Unhappy New Year?

happy new year

If you are in any way a regular reader of blogs then by now your brain is probably saturated with the new year’s resolutions of people you’ve never met. You will have been given a healthy dose of PMA and guided through the many ways to approach 2015 with all of the vigour and enthusiasm of newly discovered super hero. Congrats.

Now I ain’t no hater, I know these kind of posts are often well-written, helpful and even funny, but what if you are not happy this new year? I’m just putting it out there.

A year ago today I was about 4 days away from walking into A&E and telling them I was afraid of my own mind. Not chirpy, but true. I don’t even remember NYE 2013. I think we went to bed way before midnight, though I was probably up again by the time Big Ben chimed us into the new year, breast-feeding or having some such fun. Bleurgh.

That is a particularly dramatic example of what, in my life, is a general trend: January is crap. The first 31 days of 2015 will most likely be a frosty and damp month in which suddenly gluttony and day-time drinking are no longer socially acceptable. Instead we’re supposed join a gym or give up drinking. In January? If you think I’m going to deprive myself of wine during the darkest month of the year then you can think again, mate.*

Who the hell came up with dry January anyway? Since Stoptober and Movember started every month seems to have to need a ‘thing’. Well, if that is the case then how about reduced-working-hours-January? I feel this would be a popular move. I mean, come on, it’s dark a FOUR O’CLOCK and no one’s saving up for Christmas any more, just let us go home at 3pm. We’ll all be more productive. Promise. (quick, someone start a petition). In fact, I’m with the bears, January is not a month that we should have to be awake for. At all.

Then we have New Year’s Eve itself. Or, as I like to call it, the night of a million disappointments. I’m not saying that I am disappointed in a million different ways each year, you understand. I may exaggerate for a comic effect but I’m not a melodramatic 17-year-old. I am pretty sure, though, that a million people in Britain this very night will endure an evening that does not live up to their inflated expectations. It’s your local pub, just because they charge you £25 to get in and provide sausage rolls doesn’t mean it will suddenly become an arena of exhilaration and delight.

The first NYE I ventured out on the town was 1999. I do not feel we lived up the the promise of Prince’s lyrics in seeing in the Millennium, however. My night largely consisted of dragging my heels around the chilly South London streets looking for a party, whilst counselling a lovely boy who was completely besotted with my best friend. Meanwhile, she strolled 5 paces ahead at the centre of a group of lads to whom I was pretty much invisible. Sigh. My only fond memory of that night is the dark purple feather boa I rocked. Aw yeah.

I accept that it is likely my attitude towards NYE was slightly coloured by this early experience (not that I’m bitter), but I have found since I stopped giving a shit about New Years Eve and started refusing to spend any money on entry fees or extortionate taxi fares, it has been a much more enjoyable occasion. Top tip.

So perhaps you are full of cheer and optimism as 2015 approaches. But you may also feel a bit like you are staring into a sleep-deprived abyss. Or, somewhere in the middle, just not particularly enthused by another year of the same. Maybe you’re a bit sick of things but don’t feel like writing a, frankly unrealistic, list of the ways you are going to change in the next 12 months. You just can’t be arsed.

If I’m honest, I’m probably dangling on the more positive side of my moody pendulum at the moment. I’m thinking I’ll give this writing lark a bit of a try and, unlike this time last year, I’m mostly enjoying parenthood (you, know when it’s not stressful and/or boring). So huzzah for me! But I’d like to think if I didn’t feel like this that would okay too. Because at the end of the day there is no ancient magical curse put on 31st December in which anyone lacking a genuine smile at midnight is doomed to a year of failure. There just isn’t. Many very interesting, attractive and generally nice people will not enjoy new years eve at least 5 times during their lives. Fact.*

So, have a drink, or don’t. Go out or stay in. Stay up or go to bed at 9pm with a good book. Make 12 resolutions (one for each month) and laminate them; or don’t make any. Who bloody cares? It’s your life, I hope it’s a happy one at some point, in fact at most points, this year.

*Yes, I know reducing your alcohol intake is very good for your mental health, but, you know, gin.

* This fact is 100% made up. Fact.

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Parenting: It’s actually a bit boring.

 

an average day's parenting - Word 15122014 205030.bmp

As a parent, you will experience more contradictory emotions than ever before. This little person that you love most in the world will, in all likelihood, also drive you to complete and utter distraction (destruction??) on multiple occasions. You may be infinitely happy that your baby was born whilst still remembering actually giving birth to them being the worst. The absolute worst. But that’s parenting for you isn’t it? It’s just a roller-coaster. From the sublime to the ridiculous and back again, all in one afternoon.

