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‚Äôt 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 ‚Äėexist‚Äô as part of a working family of four, I find there are all these moments, where you feel like you‚Äôre 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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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 РVia 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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The Boy Who Rocked The Boat….

The story of my son joining our little world and filling it with smiles.

This boy, the boy in the photograph, the chubby-cheeked handsome little fella is my son. And he is 1 year old today. I am thinking about him a lot today, so let me tell you some things about when we met and our first year together.

This last year, this last wonderful year was the fastest in living memory! I really must go back and check that 365 whole actual days past because it sure doesn’t feel like it!! My daughter, now 4, seemed to be a tiny baby forever and the memories of that really linger even now but with him he was little for what seems like a few weeks and the images in my mind are so vague already. That’s the thing isn’t it with second or subsequent children, you’re so busy keeping all the cogs of life turning that time just disappears, alarmingly quickly. I am very conscious of this now, so I try to stop and take in moments as often as possible, you should do too. And I love photography so I try and capture our lives in still-frame when I can, showcasing our journey on the walls of our house. I love catching a cheeky grin from a frame in the corner of my eye as I rush down the stairs with the 3rd load of washing.

I am not with my son today as I am back at work, which makes me sad. I think about how he arrived into this world, as all mothers do, on more occasions than they’re probably comfortable admitting. Carrying a baby and bringing them into the world is one of those things that just cannot be understood by those who haven’t done it (sorry but it can’t!) It is physically and mentally life changing and stays with you always. Today I look back and I smile as I think of the mad dash to the hospital (with a 3-year-old in tow, reprimanding me for facing the wrong way in the passenger seat of the car and not wearing a seatbelt!). I thank whoever you should thank for the 1-hour 50-minute labour/birth experience, compared to the previous 32-hour epic marathon. And then I remember seeing him for the first time, bringing him close to me and this time it was like the movies (as I wasn’t a dribbling mess from being in labour for nearly 2 days) I couldn’t believe how perfect he was and how my heart just ached with love.

When I found out our second baby would be a boy I am not too proud or ashamed to admit that I was mostly completely terrified. A boy, what do I do with a boy? Our family is massively female dominated, ‘Girls Rule OK!’ I would be bringing an alien being into our lives. Well OK, a human baby but not one like me or my daughter. I felt very out of my comfort zone. Don’t they just run around roaring and using inanimate objects as weapons? What about drawing and doing stickers? What about sitting in restaurants with Mummy and Daddy having a nice meal, how the hell is this all going to work? Isn’t he going to rock the boat and unbalance the delicate equilibrium of our little family of 3? My husband and I had dedicated the last 3 years of lives to our daughter, everything we did revolved around her and we loved her to every corner of both our hearts, so how on earth would it be possible to love another small human the same amount? Where would that love come from? We were both phased by this, it just didn’t seem possible.

Hah! These thoughts make me laugh now. Yes, he rocked the boat and gatecrashed our world but in the most wonderful way possible.

Because my boy is just the loveliest little thing and has always been a very happy, smiley and content baby. My year off work with him and getting to spend more time with my daughter too was sort of life-changing really and has helped me to redefine what is truly important to me. This second maternity leave experience has been very different to the first. Yes better, but not because the first time was bad but just because the second time around you are naturally better at everything, more relaxed, comfortable in your own skin and slightly less emotionally challenged shall I say! Although him being a brilliant sleeper and breastfeeder, combined with not screaming relentlessly for 2 hrs every evening really helped! The boy’s not perfect though, every nappy & clothing change is a battle, being still is not a skill he is looking to excel in anytime soon. Items of clothing are often just abandoned if not 100% essential (got to pick your battles). And he is everywhere before you blink, can’t take my eyes off this one for a second.

However you’ll be pleased to know that my son does not terrify me and I am now confident in my role as Mother to a girl and Mother to a boy. Being flexible & adaptable are top of the parenting job description, so yes I can now make playdoh princess dresses in one hand and drive a Toot Toot car with the other. And anyway I hate all the gender stereotypes. My daughter has always liked cars and trains and my son (for now) likes dolls. There are challenges ahead and some of those that I will face with my son will be different to those I face with my daughter. But I am ready, bring on your best roaring and your most imaginative fake weaponry. I’ll be at the table doing stickers….

Oh and by the way we found out what happens to the already bulging parental heart, it’s all true, it does indeed just grow and expand to whatever size is required to engulf your babies in love. How could it possibly not?

At the end of this momentous year, I want my son to know what a pleasure it has been to get to know him and I thank him for bringing more happiness than I could have imagined to all three of our lives.