Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Parenting Paradox

This week, both my children have been poorly. I posted the following comment on my Facebook page:

And it hit me just how much of a paradox parenting is. A huge journey of contradictory thoughts, feelings and events. And the more I though about it, the more it seemed to apply to so many aspects of child-raising......

Sleeping Through the Night

Kinda the ultimate parenting achievement in the early days. You spend every night deep in sleep, crying over the kettle at 5am when your baby decides to get up for the day, wondering when, or even if, your child will EVER sleep through the night.

Then the night they sleep through, you lie awake wondering if they're breathing, go to check on them at 5am and wake them up by prodding them repeatedly until they confirm that, yes, they were doing what you've hoped for for months. They were sleeping through. They're not now.


Milestones - mostly the physical and vocal ones - are ridiculously exciting - and you spend all your time praying for the time they crawl/walk/speak.

And then they start crawling and you catch them chewing the wires of Daddy's new Playstation4 (Daddy doesn't know and it wasn't plugged in. I still shat myself).
They start walking and fall and bump their heads seven times a day.
They start speaking and choose to mimic you for the first time, not when you say "I love you darling, you're my world", but when you say "for fuck's sake dog".

And then you find yourself saying to your other half things like; "remember when he couldn't move and we could just plonk him somewhere and he would stay there?"

Growing Up

I've never been a baby baby person. If someone comes into work with a baby, I'm happy to coo and admire but I have no super strong desire to cuddle him or her.

So I spent many months hoping my babies would be just a bit bigger, a bit easier, a bit less baby-like. I somehow thought as they grew, things would get easier - and in some ways they do. And in some ways, as my tantrumming toddler reminds me frequently, they do not.

And guess what? Now that they're growing, I find myself looking back on pictures of them both as babies and marvelling at how tiny they were; how they snuggled in the crook of my arm; how they used to sleep all the way round the supermarket. They are becoming so independent and they don't need me as much *sob*


I really do not enjoy the 'milk stage'. Maybe this makes me a crappy, un-nurturing mother (that's another post though!) but I find it draining. Actually, ironically, the only time I don't find it draining is night feeds. I long for the days when my babies can just eat normal food.

And then you start weaning. And it takes ages for them to eat 'normal food' (i.e maybe a cheeky McDonalds Happy Meal or a pizza and chips at the pub). You have to spend ages introducing new foods, transitioning from tiny morsels of food to bigger bits, to the stage where they can actually eat a grape without you having to peel it and chop it into quarters (if there is a person out there with the patience required for this task, I take my hat off to you. I did it once. ONCE. It is half an hour of eating grape skin that I will never get back).

The problem with weaning is that there is a transition period where the baby is drinking milk AND eating food with a lot of help from you. Talk about blooming hard work.


My eldest starts school next September. Paradoxically, I am both looking forward to it and dreading it for the same reasons that I enjoy and dread sending him to nursery. I look forward to it because it is lovely to have time with the youngest and to sit for a whole hour whilst said youngest has a nap, with not much to do except drink tea and watch Homes Under the Hammer.

But when he's there. Gosh I miss him. So much so that I often get there to pick him up whilst they're still having tea. I love the peace and quiet in the house for about an hour when he's at nursery. But I can't wait for him to come back and sing the Cars soundtrack and shout imaginary scenarios at his Thomas the Tank Engine trains.

Basically I am never bloody happy.
And also, retrospection is a wonderful thing. In fact, it's thanks to 'selective retrospection' as I like to call it (i.e remembering all the good stuff above and forgetting the crap stuff), that we chose to have another baby. And I don't think we're alone there.

Well done Mother Nature. Well done love.
Run Jump Scrap!
The Dad Network

The Tidying Up Battle

There are two distinct roles post-bedtime routine in our house.
Jobs I have to do after putting kids to bed:
  • Wash and sterilise bottle
  • Make up morning feed
  • Fill and put dishwasher on
  • Clean kitchen sides down
  • Prepare lunch for the following day - especially if I'm at work.                                       

Jobs my husband has to do after putting kids to bed:
  • FIFA
There's one job we both hate: tidying up whatever toys have escaped the playroom. In essence this simply means throwing the toys from the living room back into the conservatory (playroom), shutting the door and pretending the house is pristine.

Even the dog looks on bewildered as to why these toys are STILL HERE!!

But after the ball-ache of all those jobs (or FIFA - "it's so tense!") neither of us can be arsed, so it becomes a bit of a stand-off. A battle of 'Who will fling this plastic crap into the next room first?'

It's usually me.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

I'm Dating a Married Man

I know - it's shocking. But before you get all judgemental, I should say that his wife doesn't mind. Neither does my husband.

Because I'm married too. Just like him.

In fact, I'm married to him.

Now, before I even get started, let me freely admit that I don't profess to have a secret recipe for a long and happy marriage. We have only been married for four years and only together six.

But we have always promised to nurture our relationship, even now we have children. Our children are a result of our relationship and not the other way around and I can honestly say I love my husband more now than I did when we first got together.