Well, no, not quite. That would leave out one important detail.

In Hollywood movies mothers usually either the embodiment of all that is kind, wise and maternal or a hot mess. You know those films, with the friend who has six kids (yeah, that’s pretty much all the character development you’re going to get love, sozzers) who is always arriving late with her hair a complete mess and a child on each nipple? Oh what larks! But most of the time parenting is not an extreme sport. You aren’t either completely nailing or basically dead: there are other options. Day to day, it’s more likely to be just a bit dull. Parenthood is so dramatised at the moment that it’s often these normal experiences that trip us up.

Picture the scene: It is mid afternoon. A child, surrounded by an array of educational and expensive toys, sits playing with an egg carton. A few feet away his mother sits on the sofa. She is staring into the middle distance, her eyes are glazed over and her expression is lifeless. What is happening here? Perhaps she’s got post-natal depression, or has she just received some bad news? Maybe she’s just a neglectful mother.

Erm, no. She’s bored. It’s 3 O’clock in the afternoon and she’s been attempting to entertain her children for the past 8 HOURS. She has prepared two meals (one of which was scraped into the bin and replaced with toast). She has picked umpteen bits of crap from the floor. She has embarked on 3 nap attempts (two failed, one successful). And now, just run out of steam, and ideas. So she’s just sitting there.

If you hadn’t quite decoded my cryptic third-person, hypothetical, throw-em-off-the-scent nonsense, then I shall just clarify that she is me.

Yes, Dear Reader, I too get bored. There, I’ve said it. I love my son, he is great company, but spending all day every day with a one-year-old gets a tad repetitive. I love children’s books, but after the 50th reading I feel I have entered into the subtext of the narrative just about all I can. The suspense is gone. I know it’s not your duck. I know where baby’s belly button is. I know which pet the zoo sent you. I know it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll keep reading those classics of modern literature, because it makes Bubs happy and it’s educational and all that good shit. But every now and then I’ll be doing it on autopilot.

I do try to mix it up.  I even venture onto the internet for inspiration, even though Pinterest usually makes me want to vomit with jealousy and the creativity and energy some parents seem to have. ‘Today tabatha and I made a fully functioning space rocket using only the contents of our recycling bins and some small pieces of dowelling. #thrifty #ecomum #recycle #educational’ Hashtag keep your parenting successes to yourself, knobend. Ahem, motherly solidarity and all that. Let’s move on…

Honestly, we get all of my scarves out and do lots of wafting and giggling. Or we build towers out of various toys. The other day I actually made corn flour paste and added different food colourings to make a sort of messy play scenario. Of course, Bubs was only interested in eating it and consequently got high on e numbers. The thing is, Dear Reader, that however long I spend coming up with these activities, whatever effort I put in, they only ever last about 10 minutes. 15 max. You look at the clock, you eyes wide with pleading hope, but it was 10.25am when you started playing and now it’s 10.35am. That’s basically the same time.

Then are the excursions. We’ll head off to play groups. I do have some nice chats with mums some of the time but it’s mostly just following Bubs around, making sure he doesn’t poke any babies in eye and that no toddlers step on his hands. Play groups are an absolute life saver, but they aren’t necessarily a particularly social experience for the parents. And what is it with the ones that don’t give mums a cup of tea? I mean what is the bloody point? 

When you have a child, parents of older children will constantly encourage you to ‘cherish every second, it goes so fast’. I have previously expressed my thoughts on saying that to parents of newborns here, but I do think the general principle is absolutely right. Of course you could spend your child’s first years only half-present, scrolling your Facebook feed looking at other people’s kids instead of giving full attention to your own. Of course that would be a terrible shame. I’m not a frickin’ monster! But the idea that every moment, of every day you can be fully engaged with your child, watching their every move and storing it all up as treasure in your heart? Jog on, mate! I’ve got a life to lead.

In all seriousness there are ways I could probably help myself. Bringing some mindfulness into my parenting would be one (there’s a parenting on that, but we all know how I feel about the books). Buying in a massive amount of craft supplies would be another. And I might do one or both of those things, time shall tell.

