NEWSFLASH: Modern Family Life Is Hard Work!

The need for a good work-life balance is a shared struggle for so many of us.

Annoying inside-my-head smug voice:
Wait, you signed up for this right?
Me: Well yes…
Nobody forced you to have two children, did they?
Me: Well no…
You knew you’d have to go back to work right?
Me: Yes…
Well quit your moaning then Doll Face
(Yes my annoying inside-my-head smug voice calls me Doll Face, so it’s not all bad).

“Parenting (like Ronseal) – does what it says on the tin”.

OK, OK, I’m not really allowed to moan but can I just for a bit, a teeny tiny bit, please?

Since September this year we have been adjusting to a new routine with one child now at school and one at nursery.  This is nothing short of a massive pain in the ar*e. Kindly allowing me the opportunity of arriving late at not one but two separate locations in the morning *sigh*.  A standard week is like a full-on military operation. Involving meal planning, online shopping, bag packing, shooshing, rushing, sighing and swearing (under my breath). And transportation by various combinations of car, train, pushchair and foot. Mixed with some pulling, pushing and on occasion, dragging.

By the time I get to work I’m completely exhausted, from just existing.

In all seriousness though, the biggest stress, I find, in the life of two working parents, is spreading yourselves so thinly. The feeling that in doing so much & performing so many different roles, you end up not doing any of them very well. The feelings of frustration and guilt (more guilt, just what we need) are there daily. Sometimes you want to ask (politely) if you can get off, to just catch your breath for a bit.

Yes, I want the bloody moon on a stick, who doesn’t?

I want to feel like a better parent. I want to be able to carefully answer all my daughter’s questions each morning without rushing her or stopping her half way through by shoving a toothbrush in her face.

I want to have more energy for her reading and writing.

I want to let my son play for longer in the morning. So happy with his trains before I engulf him in shoes, hats & coats and plonk him in a car seat.

I want to give more to my job. I take pride in my work, I’m not a person that can just clock in and clock out (thanks, Mum & Dad for making me annoyingly conscientious). I care and I want to be the one to make good suggestions, come up new ideas but some days I’m so drained I can just about remember my system password.

I want to do more on my blog. Much more. I want to write more, promote more, interact more, take all the opportunities that it might bring but there is just no time.

I want a clean & tidy house. It’s filthy, honestly, I cringe at the thought of this. I can just about manage a little tidy each day but cleaning is a nightmare.  No, I can’t afford a cleaner and I just, you know, don’t like the idea of it….

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you get to win, God I love those weeks, feeling like Super Women. I arrive on time, I forget nothing, I eat healthily, I answer questions, I write (I still don’t clean, but hey ho…). And there are very limited amounts of rushing, sighing, swearing and dragging. And for us, the weekends bring welcome down time. But in amongst the sometimes overwhelming stress of what it takes to ‘exist’ as part of a working family of four, I find there are all these moments, where you feel like you’re actually doing a good job. Happy, sad, challenging, all different kinds of moments, where in your head (or maybe out loud?) you give yourself a little high five, a tiny fist pump or do a little jig, whatever works for you.

Some moments are big and some are very small…

Recently my son had a nose bleed in the middle of the night. After cleaning everything up, despite being a major Daddy’s boy he wanted me and only me.

So I cradled my son in my arms, heavy now at 18 months. We rocked back and forth in the subtle orange glow of the night-light in his bedroom, a room that I know so well now. I’m pretty sure I could rebuild it with alarming accuracy anywhere. We listened to the soft lullaby of Ewen The Sheep, the only other sound was the padding of my bare feet on the carpet.

He was very unsettled, I kissed him on the head and stared at his half illuminated face. My arms hurt and I felt brain dead until suddenly I realised that this was one of those moments and I smiled to myself, a smile just for me.

Because as I rocked this small boy that couldn’t sleep, in that moment, right there, I was doing a good job.

I was everything I needed to be.

And it felt good.

