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From the kitchen table

From the kitchen table

The great Dummygate debate!

David and Victoria Beckham’s child may, strictly speaking, be a bit old for sucking on a soother but the idea that parents cannot exercise their personal right to give their kids an object to soothe them evokes my utter contempt…

When the print media published a photograph of former England footballer Deadwood and former Spice Girl warbler turned fashion designer Skelator Beckham’s (aka David and Victoria) four-year-old daughter Harper sucking a soother earlier this week, the images sent politically correct, know-it-all crazies into meltdown mode setting off the great Dummygate Debate.

We were even treated to some opinions from so-called experts eager to pour scorn and scoff at the little girl’s ‘addiction’ with the credible Laura Haugh from mummypages.ie exclaiming her shock, horror apparently feeling the youngster is too old to suck a soother reportedly saying

“It’s absolutely incredibly irresponsible of her parents to allow her to walk around during the daytime with a soother in her mouth, not only for the child’s speech development. Walking around with a soother means she’s not actually communicating, she’s not exercising her facial muscles”.

In addition, parenting expert Clare Byam-Cook is quoted as saying “If she has a dummy in their mouth at this age, at four, it really can damage her teeth and it is very likely to hinder speech development.”

Wow! Steady now ladies. Let’s not lose perspective here…it’s only a little girl sucking on a soother for God’s sake; there are worse atrocities going on in the world! And while I agree wholeheartedly with both of you that yes, Harper is too old for the soother, I have to ask if perhaps you’re over-reacting just a tad.

I mean, while it’s not uncommon for society to anticipate a parent’s shortcomings with fear and trepidation, even, in some cases, before their sprogs have gotten out of their nappies, the thing I’d like to emphasise is that it’s not really yours or anyone else’s business how the Beckhams or any other couple raise their kids.

I mean, when the time comes to surgically remove Harper’s soother, get her speech therapy and realign those gnashers – (if required), because let’s face it, I do personally feel that after the age of two years a dribbly doodie definitely becomes less of a soothing influence and more of a bad habit, and may lead to some sort of impaired physical development; the question I would pose is – whose hell will it be anyway?

Not yours’, not mine; it will be the Beckhams’. And the general opinion that they and other parents cannot exercise their personal right to give their kids an object to soothe them, be it a dummy or a little sheet (as my second daughter had) simply evokes my utter contempt. When daughter No 1 was born I swore, in my blissful ignorance, that I would never, ever give her a doodie, as we call it.

I mean, at the tender age of 18, it was part of my Parental Moral Covenant to allow my child to ‘self soothe.’ What a total feckin’ eejit!

Apparently I’d read too many Dr Spock style baby books. Looking back it’s certainly impressive and laughable to see how utterly naïve I was.

However, I can tell you within one week of that tiny, premature being, whom I was demand breast feeding, turning purple and screaming her little head off, with the encouragement of her dad, I legged it to the chemist, purchased a doodie and a backup doodie, rushed home, sterilised both and quickly shoved one into her permanently gaping gob the second she latched off!

When I was awaiting baby No 2’s arrival my hospital bag was packed with four doodies; two blue, two pink, much to the annoyance of the portly maternity nurse who, when she practically tried to rugby-tackle the pink one from my meaty paw, was forced to admit she’d never even given birth let alone sat up all night with a screaming baby.

She went ballistic when I gave the highly emotional new mother of a baby boy in the bed next to me the blue ones.

Besides, doesn’t the HSE website advise that ‘some research suggests that giving a baby a soother (dummy) every time they are being placed to sleep may reduce the risk of cot death.’

Now ok, I know Harper Beckham, whom at four years’ old is way beyond an age where many health experts discourage the use of pacifiers in the shape of soother, and for the record I began weaning my kids off their doodies when they were both 18 months old, insisting they hand over their much cherished sticky objects to Santa for Rudolph’s babies when both were aged 2, but I really do feel that this Dummygate debate has spiralled way out of control and is now, as far as I can see, more akin to radical mean-spirited parent-bashing.

Parents who allow their kids to suck soothers beyond the recommended age are not raising the Anti-Christ and I have to ask all those with sceptical, hostile views if they themselves have ever been schooled in the intrinsic value of a peaceful family life or if they’re just spouting off for the sake of hearing their own voices?

Look, sometimes a small child needs that extra little bit of comfort and mammy and daddy need that extra little bit of peace and quiet and a good parent will always facilitate their child’s needs.

Besides, if you take away the doodie too early the child may resort to sucking their thumb…then what would these Mother Earth expert types advise…amputation?

Is hiring a Hot Nanny the equivalent of marriage massacre?

Most home help clearly aren’t husband/wife snatchers, but our columnist still thinks there’s merit in handing over those child-minding responsibilities to Grandpa and Grandma…

It’s been widely reported throughout La La land that A-listers Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck have struggled over the years to keep their marriage alive; even attending therapy in a bid to hold on to the love that obviously once drew them together.

  Now this is admirable; fair play to them, because in my view, couples, especially those with children, should do everything in their power to try and keep their family intact; but as I well know, sometimes you just have to draw that line, walk away and, heartbreakingly, admit defeat. However, (and I’m no counsellor), if you’re trying to mend your fractured marriage readers; there is one thing you should never do and that is hire a hot, sexy, young nymphet to look after your kiddies or to work in your home a la Jennifer Garner and those other high profile, guileless women who came before her…Sadie Frost, Victoria Beckham and Maria Shriver immediately spring to mind. Seriously, what were they thinking?

  Now it doesn’t matter if the father of your children is so gorgeous he’d make Adonis jealous or if he’s stomach-churningly Quasimodo-style ugly that he’d make an onion weep; the fact remains girls, that (in some cases) if you stick a little strumpet with bazookas so humongous they’d swallow up the entire Irish army and a desperate-for-any-opportunity-to-tickle-somebody’s-fancy hubby under the same roof the chances are that ‘cute hoor’ will coo and cackle like a sad bunny boiler until she’s snared that creep from under your nose!

