible advice about boys, my career and everything in-between, but who also convinces me to buy the white studded leather jacket I’ve been eyeing up in Zara that everyone else told me to avoid.

With a wicked sense of humour, a big heart and an ability to never put herself first, ever, she really is one of a kind.

Although I sometimes worry I won’t be up to the job, having such an amazing mum has made me so excited for the day I have a child of my own. I’m always so intrigued as to what that time will feel like, so this Mother’s Day, rather than hear messages of gratitude and love from sons and daughters, I asked a few of the mums I know to share what they’ve learnt on their journey so far, and in true superhero style, between nappy changing, school runs and the rest, they managed to come back to me within 24 hours in time for Mother’s Day.

Tap the images below to find out what these absolute mega babes have learnt from their experience of motherhood, so far…

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If you’re lucky enough to have your mum around to celebrate for another year, then make sure you say thank you in any way you can, even if this means a phone call from across the country or a quick cup of tea in the garden. Trust me, she’ll appreciate it.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonder women out there. You really are amazing.

THE FAIL

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Eleven days into Lent and I broke my promise to publish a blog post every day.

I’m writing this on Monday night at 11pm, when all I want to do is hit the hay because I feel guilty for not making my self-set deadline.

But I said I would post 40 posts over 40 days, so I will.

Even if it is three days late.

Truth is, seven of my best girlfriends came to see me in the west this weekend and, for someone who misses home on the daily, having a slice of London here was more than magical. We ate, drank, walked, sailed, laughed, chatted and danced our way through the last few days – it was more perfect than I’d imagined it would be.

Even though I do feel bad I didn’t post on Saturday, taking some time to sit at my laptop instead of enjoying the company of the girls in my little flat so far from home would have seemed… wrong.

So here I am, a little late, but still here.

See you on Tuesday for some more musings about life, love and everything in between.

THE WOMEN OF THE FUTURE

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As I walked to work today, I felt pumped for a day of celebrating female empowerment, the wonder of women and all things vagina-orientated.

I, like many others, plugged into an occasion-appropriate Spotify playlist (think Destiny’s Child, TLC and En Vogue); texted all the important women in my life to thank them for being so amazing and posted a collage on Instagram, in homage to those who have guided me through life. I even bought cookies for my work colleagues.

But then it dawned on me.

On a day like today, we shouldn’t be focusing on our close friends and family. We shouldn’t be only be thinking of those who inspire us in the workplace or online. There are thousands of women across the world who need serious help and, on a day like today, we should instead be taking action to make change happen.

I was going to write a post today about the 5 women who have shaped my life. It might have been interesting, sure. But Snapchat (of all things) was the thing that made me wake up and smell the problem with it. By bringing to mind three women of the past who have had a real impact on the way we, as women, lives our lives today, it made me realise how much we need to take action, just as they did.

Take Frida Kahlo, for example. She lived a life of hope and defiance, touching on abortion, miscarriage and a near fatal accident in her artwork: a signifier of non-conformity. Rosa Parks – an American civil rights activist best known for her fantastic refusal to move and Marie Curie, a woman who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity as a way to cure cancer.

Three women who really made a fucking impact. Not just women who were able to write really well about how we could go about doing it.

The thing we need to remember is that these women weren’t magic, special or one of a kind. They, to all their nearest and dearest, were just like you or I. Ordinary women who simply believed things could be better. They just fought a little bit harder, shouted a little louder and, as a result, made a significant change in the same way you and all those women around you can too.

Although I think it is beautiful we’ve taken today to celebrate those around us, we need to make efforts to become like those strong women of the past who were forever thinking of the bigger picture, for we are the inspirational women of the future. If we don’t make use of the platform they’ve given us, then what use was it them protesting, fighting or dying for it? And what sort of platform will we be passing on to our daughters?

I want to become the type of woman people look back on and remember for taking action against FGM, sex trafficking and for fighting for equal educational rights for women around the globe. Not for posting feminist quotes on Instagram and making witty banners to hold high at demonstrations.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not belittling the changes happening in the world. I’m excited about the rumble I can hear beneath my feet. Women finally have a voice, a power and I can feel things changing. I just want to make sure our efforts are being channelled into all the right avenues and that we’re using this movement we’ve created to its greatest effect.

Inspirational women of the past generally stood alone in their battles, we have the privilege of progression, plus there’s a lot more of us fighting together now, so let’s channel that and make those women of the past proud.

Happy International Women’s Day, everyone.

THE REALITY CHECK

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When I was younger, I was a bit of a dick.

I was never outwardly mean to anyone or intentionally set out to hurt people; I think I was just a bit selfish. Which is weird really, considering how selfless my parents are. I somehow grew up to be someone who would cancel things last minute (although, thinking about it, this might’ve been down to a bad case of undiagnosed social anxiety); I would simply stop talking to people without warning when I decided I wanted the relationship to end and I would expect my friends to fall out with someone I had crossed paths with, just because.

This probably sounds like typical teenage girl behaviour, which it was; pretty much everyone behaved like a dick at that age, but I think there are plenty of us who don’t grow out of it until much later than I did and I have a very good friend to thank for that.