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1st Day of School: Diary of the Absurdly Emotional

God, what is wrong with me? Well that’s a bit of an open-ended question, isn’t it? Where do I start, or more to the point, where do I stop?

My daughter just started school and I’ve been feeling very emotional about it, which is normal (I believe) but I’m less emotional, more emotional wreck or emotional time bomb; could go off at any second. Jesus, I’m ridiculous, It’s school, it’s around the corner from our house, it’s not like she’s moving to Australia or running away with the bloody Circus is it? So why does the thought of it make me want to grab her and never let her go?

As I think about that I’m visualising how that scenario might go:-
“Mummy get off”.
“But I just want a cuddle”.
“Urrgghh no thank you Mummy” (Yes my child is polite even under duress. Thousands of pounds of nursery fees well spent).
“But I want to go to school Mummy”.
“But I want to keep you close, under my motherly wing, where I can protect you”.
“From what Mummy?”.
“Oh, you know; learning, discovery, new friendships, new experiences. But it’s ok, only for maybe….25 years……”.

She’ll make that face at me, the one that indicates that she no longer understands what I’m saying and can’t work out if I’m joking or not. Then we’ll both laugh (at Mummy).

She is going to be fine, in fact, she’s going to be more than fine. This is not about her, it’s all about me.

It’s just, it’s the end of an era, isn’t it? Those pre-school years are so precious as there are so fewer boundaries (not counting work).

There are so many thoughts (mostly irrational, I know) whirling around my head:

She is so small, she’s just 4 years old for God sake! How can she go to school (who came up with that idea anyway?) It’s for ‘big’ children, isn’t it? Those that can successfully wipe their own bottoms & put on their own socks. And not those that throw themselves to the floor when refused access to the biscuit tin.

And all the new faces. It’s a whole new bunch of people to disagree with on whether you can be the Mummy, the Daddy, the Fairy or the Dinosaur.

Oh and then there is the poo obsession. Please please let everyone else’s 4-year-old be the same as mine. Every role play session ends with the Fairy/Witch/Baby/Dinosaur doing a massive fat poo, doesn’t it? Please say yes?

The ratio of adults to children is purely terrifying. What happens with P.E? I mean I struggle to get two children dressed in the morning and that’s at a 1:2 ratio, I’d estimate on most days 50% of my children leave the house looking respectable (woeful statistics people). How is this even possible at school, by the time everyone is ready surely the lesson is over? The combination of back to front shorts and shoes-on-wrong-feet must constitute a new ‘Reception Year Fashion Craze’.

And how the hell does one teacher and a teaching assistant manage to control thirty 4-year-olds for six hours a day. I can barely manage one and a 16-month-old for two hours each morning. It must be utter carnage?

Poor teachers….

Though having said that, most 4-year-olds are pretty hilarious, their take on the world is often refreshing & enlightening with a good dash of crazy. It’ll be a hoot for the teachers, surely? And then at the end of the day, there’s always wine.
Note to self: Buy teacher wine for Christmas, not crappy chocolates or a mug (my teacher husband receives a lot of mugs….).

OK, here we go.

Day 1: This is how it went….

Arrghhh F*ck it’s raining. I (clearly erroneously) hadn’t considered rain. This means a pushchair rain cover for the baby, an umbrella and a whole load of hassle I don’t need.

I just want to get there, just don’t want to be late.

We arrive, we park (easily! – have I got the wrong day?).

We get to the reception playground and wait with all the other tiny people in big uniform. *Breathe*. We made it on time. Tick.

OK what do we do now, can somebody tell me? *we wait*…..nothing. Am I supposed to just send her in on her own? Really? OK, we can do this. But can we? She looks terrified. I’m going to go for it, I send her in with the instructions of finding her peg and hanging her bag on it, then returning to the classroom.

I watch through the window, she gets to the cloakroom. She’s just standing there, why is she not hanging her stuff? She’s forgotten maybe? She can’t find her peg perhaps? She looks worried like she might cry. Sh*t. This tugs at my heart strings. Somebody help her! Please. SOMEBODY HELP MY BABY!!! Nothing….. *need to calm down*.