I get excited when he comes home from work.

We make an effort for each other (he goes to the gym, I try not to wear pyjamas all day).

I miss him if he's working a long day.

I find him ridiculously attractive.

I melt when I see him with the kids.

I look forward to spending time just the two of us, even if it's a night in on the sofa with a bottle of wine.

But that hasn't just 'happened'. We make time for each other. Sometimes we can get babysitters (sometimes even overnight!) and we go to the theatre or to the pub or on a mini break. Sometimes we can't get babysitters but he'll come home from golf early, we'll put the kids to bed and we'll have a nice meal, make mojitos (and drink them, obviously) and watch a film.

Some days he irritates me so much I slam cupboard doors and huff a lot and I know that, most days, I do the same to him. In fact, on his return from a golf overnighter the other week, he gave me the following, romantic speech:

"I really missed you. Which is surprising because you really annoy me when I'm here."

We annoy each other. But my children annoy me sometimes and I love them from the depths of my heart.

And the same goes for my husband. Not because it's convenient. Not because it's easy. But because I still love getting dressed up and going for dinner with him. I love finding out things I never knew about him. I love how we have little jokes that only we understand.

I love him. And I hope we keep dating. Because that's what keeps me going when he's irritating the hell out of me ;)

The Dad Network
Let's Talk Mommy

This Too Shall Pass

Probably one of my most hated phrases when it comes to parenting; This too shall pass.

Unfortunately it can sometimes take years for 'this' to pass and even if it passes quickly, when you're in the depths of it all, it means sweet FA that it'll end at some indeterminate point in the future.

A week ago I had a really rough day. I spent the whole day on the verge of, or in actual, tears. I googled symptoms of post natal depression. I googled sleep deprivation. I didn't want to leave the house.

It turns out I was exhausted and it was the wrong time of the month to be exhausted. I'd had about three hours sleep and my hormones were raging. The following day I felt a bit better. Two days later I felt completely fine.

But that day I was so completely overwhelmed by the thought of getting up and parenting over and over again, day in, day out. And ironically it was my children who helped me put things in perspective. Not the kids directly, but a CD the eldest insists on listening to every time we get into the car; the Disney Cars soundtrack.

One of the songs, Behind the Clouds by Brad Paisley has this line:

I listened to this and got a bit choked. It made me realise that just because I was having a bad day, it didn't mean it would last forever. It just felt like it at the time.

And even though it pained me to say it to myself, I knew that this too would pass.

Cuddle Fairy

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Instagram Vs Reality

Instagram vs Reality:

Don't believe everything you see on your news feeds. If you're having a crap day, rest assured that someone else will be too ;)

No babies were harmed in the taking of these photos. This is what happens when your baby refuses to nap at 2pm, then tries to nap at 6pm but you keep him awake because bedtime is 7pm.
Though, the best thing about this was that he SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT!!!! Ker-ching!

Best of Worst

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Parenting Cocktail Menu

Welcome to the Parenting Cocktail Bar!

We close at 8pm so you can get home and go to bed early.

But don't worry, we open early too because we know you might want a cocktail at midday.

And here's what you can choose from:


What's in it?: Tequila, orange juice and grenadine infused with longing memories of sleeping ten hours a night

Serve with: shots of espresso - you're gonna need the caffeine

When to enjoy: every evening in anticipation of being woken up repeatedly in the middle of the night.

What's in it?: Prosecco with a dash of patience

Serve with: deep breaths

When to enjoy: whenever your child/ren are saying your name repeatedly and you need to take a moment ("Just give me a sec") to put the kettle on/sit alone in peace on the stairs/cry into the fridge

What's in it?: Vodka, cranberry juice, orange juice. Forgo the peach schnapps - you've not got the energy or the time to get too fruity (and the kids could walk in at any moment)

Serve with: Your significant other

When to enjoy: once a week. If you're lucky

What's in it?: Vodka, Cointreau, lime juice and cranberry juice muddled with utter gratitude at whatever turn of events has allowed you this time to yourself

Serve with: a magazine

When to enjoy: whenever you have a chance to read said magazine. So probably never.

What's in it?: White wine and tonic/soda water or lemonade garnished with exasperated sighs

Serve with: a pint glass

When to enjoy: (un)official guidelines suggest to enjoy this whenever your kids are whining 'to take the edge off' but as this would result in some parents drinking from 7am, we suggest waiting for post midday whines

Of course, there are days when you may need to drink all of the above.

Except the Cosmopolitan.

Unless you're super lucky

NB: This is all, of course, very tongue in cheek - please drink responsibly (and have very fruity sex ;))

Monday, 21 September 2015

What Really Counts

As a teacher, I have always been a real advocate of appreciating all that our children have to offer. Even at school, they are not there to learn simply how to read, write and add up.

Of course, they do learn that. But they also learn how to express themselves through words, dance, music, art, drama. They learn to solve problems through building, discussing and persevering. They learn about the world around them through exploring, predicting and taking risks.