  Mind you, not all home help are husband/wife snatchers; most are highly professional people with no interest in anything other than getting the job done! And Affleck’s ‘affair’ is simply an allegation and not all hubbies/wives have it away with the staff. But if you want my advice…nepotism is yer only man…as in keep it in the family.

  Ok, asking Grandma to mind the kiddies may mean you’re making the supreme sacrifice; especially if she’s a nosy old bint who’ll interfere and dole out unwanted advice regarding the ankle-biters’ fast food diet or tut-tut at the amount of time spent in front of the TV, which can be unfair and demoralising for you, but believe me when I tell you there are advantages to being surrounded by people you know and trust wholeheartedly; even if you constantly ask yourself  “was this a wise move?”

  When I went back to work No 1 daughter was left in the capable hands of my wonderful mother-in-law, and even if she sometimes muttered a disapproving “a mother’s place is in the home,” it was worth it to know my child was in her excellent caring and loving hands. When I had No 2, my darling dad, who, following early retirement, found himself at a loose end agreed (we were thrilled) to become our little girl’s ‘Manny’. Realistically, apart from mam and dad, there is probably no better person than a doting grandparent or family member to look after your cherished child; someone who will understand their moods and embrace their vulnerabilities, someone who will be a driving force and work to emotionally support your family and at the same time, you know they’ll keep their grubby hands off the merchandise, i.e. the weak-willed hubby/wife who’s suddenly become partial to a muffin top and a ra ra skirt or a set of abs.

  Now I’m not saying it’ll be easy to deal with employing Grandma or Grandad, nay it will be a challenge – and you’ll need to look at the obvious resentments that may occur as well as the rewards your family will reap. I mean what happens if Nana or Grandad is an idiot and has a problem recognising who’s in charge and spends the first 6 weeks reporting to your 8-year-old for his homework routine instead of you?

  Or then again, what if Nana is the argumentative, know-it-all? If this is the case, my advice would be to ask yourself if you’re prepared to hear a lot of negative, snide comments from hubby’s precious mammy. Personally for me the answer here would be a big fat NO and when the old bat had flown home I’d be the type who’d take the argument all the way to the bedroom and beyond. Yep, I’m the type of harridan who’d milk that disagreement for all its worth then go right back and pick the bones bare. So it was lucky my former husband’s mother and I adored each other and as for my dear dad, well he’s my hero and can do no wrong, meaning luckily, in my situation I was able to go to work each day with an easy mind knowing my kids and my sanity were safe.

  That said, another piece of advice if you’re considering employing a relative is to be prepared to divorce your personal feelings, man up and tell them exactly how you wish your children to be cared for. I mean, ok, you’re not expecting to arrive home, bottle of wine chilling in the fridge, dinner on the table with Nana tucking the kids under the duvet, popping a brolly ready to fly away home as soon as she’s finished chirping ‘Feed the Birds…tuppence a bag.’

  No, that bottle of wine will have to wait ‘till you’ve listened to a litany of arthritic problems, examine new liver spots and have discussions regarding lack of daily bowel movements before you convince hubby to drive her home but remain tight-lipped and humour Nana because having her (and granddad) as your kids’ carers means your family will always win through; will have mutual goals and will share a personal dedication that comes only with that strong bond, leading to a high degree of commitment that every family with working parents needs.

  Take it from poor Jennifer Garner and the rest of those Hollywood wives who’ve dealt with hubby’s alleged, rumoured affair with the hot help, and who may now wish they’d stuck with the familiar…because in my view, it’s most certainly preferable to building a trust with someone else, someone who is clearly not committed to providing support to your family’s success or longevity. 

  Sometimes ladies, when it comes to protecting what you’ve got it’s not always a case of live and let live and to be honest, even though the majority of home help are consummate professionals who do not want your spouse, if someone tried to come between me and mine, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt the situation would quickly become a case of kill or be killed.


Why does my dog bark? It’s simple, he has something to say to you!

Our animal-loving columnist offers some expert and simple-to-follow advice to readers – at least to those who are dog-owners – on how to deal with their pets’ noisy behaviour....

It never ceases to amaze me the amount of queries I receive concerning nuisance dog barking.  People even stop me on the side of the road to ask “Why does my dog bark?” The answer I give them is straight forward; your dog barks because barking is his way of communicating with you!

  Dogs don’t bark to annoy you or to spite you or just because they can…although it may often appear that way if it’s driving your poor neighbours insane! I decided to write about this matter due to the recently reported case of a dog in Strokestown who is now, sadly, the subject of a court order following complaints  of ‘excessive barking,’ by neighbours who must surely be at the end of their tether. And, as this is being dealt with in a legal capacity, I will not comment on it further, but I will try to give readers who are dog owners a little bit of advice regarding their pets’ noisy behaviour.

  First of all there are different types of barking, and you, as a responsible pet parent really need to familiarise yourself with them.

  The Alert Bark: This is the normal, expected barking to alert you there’s an intruder in the house, or the kitchen is on fire or the baby has fallen out of the cot.  It’s perfectly natural for your dog to bark if he senses there’s a threat to his family or to his territory. This is usually a loud, sharp bark and if you hone in on his natural, nurturing canine instinct with proper training you can help your dog protect your home and your family.

  Barking at other dogs: A dog down the road or across the field suddenly barks and before you know it your own pet, along with every other dog within earshot is involved in a dawn chorus. Very annoying for you and your poor neighbours.

