Stupid stuff I beat myself up about on a daily basis

I think we all have this, don’t we? Us parents, anyway. Things we promise ourselves we’ll do better, or at all, and then we don’t prioritise it and it just becomes a niggling worry eating away at our sanity until it keeps us awake until 3am fretting over whether anything is actually going mouldy in the bottom of the washing basket, only to go back to sleep promising you’ll definitely, 100%, absolutely do something about it tomorrow, but you spend all night dreaming you’re trying to do it whilst endless obstacles prevent you until you wake, three hours later, too exhausted to do other than the very bare minimum to keep everything ticking over.

Or is that just me?

1- The laundry basket having, um, well, laundry in it.  With a family of four, including a pukey, newly-weaning baby in cloth nappies, a three-year who magnetises mud and has had a slight continence regression and a husband who cycles to work and spends his spare time tinkering with car engines, the laundry is plentiful, varied and never-ending. The only way I could ever possibly get to the bottom of it would be to make them all move out.  Families make washing. If I can ever learn to accept this my life would be infinitely less stressful.

2- My son’s ’show and tell diary’.  This is a handy journal to help join up what’s going on at home with what’s going on at preschool, but I never remember to write in the damn thing. I do, however, collar the supervisor or The Boy’s keyworker at the door most mornings and have an intense Q&A session with them about the latest biting incident or the fact he’s learnt to, I dunno, write his own name or whatever. I will not get social services knocking at the door because I haven’t stuck in his latest piece of ‘art’ work.

3- The fact I didn’t cook broccoli with dinner last night.  I did, however, feed them shepherd’s pie with grated courgette in – and chopped carrot, too, for that matter. The fact there’s no vegetable also on the side of the plate does NOT mean my kids will get scurvy. Even if they got scrmabled eggs on toast for dinner for a week they would still not get scurvy, rickets, or any other kind of malutrition-related illness. As long as I don’t feed them generic fast-food and milkshakes week in, week out, they will grow up strong and healthy.

4- That I have a friend coming and haven’t cleaned up yet. She’s known me for 21 years now. She knows I favour the chaos-theory style of living. She will be fed and entertained (if you can call being sent to retrieve a rogue three year old from t’other side of the park and forced to critique Strictly with me ‘entertained’) and will not judge me if I haven’t hoovered. Plus we all know I’ll run around cleaning like a blue-arsed fly on Saturday morning whilst the baby is asleep and The Boy is zombified in front of a DVD.

5- That I still don’t have a job lined up for when The Girl starts school (four years hence I might add), or any work experience to switch into broadcasting like I want to, or a life plan in general other than ‘keep myself and my children alive until they’re old enough to do it for themselves’.

So there you go – five of my current brain farts. What kind of stupid stuff keeps you awake at night?


Portrait of a stay at home mum

The Man is currently off sick with a chest infection, so he’s cocooned in a duvet on the sofa feeling sorry for himself whilst The Girl, who’s just had a nap, bounces up and down on his lap. How To Train Your Dragon, a family favourite, is playing on the television because it’s filthy weather outisde and we’re all a bit run down. The Boy has taken it into his head to dress up as a knight and is fighting imaginary dragons in our (tiny) sitting room whilst The Girl laughs at the floorshow. I am running in and out to check everybody is OK whilst also making leek and potato soup for lunch from our allotment produce.

This afternoon we need to put the finishing touches to the papier mache dragon head The Boy and I are making for his Halloween costume and I have to construct a tail for The Girl and dragon wings for The Boy.  I also need to get the pizza dough made for dinner and meringe ghosts for the Halloween party tomorrow (I will almost certainly do a tutorial post on this).  I also need to stay on top of the washing up, find somewhere to hang the wet washing so it can dry without getting in anybody’s way (a hard task in our bijou residence) and clear up from all craft activities. I doubt I will get round to the hoovering. This is all before the BIG DRAMA of dinner and bedtime.