I know a lot of teachers who have left, are considering or have considered leaving the profession. I am among them - I have considered it. Because we all went into teaching for the children. To help them be their best. Whether that's in numeracy or running. Writing or art. Reading or science.

But the government doesn't really care about the children who excel at running, or art, or science. Not at primary school level anyway. A school is judged on it's effectiveness by the measures of maths, reading and writing. This completely de-values the rest of the curriculum, despite the best efforts of many teachers who acknowledge the importance of a broad and balanced curriculum for children.

Which is why I love this quote from someone who, ironically, probably would have done very well at primary school in Britain today; Albert Einstein.

An important reminder for all of us that there are things we can do which can easily be measured - productivity at work, how many loads of washing we did today, how much we spent on the baby's birthday presents. But there are things which count, which are worth so much more, that cannot be measured:

Like the time we spend with our loved ones. We can measure the amount of time, but we cannot measure the quality of that time.

And kindness. As a mummy now, I am so conscious of the Mummy Olympics (I stole this phrase from Nicola at Sugar and Spice and All Things Spliced - read her fab Mummy Olympics post here) - the constant competitiveness, often shrouded in concern or niceties, which occurs when groups of mummies get together. It is borne out of worrying that we're not doing a good enough job, I know that. But it is exhausting. All sorts of measurable achievements are discussed (embellished); he rolled over before he was three months old, she waved for the first time at seven months and six days, she he can already write his name! It is unusual if someone says something like "your little one is being so kind" or "what lovely sharing." And that's because it can't be measured against someone else. It's hard to say "my child is kinder" - how do you measure it? You can't count sharing. There is no yard stick. But is it more important to me that my child shares or that he waves? That he shares. He'll learn to wave when he learns to wave!

And that's the other thing with what Einstein said. The things that can be counted are often things that can be taught. We can be mentored to get better scores in maths tests or to improve productivity at work. We can consciously choose to put more washing in the machine or spend ridiculous amounts of money on presents for a baby who doesn't even know or give the slightest care that it's his birthday.

But it's hard to teach kindness if it's not done from the beginning. So whilst we sit worrying about whether our children are going to get Level 5 in Maths in their end of year six SATs, maybe we should spend some quality time with them, teaching them to share, take turns and appreciate the world around them. Because, when it really comes down to it, the things that really count - the 'uncountable' things - are the things which make our lives that bit more wonderful.

Cuddle Fairy

Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Liebster Award

I am so pleased to have been nominated for the Liebster Award by fellow Mummy blogger Steph at Mom's Food Blog. Check her out - I'm tempted to make her blueberry scones this week which look divine!

What is the Liebster Award?

The Liebster Award is awarded to bloggers, by fellow bloggers, to encourage support of writers and help others discover new, fantastic blogs and content.

When you are nominated you are required to explain the award and to nominate fellow bloggers who's content you enjoy reading and want to share with others. There seems to be lots of different opinions on how many people you should nominate but I'm going with as many as I want, based mostly on some of my favourite posts from the past few weeks :)

Here are my nominations:

Rhyming Mummy

Mrs Lighty

Author's Chair

Mum's Hideout

You are all brilliant and I love reading your posts! Now I'm passing the baton; go forth and nominate! Oh, and keep on writing fabulous blogs xx

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Reasons NOT to go on a 'baby-moon' (and what to do instead)

This 'babymoon' thing is a relatively recently coined phrase to describe time away as a couple, before your baby arrives and stops you being able to go away as a couple/out for dinner/wash your hair ever again (I'm joking of course - sort of).

When I was pregnant with our first, my husband and I never felt the need for a babymoon. We were quite content spending all our spare hours at home together. We were sleeping ten hours a night (gosh, remember those days? No me neither - they're too far away now) and could change into pyjamas as soon as we got home from work, eat whenever we wanted, drink warm drinks which were still warm and watch whatever we wanted on the TV (I genuinely can't believe there was a time when I didn't know the Sky channels for CBeebies and Nick Jr off the top of my head).

We could go out for dinner whenever we liked, to wherever we wanted and stay out as long as we wished. We could leave the house with keys, phone and a wallet. We could go to shops and just browse.

So for all intents and purposes, a babymoon first time around would have been us paying money to go somewhere and do the exact same things we were doing at home (but probably with less telly channels to choose from because, seriously, how many hotels have full Sky coverage?).

But when I was pregnant with the second.....Well!

About three months before baby was born we decided we had to go on a babymoon. Not to spend time together as a couple but to spend time away from our gorgeously exhausting eldest.

It's one thing being pregnant and being able to go to bed at 8pm, sleep until 8pm the next morning, get up and laze around in pyjamas until midday, before finally getting dressed, popping to the local department store, having a wander round, ordering a coffee in the café and leisurely reading your book and then heading home to do nothing except slob in front of the tv.