  Playful, excited barking: This is more common in puppies who bark when playing. My own dogs bark excitedly when they know a car trip and a walk is imminent. This type of bark normally sounds upbeat and is totally different to the one your dog uses to alert you to danger.

  Then there’s the biggie: The behavioural problem or as I call it, the nuisance bark: This usually signals boredom, loneliness or miscommunication between owner and pet. If this type of barking is a problem, you need to recognise the triggers and you need to eliminate them by considering the following: When does it occur? Is my dog left alone for long periods of time? Is he getting enough exercise? Is he in pain? Is he hungry? Is he anxious about something he hears or sees? (Neighbour has a new lawn mower and the noise is scaring him; neighbour’s child is tormenting him); as was the case with one of my dogs when I lived in Dublin where the teenager next door continuously threw stones at my dog. I investigated it, identified the problem and following a strongly worded conversation between me and the brattish teen; calm was once more restored.

  However sometimes it’s a bit more difficult and in order to address nuisance barking, you, as the pet parent will require plenty of patience and I would suggest you invest in some training for both you and your pet with a specialist dog trainer. This will help you understand his ‘doggy’ language, so you can correctly ascertain why he is barking and at the same time express what it is you, as his pack leader, wishes to communicate back to him.

  Modern training techniques are based upon the dog receiving a reward for the desired action. My dogs are my family and are all trained and socialised but we have only achieved this by showing them patience, love and respect and by giving them rewards and by never, ever hitting them.

  So, for example, if your desired action is “stop barking,” gently; and I stress gently,  hold your dog’s muzzle or squirt him, again very gently, with a child’s toy water gun filled only with clean water; (do NOT hurt your dog). This gentle squirting action will momentarily distract him and hopefully make him stop barking.  When he stops, use the command “quiet.” Immediately after saying “quiet,” if your dog remains silent, reward him and walk away. When he starts barking again, repeat the process. Eventually he will learn to associate “quiet,” with a meaty reward.  Because he’s smart, your dog will stop barking without the need for the water gun and only the use of the word “quiet,” will be a sufficient command. It may sound easy enough but believe me, it will not happen overnight so be patient and remember it is up to you to determine the cause of your dog’s excessive barking and as a responsible pet parent you need to do your utmost to remove any potential reasons so that you can keep his behaviour under effective control. In addition, it will help your dog if you give him better things to do to prevent and distract him from nuisance barking so that everyone, including your adored pet can live happily and in peace and harmony.

  While I’m on a roll, here are some of the things you should never, ever do when it comes to parenting a dog:

  Never: Comfort, feed or pet your dog when he barks for attention or out of anxiety; this is simply rewarding his behaviour.

  Never: Shout! This will cause him to bark more and louder. Never: Allow your dog to bark constantly outside regardless of the reason – this is the best way to make enemies of your neighbours.

  Never: Use a shock collar to control barking; they are inhumane and painful for your dog. Never: Allow your dog to become lonely or bored and never leave him to his own devices for long periods of time.

  So it’s up to you; develop that ‘barking ear,’ and find out exactly what your dog is saying when he woofs, howls and growls.  And yes, it requires a lot of time and patience but it’s well worth it because if you train mans’ (and woman’s) best friend properly then you’re embarking on a lifetime’s investment for you and your pet.

  However, I am not a vet and my tips are intended to simply help and inform my lovely readers and should never be used in place of professional veterinary advice. If you have concerns regarding your pets, please call your vet immediately.


The perils of sharing too much online!

I’d imagine private investigators and family law solicitors across Ireland will probably be rubbing their hands with glee as they gear up for lots of new clients…whose other halves have been indulging in late-night emails and ‘phone calls or are doing a spectacular amount of overtime with no evidence of financial remuneration showing in the joint bank account…

Well folks, the ‘tsk, tsk, nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ gossip brigade was left salivating last week following revelations that the world has a new breed of cheater and he/she is a user of Ashley Madison, the website that boasts it has over 38,015,000 members, (over 40,000 of which are reputed to be Irish) whom they very helpfully assisted to cheat on their partners! However, last week this Ashley Madison site, whose disgraceful tagline is ‘Life is short. Have an affair’ was sensationally hacked, putting thousands of its married members’ personal information at risk with details of profiles, names, addresses, credit card data, nudie piccies and secret sexual fantasies out into the public domain.


  In short, the dirty, rotten, lying, deceitful, two-timing cheaters have been outed, rendering the ‘dating’ site’s PR people to immediately morph into damage control mode assuring their scared sxxtless clients that they were taking “every possible step toward mitigating the attack." Oops, too little too late I’d say.

  Now, bear with me, and I’m not judging here; no, really I’m not, but I kinda see a trend; don’t you? I mean, desperate situations often need desperate measures and if someone, let’s just suggest a middle-aged, paunchy and bored husband; one whose pacemaker makes the microwave ping every time he sees yer wan down at No. 3 doing the gardening in a sexy apron and Marigold gloves, wishes to indulge in, ahem, let’s say, a colourful, so-called designer sex life by enjoying kinky seven-hour Tantric sex marathon sessions with slappers who use their immovable parts as bait; well then that’s the emotionally-stunted cheater’s business. And, for the record, most busy wives, me included, can’t even manage to summon up the energy to sleep for seven hours, never mind indulge in other more strenuous activities, but I digress. However, last week, thanks to the unlawful, disgraceful work of ‘cyber terrorists,’ cheaters of the world have been hacked and outed and I’d imagine private investigators and family law solicitors across Ireland will probably be rubbing their hands with glee as they gear up for lots of new clients with suspicious and worried wives, whose other halves have been indulging in late-night emails and ‘phone calls or are doing a spectacular amount of overtime with no evidence of financial remuneration showing in the joint bank account suddenly seeking their expertise.