In the mean time I’m not going to stress. You know that thing that people used to say when you were a kid? Only boring people get bored. Well, that’s crap. Everyone gets bored sometimes. Just because you’re getting bored in the presence of your child it doesn’t mean you we need to have an existential crisis. I imagine train drivers, or accountants, or nurses, often get a bit bored doing repetitive tasks. But it doesn’t mean they suddenly become paralysed with shame and think ‘What have I done? I never should have become an accountant, what if I’m no good at it? Oh my God, I’ve ruined multiple lives!’ Being a parent is a job, and all jobs getting boring for time to time. I bet Beyonce wakes up some mornings thinking ‘Oh damn, another makeover a photo shoot? How dull‘.

So, yeah, just be bored for a bit. There’s no shame in it. Your child will inevitably doing something funny, adorable, stressful or a combination of all three, and that’ll soon snap you out of it.

bored

What bores you the most about childcare? Do you feel guilty about the duller days? Or maybe you think I should shut up moaning? Whatever your thoughts let me know. Comment below, go to my Facebook page or tweet me @aafew.

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‘Good’ Births, Weight Loss and Sleeping Through: why no mum wants to be told she’s ‘lucky’.

Here’s one I made earlier… Enjoy!

The (mal)Contented Mother

A conversation I had recently:

Me: Oh yeah, he’s just starting to get mobile now, so that’s a bit scary!

Nameless Mum of Two: How old is he now?

Me: Just about 8 months.

NMOT: Wow, 8 months and just starting to crawl. You’re lucky, mine both crawled at 6 months. You don’t want them crawling. *eye roll*

Me: (internally) OK, I’ll be quiet now then.

Dear reader, I’d like to tell you a little bit about why telling a mum she’s ‘lucky’ is one of those things that sounds like a compliment but makes you want to scream in someone’s face…

I, like many (most?) women I know found giving birth pretty traumatic. And why wouldn’t I? There was an actual person coming out of my actual body. Granted, I was aware that this was going to happen for over nine months previous to the event and you might…

View original post 1,352 more words

Photo Calenders: Because nothing says Christmas like 12+ pics of my child!

Dear Reader, it’s December. It’s DECEMBER. WTF?

There’s only 3 weekends left before Christmas, and you’ve got 17 social engagements on each one. Quick! Panic buy on ebay!!!

But I have a cunning plan: make a Bubs-themed calender and give it to EVERYONE. Actually I’ve had this cunning plan all year, but about a month ago I somehow managed to get Snapfish to give me £40 to make a few. Suckers. (not really Snapfish, thank you very much, please, thank you). This weekend I suddenly realised I need to design these bad boys in time for them to printed and delivered because it’s December, like, right now.
Continue reading

My son, the pick pocket. #WickedWednesdays

So, what’s your child’s favourite game right now? Bubs’ is currently ’empty mummy’s handbag’. To be more specific it’s ’empty mummy’s handbag and then take all of the cards out of her purse.’ Observe:

In the act.

In the act.

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Caught red handed.

'And wot you gonna do about it??'

‘And wot you gonna do about it??’

Hmm, I really need to start putting my things in less easy to reach places!

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This post is linked to…

 

brummymummyof2

The M Word.

can I call you mummy

For while after I got married people stopped asking how I was, instead they’d ask “how’s married life?” It drove me nuts, mostly because they didn’t really want to know the answer to that question. They wanted me to tilt my head coyly to one side and say “yeah, it’s great thanks” with a suggestive and yet demure sparkle in my eyes. Instead I was tempted to blurt out “oh, I’m so glad you asked, I’ve made a terrible mistake!” and then bolt from the room in floods of fake tears. I never actually did this, but needless to say after about 6 months I did get pretty sick of being defined primarily by my marital status.

Of course, the same thing happens when you become a parent. People ask you how your baby is, or how you’re finding mother/fatherhood. Even with you’re good mates you end up talking 70% baby-chat, because it’s pretty much your whole life. What else are you going to talk about? The Millionaire Matchmaker? (horrible, horrible, fabulous programme, very good for daytime TV breastfeeding).

I remember the first time I went out for drinks with friends from my NCT group, after an hour or so we made a ground rule: no talking about our babies! Wowza, did I learn a lot about those women that night. How they met their partners; how they felt about their jobs; the song they would sing if they went on X-Factor. You know, all the really important stuff.

Because of how we met, we had all know each other a mothers first. We had shared difficult experiences and exchanged advice. In a way we knew each other very well, but in another way not at all. Because when you see someone through the lens of only one of their roles in life, you lose sight of the whole of them. I include stay-at-home parents in this; just because being a parent is your full-time (unpaid) position, doesn’t mean you aren’t just as multidimensional as everyone else (if I do say so myself).