It's an entirely different thing to put your toddler to bed at 7pm, make it to bed for 8pm, to be woken at midnight because he needs a wee, to then lie awake in bed because you're so uncomfortable, before finally falling back to sleep around 3am for said toddler to wake you for the day at 6am. No lazing in pyjamas until midday. No browsing the shops (my children have taken the 'fun' out of shopping and placed it neatly into 'functional'. Shops have one purpose and that is to sell me things. I go, I pay, I get out and I hope that the crisps in my bag are enough to sustain them before we finish). No leisurely reading books in a café (I totally underappreciated this aspect of my life pre-kids) and no slobbing in front of the tv as soon as I get home.

So last November, my husband and I decided we needed a babymoon in Cambridge. We'd always wanted to go there as we'd heard it was beautiful. And it was. At this point I'm referring to the only cultural part of Cambridge that we saw and this was the university grounds and the river which we walked through (the grounds, not the river - there was a handy bridge). Because the rest of the time was spent mostly wandering round Next and frequenting Patisserie Valerie. And going to the loo.

And herein lies the problem with a babymoon; the mere essence of why you are on it; you're pregnant. Pregnancy limits your enjoyment of a babymoon because....

Your bladder. We couldn't walk anywhere for more than half an hour if I didn't know where the nearest toilet was. This takes any kind of spontaneity or enjoyment out of browsing shops and wandering around admiring architecture.

You can't drink! Going away as a couple, for me, means being able to celebrate on arrival with a glass of wine. I had to stick to tea - until I'd gone over my daily caffeine allowance and was stuck with decaf coffee or a smoothie. We went out for dinner twice and I had to have bloody tonic water.

You can't eat certain foods. The second night, we went to this gorgeous country pub - the chef had been on Masterchef. On the menu was a beef wellington - heaven. Except this was one to share and was served pink because that's how beef should be served. Husband desperately wanted it. I desperately wanted it. Couldn't ask for it 'well done' otherwise it would have ruined husband's dinner and, to be fair, the whole taste of the dish. So it came, it looked amazing, and I ate the very ends which were the most well done parts (and mostly pastry) whilst sipping miserably on my tonic water.

You have to avoid spas (the default 'couple getaway'). You don't really have to but you can only use the pool. Which renders the exercise pointless. You may as well go hang out at your local council swimming baths and you can imagine how relaxing that would be. We went to a spa when I was twelve weeks pregnant - we'd booked before we knew I was pregnant. Whilst the Mister enjoyed the steam room, the sauna, the ice cave (closes your pores) and had a hot stone massage, I was stuck bobbing about in the hydrotherapy pool, mostly on my own.

You can't buy clothes. Usually a babymoon is taken towards the end of your pregnancy when the baby is soon to make an appearance. You can't buy maternity clothes because you will only be pregnant for a few more months so you don't want to waste money on clothes that you will only wear for a handful of weeks. But you don't know how soon/when/if you will return to your pre baby size and so you can't buy clothes for post-pregnancy either. You're stuck with earrings, socks and, if you're feeling particularly fruity, a new bag.

You get tired. I don't just mean you want to go to bed at 8pm. I mean walking more than an hour means you need to recoup for at least two. Which we did and it was lovely. I bought magazines and laid on the bed reading. I even had a bath without someone asking me if I wanted Lightning McQueen to come in too before hurling Cars bath toys at me. But we paid a lot of money for that bed and that bath when we have perfectly serviceable ones at home.

And there we have it - the ultimate babymoon. Especially if you already have a child. STAY AT HOME! Send older children to grandparents, take the phone off the hook and lock the doors. Order takeaway and have a bath. Read magazines on your sofa in your dressing gown. Watch one of the hundreds of channels on your own tv. If there's nothing on, choose from your extensive DVD collection. Make as many hot drinks as you want because you're not limited to the sachets or the stingy servings of UHT milk the B&B has provided you with.

But the best thing about having a babymoon in your own home?

You know you're always close to the toilets.
The Dad Network

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

How Long is Forever?

I'm inspired to write this post by this quote from Alice in Wonderland:

Source: Pinterest
I think the concept of 'forever' is something we feel as parents so often.

It feels like the sleepless nights will last forever when you're in the middle of sleep regressions and heavy sleep depravation.

It feels like your toddler's huge tantrum in the supermarket over not being able to push the baby's buggy from the right hand side (the left hand side just will not do) will last forever whilst you're trying to stay calm amid the screaming and stamping.

It feels like the colicky evenings will last forever - you just can't envisage an evening where screaming does not occur.

It feels like forever in the hour before bedtime when the children are tired but not tired enough to go to bed, so you're desperately trying to keep them entertained with jigsaws, tv and stories.

It feels like it'll be forever until you and your partner can have a night away, or until you can go out for the night with your friends and not have to worry about getting up at the crack of dawn the next day with a hangover.

Sometimes, one second as a parent can seem so much longer.

But when your child starts sleeping through the night, you look back and realise it's been two years since they first slept through and you realise that, even though you didn't believe the people who said "it's such a short time in the grand scheme of things", they were right. Those sleepless nights were forever ago.

When you get home from the supermarket and your toddler curls his arms around your neck and says "I love you," that tantrum I the supermarket will feel like it was forever ago.