  You see readers, when you think about it, these weasels have stupidly joined Ashley Madison; (and other similar sites); have gone ahead and given their personal details and credit card info because they’ve actually sat for hours, days even, and contemplated having a bit on the side. They’re not the sorry sods who’ve mistakenly indulged in a drunken, impulsive, highly regrettable and shameful one-nighter – which I do NOT condone, nor would I ever forgive, by the way – and I have to say, even though they have now been illegally hacked and are in an impossible situation, I find my sympathy is non-existent. You see, in trying to have their cake and eat it, I feel these men don’t have the liathróidí or the integrity to face the fact that there is clearly a problem with their ‘real life’ relationships and they have failed to do the manly thing, which is address it and try, with all of their might, to fix it.

  As I write, I can only imagine the bombshell and impact these revelations are now going to have on those thousands of once-happy, once-ignorant Irish families whose entire lives will now be thrown into a cataclysmic crisis due to someone’s selfish infidelity and all because he/she could hear the loud ticking of their biological clock igniting their insatiable urge to indulge in a higher form of sexual experience rather than simply stopping off at the supermarket for a bunch of flowers, buying a bottle of wine, booking an intimate dinner or even sending a saucy text, which by the way I’d bet would have gone a long way towards getting them lucky with a late-night grope or three from a very tired, but I’d imagine, grateful wife when the dog’s been fed and the kiddies have been packed off to bed.

  But no, ya couldn’t do the simple thing could ya? Ya wanted to be in da zone, and now your decision to act out your sexual fantasies outside of your marriage has led to your membership of what is essentially a high class brothel, and is now threatening to destroy your family’s entire world.

  Look lads, while I am truly sorry for your situation, and even more so for your families’ devastation, and while I am extremely concerned regarding the blatant, illegal invasion of privacy, which is unacceptable and very worrying, I have to try and open up your horny eyes and enlighten you. The fact is, these online temptresses may have a cutesy pie figure now, but you listen to me when I say, the Roman Empire fell and so will her boobs and tight little butt cheeks, d’ya’ hear me, and then what’ll ya do? Expect your loving wife, the mother of your kids, the woman with real curves, ones so defined and comfy you could probably sit on them, to take your sniveling, cheating ass back? Well little man…will ya?


Oh I think we have found ourselves a Cheerleader…NOT!

Attention-seeking celebrities with disgusting habits should perhaps think of the day when their suitably mortified children get to the stage where they want to ‘google’ their mammy…

It’s rare you’d see me watching daytime telly; after all, as I did work on it for so long you’d imagine I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to tune in every now and then. But, you see, productions like The Jeremy Kyle Show (insert yawn) whose audience somehow manage to come across as thinking their presenter, who freely admits he’s probably “the most hated man in the UK,” is one smart cookie when in fact his entire performance often gives the impression he’s a self-serving self-publicist with an insatiable appetite for power as he smugly tries to do what all the shrinks and ASBOs in the UK couldn’t… attempt to reform Britain’s expanding army of social sadists who believe they’ve still got it but sadly nobody wants it, into cleaning up their act. Not exactly TV’s most complex and compelling show now is it; however I suspect that Kyle is possibly a very nice man in private.


  Then we have Loose Women, a panel show often comprised of a gaggle of cackling, nasty has-beens, who, instead of supporting and empowering the sisterhood, usually end up managing to attack it! Remember Judy Finnigan’s incendiary comments regarding the conviction of disgraced footballer Ched Evans for the rape of a 19-year-old woman saying the rape was “unpleasant,” but “not violent,” adding “he didn’t cause bodily harm.” Of the victim, snoozy, sorry Judy, disgracefully comments, that “she’d had far too much to drink.” OMG!!!

  However, there is one bright, well brightish, light at the end of the TV tunnel and that’s Lorraine Kelly and her ‘Lorraine,’ show; clearly the ‘creative name’ researcher was on leave the day they came up with the title.   Filled with fashion, beauty, health and celebrity guests, ‘Lorraine’ is fun, it’s frivolous, it’s cosy and it’s a show presented by one of TV’s most likeable ladies. I know, I’ve interviewed her myself. So, you can imagine my surprise last week when this inoffensive, veteran presenter was accused of ‘grilling’ and ‘bullying’ former Celebrity Big Brother winner and Geordie Shore ahem, ‘star,’ Charlotte Crosby over her very public bed-wetting antics and on her propensity to pee in her wetsuit (yeuch) when she appeared in ‘Ex on the Beach.’

  Seriously, what did this wannabe, whose entire life and drunken antics have been happily played out for the world to witness, and who was on the ‘Lorraine’ show to flog her ‘really light hearted’ tome ‘ME, ME. ME’ expect? Of course there was going to be some form of backlash; you’re making your living by performing a very intimate, private and personal function, i.e. peeing in public and laughing about it! Dear God love, I can’t even pee if one of the dogs are watching me!

  Look, Lorraine Kelly is one of the nicest, most professional presenters in TV land, so when she was labelled a ‘bully,’ I have to say I laughed so hard my face nearly broke out in a Rave!

  Now first of all, I watched the segment and by my standards, it was hardly high octane drama and it certainly didn’t warrant some of Crosby’s two million Twitter followers going into meltdown. In my opinion it was a fair and balanced interview, and ok, maybe Lorraine came across in a kind of disapproving mammy-like way when she asked Crosby “are you embarrassed?” to which she replied ‘”No”, prompting Lorraine to quite rightly respond with “why not?” It’s a reasonable question because if a healthy 25-year-old, who isn’t experiencing bladder problems or has any other medical reasons that would render her to pee herself on cue every time someone shouts ‘action’ then I feel Lorraine’s line of questioning was highly justified and hardly the type of torture doled out at the Salem Witch Trials.   