Right, I’m going in. I help her with her bag, her name tag was hidden behind another pristine looking school branded book bag. We go back to the classroom. I still have no f’ing clue what we’re supposed to be doing. This is a ruddy nightmare!

She is about to cry, if she does, so will I. I look around and spot colouring and a friend, bingo, the perfect combination. She settles, I leave, with no tears, from either of us. #win

Now, back to the other child (that I momentarily forgot existed), previously abandoned in the pushchair in the playground. Oh dear, how often a parenting win is followed directly by a fail.

It’s fine, he’s fine. Let’s go and get tea and biscuits, lots of biscuits. His little face lights up at the ‘B’ word (that I now realise I have said way way to soon……).

She survives, well she loves it. I survive and the boy forgives me for the abandonment (I imagine….).

Now to my next emotional challenge, which I can only assume is just around the corner.

 

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Blown Away…

We are a family of penguin lovers, in fact, we just had one to stay with us for the summer holidays! We crafted him out of a sock and various pieces of felt, don’t panic.

It was a pre starting-school project for my 4-year-old, so seeing Blown Away, a show based on Rob Biddulph’s 2015 book about the adventures of Penguin Blue and friends, was a no-brainer. And with the additional promise of acrobatics the pre-show excitement levels are high (and that’s just me).

As we wait for the show to start we hear a noise behind us, like quacking, then sure enough 3 penguins waddle past us onto the stage. They immediately proceed to show off their acrobatic skills to the oohs and wows of the little people (and some big people) watching. I overhear one small boy protest that he too can do that move.

Our 3 friends for this adventure are penguin’s Blue, Flo and Jeff. Blue wants to fly, to see beyond their home and so they fly together (albeit unintentionally), on a kite away from the ice and snow. On the way, they pick up Wilbur the (accordion-playing) seal and a polar bear called Clive, who, rather fortunately, agrees not to eat them but to come along for the ride instead. We continue on with Clive who ends up in the jungle, where he meets a very cheeky monkey, called, well….Monkey. This is a momentous experience for Clive because he is used to being alone and now suddenly he sees the value and enjoyment of having friends.

Blown Away

As we waddle, dive, jump and swing through the story the acrobatics’ get more impressive, a tightrope walk no less and the accordion (did I mention the accordion?) gets chirpier.

The show is an utter delight, all about adventure and imagination, two of most vital ingredients in the ‘happy childhood’ recipe. It showcases strength, agility, humour, puppetry and wonderfully crafted songs.

“Never throw away a chance for an adventure. Imagination keeps your dreams afloat”. Just one of the lovely choruses we are treated to.

The story draws to a close as despite the excitement of new friends and warmer surroundings, Clive is too hot in the jungle and the penguins miss home. A makeshift boat is hastily thrown together for their homeward journey to the tune of “I want to go home, I miss my Mum, I miss my bed, I miss my ted. I miss the snow; at the end of the day you miss what you know”.

Never has a truer word been spoken by a penguin, an (accordion-playing) seal and a polar bear!

Mind How You Go….

For my Daughter, who starts school this September….

Open your book, it’s Chapter one,
a whole new world has just begun.
As you turn each page & breathe the world in,
remember I’m here, should you need anything.

Step out, look up, there’s much to find,
be bold, be brave and always be kind.
I’m excited to see you blossom & grow,
but remember darling, mind how you go.

Everything’s changing but don’t be afraid,
discovering new things is how dreams are made.
It’s ok to feel scared, sad or unsure,
we’ll talk when you need to, that’s what I’m here for.

You only look forward, I understand that,
but Mummy can’t help sometimes looking back.
You see 4 years flew by at incredible pace,
how did so much time pass since I first saw your face?

Have your say and stand your ground,
don’t ever let anyone push you around.
You’ll sparkle & shine, this I already know
but baby please, mind how you go.