When you tuck your baby into her cot as part of your established bedtime routine, you'll look back and realise it's been months since she screamed the house down between the hours of 5pm and 7pm every evening. Those scream-filled evenings will feel like forever ago.

When your children spend the hours before bedtime entertaining each other whilst you have a nice cup of hot tea glass of red wine, it'll seem like forever ago when you were feigning excitement for that Peppa Pig puzzle that was serving as a bedtime stalling tactic.

When you go on your friend's hen do and drink mojitos all night, for your children to get themselves up and play together until 10am, you'll think it was forever ago when they woke at 5.30am after a night of heavy drinking and you had to run to the toilet to quickly be sick, before getting them both up, dressed and breakfasted by 7am.

And now it seems like forever ago that your babies were, well babies. And now they are growing in height, independence and personality every single day. And you know that five, ten, twenty years will pass and you'll wonder where it went.

Because, as a parent, 'forever', even though it seems at the time, to last a lifetime, goes far, far quicker than you can even imagine. 'Forever', to a parent, is both the shortest and the longest time.

Cuddle Fairy
The Dad Network
Modern Dad Pages

Saturday, 12 September 2015

To the parents of my new class of children....

To the parents/guardians/carers of all the children in my new class this academic year,

I am your child's new teacher. One of them anyway. I will only work three days a week.

But please don't worry that this means I wont know your child properly. Or that I wont look after them or teach them properly.

Yes, I teach part time. But teaching is really a tiny part of what I actually do. It's the part I have always known how to do. It's the part you can be taught at university or whilst trudging the steep learning curve that is your very first year of teaching.

But it's not the steepest learning curve of my life. That honour goes to motherhood.

And that's why I will not care for your child 'part-time'. That's why I'll plan lessons on my 'days off'. That's why I'll phone you when I should be having my lunch just to reassure you that your little one has stopped crying after you left her in hysterics this morning. That's why I'll send a post-it note home with a praising comment about how your little boy wrote his name for the first time today. That's why I wont shrug off the fact that your little girl is scared of the school toilets and why I'll work with you to overcome the obstacle. That's why I'll cry with joy and pride when I hear your little boy talk about surviving open heart surgery at five years old.

Because now I understand. Not just what it's like to be a teacher. But what it's like to be a mum. And if I'd left my boy in hysterics at the door at 9am, I'd appreciate the phone call at 11.30 to tell me he was actually fine and had stopped crying by 9.15. I'd be overjoyed to get a note about his achievements so that I could share in my little boy's success at writing his name. If my boys were afraid of something, I would want their teacher to take it seriously.

I have always known a lot of this and I have often practised a lot of this. But now I really understand all of it.

I get it now. Your child is your world. You don't want them roughly dragged from your arm kicking and screaming in the morning when they arrive at school, even though that's a quicker solution to their separation anxiety and I've got lessons to teach. You want to know that someone will put their arm around them, read them a story and allow them to 'be' until they've calmed down.

You want to know that someone is investing in your child. Not just because they might get a high mark for their reading. Or because they're really good at running and will win a few races at Sports Day. But because they love Frozen. Because they have an infectious giggle. Because the way they say 'basketti' instead of 'spaghetti' is completely endearing. Because they are one of the kindest children in the class. Because they know every word to Taylor Swift's 'Shake It Off'.

Teachers are so pressured to get results. Academic results. But what do we want in this world? Do we want people who are all excellent mathematicians and literary scholars but who couldn't give two hoots about anyone else?

What do I want for my own children? I want them to be kind, thoughtful, caring people (though if they want to earn mega bucks and look after mum and dad later in life then so be it ;)).

That's what I want for my children. So that's what I want for your children. I want to nurture them. I want to teach them the things that can't be measured by tests: compassion, respect for others, fun, excitement, assertiveness.

And how do we teach? We demonstrate. We model.

And we lead by example.

So that example will be me.

From Mrs H


Rhyming with Wine
Pink Pear Bear
Twinkly Tuesday
Best of Worst

Monday, 7 September 2015

Must We Judge?

Last week I felt myself being judged by another mother.

I wont go into the why and how but there was an implication about my priorities. My husband and I are very lucky that we live close to both sets of our parents who desperately love being involved in their grandchildren's lives. We also have reasonably good sleepers and settlers which means we are able to take couple time whilst the grandparents babysit (and our children are beside themselves with excitement when Nana or Grandad comes to put them to bed!). We do this maybe once or twice a month. We do not sacrifice time with our children to go out drinking or partying. Last time we went out it was for my birthday, for dinner and we were home at 9.15pm.

When I met my husband it was a bit of a realisation for me. I had never believed that kind of love existed. When we got married and decided to try for a family, we promised ourselves that we would always make time for each other. We knew that children would become the centre of our world but we didn't want it to become to such an extent that our world as a couple was completely dependent on them. We wanted to remember why we had children in the first place - because we are in love with each other because of each other, not because of our children.

