Jo Middleton: Remaining Open to the Possibilities

Learning about and talking with Jo Middleton of Slummy Single Mummy has knocked me off my high horse. It’s helped me to realise just how small-minded and biased my own thinking can be.​

There’s two main reasons for the low opinions I hold of those who call themselves “bloggers”. The first originated when I read Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me I’m Lying. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s Ryan’s exploration and exposure of the online media ecosystem. It’s a scary book because it demonstrates just how dangerous the world of online media is and how vulnerable we are to it’s products. One of the themes he highlights is the role of bloggers in the dissemination of unverified and toxic information. The majority of bloggers and journalists spend more time hunting Facebook shares than fact checking. Their weapons of choice are anger, outrage and disgust. The words they spew are designed to generate heat, not light.

The origins of the second reason? I can’t trace them. But over the last year or so, I’ve begun to see writing as something sacred. As something to be undertaken with careful thought and deliberate intentions. I’ve begun to see how and what I write as an extension of how and what I think. And the quality of my thought, as well as the impact of my words, is something I take seriously.

The collision of these two trains of thought has caused me to tar practically all bloggers with the same brush: they’re small minded, motivated only by page views and profit, and care little for the long-term impact of the work they put out into the world. In this case, I was wrong.

I met Jo at a networking event. At the start of the evening, we did the obligatory stand-up-and-introduce-yourself thing. During my mumbled speech, I mentioned that I’d started doing these interviews, and when I got talking to Jo later on, she said she was interested. So we set it up. But as the date of our talk approached and I began to research and prepare, I began to wonder. “I know what I think of bloggers. What if she turns out to be a perfect incarnation of the sort of person I go to obsessive lengths to avoid coming across online?”

She wasn’t. As you’ll see, there’s more to Jo than page views and profit. She cares about what she does and she understands why she does it. And while our approaches to writing and producing do differ, I believe we have a few things in common, the most important of which is this: we both understand that decisions and actions have consequences that we cannot comprehend.

MATT: Where did it all start?

JO: My life?

MATT: No. Let’s go with Slummy Single Mummy.

JO: I was working full-time in fundraising and marketing, and I wanted to do something for myself. So I decided to be a freelance journalist, because I thought that would be fun and I might get some free stuff. I pictured myself, Sarah Jessica Parker style, sat outside a coffee shop wondering about dating.

I didn’t have any journalist experience or qualifications, so I set the blog up as a marketing tool for myself.

MATT: Was it under the name that it is now?

JO: Yeah, it’s always been the same. It was somewhere to showcase my writing. If I pitched to an editor I didn’t have any examples of work other than, “You can go and read my blog.”

MATT: How did that change? How long did it take for you to realise that that wasn’t going to work, that it wasn’t what you wanted to do?

JO: It did work, so I was a journalist. It did happen.

I went to W.H. Smith, looked at all the magazines, wrote down all the editor’s email addresses, emailed them and said, “I’m a journalist, look at me. What do you want me to write?”

It was quite hard work and it didn’t pay well. They edited everything I said to fit in with what they wanted to say, and I didn’t really like that.

MATT: When was this?

JO: The first couple of years that my blog was running I did more journalism than anything else. I wrote for magazines and newspapers, anyone who would pay me really.

But I didn’t really like writing for other people. And also, I’d get scared when I sent things off. They’d criticise me or point out mistakes. It was probably a couple of years before the blog became a thing that could earn me money directly.

MATT: In the meantime, that two or three year period, did you have another full-time or part-time job. Or was it just you supporting yourself by writing?

JO: Just me, doing my writing. I did bits of freelance and commercial copywriting, some marketing stuff as well, but all self-employed.

MATT: Most people, when you ask them about how they got started doing something they enjoy and love, tell you this movie-like story where everything didn’t work and they crashed and burned and reinvented themselves multiple times.

JO: No, I didn’t do that. There wasn’t really any kind of period where it all went wrong or anything like that. I didn’t have much money to start with, but that’s not a big sob story. That’s just life.

MATT: What was the most difficult thing during that period?

JO: The isolation, working for yourself at home.

I share an office now, with Paul, which is much nicer. When you’re at home working on your own, and then at home in the evenings on your own with children—I guess I kind of missed the office side of things.

MATT: You’re a bit more socially inclined.

JO: Well no. I don’t like to have to talk to people necessarily, but I like people to be talking around me.