  I mean Crosby appeared not to care one iota, nor did she appear to have any sense of shame, in fact, incredibly, she seems to feel  it’s ok, nay, socially acceptable to wet herself in public, telling Lorraine and the viewers  “there’s nothing I wouldn’t do on camera, even giving birth on camera.” How unfortunate. How crass. Mind you, Crosby did concede her mother wasn’t ‘happy’ when she “did it in the house!” Really? I should think not, and I’m glad to see mammy disapproves because if one of my girls displayed such a disgusting and malodorous habit in the name of earning a crust and showed scant regard for personal hygiene, not to mention their self-respect, I’d be screaming at them like a demented hyena.

  In fact Ms Crosby is probably blessed it wasn’t me asking her the questions; now that would have been a ‘grilling’ because as you know readers, I don’t like to mince my words. In fact I would have asked her about that cringe-worthy song she recorded. I won’t publish its name in my column, it’s unpalatable; but it has a line in it that says ‘I’m out on the town, I pull me pants down, this is the highlight of me night.’ Draw your own conclusions; but classy or wha’?

  Now look, while it’s impressive to see how self-sufficient these young reality stars can be, and while Ms Crosby is probably a very nice young woman – personal habits aside – I can’t help but feel that one day her antics will somehow negatively boomerang back on her in later life; say, when the kids arrive and want to ‘google’ their mammy! Ouch!

Drinking alcohol when pregnant…why risk it?

Pregnant women should make their own informed choices – but they need more support, understanding, information and education on this issue

Go anywhere in the world and tell people you’re Irish and they’ll fondly say things like “Aah Mrs Brown” – however, following last week’s staggering revelations that suggest nearly 80 per cent of Irish women expose their unborn babies to alcohol with around 45 per cent actually binge drinking during the first trimester, I imagine the next time I manage to go abroad and introduce myself as being a proud Irish mammy, the thorny subject of consuming alcohol while pregnant may raise its ugly head. 


  Now this could be due to a recent study, led by Dr Linda O’Keefe of Cambridge University and published in medical journal BMJ Open, which revealed that Irish mothers-to-be are more likely to drink than their counterparts in the neighbouring UK or far-flung Australia and New Zealand. In fact readers, our little country actually emerged with the highest rates of drinking at 90 per cent prior to getting pregnant and 82 per cent while actually being pregnant.

  Now I don’t know about you, but as someone who has twice given birth, I find these revelations worrying and I have to ask myself why this is happening. You see, while there are both medical and government guidelines designed to advise and educate women regarding the dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy, I wonder if they’re clear and concise enough to get the message across? I also wonder if different doctors are taking a somewhat more realistic and personal approach with their individual patients.

  You see, a few weeks ago TV presenter Maia Dunphy, whom I would regard as an intelligent mother-to-be, someone who is in the public domain, someone that women would look up to and someone who is excitingly expecting her first child with her hubby, comedian Johnny Vegas, got rather annoyed when people made comments regarding her taking an alcoholic drink during pregnancy, saying “I’m not taking heroin, I’m having one drink,” adding, “I’m not drinking drinking, but I’m probably having one or two drinks a week, like a glass of wine with Sunday lunch or a beer.” Hmm. Interesting.

  Now this comment took me by surprise because it came from a lady with brains to burn and who presented a documentary on RTE called ‘Merlot and Me,’ where she focused on her own relationship with alcohol and while my first thought was – why risk it love – my second was well now, Maia is not the type of woman to put her child at risk and I’m sure she’s sensibly consulted with her obstetrician. Maia is a responsible woman, who, like me, researches and analyses all of the facts before making a decision.

  Now, while I believe all mothers want to do what is right for their child, please don’t think I’m on an awareness crusade here. That’s Leo Varadkar’s job as Minister for Health and maybe he (and his Department) needs to up their game when it comes to educating women, because it seems they’re getting mixed messages; but, having done my own research (while pregnant), on the worrying effects of alcohol on an unborn, which can include heart defects, poor muscle tone and problems with movements and balance, learning difficulties, problems with thinking and speech, etc., and, despite my doctor at the time saying an odd glass of wine or beer was ok, I decided that if, as an expectant mother I couldn’t, for the sake of my precious unborn’s health, go on the dry and stick to sparkling water or fruit juice for the nine months, then it was utter thoughtlessness on my part.

  But I stress that was me and I abstained because, having also read further literature on the subject, I concluded that perhaps those few beers or glasses of wine may expose my babies to Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) because that aul gargle was going to travel down through my bloodstream and straight into my unborn babies’ tissues and organs, breaking down slowly in their fragile bodies, making their blood alcohol level increase, possibly rendering them harm and leading to lifelong, mild to severe damage. As I said, it was just a ‘risk’ but one I personally wasn’t prepared to take.

  Now I’m not campaigning for sainthood here because I actually do have a dirty little secret and it’s this…now that my child-bearing years are behind me I adore nothing more than winding down with a few drinks; I looovvvee my vodka, I looovvee my Jack Daniels, and, at this stage of my life, I’d imagine my official blood group is probably AB Smirnoff, but I have to stress that during both pregnancies, and even in the six months leading up to daughter No 2’s conception, not a drop of the hard stuff passed my lips. Swear to God! Oh, ok, I did have the odd swig out of the gripe water bottle. I didn’t say I was Mother Teresa!  

  However, while I believe tackling the consumption of alcohol in pregnancy is critical, I most certainly do not agree with some scaremongers who insist that drinking whilst pregnant should be declared a crime; nor do I believe humiliating, annoying or berating pregnant women is the way to go either. And, for the record I don’t support those who want to control the minimum price of a bottle of wine saying it’s the only way to achieve zero tolerance in pregnancy. 