Then we had children and we fell in love all over again; with our babies and with each other as parents. Our world revolves around our children. It is as sure as the Earth moves around the sun. But just as we don't base every moment of every day on the position of the sun, what it's doing and what it might do at bedtime tonight, we don't base our entire life's movements around the children. If we do this parenting thing right, our children will be all grown up and independent in eighteen years. They may have even left home. And then, we don't want to sit down for dinner and realise we don't have anything to talk about because for eighteen years we have centred every thought, every moment, every conversation on the children.

I have always felt like I need to explain myself when people judge me for my parenting (even if it's just implied judgement!)

But I'm not going to do it anymore.

Because if anyone thinks I don't love my children with every part of me, just because I go out for dinner with my husband sometimes, then they don't understand me well enough to warrant my time. If they think I'm selfish because, for three hours, I'd like to put on a nice outfit which doesn't have baby sick on the shoulder, eat food without having to feed a baby whilst I'm doing it and focus on my relationship with my husband, then I'm guilty of being selfish.

I don't judge other mothers for doing things a bit different to me. If someone plans to stay in for two years to be there for their children every night at bedtime then I admire their commitment. If a mummy chooses to exclusively breastfeed, forgoing expressing and bottle feeding, then I'm totally blown away by their selflessness. If a parent chooses not to return to work to be a stay at home mum or dad, even if it means living with less and giving up some luxuries then I am (mostly jealous!) but also in awe of the patience and dedication they must have.

But just because I go out a couple of times a month, turned to bottle feeding (not so that I could go out but because I found it emotionally exhausting and I was heading for PND at the physiological demands I placed on myself because of it) and returned to work in favour of looking after my children 24/7, it does not mean I am any less committed or dedicated to loving my children. My children have shown me another love that I never knew existed.

So instead of criticising Jane next door because she went out on a hen do last night, and wondering if this means she doesn't care for her child, let's all worry about our children and focus on what Jane does for her children. Let's recognise that she takes her little boy swimming every week and that, at three years old, he can already swim ten metres. Let's remember that she took him on holiday to Italy where he heard different languages and tried new foods. Let's reassure ourselves that she takes him to the park most days.

Let's, as parents, build each other up for doing our best at a blooming difficult job. Let's build each other up, not knock each other down. Because not often do people tell parents "you're doing a wonderful job." Maybe we should try and do it more.

Cuddle Fairy

Friday, 4 September 2015

Syria - The Human Cost

This morning my six month old woke at 5.15am and my three year old woke at 5.30am.

I was tired and I felt myself becoming irritated.

And then I stopped. Because my two precious boys had woken up. I am blessed that, this morning, my babies woke up, climbed into our bed, drank milk and we all got dressed. Daddy took the eldest to nursery in the car and I got up and fed the baby breakfast.

It's a normal day. A bit boring even? In two hours, I will go and pick up my boy from nursery and we will drive home, play and go to bed.

But not everyone is that lucky.

This week we have seen the most harrowing pictures in the news of three year old Aylan Kurdi whose lifeless body was pictured washed up face down on the shores of Turkey, whilst his mother Rehan and five year old brother Ghalib had also died fleeing Syria. His father Abdullah has survived but said he just wants to be buried next to his family. He talked of his 'beautiful boys' and how 'they woke me up to play with them'.

He would give anything for his boys to wake him up tomorrow. He would give anything to be lying next to his wife tomorrow morning. But that won't happen.

Abdullah took the ultimate risk to flee his country. He and his family risked their lives to escape. And their lives were claimed in the process.

And this made me think; what must their life have been like in Syria for them to pay nearly £3000, to climb onto a 5 metre long dinghy with nothing but the clothes on their backs, to travel across oceans to knock on the door of a country who might slam that door in their face?

I don't take my children out without thick coats at the risk of them getting cold in the winter. I don't let them out in the sun without wearing factor 50 at the risk of them getting burnt in the summer. Would I pack them on a boat, without any idea of their access to food, drink, warmth and shelter to endure a journey, the like of which has already claimed the lives of thousands of migrants?

Would I take them from their house, their bed, their school to potentially render them homeless in a foreign country?

Would I run the risk of me, myself, falling ill and leaving my children without their mother either literally 'at sea', or proverbially 'at sea', miles from home in a place where they cannot make themselves understood and cannot understand the people around them?

I wouldn't. I couldn't. Unless I was desperate.

And there it is. These people are desperate. They haven't just popped over on a whim to 'steal' people's jobs and get a free house. In fact, Aylan's family were trying to make it all the way to Canada; you don't decide to give all you have in an attempt at an unplanned journey halfway across the world unless you feel you have no other choice. A parent doesn't put their children on a boat if the land is safer than the sea.

Don't misunderstand me - I have seen footage of migrants at Calais physically attacking people in vehicles to 'encourage' them to stow and smuggle them. I do not condone this. And perhaps there are a small minority who want to come here and live off the government without contributing to life in Britain.

But I truly believe that this is not the case for the vast majority. They don't dream of getting a free house and an easy life.