What do stay at home mums do all day? I’m not entirely certain because it never feels like anything actually gets done, but my family are healthy, happy and well fed and the kids will have costumes for their party tomorrow. I have even managed to wrangle a blog post out of it, though whether it actually gets posted the day I wrote it is another matter. (The answer to that is a big resounding no. I wrote this over a week ago and am only just editing it now. Oops. Saw that one coming!)

portrait of a stay at home mum

just some of the emotions experienced on a daily – nay – hourly basis…

Does this post sound a little smug? Perhaps it is, but that’s mainly because I feel a constant need to justify my position as a SAHM, even though my baby is only 7 months old and I am actually self-employed as well. Look at me, I exude through every action, I am worthy of respect, I do have value, even though I earn very little money. But who places a value on raising the next generation?

5 stupid questions to ask a babywearer

stupidquestionsbabywearerI don’t know what it is about babywearing that invites comment from strangers, perhaps just the mystic nature of carrying a baby close to your body wrapped about by yards and yards of fabric rather than in some hi-tech buggy or buckled contraption with steel struts in – who knows? All I know is that living in a town full of narrow sloping pavements and cobblestones a carrier is not just more attachment-parent-y, but more practical! Whilst I don’t get that many stupid questions where I live (the perks of being a lentil-weaving hippy in Hippyville central) I’m never quite prepared for how many daft queries come my way when I travel abroad. Never quite certain what to say I usually smile politely and say nothing, but I mentally roll my eyes and think of the –rather rude– response I’d like to have made.  This being so, I thought I’d compile a list of the most commonly asked questions and finally lance the boil by answering them as sarcastically as I wish I could in real life. What’s the stupidest comment you’ve ever had when babywearing?

1 – Is she comfortable like that?

Nah, she bloody hates it, that’s why she’s smiling and gurgling at you/fast asleep. Honestly! It’s only holding a baby like you would in your arms, but arms-free.

2 – Can she breathe in there?

Nah. I like to suffocate babies. It’s my dream in fact.  Pfft. Always makes me think of that Eddie Izzard sketch from Dressed To Kill “I put babies on spikes” – I mean really. Not only can she breathe, but her face is just inches away from my face so I can (and do) check on her regularly.

3 – Oh my goodness, there’s a baby in there!

“What?! Where?! Holy hell – where did that come from?!”

No shit Sherlock. What, you think I stuck a sunhat to my chest?  I mean, OK, the baby is fast asleep and kind of concealed by the wrap, but don’t say ‘there’s a baby in there’ like you’re informing me of something I might not have noticed. Trust me – it’s not news to me.

4 – Can’t you afford a buggy?

I can. In fact I own one. It’s great for putting all the slings on when I go to outdoor sling meets…

5 – But what if the knot comes untied?

baby in half wrapped sling

Almost completely unwrapped – but look – no hands!

OK, fair enough, I can kind of understand why people might be a bit nervous of this. If I have time, though, I like to freak these people out by untying the knot behind me and letting the fabric go suddenly and watch as they jerk forwards to catch my baby. Hey – I’m not putting her in danger. She won’t fall, I promise. In fact, I can even untuck these cross passes here and just let them hang so she’s only held in one layer of fabric and what do you know, still not hitting the ground with a loud splat.  Wearing a baby in a wrap is one of the safest ways to carry your baby, especially if you’ve been doing it as long as I have. I understand your concern, but trust me, my baby is safe – look – no hands!

Just editing to respond to a couple of comments I’ve had declaiming this post as (worst insult to hurl in the hippy-lentil-weaver world) ‘judgey’. To those people I would simply ask them to examine the kinds of questions I’ve mentioned and the tone in which they are usually expressed.

These are most often not people with genuine queries, to whom I would obviously explain fully if I had time and by whom I would not be annoyed. No, these are ridiculous queries framed to be funny or mimic concern but portray a whole world full of judginess. I’m an intelligent fully-functioning adult. I know when someone is genuinely concerned for the ability of my baby to breathe (and reassure them) and when they’re just being snotty (and ignore them). Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so polite…

5 things not to do or say to your co-parent (unless you want a slap)

5thingsnottodoorsayIn the game of parenting there are two sides – parents versus kids. In this situation it is vital that you keep your game face on and work as a team to overcome the relentless onslaught brought by the other side.  The last you thing you need is to turn on each other – parents need to work together!  In aid of that happy harmony which will enable you to march to victory, I present a few of the key things to avoid saying or doing to your co-parent, lest you wind up locked in the playpen with the toddler (at best).