So this is it, off we go to school,
I know you’re ready but you look so small.
Ask questions, join in, but also listen a while.
Make friends, make memories, make everyone smile.

I’ll be thinking of you every day,
I’m right behind you if you lose your way.
There’s no limit to what you can achieve,
incredible things happen to those who believe.

Ignore Mummy’s tears, she’s silly as you know,
but do something for me, just mind how you go.

Mind how you go….

Love from Mummy xxx

Mind How You Go....

 
 

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Camping On The Ridiculous

Insane behaviour that suddenly becomes acceptable because you’ve pitched a tent in a field and decided to live there for a while….

We have recently returned from a 2-week family camping adventure that took in Dorset, Cornwall & The New Forest. Due to this low-tech scenario, I took a pad and pen with me, #oldschool and wrote down actual words on paper, as we travelled. After about 4 days away and watching the world (translation – ‘being a nosey cow’), I started to note down a few bits about camping and the way that people behave in this environment, that struck me as completely nuts but also brilliant.

Basically, things that you wouldn’t dream of doing if you were at home. Things that suddenly just because you’re sitting in a field in a canvas chair become completely acceptable.

Here’s a few bonkers soundbites from our little trip:

1. You leave all your worldly possessions behind a sheet of plastic approximately 1mm thick and go out for the day. Making sure you pull the zips right down and fasten the Velcro tight, yeah that’ll stop the burglars. Seriously? It’s like putting all your stuff in the front garden and going to work. Nobody does this, ever.

2. You let your children talk to strangers. Yep, all kinds of strangers, men, women, children, dogs, horses, you name it. Suddenly everyone forgets this isn’t standard protocol anymore. Anyone who even looks in the direction of your child presents a case of STRANGER DANGER, don’t they? However, there aren’t & never will be any bad people on a campsite. (But maybe don’t quote me on that….)

3. Your personal hygiene standards take a massive nosedive. Where leaving the house would normally involve some combination of soap, water, deodorant & perfume, you settle for baby wipes and turning your pants inside out. I know, kinda gross. But totally workable for a few days at least.

4. Wearing a head torch is cool. FACT. In any other situation you just look like a total dick (unless you work down pit, I guess?) but on a campsite, you’re in the cool gang (finally!) and many fellow campers will marvel at your illuminated hands-free abilities.

5. Your bedtime routine transforms from an elaborate event, perhaps involving moisturiser, cleanser, mouthwash, floss etc, to a piss in the bushes (yes, the ladies too, don’t lie, we all know you’ve squatted like a pro when you can’t be arsed to walk 100 yards to the toilet block) and a quick once round with the toothbrush.

6. Sex anyone? Are you crazy? There is no sex on a family campsite. Remember the 1mm think plastic you’re sheltering under? Your need to be warm and snug will far out way any ideas about actually touching your partner. Plus you will invariably have at least one child with you on your now slowly deflating air bed. Shutting their door and ignoring them is regrettably not an option in a tent.

7. Getting dressed is basically a hassle, especially if you have kids, so most people just don’t bother. Walking around in your pj’s is totally accepted. Combine this little ensemble with a pair of wellies and you are ‘campsite chic, everyone will want to be you. I long to do this on a regular Monday, but in the outside world I fear it will be frowned upon.

Chilling, camping style....
Chilling, camping style….

8. You eat every meal outside. In Britain, this is clearly insane behaviour. If after making my cereal this morning you told me to go out to the garden to eat it I’d tell you where to go and not politely. Leave my cosy kitchen? Don’t be ridiculous. Yet I just did this every morning for nearly 2 weeks (in pj’s & wellies because of course, as already discussed, I had not bothered to dress).

9. Your normally varied and (attempting to be) healthy diet, is reduced down from all the main food groups to just 2. Meat & bread. Makes meal times nice and easy but can result in major ‘blockages. Whilst constipation can sometimes be a blessing on a campsite, be sure to drink copious amounts of alcohol (out of a questionably clean plastic vessel) to counteract this. Tick….