They dream of freedom and a life where they don't live every day in fear. They dream of an easier life than the one they are currently living; one where there is the threat that a bomb could explode at their child's school and they might  never see them again. When we sent our little boy off to nursery this morning, we were not worried that he might not come home this evening. We were not praying all day that we could pick him up as usual. We were not listening for explosions and dreading the worst.

They dream of dropping their children off at school and saying goodbye, without wondering if that goodbye is forever.

I am a teacher. Last year I taught a little girl whose father had fled the Middle East twelve years ago. He told me his story at a parents evening and when he left I cried. He had arrived here with only his passport and the clothes he was wearing. He had already met his wife but had told her he would come back for her once he had, hopefully, set up a life in Britain.

From having just one passport and one outfit, speaking limited English and having little education, this man has made himself a wonderful life. He went back for his wife and they now have two beautiful little girls. He has a good job, he pays taxes. He owns a house. His children speak English perfectly but are bilingual in this and their family's first language. They go to birthday parties, they are learning to read and write and they can play in their garden without their parents worrying that they might not make it back inside.

Contrast that to other children I have taught. Whose parents were born in Britain and have lived here their entire lives. They don't work. They have a house paid for by the government; by taxes; taxes the man above is contributing to.

Who deserves to be here the most? The answer: they both deserve the chance of a good life. Do either of them deserve to die? The answer: no.

And you know who definitely doesn't deserve to die? The children. The children like Aylan and Ghalib who had no part in the decision to flee. The children who were, without doubt, the catalyst for many of these people making such a decision. These people are desperate but they are human. They wouldn't risk the lives of their children for a free house if they felt like they had an easier, better alternative.

So whilst I sit here, having had a 'boring' day, having been woken up 'too early' by children who just want to be with me, I'll remind myself how lucky I am.

Lucky that I'm not faced with the dilemma of sleeping in my house tonight, knowing it could be raided or bombed at any moment, or flinging my family onto a boat not knowing when we will drink, eat or see land again.

Lucky that I do not live in fear that I might drop my son off at nursery for him never to return.

Lucky that I can nip to the shop, to see friends and family, to a restaurant for dinner, without fear.

I don't have any answers. I know simply 'letting everyone in' is not a sustainable solution. But I also know that 'keeping everyone out' is not a compassionate one.

I'm not here telling people what to think or how to feel. I'm simply saying what I think and how I feel. Some people will feel the same. Some will feel differently. That's ok. We are all different.

But we are all human.

And we should consider how we would expect other human beings to treat us if we were as desperate as Aylan's family.

Tonight I will hug my children a little longer and a little tighter before they go to bed. And as I kiss my three year old goodnight, swearing in my heart to always protect him from danger and give him the best life I possibly can, I'll think of Abdullah and his three year, and how he no doubt thought the exact same things I do.

I'm just lucky that it's a lot easier for me to protect him. To give him a good life.

And I'll think of little Aylan and hope that his death has not been in vain. That it has reminded us of the very human nature of the migrant 'crisis'.

And that, at least now, he is free.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

If I Could See Me Now.....

I have always had a very clear picture in my head of what I want to 'look like' as a parent. Not physically, but how my parenting looks to the rest of the world. Perhaps because I'm a teacher, or because my parents were, in my opinion, very good parenting role models (and still are), I always had very strong ideas about how I would parent. I also had some parenting pet hates which I just could not abide.

Now? I do them all. Every. single. one. Because it turns out naïve little me at twenty-five, with no kids didn't know squat about parenting. Just because I taught a class of children didn't mean that I knew how to parent my own children. I didn't know how to parent anyone's children. So all those parenting pet hates I had? Guilty. Guilty of them all.

Eating before paying for food in the supermarket

I would look disdainfully at the child eating half a baguette before even getting past fruit and veg let alone anywhere near the checkout. Then I would tut internally at the parent/s who allowed the child to commit such an offence and promise myself that my children would learn to wait for their food.

Not so much right now because my oldest, at three years old, can wait until we've paid, and the youngest, at six months, is only just weaning. But when my oldest was ten months old, did I maybe open a bag of crisps to keep him quiet whilst I whizzed round the supermarket at top speed because shopping with a shouting child is much more stressful than silly, naïve me realised? Yes I bloody did.

Leaving shopping trolleys abandoned

Whilst we're on the theme of the supermarket, I used to look at women abandoning a trolley on the path when the trolley park was only ten spaces down. Lazy cow, I'd think, and promised myself that I would always return trolleys to their rightful place.

Ten spaces?! I might as well leave my child unsupervised on the motorway! Anything could happen to them. OK it probably wouldn't but I don't like the idea of it. Id rather abandon my trolley than my child. So did I just leave a trolley 200 yards from a trolley park when I nipped to Asda? Yes I bloody did. (I did put the brake on though. Safety first).

Calling children pet names

I used to hear people call little Charlie 'Charlie warlie woo' and cringe. I couldn't understand why you would spend an entire pregnancy deciding on a carefully chosen name, only to choose ridiculous non-words and noises to address your children once they arrived.