  1. I’m sooooo tired today
    Now, I’m an equal-opportunities exhaustion kinda gal, so I’m going to try and see this from both sides, but as a breastfeeding (ie- the only one who can do night feeds) mother, I am sorta more on their side generally. Just a little disclaimer.

    So yeah, never say to a mother who went through labour – one of humankind’s most exhausting physical ordeals – has been single-handedly keeping a baby alive with the produce of her body (breastfeeding is literally draining) and spends all day getting screamed at and all night getting woken for food, cuddles, calpol administration etc that you are tired. You don’t know the meaning of it.

    But working fathers and mothers, well, you have to look vaguely presentable, stay on your game, commute to and from work and hell! No naps for you despite the fact you could hear the wailing too  through your snoring. huh.! Nobody at baby group will judge a parent sitting in the corner rocking wearing three-day-old clothes and food in their hair. Nobody expects them to say anything intelligent. Unlike you…

    I think we can probably agree that there are no winners here, so just don’t say it. Ever. Either of you. Although working mothers who also breastfeed… I think you might have the upper hand in the game of “I’m more tired than you”. Hats off Sista.

  2. Sing any kind of CBeebies theme tune, ‘Let it go’ or any other irritating kiddie ear worm
    It’s not funny. It’s not clever. It’ll really piss off the other parent who spends all day muttering nonsensical lyrics to themselves in a perky american accent.
    Or do what The Man and I do and turn it into a kind of ninja sneak attack, see if you can slip in just enough of a phrase to ordinary everyday conversation that you can’t be accused of doing it, but manage to plant an earworm anyway!
  3. “But you do [insert disgusting, time consuming, fiddly or otherwise unappealing chore here] so much better, that’s why I left it for you…”
    This is not a compliment. This is you evading your duties. Pull your finger out you lazy so and so and do your bit. You’ll never get good at it if you don’t practice.

These final two, admittedly, are specifically from the parent who has not been stuck at home with the children to the parent who has.  Say either of these to a stay at home parent and you won’t just get slapped, you’ll get eviscerated

4 – I  just need some time to myself
Seriously? You get to commute by yourself. You get to pee by yourself. If you choose to skulk away from your desk you can probably even eat by yourself.  How much more time do you need? Huh? huh? HUH?!

5 – What have you done all day?
Now, there are ways and ways of saying this. Asked in an enthusiastic, interested tone, mostly directed towards the three year old then this is just showing interest in your day. Fine. What you never ever ever ever never do is cast your eye around the house and exclaim it in a tone of disbelief. You think this is bad, buddy? You shoulda seen it without all the tidying up I did. Plus, Stay at home parent, not stay at home housekeeper.

I am so tempted to round this list up to 6, as my erstwhile husband has just told the three year old that I will watch a Thomas DVD with him knowing full well that modern Thomas cartoons are my absolute pet hate, but I’ve already made the artwork and can’t be bothered to do a new one for ‘6 things not to….’ so Man – be warned. I do not appreciate your sneaky tactics and I will get my own back.

Extended breastfeeding – or just breastfeeding?

Thanks for hopping over from Renegade Feminist and welcome to my post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt Day 5 Extended Breastfeeding we have over £700 worth of breastfeeding and baby goodies up for grabs including prizes from More4Mums providing a set of ‘Hot Milk’ Lingerie, a signed hardback limited edition copy of Milky Moments and a £30 voucher from Milk Chic  Full details of the Grand Prize can be found here and all entries to be completed via the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

I dislike the term extended breastfeeding.  I, and many of my lentil-weaving hippyish friends, prefer to call it natural term breastfeeding, but only other lentil-weaving, hippyish people know what that means so I’m forced to use extended breastfeeding, because, in our modern-day 6-months-of-boob culture, anything past six months is seen as extended.  Just in case you’re still in the dark, though, allow me to enlighten you: extended breastfeeding is feeding your baby from the milk in your breast until an age where your family (either blood-related or in-laws) start openly asking you when you’re going to stop.  Naturally this is different for every family.extended breastfeeding

Yes, that’s right. In this age of tits on every billboard, buy a daily newspeper to admire some cleavage, décolletage being the selling point of every brand imaginable – whether relevant or not – it’s the sight of a mother feeding a child who (to quote a relative who should know better) “is old enough to ask for it” that really gets everybody clutching their pearls in abject horror.