MATT: To have a buzz around you?

JO: Yeah. I don’t mind going and working in a café with noise going on in the background. Paul’s really good because he’s chatty and will just talk to me. I’ll sort of sometimes listen–

MATT: And sometimes not.

JO: Yeah.

MATT: What does a normal day look like for you? Do you have a normal schedule? Do you keep office hours?

JO: I tend to go to the office somewhere between eight and nine, depending on when I wake up. Then I normally come back in time for when Belle comes back from school. About half-past three.

MATT: Do you get all of your writing done at the office?

JO: Yeah, pretty much. I try and keep things quite separate, unless I’m really busy. The whole point of having the office was to have that separation between work and home. If I’ve got loads to do, I would rather stay late at the office than do it at home. It’s nicer for everybody.

MATT: How does your writing process work? For me, I find it really difficult to create knowing I have to put something out that day. So I have a buffer of thirty-odd days of work. Do you have a similar thing?

JO: Well, I don’t really set myself anything too prescriptive like,“I have to publish every day.” I don’t have that pressure of “I have to write something today.” It’s going to sound really annoying but it doesn’t take me very long to write something. I just write it down as though I’m saying it out loud to somebody. I don’t really put much thought into it.

I speak to lots of bloggers who are like, “Oh, it takes me sixteen hours from start to finish to craft a post, edit it and promote it.” I don’t really do that.

MATT: A couple read-throughs and then you’re like, “Yeah, okay, that’s done.”
JO: Sometimes. If I can be bothered. Maybe not.

MATT: How do you decide what you’re going to put up if you don’t have a schedule?

JO: Some of it’s lead by the brand stuff. I have to write about particular things for that. And people seem to really like it when I get annoyed about things, so I try to look out for things that annoy me. But I don’t get annoyed very easily so that’s quite tricky.

MATT: Is that why you have the Rant section on your site?

JO: Yeah, people like that the best. But it’s hard to get that riled up about something. If I find something that annoys me I’m like, “Yes! I get to be annoyed!”

MATT: What was the last thing that annoyed you?

JO: Oh, I can’t even remember. The rant that’s been the most popular was the one about the chocolate button advert. Did you read that one?

MATT: No, I didn’t see that one.

JO: There was this bus stop outside Primark that had this ad on the side. It was a woman with this kid crawling all over her, poking her in the face with some glasses, and the tagline was something like, “This is what eating chocolate buttons feels like.” Which is ridiculous because anyone who’s ever had a child crawl over them or had glasses poked in their eyes will know that that feels really annoying and not like eating a chocolate button.

It turns out that it was actually a campaign that had used bloggers and the woman in the ad was a blogger, and she was upset. But I straightened that out and we had a conversation, and she was fine because I’m not normally controversial. I don’t ever deliberately say things to wind anyone up. I was a bit mortified that that turned out to be somebody who I sort of knew.

MATT: What’s the one thing that you’ve written that you’re really happy with, but which wasn’t as popular or seen by as many people?

JO: Somewhere on the blog, I’ve got a little diary that I kept during labour with my first daughter. I was seventeen and it reads like I’m seventeen. I use the word “lush” so that’s quite sweet.

There’s a few things about teenage pregnancy and some positive takes on it which I think are quite nice.

There was a post I wrote about five years ago. It was quite short but it was after a heartbreak episode and it was about getting over that. I liked that because it seemed to resonate with a lot of people. I had people get in touch and say that it really helped them or they had shared it with people who were going through a similar thing. That’s nice when that happens because most of my stuff isn’t like that.

MATT: Not exploring the pain points in your life. Is that something you deliberately don’t do because you prefer to keep it private?

JO: I don’t really do it much because, although I’m happy to be really honest about things that are just about myself, some of the stuff that’s really personal involves other people. I wouldn’t ever talk about any problems I was having in an existing relationship or anything like that. That kind of stuff is not for me to share.
I happily talk about things like pelvic floors that people might think is really personal, but that’s because that’s just about me. I’m fine to share that because it’s only me that it’s affecting. It doesn’t impact my friends or family.

MATT: Is that something you realised because of the consequences of sharing something?

JO: No, not really. My children were already a decent age when I started writing so I always had them in mind, thinking about what might be potentially awkward or embarrassing for them.