  Instead I would strongly advocate for more support, understanding, information and education for parents-to-be, because let’s be honest, pregnant women should be afforded the right to make their own informed choices but they can only do this if they’re given all of the facts. I mean, c’mon, no mother wants to look at her precious new born infant knowing their future has been severely damaged by what was possibly her own irresponsible behaviour; now does she?


I’m all about that base…no sculpting!

Show me a rugged he-man with a bit of meat on his loins and I’ll show you a very sexy Roscommon man!

This week, as many of my female friends are discussing, ok, embarrassingly drooling and clucking over Channing Tatum’s appearance and performance in Magic Mike XXL, it seems that I am the only one in the henhouse who hasn’t been rendered weak at the knees by this beefcake bonanza’s performance, or even felt the tiniest need to throw some balled-up Euro notes at the screen, meaning I remain entirely – well almost – immune to the himbo’s, ahem, front-loaded charms!

You see, due to already falling head over heels in lust with Mr Tatum in GI Joe The Rise of the Cobra and OMG, (steady now), Dear John – yep, you’ve got it in one, I’m a sucker for a military man – it’s safe to say, seeing Magic Mike XXL would just ruin the whole fantasy for me because, well, an oiled-up set of perfectly-defined abdominal muscles, bulging biceps and a pair of thrusting hips on a thong-wearing male stripper just don’t do it for me; even if they are on a filthy-rich Hollywood star…unless of course they’re covered in army fatigues.

Ok, I admit it, Magic Mike definitely looks hotter than that string-vested lump leaving his bum grooves all over your good sofa, but stay with me here girls and try to picture that Neanderthal when he’s scrubbed up and shaved on a Saturday night.

He’s wearing his best Chinos, smart open-necked cotton shirt, splashed on a dab of aftershave and not a sign of builder’s bum cleavage or protruding beer belly in sight and I’m willing to bet he’ll look half-human and sexier than that male stripper you’ve been lusting over, (well he will after you’ve downed a few swift ones).

I suppose what I’m trying to say – but am being very careful, as this is a highly-respected family newspaper – is that distractingly handsome, diamond-cut men with ripped, six-pack abs just don’t do it for me and I was genuinely surprised to discover that my mainly intelligent gal pals were lusting over a group of fake-tanned, much younger blokes, wearing barely-there undies while professing to buy similar skimpies for their middle aged, paunchy hubbies.

Now readers, like a lot of woman, I am definitely an enthusiast when it comes to the fine art and science of men’s bodies and undergarments, but how could I take the gorgeous he-who-worships-the-ground-I’m-going-under seriously if he suddenly breaks into a mesmerising body roll or gyrates, bumps and grinds his way across the bedroom floor whilst wearing a skimpy pair of satin knickers that chafe, bulge and sag every time he moves and he has to excuse himself in order to expel the offending item and prevent it from garrotting his person.

However, the same cannot be said for the thousands of Irish women who’ve been ogling the Chan Man’s on-stage attire.

Look, I’m sorry, but no woman, even those who buy season tickets to Magic Mike XXL, (and you know who you are), wants her man to wear a thong. Seriously, nobody needs to witness that disturbing sight and yet, since this movie was debuted, sales of ample bum coverage underpants have plummeted while sales of tiny man thongs have risen by 40 per cent! Incredible!

Go into any department store, (which I did last Saturday), and you’ll overdose on pretty satin thongs, bikini briefs, y-backs, stretchy G-strings, slip briefs with braces attached – I kid you not – and for an extra summer heatwave bonus, little Cupid heart shaped motifs have even been sewn on.

Then do a double-take ladies as you realise you’re in the MEN’s section! I want to know where traditional black cotton with a touch of Lycra boxer shorts that covers a man from his waist to his thigh, gives appropriate support and exudes masculinity have gone.

While I’m at it, what’s happened to the good old days of the ‘dad bod?’ The days when men weren’t fearful of having an aul cheat meal, or three, where they have confidence, where they strut that gut and own that slightly protruding belly on a hot summer’s day.

Seriously, show me a rugged he-man with a bit of meat on his loins and I’ll show you a very sexy Roscommon man!

Putting our children on ice is not the way to empower women!

With a nod to political correctness, creativity, innovation, and, I would imagine, a genuine attempt to demonstrate the need to improve business outcomes and corporate popularity by bringing more women into their fold, Intel is apparently considering offering to pay for its female employees to have their eggs frozen ‘as part of its retention and hiring strategy.’ How very futuristic of them!

  Well it’s already de rigueur among companies in Silicon Valley in the US with Facebook and Apple leading the trend so I suppose it was only a matter of time before it hit good old-fashioned, turf footin,’ (my new hobby), potato pickin’ Ireland.

  Now I don’t know about you readers, but in the past, when I’ve applied for a job I did it mainly because it was somewhere I wanted to work, my qualifications fit their specifications, it was close to home and, mostly because it paid well. Never, ever in any scenario, even a science fiction one (and I’m a huge Trekkie), did I think, yeah, I’d like to work for this organisation because they’re very kindly offering to provide me with an incentive scheme; a perk, if you like, where I can avail of the extremely intrusive, invasive, painful and personal procedure of having a medical specialist harvest and then freeze my eggs.

  Egg freezing (or for nerdy readers, oocyte cryopreservation), is an expensive medical procedure, costing approximately €16,000. It allows a woman to have her eggs harvested, stored and replanted into her uterus at a later stage in her life, when she feels she’s ready to have children. This could likely happen at a time when her fertility is at a stage where her age and perhaps medical circumstances may have prevented her becoming pregnant naturally; and, bear in mind, for anyone thinking of having this done, there is no cast-iron guarantee that when your eggs are implanted a pregnancy will occur. Are you with me so far?