I never set out to shock and dismay. I knew for sure that I wanted to breastfeed and, like many other mothers, had six months in my head as the goal I was aiming for. At the time I think I just believed this was how long you were ‘supposed’ to do it for. After three years of in-depth peer supporter training, I now know better.

Six months is just how old a child should roughly be before introducing anything other than breastmilk. Formula companies are banned from advertising in this country for babies under that age, so all their advertising (behind which there is much money) is aimed at ‘follow-on’ milks and so on for babies older than six months. I, like most others, mentally converted this into a maximum age limit for breastfeeding and honestly thought anything beyond that was unnecessary and, perhaps, a little odd.

And then I had my baby. My precious Boy. I held him in my arms, watched him stroke his cheek, my breast, his cheek, saw his wonder that he and I were the same person and two different people all at once. I fought to feed him despite birth trauma, bad advice, pain and post-natal depression and then, at about eight weeks it began to get easier, by 12 weeks it was easy (except for the sleep deprivation – oh God, was I deprived!) and by six months, when he started to mess around with bits of mango and fingers of toast I was laughing.

“Why would I give up now?!” I laughed to myself as I sailed out of the house with no paraphernalia other than nappies when he was five months old.
“Well I’m not giving up now!” I declared to myself, and others, when his molars started coming through aged one and feeding in the night was the best, easiest, quickest and most natural way to resettle him.
“Thank God I hadn’t given up!” I exclaimed through several stomach bugs at all ages where the only nutrition and fluids he took was endless, comforting suckles at my breasts.
“I don’t want him to give up now…” I murmured as I held my big two year old on my lap and stroked his hair and cuddled him in the only time he stayed still for more than a minute in his busy day.

By about two and half he was only having milk every couple of days and when I got pregnant and suffered horrendous pregnancy sickness for the first four months it was game over and the last of my milk went. He stopped wanting to suckle, even for the comfort.

If you’re wondering about feeding until your child weans themselves then I can honestly tell you it’s wonderful. It’s special. You can have time away from them (my son stayed away from me for five nights on two separate occasions and both times we managed to pick back up where we left off), but you don’t need to set yourself a goal now.  One of the very best things about breastfeeding is that (once you’re over the initial hump) it’s intuitive. You do it as and when. You know when it’s necessary and when it’s not and you can change your mind as you go.

For the family who wonder why you still do it, well, it’s none of their business really, but I always found “There’s a reason they keep their milk teeth until they’re five or six you know!” was a very effective deterrant. If nothing else the look of horror on their faces as they picture you still feeding a six year old is totally worth it!

For more extended breastfeeding experiences please hop on over to My Moo and Woo where you can gain further entries into the grand prize draw. Full terms and conditions can be found on the Keeping Britain Breastfeeding website. UK residents only.

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Finding my passion

This (my) article was first published on Jump! Parents. Kindly reblogging here with their permission. Do check them out if you get the chance. It’s a great online resource for all kinds of parenting issues.

Find your passion and make that your job. All very well and good when you’re a teenager with no dependents and no responsibilities, but how about when you’re a mother of two trying to figure out what to do next.  You’re done with the making babies phase of your life and now it’s time to get back to the career path.  For many of us, however, this is easier said than done.

Perhaps, if you were in a job that you were passionate about, took some time out for the baby-growing part of your life, and were able to find a flexible, family-friendly option on the same path, perhaps then it’s easy.

I recently had my ‘last’ baby and suddenly had to think about what came next. I couldn’t put it off any longer, with the excuse that there was no point starting anything because there’d be another pregnancy, another maternity leave, another child dependent on me 24-7 for at least 18 months.  Suddenly I felt a bit lost, and sad – what do we do when we’re not being mothers?  To make it even harder whenever anyone gave me the advice to find my passion I struggled to know what that would be.