I’m sure Belle, who’s listening downstairs now, will disagree and say that I always say embarrassing things about here. But I don’t think I do, in the grand scheme of things. There’s lots I could share but don’t out of respect for them. Whereas I think a lot of parent bloggers have much younger children and don’t think–

MATT: Because their kids can’t say, “Don’t share that” or “Don’t talk about that,” it makes it okay.

JO: Yeah. I read some things that people write about babies or toddlers and I think, “That’s fine, they might not read that now. But in ten years time, they might and they might be really mortified that that’s how you felt about them.” Like when they say about how awful it is being a parent, or how annoying they find their children. You’ve got to think that stuff on the internet doesn’t really go away. Even though they might not read it now, they might in the future.

MATT: What’s the biggest changes that have happened between the beginning of all this and now? You could make it personal, or it could be related to business, or it could go into your mindset and approach to life.

JO: On a personal level quite a lot has changed. When I started it [Slummy Single Mummy], as it says in the name, I was single. Then I was in a relationship for three years, then I was single, and now I’m in a relationship again.

My children have grown up a lot. They’ve gone from seven and fourteen to fourteen and twenty-one. The eldest has left home and graduated and all of those things. We’ve moved house a few times.

And blog specific? I think when a lot of people start blogs now they start them because they want to make money. They’ve got clear goals about what they want to achieve through it and they’re already quite business minded. That gives them a lot of focus.

When I started it wasn’t that at all. It’s evolved. It’s happened more gradually, and perhaps more organically, because I didn’t set out saying, “I want to make money.” I didn’t even know that making money from it was a thing when I started.

MATT: So it was exploratory to begin with and has become a lot more focused over the years?

JO: Yeah. To start with it was just personal stuff. Posts were shorter. More opinion and personal anecdotes. I guess it’s developed as I’ve started working with brands, so the posts have become longer and more involved and less personal. Although I do try to make sure that when I’m writing sponsored content it still feels like it’s me writing it. Like it’s not some ad in a magazine.

It’s become a business, rather than a hobby.

MATT: How did that happen exactly? Were you just doing your thing and people started popping up and offering you stuff? Not stuff necessarily, but opportunities.

JO: Yeah, but little stuff to start with. I once reviewed a sachet of coffee.

MATT: Not a pack? A sachet?

JO: Literally a sachet. Not even a jar. It was the novelty of being offered something for free when you’ve never been offered something for free before. I got a hand cream I was really excited about. That wasn’t a sample. That was full size.

I started off gradually, doing little things like that. It was just reviews of things to start with, rather than any money changing hands. I’d like to say there was some kind of landmark moment, but there wasn’t really.

The stuff I get now is things I think are genuinely interesting or worth having. I don’t really get any unsolicited things because I always ask beforehand.

MATT: So you don’t get loads of packages turning up at the office?

JO: Yeah, I do, but normally I know what they are, or when I open them I remember.
I’m sometimes a bit of a sucker for things that clearly have no worth at all. I said yes a couple of weeks ago to a bar of chocolate because they said it was a special unicorn chocolate that only fifty people were going to get. I was like, “Oh, I want the special unicorn chocolate!”

MATT: What do you do when you’re not blogging, drinking coffee sachets and eating unicorn chocolate?

JO: Well, that is my entire life, so…

I’ve just come back from Vietnam. I went with Coca-Cola.

MATT: What were you doing out there?

JO: They wanted to take a group of bloggers, so there was me, another UK woman, someone from Canada, and a couple of US bloggers. They took us to see a plant in Vietnam. Coca-Cola is a franchise. They have these base syrups and then in different countries different companies deal with the manufacturing and distribution. But the one they had in Vietnam was failing so Coca-Cola stepped back in and took ownership of it.

They’ve done loads to improve working conditions and create opportunities. They run these things called Eco Centres, which are like little community centres where they have clean drinking water and little kiosks. They set them up and hand over ownership to someone in the community who runs it and gets the profits. They have training programmes and sports facilities and things like that.

They just wanted to take some people out to look and see what they do.

MATT: How long were you out there for?

JO: Three days.

MATT: Was it a whirlwind three days? Or did you only have a couple of hours occupied and the rest of the time free?

JO: No, it was full on. That was alright though. I quite like trips like that because, as a mum, you always deal with the organising and it’s nice to go somewhere and not have to think about it. They just go, “Right, we’re going to be here for lunch and we’ve ordered the food. Then we’re going to be here, and going there for dinner and you’re eating this.” I like that.