I still don't understand why I do it but I think my eldest might have thought his name was 'Munchkin' (or Munch for short - I even had a nickname for the pet name) for the first six months of his life. And do I tell the youngest he's a 'cudey pie' (yes I pronounce it like this in a voice which annoys even myself)? Yes, I bloody do.

Shouting at my children

"I will never shout at my children."


Dressing children in fancy dress outfits when they're too young to choose for themselves

I would look at babies dressed as a Christmas pudding with a holly leaf hat or an Easter bunny with rabbit ears and I would just be baffled as to why you would want to make your child look like such a prize prick.

Because they look so chuffing cute! Did I dress the eldest up as a pumpkin for Halloween at 2 months old? Yes. I bloody well did.

Dressing children in co-ordinating outfits

I have seen pictures of myself and my sister dressed in co-ordinating outfits (same outfit, different colour; same colours, slightly different outfits - like an early (depleted) Girls Aloud). I always asked my mum why she did that to us. We looked like a crap (depleted) girl band.

It's different though now because when I do it, my kids look like an actual cool version of One Direction. Still depleted. But definitely bloody cool. And cute.

Children watching iPads and iPhones at dinner in restaurants

Can those parents not find anything to talk to their child about? What lazy parenting. When we take our children out for dinner, we shall talk about the environment, current affairs and politics.

"I want to drink my wine in peace. Here - watch In the Night Garden."

(NB: now that my oldest is 3, we actually have conversations around the dinner table and he no longer watches the iPad.)
(Another NB: we do not converse about current affairs. We talk about Disney Pixars Cars movie. And do impressions of the fictional characters. But this is progress. First stop Cars, next stop politics.)

I am probably guilty of a million more of my parenting pet hates. The problem is, I never realised how exhausting, terrifying and pride-inducing parenthood is. So next time you see me with two kids in co-ordinating fancy dress outfits watching an iPad and eating baguettes round the supermarket, in a trolley I will abandon yards from the trolley park, please don't judge me :)
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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Things I REALLY want to say when someone tells me they're pregnant

Becoming pregnant is usually such an exciting time for the expectant parents. Even with my second, when we knew what we were letting ourselves in for (or did we? More on that to follow), we were still so excited.

But of course it's worth it!!
And then you post your scan on Facebook or something (our chosen method of sharing the news) and you get a hundred people saying "Congratulations!" and "So happy and excited for you!". And then you have the baby and people say "It's the best job in the world" and, my personal favourite, "Enjoy every second!"

And it sort of lulls you into a false sense of security that this is going to be the most magical, wonderful experience of your life. Which of course it is. But not every second. Not every second of every minute of every hour of every day can you possibly feel happy, excited and be enjoying it. So this is what I'd really love to say when people tell me they're pregnant:

  • Congratulations! It's so wonderful being a mummy. And sometimes a bit shit.
  • It's ok if sometimes you want to go to work just to have a break. We've all been there (not physically there at your workplace. There emotionally).
  • I'm so happy for you! And so pleased that it's you and not me going through morning sickness and swollen ankles.
  • Some days you will cry. A lot. You are normal.
  • It's the best job in the world. And the hardest. Especially when it's your first and you've had no training. It's ok to ask for help.
  • You wont enjoy every second. If you do, you're crackers or I've been doing it all wrong. Because who enjoys sleep deprivation? Yes, there may be bonuses to being woken up repeatedly in the night, like the cuddles. But you wont enjoy feeling so tired you could spend all day crying into your coffee.
  • Breastfeeding is tough. Physically and emotionally it is so demanding. You will want to give up when you spend an hour and half feeding your baby, for them to want feeding 45 minutes later. You will want to reach for a bottle when you've just got in the bath and the baby starts screaming and you're the only one who can feed him. You will want to throw in the towel when all your friends are at the pub and you can't go because your baby, at 8 months old, wont take a bottle and so it's your sole responsibility to put him to bed. And if you give up, reach for a bottle and throw in the towel (like I did after a couple of months with my first, and one month with my second), that's ok. You have not failed. You are feeding your baby and preserving your own emotional and physical well being.
  • Labour hurts. People who say "you forget the pain immediately afterwards" are either lying they're lying. It's worth it, of course. You have a baby so of course it's worth it. But you'll feel the pain for a little longer than 'immediately afterwards'. Like every time you use the toilet. For at least a month.
  • Congratulations on your second! I know you think you know it all, you'll do everything the same, you're all prepared. FYI you don't, you wont and you're not.
I really wish someone had told me the last one. I was a bit of a cocky sod, I'll admit, because I thought, "I've done this before, it was fine, we'll do things the same." Then I had my second baby and it turns out he's a different child! So 'the same' things don't work. And I also forgot that my eldest would keep on growing and would still need supporting through developmental leaps and stages. Having one is a piece of cake compared to having two in my opinion!

But of course the thing no one tells you, probably because they can't even begin to put it into words, is that you'll feel love like you've never experienced in your life. Especially the first time they sleep through the night ;)
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