  Now, according to Intel’s very capable vice president, Cork native Margaret Burgraff, “nothing is off the table,” when it comes to her employers becoming industry leaders in so-called ‘diversity hiring.’ Mind you Ms Burgraff quickly adds that she personally doesn’t want her “workplace involved” in her fertility. Smart woman. I fully agree with her.

  For me, as a working woman, the use of the term ‘diversity hiring,’ to describe my gender and to refer to what is actually the potential recruitment of 51 per cent of the population is flipping derogative, downright insulting and bloody sinister with the phrase womb raiding immediately springing to my mind. I mean, come on, in my opinion, any employer who dangles the offer of this procedure in front of any female employee is pushing the boundaries too far because they are effectively telling us that women are good…we like having women on our workforce, we embrace them; but mothers, nah, mothers are bad; they interfere with progress.

  Ok, look, I can see where the offer of this procedure could somewhat liberate career minded women from the shackles of wanting to get pregnant, putting blossoming careers on hold while they take maternity leave and then struggling to get back into their stride; and as a career minded woman/wife/mother myself, I can definitely relate to that line of thinking; but dear God, haven’t we got enough problems already without a sinister directive coming from our employers?

  I remember when I joyfully announced to work colleagues that I was pregnant with my second daughter following an 11-year gap after my first pregnancy 22 years’ ago.

  Now this was my choice, I was lucky enough to be able to plan both pregnancies and I empathise with those women who can’t. However, my then boss, a misogynist and himself a father of four, hit the roof. He ranted, raged and shouted at me that he’d thought I was “done with all that nonsense,” and announced he would be sending me to work in the “upstairs office, effective immediately because I am not having a pregnant woman on display in my organisation. It’s bad for business.” 

  As I said, that was 22 years’ ago and he wouldn’t get away with it now. I steadfastly refused to be shut away like a fairground freak and told him so by using some very colourful language. I also told him that if he pushed me I’d shame him by arriving into work each day wearing a sign that said ‘unclean’ dangling from my neck.

  I believe women need to make a decision to have their families based entirely on when it’s right for them – this is what I did – and not when it suits their boss. I also believe that Apple’s statement saying, “Apple cares deeply about our employees and their families, and we are always looking at new ways our health programmes can meet their needs,” when they launched their egg freezing incentive is particularly soulless and will lead to stripping their potential female workforce of the very assets that set them apart from their male colleagues. Bosses should be reforming work practices and policies to suit women not plotting and scheming how best to keep us chained to our cubicles.

Thin may be in – but being body positive’s where it’s at!

There is way too much pressure on women to be thin, says our columnist, who believes social media, for all its wonderful aspects, is having a negative effect, causing ‘an awful lot of anxiety for many, especially our susceptible, highly impressionable young adolescents’…

In the materialistic, image-obsessed world we live in, there are so many negative impulses and influences on us to have the body beautiful – especially for us women, so it’s vital we listen to the important messages our bodies are sending us. I mean, it may seem obvious but I’m going to say it anyway…we should respond to our natural urges to eat when hungry and to stop when full. Simple isn’t it!

  However, sometimes, there is an overwhelming pressure to judge and compare ourselves to others. This begins when a slow desperation creeps in and, very often it becomes impossible to conquer. This desperation is all about insecurity, survival and the will to control our own destiny. How do I know? Been there, done that! This desperation can even lead to destructive impulses; the type that are felt by every person who has suffered from the debilitating and chronic effects of the illnesses known as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa; ailments that are becoming far more common, but, popular to what sufferers believe, do NOT, in any shape or form,  create the body beautiful. In fact they destroy it!

  I thought I’d address this issue in light of last week’s appalling headlines surrounding Zara Tindall (Britain’s Princess Anne’s daughter) who was lambasted by unkind critics for turning up at that over-hyped and highly privileged pomp fest Royal Ascot displaying what critics are calling a ‘mum tum.’ Now while I feel no solidarity whatsoever with the British Royal family I do feel so sorry for this young woman who was forced to defend herself, even rebutting rumours that she was ‘pregnant,’ just because her hip bones don’t protrude far enough to set off airline security scanners.

  It’s my opinion there is way too much pressure on women to be thin and this fact was highlighted  earlier this month when the Eating Disorder Association of Ireland Bodywhys said they saw a 50 per cent increase in the number of people contacting their services last year for help. 

  Now, for me, this would be a cause for concern because it’s my belief that anorexia and bulimia can strike anyone at any time; however, many sufferers will never admit to falling prey to this heartbreaking disorder because they’re afraid of its implications. Due to this, I would advise that the most important thing for those who are suffering is to understand that they’re not alone and to remember that as they are vibrant, valuable members of society; are daughters, sisters, wives, girlfriends, husbands, brothers mums and dads; people will understand and will want to help.

  I don’t have any medical training but research has led me to believe that in most cases of eating disorders, the sufferer has previously undergone difficult life experiences such as bullying or has possibly been through the untimely death of a loved one. These experiences are nearly always accompanied by feelings of depression and/or a compulsive obsessive disorder which is likely to be a contributing factor.

  I also understand the myth that anorexia sufferers hate their food is just that…a myth. Sufferers actually like their food but their bodies are the one thing they can have complete control over meaning their bodies and food become the enemy. As I said, just my understanding.

  There’s hardly a day goes by that my Facebook page isn’t showered with images shared by friends of some photo-shopped, perfect, fabulous, flawless yet impossibly skinny model which surely must cause psychological and negative effects to many women.  I know I feel distinctly dowdy, frumpy, ugly and old when I see them. And last week when I was uploading a group photo onto Facebook one of the women in it warned me – now didn’t ask me mind, she warned me – not to attempt to tag her in it unless I’d first ‘instagrammed’ her!

  Yes she’s become all kinds of obsessed with Instagram and has, along with my two daughters become part of its reported 300 million active monthly users. This meant contouring her jawline, widening and brightening her eyes, making her lips look fuller, altering her skin tone and doing God knows what else rendering her totally unrecognisable to the beautiful woman she actually is.   