MATT: You were in Paris recently as well?

JO: That was for a blogging conference that’s been running in France for about five years. They’ve decided to make it international so they invited a group of bloggers from a dozen or so different countries to come along and see it.

I’ve actually been to four continents because of my blog. I’ve been to Asia, Africa—I went to Ethiopia with World Vision. World Vision is the charity that does child sponsorship programmes. We went there and visited lots of the communities where World Vision has sponsored children. I’ve been to the States. I went to New York to interview Antonio Banderas, when he was in Spongebob Squarepants Two, or whatever the movie is called.

MATT: Asia, America, Africa. Which was your favourite?

JO: Definitely Ethiopia.

MATT: Did you get involved with any of the community work, or was it similar to the Vietnam trip?

JO: It was just visiting. But because we were being shown around by locals we got to do stuff that you wouldn’t normally get to do if you were a tourist. We went into people’s huts and had lunch on the floor. It felt like we were getting more of an authentic experience.

It was just really interesting and colourful and vibrant. Ethiopia has got one of the fastest growing economies in the world. When you think of Ethiopia you think of the famine and Bob Geldof, all that kind of stuff, don’t you?

MATT: Yeah.

JO: In the last decade or they’ve grown incredibly. Everywhere you go it feels like stuff is being built around you. We would be driving down a road and someone would be tarmacking it behind us. They don’t shut anything in the meantime. You just have to drive around the tarmacking machine.

There’s building work everywhere, and all the scaffolding is made from bamboo so it’s not straight. You look at a building and think, “That’s crazy, the building’s all over the place!” But it’s because the scaffolding isn’t straight. It looks bonkers.
Yeah, that’s my favourite.

MATT: Is there any similar trips coming up?

JO: No, not at the moment. Stuff tends to be a fairly swift turnaround. I didn’t know I was going to Vietnam until four weeks before I went. It can happen quite quickly. So no, nothing else planned at the moment.

MATT: You’re in a good position at the moment. What’s keeping you moving forward? What are you pushing for?

JO: I’ll be bad at answering this one because I don’t really have a plan. Because things have grown so naturally and just evolved, I’ve never really thought, “Oh, this is where I want to be, and XYZ.” Also, as an industry, it’s so fast paced.

When I set up the blog I could never have said, “In five years I want to be doing this,” because I didn’t know that would be an option. It’s only in the last few years that brands in the UK have started properly working with bloggers.

It’s hard to say that in two years or five years or ten years, “This is what I want to be doing,” because I don’t know what the opportunities might be. When I was at school I couldn’t have said, “I want to make a career of blogging,” because I’d never even used the internet.

It’s kind of hard. That’s just an excuse really. I just don’t like thinking about it.

MATT: What about if we scale it down? What about the next six months? What are you working on at the moment?

JO: I just made a smoothie out of some Dole frozen fruit. I made it in an actual coconut that I broke into two pieces with a hammer, which I was very proud of.

MATT: With a hammer? Is that how you’re supposed to do it?

JO: Have you ever broken a coconut in half?

MATT: No, not in my life. I cook with coconut oil, but I’ve never tried the inside.

JO: You’ve never done the thing where you drain out the coconut water?


JO: Well, you have to do that before, otherwise you’ll make a mess. You get a screwdriver, bash it so you have three little holes, then tip out all the milk.
Then you get the coconut in your hand and tap around the circumference of the coconut with a hammer. Just keep going and going and going around in a circle, moving it around, tapping and tapping and tapping. Just when you think that it’s never going to work, that that guy on YouTube was nuts, you start to get a little crack. You keep tapping and tapping and it just breaks into two pieces. Then you can use one half as a cup to style your smoothie for Instagram.

MATT: What do you use the other half for?

JO: Well, you have to eat it.

That’s what I’ve been doing. That’s what I’m working on. I don’t have any plans for January. I just have to wait and see what happens.

MATT: Do you prefer to be like that? Or do you fluctuate between the two? Do you like to have nothing on and then be full on?

JO: That’s a bit of a lie. I say I’ve got nothing on for January, but I do have some people that I write regularly for. I write a couple of posts a month for e-Harmony about relationships and dating. I write a couple of posts every month for a baby website about parenting. I’ve got these bits going on in the background, but that’s separate to the blog really.