In my second year of university, I received a message from her on Facebook. She was at Nottingham; I was at Exeter. The message wasn’t from the girl I hated at school, nor was it from someone I’d recently fallen out with. It was actually from someone I’d spent my gap year with just a year previously; someone I was really close to and someone I had probably taken for granted for just a little too long.

I could see as soon as I clicked on it that the message was a long one which, at twenty years old, meant weeks of drama was certain to follow. I don’t remember the exact reason she sent the message. I actually can’t bring myself to trawl back through years-worth of Facebook to find out either, for fear of what I might uncover, but I’m going to assume I did something to prompt it. The essence of the message was something along the lines of: ‘you always expect people to make an effort with you, why don’t you try with everyone else once in a while?’.

At the time, I was appalled that she had sent me such a message. I couldn’t believe that someone would speak to me like that. I phoned my mum. I text my friends. I spoke to the girls I lived with about it. My boyfriend at the time said she was completely out of order. Everyone around me agreed she was a bitch. I uninvited her from my 21st birthday – the ultimate snub at the time – and we stopped speaking to each other. All the while, deep down, I (and no doubt everyone around me) knew she was sort of right.

As I was growing up, there was always a little voice inside me that willed me to stop cancelling things, to pick up the phone and call people more, to go above and beyond for friends, the way my mum always had. I was a good person with all the best intentions, but when it came down to it, I would seem to get the little things wrong.

The Facebook message didn’t end our friendship; she’s still one of my closest and best friends. It merely halted it for a fixed amount of time. The perfect amount of time, in fact, for me to heal and accept my wrongdoings and enough time for her to admit she was perhaps, a little harsh. Harsh or not, though, that single message sent to me in my early twenties has only served to strengthen the bond between us and has had a positive impact on my relationships ever since. Her honesty has not only meant that I am a better friend, but it has taught me the importance of being honest with those around me when they need a reality check of their own.

The reason I wanted to share this story was to prompt you to be a bit more honest with those around you. Next time a friend asks your opinion on something personal or when you think someone could do with a nudge in the right direction, don’t smile and nod or agree with their nonsense, tell them what you really think. Give them a straight, honest and open answer, even if it might not be something they want to hear. Yes, it might hurt them and they might not talk to you for a while, but if you think it will make them a better person in the long run, or prevent them from doing more damage to themselves than good, then just say it. It’s sort of your duty as a friend.

Just remember to be careful with your words. When used carelessly, they can cause a heck of a lot of damage.

THE HOUSEWORK

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Cherry Healey posed a really interesting question on Instagram the other day.

She asked her followers whether the housework was split evenly between themselves and their other halves. Quite unbelievably, considering it is 2017 and we should be waaaay past conversations such as these, it’s a question that, I think, is definitely still worth asking.

As a twenty-something female who is not only a feminist herself, but who lives with a thirty-something man who calls himself a feminist, too, it is easy to assume we probably strike the perfect balance simply because our morals and values are in the correct place. However, I can’t help but feel that we might be missing instances of Everyday Sexism from right under our noses.

I’ll tell you why.

Although we do a deep clean together on a Sunday (we both have full-time jobs), outside of this, there’s a subtle difference in the number of chores we each take care of. I, for instance, manage to do a couple of loads of washing each week and find time to empty the dishwasher of an evening. Whenever the surfaces need a wipe, I’ll give them one. I make sure there is always loo paper readily available and that there’s something healthy in the fridge for dinner. Ryan, on the other hand, will happily have a fridge full of pizza and beer and leave the dirty work until the end of the week, letting the wash basket spiral out of control and the cupboards to grow empty.

This might come down to different living habits, but after talking to friends, family and colleagues, it seems to be quite a common dynamic between men and women, which makes me think it could be something more than simply personal preference…

What’s more is that the chores that we each instinctively take care of are gendered, too. While I tackle anything that will allow me to do so without feeling nauseous, he takes care of the bins, replaces light bulbs, pulls hair out of the plug-hole (which, for two very hairy people, is no easy feat) and assembles IKEA furniture in less than a minute.

What’s the problem, then? You ask. You do that, he does that. You should be satisfied enough, non?

Well, not quite. It grinds my gears when brands play on gendered tasks, so why am I adhering to these stereotypes on an almost daily basis? Wilko tin foil, for example, says, ‘It’s hot, mum’ on the packet. Why doesn’t dad get a mention? Probably working hard at the office while mum is at home wearing an apron; after all, it is 1945. And bath products that label pepper and ocean scents with, ‘for men’ because, of course, women only enjoy floral whiffs. In my eyes, participating in gendered work is just as bad as doing an uneven share of the work.

Am I being a bad feminist, then, by not questioning the amount he does because he takes care of all the things I don’t want to? Is it just a personality thing that has led us to doing different amounts and bits and bobs around the house? Or is it a gender issue that is ignored by many a feminist because we’re just glad we don’t have to do the grim stuff?

I don’t know the answers yet, but I definitely think it’s food for thought.

So, what about you? Does your other half do their fair share of the housework or are you up to your elbows in grease and grime as much as they are? Are you a woman dating a woman? I’d love to know how that dynamic works, too. Let me know what you think.