10. You let your children eat pretty much anything, anywhere….
If you go somewhere like The New Forest where there are wild animals roaming, there is basically sh*t everywhere. But gone is the obsessive high chair wiper – “Go on darling you just sit right there and eat your tea, that’s right, right next to that pile of horse shit”. Super!

Don’t let me put you off camping though. It’s brilliant, I love it and so do the kids.

 
 

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What Is It With Small Children And Toilet Paper?

“The Beauty Of Unremarkable Things”

What do cheese, toilet paper, keys and shoes all have in common?

They are all unremarkable. But isn’t it amazing how many truly unremarkable things can entertain, fascinate & distract small humans for extended periods of time?

Although we as adults can’t always comprehend the fascination, maybe it’s because not all of these things are always on show and in fact, many might normally be off limits completely for small people, so by offering them you’ll be breaking several house rules and most likely undoing some previous good discipline work. Due to this, there are some associated risks.

Here’s a small selection of unremarkable items that my children suddenly become obsessed with the second they catch sight of them. Sometimes I purposely bring them into play when I just need to get sh*t done or I quite simply want to be left the hell alone!

What Is It With Small Children And….

….Cheese?
It’s cheese, what’s not to like right? But my daughter’s favourite, Cheese Strips, have the added benefit of coming in strips (does what it says on the tin), that can be pulled apart. She takes each strip off one at a time and eats them individually. It takes bloody ages, it’s brilliant!!! I can drink a whole cup of tea, sometimes I’ll even go back for another.
*For increased impact add a cracker, so plain, so simple but they’re like a child’s version of catnip. It’ll be like all their Christmas’s have come at once.
Risk Factor – cracker crumbs! You’ll be finding them for days.

….Keys & Remote Control’s?
I’m grouping these together as the benefits are all aligned. Now these are ours, not for them. They perform important jobs and are a massive pain in the arse to mend or replace. Oh…..but how they are coveted by small people. What is it with that? And the thing that gets me the most about keys and remotes is that we’ll buy them their own keys (plastic of course), give them an old remote or even some old real keys. But they know, don’t they? They know they’re not the ‘actual ones’. How is this possible? They can’t string two words together or wipe their own arse’s but they know immediately if you’ve tried to fool them with bogus technology!
Risk Factor – if you do give in and give them the ‘actual ones’ you may never be able to lock the front door again or change TV channel….eh

….Toilet Paper?
Again, why do small people love toilet roll so much? I think it’s the paper dangling there above their heads, isn’t it? They must feel like it’s teasing them. Waving it’s paper loveliness right in their faces. With its potential to be torn so easily into tiny little pieces, it’s quite understandably just too tempting not to reach up and grab. And grab some more…..and a little more. Until yes you have your own makeshift Andrex Puppy.
*Has the potential to amuse for long periods. Just imagine all the things you could get done?
Risk Factor – messy but it is only paper. If they eat some they’ll be fine (I guess?).

….Shoes?
One for little-little people. My 1-year-old is obsessed with shoes. I’m sure this will pass *please God*. So for a little time out I just sit him in front of a shoe rack. It’s genius. Just seeing his face light up. Beautiful.
Risk Factor – based on the fact that the 1-year-old likes to ‘post’ things in a variety of inventive places, there is the potential risk of never pairing up some shoes again. Hey ho….

….A Bucket Of Water?
My son was recently introduced to ‘the bucket of water’ on a sunny day in the garden. Hours and I mean hours of entertainment. Splash a ball in….take ball out….throw ball….collect ball….splash ball in……repeat.
*Requires supervision (just 1 eye will do) & good weather.
Risk Factor – possible drowning, so don’t fall asleep during your extended period of relaxation. And obviously the child will end up very soggy, but it’ll be well worth it.