MATT: Did they come about through in a similar way to how you get sponsored content? People just stumbled across your stuff and offered you an opportunity?
JO: Pretty much. E-Harmony just got in touch and said, “Do you want to write a blog for us?” I said, “Okay.” I’m not very proactive.

MATT: Well, it doesn’t seem like you need to be really.

JO: No. Also, if you were just going after work all the time you’d probably only go after the stuff that you feel confident in. I would never have pitched to someone, “Oh, I’m going to make a coconut smoothie because I’m really good at breaking coconuts in half.” But when you let these opportunities come to you, you open yourself up to all kinds of things you might never have thought of.

MATT: That’s very true. I never thought of it like that.

JO: I just came up with that. It sounded convincing didn’t it?

MATT: Really convincing.

I have another question. This is going to be one of those introspective questions that you may or may not like: Who’s had the biggest influence on your life and your work? How exactly have they influenced you?

JO: Gosh. Well, I watched “Grease” a lot as a teenager. Do you know what I watched on the plane to Vietnam, which I haven’t watched for ages and I absolutely love? “Legally Blonde” is one of the best films ever.

MATT: I actually saw that the other day.

JO: That was an influence. She just decided she wanted to go to law school, so she went to law school. That’s basically what I did when I gave up my job. “I want to be a journalist so I’m going to go to W.H. Smiths and email the editors.” Can I say “Legally Blonde”? That’s a bit of a lame answer.

MATT: No. “Legally Blonde” works.

JO: I don’t know. There’s not anyone in my family who’s really ambitious or ever said, “You should do this and this and this.” My family aren’t really like that.

Oh, I know. I should probably say my children shouldn’t I?

MATT: Yeah, that can work too.

JO: I knew there was something. She’s coming upstairs now to check on me. That’s probably quite true actually because being a parent at seventeen, I guess you feel a bit like you’ve got something to prove, work and career-wise. Also, you have to be a good role model.

MATT: How involved are they—or, were they—in your work?

JO: Belle will do videos if I give here seven percent of my fee. Oh no, she’s just taken a picture of me for Snapchat.

BELLE: I need to get more streaks before they run out.

JO: They’re reasonably involved. Belle’s not really keen on having loads of photos and stuff of her used. She’s fourteen. [To Belle] I don’t think, at fourteen, you particularly want pictures of yourself on your Mum’s blog?

But she will do it for cash. And she doesn’t seem to mind coming on all the free trips.

MATT: Did she go with you to Vietnam?

JO: No, I did that on my own. But we do get to do quite a lot of UK stuff, little mini breaks.

MATT: What was the last mini-break you went on?

JO: Oh, this year we’ve been on about twenty or thirty little weekend trips. Yeah, loads. She’s been on bigger ones with me as well. We’ve been to Disneyland. We went skiing for a week.

MATT: What was the most difficult period that you’ve had? Not just related to the blog, but to your life.

JO: My life?

MATT: Would it be when you were a teenager trying to bring up–

JO: Oh no. That was easy.

MATT: That was easy?

JO: I guess maybe three years ago, I had a bit of a sticky patch. We’d been living in Bristol and then I separated from my partner. [To Belle] Pardon? What do you call them? Belle calls them “the black months.”

We were living in Bristol. My eldest daughter had already left for university, and I was separated from my partner at the time, so it was just me and Belle. And I did cry a lot so she is right to call them “the black months”, bless her. It wasn’t very fun for her.

Then we moved back from Bristol to Taunton. I had, maybe, six iffy months and quite a bit of upheaval. But generally, I’m an annoyingly positive person.

MATT: Was there anything that helped you make it through that period?

JO: Family really. I spent quite a lot of time with my Mum and my sister, and Belle was looking after me. I did write about it a bit on the blog, but it’s a bit annoying listening to somebody else being sad. I tried to limit that.

You know when you’re so sad and you just want to tell everybody how sad you are all the time because it’s the only thing you can think about? I was aware of that and I was aware of my blog being a bit like that.

MATT: You didn’t want it to be mopey?

JO: No. There are a few posts where I’m complaining but I try to keep that to a minimum.

MATT: I was reading it last week and this morning. It’s like yourself I suppose. Very perky, very upbeat.

JO: Yeah, I want people to read it and maybe have a bit of a laugh, or think, “Oh yeah, that’s something I’ve not thought about before.” But not be like, “Oh my God, what is life?”