  “Seriously?”  I asked; “sure if you want to look like that love, we’ll need a Genie in the camera not a filter system,” but hey, given what happened to poor, put-upon Royal, Zara Tindall when some happy snapper caught her belly at a bad angle; I suppose my friend had a point and as I’m one of the few people who do not subscribe to Instagram…no, what ya see is what ya get with me; I had to bow to her wishes and didn’t upload the pic.

  But look readers, it’s no secret that the big bad world of social media, wonderful though it is, and much as I love and embrace it, has actually caused an awful lot of anxiety for many, especially our susceptible, highly impressionable young adolescents; becoming a dominant, mostly positive but often negative force in their everyday lives with some allocating way too much time and putting way too much relevance on image-related activities in their desperate bid to self-objectify and reach their so-called perfect idyll.

  We would do well to take a leaf out of the unperturbed Zara Tindall’s book when she replied to those unkind harpies following the circulation of her unflattering photos, dismissing them with “I’m just a normal girl.”  Er, “Normal Girl” with millions in the bank sweetie. But nonetheless she’s a girlie who oozes self-belief and self-esteem and I for one, tip my tiara to her.

* For more information/help on eating disorders log onto www.bodywhys.ie or PH: 1890 200 444 or 01-2834963



Sometimes it's hard to be a woman!

Well readers, some weeks’ ago we had the disturbing ‘Kylie Jenner Challenge’ where vulnerable and highly susceptible teens were openly encouraged, through a massive social media campaign, to ‘suck shot glasses and blow up your lips to double their size.’

  The painful practice involves young people – and older women of my acquaintance who really should know better – placing their mouth over the opening of a glass or a jar and sucking inwards until the resulting air vacuum caused their lips to swell to an enormous size in the hope of looking like Kylie Jenner.

  The result was a raft of injuries with some teens even requiring hospital treatment due to extensive bruising. Then, just as we thought it was safe to turn on the TV, we were treated to the scary news that soon, in a bid to ‘mammy up’ her image, we will have yet another Kardashian to ‘keep up with,’ when Kim, desperate to keep her publicity generated ‘showmance’ with Kanye alive, announced she’s expecting a playmate for daughter North West.

  Now while I’m delighted to hear a new life has been created and will forever celebrate the wonderful miracle of parenthood, seriously, does the world really need another offspring of a daft-as-a-brush rapper who thinks he’s Jesus and a narcissist who likes to star in her own sex tapes and who cuts the baby out of selfies when she needs to keep the focus on herself?

  Alas it didn’t end there. 48 hours later, we had the promised but over the top unveiling of Bruce “call me Caitlyn” with a ‘C’ and not a ‘K’ Jenner, in order to break with the firm’s sorry family’s tradition of using the letter K as the featured consonant of their forenames.

  How utterly daring and original of you dahling! The world rejoiced, the internet broke and we celebrated a watershed moment as Bruce, (now Caitlyn), the 65-year-old former Olympian and patriarch of the Kardashian/Jenner dynasty prior to his/her transition, decked in a basque, displayed herself seductively across the cover of Vanity Fair and gushed how, deciding on her new moniker and the manner in which to spell it was “one of the hardest things in life.”

  Wow, well aren’t you just a fun filled little sweetie pie, rolled in honey and tripled dipped in your own self-importance! Look readers, as I’m perfectly happy being a woman and have absolutely no idea what it’s like to go through what must be the agonising heartbreak to live life as one gender, while all the time wishing you were another, I have to say the beautifully sculpted, enhanced – if square-jawed and shovel-handed – Caitlyn is hardly entitled to be hailed and celebrated as the new poster girl for the trans gender community, even if some may see her as one.

  In my opinion, and while I respect Caitlyn’s choice, (and envy her fabulous hips), and indeed, I support everyone’s choice to live life in a manner that makes them happiest, there is nothing at all ‘typical’ about this woman’s gender identity struggle.Why?

  Because as Bruce, Caitlyn was a stinking-rich, high profile, powerful celebrity and today, she still is. She still has her millions, she still has her media pulling power, she is still part of brand Kardashian which means she will still command major fees when giving interviews and making guest appearances.

  She is not, in any shape or form – even if that shape is now a fabulous 36-24-36 – ‘typical’ of many in the transgender community who are eeking out a life on the sidelines, are sadly shunned by family and friends and disgracefully often forced out of their jobs and communities due to certain individuals’ inciting hateful discrimination campaigns against them; dramatically and negatively affecting their mental wellbeing.

  You see, due to Jenner’s enormous wealth and celebrity status, her ability to talk pink pedicures with the world’s media, not to mention the fact that her triumphant transformation and global unveiling as a former toothy, all American male athlete to magazine cover girl following a gruelling ten-hour facial feminisation surgical procedure, our heroine will never be disproportionately affected by the ugly realities of life and will continue to enjoy being sheltered and pampered.

  While I congratulate Caitlyn and wish her every happiness, while I salute her for her courage and for raising awareness and recognition of the transgender community, I am profoundly sad that so many people who are enormously resilient, many of whom are young children and teens, are still being forced to spend a lifetime – one that’s very often cut short – supressing their much-yearned for and what they believe to be, true identities.

  Last month our little country made history by supporting marriage equality; last week, Tánaiste Joan Burton announced the application process under the Gender Recognition Bill which will (for those 18 years and upwards) adopt a self-declaration approach allowing for formal recognition and the issuing of a new birth certificate for transgender people who wish to change their name and gender. Ireland, at last, is coming out of the dark ages and there is light at the end of the tunnel for all its citizens. Hmmm, I wonder how many of them will manage to break the internet!

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