That all seem perfectly reasonable. But festering under the oh-so-accepting-and-right-on surface of our culture is an annoying little verbal habit that is becoming more and more prevalent. Enter, the ‘mummy’ label.

There is something very uncomfortable about an adult who is not related to me referring to me as ‘mummy’. It is a child’s word, or at best a very familiar term, and as such I can’t help the feeling that it carries with the potential to be utterly patronising.

You may have no idea what I’m getting at, so let’s focus in on the three worst offenders on my radar:

Yummy Mummy

Of all the ways ‘mummy’ has become part of the adult vocabulary this is surely the most prolific. It is often used in a playful sense, to describe affluent mothers who dare to leave the house looking half-decent, or own a swanky buggy, or still get their roots done, or all of the above. Recently, however, I’ve heard it deployed too often in a tone of sneering snobbery. We are led to believe that there are packs of roaming mothers, all trotting down the high street together, laughing gaily and occupying all the best coffee houses. Bitches.

I mean, really, how bloody dare they? How dare stylish women have children, and then continue to be stylish? So. Selfish. And while we’re on the subject, it is borderline criminal that these same women, who have probably had their own careers and earned a steady income for 5/10/15 years, are now spending their money on expensive baby products! And what do they do with these items – posh prams, smart change bags, all that crap – they flaunt them around for all to see. The shame of it! Vanity, pure vanity. They probably drive Range Rovers too. *spits on ground*

But what’s worst of all is the life-of-riley that they lead. I mean, if you’re a stay at home mum shouldn’t you be scrubbing the oven or something? But no, they just sit chatting away with the other well-groomed and happy looking women, sipping cappuccino without a care in the blooming world (except that crying baby they’ve been trying to comfort whilst holding a steady conversation for the past 10 minutes). I don’t know, anyone would think that they needed to get out the house once a day and have some kind of adult interaction! Well, everyone knows that is nonsense. If a mum leaves the house then it should only be to go a supermarket, a soft play centre, or a play group. Anything else is selfish in the extreme.

Perhaps you think I’m reading a bit much into the use of ‘yummy mummy’. People don’t really feel that derisive, I hear you say, now stop moaning and go and clean the oven.

Mummy Blogger

It seems to me that the ‘mummy blogger’ is very much the second-class citizen of the blogging world. You might say that’s because there are a crap load of ‘mummy blogs’ out there and half of them are a load of crap (see what I did there?). The thing is, half of everything on the internet is a load of crap. Most of everything on the internet is a load of crap! The consequence of democratising the media voice is that you’re going to get some people who can’t really write, or who think really boring things are really interesting. Case in point: your Facebook feed. But there are some pretty stonkingly written, witty, thoughtful, moving blogs out there that are primarily about motherhood.

I don’t think this diminished status is really to do with overall quality, I think it’s to do with a vision that is encapsulated in the very term ‘mummy blogger’. You know, that bored housewife with nothing better to do than upload poorly taken photos off their children, advertise stuff they’ve been given for free and write about little Marvin’s first steps. #LikeIGiveAShit Because who would believe that mothers might take amazing photos? Or write sharp, useful reviews? Or even write movingly about their experiences? I mean, hello people! Baby brain much??

Yes, I obviously write about parenting. A lot. But I’d prefer just to be called a blogger. I’m writing about what I know and what I am passionate about. And every now and then I write about Nicki Minaj, you know, just to mix things up.

Mumtrepreneur

a) It’s not a word. It shouldn’t be a word.

b) Please can we not define every women who decides to start a business by her parental status. No kids? Entrepreneur. Kids already? Mumtrepreneur. Piss off.

c) If you hadn’t heard this term yet then, yes, it is actually a thing. Bleurgh.

As parents, and I’d say especially as mothers (controversial?), our identity becomes tied up with someone else. We begin to be defined as a mother before all else. And in a way this makes sense. I suppose I am a mother before all else. Except that before I was a mother I was lots of other things, and I’d like to remember those aspects of myself and honour them. If anything having Bubs has focussed me on getting what I want from life. I have a clearer idea of who I want to be professionally and all that good stuff. Mothering is a phenomenal, challenging, joyous thing, but it doesn’t complete me. No one thing, however wonderful and life-altering, can complete me. And that’s okay.

What do you think? Do you like being called a Yummy Mummy? Maybe you’re a mumtreprenuer and proud? Or have you been called ‘mummy’ in a blatantly patronising way? Whatever your thoughts leave them in the comments section below, tweet me @aafew or go to my facebook page and join the debate. 

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