I want it to be light-hearted and fun. There’s plenty of really depressing stuff that people can read if they want to, like all of the news.

MATT: I don’t watch the news for that reason.

JO: Me neither. I have no idea what’s going on anywhere and I’m quite happy with that. It’s just too depressing. I want to be a bit of an antidote to that.

MATT: If you had to collate everything you’ve experienced and learned from blogging and parenting, how would you put it all together? What things that you’ve learned have most stood out for you?

JO: They don’t remember the things you want them to remember.

You could spend ages planning a really special outing or holiday or something, thinking that you’re being really nice, and then a year later they won’t remember it at all. But you could make one off-hand, negative comment, or do one stupid thing, like make a pie that turns out purple–

MATT: Has that happened?

JO: Yeah. They remember it forever. You try to construct this version of a childhood that you want them to remember, and they just don’t. They’ll remember something completely different, so don’t waste your time. That’s my advice.

MATT: We’ll digress a little bit. What happened with the purple pie?

JO: Oh, I was just using leftovers. I didn’t realise that red cabbage would make everything quite so purple. I cut into this pie and everything was bright red cabbage purple. It was hideous.

MATT: Did you eat it?

JO: Yeah, it was dinner.

MATT: Did it taste good or did it taste purple?

JO: It was really purple. But that’s my advice there. Don’t put too much effort into it.

MATT: That seems to be a recurring theme.

JO: Yeah, just see what happens.

MATT: If “try not to construct a perfect childhood for your kids” is number one, what’s number two?

JO: Having a blog is really useful because when you forget things, you can google it. When they ask me what we did on holiday three years ago, I can do a quick search.
I’d say through the blog I definitely feel, in the last five years or so, that I’ve changed quite a lot in terms of the confidence I have in my own abilities. I just feel like I can do more things.

For instance, the travel side of things. I’ve not really traveled much outside of the stuff related to the blog. But having the opportunity to go to all these different places, often on my own or in a group of people I don’t know, has given me more confidence in myself.

I’m doing things like running workshops and standing up in front of groups of people, that kind of thing. It’s been really useful.

MATT: You felt that, in the beginning, you weren’t confident? All that stuff was really difficult and really intimidating?

JO: Yeah. The first time I went to an airport on my own I was thinking, “Oh my God, I don’t even know how to work an airport. What do you do first and where do you go?” I know those are practical things that anybody can do, but there’s something about being able to do things like that that makes you think more of yourself. Or it does for me, anyway.

MATT: Did you find that doing things you weren’t familiar with translated into the rest of your life? You were then more willing to try other stuff?

JO: It just pushes you out of your comfort zone. It’s a bit like what I was saying about people approaching me. The difference between that and pitching work is that you would naturally pitch to brands you feel more comfortable with. Whereas when people come to you it brings you newer opportunities, or makes you do things that you wouldn’t have thought to do otherwise.

MATT: What are some things that you’ve done that you wouldn’t have expected you’d do?

JO: All of the travel stuff. There’s some quite big trips in there. My Mum, for instance, would never get on a plane on her own. She very rarely gets on a plane with other people, but she certainly wouldn’t get on a plane on her own. It’s nice to think you’ve broken a cycle.

Within families you kind of pass down things like that, don’t you? You inherit your comfort zone and then you have to work around what’s normal in your family.
I kind of wanted to push out of that a little bit. Belle, she’s fourteen and has been on a plane on her own, which I think is a really cool thing to have done by the time you’re fourteen. It will stand her in good stead for travelling in the future. Just things like that that will make them feel more confident. I probably wouldn’t have pushed them to do them if I hadn’t had those experiences myself.

Does that make sense?

MATT: It does. I have a similar thing with my family. My Mum and Dad are two of the most content people I’ve met, but they’re not superstars, and they don’t have incredible jobs or anything like that. I’ve seen that, and I’ve been brought up amongst that, but at the same time you want something different and sense there’s something outside of that.

JO: My Dad only got a passport, for the first time in his life, this year. That was to go to my sister’s wedding in Ireland. He’s never been abroad in his whole life. His motto for travel is, “Trust no one, boil everything.” That’s what he says to me before I go anywhere.

That’s fine and he’s happy, but I want something more. And I feel a responsibility as a parent to lead by example and show them that they can do more.