Unremarkable Things

….Bubbles?
Get these out and you might as well don a long robe and silly hat because congratulations, you’ve just become The Pied Piper. Small children will follow you everywhere. So simple these floaty, transparent globes of joy. And the ‘untouchableness’ only seems to spur them on.
Risk Factor – don’t let them hold the bubble mixture. You know how that ends right?

I am making light of these things, as I always do, but actually whilst writing this, I have found myself smiling at just how wonderful it is that young children are fascinated by so many insignificant things.

For the vast majority of my son’s life, he has not needed shoes. But all the big people around him wear them and in fact, these people have several pairs each. That’s a lot of different shoes that don’t belong to him, no wonder he’s so interested.

We should perhaps every now and then try to view the world a bit more like our children do.

Let’s be more fascinated, let’s fully embrace the bubbles, the water and the cheese. In fact, let’s maybe do all three of those at once!

I am massively guilty of non-embracing. Life is so busy and complicated, I’m always thinking about the time it’ll take me to clear up and forgetting about the potential joy that will come before. Re-rolling a roll of toilet paper is such a phaff and it will never fit back on the holder. But. Maybe once in a while, we should just let them do it and think about the mess later?

 
 

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A Song For My Rubbish Week

This Is The Story Of My Week With A Sick Baby – Via The Medium Of Song

My 1-year-old son has been ill for over a week, the poor little fella. So I haven’t had much time to think about writing and anyway my week has been so full of rubbishness, what would I say that would be of any interest?

I thought on it for a little bit and in a moment of silliness & an effort to make the week sound slightly less dull than it actually has been, I have decided to deliver this piece via the medium of song……..

Oh come on………just work with me people, it’ll be fun.

To the tune of ‘Ten Green Bottles’.

I’ll give you a minute, this is going to require a little work on your part……..
.
.
Got it? Yes? OK, let’s go

10 Google searches – what’s that on the baby’s nose? 10 Google searches – what’s that on the baby’s nose? Have you really learnt nothing, you NEVER self-diagnose. 10 Google searches – what’s that on the baby’s nose?

9 temperature checks today, my new thermometer is divine. 9 temperature checks today, my new thermometer is divine. God, what do I think’s gonna happen, in this short amount of time? 9 temperature checks today, my new thermometer is divine.

8 times I’ve tried to shower, I just want to be clean. 8 times I’ve tried to shower, I just want to be clean. The sick baby wants to cuddle, putting him down seems kinda mean. 8 times I’ve tried to shower, I just want to be clean.

7 nights of broken sleep, my mind is so unclear. 7 nights of broken sleep, my mind is so unclear. I’m starting to really feel it, seriously, someone bring me beer. 7 nights of broken sleep, my mind is so unclear.

6 loads of dirty washing, yes this job is mine. 6 loads of dirty washing, yes this job is mine. We’ll just turn our pants inside out, it’ll be totally fine. 6 loads of dirty washing, yes this job is mine.

5 days since the baby’s, done any kind of poo, 5 days since the baby’s, done any kind of poo. Constipation can be such a b*tch, I honestly need one too. 5 days since the baby’s, done any kind of poo.

4 trips to the Doctor, in just as many days, 4 trips to the Doctor, in just as many days. I know the receptionist by her first name, think she wishes I’d go away. 4 trips to the Doctor, in just as many days.

3 days off work with baby, I wonder what I’ve missed? 3 days off work with baby, I wonder what I’ve missed? I’ve just returned from a year off, they’ll think I’m taking the piss. 3 days off work with baby, I wonder what I’ve missed?

2 empty bottles of Calpol sitting on the side, 2 empty bottles of Calpol sitting on the side. Have I overdosed the baby, I really can’t decide? 2 empty bottles of Calpol sitting on the side.

1 attention deprived 4-year-old in a moany grump, 1 attention deprived 4-year-old in a moany grump. The baby’s getting all the attention, so she’s got the massive hump.1 attention-deprived 4-year-old in a moany grump.

So there it is….

And now, you will be humming that tune for the rest of the day……

My pleasure xxx

 
 

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