Much like a teenager I had the luxury to take some time to figure this out. As long as I was on maternity leave there was no pressure to bring in an income so now was my time and I sat down to think about it really hard.  I’m a fairly decent photographer and used to think maybe I’d do it as a career, but decided not to because I didn’t want to ruin my hobby by forcing it to earn its keep.  I have worked for several years in PR and press relations and again, whilst I enjoyed it and was reasonably competent, I wouldn’t call it a passion.

It was when I was asked what three things I was really good at – no false modesty, no excuses – that I realised what my passion was. Because, the thing is, passion isn’t something you merely enjoy. It’s not something you pick up and put down. It’s like a teenage infatuation – you can’t think about anything else. Even when you don’t realise you’re doing it, you’re thinking about it.  That’s when I realised that writing was my passion, because even when I’m not scribbling things on a piece of paper, or frantically typing my thoughts to screen, I’m composing phrases in my head, describing my day as if it was being written down somewhere, trying to find the funny, the sweet or the extraordinary in the ordinary.

I toyed with the idea of going back to university and doing a Masters degree, but I realised that what I wanted out of the MA was the feedback – for somebody to read my writing and let me know what they thought.  So I discarded the MA idea, for now at least, and dusted off my old blog.  It won’t make me any money, not in the short term. Maybe I’ll have to take a workaday old job for that, but it’s brought the passion back and that makes a plain old job seem more manageable.

So maybe it’s OK not to make our passion our job, maybe it’s OK just to have a passion, to indulge it as best we can – and to have a job as well.

The kindness of neighbours

So I may or may not have mentioned we have a slight washing machine failure Chez Moi at the moment.  After sending home a load or two with my blessed Mater (can you hear angels sing when I mention her name? I swear I can) I was still stuck with more stinky clothes than I could shake a stick at.

Luckily, via the loudspeaker platform of Facebook and this blog, a few of my friends and neighbours may have become aware of my predicament and very kindly offered up their machines for my washing pleasure.  Grateful as I was to throw myself on their mercy and make use of their various machines, I felt reluctant to take advantage more than once.  I’ve been carefully rationing myself, washing only the most essential items, but now I’ve used up three of my four offers and it’s time to locate an alternative option.

Why is it so much harder to accept favours than offer them? I would go out of my way to help anyone I could, but it’s awkward to accept help and almost impossible to ask for it.  I go out of my way to be grateful and probably end up crawling and prostrating myself in an embarrassing display of indebtedness.  I hate it. It is probably almost preferable to offer someone a kidney than to accept the use of someone else’s washing machine.

I just hope The Man’s manly engineering-y phonecall to John Lewis today did the trick.  I neeeeeed that damn machine fixed before I end up offering my kidney to somebody as a thank you present.


So The Boy likes to hop out of bed repeatedly of an evening, as – I believe – many (most?) children do. In fact I do remember doing this myself on many occasions (apologies Mater, only now do I realise my sins) though it seemed entirely reasonable at the time.

The Man and I tried a few tactics for dealing with this, from Supernanny’s patented “Back to bed, darling” (the ‘darling’ usually uttered through tightly gritted teeth), to sitting in the room with him and a wonderful childrens’ meditation CD called Calm Kids, Bedtime Meditations For Kids.  All of these were, ultimately successful, but only in conjunction with one, critical, crucial, vital element: that of complete and utter exhaustion.

Yes, turns out when your three year old is totally knackered they will actually go to sleep in their own bed… after 20 minutes or so of pratting about.  Some days this is about the only reason I can get myself to leave the house, because the boy needs at least two good walks a day.

In fact, having a young child is so much like owning a dog that I thought I’d write out a list of the similarities – please chip in if I’ve forgotten anything:
– needs regular exercising
– often have to clean up their excrement
– runs off indiscriminately after something exciting
– is safer on a lead
– responds well to treat training/bribery
– likes to unravel loo rolls
– steals food
– will eat all day if allowed
– likes to chew and slobber on stuff
– can often be seen running off with your shoes
– steals toys from other dogs/children

In fact I may just re-christen The Boy ‘Andrex’ after his TV doppleganger…

So my current bedtime tactic actually starts much earlier in the day when I begin my arduous task of wearing out a human being who, despite being less than half my size, has about 100 times more energy.

Not to diss the Meditation CD, it’s fantastic and helps him to wind down – Christiane Kerr, who narrates it, has such a soothing voice it’s nearly knocked me out once or twice! We’ve had far fewer midnight wakings and associated bad dreams since he’s been listening to it, but it doesn’t send him off to sleep unless he’s physically worn out first.

I’m tempted to put him in a harness and strap him to the washing line in a lungeing rein arrangement, then crack a whip behind him. Has the added benefit of helping dry the washing more quickly.

Just for kicks

It’s funny how you don’t realise how much you love something until it’s gone. An old trope, sure, but no less true for all that.  The Girl had a bit of a development leap leading up to last night and when she woke up this morning things were different. She could track movement better and focus more quickly.

I watched her in her bouncy chair and whilst I was proud of her new achievements something seemed to be missing, and then I realised, she wasn’t kicking any more.  I love the way little babies kick reflexively with funny little jerky movements that they just can’t help. I never appreciated it properly with The Boy, too impatient for him to grow up and reach the next milestone. With The Girl it’s different. I want time to slow down, I appreciate every moment of her babyhood, each second of it – each frantic kick – is precious.

With sadness I took her out of her bouncy chair and gave her a feed. I looked into her beautiful dark blue eyes as she smiled at me, completely focused on me, I sighed as I laid her down in her Moses basket whilst I got breakfast for the boys, and then I smiled as her blanket started to pulsate it’s way off the basket, propelled by her fast, furious, jerky little kicks.  There’s still plenty of babyhood left yet, and I’m appreciating every fragment of it.

Insecure parenting

So I was going to do a smug little post about the sun bonnet I made for The Girl out of an old shirt sleeve of her daddy’s, but then I popped onto Facebook and read a thread on my ante-natal group which threw up some things I wanted to address more. (I will do the smug tutorial-esque post soon though, promise).

A mother on this group was asking about aides for sitting – Bumbos, walkers etc and, along with some others, I said not to bother with those. They can cause physiological problems with hips and posture and force babies to do something they’re not physically ready for.  Others agreed with me and when I suggested a playnest (like a big inflatable doughnut) to help support them in their attempts to sit without forcing them, I felt I had offered a reasonable compromise.

Then another second-time mum popped on, one whom I respect, whose parenting is similar to mine and who (from what I read) works harder at active parenting than I do.  She decried all artificial aides to sitting or standing and said that even holding the baby on their feet could be detrimental and that babies would sit or stand when they’re ready to sit or stand.

Instantly I felt defensive. I hold The Girl up like this, I did the same with The Boy. Not to try and rush their development, but because they seemed to enjoy it and have strong little legs which like to stamp on my lap. I love the look of glee on her face.  I felt defensive because I suspected she was right and that I was doing things that might not be best for my children.

A hot flush of shame rose up in me.  All any of us want to do for our children is our best. I have read widely and researched – hence why no Bumbos, walkers or door bouncers in our house – but this I had missed. I got something wrong and as a parent it hurts to realise this and our first reaction is to lash out.

Breastfeeding vs bottle feeding is a prime example of this, where each ‘side’ feels the other is getting at them, somehow implying something about their choice by making a different one.  It’s difficult, you see, to tell the difference between the small stuff that we shouldn’t sweat and the big stuff that will massively affect their future in some way. I spent most of today trying to explain the concept of ‘enthusiastic consent’ to The Boy in a way that made sense to a three year old so that one day he wouldn’t think it was OK to rape a drunk or unwilling woman.  Parenting is scary. No wonder we’re all so insecure.  If you’re not then you’re not taking the responsibility seriously enough.

I reined in my initial instinct to jump in with defences and rationalisations of my actions. She wasn’t having a dig at me – she doesn’t even know what I do at home with my children.  I reined in that instinct, but it was strong enough that I knew I had to write about it.  How’s about some comments? Anyone want to back me up here and tell me about a time they felt defensive about their parenting?